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Beer, Terpenes, and The Entourage Effect: The Science of Terpene-Infused Beer


If you ask most people to describe the ultimate effect of drinking beer, “drunk” would probably be the first thing they’d say. Yes, alcohol does cause intoxication or the feeling of being drunk, however, what if the beer you drink could serve other functions, beyond a buzz?

Adding terpenes to beer allows brewers to enhance the aroma, flavor, and effects of their beer formulations. Terpenes have made what was just plain “beer” have the potential to become a functional beverage with particular outcomes for the consumer aside from the intoxicating effects of alcohol.


Here we’ll describe a bit more about what terpenes are, and why they are associated with “effects” in functional beverages. We’ll talk about the concept of the entourage effect, which is the science behind the magic of terpenes.


Terpenes, a Brief Overview

Terpenes are the botanical compounds that exist in all plants, including fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other crops and vegetation. Terpenes have recently taken center stage as they’ve been explored within cannabis as it continues to legalize across many U.S. states and countries around the globe. There are thousands of terpenes found in nature, with over 160 being identified in cannabis.


Terpenes produce the aroma and flavor of plants, fruits, and other vegetation, but have other impressive functions when consumed.


When examined in scientific studies, terpenes have been revealed to have therapeutic and medicinal properties. These properties range from anti-inflammatory, to anti-anxiety, and anti-tumor, with increased clinical research backing up these revelations. In addition to their medicinal properties, terpenes also produce reported effects such as calming, relaxation, energy, focus, and creativity, which makes them ideal for functional beverages. It’s terpenes that determine the different effects of different cannabis strains, and why some cannabis provides energetic, euphoric effects, while others may bring relaxing and calm effects.

While mostly associated with cannabis, terpenes are also found in hops! Both cannabis and hops are from the same plant family – Cannabinaceae – and both share terpenes in common including myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, and humulene.


Terpenes that Brewers are Adding to Beer

Craft brewers are embracing terpenes as a method to enhance the flavor, aroma, and effects of their beverages.


Myrcene is often added not only for its balsam, peppery, and spicy aroma and flavor, but also because it’s been shown to be a sedative with calming properties. Limonene, which is mostly connected to lemon and citrus fruits, brings the sweet, citrusy flavor and aroma, with the energetic zing that citrus is often known for. Linalool, which is responsible for the calming effects of lavender, also pairs well in wheat ales, with the floral notes complimenting the sweetish-yet-spicy flavor of the beer. Pinene is the uplifting and piney scent of fir trees in the forest, bringing those flavors, effects, and aromas to beer brewed with this terpene.


Terpenes for beer generally come in three formats: terpene isolates, or specific terpenes on their own; flavor blends that mimic the flavor of familiar fruits, foods, and flavors; and cannabis-inspired blends, that are formulated based on the terpene profile of specific cannabis strains.


Terpene blends, whether it's to achieve flavors, or whether they’re based on cannabis strain terpene profiles, are truly where the potential of terpenes as functionality gets pushed. This is due to what is known as the entourage effect.


The Entourage Effect, an Overview

The Entourage Effect’s discovery can be credited to Israeli scientists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam (the latter known as “The Godfather of Cannabis”), with the theory first surrounding the cannabinoids in cannabis. It was observed that cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, work in harmony to produce effects on the body, via the endocannabinoid system, and have greater effects together rather than alone.


Dr. Ethan Russo wanted to take the theory of the entourage effect as it pertains to cannabis further, having observed that different strains of cannabis tended to produce different effects, other than the psychoactive experience of THC.


Dr. Russo explained the entourage effect as the idea that terpenes as they exist in botanicals have a synergistic effect. “The idea that 2 + 2, instead to equaling 4, it gives you an 8 in terms of the benefit.”


Based on the science of the entourage effect, and his knowledge on different terpenes, Dr. Ethan Russo created Terpology® with True Terpenes, the sister company to Intrepid Brewing. These blends are titled calm, focus, recovery, creative, rest, and energy, due to the blend of terpenes that have been included that enact the entourage effect that produces that specific experience when consumed.


Enact the Entourage Effect in Your Beer Formulations

Intrepid Brewing offers brewers that are interested to take the potential of beer further into functionality. We encourage brewers when exploring terpenes to not only get to know their flavors and aromas, but to also learn more about their potential effects, and how they can enhance the beer drinking experience.


Our terpenes are GRAS-certified, TTB-approved, and 100% botanically-sourced. All of Intrepid Brewing's terpene products have been formulated, blended, packed, and labeled in cGMP facilities certified by FSSC 22000 and ISO 9001:2015 standards.


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