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The Connection Between Hops and Cannabis


Both cannabis and beer have a strong foothold in the culture of enjoyment. Both substances take great care to produce, have loyal followings of connoisseurs, and have their place in recreation and being social.


While some may think that cannabis and beer are two different things, sometimes preferring one over the other, many don’t realize that cannabis and beer hold quite the connection.


Not only do cannabis and hops both belong to the Cannabinaceae family of genetics, but they also share a crucial ingredient that is responsible for their aromas and flavors: terpenes.


Terpenes: A Brief Overview

Whether you’re into cannabis, or into beer, or both, take a minute to think about the ways you describe the aroma and taste of your favorite libation. The words citrusy, skunky, woodsy, or earthy may just be a few ways cannabis or beer can be described. This is because both cannabis and hops (the key ingredient in beer that provides its distinct flavor) both contain terpenes.


Terpenes are the botanical compounds found in every plant, including the hops in beer and in cannabis, that produce the essential oils in plants. The aroma, flavor, and sometimes effects of both cannabis and beer are attributed to terpenes. Examples of terpenes include limonene, which is often regarded for its uplifting and energetic effects along with its citrusy smell and taste. Another terpene is linalool, which is found in lavender, and is known for its sweet, floral aroma and calming effects.


Now, terpenes in both isolate form and in blended terpene profiles are being added to food and beverages, most notably beer to enhance flavor profile. Some brewers are even creating cannabis-inspired beer products, with blends of terpenes inspired by the those found in some of the most revered cannabis strains.


Cannabis and Hops: The Genetic Link

Indeed, both cannabis and hops belong to the Cannabinaceae family of genetics. In the early days of taxonomy and botany, Humulus lupulus (hops) and Cannabis sativa (cannabis) were grouped together under this family of plant due to their structural similarities.


Over the early 2000s, groups of molecular biologists looked at the structural characteristics, cellular organelles, and DNA sequences of a select number of genes, including those in hops and cannabis, confirming that hops and cannabis were indeed related, both existing under the Cannabinaceae family of plants.


Beyond the plant structure is the existence of terpenes in both cannabis and hops. While there is believed to be over 120 different terpenes found in cannabis, some of the most common terpenes found in both hops and cannabis include myrcene, (beta) caryophyllene, and humulene.


Terpenes in Cannabis and Hops: Flavor, Aroma, and Effects

Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis, and can be found in up to 20% of the commercial cannabis strains in legal markets. With a balsam, peppery, and spicy aroma and flavor, myrcene is known to have a sedative, relaxing effect, used for centuries as a sleep aid and muscle relaxant.


Beta Caryophyllene is a spicy terpene with a hint of sweetness, with an aroma and flavor described as woody, with hints of pepper and clove. Beta Caryophyllene has been researched for various medicinal properties, including its potential for pain relief.


Because of its abundance in hops, humulene is known for its woody and hoppy flavor and aroma. In its therapeutic context, humulene is regarded for its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.


Now that it’s been revealed that cannabis and hops are indeed scientifically related, with terpenes tying the two experiences of flavor, aroma, and effect together, brewers are delving into terpenes as a way to enhance their beer offerings.


Pushing the Potential of Terpenes with Beer

There are three big ways that brewers are using terpenes within their beer: first, to achieve a flavor and aroma profile, second, to bring about the effects that certain terpenes are known for, and third, to pay homage to certain cannabis strains through beer.

Certain companies, such as True Terpenes, extracts botanically-sourced terpenes in their isolated form, while also offering various flavor profiles to help achieve aroma and flavors for beer. For instance, brewers that want to add some citrusy zest to their formulations may want to add limonene. Alternatively, if the brewer wants to add hints of grapefruit to their beer, they may opt for a formulated terpene flavor profile of that fruit.

Brewers can also use terpenes to bring about certain effects. Beer companies are using terpenes for functional products, such as using myrcene to maximize relaxation, or limonene for energy. Increasingly, terpene blends are being sought after because of their synergistic properties and targeted formulations that affect the mind and body.

Those breweries that want to pay homage to cannabis are creating beverages that have the names of popular strain names, with added terpenes of various cannabis strains to bring about the nuanced effects of cannabis, without the high produced by THC.


The Importance of Proper Sourcing of Terpenes for Beer

As the growing trend of cannabis-inspired terpene-infused beer continues, breweries will increasingly be able to source terpenes from companies that specialize in terpene extraction.

When sourcing terpenes, the brewer should keep a few things top of mind. Terpenes, while legal for sale, should be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) certified, while also having received approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Terpenes that have been sourced from cannabis will not receive approval from the TTB, and will not be legal for sale; sourcing TTB-approved terpenes means that terpenes have been sourced from botanical, plant-based sources.


True Terpenes Has Everything a Brewer Needs

True Terpenes is a leader in providing GRAS certified, TTB-approved botanical terpenes in various isolates, flavor profiles, and customized formulations.

Backed by the science of terpenes and using extraction techniques that result in an ultra-distilled, water-soluble product, True Terpenes offers brewers exploring terpenes in beer the best terpene products to explore the connection between cannabis and beer.


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