Recently, I spoke with a local Pittsburgh brewery to better understand the role(s) terpenes play in their beer. Across the country, in San Diego, Two Roots Brewing is taking their experimentation with terpenes a step further, as they create non-alcoholic tribute beers as an homage to different cannabis varieties. Terpenes and Testing Magazine connected with brewer Kevin Barnes and director of product development Kevin Love to hear more regarding their novel beer.
The use of cannabis-derived terpenes is currently prohibited, so brewers like Barnes and Love resort to other botanically-derived terpenes. Given that terpene oils can be quite powerful in moderation due to their concentrated form, Barnes and Love discussed the importanceof the terpenes and chosen hop varieties complementing each other. To date, Two Roots has achieved good success with this synergistic goal when creating India pale ales (IPAs) and hoppy lagers. And just like a good IPA might have multiple hop varieties to create a more balanced, yet complex profile, Barnes and Love have found that terpene blends work best. “Each terpene is associated with unique effects”, said Kevin Barnes, Cannabiniers master brewer. “We have found the perfect terpene to create an effect that most closely resembles the effects of alcohol, all while generating a hoppy flavor within our craft beer that we know consumers will love.”
The craft brewing industry has many parallels to cannabis. Cannabis is often involved in both medical and recreational use discussions. To date, except maybe as a stress reducer or social lubricant, beer often has remained in the realm of recreation. Recently, though, one company, Isodiol International Inc., claims to have isolated the cannabinoid CBD from hops. Beyond their fragrance, terpenes also have medicinal attributes.  The terpene profiles characteristic to cannabis and hops have strong similarities. “There’s dank beer that smells like a freshly packed bowl”, Barnes commented.
Given the surge of interest in terpenes found in cannabis as something more than by-products fractionated from cannabinoids when making extracts and concentrates, it makes sense that craft beer drinkers would want to journey deeper into the possibilities surrounding terpenes. Have a favorite cannabis variety? Imagine imbibing a beer that tasted just like it. “The market has been devoid of what consumers are looking for”, Love explained.
I asked Barnes and Love how they created a beer that not only paid tribute to a specific cannabis plant, but also ensured that the beer tasted good, given the potential overpowering nature of terpene oils. “It’s all about balancing and complementing the flavors. We use a few milliliters of terpenes for a full batch of beer,” Barnes explained. “Some of the newer hops, like Citra or Mosaic, overwhelm the terpenes. Traditional hops like Centennial, Columbus, or Eureka provide a nice balance.”
Terpenes are taking the world by storm, as people culture a deeper respect for these previously rather overlooked, fragrant molecules. Cannabis users have found a more complete package when terpenes have been added into their favorite concentrates. Craft beer drinkers can’t seem to get enough terpenes, often the more, the tastier. To date, brewers have often achieved more sizable additions of terpenes through techniques like dry-hopping, where hops are added directly to the fermentation. Two Roots has demonstrated evolution to an intriguing level…a beer reverence to the cannabis plant.
Reference: Russo, “Taming THC:Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2011, 163(7): 1344–1364.