Cannabis and beer have a lot more in common than you'd think. Their classification into the same family of flowering plants makes hops and marijuana relatives who produce similar terpenes and terpenoid compounds. Here's everything you need to know about how cannabis and hops are connected.
Cannabis and Hops are in the same family.
As it turns out, Humulus Lupulus and Cannabis Sativa both produce similar oils as well as terpenes and terpenoids. For example, both cannabis and hops are rich in myrcene, beta-pinene, and humulene. However, they both also share the primary alpha-acid responsible for making things taste bitter.
Terpenes, the aromatic hydrocarbon chemical compounds found in all plants, are more commonly associated with cannabis since cannabis contains higher concentrations of them. Hops have plenty, though, like lemons, for example, which are highest in Limonene terpenes or conifers rich in Pinene.
Until cannabis made it into mainstream science in the later 1990s, biologists relied primarily on structural similarities to identify plants. Due to the leaf, flower, and stem module similarities between hemp and cannabis, they were once grouped in the order of plants called Urticales.
DNA sequencing started becoming the norm, and scientists soon realized that Urticales wasn't a proper order. So in 2003, molecular biologists from the US and the UK began studying the plants in this order more closely. They ended up finding that because these two plants were genetically related, and closely at that, they should be moved to a single new family called Cannabinacacae
Even though big scientific names are scary and hard to remember, you can think of Cannabinacacae as your immediate family. The further out into the family tree you go, the less closely related you are. Plants in family orders like this are the same way.
As it turns out, these plants were a lot closer together than scientists thought. When DNA testing came out, they reevaluated the Urticales order and found that cannabis and hops actually did belong in the same family. They're closer to sisters than cousins.
Beer and Bud also share similar terpene profiles.
In addition to their physical and genetic similarities, cannabis and hops share similar chemical profiles. They secrete similarly resinous oils and also contain similar terpene and terpenoid profiles.
For example, myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in cannabis. It's thought to be the compound that causes couch lock when you smoke indica-dominant strains. It's also found in high concentrations in hops, bringing a fruity and earthy aroma into beer. They also share b-caryophyllene, which brings bitterness to beer, and limonene to bring out citrus flavors and Pinene for earthy, piney notes.
The combination of these resinous oils, terpenes, and terpenoids causes unique effects in both beer and cannabis. A documented phenomenon known as the entourage effect is responsible for these compounds working in synergy to boost the effects of other compounds. If you're an avid cannabis user, you're probably aware that terpenes can make THC feel more potent.
But at the same time, if you've ever drunk a craft beer checking in at 5% ABV, you may have noticed that it felt a lot stronger than an ordinary 5% beer, like a Bud Light, for example. That's thanks to the resin from the hops and the terpene profiles working together in the entourage effect.
All in all, craft beers and cannabis have a ton in common. They feel stronger, taste better, and are genetically similar.
Brewers have been making beer for hundreds of years, and in the process of infusing all sorts of fruits and plants into their brews, they've also used hemp and marijuana. Some brewers add marijuana directly to their wort to give it that dank aroma that comes from cannabis. Some even add it towards the end of brewing to infuse THC into the beer because THC is soluble in alcohol.
New Belgium's Hemperor HPA is an example of this process. They mixed hops with hemp hearts to create a beer that has that resinous dankness to it. The beer is dry-hopped with Simcoe and experimental HBC 522 hops, which are different strains of hops— another similarity cannabis and hops share.
Other "strains" of hops have different effects and flavors, much like cannabis. Some of the dankest hops are rich in resinous oils and contain heavier, cannabis-forward terpenes like Myrcene and Caryophyllene. However, there are lighter hops that are richer in Pinene, Limonene, and Humulene.
A Few Hop Varieties that smell like Weed
These days, there are many different hop varieties that work together to produce different flavors. However, some hops are danker than others and really bring that sticky cannabis funk to the brew.
Apollo Hops — Apollo hops were released in 2006 as a bittering hop but has been used lately as an aromatic known for piney, citrus flavors and a dank resinous flavor that can give the beer a cannabis kick when introduced at the end of a boil.
Galaxy Hops — Galaxy hops are insanely popular in Colorado and is considered to be one of the most terpene-rich varieties of hop out there. It brings a strong passion-fruit aroma, but when it's dry-hopped into beer, it brings an insanely resinous, cannabis-like flavor to beer.
Citra Hops — Citra hops bring forward lots of juicy tropical flavors, including citrus. It contains lots of those myrcene terpenes and alpha acids that make Citra a resinous hop that brings cannabis flavors to the beer.
Mosaic Hops — Mosaic hops are all over the place, bringing complex notes of tropical fruit and blueberry as well as grassy, citrusy, earthy, and sweet flavors. Its complexity is where it gets its name. It also promotes a dank resinous flavor profile and contains tons of myrcene terpenes.
El Dorado Hops — El Dorado hops were also used initially as bittering hops, though they create a mellow and balanced bitterness. They offer a bright tropical flavor and notes of stone fruit, pear, and candy. Like the other hops on this list, they also contain many myrcene terpenes and rich oils that give them a dank flavor profile.
Ultimately, if you enjoy exploring the many different flavors, aromas, and effects of cannabis, you'll probably have a good time with craft beer, too. The next time you're looking for craft beers, check out some of the ones that contain these cannabis-forward hops. Pair with your favorite flower for the best results. Not sure where to begin? Start by browsing strains at Flower Avenue.