When word came out in mid-August that a beer brewed with terpenes extracted from cannabis was about to be released, everyone knew which brewery was responsible.
Since its inception in 1993, Lagunitas Brewing Company has had a long, winking relationship with marijuana. Now, with the limited-release of SuperCritical Ale, the beloved brewer has taken its affinity for cannabis to the next level.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” says Karen Hamilton, director of communications for Lagunitas and sister of founder Tony Magee. “Normally, when we come out with some cool new beer, the people who write about beer may decide to write about it — but with this particular beer, it’s expanded the realm of people who are interested.”
While SuperCritical does not include any trace of THC — and thus will not get you high — the beer is flavored with a number of terpenes extracted by the folks at CannaCraft, who run the cannabis oil company AbsoluteXtracts. Lagunitas master brewer Jeremy Marshall selected terpenes from two strains: Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookie. The result is an ale that clocks in at 6.6 percent ABV and has a robust flavor that does indeed share much in common with the fragrance of potent buds.
Hamilton is thrilled with the reaction to SuperCritical thus far.
“People used the word ‘dank’ in describing what they expected it to taste like,” she says. “They expected a weed flavor or aroma in the beer. There is definitely a little bit of that in there, due to the fact that we used marijuana terpenes, but it’s also an easy-drinking ale that has lots of interesting flavors that people are really enjoying.”
Longtime fans of Lagunitas will know that SuperCritical is but the latest beer from the brewery to pay homage to beer’s green, formerly illicit cousin.
First there was The Kronik, a hoppy amber brew that became Censored Ale after Lagunitas was denied the use of the original name due to its association with cannabis. Not ones to let any type of press go to waste, they slapped a black “Censored” bar across the label. Later, there was Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, a beer brewed in honor of a 20-day suspension Lagunitas received in 2005 after Alcohol Beverage Control agents raided its Petaluma facility because some employees toked up at a company party.
Several years ago, Lagunitas gathered together The Waldos — the group of Marin County kids who inadvertently made “420” a global codeword for cannabis with their high school smoking sessions in 1971 — to help the company brew Waldos’ Special Ale.
Asked about the history of Lagunitas and marijuana — and how it led to SuperCritical’s release — Hamilton says the brewery is simply embracing the local culture as it always has.
“We’re in Northern California,” she says. “It’s part of the culture and it’s part of our culture. It’s a natural thing.”
She also pushes back against any notion that SuperCritical is merely a novelty beer.
“We’re not creating it to ‘do a thing,’ ” she says. “This is just part of who we are. It’s not a part of every person at Lagunitas, but it is a part of an acceptance of our culture.”
While SuperCritical may indeed be a beer brewed with pride, many interested parties will not have the chance to drink it: Lagunitas brewed only 120 kegs of the ale, which were sent to locations throughout California, but mainly in the Bay Area. The latest in their series of “One Hitters” — a line of beers intended to be made available on an extremely limited basis — SuperCritical is all but gone at the pubs and taprooms lucky enough to have snagged a keg.
However, Hamilton confirms to SF Weekly that another 120 kegs will be brewed in the near future.
In addition to the ale, Lagunitas also gave something back to Absolute
Xtracts: the hops they used to brew SuperCritical. An identically named pair of vape cartridges that feature cannabis oil infused with hops flavoring are now produced by the vape company.
Hamilton is all compliments when it comes to the partnership between Lagunitas and CannaCraft.
“They’re right in Santa Rosa and we’re in Petaluma,” she says. “So we’re neighbors, basically. We’re different, but we all have a common theme, and so for us to know we have a partnership with a like-minded company in the cannabis field feels very natural for us.”