As Californian wine AVAs pave the way for weed, brewers are taking note.
By W. Blake Gray | Posted Sunday, 08-Nov-2020
Pabst Blue Ribbon now comes in lemon-flavored seltzer. There’s no beer, or alcohol of any kind, in this can of PBR, but there is THC – and it’s a harbinger of more to come.
Funny thing, though, is that when you go to the web page for Pabst Labs, which makes and markets the Pabst Blue Ribbon lemon THC seltzer (“A different kind of buzz” is the slogan on a skinny can with the familiar PBR logo), you see this unusual disclaimer: “Pabst Brewing Company does not manufacture, cultivate, distribute or sell any cannabis products.” Got that?
Pabst is one of several beverage alcohol giants that is taking a test hit from the burgeoning cannabis market. Pabst allowed some employees to leave and form a separate company, and it did a licensing deal with them, perhaps to give a layer of insulation from US federal law that still frowns on combining alcohol and cannabis.
But the two intoxicating products overlap in many ways and, as cannabis legalization expands rapidly in North America, overlap and some competition is inevitable. This was one of the main points from Wednesday’s annual Wine and Weed symposium, held virtually this year.
“There is no one cannabis consumer,” said Jessica Lukas, senior vice president at cannabis analyst firm BDSA. “There is a lot of crossover between cannabis consumers and wine consumers. Legal cannabis is mainstream. The majority of the US populace agrees with legalization. The cannabis consumer is all consumers. If you’re thinking of the stoner stereotype, that is officially gone. I’m a mom. I have a master’s degree. And I am a cannabis consumer. I smoke joints. I consume edibles. And that is acceptable.”
Lukas said 68 percent of cannabis consumers also drink alcohol, while 43 percent of alcohol drinkers in states where recreational cannabis is legal also enjoy weed. She said of people who use both, 50 percent said they pair the two and when they do, they have a bit less alcohol.
“This isn’t a replacement, but it is an impact of one or two units of consumption,” Lukas said.
Thus it’s not surprising that beverage giants like Pabst are interested. Molson Coors and Lagunitas also have cannabis seltzers. And beer and wine giant Constellation Brands made a big investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis company.
“Constellation’s investment is public and they’ve taken a large loss on that,” said cannabis attorney Marc Hauser. “They invested at a time when valuations in the industry were still extraordinarily high. They’re not dumb. This is a long-term investment. This is a very long-term play to get into a new industry.”
For now, most of their efforts are on one type of product: cannabis-infused seltzers. The reason is that state laws frown on combining alcohol and cannabis. Right now you can’t even serve them…
Read MoreBig Brewers Eye Up Cannabis