Terpenes: Hops vs Cannabis

Posted on July 4th, 2022 to Education by

Terpene profiles have become increasingly more important to cannabis consumers, particularly for the more sophisticated flower buyer. Terpenes are “the primary constituents of essential oils and are responsible for the aroma characteristics of cannabis. Together with the cannabinoids, terpenes illustrate synergic and/or entourage effect.”

While many consumers may associate terpenes strictly with cannabis, those who also enjoy a hoppy beverage might be more familiar with terpenes than they realize. Hops, the ingredient that provides beer with much of its flavor and aroma, are close relatives of the cannabis plant, both being members of Family Cannabaceae. Sharing some familial ties, they also share some terpenes as well.

In order to get the lowdown on hops versus cannabis, we went down the street to Honest Weight Artisan Beer to consult a local expert. Sean Nolan is Owner-Brewer at Honest Weight, and we asked him a few questions to learn some of the basics.

Which terpenes are in hops?

Similar to cannabis, hops can be rich in terpenes such as caryophyllene, beta-pinene, humulene, farnesene, geraniol, linalool, limonene and our favorite, myrcene.

What goes into the hop selection process for a new brew, and in particular with respect to terpenes?

When we formulate a recipe, we start with talking about what the finished beer will be like. What are the primary, secondary and tertiary flavors, aromas, textures. We then back into the recipe by selecting ingredients that will help us to achieve those selected characteristics. If we are targeting a beer that has a big citrus character, we’d probably look to hops such as Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo or Chinook, all of which are rich in the citrus forward terpenes linalool and limonene. If we are looking for more of a classic herbal/spicy hop impression, we’d select a varietal with notable quantities of humulene, such as Hallertauer-Mittelfrüher, Saaz or Tettnanger.

Given that hops and cannabis share some of the same terpenes, is it possible to brew a beer with cannabis in place of, or in conjunction with, hops?

This is a great question. (While this would only apply to homebrewers, as in MA, licensed brewers cannot produce beer with any cannabinoids) I think the first concern I’d have with using raw cannabis flowers in brewing would be the introduction of excess chlorophyll. Using a concentrated product, such as Rosin or BHO might make more sense on the hot side of the brewing process to emphasize the positive flavor and aroma attributes while mitigating the negative ones.

Is the THC activated in the brewing process?

I would think that any cannabis used in the process would need to be first decarboxylated to convert the THCa to THC. This conversion happens at around 220F which is a bit higher than the temperatures typically reached during the boiling process.

Is it possible to brew something with cannabis that tastes great?

Yes! Using pure cannabis terpenes in the whirlpool or dry hop will lend a big aromatic punch, then adding cannabis alcohol tincture at packaging will introduce THC to the beer.

Conversely, is it desirable to roll a spliff with cannabis and hops?

Never tried, but I doubt it. A friend recently pressed some rosin out of some locally grown hops. They smell great, but I’m not dabbing it!!

Huge thank you to Sean at Honest Weight for taking some time out for us. If you haven’t visited their tasting room on West Main St in Orange, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Are you a fan of both Honest Weight and Orange Cannabis Company? Make sure to sign up to become an OCC Member, and you can earn gift cards to Honest Weight just for visiting us.

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