Desert Companion

Liquid Courage

A marijuana novice tries the latest pot product: cannabeer. Its measured mellowness signals an industry moving beyond its stoner roots

The guy at the counter says I look like an expert. I am definitely not an expert. I’m a weed-shy lightweight who gets anxiety at the idea of getting high. It was fun when I was younger, back in the days of impotent dirt weed, but now it’s all hyper-crystallized, lab-perfected stuff that glows in the dark and makes you levitate. Smoking pot now forces every life choice I’ve ever made under a microscope of self-loathing that takes a 10-hour nap and a sluggish half-day to recover from. I’d choose a drink any day of the week.

Turns out, they have that now — weed beer, or “cannabeer” as it’s called. It’s a low-THC, nearly non-alcoholic beverage that comes in familiar flavors like lager, stout and IPA. It made its Nevada debut in September, and it’s supposed to convert non-believers like me. I reluctantly agree to try it.

Aside from entering a nondescript building and being detained in a small room while a man behind bulletproof glass checks my ID, the dispensary experience is surprisingly normal. Inside, it’s bright, clean and the employees are supernaturally friendly. I choose the Two Roots brand IPA at the budtender’s suggestion, and drive to meet some friends.

Support comes from

“No way,” Tony says when I offer him one. “Last time I had an edible I was stoned for two days.” It’s not an edible, it’s a drinkable, I assure him, and it’ll be nice, I say as if I know what I’m talking about. He declines. So I push it on another friend, one who’s already been drinking and is an admitted fan of the “crossfade,” a term for being drunk and high simultaneously. He downs one, and five minutes later he’s clearly feeling it. Redness creeps into his eyes and his smile droops a little. He says it tastes good but he doubts the THC is brewed into the beer. It’s more likely, he insists, that a liquid psychoactive is added later. He repeats this hypothesis a couple of times and I ask why it matters. He shrugs.

Weed beer isn’t new necessarily, but it’s new to the state and it’s expected to grow in popularity. Cannabeer represents a tiny share of the legal pot sales so far, but old boys like Coors, Heineken and Corona are banking on it as beer sales decline across the nation, and craft breweries have embraced it as well. Two Roots from San Diego is the first cannabeer to be sold locally, and its website makes it sound like a panacea. “Non-alcoholic beer is good for you,” marketing materials say. “Filled with electrolytes and carbohydrates, in some senses it’s more closely related to a sports drink. Unlike alcohol, no damaged brain cells and no hangovers!”

I take two sips, and go for a walk. It takes 5 to 7 minutes to kick in, and as I’m rounding the corner, crickets begin to chirp and the streetlights grow a little brighter. The music playing in my living room floats from the speakers, crisp and catchier than I remember. I’m tempted to ask my dog if it’s just me, but I’m afraid he’ll answer. I take two more sips and sink into a comfortable head change. I’m buzzed, but not incapacitated or anxious. I pick up a book and find myself completely absorbed. Maybe this is good for me?

It’s impressive that the industry has evolved so much that we now have edible weed, drinkable weed and even weed for people who don’t even like weed. That modes of getting high are as varied as alcohol choices, and probably say as much about you: Purple Urkle? Expert. Watermelon gummy? Newbie with a sweet tooth. Low-dose, non-alcoholic beer in a slender can? Kush-curious.

I suspect cannabeer is more than a novelty or fad. It’s fast-acting and low-dose, and it fills a distinct niche for the emerging, broader market of recreational users: People who want to chill out, but don’t necessarily want to levitate.

If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!