The 1970s were a big decade for California. While students in San Rafael were coining the term 4/20 to codify their pot smoking, the craft brewing movement was gaining steam one county north at the New Albion Brewery. During the four decades since, both have enjoyed tremendous popularity, but it’s only this year that California’s cannabis joined beer as something people can enjoy recreationally.
Whether we’re talking about beer or weed, California has always prided itself on valuing high quality and craftsmanship. This has led to a wide variety of craft beer and marijuana options that people travel from far and wide to sample. They’ve always made a natural pair: cannabis and hops are related plants, after all. And when the munchies come calling, salty bar food hits the spot. Now, with the Golden State kicking prohibition to the curb (and old marijuana convictions with it), there has never been a better time to explore how to bring the gourmet worlds of craft beer and cannabis together.
Without diving too deep into the science, there are two main factors to consider when marrying a Cali beer to a Cali strain: 1) Alcohol content versus THC content, since alcohol amplifies the effects of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana), and 2) terpenes, or the “fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity,” according to Leafly. Basically, you want to strike a balance that neither messes you up nor leaves you wanting, while coupling flavors that complement each other.
Here are seven 4/20-friendly craft beer and cannabis pairings to get you crossfaded, straight from the farms and breweries of California.
Pro tip: Hit the joint before going bottoms up, but remember everyone experiences these substances in their own way.
Beer: Lost Coast Brewery's Tangerine Wheat
Bud: Humboldt Farms Tangie
Tangerine on tangerine, what could be better? A delicious, refreshing citrus flavor isn’t the only thing this beer and flower have in common; they’re also both from Humboldt County, a wild area in Northern California known for its brews and bud, but mostly bud. As an uplifting sativa, the Tangie will enhance the kind of situation that one might bring a Lost Coast Tangerine to, such as the beach or the tail-end of a summertime hike. This pairing will leave you with the taste of Cuties on your tongue and a smile on your face.
Beer: AleSmith Brewing Company's Speedway Stout
Bud: Canndescent’s Connect
This pairing is all about socialization. Connect is not a strain best experienced alone. In fact, you can expect it to enhance situations from group parties to intimacy with another, doing exactly what the name suggests. Likewise, AleSmith’s Speedway Stout comes in a large-format bottle, perfect for sharing with friends. The chocolatey, San Diego-based beer is well-regarded among enthusiasts and award-givers, but it packs a heavy punch at 12% ABV. Combining that with Connect’s 32% THC makes this pairing ideal for more seasoned smokers.
Beer: Lagunitas Brewing Company's IPA
Bud: Stone Road Sour Raspberry
As one of the most popular craft beers to come out of California, the Lagunitas IPA has undoubtedly and unknowingly already been paired with every strain out there, but that doesn’t mean its perfect match isn’t out there. IPA’s tend to be hoppy and pine-y, which is best balanced with sweeter, fruity flavors. Behind Sour Raspberry’s sweetness is a light level of pine, which ties the two together without overdoing it—this type of aromatic can easily overwhelm when fully doubled up. Plus, Stone Road’s plants are grown in a foothill town called Grass Valley, so you know it has to be good.
Beer: Russian River Brewing's Consecration
Bud: Flow Kana Lucy’s Diamonds
The best way to find this limited distribution sour dark ale is to head to the Russian River brewery in Sonoma County. It’s a funky, cabernet-infused beer with a heavy body and high levels of bitterness, so a pungent, sweet profile that won’t be drowned out by the beer is needed to balance it out. This indica meets all of those needs, with a nice earthy backdrop to tie the two together, while delivering a pleasantly relaxing high. Both are best consumed later in the day, when you can take your time enjoying them.
Beer: Anchor Brewing Company's Blackberry Daze IPA
Bud: Humboldt Legends White OG
This beer name sounds better suited for a strain, and even though it isn’t, Anchor's beers are no stranger to cannabis pairings. Last year, the San Francisco-made beers were served an event hosted by Humboldt Legends that paired them with the Humboldt County joints. Try it yourself with this earthy, fruity IPA with a “psychedelic” label boasts that tart blackberry flavor that any kid who grew up in California can easily recognize. It’s downright decadent alongside the lemony undertones of White OG, which matches Anchor in its earthiness. The beer’s alcohol will enhance the effects of this already strong indica strain, so have a couch nearby.
Beer: Ballast Point Brewing Company's Grapefruit Sculpin
Bud: Stone Road Cherry Pie Reserve
IPAs are a solid anytime beer, being both refreshing and flavorful, and the same can be said for hybrids like Cherry Pie when it comes to weed. It’s not too couchmelt-y and not overly energizing. The sweet, pungent flavors of this strain pair wonderfully with the crisp but bitter grapefruit peel taste of the Sculpin. The bubble hash, which is a cannabis concentrate that’s added the weed flower, allows all the complementary flavors to spend more time dancing on your tongue. And, although they don’t specifically call it out, the label of this award-winning Ballast Point beer is delightful to look at while high.
Beer: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.'s Otra Vez
Bud: Lola Lola Lemon Banana Sherbert
We can’t finish this list without a nod to California’s OG homebrewer, Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada. Although the company has wildly outgrown its homebrew roots, Sierra Nevada has earned their spot on this list with its pedigree as one of California’s first microbreweries and continuous beer innovation. Otra Vez blends flavors of lime and agave into one refreshing gose, making it the perfect companion to Lemon Banana Sherbert, a Mendocino County hybrid strain with tasty terpenes. Together you have Rainbow Sherbet, a combo that is bound to mellow you out and cool you down.
Graphic courtesy of Cooper Foszcz, Good Beer Hunting