Keith Villa is the godfather and creator of the world-renowned Blue Moon beer. In January 2018 he retired from MillerCoors after 32 years of service to pursue a new type of brewing opportunity. Keith, with his wife, Jodi, created CERIA BEVERAGES, with Jodi as CEO and Keith as brewmaster, which aims to cater to the Craft Beer Cannabis Industry. They intend to launch three craft non-alcoholic beers, each with various levels of THC that provide a different buzz depending on the beer.
After ending your illustrious career at Coors, with the weight of one of the world’s most famous craft ales behind you, how did the concept come about for a THC-Infused Beer?
When marijuana became legal in Colorado I started creating recipes in my own home on my own time, to determine whether this newly-legalized substance could complement the social consumption of beer. I learned that cannabis could be an alternative to alcohol when used responsibly.
Alcohol companies seem to be rushing to invest, to gain a piece of the very lucrative Cannabis market. What is your overall vision of the marriage between Craft Beer and Cannabis?
For those who desire the sensations of marijuana, craft beer represents a more socially acceptable way to consume THC, certainly more socially acceptable than sneaking out for a joint. Besides, it’s a lot more refreshing.
With Medical Cannabis and Recreational Cannabis becoming more mainstream with many states and countries now legalizing the recreational market, what is your view on this global marketplace that is currently emerging?
It represents great opportunity for both businesses and consumers. The businesses will find new ways to generate profit, and consumers will find that this beneficial natural product becomes more available for their responsible consumption.
With THC Infused Beer filed under the same status as edibles, what do the sales channels look like for THC-Infused Beer in the near future?
Our focus is solely on dispensaries, particularly in our start-up state of Colorado. Dispensaries are the only sales channel where distribution is legal. And we’re fine with that under the current laws.
From a formulation point of view, this must be a very different experience to regular brewing; please enlighten us on the process?
In actual fact, there are only two differences in creating the CERIA brew versus other beers. First, we remove the alcohol from the great tasting beer we’ve created. Second, the non-alcoholic beverage is infused with a water-soluble THC extract by a licensed marijuana infused product partner. By removing the alcohol, we have the added benefit of fewer calories and no hangover in the morning.
This concept may present something of a game changer globally, as it has the potential to create a whole new social scene bringing the indoor Cannabis enthusiast into a more social scene that is an alcohol-free environment. How do you see this developing?
Rather than socialize with alcohol, we expect people will begin to see the benefits of socializing with a cannabis product, as long as they are adults and consume responsibly. Alcoholic non-THC beer will always exist; I based my career on it at MillerCoors. Now, however, the consumer of THC-infused beer can also join the party without feeling ostracized.
From a licensing point of view currently dispensaries are possibly the only venues that can sell THC-Infused Non-Alcoholic Beer. It makes sense that, in the future, a new type of license may be distributed, which allows more Amsterdam-style coffee shops/bars. How do you see this working in the grand scheme of legislation?
We believe eventually the laws may be expanded from off-site consumption to on-site. Legally, as it stands now, marijuana can only be consumed at home or at a private venue, and never in public. As laws change and consumption increases, we believe there will be entrepreneurs who develop opportunities to consume on-site in a safe, comfortable café-like setting.
With regard to the launch of the new brand, you are limited to Recreational States currently and planning a launch in Colorado. What about Canada and the upcoming legalization in October? Any plans to push into Canada in the near future?
Currently, our focus is on Colorado first, then California. There is plenty of opportunity in the States before we start looking at Canada or any other country. That kind of international expansion is probably years away for us. We have much to do here at home.
You have three THC-infused Beers about to launch, tell us a little bit about each one and the characteristics?
The styles are currently under development, but I can say we’re planning light, medium and heavier-style beers with varying degrees of THC infusion. The consumer will be able to select the level of sensations they desire for the particular moment.
With the massive success you had with Blue Moon, how do you feel about the new project and what does the five-year plan look like?
I am encouraged that our plans have attracted much attention and people tell me they can’t wait to try THC-infused non-alcoholic beer. It reminds me of the early days of craft beer when consumers were drawn to a product they felt was tailored personally for their own enjoyment. If consumers embrace the brand like they did with Blue Moon, we’ll all be thrilled.