Hops and pot: How they’re related

Beyond their heavy-handed use of hops, Lagunitas Brewing is linked to the origins of 4/20 as a pothead holiday

Hops are a resinous, green flower, and from what Snoop Dogg taught me, so too is that sticky icky icky.

But the similarities between hops and weed go well beyond how they look and feel. Not only did scientists confirm in 2012 that the two plants are genetically related, belonging to Cannabinaceae family, now further research is helping us understand the similar aroma and flavor characteristics these plants exhibit. Cousins Cannabis and Humulus, it turns out, share a key ingredient called terpenes.

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Terpenes are a class of organic compounds produced by several types of flowers and trees, especially conifers, and are responsible for producing flavors and aromas in plants. Recently, a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia published a study on what gives marijuana its distinct flavors and aromas. According to a recent Forbes article, the researchers “found close to 30 terpenes in the cannabis genome, producing such ‘fragrant molecules’ as limonene, myrcene, and pinene when those genes are active, and thus give it an alternately citrusy, skunky, or earthy quality.”

It’s no coincidence that those descriptors—citrusy, skunky, or earthy—are just as often associated with the hoppy double IPA at the local taproom. Hops and marijuana share many of these terpenes in common, such as myrcene, beta-pinene, and alpha-humulene to name a few. Certain hop varieties like Summit, Eureka, 007, and Nelson Sauvin—though it varies on Nelson Sauvin harvests—are especially pungent with green onion, chive-like, and dank aroma and flavor characteristics.

While terpenes tie hops and marijuana close in flavor and aroma, they’re also responsible for key differences in the plants. In hops, the alpha acids that bitter beer are actually terpenoids (compounds that are derived from terpenes) called humulone. According to a Popular Science piece, the tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) in marijuana give the plant its psychoactive qualities.

Related post: Celebrating 4/20? Thank “the Waldos”

While developments of new strains of hops are happening in the beer industry, research on marijuana is lagging behind. It is, after all, hard to research something and develop it for aroma and flavor if doing so can net you a felony drug charge. But even with what little research is available, concrete commonalities have appeared—and more will be discovered in the future.

With the eclectic variety of hops already available for use and constantly being produced, it is not hard to imagine that marijuana aromas and flavors could overlap even more if afforded with the same investment, dedication, and legal status that hops enjoy.

So, how are Minnesota breweries and bars marking the holiday day today?

At 4:20pm on 4/20 in Big Lake, Lupulin Brewing is releasing Straight Hash Homie Double IPA, an experimental IPA brewed with 100 percent hop hash—concentrated lupulin glands which contain high levels of terpenes and terpenoids present in hops.

Forager Brewery in Rochester brewed its second batch of The Danqs, purposely utilizing a bevy of hops—including Eureka and 007—for a pungent, dank, piney, slightly citrusy, dry IPA.

 

 
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