The beverage industry is always looking to shake things up, and as a growing number of states gets more familiar with cannabis and CBD culture, those behind drink counters have begun tinkering. With an increased interest in low-ABV and alcohol-free cocktails in recent years, locals are always looking for new ways to get their drink on in the District.
While the sale of cannabis in D.C. is not fully legalized, local beverage makers are gearing up to embrace this trend by experimenting with mimicking smells and tastes. With an eye toward the future and curiosity about how these infusions work, we spoke with the head roaster of Southeastern Roastery about CBD-infused coffee and DC Brau’s brewmaster about opportunities for cannabis-like materials in beer.
Founder and Head Roaster, Southeastern Roastery
District Fray: Southeastern Roastery specializes in CBD-infused coffee. Can you explain that a little bit?
Candy Schibli: I make coffee that is infused by an isolate. I infuse the whole bean after I roast it and sell it [as whole beans]. We have a product I’m working on right now where I’m putting [that coffee] into [Keurig] K-Cups, so that’s new and fun. We’re hoping it catches on and people like it as part of their breakfast routine.
Coffee is intended to energize, whereas CBD is intended to relax you. How do the two work together?
It offers a relaxing yet awakened feeling to pot smokers. You’re more alert and can be present in a calm and put-together way.
What inspired you to make CBD-infused coffee?
Curiosity, mostly. I wanted to see how the infusing process would work if I was going to go into that. I wanted a challenge. I thought, “Let me see how this will work and if this is something people will enjoy.” I wanted to be on the front end of this market.
When did you start Southeastern Roastery?
I started in December of 2016. [I sell my product] through restaurants and cafés in the area. I’m slowly but surely pivoting, mostly because of the coronavirus outbreak, to doing some deliveries. We just put out a menu for brunch offerings with Z&Z [Za’atar in Foggy Bottom] to pair with our coffee.
Do you think the D.C. market has embraced CBD coffee?
It’s not a huge moneymaker. It’s more of a novelty. I think slowly but surely, more people will get into the market. I would love to get Southeastern Roastery to the point where I can explore other avenues for coffee and getting people engaged.
What does the future hold for your roastery?
I’m in the process of establishing a roastery and café in Baltimore. Once I get more independence in my establishment, I’ll explore CBD-infused options like tea.
Find Southeastern Roastery at Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House, Dio Wine Bar, The Village Cafe, The Dish & Dram, Dovecote Cafe, Burn & Brew, or online at www.southeasternroastery.com. Follow them on Instagram @southeasternroastery.
Co-Founder, President and Brewmaster, DC Brau
How are local breweries embracing the cannabis-infused drink trend?
Jeff Hancock: Under the federal laws that govern breweries, it is still very much prohibited to put any kind of THC product in beer. Things I have heard of being allowed in beer with prior approval have been non-psychoactive compounds from the cannabis plant, such as terpenes.
What intrigues you about cannabis in beer?
It is a new beverage category, which is not something that comes along that often in the industry. There are also so many flavor combinations and ways to enhance the consumer-end experience. One can pull from all the various “highs” associated with cannabis to create a multitude of effects such as energetic and creative highs associated with sativa-dominant strains, more relaxed body highs associated with indica strains, and a mixture of both with all the hybrid strains being grown at the moment.
As weed is decriminalized in D.C., do you think we should expect to see more cannabis beers pop up in the future?
Until the federal government says it’s legally acceptable to use THC in the manufacture of beer, the only way to get cannabis-infused beers will be through an inventive homebrewer who can safely make a tincture and infuse it in beer. I’ve had some myself and it is worth seeking out or creating some of your own. The closest we can get to that now would be to put a couple drops of an ethanol-based tincture into one’s beer. A little goes a long way.
Do you think the local market will embrace this trend if and when it becomes a sellable item?
Even if D.C. went full-on recreational, it would still be at the discretion of the [federal government] since it isn’t technically a state and cannot make certain decisions that don’t involve federal oversight. Brewers, however, can get creative in making beers similar to “canna beers” using specific hop varieties that closely resemble the smell of fresh cannabis. After all, hops and cannabis share similar terpene profiles, and hops are one of the critical four elements of craft beer and beer in general.