Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery Hopes to Release Cannabis-Infused Beer

Pending approval from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical Cannabis plan to release Hop Chronic IPA, the state of Maryland’s first THC-infused non-alcoholic beer.

The two Frederick, Maryland-based companies announced today that they intend to make Hop Chronic available to the state’s medical cannabis patients as an alternative to smoking or vaping as early as this summer.

“For people who don’t want to smoke, don’t want to vape, there’s no path of experiencing the therapeutic benefits,” Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso told Brewbound. “It feels good to be a part of creating a delicious IPA where people who want to experience cannabis that way can do that.”

However, Flying Dog and Green Leaf face a potential regulatory roadblock as the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has yet to allow companies to produce or sell edible cannabis products.

Caruso explained that since Flying Dog is not licensed to produce or sell cannabis products in the state, Green Leaf will need to receive regulatory and legal approval for the product. Caruso said his company’s involvement in the project is limited to brewing the non-alcoholic IPA, which Green Leaf would then infuse with cannabis at its own facility and distribute to dispensaries.

Nevertheless, Caruso told Brewbound that he’s optimistic the product will be approved since similar offerings have already received the go ahead in other states, like Colorado, where Ceria, Inc. founder and Blue Moon creator Keith Villa launched a similar product in December.

“When you have other states doing it, I think it’s a lot easier to start that regulatory approval process,” he said.

If the state were to greenlight Hop Chronic, the non-alcoholic beer would be sold in 6-packs and 12 oz. single-serve cans containing varying THC and CBD dosages at licensed dispensaries throughout Maryland. Caruso added that the recipe for Hop Chronic would not be a carbon copy of any existing Flying Dog brands. However, the beer will be “more hop forward,” he said.

“We’re very familiar with how to get the hop character into a very low-alcohol beer,” he said. “We’re very confident that we can come up with a terrific base beer that will make a delicious infused product.”

If approved, Flying Dog would join a number of beer manufacturers that have already entered the cannabis space. Large beer companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev (Tilray), Constellation Brands (Canopy Growth) and Molson Coors (Hexo) have each struck partnerships with Canadian cannabis companies. Other U.S. beer manufacturers, including Heineken-owned Lagunitas and Craft Brew Alliance (31.4 percent owned by A-B InBev), have experimented or explored the possibility of THC- and CBD-infused beverages.

Recreational use of cannabis in the U.S. is not legal at the federal level. However, recreational and medical cannabis sales are legal in 10 states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington) and Washington, D.C. Caruso said Flying Dog’s partnership with Green Leaf is a “foot in the door” to a potentially bigger marketplace.

The Flying Dog and Green Leaf partnership won’t end at Hop Chronic either. The two companies are discussing additional products, including beer-inspired proprietary cannabis strains and cannabis strain-inspired beer recipes, among other products.

Caruso told Brewbound that Flying Dog has not invested in the 4-year-old Green Leaf. However, he personally is considering an investment in the marijuana company’s current Series E fundraising round.

Although Hop Chronic would be the first non-alcoholic beer brewed by Flying Dog, it may not be the last. Caruso said he witnessed the popularity of non-alcoholic offerings during a trip to Europe, and Flying Dog will begin exploring its own non-alcoholic — and non-infused — offerings.

“I’m quite intrigued with how the 0.0 phenomenon is catching on,” he said.

Flying Dog is also exploring another growing trend among craft brewers: hard seltzer. According to Caruso, Flying Dog could release a regional hard seltzer brand in the latter part of the year.

“It seems like there’s an audience out there that we can expand the reach of the Flying Dog brand to people who really aren’t beer drinkers that are into the lower-alcohol spiked seltzer,” he said. “It’s complementary to what we do, not competing with what we do.”

As for Flying Dog’s core beer business, Caruso told Brewbound that the company finished 2018 up 5.5 percent, to more than 106,000 barrels. For 2019, he said he expects “high single-digit growth” as the company continues to focus on and invest in the Mid-Atlantic market, which accounts for 80 percent of its sales (40 percent of which are in its home state of Maryland). In an effort to drive growth outside of its home market, Caruso said the company has invested in additional sales and marketing personnel in New York’s five boroughs.

“We’re tripling our investment there in terms of people on the street and sales and marketing investment in that territory,” he said.

Flying Dog is also looking to strengthen its chain retail business with additional sales and marketing investments. Caruso said the company’s chain sales were “up double digits” last year and now account for 25 percent of Flying Dog’s overall business. He added that sales are being driven by the company’s hoppy beers — Raging Bitch IPA, The Truth double IPA, Snake Dog IPA and Bloodline blood orange IPA.

Caruso added that Flying Dog is adding lower-alcohol beers to its portfolio, including Underdog, a light lager that will be released in a couple of months.

A press release with additional details is included below.

Flying Dog to Partner with Green Leaf Medical on Revolutionary THC-Infused Cannabis Beer

FREDERICK, Md. — Flying Dog Brewery is partnering with Green Leaf Medical Cannabis on a plan to release Maryland’s first THC-infused beer in 2019. The beer, a non-alcoholic India Pale Ale named Hop Chronic, will serve as a medical delivery system to provide Maryland medical cannabis patients with therapeutic cannabinoids including CBD, CBG and THC without the patient having to smoke or vape the cannabis. The product will be released at dispensaries throughout Maryland and will be available in six pack or single serve 12 oz cans. Release of this new product is subject to regulatory and legal approvals.

Hop Chronic, brewed by Flying Dog in partnership with Green Leaf Medical, will be Maryland’s first THC-infused beer and is slated to be released this year.

Hop Chronic IPA will only be available at licensed dispensaries and only to people who have a medical recommendation for the use of cannabis. Hop Chronic IPA will be available in a variety of THC and CBD potencies.

“We see a lot of interest in cannabis from the craft beer community, and we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Green Leaf on a product that captures the passion and energy you see in fans of both craft beer and cannabis,” states Flying Dog CMO Ben Savage. “There are definitely similarities between the natural flavor profiles we extract from hops and the terpenes and cannabinoids found in Cannabis.”

As the fastest growing regional medical cannabis provider, Green Leaf was a perfect fit for Flying Dog. Both entities headquarters are located less than a half-mile from each other in Frederick, Maryland, and both Green Leaf and Flying Dog see many future opportunities to partner on products beyond the release of Hop Chronic this summer.

“In a way, the cannabis industry is a lot like the craft beer movement was a few decades ago,” Green Leaf CEO Phil Goldberg said. “We have to educate people and change the overall perception of what cannabis is, what it could be, and how it might benefit people. Partnering with Flying Dog seemed like another great way to get more people interested in cannabis.”

Goldberg also stressed that using cannabis-infused non-alcoholic beer as a drug delivery system is a great way to allow cannabis patients to reap the medical benefits of cannabis without having to smoke or vape the cannabis flower.

Green Leaf anticipates that its beer partnership with Flying Dog will continue the momentum they’ve built over the past four years. The cannabis provider has raised $23 million since its inception in 2014 and expects to raise an additional $20 million, through its recently-released Series E round of fundraising, to help fuel the acquisition of additional dispensary assets and production resources in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Flying Dog will also be working with Green Leaf on developing specific beer-inspired proprietary cannabis strains, as well as cannabis strain-inspired beer recipes and other products in 2019.

About Flying Dog Brewery

As one of the fastest-growing regional craft breweries in the United States, Flying Dog has been brewing world-class beer that pushes the confines of traditional styles for almost 30 years. Flying Dog attracts everyone from craft beer connoisseurs to those just catching the wave with up to 20 styles available at any given time. Introduced to Flying Dog by the Gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson, artist Ralph Steadman has produced original art for Flying Dog’s labels since 1995. Recent accolades for Flying Dog include its Pale Ale ranked as the #1 American Pale Ale in the U.S. by The New York Times. For more information, visit www.flyingdog.com.

About Green Leaf Medical, LLC:

Green Leaf Medical is a Multi-State Operator (MSO) of medical cannabis facilities in the North East United States that holds cultivation, extraction and retail licenses in four contiguous states including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Green Leaf has produced and sold nearly 2 million grams of medical cannabis under its “gLeaf” brand. The cannabis provider was awarded one of just 25 Grower/Processor licenses in Pennsylvania, and Green Leaf’s cultivation application in Maryland received the highest score in the entire state. Unlike many operators in the space, Green Leaf posted positive net operating income of approximately 22% in 2018, putting it on track to meet its 2020 revenue projections of $111 million. Most recently, Green Leaf won one of just five medical cannabis licenses awarded for Commonwealth of Virginia. Green Leaf will be the exclusive provider of medical cannabis in the Richmond, VA region.

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