Hops and hemp: Things to know about cannabis beer

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Brewers used cannabis to flavor their beers well before states began legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but it’s becoming more common as beer makers hope to cash in on the buzz around cannabis.

The most important thing to know is that, no matter what the name or artwork might suggest, it’s illegal to sell alcoholic drinks that contain THC; the drug in marijuana that gets you high.

Mraz Brewing Company In El Dorado Hills, California provides a good local example with its playfully-named “Coffee Pot Porter.”

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“That one is nine percent, so you gotta be careful,” warns brewmaster Mike Mraz. “It might get you a little dizzy, but it’s not gonna get you high.”

Mraz has been brewing the beer for about five years and says it has something of a cult following in his taproom.

RELATED STORY: Need to know: California Craft Beer Summit in Downtown Sacramento

You might not guess that the beer contains anything related to cannabis by taking a taste. It’s a balanced, malty porter with a subtle coffee flavor. The cannabis in this beer doesn’t come from a pot shop. It comes from a grocery store.

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When Mraz wants to put cannabis in a beer, he does what most brewers do: Get a bag of hemp seeds.

And it’s not just confined to small local breweries like his. Bigger names in craft beer, like New Belgium and Lagunitas (owned by macro brewer Heineken), are cashing in on the buzz around cannabis beers.

The terminology can get tricky. “Cannabis” refers to the scientific name of a plant: Cannabis Sativa. That

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