It’s a Wild West! A gold (green?) rush! A veritable goofy-ass time! Thanks to some legislative shenanigans, local breweries are speeding into the market with drinks containing hemp-derived delta-9 THC, giving 21-plus customers a whole new palette of drinks sitting alongside their beer.
With the cannabinoid now legally in their mitts, breweries have reveled in the opportunity to extend their product lines. Each week, more and more beer businesses are moving from dank IPAs to sparkling water with that dankness. Reefer-infused seltzers and sodas are showing up everywhere: in taprooms and dispensaries, at First Avenue, illegally stocked at liquor stores. People are getting drunk on weed and high on beer, and we all just have to pretend like it’s normal.
With the preponderance of this new, tenuous drink category, no one has really set a baseline for what makes a good weed bev. So I scoured the Twin Cities to find 19 different varieties from 12 different brands and tasted them all to determine the canna-best of the bunch.
12. Burning Brothers Kite Soda
Serving: 16 oz, 10 mg THC (2.5 mg per serving)
Flavors sampled: Citrus, ginger ale, and root beer
Taproom: 1750 Thomas Ave. W., St. Paul
It almost feels unfair including Kite Soda here, because this line of craft sodas made by Burning Brothers Brewing and Solid Gold Hemp doesn’t aim to be the same as the rest of ‘em. Heavy with real sugar, Kite Soda pretty faithfully emulates Sprite, ginger ale, and Barq’s; they do it about as good as Whole Foods. No flavor feels quite as right as what it’s emulating, though, at 10 mg per can, you have to drink less to get the effect. Thing is, I can’t imagine drinking any of these sugary soft drinks as often as the seltzers that make up the bulk of this list.
11. Indeed Two Good
Serving: 12 oz, 2 mg THC and 2 mg CBD*
Flavors sampled: Lavender lemon
Taproom: 711 NE 15th Ave., Minneapolis
When THC legalization passed, Indeed quickly established itself as a leader in the new beverage category. Two Good seltzer blew open the doors—but because of that speed to market, they opted for a low dose of THC. That measly 2 mg won’t even get novice stoners lifted. They also opted for an herbal flavor that, while distinguishing, is off-putting and has stoked some equally potent critiques. The real lavender aroma is gorgeous, but it tastes a little like sipping from an Air Wick. Cost of being a pioneer, I suppose.
*Indeed is developing a 5 mg THC beverage, but it has not yet been released.
10. Bauhaus Tetra
Serving: 12 oz, 5 mg THC and 15 mg CBD
Flavors sampled: Lemon-lime
Taproom: 1315 Tyler St. NE, Minneapolis
Some people adore Fresca. Others can’t stand it. Your preference for Bauhaus Brew Labs’ Tetra will depend on which side of the aisle you fall. The flavor is actually lemon-lime, but Tetra is a dead ringer for the cloudy, pithy grapefruit soda. Though water-soluble THC is sold as being tasteless, it does have a slightly unpleasant earthy flavor that breaks through the citrus. The generous dose of CBD is welcomed, as it helps to mellow out the effect of drinking a couple in a row.
9. Surly Take Five
Serving: 12 oz, 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Lime
Taproom: 520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Surly’s Take Five was the bubbliest, crispest, and, ultimately, the most seltzer-y of the seltzers tried. It’s as crisp as a Polar Seltzer, and though it suffers from the same issues as Tetra, it’s a more refreshing drink. The biggest critique is that it’s pretty boring, especially for a late-to-market brewery like Surly. Perhaps the upcoming mixed berry and iced tea/lemonade varieties will impress more.
8. Eastlake High & Dry
Serving: 16 oz, 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Lemon and passion fruit
Taproom: 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
Probably the most dialed-down THC seltzer on the market, High & Dry is a very simple drink. It’s less flavored and more essenced, à la La Croix. It’s also barely sparkling, drinking more like mineral water. Of all the seltzers sampled, this one had the most immediate effect, kicking in with a smooth chill after only one can. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions?
7. Lakes & Legends Hiii
Serving: 16 oz, 5 mg THC and 5mg CBD
Flavors sampled: Passion fruit and ginger ale
Taproom: 1368 Lasalle Ave., Minneapolis
Loring Park’s Lakes & Legends juuuuust made it onto this list when they released their Hiii line on October 6. One sip later, they shot above many of their peers. Hiii is much less effervescent than a normal seltzer, drinking smooth and even. The ginger ale flavor (which includes 10 mg caffeine in addition to the cannabinoids) could’ve used more of a punch to compensate, coming across much more subdued than the flavor could’ve been. The passion fruit was ripe with flavor—the best passion fruit flavor on the market that doesn’t actually include real fruit—but again, a little flat on the punch.
6. Minneapolis Cider Co. Trail Magic
Servings: 12 oz, 3 mg THC, and 16 oz, 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Berry basil (12 oz, 3 mg), hop water (12 oz, 3 mg), and iced tea/lemonade (16 oz, 5 mg)
Taproom: 701 SE 9th St., Minneapolis
Minneapolis Cider Co. wants to be the leader in drinkable THC in Minnesota. Not only was their Trail Magic the first THC-infused drink line on the market, it’s been so popular the cidery is already discussing opening a separate taproom for the spinoff brand. They’ve approached the new beverage with equal parts vigor and creativity.
Berry basil does the herbal style with a bit more tact than Indeed, even if that flavor was underwhelming. The hop water is a great idea, given the emergence of that style, but it’s also tinny and harsh. The Arnold Palmer is by far the best of the bunch, and a true trendsetter (both Surly and Dangerous Man are cooking up iced tea/lemonade flavors). If this was a list of individual varieties, it would be the second best. But the whole portfolio doesn’t stand up to some of the breweries Minneapolis Cider paved the road for.
5. Dangerous Man Canna Blissed
Serving: 750 mL, 13.6 mg THC (4.53 mg per serving)*
Flavors sampled: passion fruit orange guava
Taproom: 1300 NE 2nd St., Minneapolis
Drinking THC tonic (what exactly makes this a tonic and not a seltzer is not clear) out of a crowler sucks, but that’s kinda what you’re in for with the hyperlocal Dangerous Man. Nevertheless, the debut flavor of Canna Blissed is a tropical elixir. The combination of passion fruit, orange, and guava tastes straight out of Jamba Juice, and there’s a good fruity haze hanging in the body.
*Dangerous Man has indicated that future batches will be 5 mg per serving
4. Fair State Chill State
Serving: 16 oz, 5 mg THC and 25 mg CBD
Flavors sampled: Original
Taproom: 2506 NE Central Ave., Minneapolis
“Make THC weed again.” These are the words that outgoing (and founding) Fair State brewer Niko Tonks posted when Chill State first went into production. The 420-friendly brewery took a plant-forward approach to their seltzer, putting three kinds of weed in it. You have your standard 5 mg of delta-9, a big 25 mg of CBD, and even some terpenes for flavor. It still tastes nothing like actual marijuana—more like a San Pellegrino Limonata or a less bitey hop water—but you gotta hand it to Tonks and the crispy crew at Fair State for staying true to the cannabinoid.
3. Modist TINT
Servings: 16 oz, 3 mg THC or 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Mango passion fruit (3 mg) and pineapple raspberry (5 mg)
Taproom: 505 N. 3rd St., Minneapolis
There’s an almost existential question of what value a brewery—a local business established to make fermented alcohol products—can add to a beverage that contains no alcohol and is totally unfermented. Modist answered that question by using fruit puree and treating TINT like a slushy beer. Because of that, the body is a little heavier. It’s not as effervescent as other THC seltzers, but it is exceptionally fruity, with a fresh-squeezed aroma to match. The mango passion fruit and pineapple raspberry flavors (I wasn’t able to get any of the popular blackberry lime) could stand in for a mimosa during a stony brunch.
2. Wild Mind WLD WTR Infusions
Serving: 16 oz, 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Pineapple orange cherry
Taproom: 6031 Pillsbury Ave., Minneapolis
Another seltzer that makes use of real fruit puree, WLD WTR Infusions is packed with a complex flavor variety that makes it a notch more enjoyable than TINT. The two releases so far—pineapple orange cherry and raspberry blackberry blueberry—feature a ripe variety of fruits, really rounding out the beverage and elevating it to the level of the beer served in the Wild Mind taproom.
1. Venn’s Zenn THC Seltzer
Serving: 750 mL, 5 mg THC
Flavors sampled: Paloma
Taproom: 3550 E. 46th St., Minneapolis
Venn’s THC drink follows their Cosmosis line of cocktail-inspired seltzers, melding together the malt-based cocktail trend and delta-9 beverages. I’m frankly surprised that more breweries haven’t gone the route of aping mixed drinks, but kudos to Venn for that innovation. The first off the line is a paloma made with grapefruit, lime, and sea salt. It tastes just like a paloma, too, with just a little of that uncanny THC flavor instead of booziness. Because of weird federal regulations around transaction processing, sales of this groovy cocktail dupe are cash-only. But crowlers of Venn’s paloma are worth every Alexander Hamilton in your wallet.