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THC Coffee: Not Your Friend’s Older Brother’s Wake ‘n’ Bake

THC cold brews from locals Venn Brewing and Gus Dean Coffee are all the buzz.

Gus Dean Coffee / Venn Brewing|

Left: Gus Dean, Right: Zenn’s Up Up Down Down

It’s been almost two years since Minnesota’s most astute political leaders accidentally/on purpose legalized weed. In that time, thousands of cannabis consumers, both newcomers and veteran smokers alike, have experimented with the influx of Minnesota-made THC-infused beverages on the market.

For many, particularly those just beginning their THC journey, cannabis drinks are often reserved solely as a sleep aid. A 5 or 10 mg drink about 30 minutes before bed all but guarantees a good night's sleep and usually tastes a hell of a lot better than a swig of NyQuil.

But what about those of us who like to start our day with a little somethin’ somethin’? Sure, there’s the tried-and-true “wake and bake,” but that can be a real drag. Besides, slamming a THC drink plus the requisite amount of coffee required to face the horrors of daily life is a lot of liquid first thing in the morning.

Thankfully, Minneapolis's Venn Brewing Co. and Eagan's Gus Dean Coffee have us covered with canned THC cold brews. That’s right, weed and coffee together in one highly convenient package.

Venn Brewing: Up Up Down Down Cold Press Coffee + THC

Venn’s Up Up Down Down Cold Press + THC immediately caught my eye when I saw it on shelves back in October, and I bought every can I could. The first time I cracked one of these bad boys open I experienced the most productive Saturday I’d had in quite some time: made a big breakfast, did all my dishes, and deep-cleaned my entire apartment, all in the span of about an hour. I was laser-focused on what I was doing and had the energy to back up that focus. Later, while getting ready to go on a crisp fall bike ride, I reached for a white T-shirt before deciding, no, it was too cold to wear white. In my highly caffeinated, highly high mind, a black T-shirt seemed warmer than a white one—never mind that it would be worn under a denim jacket—so laser focus doesn’t necessarily translate to increased intelligence.

I’ve drank plenty of Up Up Down Down since, with varied results. It’s helped me work through a busy morning of meetings, get my apartment spotless (again), and keep me focused while writing. I’ve also discovered that the line between being productive and sitting on the couch all day watching The Godfather and The Godfather Part II back to back is razor-thin. 

Tastewise, Up Up Down Down does have a slight tinny taste like many THC drinks do. The coffee flavor isn’t overly robust but holds its own alongside other non-THC canned coffee drinks. The energy and focus it provides does come with a slight, almost energy drink jitteriness, but thankfully, there’s never been a crash or stoneover in my experience. 

Up Up Down Down has 10 mg of THC and roughly 250 mg of caffeine per can and costs $7/16 oz can or $28/4 pack. Venn sources its coffee beans from Round Table Coffee in St. Paul, and unlike many other cold coffee products in the market, Up Up Down Down is pasteurization and preservative-free. You can find it at Venn’s taproom, liquor stores, or other THC sellers.

Gus Dean Cannabis-Infused Cold Brew: Blueberry Kush & Royal Caramel

Gus Dean Coffee is a Black-owned coffee roastery in Eagan, and its founder—that would be Gus Dean—carefully and thoughtfully roasts small batches of beans from all the world’s major coffee-growing regions. After five years of roasting his own beans, Dean began offering a ready-to-drink cold brew, and it didn’t take long for friends to suggest he start selling a THC version. He was hesitant at first because he didn’t know anything about the cannabis business and didn’t want to come across as a fraud. 

Dean says he focused on making a cold brew that tastes great on its own before adding any THC to it. He didn’t want it to taste “weedy” like many drinks on the market do. His attention to detail paid off. Gus Dean’s THC Cold Brews, available in Blueberry Kush and the newly released Royal Caramel, are incredibly smooth and balanced. The Blueberry Kush has a subtle blueberry note in both aroma and taste, with just a hint of cinnamon on the back end. His Royal Caramel has a distinct caramel flavor without overpowering the coffee with sweetness. A touch of sea salt mellows the caramel’s sweetness even more and lends a delicate savory note to the back end. 

Both Gus Dean cold brews taste like real coffee, not artificial flavoring. You still get the full velvety-smooth range of the medium-roasted Brazilian Arabica coffee with subtleties of each added flavor. Pour some Royal Caramel over vanilla ice cream or use it in a smoothie for a next-level experience.

Dean’s cold brews have 120 mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of about two cups of coffee. Each 12 oz can has 10 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD. The addition of CBD really kicks these up a notch. While the THC dosage provides a nice high, the CBD creates a slight euphoria and a relaxed sense of wellness. The caffeine helps take the crash away and maintain energy levels, while the CBD helps mellow out the caffeine’s buzziness. 

As with Up Up Down Down, my results have varied after drinking these. I helped some friends move and felt like an absolute Tetris master loading up their moving cart with boxes and furniture. Sure, some things fell off, but my high ass couldn’t possibly be to blame for that. Another time, I wrote a review of Chris Stapleton’s recent U.S. Bank Stadium show and did a pretty great job, if I do say so myself. Yet another time, I sat on the couch and watched the 1979 prison thriller Escape From Alcatraz. So far, I haven’t found a correlation between T-shirt color and warmth after drinking one, though on more than one occasion, I stimulated the economy by spending money like an absolute dickhead after drinking one. Most were bigger-ticket purchases I’d planned on making but had put off… but after a Gus Dean Cannabis-Infused Cold Brew, it was all hemmin’ with none of the hawin’!

Since Gus Dean isn’t a brewery with liquor store placement, it’s a little tougher to find his products than Up Up Down Down, but he has a convenient store locator on his website. They have a slightly more premium price at $10/12 oz can, but as with everything in life, you get what you pay for, and these drinks are well worth the price tag. 

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