How Are Beer Hops and Cannabis Related?

While high hopped beers tend to be an acquired taste, brewing beer isn’t the only place where the utilization of hops is essential. Take hops close genetic cousin, cannabis for example. It’s likely if you’ve heard of cannabinoids, you associate them solely with cannabis. So, it’s no wonder why people are surprised to learn that cannabinoids reside within other plants such as hops.

When it comes to making beer, there are three essential ingredients. Malted barley, yeast, and water. It wasn’t until the 15th century when the fourth ingredient of hops (Humulus Lupulus), was introduced to the brewing process. Brewers use hops during brewing to create variations in beer styles. When brewing IPA, hops take the spotlight, unlike other brews like stouts, where hops tend to be less obvious in the flavoring and aroma.

The pale green, cone shaped, papery flower known as hops is what gives beer its distinct taste and often distinct aroma. Today when you mention beer, it’s natural to think of hops. If you’ve ever had someone describe their beer as hoppy, they likely mean it’s full of hop with bitterness characteristics intermingled within.

hops that looks like cannabis

Common Characteristics

Much like hops, cannabis too is a resinous green flower, and the two have a handful of characteristics in common. Sharing both physical and chemical characteristics, the two plants are the most economically significant species within the Cannabaceae family. The family consists of 270 overall aromatic species, and are often referred to as the most important members of their botanical buddies.

From low dosed THC hemp to marijuana flower, cannabis has been bred for a range of uses. The hop plant however has become the main ingredient when it comes to brewing. Both hops and cannabis contain antimicrobial properties. This allows for both flavor and antiseptic properties that helps eliminate the growth of unwanted microbes.

Chemically, the two substances share similar characteristics as well. Aside from their look and feel, Cannabis and Humulus (Hops) share a key ingredient known as Terpenes. Terpenes are a class of organic compounds that are produced by several types of flowers and trees, like conifers. They are what’s responsible for producing the distinct flavors and aromas in marijuana and beer.

Both hops and cannabis share a handful of the same terpenes. Some of the most common terpenes found in both cannabis plants and hops are beta-pinene, alpha-humulene, and myrcene. In the cannabis genome alone, there are close to 30 terpenes found which when active, give the familiar citrus, skunk like, and earthy qualities in cannabis that users know so well. The same citrus earth like qualities are often associated when it comes to IPA’s found at your favorite breweries.


Another chemical characteristic shared between hops and cannabis are terpenoids. According to Wikileaf, terpenoids are derivatives of terpenes synthesized by the process of drying and curing of the two plants flowers. The terpenoid humulone is the compound responsible for the bitter flavor that belongs to hops. When it comes to cannabis, the famous terpenoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), like humulone is also activated with the same process as humulone. The cannabinoid THC is what gives the mind-altering effect when consuming marijuana.

Cannabis plants and hop plants are considered dioecious. This means both plants produce male and female plants. They also both utilize the wind in order to pollinate. Cannabis and hops each have an active compound which produces resinous glands. In hops they are known as lupulin glands, and in cannabis, they are known as trichomes.

Much like cannabis, when farming hops, the female flowers are what’s wanted for quality production. There’s an abundant amount of resins and essential oils found in female flower glands. As pollinated flowers are depleted in their resources, male plants are typically cut from the equation. In cannabis, the female flowers are then produced in a range of flavors each derived with their own specific attributes.

cannabis hops on a vine

Medicinal Properties

Both cannabis and hops flowers have quite the history when it comes to herbal medicines that have sedative properties. The University of Michigan School of Medicine suggested the top usages for hops includes insomnia, anxiety, and even poor digestion.

Weed too has its own medical effects containing antiemetic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-proliferative properties. So of course, cannabis is the most widely used substance in the world even with it being illegal in many places.

Brews and Bud

With hops and cannabis now joining together, St. Patrick’s Day celebrators have even more to toast to! Local breweries and bars are now celebrating the dynamic duo of cannabis and hops combined. Breweries have begun experimenting with a new selection of beers. Cannabis infused brews have begun to rise in popularity. In states where there are more relaxed marijuana laws, beer connoisseurs will likely begin seeing beers infused with CBD and THC.

It’s important to note that whether they contain THC or alcohol, they are not actually brewed with cannabis. Often times, the beers are infused with cannabis oil once the fermentation process is complete.

cannabis beer

The Future of Hops and Cannabis

With cannabis legalization beginning to spread across the United States, marijuana and beer are quickly becoming the two most popular intoxicants.

As hops don’t portray as many compounds in comparison to cannabis, its legal status makes it easier to research and study hops as opposed to cannabis. The strict legalities regarding marijuana in many states leaves research on cannabis far behind the continuous research developments within the beer industry.

With the wide range of hops already available for consumption, the possibilities that lie ahead for marijuana aromas and flavors are potentially endless. As the advancements in science continue to heighten, it’s likely the uses of these substances will continue to evolve.

For more information on how to enjoy cannabis and beer hand in hand, check out the Kegs-N-Kush Tour.

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