There’s nothing like a high quality beer or wine to highlight the taste, and compliment the effects, of a great strain of cannabis. Just like pairing food with beer or wine, the right combination of beer and cannabis will bring out the nuances in the aroma of both your drink, and your strain that you might miss otherwise. Furthermore, the relaxing effects of alcohol and hops can round-out and mellow the stimulating effects of your chosen cannabis strain, which in some cases, is a welcome counterweight.
Beer, cannabis, and wine all offer their own vast diversity of flavor profiles and aromas, making pairing a delicate art. Thanks to complex assortments of aromatic compounds called terpenes, cannabis aromas can range from sour citrus, to deep chocolate, to chemical diesel, to airy spice notes, and to each and everything in between. Of course, terpenes exist in food and other natural products – including the ones used to make beer and wine. This, alongside the complex variations in the process of brewing beer and making wine, lend these beverages their own vast range of flavors, from toasty coffee in stouts and fruity citrusy hefeweizens in beers, to the sweet, fruity, and, floral flavors in wines.
*DISCLAIMER: I would be doing everyone a disservice if i didn’t mention that if you’re new to this combination of THC and alcohol, you should start cautiously with lower than usual quantities of each. Alcohol helps THC to make its way through your bloodstream, increasing its level of concentration and therefore its effect. In turn, cannabis can, on a more anecdotal note, increase the unpleasant sense of “the spins” and dizziness that can come with drinking too much. This can be avoided by limiting the quantity of alcohol consumed, which is normally advisable anyway. As always, those with less of a tolerance for THC should heed both of those warnings extra carefully.*
That being said, beer or wine combined with cannabis will usually offer a great experience that brings out the best qualities of both. Furthermore, when the most common negative side effects of cannabis include mild anxiety and dry mouth, a tasty and refreshing beverage that also happens to offer anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties is the perfect compliment.
For this week’s pairing, we’re sampling indica Yoda Kush along with an unusual, recently revived, style of beer called Gose.
Gose, pronounced go-za, is a once forgotten style of ale from the area around Leipzig, Germany and its namesake town, Goslar, in eastern Germany. It was forgotten for decades, and is finally gaining popularity again, both in its region of origin, and in the hands of American craft brewers. However, it is still relatively uncommon.
Unless you’ve tried Belgian style lambics or other sour or “wild” beers, Gose will taste unlike any beer you’ve tried before. Like its Belgian lambic cousin, Gose beers incorporate lactic acid bacteria in the brewing process, imparting a tartness similar to the taste of kombucha. If you haven’t tried kombucha, the first impression might remind you instead of apple cider vinegar. As if that taste wasn’t distinctive enough on its own, Gose is also traditionally brewed with varying quantities of salt added to the water, adding a unique finish to the tartness. Gose beers can also sometimes incorporate coriander.
Lactic acid bacteria are beneficial microbes - also found in yogurt and pickled vegetables - that offer a variety of potential health benefits, which make fermented foods very good for you. Lactic acid bacteria has been said to act as a digestive aid, offer anti-infection, help control cholesterol levels, and even have anti-cancer properties. Additionally it also helps toimprove digestion of lactose, a sugar found in dairy products. So, If you’re using cannabis for stomach problems, Gose can complement this effect beautifully, depending on exactly what problems you’re treating.
Furthermore, Gose beers offer relatively low alcohol levels, usually between 4 and 5 percent. This makes it perfect to pair with a heavy indica such as Yoda Kush, since the lower alcohol content won’t magnify the indica couchlock and sedation as easily. Unlike, for example, a 12 percent alcohol content imperial stout, a pairing that could lead to some inevitable napping. Unless this is your goal, stick to lower alcohol beers to pair with heavy indicas.
For this pairing, I tried Anderson Valley’s Holy Gose Ale, sustainably brewed at their solar-powered facility in Mendocino County. You can try this pairing with any Gose (Sierra Nevada makes a great one that incorporates prickly pear), or for a variation on the theme, try a Belgian lambic instead.
Gose and Yoda Kush
Yoda Kush is a balanced, powerful indica strain with sweet and sour, earthy, and pungent notes. Like most indicas, it is great as a sedative, without having the instant couchlock imparted by even heavier strains. As a descendant of OG Kush, it brings a distinctively sour and fruity pungency to the table, which will be familiar to OG fans.
In terms of taste, the Gose balances the deep earthiness of Yoda Kush’s OG parentage, with its light and upbeat tartness. Meanwhile, the citrus notes of the Gose bring out the light citrusy sourness of the Yoda Kush, and the salty finish of the beer also tempers the in-your-face pungency of the Kush. The combination of the pungent lime-like citrus notes of the Kush, with the salty finish to the tart beer, works much in the same way as tequila, salt and lime, only extremely toned down in intensity. Despite the alcohol and citrus flavors both being much subtler, the combination of aromas performs a similar balancing act on your taste buds, tempering the more abrasive notes of all of the taste components. The tanginess of the beer matches the tanginess of the buds perfectly, helping the two tastes to mesh and work together. The acidic, vinegary taste of the beer is further balanced by the earthy, soil aromas in the buds.
The overall taste impression of the pairing is sour and earthy, with a clean tangy finish that is tempered by the saltiness. It is a delicious combination. With its low alcohol level and light tartness, the Gose is much more thirst quenching and refreshing than other heavier beers, offering a perfect cure for any dry mouth from smoking.
In your own pairing adventures, always remember – don’t be afraid to try whatever sounds good to you. Some foodies and beer geeks may have a set of rules they might be attached to, but while guidelines may help, the best pairing is the one that tastes the best to you!