Blue Moon's creator launched a cannabis beer that sold out in 4 hours
Yahoo FinanceMarch 25, 2019
Keith Villa achieved a Ph.D. in brewing sciences at the University of Brussels, launched what many consider to be a craft beer pioneer in Blue Moon, and had just retired after a 32-year career at America’s second largest beer maker Molson Coors.
But he just couldn’t bring himself to hang up the brewing cleats as he watched the cannabis wave hit Colorado.
Twenty-four years after Villa finished his most famous recipe for the new beer at Coors Field that came to be called Blue Moon, he’s expanding his own brewing operation and line of cannabis beers that appear to be just as pioneering.
Just four hours after debuting his new Ceria Brewing Co. non-alcoholic, marijuana-infused, Belgian-style ale in Colorado dispensaries last December, it sold out.
ARVADA, CO - MARCH 29: Keith and Jodi Villa pose for a picture at the headquarters for Ceria Beverages on Thursday, March 29, 2018. Keith Villa is the creator of Blue Moon, the popular Belgian-style white beer produced by Coors. The Villas are working under their brand Ceria to create what they believe is the first ever THC-infused non-alcoholic beer. They plan to release their first batch by the end of 2018 in Colorado then expect to expand to Nevada, California and Washington in the coming year. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)View photos
Keith Villa is the creator of Blue Moon, the popular Belgian-style white beer produced by Coors. The Villas are working under their brand Ceria and expect to expand to Nevada and California in the coming year.
“It turns out a lot of cannabis products are popular for Christmas gifts,” he told Yahoo Finance YFi PM, adding that he’s seeing more and more first-time cannabis users as customers. “You don’t taste cannabis you taste great tasting beer with the effects of cannabis and that’s really critical because we found that the taste of cannabis is really polarizing. Some people love it, but most people don’t really care for it.”
That fact is at least partially responsible for the incredible growth forecasts analysts are projecting for the cannabis space in the years ahead. According to BDS Analytics, beverages made up only about 5% of the annual U.S. edibles market, with sales of $30 million. By 2022, cannabis beverage sales are expected to expand by more than 10-fold, to $374 million.
That growth opportunity has attracted more than just Villa’s Ceria Brewing Company. His beer now joins first mover Cannabiniers’ Two Roots brand of THC-infused beers in the race against the brewing behemoths, which have increasingly partnered with Canada’s leading marijuana companies. Corona importer Constellation Brands invested $4 billion in cannabis company Canopy Growth to pursue development of cannabis-infused non-alcoholic beer for sale in Canada by October when they are slated to be legalized. Molson Coors set up its own joint venture with Canadian cannabis company Hexo Corp. to pursue the same goal.
But there is a little-known legal distinction in the law that Villa said might help his smaller non-alcoholic beer venture take on the brewing giants.
“A lot of people don’t realize that cannabis is legal federally in Canada right now, but only the smokable forms,” he said. “Drinkables become legal this October ... [but] part of the ruling in Canada is you cannot use any existing logos or names of beverage companies that are associated with alcohol.”
Separating from the pack
Similar to Two Roots, Ceria is looking to establish brand power by expanding to multiple states in the U.S. before the major brewers introduce their products in Canada. Villa said overwhelming demand for his first batch led to not only building out his Colorado operation in March, but also his decision to expand distribution to California and Nevada dispensaries within the next three months.
Due to federal restrictions on interstate cannabis commerce, Ceria will distribute the non-alcoholic beer base across state lines before infusing batches with THC in each state ahead of bottling. State and federal law both prohibit combining alcohol and marijuana in beverages for sale.