Keith Villa, who retired from US drinks behemoth Molson Coors in January 2018 after 32 years of service, has now launched Ceria Beverages, a firm dedicated to the creation of cannabis beer. The name is that of the bit of the University of Brussels where Villa became one of the few people in the world to receive a doctorate in brewing science.
Villa founded the company alongside his wife, Jodie, a civil engineer. He is the brewmaster and she the CEO. Its cannabis beers, which will be sold by the end of the year, are infused with THC, the ingredient of cannabis that gets you stoned. These beers will be sold in those states which permit cannabis. They will take effect in the same time as alcohol.
He’s done this before
While with Molson Coors, Villa created the world famous Blue Moon beer, one of the best-selling beers in the history of the United States, which is credited with introducing craft beer to the mainstream US beer guzzler. Villa professed himself “ready to introduce another high-impact brand to the industry”. He sees that “the opportunity and the demand are here” for “a more social way of consuming cannabis”.
We can’t have alcohol, oh no
The as-yet-unnamed cannabis beers lack alcohol because it’s illegal for a product to contain both alcohol and THC. The upside of lacking alcohol is that they will have less calories than regular beer. They will, however, cost more. They will be brewed like conventional craft beer, giving them the same taste and aroma, but then de-alcoholised before the THC is added. Three strengths will be available, offering what the company’s website, ceriabeverages.com, describes as a “variety of sensations.”
Other companies are involved
Ceria has been toiling in close partnership with ebbu, a cannabinoid research firm also based in Colorado. Jon Cooper, ebbu’s CEO, declared his firm to be “honoured and thrilled”. A number of drinks companies have taken an interest in cannabis-laced products following the legalisation of cannabis for recreational purposes in eight states and the District of Colombia, with Constellation Brands signing a $191 million deal with Canopy Growth to manufacture cannabis-infused drinks. Ceria will make use of the services of Intercontinental Beverage Capital, which advises the drinks industry, for business strategy, brand development and operations.
Last month, Chris Burggraeve, formerly the chief marketing officer of Anheuser-Busch, foresaw that cannabis beer will overtake craft beer in the eyes of consumers: craft beer was “ignored” for a long time but then “exploded,” and “there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space.”
Villa described his latest venture as “a step back in time to just after Prohibition”, when there was stigma attached to alcohol, which took a few years to dispel. He predicted that once this stigma has been got over, cannabis “will be a huge part of our economy.”