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After living in Belgium and earning his Ph.D. in brewing science, Keith Villa came home to Colorado and created Blue Moon Brewing Co., a brewing company that put a focus on Belgian-style beers — part of the Molson Coors family.
Now, in retirement after 32 years of service to Molson Coors, Villa is aiming to create yet another cutting-edge beverage.
“I’m ready to introduce another high-impact brand to the industry again, this time with a new line of custom cannabis-infused craft beers,” Villa said. “Today, the opportunity and the demand are here, inviting Americans to enjoy a more social way of consuming cannabis by drinking rather than by smoking it or through ingestion of edibles.”
After retiring in January, Villa, a longtime Arvada resident and graduate of Pomona High School, immediately started working on launching his business, Ceria Beverages based in Arvada, with his wife, Jodi. Among the company’s goals this year is to be the first to introduce a line of cannabis-infused non-alcoholic craft beverages containing THC, a key psychoactive chemical from cannabis plants that affects how one feels by creating the “high.” This will be the first cannabis beer to contain THC.
Ceria’s beverages will be designed to deliver a user experience with the same onset time as alcohol.
The new brew will follow a skill system similar to the ski slopes, with a green leaf for low-level THC and a double black for the most intense experience. A green leaf would give a similar buzz to a low-alcoholic beer such as Coors Light; a blue would be similar to a standard craft beer with a 5 percent ABV such as a Blue Moon; a black would be comparable to a double IPA with 10 percent ABV; and a double black would equal something like a Samuel Adams Utopias beer, which clocks in at 28 percent ABV.
To deliver the psychoactive experience, Ceria is partnering with Ebbu, a cannabinoid research firm based in Evergreen.
“We have always loved what Keith stands for — great-tasting mainstream beers that really kickstarted the entire craft beer movement,” Jon Cooper, CEO of Ebbu, said. “We are honored and thrilled to partner with Keith, Jodi and Ceria to bring this groundbreaking new product to cannabis consumers in legalized states.”
Villa’s plans for a cannabis-infused beverage with” top-quality craft beer taste” will be offered in legalized marijuana states by the end of 2018 in at least three strengths — light, regular and full-bodied — with a variety of sensations. Consumers must be at least 21 years old.
Ceria is currently in the administrative phase — figuring out logistics and legalities of bringing the brews to life.
“Ceria will be brewed just like an alcoholic craft beer to maintain its beer taste and aroma, but will then be de-alcoholized prior to the infusion of cannabis,” Villa explains, noting that it is illegal to have a product with both alcohol and THC.
The Villas are enthusiastic about their new entrepreneurial venture and know their way around a brewery.
The Villas, both University of Colorado graduates and native Coloradans, note that the new brand, whose name is currently being developed, will also be less caloric than traditional beer, due to the elimination of alcohol.
Keith Villa started studying cannabis when it was legalized for recreational use in Colorado four years ago.
“I was against it at first, but I started reading about this plant and its benefits in a number of situations,” he said. “There were a lot of really great things written about it. So I changed my outlook and started saying that it’s an interesting plant. Plus, it’s a cousin of hops, which is a main ingredient in beer.”
Villa sees his new brews as alternatives to alcohol in a social situation.
“So many people are drinking less alcohol for health reasons,” Villa explained. “Others don’t like the taste. On the cannabis side, you will see smokable things, but you can’t sit with your friends all night smoking away or eat a whole bag of gummies. It’s a need for an alternative to alcohol and at the same time a more social way to enjoy cannabis.”
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