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Why Do Some Beers Smell Like Cannabis?

Ever cracked open a cold beer and caught the scent of cannabis? That’s because cannabis and hops are related!  

The brewing and drinking of beer is positively poetic. It’s the unmistakable hiss of a can being cracked open, glistening condensation dripping down an ice-cold bottle, or even the frothy layer of foam atop a freshly poured glass. And you can’t mention beer without paying homage to the hops plant!

This perennial vining plant, scientifically known as Humulus lupulus, is responsible for the bitter, herbaceous, and sometimes grassy notes found in some of our most beloved beers. So, why do some beers smell a bit like cannabis?

While more breweries are experimenting with cannabis as an ingredient, even beer with NO cannabis can sometimes contain a hint of the cannabis aroma. That’s because the plants are related! Specifically, they’re part of the Cannabaceae family. 

Beer and Cannabis

 Cascade Hop Profile | Abstrax Tech


Hops and Cannabis Belong To The Cannabaceae Family

Both plants have a complex and thriving culture surrounding them, and for good reason! For thousands of years, humans have been brewing beer with hops and using cannabis in a variety of ways. Historically, both have even been used medicinally and recreationally. Plus, today they’re the cornerstone of billion dollar industries. So, it’s not all that surprising to learn they’re part of the same taxonomic family.

Plants in the Cannabaceae family are generally erect or climbing and include trees, woody vines, and a few herbaceous plants. “The leaves are borne oppositely or in spirals and are often palmately lobed or compound. The plants are commonly dioecious, meaning that individuals are either male or female. The flowers are petal-less, and the dry one-seeded fruits are usually achenes or samaras” (1). Sound familiar?

They’re also both known for their pungent organoleptics. Specifically, they both produce a LOT of terpenes.

Centennial Hop Profile | Abstrax Tech 


Hops and Cannabis Share Some of the Same Terpenes

Terpenes are the building blocks of scent and flavor. That’s why you can find the same terpene isolates in plants that smell and taste nothing alike. It’s all about the unique ratio of terpene isolates that make up the overall terpene profile. Well, it turns out that both hops and cannabis share many of the same terpenes.

Even if you’re not a beer expert, you know that hops are used to infuse beer with a unique flavor that’s bitter, slightly citric, and woodsy. This flavor will be stronger or weaker depending on when hops are added during the brewing process (i.e. dry hopping or wet hopping). The different varieties of hops each have their own unique characteristics that may alter the flavor, aroma, and even bitterness of a beer. 

The majority of hops varieties, however, have the same three dominant terpenes; alpha-caryophyllene, myrcene, and alpha-pinene. 


Also known as alpha-humulene, if you get your hands on this isolate and take a delicate whiff, you’ll still be smacked in the face with the scent of hops. That’s because alpha-caryophyllene is one of the dominant terpenes in hops. You can also find it in sage and ginseng, but its iconic bitter, woody overtones will first and foremost remind you of a nice hoppy beer.


Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes and can be found in things like mangos, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and especially hops. Its flavor is minty yet balsam with vegetal, leafy notes. 


This terpene can be found to some degree in barley, oats, and rye. However, you may notice it more strongly in seasonal holiday beers that play on pine flavors (hint: that’s where this terpene got its name). Alpha-Pinene has a distinctly woody, herbal scent and can be found in cone-bearing trees and herbs like rosemary.

These terpenes are also prevalent in many cannabis strains. For example, some of the most popular cannabis strains with high amounts of alpha-caryophyllene include Biscotti, GSC, and Chemdawg

Chinook Hop Profile | Abstrax Tech


Abstrax Tech Hop Profiles Ensure Authentic Flavor and Aroma

Because of the water insolubility of terpenes, you probably won’t find them in high quantities within bottled or canned beers unless hops were added during a dry-hopping process. Even then, it can take a lot of time and money to get a consistent flavor that’s JUST right. 

Now, infusing beers with all that hoppy goodness is easier than ever! When you extract the oil from hops, no matter how good your extraction is, you’ll always wind up with certain undesirable plant compounds. However, Abstrax Hop Profiles are true-to-type optimized hop extracts without any of the undesirable notes typically found in other dry-hop aroma oils. What does that mean for you and your beer?

  • They’re completely dispersible and free-flowing at room temperature. That means there’s zero chance of them sticking to anything and they don’t require special handling.
  • Since you won’t lose anything to absorption, you can drastically increase your yield. That means higher profits per batch.
  • You can avoid the natural variance found from farm-to-farm, harvest-to-harvest ingredients for maximum consistency.
  • Our Hop Profiles won’t influence IBU test results.
  • No added solvents or synthetic carriers are used in our Hop Profiles
  • No lightstruck flavors

You can even choose from four of the most popular American public varietals - Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Willamette. From the unique floral, spicy, and grapefruit citrus character of the Cascade variety to the vibrant citrus and soft pine characteristics of Centennial, we’ve captured the exact aromatic profile of the original hop.

Hop Profiles Sample Kit | Abstrax Tech


Try Our Hop Profiles In Your Next Beer!

We know that a lot of brewers are traditionalists, but innovation is what helps industries survive and thrive when the market is oversaturated. If you’re interested in partnering with us to brew your beer, contact us today and we can help you at every step of the process. Plus, don’t forget to follow us on social media for all the latest updates.

READ NEXT → Why More Brands Should Use Terpenes in Their Beverages


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