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Blue Moon Creator Shares His Journey To Cannabis Beer And The Difficulties Behind The Brew

Photos courtesy Ceria Brewing

Late last year, Dr. Keith Villa, the founder of Blue Moon, launched his very own line of cannabis-infused beer name Ceria. Based in Colorado, the brew sold out almost immediately upon launch and has become a hot ticket purchase at local dispensaries in the state.

So what was the journey behind Ceria?

Villa, who holds a PhD in brewing from the University of Brussels in Belgium, began his career more than 30 years ago at MillerCoors. Upon his retirement, Villa and his wife immediately began their own brewery based out of Colorado.

His foray into weed beer actually began a little bit before his retirement from Blue Moon and parent company MillerCoors in 2018.

Photos courtesy Ceria Brewing

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“In 2014, that's when recreational cannabis became legal in the state of Colorado. At that time there was still a pretty large stigma around cannabis,” he recalled. “But I thought, it's very possible to brew with cannabis because if you look at the genetics in the family tree of hops, you'll see that cannabis is a close cousin of the hops plant.”

Ever the scientist, Villa began to test the concept afterhours.

“So I tried at home and on my own time because I never wanted to endanger the federal brewing permit of Blue Moon and Coors. So I always did it, all the cannabis experiments at home on my own time.”

That’s when the first semblance of Ceria came to existence.

“I found out quickly that, you can brew some beers with cannabis. That really got me to thinking, you know, this could be a whole new category because there are so many people who don't drink alcohol for health reasons or religious reasons or whatever and they do want cannabis, because a lot of people believe cannabis does have healthful medicinal properties.”

Villa brought his wife onto the new venture, someone who has been working with him from the very start during all of his home tastings and tests.

“She lived with me in Belgium where I was getting my PhD. She's one of the few people I know and trust that actually has lived in Belgium and can truly judge Belgian Beers and European-style beers.”

Photos courtesy Ceria Brewing

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The two put their heads together and discovered that this could be an entirely new frontier that’s been untapped.

“We started figuring out right away that this could be a whole new category for beer. And so yeah, when we retired, we started Ceria Brewing Company and figured out right away that the best path forward was to focus on great tasting, non-alcoholic beers, craft beers that have the effects of cannabis and not the effects of alcohol. It was really hard creating a great tasting non-alcoholic beer. “

Villa didn’t seem like a man who would shy away from the challenge, however.

“Luckily with all my years of brewing experience as a brewmaster, I was able to create a series of non-alcoholic beers that taste really good. The next step is adding the cannabis in. So we have the effects of cannabis inside of a great smelling and great tasting craft beer.”

Photos courtesy Ceria Brewing

Working with cannabis and alcohol is an extremely tricky task. Dr. Villa explained that there were some major legal hurdles they had to overcome before launching their new product.

“Cannabis is federally illegal,” Villa states. “Though it is legal in the state of Colorado. So the first hurdle was alcohol, because the federal government, they strictly forbid anybody to put something that's federally illegal into an alcoholic beverage. So you cannot add cannabis to it.”

“The Colorado Division of Revenue, through a subdivision called the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), is the agency who controls and regulates the cannabis industry,” Villa explains.

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Essentially, you can’t add cannabis to an alcoholic product and you can’t add alcohol to a cannabis product in the state of Colorado.

“So it was real clear right away that we could not have an alcoholic product with cannabis,” he said. “That's what necessitated me to create a great tasting non-alcoholic beer. So that was definitely the first hurdle.”

Once Villa nailed the taste he wanted for a non-alcoholic beer, he set his sights on a different obstacle.

“After that, the biggest hurdle was getting people to taste our product because so many have read about cannabis or heard about it. And so many are just afraid of getting stoned. Well, our product is always going to be a lower dose so that people can trust it and not get stoned. They can get a mild buzz off, but they won't get stoned.”

Photos courtesy Ceria Brewing

Finally, Dr. Villa explains the rich history behind his company’s name.

"Ceria is actually from the Roman goddess of fertility and agriculture. She's in history, she is the goddess of agriculture, meeting hops and cannabis. Her name is Ceres. That's where we get the names, cereal — like breakfast cereal. That's where we get the name of Ceria."

Boasting a medium-bodied taste and some notes of citrus and a smooth malty finish, Ceria can be purchased at select dispensaries throughout the state of Colorado. Villa shares in parting that Ceria plans on expanding to other states in the upcoming months as well as the development of new flavors.