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Keith Villa’s Ceria Brewing Looks To Pioneer THC Beer

February 19, 2019

Keith Villa is best known as the creator of Blue Moon, the MillerCoors Belgian white ale that became one of the best-selling above-premium beers in the U.S. market. After retiring from MillerCoors last year, Villa formed a new Colorado-based company called Ceria Brewing, with the goal of becoming a leader in the nascent cannabis beer segment.

Ceria Brewing’s Grainwave Belgian White Ale launched five days before Christmas and sold out within hours. Grainwave is de-alcoholized and infused with cannabis compound THC. Under current Colorado law, it can only be sold at cannabis dispensaries to be taken home for private consumption. But Villa sees vast potential for Grainwave and other cannabis drinks in the years ahead. He says consumers are most interested in drinkable THC products that are social and sessionable. The overall effect of a Grainwave, he adds, is one of relaxation—with only 5 milligrams of THC per 10-ounce bottle, it won’t be overwhelming to the vast majority of the population.

“Alcohol is the parallel,” Villa tells SND. “In everything the craft beer movement has become, it owes a lot to Blue Moon for opening up the category,” he said. “People try Double IPAs and Imperial Stouts, but at the end of the night they often want to finish off with a Blue Moon.” He plans to bring that same spirit to Ceria.

For all the excitement, legal challenges abound. For each state where Ceria expands (with Nevada, Massachusetts, and California in the works), Villa must tailor the product and the packaging to local law. For instance, Grainwave’s matte grey bottle doesn’t show the liquid inside because cannabis packaging is required to fully obscure the product in certain states. Thanks to continued federal prohibition, no THC products may legally be transported across state lines, meaning that Ceria must establish or partner with infusing facilities in each new state.

But the opportunities outweigh the headaches. Villa has pilot brews of a 10-milligram THC IPA and a 2.5-milligram lager ready to go once Grainwave has established itself as Ceria’s flagship product. He imagines the IPA may play well in California’s consumption lounges while the lighter lager may be favored in the Las Vegas heat. He also speculates that Nevada will be first state to get on-premise lounges up and running. A Canadian launch is also possible, once the country begins allowing edible and drinkable cannabis products later this year.

The future looks bright for the independent company, with Villa’s eagerness to innovate lighting the way. “The goal is to pioneer the future of cannabis beers,” he said.—Danny Sullivan

LEADING CANNABIS COMPANIES—Revenues and Updated Share Prices
Gross Revenues1
(millions of Canadian dollars)
Percent
Change
Stock
Symbol
Closing Price
(U.S. dollars)
Percent
Change
Market Cap
(billions of U.S. dollars)
Company 2017 2018 12/31/18 2/14/19 2/14/19
Canopy $69.8 $169.8 143.2% CGC $26.87 $46.12 71.6% $15.87
Aurora $31.1 $126.9 308.6% ACB $4.96 $7.10 43.1% $7.06
Aphria $25.5 $57.3 124.9% APHA $5.69 $9.09 59.8% $2.27
Tilray2 $26.6 $42.1 58% TLRY $70.54 $76.62 8.6% $7.14
CannTrust $15.8 $36.5 130.6% CNTTF $4.82 $7.91 64.0% $0.83
Cronos $2.9 $11.7 303.5% CRON $10.39 $20.82 100.4% $3.72
Hexo Corp $4.1 $10.5 158.8% HEXO $3.43 $5.44 58.6% $1.09
1 Revenues for the 12 months ending September 30, except for Canopy and Aurora (12 months ending December 31), Aphria (12 months ending November 30), and Hexo Corp (12 months ending October 31).
2 Revenues converted from U.S. to Canadian dollars. Source: IMPACT DATABANK
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