Alas, our two favorite holidays have arrived – the last day of Snow Emergency parking in Minnesota and 4/20! As the snow-covered streets turn to flooded lakes, rivers, streets, and basements, Minnesotans are busy ‘shop-vac’ing their shag rugs and squinting at the light of the end of the tunnel that is sunny weather without the chance of flurries or flooding. While they wade… er… wait, it’s only natural to reach for a cold one to warm up from the inside out.
If you’ve ever visited the Midwest, you know the drinking culture is intertwined into every social moment and every regular day. There isn’t a holiday (faith-based included) that doesn’t draw out the finest liquor, cheapest beers, craft ales, and other spirits. Oh yes, those spirits too. But what if this year, instead of crying eternal winter tears in your Minnesota beers, a different, less-intoxicating, more uplifting beverage could deliver ‘roll-out-the-barrel’ polka fever without the nasty hangover?
This year, Minnesotans have that opportunity, thanks to the new state law that went into effect in July of 2022 that allows hemp-derived THC-infused edibles and drinkables to be sold in any storefront as long as they’re served in 5 mg doses (up to 50mg per package) without the requirement of a license.
This legislative change gave already thriving brewers and beverage manufacturers, like Minneapolis Cider Co. and Fair State Brewing Cooperative, the green light to infuse with the green gold. And it gave grocery stores, co-ops, storefronts, and beverage depots, like Dabbler Depot and Natreum, the opportunity to sell America’s most regulated pass-time without the battle for dispensary licenses. Not even a full year into this new state law, there are 200+ cannabis-infused beverage SKUs ready to liven up any pontoon day cruise on Lake Minnetonka.
Ope! You didn’t think we’d forget to give you the scoop on which ready-to-drink beverages to try, did you? Enjoy the unsolicited advice right in time for 4/20 celebrations. Here are 15 MN cannabis-infused beverages ranked from “could use some work” to “I’ll take a 6-pack!”
Could Use Some Work
15. Eastlake’s High & Dry | Lemon | 16 oz Can | 5mg Total THC | Seltzer
The name, in this case, is a little too ironic. I felt appropriately left high and dry with this beverage. I never enjoy giving something a poor review, but progress requires honesty! When opened, the aroma was reminiscent of chlorinated water. After the first taste, it tasted of city water, pool water, or lemon mop water. Chlorinated. Synthetic lemon flavor. No desirable flavor. It lacked sweetness and was flat. There are a few other flavors, including Guava, Pineapple, and water flavor – which I haven’t tried. However, my overall take on the lemon: needs major re-working.
14. Satélite Tropical | Pineapple Orange Mango | 12 oz Can | 5mg Total THC | Seltzer
When it comes to tropical flavors, you either get it right or wrong. There’s little in-between. In this case, the Satelite Tropical Pineapple Orange Mango flavor fell on the latter. The flavor tasted manufactured – like a tropical air freshener. It left a bitter aftertaste that was likely influenced by the carbonation or the added terpenes (though it didn’t taste like herb). The addition of a little sweetness could help to round out the flavor better. I wasn’t inclined to finish the drink by itself. I could see a case being made to utilize it as the base for a mocktail, but I wouldn’t buy it again to drink alone.
13. High Fiver | Citrus Grass |12 oz Can | 5mg THC + 5mg CBD | Seltzer
The High Fiver, made by Indeed Brewing Company, had a crisp citrus flavor that wasn’t too lemony or intense. It was subtle but failed to deliver more than one or two flavor notes. Citrus to start, and a sharp, sour, bitter aftertaste. A little sweetness or additional flavor complexities could have helped this beverage go from ok to doable.
Solid Middle of the Road Beverages
12. Natreum Wellwater | Flavorless | 16 oz Glass Bottle | 2.5mg CBN + 5mg THC | Still Water
This brand-new beverage is as plain as it can get but for good reason. This still-water beverage is intended to hydrate with the OG liquid of life without the need for flavor additives or sugar. As you might expect, it tasted like… water. No strange aftertaste, no terpenes, no chlorine taste, no flavors at all. Just water. And I loved that. For those who want to get their H2O in without the added stuff, this is a great, no-frills, clean-tasting option.
11. Nmbr9 | Fruit Punch | 8 oz portion/scoop | 12.5mg minor cannabinoids + 10mg THC | Powder mix
There’s something about the fruity cloud of Kool-Aid powder that sends you back to your childhood in an instant. Nmbr9 knew this when they made the fruit punch powdered drink mix. The flavor is sweet, fruity, and bright, like the powdered beverages of yesteryear. If you love Kool-aid, you’d enjoy this beverage packed with minor and major cannabinoids – the only beverage option that packed a minor combo (CBDA, CBGA, CBD, and CBG). Unlike other beverages that use flavorless isolate, the powder had a small aftertaste from the hemp, which I didn’t mind.
My critique is not about the flavor but rather the labeling on the canister. There were no instructions on the packaging, so I wasn’t sure how much water to use or how many scoops. I assumed 12 oz and one scoop, but once I tried it, it seemed too watered down. My suggestion is to mix 8 oz of water per scoop and mix a lot for the sugar to fully dissolve.
10. TINT by Modist Brewing Co.| Blackberry Lime | 16 oz Can | 3mg THC | Seltzer
The TINT Blackberry Lime delivered on its flavor profile. Refreshing and crisp with a faint sweetness that makes it better than the dryer seltzers. It has almost a vinegar finish. My complaint is that tall cans with low dosages don’t make sense. Even for consumers who enjoy micro-doses, drinking 16oz of liquid to receive 3mg feels unbalanced. If you plan on consuming a full 16 oz, you are likely going to be sipping it over the course of an hour. By the time you reach the bottom, you may not even feel the effects of the 3mg. It makes more sense to have 5mg or 3mg doses in the 12oz or 8oz cans.
9. Buch Bliss | Dragonfruit Acai | 16 oz Can | 5mg THC | Kombucha Soda
If you enjoy kombucha, grab yourself a Buch Bliss. At first, I was intimidated by the exotic flavor for fear that it would taste like a bath and body works candle. To my surprise, the flavor was bright, fruity, and floral. After I waited for the bubbles to die down post-pour, it didn’t strike the pallet too hard with a bitter taste. It tastes naturally sweet as a kombucha would, and has a complex flavor profile that rounds out as you swallow. I tasted it over and over again to try to place all the flavors I was tasting and didn’t mind tasting it again and again. For me, 16 oz is a lot of kombucha. I’d love to see this made in the mini cans – like an 8 oz. can at 5mg. For most people, kombucha can awaken the gut, and with such a large can, that could lead to waste – pun intended.
8. Abyss | Cranberry Spice | 8.4 oz Can |10mg THC (two servings) | Seltzer
I was instantly drawn to Abyss because of the unique 8.4 oz can that packs a double dose of 10mg THC. This smaller but more potent portion is perfect for the consumer who wants less liquid in their dose, a faster path to their high, or who wants to use the beverage as a cocktail base. The flavors were more complex than many other seltzers I tried but weren’t giving main character energy as much as I had hoped. To me, these flavors are perfect for mocktail bases and have a great profile for them. So I sampled the Cranberry Spice with apple cider and did a little dance afterward. You can’t underestimate the perfect mixer! I loved that it was small enough to mix the whole thing (or half) with another ingredient and maintain the potency.
The passionfruit flavor definitely emulates the real fruit ingredients. It was punchy and full – with a young watermelon rind flavor that turns sour at the finish. The ingredients list is short and sweet – Water, fruit puree, and hemp-derived delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. It does have carbonation, but it wasn’t on the ingredients list. As a consumer, I like to know every ingredient in the beverage, so my critique would be to list that as well.
7. North Vibes | Pineapple Orange |12 oz Can | 2.5mg THC + 5mg CBD | Sparkling Water
North Vibes Pineapple Orange leads with a very tangerine fruity flavor with a hint of pineapple at the end. The flavors were nice, but it needs something to add punch and a bit more complexity to be a beverage you want to sip again and again. I kept thinking it would be great in a piña colada mocktail. It was refreshing, fruity, and light. It had a little aftertaste, but it didn’t linger long. I likely wouldn’t have more than one of the pineapple orange flavor in one sitting but would happily switch to the Raspberry Lemon and Blackberry Mango, which were both bright and refreshing. The Blackberry mango had a unique flavor profile that made me return for more. I liked that it didn’t taste too sweet or artificial. Overall a good and flavorful seltzer.
6. Chill State | Aromatic Terpene | 16 oz Can | 5mg THC + 25mg CBD | Sparkling Water
My first experience with Chill State brought out an “oooOoOO!” and “WooOoOahh!” It was the first time I had tried a beverage that didn’t use fruit or herb flavors as the main show. The flavor is “aromatic terpene,” which puts the flavonoids of the plant front and center. It was like licking your sticky fingers after you break up your bud – but better. After you taste the terps, it leans toward citrusy lime rind, which makes sense given that the aroma blend of the drink was Grapefruit Kush (bright citrus) + King Louis (Heady, pine). The flavor is intense on your pallet while it’s in your mouth but quickly dissipates – the flavor resurfaces when you move your tongue around your mouth or breath into your soft pallet. I’d love to see a Chill State X Trail Magic Hop Water cross/collab. I feel like this almost needs its own category of beverages.
I’ll Take a 6-Pack!
5. Trail Magic | Hop Water | 12 oz. Can | 3mg THC | Sparkling Water
In a rare turn of events, I’m highlighting two Trail Magic beverages. These beverages aren’t flavor variations but two totally different experiences that warranted another spot on the list. Trail Magic Hop Water is the better-looking, better-tasting, better-feeling cousin of the IPA. With round flavorful hops, the sweetness from apples, a little bubbly from the sparkling water, and cannabis extract, Hop Water is both an N/A beer, sparkling water, and cannabis bev rolled into one. Aside from being enjoyable in general, it’s the perfect beverage for someone who loves beer but doesn’t want to drink alcohol. Hop Water is a major win. I’m curious to know if there are plans to introduce terpenes for hop/terp water. I will be first in line to try it if they do.
4. Clr!ty | Pink Lemonade | 12oz Can | 10mg THC | Seltzer
As Clr!ty accurately puts it, this beverage has a “nostalgic pink lemonade flavor, all grown up”. With fruity, citrusy, sweet lemonade and just the right amount of carbonation, this beverage was a fast favorite. There was no bitter or sour aftertaste, and I enjoyed the double dose of THC. For consumers who want to microdose, it’s perfect for sharing, but for consumers who enjoy a larger dose, this is the perfect serving.
3. Rebel Rabbit High Seltzer | Mandarin Orange | 12oz Can | 5mg THC | Seltzer
Rebel Rabbit High Seltzer is a standout beverage in the seltzer genre. The aroma after you crack it open smells of bright ripe mandarin. The citrusy orange flavor comes through nicely but isn’t overpowering or synthetic – which has been hard to find in the seltzers. There’s a tiny bit of sweetness, which perfectly cuts through the bitterness that carbonation typically brings to the flavor of other seltzers. This is one of the few seltzers I can imagine having two or more of in one sitting. Bonus points – I love the 70’s vibe of the can art.
2. Crested River Sodas | Lemon Haze/Acapulco Gold/Forbidden Fruit | 16 oz Can | 25mg THC | Soda
When I say you need to try a Crested River Soda, I mean it. I’m not typically a soda drinker, but I’d happily make an exception for a Crested River soda, not only because the flavors are unique and vibrant but the 16 oz. can is packed with five 5mg servings for a total of 25mg of THC. That means you can share a full serving with up to five friends or enjoy a larger dose without drinking 60oz of liquid. I tried three flavors, and all of them were bright, very sweet, smooth, and had several notes – giving each flavor a complex finish you want to sip on repeatedly. The flavors didn’t come off as synthetic, though the Acapulco Gold flavor, reminiscent of Mellow Yellow, was not as exciting as the Lemon Haze and Forbidden Fruit.
I love the nod to OG strains in the flavor names. I wish they contained the strain they were named after – but I can’t dock them on it. In my opinion, the market needs more non-seltzer beverages to give consumers more options, and this is a great option to try.
1. Trail Magic | Half-and-Half | 12 oz can | 5mg THC
Finally, coming in at the number one spot is Trail Magic’s Half-and-Half. There is nothing better than a perfectly balanced lemonade/tea combo. Trail Magic knocked it out of the park. The blend of lemonade and tea flavors is just sweet enough without being super sugary or bland. It has a wonderfully natural lemonade flavor and contains no terpene flavors. If you didn’t read the can, you’d have no idea that this Arnold Palmer was a “special” one. It’s so easy to drink that I’d have no problem drinking several in one sitting. For this reason, I think it’s appropriately dosed at 5mg per 12oz can. If they were to offer other half-and-half variations, I think it would be interesting to include terpenes in the flavor profile. I have absolutely no complaints or critiques for the half-and-half. So go try one today, and be sure to grab a few extras for yourself and others. Trust me when I say you won’t want to share!
After sampling over 15 SKUs with varying flavors, one thing has become clear. Cannabinoid dosing and the total fluid ounces of the beverage matter a lot. If the focus has been put on crafting a delicious flavor, 5mg or 3mg doses can work just fine. This allows the consumer to drink 2 or more beverages over the course of an hour or two and reach a solid high. However, if the flavor isn’t a major benefit of the drink, higher doses of 10-15mg would be helpful so folks can get to where they’re going without having to consume a ton of liquid to get there.
As a consumer who has experience with larger servings, I enjoy beverages that can cater to my desire to consume a larger dose without needing to consume so much liquid. It doesn’t mean micro-dosers can’t enjoy higher-dosed beverages too. In fact, it makes it easier to share with curious friends or family who aren’t ready for a full-sized beverage. That being said, there is definitely a market for low-dose beverages – Just don’t put them in a 16oz can.
While there’s much more I could say about the exploding cannabis beverage scene in MN, I think it’s important you experience it for yourself. There’s nothing quite like the freedom of sitting down at a restaurant to order a cannabis beverage with your meal. To everyone reading, have a safe, happy, and healthy 4/20. Cheers!
About the Author
Bri Smith is a Cannabis Brand Strategist and Writer. She spent nearly a decade in California, where she established her career in cannabis marketing in 2014 working for brands like Green Flower, Wick & Mortar, Heally, Pineapple Express, and CannaSiteCo. After a pandemic move back to the Midwest, she stayed committed to serving cannabis brands remotely. Now a mom to a vivacious toddler, she strives to show her daughter a Midwest childhood like her own- harvesting from the land, preserving homegrown food, and living in harmony with animals and the wilderness.
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