Creating a new beverage that is outside the norm is rare. Adding hemp extract into that beverage makes the drink even more taboo. But that is exactly what clēēn:craft owner Marcus Charles is aiming for with its new line of CBD drinks. Billed as “beverages infused with full-spectrum, THC-free hemp extract,” clēēn:craft is making waves as it pioneers a new approach to the nonalcoholic beverage scene.

After the United States passed a new farm bill which legalized industrial hemp in 2018, Charles hit the ground running with creating a beverage that used hemp extract. His project, clēēn:craft, is a nonalcoholic, sparkling CBD-infused beverage that just hit the market, opening with a tasting room in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. 

Hemp — which is a species of the cannabis plant and sibling to marijuana —  contains 0.3 percent or less THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) content and is typically used to describe non-intoxicating cannabis and its products. CBD, or Cannabidiol, is the opposing active component that is best known for its relieving and relaxing effects. 

THE CBD EFFECT

So, while the drink doesn’t get you high, there is a small effect that it has on your body. “I believe that CBD really does affect your endocannabinoid system in that it balances out your receptors and that its like a therapeutic handshake,” he says. “I believe it accentuates what’s already there… I personally get a bubbly feeling. It’s definitely not a psychoactive situation, it’s more of a ‘this is the way your body feels.’”

Clēēn:craft has launched with three different flavors — ginger, lime and cola, available in can and on draft in the tasting room — but Charles says the ingredients are bare bones and minimalistic. “Our beverage is ultimately four ingredients,” he explains. “Cane sugar, lime juice, lemon juice and then it’s the CBD hemp extract.”

A veteran of the Seattle restaurant, bar and music scene, Charles is best known for expanding the Capitol Hill Block Party in addition to bringing back the Crocodile music venue. He is currently the CEO of Clēēn Hemp Inc., a company that believes industrial hemp is the most sustainable natural material on the planet. 

Charles hopes clēēn:craft will be taken up by people who do not drink alcohol, a group that he says is growing bigger based on his time owning bars. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, U.S. consumption of alcohol dropped by 0.8 percent on top of the already 0.7 percent decrease in 2017 — seemingly small numbers with a large impact on the industry.

“If you look at the number of drinks sold, the next generation of folks, they just don’t drink as much,” he says. “So if you can have a wellness beverage that makes people feel good and doesn’t contain THC, doesn’t contain alcohol and it encourages the growth of industrial hemp, I think it’s all good then.” 

CHANGE IS COMING

Charles says he believes the beverage industry is changing and he hopes that CBD-based, wellness beverages like clēēn:craft are the future of it. 

“Not to harp on the non-drinking thing, but so many people just drink less or don’t drink alcohol, so this is a kind of alternative to that,” he adds. “You get the wellness feeling and, at the same time, it’s something to talk about and you can only drink so much Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke, you need something else.”  

For those who wish to combine clēēn:craft with something stronger, like a favorite base spirit, Charles does have recommendations. “In my experience you don’t need to drink booze with it, but if you wanted to, I would have higher-end booze to go with it,” he says. “If you have crappy booze, the CBD is only gonna make the booze more crappy. If you have good booze, it makes the good booze better.”

As for how consumers have taken to the new beverage, Charles says that many people are surprised with how it tastes. Despite the tasting room being in the bustling and oft-congested area of Belltown, many people make the trek in. Charles says half of the clientele are coming for the experience and the other half are returning customers back to restock their refrigerators. 

The entrepreneur also has high hopes for the burgeoning hemp scene, the environment and the consumer’s benefit, noting how the growing plant removes large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, which can help reduce climate change. 

“Wellness has taken over so much of the food industry but no one has identified this new concept where there are so many who just don’t drink,” he says. “It’s interesting to me that maybe this will be the thing that wakes people to go ‘oh ya, you can still have cool options outside of water and diet soda.’”