Cannabis legalization has not only spurred a wide variety of new industries, but it’s reinvigorating some old business models. Noticing the growing interest around terpenes — plant compounds found in cannabis and hops (and fruits, flowers, coffee and pretty much anything else grown on Earth) — Niki Sawni decided to start a line of non-alcoholic beverages geared toward cannabis users.
Using terpenes to make non-alcoholic IPAs, sours and even wines, Sawni’s beverage company, Gruvi, has been able to breathe new life into sober drinks; Gruvi products are now on the shelves of 45 liquor stores and craft breweries around Colorado. We recently sat down with Sawni to learn more about how drinking terpenes without the booze can affect our experiences with cannabis.
Westword: What makes these drinks similar or different from a non-alcoholic beer like O’Doul’s?
Niki Sawni: Gruvi and O’Doul’s are similar in that they are both non-alcoholic beers, but that’s essentially where it ends. O’Doul’s, owned by Anheuser-Busch, has been around for many years but was missing the taste and quality of the craft beers we all love. Gruvi is focused on creating craft NA beer that actually tastes like beer. We have the only NA IPA, Berliner Weisse and Prosecco in Colorado! Most other non-alcoholic companies brew their beer to full-strength, then boil off the alcohol, leaving a watered-down and oddly sweet beverage. Gruvi uses a different process, called arrested fermentation, where yeast is monitored and cooled to prevent the sugar from fermenting into alcohol. This allows Gruvi to retain flavors and maintain a full body.
How can drinking straight-edge beverages with terpenes affect one’s experience with consuming cannabis?
As cannabis consumption continues to evolve into more social spaces, we noticed many people needed beer- or wine-like beverages to feel comfortable in a social setting. However, we all know that mixing too much booze with cannabis can have some rather undesirable effects. With Gruvi, cannabis consumers can still have an equally social experience while maintaining a safe and healthy cannabis experience.
Gruvi’s drinks are brewed with natural terpenes to complement cannabis. Similar to essential oils, terpene aromas and flavors have different effects on the body, especially when combined with THC or CBD. For example, our Berliner Weisse has the terpene limonene (citrus), which has been found to elevate mood and energy. We’ve chosen terpenes that are the most common in various cannabis strains to create exciting complement and pairing options.
Gruvi founder Niki Sawni.
Courtesy of Gruvi
You’re already in quite a few liquor stores and craft breweries. How have you carved out this new-yet-old niche with retailers?
Carving this “new” niche has honestly been pretty easy here in Denver. Retailers and bar managers are noticing an increase in customers seeking good NA options, and have been very open and supportive to carrying Gruvi. They see this trend that consumers are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle but still remain socially active. Gruvi is the perfect drink to make that happen.
What varieties of drinks does Gruvi make? What are your favorite pairings?
We have a Gruvi IPA, brewed with Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and Ekuanot hops. The IPA is a light-but-hoppy
alternative to heavy beers. Packed with humulene from those hops, this IPA is great for relaxing and suppressing hunger. It pairs well with any dank indica strain, like Death Star. Then there’s our Gruvi Weisse, a lightly tart and sour beer based on a Berliner Weisse and boasting only 26 calories. If La Croix and sour beer had a baby, this would be it. Brewed with lemon peels, the terpene limonene will energize and elevate mood. It pairs best with a citrus strain, like Super Lemon Haze. And we also have a Gruvi prosecco, a sweet and bubbly NA treat! The prosecco is gluten-free and made with real wine grapes. Grape skins contain the terpene linalool, which has been found to reduce anxiety. It pairs well with any sweet berry strains, like Member Berry or Purple Urkle.
Why not add THC or CBD to the drinks?
We really liked the idea of allowing our customers to consume THC or CBD in their own preferred way and quantity. While some prefer edibles, many other cannabis consumers prefer oil or flower instead. We just want to be the drink that is sipped alongside cannabis, no matter how that person likes to light up or consume.
Like many Coloradans, you’re a transplant. But you came here shortly after Canada legalized cannabis countrywide. Why make the move here when you did?
We chose Denver because the people of Denver love their pot and their craft beers! There couldn’t be a better place for us. The local cannabis community has been so amazing in helping us grow and spread the word. We’ve met some amazing people and have had some great feedback so far. Stay tuned for an exciting Gruvi pop-up event in the fall!