Deschutes Brewery wants to remind cannabis consumers that there are times when only a beer will do.
The state’s largest craft brewer, Deschutes is targeting marijuana consumers with two digital-only advertising videos, said Neal Stewart, Deschutes Brewery vice president of marketing.
“We’re targeting the people who drink craft beer in the Northwest,” Stewart said. “Cannabis is obviously having its moment here in the Northwest. Consumers are making choices about what types of recreation they’re participating in.
“There are cannabis occasions and craft beer occasions. Happy hour and a meal — those are craft beer occasions. Those are things that cannabis will never be able to replace.”
Deschutes CEO Michael LaLonde has said legal marijuana played a role in slowing sales of craft beer. Market research supports the theory.
In a recent survey by Quinn Thomas and DHM Research of 900 cannabis consumers in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, 38% percent of the people who consume recreational cannabis said they drink less alcohol since legalization. More than half said they drink the same amount, and 4% said they drink more.
Some people in the survey — 39% — said they consumed alcohol and cannabis at the same time.
In one 30-second ad titled “It Comes with The Territory,” Deschutes highlights the brewery’s place in Central Oregon’s history and uses images of Oregon, such as Haystack Rock, snow-capped mountains, rainy weather, skiers, coffee, flowers and a Sasquatch to call attention to the tension between recreational cannabis and craft beer.
The song “Louie Louie,” by The Kingsmen, plays in the background.
Another video shows a woman in a kitchen decorated with Deschutes beer bottles and china decorated with cannabis leaves. The woman uses slang terms for cannabis as she talks about choosing cannabis or beer. She says of beer: “It’s the super dank refreshment when you’re not toking the reefer.”
It’s unclear whether the ads violate rules enforced by the Alcohol Tax and Tobacco Trade Bureau, which oversees the alcohol industry. Drug references on labels and in advertising are generally prohibited, said Thomas Hogue, bureau director of Congressional and Public Affairs.
There are exceptions that include intrastate products, wine that is under 7% alcohol by volume and beer that is not brewed with malted barley or hops.
Cannabis companies find it funny that breweries are concerned.
“In all candor, beer and cannabis don’t need to be at odds with one another,” said Glass House Grown CEO Lindsey Pate. “In my experience, they pair quite well together in moderation. I look forward to seeing what synergy can happen between beer and cannabis businesses in our local community.”
Another cannabis company, Substance in Bend, acknowledges that cannabis is a competitor of craft beer, but still more people drink alcohol than consume cannabis, said Jeremey Kwit, Substance cannabis store owner.
Cannabis has some catching up to do, he said.
“For individuals seeking relaxation, life enjoyment and distraction from day-to-day stress, taxed and regulated cannabis is a welcome addition to our communities,” Kwit said.
Deschutes is the largest brewery in Oregon by volume sales, producing 66,000 barrels in 2018 and 68,700 barrels in 2017, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
“Craft beer is fun and delicious to drink when you’re choosing to drink in social situations,” Stewart said. “Part of the overall campaigns is about something new and fresh.”
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