CBD fans say the trendy oil has many therapeutic and health benefits and this local company put them in fizzy water
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
What do you drink in the morning? Smoothies? Boring. Coffee? Predictable. How about a CBD Seltzer? No, it isnât a marijuana thing. Although it may sound a bit like a bougier version of La Croix reserved for hipsters and hippies, itâs actually more akin to taking your morning vitamins than it is a vice.
The seltzer is the creation of Queen City Hemp, a Cincinnati-based company that was born in 2015 after talking to patients who couldâve benefitted from medical marijuana who were left high and dry after legislation failed to legalize it in Ohio. Originally hoping to break into the cannabis industry, the companyâs focus turned to hemp, selling CBD oils for vaping and taking sublingually (aka under the tongue). CBD seltzer has only been on the market for a year, but the plan for the product was there from the get-go.
âNo one was doing it,â says Nicholas Balzer, Queen City Hempâs CEO. âAt the time there were a few companies in legal states doing it with cannabis and they were subpar. They werenât stable. They had varying effects. The consistency wasnât there. The quality of the science wasnât up to snuff, in our opinion. (The drinks) usually had some artificial ingredients in them, like artificial sweetener and flavor. It was kind of like âBleh. It can be better than this.ââ
And Balzer and his company worked to make it better. Now, Queen City Hemp rolls out its CBD Seltzer from Findlay Kitchen, a âfood business incubatorâ that is home to other Cincinnati staples like Eliâs BBQ and Babushka Pierogies. From there, the cans are sent to local markets as well as markets in 16 other states across the country.
Since Ohio isnât a state where marijuana is legal, you wonât find any psychoactive ingredients in this seltzer. (Sorry.) Thereâs a common misconception that CBD is the same as marijuana but using CBD oil isnât going to have the same effect as smoking a joint.
âCBD is just one of the compounds in the plant,â Balzer says. âItâs a cannabinoid. CBD stands for cannabidiol, and cannabidiol is easily found in hemp and cannabis. THC is one of the well-known cannabinoids. Theyâre different in that THC has a psychoactive effect and CBD does not. Thatâs a big thing.â
So if youâre looking for a high, youâve come to the wrong place, but there are a lot of other reasons why people use CBD oil.Â
According to CBD fans and proponents who use it as a health supplement, the oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to treat everything from chronic pain to anxiety and seizures. There have even been some studies that suggest it slows the growth of cancer cells.Â
People with autoimmune diseases have found relief using it, too. Balzer recounts one of Queen City Hempâs earliest customers â a woman with multiple sclerosis who was able to ditch all of her medications after adopting CBD.
There are lots of ways to take CBD, which is labeled as a dietary supplement, but for Balzer, itâs all about offering quality options.
âWe wanted something thatâs truly an optimal delivery system,â he says. âA tincture will last longer. You can take that in the morning, at night. And a vape will act very fast. Itâs good in a reactive setting, but itâs not going to last as long and youâre not going to need as much. The seltzer is going to be kind of in between there in that it acts extremely fast and you can feel it, you know, kind of through your body.â
Balzer gets that sparkling waters arenât agreeable to everyoneâs palate. If you seriously hate the fizz, thereâs a good chance you wonât dig CBD Seltzer, either, but these waters are not as aggressively carbonated as other sparkling waters and the flavors are noticeable without tasting too sugary or artificial.Â
In fact, Queen City Hemp doesnât use any additives at all. Thereâs no caffeine, no sugar, no sodium and no artificial flavors. Youâll find only four ingredients listed on the can: carbonated water, natural flavors, potassium sorbate (to preserve freshness) and hemp extract, the source of the CBD.
Bodies can process CBD differently and dosage is based on what ailment you want to treat, so there isnât a whole lot of the extract in each can â just 5 milligrams in every 12 ounces. Queen City Hemp recommends that newbies to CBD start off will small doses, like that in the seltzer, see how they feel, and then build from there. As for flavor options, you can currently buy the seltzer in blood orange, passion fruit or guava, all with just a hint of hemp.
The flavor of hemp itself is âsomewhat bitterâ says Balzer, but with notes of eucalyptus, black pepper and citrus. âI think of it as a good tonic water, but without the quinine or sodium,â he says.
Balzer says he wants to eventually can the CBD Seltzer without any added flavors to let the hemp really shine. It might be a little while before that all-natural hemp flavor is out on shelves, but Queen City Hempâs newest flavor, lemon lavender, will be canned later this month after a triumphant soft release at the Taste of Cincinnati back in May.
âThat was a special moment because we originally released the blood orange on tap at Taste of Cincinnati last year, and that was the first time we brought the product out on the market. Going back this year was very humbling,â Balzer says. âThereâs been kind of an amazing response to it. Lemon lavender is my favorite so far.â
As more people warm to the idea of CBD products, Queen City Hemp will keep growing. Right now, the seltzer is available in specialty stores like Clifton Natural Foods, Hemptations, Jungle Jimâs and Party Source, but Balzer says their goal is to hit mainstream markets like Kroger.Â
Theyâve also got their name on the lease of a new 3,000-square-foot space, meaning itâs all the more likely youâll be able to find your CBD fix on the shelves between the energy drinks and the Arizona iced teas by the end of the year. Much of Queen City Hempâs growth, Balzer says, can be attributed to social changes.
âThe overall awareness of using cannabis therapeutically has risen exponentially over the last decade, really, in all parts of the country,â he says. âBeing able to speak on CBD in cannabis, specifically, is a lot easier than it was three years ago when we started.â
Get more info on Queen City Hemp and CBD Seltzer at qcinfusion.com.