Queen City Hemp Uses the Cannabis Compound Cannabidiol in its Novel CBD Seltzer

CBD fans say the trendy oil has many therapeutic and health benefits and this local company put them in fizzy water

Jul 17, 2018 at 11:05 am
click to enlarge The three current flavors of CBD Seltzer - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The three current flavors of CBD Seltzer

What do you drink in the morning? Smoothies? Boring. Coffee? Predictable. How about a CBD Seltzer? No, it isn’t a marijuana thing. Although it may sound a bit like a bougier version of La Croix reserved for hipsters and hippies, it’s 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 could’ve 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 company’s 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.

“No one was doing it,” says Nicholas Balzer, Queen City Hemp’s CEO. “At the time there were a few companies in legal states doing it with cannabis and they were subpar. They weren’t stable. They had varying effects. The consistency wasn’t there. The quality of the science wasn’t 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 ‘Bleh. It can be better than this.’”

And Balzer and his company worked to make it better. Now, Queen City Hemp rolls out its CBD Seltzer from Findlay Kitchen, a “food business incubator” that is home to other Cincinnati staples like Eli’s 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 isn’t a state where marijuana is legal, you won’t find any psychoactive ingredients in this seltzer. (Sorry.) There’s a common misconception that CBD is the same as marijuana but using CBD oil isn’t going to have the same effect as smoking a joint.

“CBD is just one of the compounds in the plant,” Balzer says. “It’s a cannabinoid. CBD stands for cannabidiol, and cannabidiol is easily found in hemp and cannabis. THC is one of the well-known cannabinoids. They’re different in that THC has a psychoactive effect and CBD does not. That’s a big thing.”

So if you’re looking for a high, you’ve come to the wrong place, but there are a lot of other reasons why people use CBD oil. 

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. 

People with autoimmune diseases have found relief using it, too. Balzer recounts one of Queen City Hemp’s earliest customers — 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, it’s all about offering quality options.

“We wanted something that’s truly an optimal delivery system,” he says. “A tincture will last longer. You can take that in the morning, at night. And a vape will act very fast. It’s good in a reactive setting, but it’s not going to last as long and you’re 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.”

Balzer gets that sparkling waters aren’t agreeable to everyone’s palate. If you seriously hate the fizz, there’s a good chance you won’t 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. 

In fact, Queen City Hemp doesn’t use any additives at all. There’s no caffeine, no sugar, no sodium and no artificial flavors. You’ll 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 isn’t a whole lot of the extract in each can — 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 “somewhat bitter” says Balzer, but with notes of eucalyptus, black pepper and citrus. “I think of it as a good tonic water, but without the quinine or sodium,” 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 Hemp’s newest flavor, lemon lavender, will be canned later this month after a triumphant soft release at the Taste of Cincinnati back in May.

“That 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,” Balzer says. “There’s been kind of an amazing response to it. Lemon lavender is my favorite so far.”

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 Jim’s and Party Source, but Balzer says their goal is to hit mainstream markets like Kroger. 

They’ve also got their name on the lease of a new 3,000-square-foot space, meaning it’s all the more likely you’ll 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 Hemp’s growth, Balzer says, can be attributed to social changes.

“The overall awareness of using cannabis therapeutically has risen exponentially over the last decade, really, in all parts of the country,” he says. “Being able to speak on CBD in cannabis, specifically, is a lot easier than it was three years ago when we started.”

Get more info on Queen City Hemp and CBD Seltzer at qcinfusion.com.