I was visiting family in Canada this past week when I couldn’t help overhearing a cannabis-related conversation. With the Canadian government officially legalizing recreational marijuana and the nature of my job here, weed talk has been prevalent. Ducking out for a lovely bowl of pho soup one rainy afternoon, three middle-aged women were abuzz about trying new weed products once legal sales began this October. The usual culprits were quickly mentioned—edibles, creams, vaporizers—but one woman couldn’t contain her elation over one product—cannabis beer.
As the Guardian reports, Canadian brewers have become serious about creating cannabis beer since legalization hit. Most brewers opt to infuse beverages with a THC/CBD oil or distillate, but start-up brewer Province Brands is making waves for actually brewing batch with the cannabis plants—all of it. “Our beer is brewed from the stalks, stem and roots of the cannabis plant,” Dooma Wendschuh of Province Brands told the Guardian.
Though initial attempts at such a beer resulted in funky tastes, including one that tasted like “rotten broccoli,” Province found a winning formula of hops, yeast, water, and cannabis. Any alcohol that’s fermented in the process is removed, leaving a non-alcoholic, gluten-free beer.
“The flavour is dry, savoury, less sweet than a typical beer flavour,” he said. “The beer hits you very quickly, which is not common for a marijuana edible.”
Because the Province formula utilizes stocks, stem and roots of the cannabis plant, it has created a sustainable use for what otherwise results in a waste product. Wenschuh said growers gladly hand off the product to them, as it saves them from hiring a licensed disposal company.
Calling this the first cannabis beer would be slightly erroneous. It’s the first beer brewed with the plant, but American brewers like Lagunitas, which is owned by Heineken, recently unveiled a THC-infused sparkling water called Hi-Fi Hops. Meanwhile Blue Moon creator Keith Villa announced plans to create an entire line of non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused craft beers. However, cannabis beer remains a novelty for reasons outside of taste or demand.
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Across the United States feds have gone after independent and micro-brewers alike for anything even resembling weed beer. Crackdowns included California brewers for producing CBD-infused pints and Florida brewers for utilizing terpenes to create cannabis-flavored beers. While marijuana-infused drinks have been promoted as the next big trend in the cannabis industry, marijuana beer has received consistent blowback. You can still find goodies like New Belgium’s Hemperor HPA or Coalition Brewing’s Two Flowers IPA (the first commercially-produced and legal CBD beer), but the proliferation of cannabis beer hasn’t yet occurred on a widespread scale thanks to regulations the fed might impose on American brewers.
Canadian brewers don’t have those same restrictions, which makes what Province is doing possible. If these cannabis beers can launch across Canada, it will represent the first serious experiment of how cannabis drinks and products might impact liquor and beer sales. I’m sure Big Beer in America will be watching very closely across the border as it all unfolds.