The face of beer has changed dramatically over the last couple decades. First, they took standard ales and pumped them full of hops. Then, they started using wild yeast and bacteria to turn them sour. Now, some forward-thinking craft beer entrepreneurs are doing away with the grain entirely, in favor of — would you believe it? — cannabis.
To the homebrewers out there scratching their heads dubiously at the concept (“wait, does this mean cannabis-INFUSED?”), have no doubt that what’s to come is actual cannabis beer. As in, the barley and grains have been swapped for the iconic weed.
The science behind this seemingly impossible beverage is patent-pending and being kept under relatively-tight wraps, but Dooma Wendschuh, CEO and Founder of Province Brands, makers of this cannabis brew, promises that it’s the real deal when it comes to beer.
“We met with some of the top master brewers in the world and told them ‘we want to make a beer from the cannabis plant’ and we got laughed out of the room in a lot of cases,” he explains. “Folks would say to us ‘that’s impossible, beer is made from barley. You need the carbohydrates in the grains to mash into sugars and the sugars are fermented into alcohol. And cannabis doesn’t have any carbohydrates, so how you gonna do it? Seems like it’s impossible.”
Luckily, it was possible as it turned out, with the help of some custom equipment and a little engineering ingenuity. Wendschuh couldn’t get into the specifics (the patent is pending, after all) but noted the brewing process was very similar to that of traditional beer.
And to answer questions, yes, Wendschuh assured, this beer will get you high. Instead of a mild dose of alcohol (like a beer) it will contain a minor dose of THC which will give drinkers a pleasant and relatively short buzz.
Right now, Province Brands is abiding by the current Canadian law prohibiting marijuana sale. But that’s not stopping them from introducing consumers to the flavor of their product. They’re launching with an Imperial Pilsner brewed with hemp, that will contain alcohol instead of the psychoactive ingredients of their beers to come.
This pilot brew will showcase the flavor and quality of the beer, without getting you stoned. But it will pave the way for consumers intrigued by the concept.
Wendschuh notes that there are established beer brands that use marijuana and hemp as a flavor agent, and will offer a familiar taste reference point with consumers. Some you might be familiar with include the recently-launched Lagunitas IPA that’s brewed with cannabis, and Canada’s first hemp flavored beer, Buzz.
“The flavor is a lot like the flavor you get from those beers, but our beers are made differently,” Wendschuh says. “There’s a lot less sweetness, a rich nutty flavor, they are more savory, a little more sophisticated and adult, and a bit on the dry side.”
One major inspiration for this unique canna-beer was health. With the success of non-alcoholic beer brewed by the likes of Budweiser, it’s becoming clear that consumers are turning to alcohol-free alternatives to sip on.
But where boozeless beverages might taste fine, they won’t do much for full body relaxation. That’s where Province Brands is upping the ante.
As to the question of making a canna-beer that contains alcohol in addition to THC for a double-whammy, Wendschuh strongly demurred.
“There’s nothing wrong with alcohol, I like to drink, but we think we can create something that has fewer of the drawbacks than alcohol has,” Wendschuh explains. “[Our upcoming Cannabis beers are] squarely designed to target craft beer consumers and pull them away from alcohol products to a safer, healthier alternative.”
An obstacle that Province Brands may face is a reluctant adoption by a notoriously purist craft beer crowd. Given that, by some measures of purity, beverages brewed with cannabis couldn’t legally called beer, plunging into the discerning craft beer demographic could be an uphill battle.
That said, Wendschuh remains confident their canna-beer is created so closely in the spirit of traditional brews, it will have appeal in the craft community.
“We’re really making a beer that has three ingredients, cannabis, water and hops,” Wendschuh says. “The simplicity of that is just beautiful and it’s a great way to think of a new brewing tradition.”
So when can you try a cannabis beer from Province Brands? As for their pilot Imperial Pilsner, you can expect to see on shelves this year or early next year. The cannabis products — well, legalization was originally promised for July in Canada. But as with so many government initiatives it may move slower than expected.
In the meantime, both beer imbibers and cannabis consumers will have to make do with what’s on hand — and manage their “high” expectations.