Canada firm aims to tap into pot beverage market with cannabis beer

Ottawa (AFP) –


An upstart cannabis company has partnered with a Canadian university to produce -- with government financial backing -- what it says will be the world's first beer made from the mind-altering drug.

Toronto-based Province Brands of Canada was awarded Can$300,000 (US$233,000) from the Ontario government to create a "highly intoxicating" brew that is safer than alcohol.

In doing so, the three-year-old company is joining others such as Canada's largest pot producer Canopy Growth -- which partnered with alcohol giant Constellation Brands last year -- in betting that cannabis-infused beverages will become the most popular way of consuming the psychoactive drug once recreational pot use is legalized in Canada later this year (and in 2019 for edibles).

Chief executive Dooma Wendschuh told AFP that the proportion of people who smoke cigarettes continues to decline, and smoking pot creates some of the same toxic chemicals.

This has led health-conscious consumers to seek out alternatives such as pot vaping and edibles. But these activities are not in line with existing social behavior.

"Nobody meets up after work to share a plate of (cannabis-infused) gummy candies," Wendschuh said.

"So we're trying to adapt (our product) to existing social behaviors, like sharing drinks over a conversation."

He noted that popular psychoactive products such as alcohol and caffeine are also mostly consumed as drinks.

Province Brands partnered with Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario to develop the novel brewing technology. Its Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis is licensed by the federal government to do cannabis research.

Coming up with a beer formula was challenging, said Wendschuh. "We consulted with several master brewers at the start and they just laughed at our idea of making beer from cannabis plants."

The typically delayed and longer-lasting intoxication of pot edibles and beverages also posed problems.

Unlike the effects of alcohol, which can be felt within minutes, it can take up to two hours for the psychoactive compounds in edible pot to be digested and reach the brain, and subsequently the "buzz" can last several hours.

Wendschuh declined to say how those issues were solved, citing proprietary secrets.