Upcoming canna-beers that have Canadians hopped-up

Cannabis and hemp—the beer industry taps into new ingredients for brews set to hit the market after October

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Does anything round out a hot summer sesh better than cold, crisp beer? “Not really,” is the correct answer.

Well, maybe not for everyone. But cannabis consumers with a preference for pints are in luck.

As licensed producers (LP) brace for a next wave of legalized products (infused balms, edibles, and concentrated extracts), you’ll start to see more and more acquire and partner with already-established brands boasting strong footholds in these profitable product categories.

One particularly interesting product lovechild set to take Canada by the brews is canna-beer: weed infused and inspired suds.

What to expect

What exactly do we know about Canada’s impending cannabis infused suds? Very little. The proposed regulations, as seen published in the federal government’s rag, suggest the maximum dose will likely land around 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC—the only cannabinoid Health Canada is intent on regulating for the time being) per bottle or can. This is a widely standardized starter dose for a novice or infrequent consumer, not including elderly consumers or children otherwise recommended to start with a microdose closer to 2.5 mg.

The packaging will likely fall in line with the current legal products already in the market: plain, childproof, and limited in information beyond a yellow Health Canada warning, dime-sized brand logo, product name, ingredients, and a flashy red warning sign.

Based on some of the news releases, the product spectrum will combine a blend of a few different approaches. Some companies believe there is a higher risk of adverse side effects when consuming two psychoactive substances simultaneously, while others trust their adult customers to enjoy alcoholic and cannabinoid-infused substances responsibly. As such, there will be some brews made with both alcohol and cannabis, some beer-reminiscent beverages with no alcohol but cannabis, and some that only play on the non-intoxicating elements of cannabis like cannabidiol (CBD) or terpene (oils rich with the plant’s aroma and flavours) profiles.

That’s really about all we know regarding the fine details, at this point, but there are a few particular partnerships recently announced leaving suds-sippers and smoke-tokers in anticipation.

Tantalus Labs x Postmark Brewing

On Wednesday (May 29), B.C.-based licensed producer Tantalus Labs entered into a letter of intent with Vancouver craft brewers Postmark Brewing.

Tantalus currently has six cultivars in the market including Skunk Haze, Cannatonic, and Harlequin—all grown in an environmentally controlled greenhouse, dubbed the SunLab.

Postmark boasts a core lineup of three brews, comprising a pale ale, lager, and an IPA, and several seasonal specialty ales. Some of their past collabs have seen Postmark-stocked bars for athletic apparel gurus Lululemon, non-profit conservationists Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Sky Helicopters.

"Cannabis users in Canada and beyond are expected to one day access products in age controlled environments like restaurants and bars. When regulations allow, we will be there," said Dan Sutton, CEO of Tantalus, in a release

"We wanted to partner with a team who puts product quality at the forefront of their brand. Tantalus Labs is a global leader in these core competencies, and together we will deliver products that will shift the paradigm of cannabis consumption," said Steve Thorp, co-founder of Postmark in the same release.

While little was said beyond: “the companies intend to design, develop, and implement a production line of cannabis infused beverages,” both air an outdoorsy West Coast vibe to their branding and product inspiration, so consumers can likely expect much of the same for their pot-infused pints.

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Province Brands of Canada

As far as Canadian companies go, Province Brands was one of the first out of the gate to announce intentions to ride the canna-beer wave. In fact, unlike most cannabis-centric companies, suds are all they seem interested in championing.

Their product innovation goes far beyond simply stirring in a bit of cannabis oil in into an IPA and calling it a day.

Launching with the Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner, the first-of-its-kind beer is made using a mash of hemp stalks, stems, and roots fermented with hops and yeast. It is seven percent alcohol, but does not contain much in the way of cannabis and it's the first legally available beer made from weed’s plant matter.

Province is also working on a line of THC-infused, non-alcoholic beers, which includes mashing and fermenting cannabis biomass. The Toronto-based brewery Lost Craft will be one of the first infused, booze-free collaborations from the company.   

Moosehead x Sproutly Canada Inc.

With 150 years of independent brewing under its belt, it seems only fitting Moosehead Breweries helps the country celebrate its historic shifts with a weedy-themed beer.

Teaming up with Sproutly Canada, the duo will produce non-alcoholic cannabis-infused beverages using the LP's proprietary water-soluble cannabinoid technology, which it calls: Infuz2O. Generally, the majority of consumers find edible cannabis (as opposed to smoking as a consumption method, for example) to result in slower onset times and a longer duration of the physical and psychoactive effects. Sproutly's technology claims to increase the bioavailability of cannabinoids when ingested, enabling the effects to be "felt within five minutes and last for over an hour". 

Hexo x Molson Coors Canada

In August, Molson Coors Canada announced a joint venture with Gatineau-based Hexo Corp. to develop a non-alcoholic, cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market following legalization.

The corporate brewery is known for popular brands like Belgian Moon, Miller Lite, and its house brand Molson Canadian.

The two companies launched the joint venture under the name: Truss.

“We are joining together the extensive experience and excellent practices of each partner to build a powerful foundation for the future,” said former Molson Coors executive, Brett Vye, in a release announcing his new role as CEO of the weed beverage venture.

While Hexo is known for a number of products, their smoke-free innovations have gained the company notoriety. For example, the Elixir, an infused sublingual spray, which took home "Innovation of the Year" and "Product of the Year" in the 2018 Cannabis Cannabis Awards.

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Constellation Brands x Canopy Growth Corporation

Another early investor in Canada's budding canna-beer garden was Constellation Brands—an international beer, wine, and spirits company known for mass market brands like Corona and Modelo.

In August, Constellation announced a $5 billion investment into the Ontario-based licensed producer. The partnership helped bolster Canopy’s international presence and expansion, but also gave both companies an early jump on research and development in the cannabis-infused beverage category.

In talks

The cannabis industry generates quite the robust rumour mill, but Diageo, which owns Guinness Brewing, confirmed intentions to break into the Canadian cannabis space with beer when it finds the right fit. Toronto’s Steam Whistle Brewing is also currently exploring partnership options as well.

But let’s not get a head of ourselves. (Get it? Beer has head. Moving on.)

None of these products will hit the market—with the exception of Province Brands’ hemp-mash beer—until cannabis edibles are added into the legal framework later this year. Currently, the only legal products are: cannabis plants, seeds, oils, and dried and fresh flower, which consumers can purchase through various licensed retail points. But Health Canada promised to update its product classes by October 17, 2019.