Province Brands CEO on Cannabis-Brewed Beer & Cambridge Bay Pilsner
Province Brands of Canada CEO Dooma Wendschuh and his team are tired of waiting for the federal legalization of cannabis-infused beverages in Canada and have taken matters into their own hands. The company has launched Cambridge Bay Pilsner, a beer brewed from entirely from hemp, with no THC, and an alcohol content of 7 percent. Province Brands has entered into a partnership with Whitby, Ontario’s Brock Street Brewing to produce the beer; additionally, Province Brands has also licensed its proprietary hemp brewing technology to Brock Street. Wendschuh explains that beers brewed from hemp and marijuana have considerably less calories than traditional alcohol and anticipates Province Brands opening the world’s first cannabis brewery, ready to sell THC cannabis beverages, by October 2019.
James West: Hey, welcome back! My guest in this segment is Dooma Wendshuh, CEO of Province Brands of Canada. Dooma, welcome back.
Dooma Wendschuh: Thank you. It’s an honour to be here.
James West: Dooma, I’m going to first ask you – why are you bundled up as if it’s minus 10 degrees about?
Dooma Wendschuh: Because it’s about minus 10 degrees out. I’m in les Iles de la Madelaine, and we had a severe storm, 110 km per hour, and lost power, so I’m just trying to stay warm, but I’m honoured to be here trying to do the interview with you.
James West: Uh huh, well, that’s awesome. The reason for our conversation today is, Brick Street Brewing announced that they had done a deal with you and were actually going to be licensing your technology to create a line of beer? Is that what’s happening?
Dooma Wendschuh: It is happening. I should correct the pronunciation: it is Brock Street Brewing, and they are a fantastic brewery in Whitby, Ontario, near Pickering, and we are thrilled to be working with them. And it’s very interesting what we are doing with them. As you probably know, we have developed our own process to brew the world’s first beers brewed from the cannabis plant, and we have developed this process to primarily brew beers that are non-alcoholic and intoxicate using Marijuana or its Phyto cannabinoids. And as we’ve been developing this process, we’ve happened to test it, in many cases, on hemp, which is another kind of cannabis.
And we just sort of got tired of waiting for legalization to take pace here in Canada, and for them to allow beverages and edibles like the rest of the world, which has already legalized medical or recreational marijuana does permit, and so we decided we would launch a marijuana-free beverage that is brewed from cannabis. And this we call Cambridge Bay. It is the world’s first beer brewed from cannabis; it’ll be available in early next year. It contains no marijuana; it is brewed from a different type of cannabis, its brewed from hemp.
And what happened was, the folks at Brock street learned about this, and we’ve signed a very unusual deal with them, one that would enable us to make a marijuana beer for them under their name in our facility, when our 123,000 square foot facility in Grimsby, Ontario, is complete. But also, they will use our patent-pending technology to make a beer from hemp, much like our Cambridge Bay beer that we will be launching early next year, and they will sell that in their own facility. And never in a million years did we expect, as a marijuana company, that we would be licensing technology to make a marijuana product, but we’re thrilled that they find interest in that, and thrilled to be working with those guys.
James West: So that’s interesting. So these two products that you’ve just described have no intoxicating effects from marijuana; it has beer and it has alcohol?
Dooma Wendschuh: Correct. We are launching a 7 percent ABV Imperial Pilsner called Cambridge Bay, and they’ll be on the market early next year. It is made from hemp, and in particular, it is made by mashing and fermenting the stalks, stems and in some cases even the roots of the hemp plants. These are good-grade hemp plant, and these are parts of the hemp plant which are not considered a controlled substance in Canada or really anywhere in the world. It’s the same parts of the hemp plant that might be used to make a T-shirt or rope in other applications, but we have developed a way to turn this into really a delicious-tasting beer, and make great use of this material.
And so when we do this with marijuana instead of hemp, we have to remove the alcohol at the end, but for this product, we don’t remove the alcohol, we leave it in the beer, and in fact, you know, for our version, our Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner, it has 7 percent, which is quite a lot of alcohol. And part of the reason we have done that is because when we started this company, we went around and met with everyone, you know, with a ton of master brewers, and they all said to us, You’ll never find a way to get alcohol out of the cannabis plant. There’s no carbohydrates, there’s nothing you can mash. And we want to prove to all those folks that not only could we get alcohol, but we can get a lot; we got 7 percent. So that’s exciting.
And then the beer that we’re making with Brock Street, you know, we don’t know what they’re going to do with our technology, and that’s kind of what’s so exciting. Are they going to make a stout? Are they going to make an IPA? Are they going to make a Pilsner? Their master brewer and our master brewer are already working together to figure out what style and what type of beer they’re going to make from cannabis using the technology that we have developed to brew beer from cannabis.
James West: Okay. In traditional beer-making, there’s very little argument against the fact that the flavour comes from a malted barley and hops.
And so I’m curious as to a), are malted barley and hops part of the Cambridge concoction or part of the Brock Street concoction? And b), is that going to be able to impart the same flavour in such a way that the flavour experience will be similar to traditional beers, or is this a whole different flavour experience that we’re going to have?
Dooma Wendschuh: It is a slightly different experience. What makes our technology unique is that we don’t need any barley, we don’t need any grains, we don’t need any rice, we don’t need any sugar to start with to brew that beer. We actually brew the beer starting from plant material: from, in fact, the stalks, the stems, and the roots of cannabis plant. And we’re able to mash and ferment this material to get sugars out of it, and so that’s the source of our sugars, which we then ferment in a more traditional process to brew the beer.
So does it taste like a beer? Of course it does, because we’re using brewers’ yeast. Of course it tastes like a beer, because we’re using fine organic hops, and we’re fermenting it in a way that beer would be fermented so you get those esters and those subtle flavours, and it has a very familiar flavour of a beer, but with a slightly different twist, owing to the fact that it is made from cannabis.
Whether we make it from hemp or marijuana, the flavour is effectively identical. The difference is that when we make it from marijuana, it would intoxicate you, due to the phytocannabinoids that are found in the marijuana plant. When we make it from hemp, it does not contain appreciable amounts of those phytocannabinoids, so instead, we actually, you know, leave the alcohol in. we do not perform a de-alcoholization before that product is sold.
Now, the great thing about this technology is, you can do anything with it. So the folks at Brock Street, they may choose to mix in some barley if they wanted to, and that’s their decision, right? They are licensing the technology; they can do whatever they want. They may choose to mix it with apple cider. I mean, you know, you could do anything with this tech, but what’s amazing is that it’s a way to take this plant material and turn it into a great beer.
You know, for our case, we don’t include barley, because that sort of goes against the ethos of our company; we’re really about making a safer and healthier alternative to alcohol, and you know, barley is great, but it contains gluten. A lot of people are gluten-intolerant; even folks who are not gluten-intolerant are watching their gluten intake – I’m one of those people. And when you make a beer from barley or any type of grains, you’re going to have a lot more calories. You’re going to have a lot more free sugar than we do. So our Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner is about half of the calories of a standard Imperial Pilsner, with the same ABV, and our marijuana products that are brewed from marijuana are about half of the calories of a non-alcoholic beer that would be brewed from barley.
James West: Wow. Interesting. So how would you describe the flavour of your cannabis beer?
Dooma Wendschuh: I don’t know if you’ve ever had any of these hemp beers that are on the market – it’s one of the fastest-growing categories of flavoured beers around the world, and the way they make those beers is very different from the way we make ours. Those folks are taking a traditional brewing process, and they’re towards the end, they’re sort of taking some toasted hemp seeds – which have a great flavour, I love toasted hemp seeds, in fact, I have them for breakfast almost every morning – but they take these toasted hemp seeds and they put them in a cheesecloth and they soak them in the boil kettle so that the flavour permeates the beer.
So in that case, it’s a beer brewed with barley, but flavoured with toasted hemp seeds.
Now, our beer is made without any grains or barley, so you don’t have that sweetness, that sort of bread flavour that you get with a normal barley beer, but you do have a flavour that is very similar to what they get when they soak the toasted hemp seeds into the beer, because they’re boiling cannabis, and when you boil cannabis, you know, a lot of the terpenes and the flavonoids will volatilize. They won’t make it through. But whether you’re boiling the stalks, the stems, the roots or the seeds, or we’ve never actually tried with flower but I assume it would be the same with the flower – when you’re boiling it, the flavonoids that remain have a very similar flavour.
So our beer really tastes like a less-sweet version of one of these hemp beers that you can find on the market. In Canada there’s one called Millennium Buzz, which is in just about every LCBO, and in the United States, the big one that’s had a big wave recently is called The Hemper, made by New Belgium. But there are literally hundreds of breweries making hemp beers these days.
James West: Yeah, sure. I used to drink a beer called Bowen Island Hemp Ale, back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. so it’s been around.
Dooma Wendschuh: It has been, a very long time. Hemp beer’s been around for a while, and it’s a flavour that people love.
James West: Okay. So questioning minds want to know, Dooma: is there any sense of when beverages with cannabis intoxication properties in them are going to be allowed in the Canadian market?
Dooma Wendschuh: Well, according to the Cannabis Act, we know that these beverages will be allowed within one year of October 17, 2018, so that means they could be allowed any day now; but we all know how government works, so no one is expecting them to be legal even one minute before the last possible moment. So Province Brands, we are building right now the world’s first cannabis brewery, in a 123,000 square foot facility in Grimsby, and we are preparing to have that facility ready to sell beer by October 17, 2019, which is when we expect marijuana beverages to be legal here in Canada.
Now, it could happen before, in which case we may not be prepared, but you know, we’re pretty confident that they won’t allow sale of edibles and beverages before, basically, the deadline, which is October of 2019.
James West: Okay. What about the US opportunity and elsewhere?
Dooma Wendschuh: The US opportunity is tremendous. We have seen throughout many states in the United States, edibles and beverages becoming the top-selling products in certain areas, and certainly the fastest-growing category of cannabis products across the United States. Beverages in particular make up about 1 percent of all sales in dispensaries right now, so they are not a huge category, but they are, in fact, the fastest-growing category of products in the United States.
For Province, it’s a bit limiting; we are preparing to take our company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, where they do not permit companies to operate in the United States, so we have not done anything to get our products into the United States. But we are looking at other international markets and exploring opportunities in places that may soon legalize edibles and beverages, and may even soon legalize recreational cannabis.
James West: Sure. All right, Dooma, that’s a great update. Thank you very much for your participation; we’ll come back to you soon.
Dooma Wendschuh: Yeah, hopefully I see you in the warm office in Toronto next time, but I appreciate the time and we’ll talk soon.
James West: You bet. Bye for now, Dooma.
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