Province Brands, a fledgling company based out of Toronto, has been trying to figure out how to brew their cannabis-based beer since the company’s inception in September 2016. Now, with help from the Ontario government and student researchers at Loyalist College in Belleville, their marijuana brew dreams may come true.
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Chief executive of Province Brands Dooma Wendschuh said that before he started making the beer, he consulted multiple craft brewing experts asking for advice.
“Everybody basically laughed at us. They said it couldn’t be done,” said Wendschuh. Traditionally, when cannabis is added to a drink, it’s done by adding the extracted oil to the beverage.
Wendschuh said that they wanted to go beyond that — they wanted to take barley out of the equation and replace it with the cannabis plant.
Nevertheless, he admitted that the process is not exactly simple, which is where Loyalist College’s Applied Research Centre for Natural Products and Medical Cannabis, comes in.
Back in early February, the research centre was awarded $660,000 from the Ontario Centres of Excellence.
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Claudia Krywiak, vice-president of corporate development, planning and strategic initiative at the Ontario Centres of Excellence, says that Loyalist’s applied research proposal was chosen for funding because it was particularly innovative.
She called their proposal, which focused on new ways of extracting products from the cannabis plant, “timely and highly relevant.”
The funding came from the Government of Ontario’s Colleges Applied Research and Development Fund, and Loyalist was one of over 60 projects chosen for funding in Ontario.
From the money given to the Loyalist research centre, Province Brands will be able to use $300,000 to develop their cannabis beer, which should be ready to sell legally in Canada by 2019 when edible cannabis is meant to be legalized. The Toronto-based business also had to match the province’s funding in order to be involved in the project.
Kari Kramp, the principal investigator at the Loyalist research lab, sees the partnership as a tremendous learning experience for her students.
“It’s an unprecedented opportunity for the students to learn product development through experiential learning,” said Kramp. She added that the experience in the project will help her students prepare for jobs in a burgeoning industry that is about to explode.
The work of getting the cannabis cold ones just right, according to Wendschuh, is two-fold. First, ingesting marijuana rather than smoking it can take too long to hit, and too long to wear off. He wants to engineer a drink that can be consumed in the same timeframe as a beer.
“Cannabis will not be a substitute for alcohol,” Wendschuh said, but he wants the convenience of the drink.
But he also said that smoking or using edibles like marijuana gummy bears aren’t exactly convenient ways for adults to consume the substance.
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Kramp says that the students will have the opportunity to work through these issues alongside Province Brands.
“We’re excited about this collaboration,” Kramp said. The year-long partnership between the Loyalist applied research centre and the cannabis beer company allows Province Brands to get into the Loyalist research lab, which is one of the few labs in Canada licensed as a cannabis dealer facility, and work one-on-one with the students.
“The whole idea is to teach students and to create a new industry of extraction,” said Wendschuh.