Irish brewmaster hoping cannabis beer will be a big hit
Province Brands wants to launch some of its products in Ireland next year
Rye River co-founder Niall Phelan has joined Toronto outfit Province Brands, which is hoping to raise up to €70 million by the end of the year to fund its commercial launch in Canada, the US and Europe. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan
Niall Phelan, who co-founded craft brewer Rye River, has been appointed as chief operating officer of a Canadian brewer of cannabis beers that plans to begin selling its products in the Irish market early next year.
Mr Phelan has joined Toronto outfit Province Brands, which is hoping to raise up to €70 million by the end of the year to fund its commercial launch in Canada, the United States and Europe.
He says it is considering Ireland for its European headquarters and for a manufacturing facility, and is seeking exploratory talks with State agency, IDA Ireland.
Ireland is also one of five European sale markets Province is targeting to launch some of its beers in the first quarter of 2020, despite the legal grey area that surrounds the sale of certain cannabis-linked products here.
“Some additional clarification is required around Irish laws,” he said. “But if Ireland could position itself as a European hub for research and development of cannabis products, there are potentially huge economic benefits.”
Province has a range of patents pending for a new method of brewing beer using materials including the stems and stalks of cannabis plants that are left over after the buds are sold in Canada for smoking and recreational use.
It claims its unique brewing method method, which effectively replaces barley in the brewing process with cannabis off-cuts, is healthier and more advanced than beers that are traditionally brewed and later infused with cannabis, which have been developed by several other companies in Canada and the US.
Mr Phelan, who will relocate to Toronto for his new role, says Province’s brews will contain “accelerants” to make the effects of its beers kick in within five minutes of drinking it, and “decelerants” to make drinkers come down quickly.
It is illegal to mix alcohol and cannabis in one product in Canada, where recreational cannabis use is legal, so Province’s weed beers must be non-alcoholic.
Some of its beers contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in cannabis which makes users “high” and which remains illegal in Ireland. Those beers could not be sold here unless the law changes.
Mr Phelan says Province does, however, plan to target Irish millennials next year with beers containing CBD (cannabidiol), another ingredient in cannabis that doesn’t cause a “high”, but which is said to make users relaxed.
Irish laws are unclear on CBD. Some other vendors of CBD-type products in Ireland have recently complained that the Garda say their products are illegal here, even though they are allowed under European Union law.