Hemp and hops: Yukon brewery experiments with new ingredient

Hemp-based beer wouldn't have THC or marijuana-like effects, but it would be gluten-free, says brewer

Philippe Morin · CBC News
November 12, 2018

A Yukon company says it's working on something new: a beer made from hemp.

The plant, which is a non-narcotic relative of marijuana, is already used to make paper, textiles and soaps.

Yukon Brewing president Bob Baxter says the company has signed a deal with Province Brands of Canada to brew the beer commercially. 

The Ontario-based company is seeking to patent a process to create a mash out of food-grade hemp, from which sugars can be extracted to make alcohol. It has already brewed some batches of beer using the process.

The partners are aiming for a brew that is relatively strong at seven per cent alcohol.

President of Yukon Brewing Bob Baxter says hemp-based beer would not have any THC or the intoxicating effect of marijuana. However, it would be gluten-free. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

'Something that has never been done'

Baxter says experiments could begin this winter when the first hemp sugar extract arrives in Yukon from Quebec. 

He says the resulting beer wouldn't have any THC or effects of marijuana. However, it would be gluten-free. 

That, and a unique flavour, could be a selling point in the crowded beer market. "It's an opportunity to work with something that has never been done," says Baxter. 

He says it's possible a great deal of beer will go down the drain as the company refines the recipe.

The Ontario company says it's also working on another brand of drink, which would provide marijuana's intoxicating effects through THC. That product will not be made in Yukon and would only be available in Canada once edibles are legalized next year. 

A versatile plant, hemp is already used for flavouring some beers. However, an Ontario company says it's a new idea to create a mash and use it as the primary ingredient. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC) 

Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner

While the new beer will be brewed in Yukon, it will carry branding designed by the Ontario company. 

The name could lead to some questions.

Province Brands of Canada has already announced the name as Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner, despite having no stated link to the community in Nunavut. 

The brewery in Whitehorse is more than 1,600 kilometres away from Cambridge Bay. 

"It always struck us as funny," says Baxter. "They talk about the exploratory nature of the far North... I don't know where they came up with the name, but that's what it's going to be." 

Baxter says there are hemp beers on the market, but they are flavoured or infused with hemp rather than made from its fermented sugars. 

When the recipe is finalized and the beer is bottled, Yukoners will be the first in Canada to give it a try.