Imagine coming home from a long day at work, opening a cold beer, or pouring yourself a glass of Cabernet, kicking your feet up and letting the day’s stresses wash away. For many of us, this is in fact not imagination, but a daily routine.
Imagine however that that beer or wine was alcohol free and cannabis infused.
You get all the good without all the bad like the ugly wicked hangover or pudgy weight gain or worse yet, increasing your risk of one of the many alcohol related diseases including cancer. The sobering news is that alcohol is one of the top three causes of cancer deaths worldwide. Last year, it is estimated that as many as 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer linked to their alcohol consumption.
“We are poisoning ourselves with this thing because we love it.”Terry Donnelly, CEO and owner of Hill Street Beverages
In fact, stats from the Canadian Institute for Health Information have shown alcohol is responsible for 50% of all hospital visits. It is directly linked to 20% of all violent crime, is the cause of 5% of all current disease states, and correspondingly, is the cause of 5% of all deaths worldwide annually. If we know that alcohol is not good for us, why do we continue to ply ourselves, often daily, with various alcoholic beverages. Terry Donnely, CEO and owner of Hill Street Beverages, may have the answer “We are poisoning ourselves with this thing because we love it. And why do we love it, because there are no other alternatives. If there was an alternative to alcohol, I would gladly choose that. But, there isn’t really one that gives me the same luxuriating experience as drinking a beautiful cabernet sauvignon, and one that doesn’t cause cancer. We are really focused on creating a healthier safer alternative to alcohol and one that we can create products that are as luxurious and as value driven.”
Hill Street Beverage Company produces award winning alcohol-free beer and wine already and are planning on creating various cannabis infused, alcohol free beer, wine and sparkling wine under the brand Hill Avenue.
“Most people drink non-alcoholic beverages because they can’t or won’t drink alcohol. ” T. Donnelly
Alcohol sales are on the decline. A new U.S.study says a reduction in total alcohol consumption appears to be directly related to the rise of medical cannabis laws enacted in several states. Over the ten years studied, states in which medical marijuana is legal showed a decline of nearly 15% in monthly alcohol sales. The study concludes that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes for each other, as they share almost the same audience.
There are a number of reasons why people don’t drink alcohol and according to Donnelly, here are the primary reasons. “Most people drink non-alcoholic beverages because they can’t or won’t drink alcohol. You can’t drink alcohol because there is something physically wrong with you or your bodies response to alcohol. For example, if you have liver, heart or kidney disease. You might also avoid alcohol because you have a behavioural problem or you have a religious or social reason to not consume alcohol.” Donnelly continues, “When we looked at the future of the category, what we discovered was the vast majority of the ‘can’t reasons‘ are eliminated if it was cannabis infused. Many of the reasons that you can’t drink alcohol tend to actually be issues where cannabis could be a therapy or treatment.
Creating cannabis infused beverages is not as simple as just dosing a beer or wine with cannabis oil. Understandably, this changes the taste of the beverage, and can cause destabilization of the drink itself. Hill Avenue, as the cannabis line will be known, has acquired a licensed producer just outside of Regina called One Leaf.
Donnelly describes the process of infusion, “When we acquired One Leaf we got a genetics portfolio of over 700 unique and different cultivars of cannabis. Our chief science officer has started gene splicing and hybridizing and breeding new cultivars of cannabis that we will be able to hybridize and breed and then stabilize so that we can create unique and best in class consumer experiences that are optimized to create different outcomes. Our infusion technology takes full spectrum cannabis oil and turns it into a full spectrum water soluble powder. That powder is actually odourless and tasteless. Even though the terpenes are responsible for the smell, those terpenes are a chemical that can be encapsulated. Our process encapsulates the cannabis molecules and then dehydrates them. When we infuse it in our beverages you get a full spectrum effect. It is just delivered in a way that you can’t smell or taste the cannabis, you smell or taste the wine or the beer.”
Donnelly continues, “The current portfolio of beverages that we have will become cannabis infused. Each beverage will have a different cultivar of cannabis infused into it, so outcomes and experiences are aligned with the type of beverage. For example sparkling Brut – champagne is normally a celebratory occasion, so we have aligned that beverage with a very uplifting, giggly experience. Conversely, cabernet sauvignon is a more calming, relaxing, contemplative occasion so we have aligned those with a calming effect. The beers are more uplifting and social, but not as giggly as champagne and by extension will have a similar effect to drinking beer. “
As required by the Cannabis Act, the next phase of regulations will come into force on October 17, 2019. However, it will take time after that date, before new cannabis products become available for purchase. It is expected that a limited selection of products will appear gradually in physical or online stores, no earlier than mid-December 2019.
Federal licence holders will need to provide 60-days notice to Health Canada of their intent to sell new products. Additionally, as with any new regulatory framework, federally licensed processors will need time to become familiar with and prepare to comply with the new rules and to produce new products. Provincially or territorially authorized distributors and retailers will also need time to purchase and obtain the new products and make them available for sale.
Donnelly explains where that leaves Hill Avenue from a implementation perspective. “Cannabis beverages will be legal on Oct 17th if you have a license at that time to produce a product, then you can then send your product category to Health Canada to be approved. It takes 60 days for Heath Canada to approve a new product category. Once they approve the category of your particular products, then you are allowed to sell them. You won’t see any beverages on the shelf until mid December. Our facility, because we are not yet licensed for Cannabis, probably won’t have Cannabis products on the shelf until the Spring of 2020.
When asked what the initial ratio of cannabis to size of the bottle, Donnelly explains. “If you sell a six pack then the six pack has to contain no more than 10 mg of THC. Where as if you sell an individual beer, the individual beer can contain 10mg of THC. Now with our infusion technology 10mg to drink at one time is too much. But, we want to give the consumer the ability to purchase what they want, so we are going to offer them in single serve. We are going to match the dosage level so that you get as intoxicated from one of our beers as you would from drinking a beer with alcohol. That is our goal, of course cannabis is different, so you can’t really accurately predict that. But, the same thing is true with people and alcohol. A big person responds differently to beer than a small person.
We are going to try to give people the ability for them to regulate how intoxicated they get by providing them the ability to go low and slow and to luxuriate over the quality of the beverage, and then to enjoy the physical response that you get from it to the same degree.”Terry Donnelly
The wine will be produced in half and full bottles at 375ml, and 750 ml, and the beer will be produced in 473ml and 355 ml which is a tall boy and a short can. Wine will be in a 355ml can and 375ml, and 750 ml bottle. Hill Avenue are doing sparkling wine in a can. In terms of dosage, 10mg of THC in a 750ml, 5mg in 375ml. For beer there will be 2-2.5 mg per bottle depending on the size of the bottle. Donnelly explains why, “We are still sticking with 2-2.5mg per serving to try to create some consistency of the experience depending on what you are accustomed to as a serving. You can sit down and have 3-4 beers and get kind of the same effect as if you had 3-4 regular beers.
We want to give consumers the ability to match their current experience just with a healthier, safer alternative to alcohol.
Currently, Hill Street products are found in most supermarkets in Canada. You can also find their products in the Beer Store and they are in liquor stores across the country with the exception of the LCBO.