Durban Poison Dope Inspires South Africa's First Cannabis Beer

(Bloomberg) -- A South African craft brewery has launched the nation’s first lager containing cannabis, capitalizing on the globally known Durban Poison strain after the private use of the plant was legalized in the country last month.

Drinks infused with marijuana-derived compounds could grow to a $600 million market in the U.S. within the next four years, outpacing the growth of other categories of retail cannabis products, according to analysts at Canaccord Genuity. Corona-parent Constellation Brands Inc. became the largest stakeholder in Canadian pot cultivator Canopy Growth Corp. earlier this year, while Molson Coors Canada has formed a joint venture with Hexo Corp.

It’s not legal to grow the plant in South Africa, so the beer is being made with imported strains, mostly from Germany and Eastern Europe, Schubert said.

Funded by investors including RCL Foods Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Miles Dally, Spar Group Ltd. CEO Graham O’Connor and Grindrod Bank Ltd., Poison City Brewing founders Andre Schubert and Graeme Bird realized with non-smoking uses of marijuana rising globally, they could be first to market in South Africa.

“We released this beer to be on the forefront of this market in South Africa, but also to appeal to the more mainstream drinker and give a beer he or she can relate to,” Schubert, a 56-year-old restaurateur said by phone. Brewers globally are “well aware that down the line, they will want to compete directly still with the cannabis industry because smoking is only a part of it.”

Durban-based Poison City Brewing made their first lager in May 2014 using a rudimentary system at a friend’s house on the country’s south coast. About a year later they took a trip to California to check out the craft beer industry, spending almost three weeks between Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego.

‘Energetic, Uplifting’

The September launch comes as the country’s Constitutional Court legalized the private use of cannabis in South Africa, and as global brewing giants increasingly link up with marijuana producers. It’s not legal to grow hemp in South Africa, so the beer is being made with imported strains, mostly from Germany and Eastern Europe, Schubert said.

The Durban Poison lager and Poison Cannabis IPA contain hemp -- a variety of the cannabis sativa plant largely devoid of mind-altering ingredients and they are are being sold in liquor chains nationwide. They have seen huge interest for the beers from the U.S., with Bird landing in Miami on Tuesday to attend a trade fair. The launch of the beers was earlier reported by Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper.

The Durban Poison variety of marijuana, which originates from the sub-tropical Indian ocean city of Durban, has a sweet smell and is known for its “energetic, uplifting” effects when smoked, according to Leafly.com, which bills itself as a cannabis information resource.

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