Fri, Aug 7, 2020

January 03, 2017 | SimoneFischer

A trip to Portland’s Coalition Brewing.



The biggest highlight from my Weed Week experience last month was getting to know the brewers behind Oregon’s first commercially available CBD beer. Did you know hops are the closest analog to Cannabis? I was lucky enough to interview the brewers before their panel to discuss more about the first legal marriage between Cannabis and hops.

I traveled to the Coalition Brewing headquarters in Southeast Portland. A handsome brewer with an Irish accent greeted me and beckoned me inside. There I met Elan Walsky, co-owner and founder of Coalition Brewing. Coalition had teamed up with Phil Boyle, who represents Half Baked Labs, a company that specializes in high-quality Cannabis edibles. Boyle provided guests with tasty non-medicated treats from Half Baked Labs like ginger snaps, caramel fudge and cranberry cream cheese dip with fermented hot sauce. Double yum.

The brewers met Boyle during a Cannabis soirée, where they were trying to find the right person with the knowledge on where and how to go about infusing their beer with CBD. Here’s the catch: in order for CBD beer to remain legal, it must remain below the 3 percent threshold to be sold to the public. Boyle’s Cannabis expertise, combined with Coalition’s brewing talent birthed an exceptional Canna Series IPA.

I have chatted up dozens of Cannabis growers in my line of work, but I have never officially crossed over to brewing until now. I was born and raised in Portland, Ore., and I learned to enjoy regional craft beer and wine over the years (despite our sea of green). Although Cannabis stole my heart, it doesn’t hurt to learn from our craft beverage cousins, especially in an emerging, highly competitive/regulated industry that’s both a nightmare and an infinite blessing.

After being walked through the brewing process, Walsky brought up interesting research points on CBD and its relationship with ethanol (or alcohol) as we know it. 

CBD is a known antioxidant, meaning it helps fight against free radicals (or oxidation of cells). A study conducted by the University of Kentucky’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences wrote a report titled: “Transdermal Delivery of Cannabidiol Attenuates Binge Alcohol-Induced Neurodegeneration in a Rodent Model of an Alcohol Use Disorder.”


Research shows that cannabidiol or CBD, helps promote the healthy breakdown of fat cells damaged by alcohol use. CBD may help reverse the effects of cirrhosis or “fatty-liver” disease. This isn’t to say CBD cures cirrhosis, but it could help lessen the blow. In relation to alcohol consumption, CBD might just become your new best friend.

After all the fancy science talk, we got to the real meat and potatoes: the beer! Coalition concocted a West Coast-style IPA infused with CBD oil called the “Canna Series IPA.” 

“As far as West Coast IPA goes, the term is usually used to describe an IPA that is lighter in color (tends more towards straw colored than amber colored), is less malty with a drier finish, and focuses on hop flavors and aromatics rather than just bitterness,” Walsky said of his West Coast IPA.

Let me be clear: I am not an IPA fan. I was completely ruined by the 2013 “Oregon IPA Apocalypse” as I like to call it. It was a time in Portland when if you drank anything but an IPA, you’d be considered uncultured and lame with poor taste. Let’s just say, my heart sank a bit when I found out I would be downing another Portland IPA.

The boys walked me to the bar and the beers were being poured. The CBD beer itself was a golden sheen, like clear yellow honey. They poured me an entire glass. We cheered, and I took my first sip. 

First of all, this had to be the most approachable IPA I, myself, have ever come across. That alone says a lot for someone who usually despises IPAs with a fervor. It was a clean, crisp IPA without the dreaded, drawn-out, bitter aftertaste. 

The hops and bitter seemed perfectly balanced during and after my tasting. I drank my entire glass in less than a minute. There wasn’t a “green” weed-like flavor to it either. It tasted like the smoothest IPA you can find, but it had the crispness of a beloved pilsner, or Czech-style beer I usually drink.

The buzz was relaxed and calming. It’s like beer Xanax (in the best way possible). I always feel sleepy when I drink, but I didn’t experience the usual groggy mental fog. I will be so bold to say this beer might actually be a form of liquid courage, because it completely drowned my ever-present anxiety (thanks CBD). I wanted another, but I felt lucky enough to enjoy an entire glass to myself. I honestly can’t believe I am praising an IPA; the Coalition team sure knows what they are doing back there. 

Other than beer and Cannabis pairings, there is much to learn from a similar craft subculture. One of the greatest strengths of Oregon’s beer and wine industry is their ability to come together and get things done as one. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) governs both the Cannabis and alcohol industries.  The craft beer boom also experienced an explosion of growth, only to be stifled by the OLCC’s reactionary policy. 

Walsky discussed how back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Widmer Brothers, Portland Brewing Co. and Full Sail among others got together to push through legislation that allowed breweries to sell and consume beer at the production facility. That piece of legislation changed the trajectory of craft beer, allowing an industry to find its stride in a world of endless regulation.

It gives me hope knowing our craft beer brothers and sisters have conquered their own Goliath, because the Cannabis industry has yet to settle the score with our own. Legalization wasn’t the end, it was the tipping point. 

Now that a legal market has been established, we must tell the OLCC what we need as a collective whole. Allowing tasting in dispensaries, or going further by allowing a public place to consume Cannabis will be the next groundbreaking feat. Oregon already approved Cannabis delivery services. Let’s hope a real, legal Cannabis bar will come to fruition in 2017.

Coalition has not released their Canna Series IPA to the public yet, but it should be available to those over 21 after New Year’s Day. 

For more information on Coalition Brewing and their awesome beers, check out their website: