By Meghan O'Dea @themeghanodea
There are only a handful of cities in the world where you'd go to the meat counter at a neighborhood grocery store, see a handwritten placard announcing the sale of "Bacon Potato CBD IPA Pork Kielbasa Links" and think, "Well, finally!"
In Portland, though, it was really only a matter of time. It's true—New Seasons is now selling juicy pork links made with Coalition Brewing's popular CBD-infused Two Flowers IPA.
It sounds ridiculous, but really, it just makes sense. After all, this is a state that grew 104 million pounds of hops in 2017, has a major surplus of cannabis and is home to such serious charcuterie makers as Olympia Provisions and Taylor's Sausage. At a moment when CBD additives are being found in everything from chocolate to cocktails, the only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner.
Still, I wasn't sure what to expect when I got word that CBD IPA sausage was out there in the world. At first, I suspected it might be infused with both beer and, separately, some form of CBD extract. I set out on a bus after work to find out, to the New Seasons on Southeast Division Street, where just four links were left. A sign advertising a sale on Coalition products set me straight— this wasn't a sausage made with CBD and IPA, but a beer already infused with CBD.
The story of this ultimate Portland food begins, then, at Coalition Brewing. Its groundbreaking Two Flowers IPA was first released in late 2016, developed with help from Portland's own Half Baked Labs. The goal wasn't just to make beer more soporific but to showcase how terpenes—the essential oils that give cannabis its flavor and funk—can complement and enhance hops, and take IPAs in new directions without simply upping the IBUs.
In fact, hops and hemp have several similarities beyond their appearance and history on the wrong side of the law. They're also chemically similar, with the bitter flavors you love in beer stemming from the hemp plant's own version of non-psychoactive terpenes, called alpha acids. Add CBD—the non-intoxicating but mildly psychoactive compound in cannabis that can produce feelings of bodily relaxation, minus the head trip—to beer, and you get not only a gentle buzz, but also more of those grassy, skunky, citrusy notes you expect from good hops.
Those bright flavors perform a fantastic balancing act with rich, fatty sausage. Just ask any of the many Eastern European countries whose foodways have been combining bratwurst and beer since at least the 1300s. New Seasons' clever use of Two Flowers would, theoretically, turn that 700-year history up to 11.
How would it actually taste, though?
Quickly pan-fried in a cast iron skillet, the sausages are impossibly juicy, never too chewy or firm. They're flavorful, too, with green flecks of fresh herbs that give way to those lemon peel and grassy notes that tend to burst out of hops and hemp buds alike.
The pork itself is slightly sweet yet rich, moist but not overly greasy, The result is a sausage that really tastes like the Pacific Northwest, with a mellow, easygoing flavor profile punctuated by unexpectedly funky undercurrents that give you something to think about.
After a long day, a post-work sausage quest and a big dinner, I laid on the couch, surveying how I felt. Was the relaxed, satisfied feeling one of a woman who just had a better-than-average weeknight dinner? Or was it the subtle mellowing a good dose of CBD can provide?
It's hard to say. Like THC, CBD is a fat-soluble compound, enhanced by the tasty fat in the sausage. But with just 5 mg of CBD per pint and an uncertain amount of beer per link, it's hard to say just how much CBD I actually ingested with my dinner.
Nevertheless, I was happy to unwind, and even more glad to know there were leftovers waiting in the fridge. I'm not the only one who thinks this is worth eating more than once—after I cleared out the deli case last night, the clerk was jokingly despondent, until he revealed there were plenty more waiting in the back.