Double IPA, Breakside Brewery

Portland breweries are like fine pieces of art. Every one is unique in its own way, created by people who have a love and knowledge for beer attained by few. Like all great artists, the owners of Portland's breweries want their works of art to be original, to be filled with their passion and taste really, really good. Well… maybe the art metaphor doesn't work for that last part but you get my point.

Now it would be a shame to live amongst all of these beautiful pieces of art and not experience them wouldn't it? If you're like me—twenty something and generally broke—then you probably haven't made it out to most of these little gems because you can't justify driving from say, Beaverton or Sherwood all the way out to Portland to check out a brewery. Maybe you'll wait for the next festival to try their beers. Maybe they'll start distributing. But maybe doesn't get you the experience. Call your buddies and get a carpool together because I'm here to tell you why it's worth the trip.

I started my little brewery hopping adventure at Breakside Brewing. I'd never been there before and wanted to go somewhere I'd have a fresh perspective. I got off work early on the day I was supposed to do my interview with co-owner Scott Lawrence so I decided I'd just get there early and try some of the brews. When you walk in you are greeted with tons of beautiful knotted woodwork that meshes nicely with metal accents creating an inviting, yet semi-industrial type of atmosphere. Scott told me that what they wanted was a place where people could relax and forget about their lives for a bit…hence the name "Breakside." When I was there I felt like I was at a summer barbeque surrounded by lots of friendly local people. The two roll up doors that turn the inside into an outside covered patio are very nice as well, letting in a nice fresh breeze and a little sunshine.

The atmosphere and people are great, but the real reason that you want to make the trip to Breakside is the fact that they release a new beer every week. That's unheard of at big breweries and you certainly can't find a new beer to try every week at your local chain restaurant. Scott told me that they release more new beers than any other brewery in Oregon. In fact, some of the brews are so limited that there is only one keg available. Breakside is brewing with a 3 bbl system and four 7 bbl fermenters so their creativity isn't limited by fear of losing a lot of money if something doesn't turn out. They have five main beers usually on tap, with seven to ten of their own beers on tap when available with the auxiliary brews on tap for 2-4 weeks (note: when I went they had beers at two different festivals so they only had five beers available). The five that were available when I was there included the Dry Stout, which certainly lived up to its name. With a body about as dry as British humor, and a perfect roasted barley flavor I would say their brewer Ben nailed the profile of a stout. Unlike the stout, the rest of the brews were out of bounds when it comes to styles of beer… and I'm not complaining one bit. With a Hoppy Amber that had a hop profile and aroma that resembled that of a fresh hop brew with a hint of malt flavor, a Meyer Lemon Kolsch which I would deem the perfect summer brew with a light crispy and slightly lemony flavor, a sweet and sour black licorice-y Whiskey Ginger (if you were at the fruit beer festival you may have tried this one!) and Margaret's Beet Beer, which to me had flavor reminiscent of cherries. All the beers gave me the impression that their brewer is creative and likes pushing the boundaries of beer but knows exactly what he's doing. Scott said to look forward to a spruce beer on the way made with spruce needles. [NOTE: This beer has been released during the time it took my lazy editor to getting around to publishing this.  It is currently on tap.] [EDITOR'S NOTE: That previous note is true.  Especially the part about me being lazy.]  Scott also mentioned that they will be distributing in 12oz. bottles once they are able to acquire the facilities to do so.

I ordered up a sampler which comes with six beers. Since there were only five available, I was able to try one of their seven guest taps. The number of guest taps varies depending on how many of their own beers are available, but Scott said that their original plan was to have half guest taps, half house taps. The guest taps include brews from Bear Republic, Ace Ciders, Upright, Cascade Lakes and New Belgium. Scott said that they sell about 85% house brews to 15% guest taps, so if you hear about something they just tapped that sounds like something you can't go without trying, don't tarry because it may not be there long.

The food here isn't anything to scoff at either. I had a lambwich with Tzatziki sauce, red peppers and onions. My bar mate was having a buffalo nacho and Tony who is also co-owner, suggested two options: the pulled pork sandwich on a brioche bun and the curry fried chicken. Food is one of the inspirations for the beers they brew here which is not surprising, as food seems to be as important to these guys as beer.

So if you feel like experiencing some real art in Portland that you can actually afford (plus touch, taste and ingest!) then jot this little brewpub onto your ever expanding list of Portland breweries to get to, move it to the top, get down there and strike up a conversation with a friendly local over a sampler. If you do, you may come out of those big roll up doors with a new perspective on what beer can be.