With a goal of 100 unique beers brewed this year, Breakside Brewery invited us to check out their production facility that allows them to increase capacity while maintaining their spirit of experimentation.
Every brewery starts with a decision. Scott Lawrence was wrapping up a back-country kayak trip with a visit to Alaskan Brewing in 2009 when he made his. “I proclaimed to my friends that I was going to quit my job and start a brewery.” He then shared his decision with just about everyone he knew to make sure he couldn’t back out. The result? A year later, Scott founded Breakside Brewery in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Portland. “Now I get to eat and drink professionally.”
After starting small, Breakside is now one of the largest production breweries in Oregon. But head brewer Jacob Leonard is adamant that throughout the growth process, their focus has stayed the same. “Quality is the most important thing,” he says. This mantra has led to Breakside being best known for two things. The first is a strong core group of beers featuring not only their stellar IPA but one of the best pilsners around. Jacob compares brewing this traditional style of beer to success on the basketball court. “Part of my job is to make sure we know the fundamentals like shooting free throws and passing. To me, shooting free throws is a pilsner. If you can’t make a good pilsner than you shouldn’t even be attempting lagers.”
The other thing Breakside is known for is a continued dedication to experimentation. In addition to more than 100 unique beers brewed in a year, the experimentation has recently spread from the brew room to the barrel room with an ambitious aging program. Andrew Horne, head cellarman, downplays the complexity of the process. “All you’re really doing is filling barrels with beer and letting them sit until they taste good and hoping they don’t get infected.” Even if it was that simple, barrels are hard to come by and supply is erratic which means they have to be ready to jump on any opportunities that come up. “If a truck load of rum barrels shows up tomorrow, we’re going to come up with a great idea for what to put in there.” And it’s great ideas (like an IPA aged for 8 months in rye whiskey barrels) that will keep fans of Breakside coming back for years to come.