Podcast Episode 126: Ben Edmunds of Breakside on Optimizing for “Pleasantness”

Breakside Brewery, under Brewmaster Ben Edmunds, has taken home 16 GABF medals and eight from the World Beer Cup. They've done it by shaving down beers to the elements that appeal most to their expert tasters.

Jamie Bogner Mar 13, 2020


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For Portland, Oregon’s Breakside Brewery, beer should offer maximum enjoyment without losing its character and sense of identity. Dual core IPAs Wanderlust and Breakside IPA scratch different hoppy itches; Salted Caramel Stout satisfies those with a sweet tooth; their Pilsner offers a slightly less “austere” drinkable option; and the sour and wild program gives brewers the chance to play and discover.

In this episode, founding Brewmaster Ben Edmunds discusses: - the inception and development of their now-classic IPAs.
- how gravity adjustments impact hops flavors.
- the je ne se quoi of award-winning beers.
- designing hoppy beers to hit their sweet spot in the time frame when consumers will drink them.
- hops with greater shelf life.
- anchoring hops blends with familiar flavors.
- the vast differences between the core West Coast-style and evolving hazy IPAs that Breakside brews.

And more.

“The thing I like about competition is… the beers that win, are the beers that are the most pleasant,” Edmunds says. “They’re the most pleasant to a most discriminating group of judges. If you can shave your beers in ways that are optimizing for the most pleasant, you’re going to do well.”

Beyond hoppy beers, Edmunds discusses brewing lagers like their year-round Pilsner, their sour process, the challenges brewers face in naming and describing beers for consumers, and the need for brewers to take risks while honoring tradition.

“When we put 60 barrels of Märzen out into the trade, we’re taking a withdrawal from our customers, asking them to trust us. But I think that’s how you move the needle. You have to have breweries who have the brand equity be willing to spend a little of that, to push the needle with consumers, to see if things work. They don’t always work, but if no one is doing that, and we’re just giving people more IPA and more IPA, it may be better business, but to me it’s a lot less interesting and I don’t know that it’s good business over the long haul.”

This episode is brought to you by:

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Captain Pabst Logo
Out of the west a storm surprised, swept down on Captain Pabst,
That mariner and gentleman, his actions swift and fast,
He sailed the seabird against the throes, routing twain wind and fear,
He took haste to protect his kin, but the port was far from near,
Pabst’s intuition proved him right, and bore a friendly coast,
The mighty seabird crashed aground, and to that we raise a toast,
For while the seabird indeed was lost, safe were kin and crew,
And without this mighty ship to steer, Captain Pabst... began to brew.

Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].