Ben Edmunds grew up in Michigan and initially educated 11th graders about the merits of Spanish and philosophy in small town Colorado. Now he’s helping to provide Portlandia with craft beer as the brewmaster for Breakside Brewery on the city’s Northeast side, which Scott Lawrence and Tony Petraglia founded in 2010. We spoke by phone on April 30, and Edmunds shared several insights that hint at why he’s found hop-fueled success.
At what point did you know you would work with beer for a living?
As a homebrewer, the whole time I was teaching, I always knew in the back of my head I wasn’t going to be a teacher forever, though I had a great job and enjoyed it. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be fun to be a brewer. As a homebrewer, I enjoyed the creativity as well as learning the science of homebrewing. I was teaching in this tiny little town in Colorado and wanted to live somewhere more urban, more hip, and moved to Portland on a lark. When I got here, the beer community in Portland amazed me and convinced me I wanted to be a part of it. I had the means to go to brewing school and made the transition over to commercial brewing.
The Siebel Institute.
Yeah, and Munich as well, the full diploma course.
Do you have a first beer memory, good or bad?
I remember the first beer that turned me on to good beer. I’m almost embarrassed to admit it at this point, but it was Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss. I grew up in the Midwest and was a camp counselor. It was probably a summer doing it that I had craft beer. I liked that a whole lot more than the classic American lagers I tasted. “Ooh, this has a lot of flavor.”
What was the first beer that you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?
the first beer I ever made was an American brown ale and I never got a chance to taste it because all the bottles exploded.
What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at Breakside?
One of the things that’s great about brewing here on a small brewpub system. Sam, the other brewer, and I set the schedule for what we like making. Whether it’s a classic style, or more experimental, is it going to be delicious? We’ve got a reputation here in Portland as being an experimental brewery, but it’s not done willy-nilly. We prize deliciousness and we prize drinkabilty a lot.
Does it make your job easier or harder to have so many other craft breweries in Portland?