Most Interesting Brewer 2011

A post over at the New School jogged my memory about one final year-end post I had in mind. It was written by Breakside's Ben Edmunds, and he was discussing the various exotic ingredients he tossed into beers.
In all, we’ve made 92 different beers at the pub this year, learning lots about the various ingredients we’ve incorporated along the way. Some of that includes the fun of working with different base malts, the challenges of finding substitute hops when our supply of Citra and Amarillo ran dry, and the learning curve with bringing in a new yeast strains. It also includes all the Reinheitsgebot–forbidden ingredients that I love to use in the brewery. Over the last few months, it seems like we’ve been on an especially adjunct-heavy kick using a number of less common fruits, herbs, spices, and so on in some of the beers. (At the same time, we’ve also been making a series of traditional lagers, for what it’s worth.)
Ben has an almost unique situation at Breakside. It's a three-barrel brewery with owners willing to completely cede the brewhouse to their brewer. The small batches allow Ben to experiment endlessly even while keeping the house range on tap. As a consequence, Ben can brew beers that are hugely experimental. Larger breweries can't afford to gamble as much. It creates a virtuous cycle: Ben is now well-known for being able to pull off experimental beers, and that makes people eager to try them.

Beyond making some of the most interesting beers over the past year, Ben has also done more than any other brewery on the education front. He blogs at the New School, regularly brews authentic revival beers (his Devon White Ale this year is one of the all-time highlights of Oregon brewing), and has collaborated with various bloggers, writers, and groups to design and brew their own recipes. (A personal highlight of mine was brewing a grisette--a low-alcohol saison--with Ben.)

Breakside may be a tiny brewery in a remote quadrant of the city, but Ben's made it a destination. I can't think of any brewer who did more interesting work in 2011 than he did. Kudos--