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Bread & Brew: Breakside Brewery opens Slabtown 'hop lab'

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The Slabtown brewery will be designed around maximizing hop flavor and creating different ways to use hops

COURTESY PHOTO - Fresh off its Large Brewery of the Year award last week, Breakside opens a third location, the first on the west side. The 13-barrel brewhouse opened to the public March 6.  Craft beer fans are rejoicing this month as Breakside Brewery, one of Portland's most beloved brewers, opens its third location in Portland.

The new Slabtown 10-barrel brewpub, 1570 N.W. 22nd Ave., opened to the public on March 6 to serve as the brand's "hop lab."

That means most of the beers will be hop-forward, but not necessarily IPAs.

Owner Scott Lawrence, brewmaster Ben Edmunds and Slabtown head brewer Will Jaquiss gave a sneak peek of the space last week, explaining the reason for this hoppy vision and how, exactly, they'll carry it out.

"Brewers today have the greatest pantry of ingredients available to them in the history of brewing, especially hops," Edmunds said. "In the quest to discover the next Citra, Mosaic, or Simcoe, hop breeders have grown and developed numerous other varietals, many of which are wonderful hops, but not great for American IPAs."

Having won multiple medals from the World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival since first launching their Northeast Dekum brewery in 2010, the focus on non-IPA varietals now is a move to expand the vocabulary brewers and beer enthusiasts use to talk about hops and hop-forward beers, they explained.

Those who love hoppy beers will surely be in their comfort zone, but what about those at the other end of the spectrum?

The Slabtown brewery will be designed around maximizing hop flavor and creating different ways to use hops, so if you've tried one, you haven't tried them all.

But which IPA will they feature? Why choose one when you can offer many? Their Seeker Series will pay tribute to their favorite IPAs over the years, brewing those they call "paradigmatic regional IPAs found worldwide," including the Pacific Northwest.

There's one other major change to the style and focus at Slabtown. Breakside has focused on shelf stability, producing a perfect "30-day" IPA.

But like all good experiments, Slabtown's brews will be about a moment in time. "Slabtown is our opportunity to swing the pendulum the other direction and focus on intensely fresh beer," Edmunds said. "We won't be kegging the beers from Slabtown and sending them to our other pubs. Save for the occasional special event or two, they'll be available on site only."

The lineup of brand-new beers comes courtesy of Jaquiss — research and development brewer at Breakside since 2015 — and co-brewer Tom Fischer, a production brewer at Breakside since 2014.

The wild new lineup includes something for everyone: A New England-inspired IPA, a double IPA, an easy-drinking summer ale, a classic pilsner, a tropical gose, a Mexican coffee stout, a session ale, a collaboration with Night Shift Brewing in Massachusetts, and three more twists on classic IPAs.

Several will become their full-time house beers, but the rotating tap list will grow with a range of new additions.

Breakside's other beers brewed at their Milwaukie 30-barrel production brewery also will be on hand.

The brewery's awards include the gold medal for American-Style IPA at the Great American Beer Festival for their Breakside IPA in 2014; gold medal at the 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards for their Passionfruit Sour; and Brewery of the Year at the 2015 Oregon Beer Awards and 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards.

At the third-annual Oregon Beer Awards on Feb. 28, less than a week before the Slabtown opening, Breakside swept the competition with 10 total medals, as well as the Large Brewery of the Year award.

Other winners of the night were Baerlic Brewery and and Upright Brewing with three medals each, and Baerlic's small Brewery of the Year honor. The Commons won Medium Size Brewery of the Year, and more than half a dozen other brewers from across the state took home honors as well.

@jenmomanderson