Suds & Sounds: Portland’s Burnside Brewing Co At The Crossroads of Beer, Food and Good Tunes

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In our column Suds & Sounds we turn the spotlight on breweries, focusing on the role of music in that brewery’s history, packaging, tastes, and in its city or town as a whole. The idea is to get beer and music lovers to connect with a side of the brewery that may often go overlooked, but one that we think is absolutely vital. To accomplish this, we are talking to the brewers themselves about their own love of music and the role it plays in how they approach their beer. And who knows, maybe we’ll even talk to a musicians from time to time to give a perspective from the other side.

It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon is one of the best beer cities in America, if not the world. This means that, if you want to open a brewery, you better be damn good at brewing beer. Brewers generally fall into two categories: those capable of nailing classic styles and those looking to do something that has never been done before. One of the newer additions to the Portland beer scene is Burnside Brewing Co, which falls somewhere in the middle of those two categories. For founders Jay Gilbert and Jason McAdam, the basic philosophy behind Burnside since the beginning has been to focus on the delicious crossroads where food and beer intersect. Between their brewery and their pub, Gilbert and McAdam always have food in mind when it comes to brewing, and out of this comes some pretty interesting beer. Beers like their Sweet Heat, an apricot and Scotch Bonnet wheat beer that won them a gold metal at the 2012 GABF, and Lime Kolsch, which has lime zest, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, are among the unique standouts on Burnside’s beer roster. Of course, this being hop-loving Portland, they also have beers like the Too Sticky To Roll India Red Ale, described as “quaffable yet chewy”. All of these beers are aimed at complimenting the pub menu, which, with dishes like steak frites with marrow butter and black truffle aioli and beef carpaccio, is a step above your typical brew pub grub, to say the least.

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So, where exactly does the whole music angle play into Burnside Brewing? Compared to other breweries we’ve featured in this column, Burnside may not be as musically intertwined on the surface, but you can rest assured that these guys like to kick out the jams. They are believers in the power of music and art, and beer of course, as positive forces for bringing together the community, and they encourage musicians to play at the brewery. Also, being in a city with a vibrant music scene means making sure their beer can be found at local venues and festivals. To get an inside look at what makes Burnside standout as a music (and food) loving brewery in Portland’s busy beer scene, we caught up with co-founder Jason McAdam.

For people who may have never heard of your brewery, can you give us a little background on how it started and what kind of beers you specialize in?

Burnside Brewing opened in December of 2010 with a goal to make balanced beers of all styles that are food friendly. We have a 15 barrel brewhouse that currently has the capability of producing 5,000 barrels annually. We have 7 beers that are flagships 4 are packaged in 22oz and 2 in 12oz can six packs, 1 is a rotating seasonal. In-house we have an ever-rotating series of specialty brews that vary from barrel aged to light lagers.

How long have you been brewing and what do you consider your greatest triumph so far as a craft brewer?

This will be my 18th year brewing beer and I believe the greatest triumph as a craft brewer is starting and establishing Burnside and continuing to grow the company and the brand. The craft beer industry is ever evolving and staying up to date with beer and food trends is a fun challenge to take on. 

Talk about the beer culture a bit in your city. What do people look for in a good beer and what do you hope to provide, and also do you see the beer scene as being linked in any way to the music scene?

The beer culture in Portland is and always has been about hops, as the hoppy beers hold firm as the drink of choice for Portlanders there is growth with sour beers, farmhouse and wild ales as of lately. All in all, IPA is #1.

I guess you could say the beer scene is linked to the music scene. There is an event in Portland called the Malt Ball where breweries team up with local bands to collaborate on a beer that represents both the brewery and the band, that beer is poured during the show, which features multiple bands. Music is also a large part of a brewer’s day, so at Burnside whoever is brewing gets to select the music for the day. Four brewers with four different musical tastes makes for some interesting days.

A lot of breweries seem to incorporate their own musical tastes into their packaging and presentation, whether it be a collaboration with a band, a tribute label, or a beer name that references something they like. Has you brewery ever done something like this, and if so can you tell us about it?

Currently we are doing a beer series called Coax in which all beers made are hop forward regardless of style, and we also encourage customers to share a song that they are listening to while enjoying this brew [using the hashtag] #BurnsideCOAX.

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Has your brewery ever brought in any bands to play?

On occasion we have brought in some live music most of which is acoustic. We just don’t have the space to commit to a regular music routine unfortunately. 

In your opinion, what is the absolute best band or kind of music in general for drinking beer? 

As far as best band/music for drinking beer, I would have to say that mood is the deciding factor. So much music and so many beers.

Burnside Brewing Co is located at 701 E. Burnside, Portland, OR 97214. For more info check out burnsidebrewco.com.

Check out other editions of Suds & Sounds:

NOLA BREWING

TRVE Brewing

Switchback Brewing Co. 

Real Ale Brewing Company

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