Breakside covers a lot of bases. For starters, it serves a funky little neighborhood that doesn't have many other good beer choices. In a town with 40 breweries, there's not one within a mile of Breakside. The spirit of experimentation is strong there, too. Instead of looking on the brewery's small 3-barrel system as an impediment, brewer Ben Edmunds turns it to his advantage by turning out small batches of playful experiments that he might not gamble on in larger quantities. I missed a chance to try Ben's take on the resurrected German Gratzer style, which included apples as a flavoring; Saturday I had a tiny taste of the Aztec Ale, which you can think of as a tincture of cocoa and chile peppers. Fresh from the Zwickel, Breakside served us a taste of an upcoming experimental release: the Savory Stout, whose adjuncts include seaweed and miso soup -- sounds scary but judging from the slightly salty creaminess of the young beer, I think it might just work.
I don't have anything to report on the food -- I fled the Zwickelmania crowds -- but the menu looks promising. Kids are allowed in the pub until a certain hour. Of the house standard beers, I tried the Hoppy Amber, which was just how I wanted it to be -- pleasantly malty with nice floral hops. I also tried the one-off hopless Wheat Gruit -- a low-alcohol offering that was refreshing and lemongrassy. It would be nice to see that come back in the summer as a low-octane, low-priced thirst quencher.
Now that I've taken the plunge, I hope to make it back to Breakside again soon. Nice little neighborhood pub, in a place that really needed one, with some well-crafted and imaginative beers. If you're biking there, it's not far off the Williams/Vancouver bike highway, or if you're coming from the Southeast like I was, NE 9th Avenue takes you right to it.