10 Barrel Brewing

In a town as rife with breweries as Portland, Oregon, any pro brewer worth their salt has to figure out a way to differentiate himself from the bearded, flannel-sporting masses. Whether by using mustaches as breeding grounds for yeast, spiking IPAs with cannabinoids, or “dry-hopping” a wheat ale with a boatload of palate-scorching scotch bonnet peppers, brewers will try everything and anything to stand out in this land of plenty.

On the other hand, 10 Barrel Brewing’s Portland brewmaster Whitney Burnside doesn’t have to go to such great lengths to set herself apart -- and not just because she’s a powerhouse of a woman in a still male-dominated industry. The 29-year-old is also a culinary school graduate: a unique background that shapes pretty much everything she does in her bustling downtown brewpub -- from recipe development to her perspective on the art of brewing.

How she started brewing (and breadmaking)

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After earning her Culinary Arts degree from the Johnson & Wales University of Denver campus, Burnside packed her knives and shipped out to Woodinville, Washington, a picturesque Pacific Northwest town about 25 minutes north of Seattle, for a behind-the-scenes role at one of the area’s top farm-to-table destinations. It was there that she got bit by the brewing bug, immersing herself in the world of homebrewing and, curiously enough, breadmaking.

“I was making cheese in-house for The Herbfarm restaurant and started falling in love with fermentation,” she remembers. “To me, brewing is cooking. I’ve always been partial to baking because of how exact you have to be with your measurements and process, and that’s very similar to brewing. As they say, beer is liquid bread.”

Soon after, she took the leap and and began an internship at Portland’s Laurelwood Brewery. Over the course of several years, Burnside worked her way up the sudsy ladder, cutting her teeth with stints at PDX favorite Upright Brewing, Seattle’s Elysian Brewing, and finally as Pelican Brewing Co.’s head brewer, before snagging her current gig at 10 Barrel.

Why chefs make badass beers

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So what do you get when you cross a chef with a brewer? For one, a mix of badass, boundary-pushing beers that challenge the very essence of the drink -- as well as a bevy of deftly-executed, more delicate styles that require a keen eye for balance and a baker’s precision.

“Being able to take just a few simple ingredients and to create an endless array of different flavors and styles is what I admire most,” the brewer says. “I take pride in brewing a true-to-style lager completely devoid of flaws, but I also enjoy creating beers that are complex and off-the-wall, like my creamy Key Lime Pie sour brewed with milk sugar.”

Burnside’s classics are on point, for sure, but it’s her more experimental releases that best showcase her professionally trained palate and ingenuity in both the kitchen and the brewhouse. These include one-of-a-kind concoctions like Grapefruit Tartelette Gose -- a sour inspired by a pastry she used to make, and dosed with citrus, honey, cardamom, and vanilla; the Mounds bar-esque Glen Coco -- a chocolate stout infused with massive amounts of coconut sourced from local purveyor Bob’s Red Mill and toasted in-house; and a rye IPA spiked with citrusy hops and freshly zested mandarinquats (a brilliant orange, sweet-and-sour mandarin-kumquat hybrid fruit first cultivated in Southern California’s Coachella Valley). Those brews represent a huge part of why Portland’s beer-crazy denizens continue to flock to 10 Barrel, despite the city’s overwhelming plethora of quality options.

“I came into brewing with a refined palate for food and flavor composition,” she explains. “I’m always utilizing my culinary background whenever I build a recipe or come up with a creative technique.”

All of this is not to say, of course, that culinary school is a requirement for becoming a baller brewer -- but if you're looking to make a name for yourself in this increasingly oversaturated industry, honing your cooking skills clearly isn’t a bad way to go.

In the meantime, the next time you make the trip out to Burnside’s pub -- come hungry.

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Note: 10 Barrel and Elysian are members of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.