Sunday, August 09, 2009

BridgePort Brewing Company

To close out our first full day in Oregon, KJ and I visited my first Portland brewpub, the Pearl District’s BridgePort Brewing Company. We caught the end of the Yankees-Red Sox game in the process, unintentionally breaking my personal rule not to watch any of the action from this weekend’s series. It was already the bottom of the 8th, and we watched as Derek Jeter’s two-run homer to the right field corner—a Yankee Stadium cheap shot, indeed—extended the Yanks’ lead to 5-0.

Up to that point in the game, the Yankees pitching staff had held Boston scoreless for 23 consecutive innings, none of which I’d watched live, so even a single run by the Sox in the 9th would have reinforced my personal jinx theory. That didn’t happen, but the outcome of the weekend series so far has me believing that I made the right decision to stay away from the games. But, this post isn’t supposed to be about baseball, of course.

We stopped by the BridgePort brew pub just in time for their last tour of the day. Well, in fact, we had about 40 minutes to spare, just enough time to check out a sampler of the eight beers they were currently serving. For $7.50, we got to taste about three ounces of each, with the mini-glasses served on a tray that had the names and descriptions of the brews beneath them. This seemed like a clever idea to me, as our server didn’t have to identify them, and we didn’t have to worry about remembering which one was the porter and which was the stout, for instance.

Of course, we tasted them in such an order so as to prevent the more assertive styles from destroying our palettes for the ones that came after. That is, as much as was possible, we moved from lighter to darker, weaker to stronger, and less hoppy to more bitter. The first offering we sampled, Haymaker Extra Pale Ale, turned out to be one of our favorites. It reminds me a little of Ipswich Summer Ale, light and refreshing and easy to drink on a summer day, but still with a nice little bite to it.

The next two, Blue Heron Pale Ale and Ropewalk Amber, were disappointing. Blue Heron simply doesn’t have enough hop bitterness for the style, and Ropewalk is not nearly as full-flavored as some of the better ambers I’ve tasted.

BridgePort E.S.B. (Extra Special Bitter) and IPA were easily two of their best. As we learned later from our tour guide, the IPA is the company’s flagship offering, as it represents 85% of their brewing output. KJ seemed a little disappointed that I simply called it a good IPA, as it’s probably the beer that she gives the most credit for her introduction to the craft brewing craze. Honestly, I feel as though I need more than a couple of ounces to get a real feel for an IPA, since it’s my favorite style and the one I have the most history drinking. I’m sure we can remedy that over the course of the next week.

The E.S.B. was outstanding, and probably the one that we most enjoyed on this particular day. It’s nice and malty up front, with a slightly bitter finish. Just as I said about the IPA, I’m not certain that such a small quantity was quite enough for me to make a really accurate assessment, but this was about as close to perfection in an E.S.B. as I can recall tasting.

The Hop Czar, an 8% ABV imperial IPA, was their seasonal offering. This seemed like an odd choice, considering that it’s summer, which may just be evidence that Portlanders are serious about their high octane brews. It was enjoyable, but maybe a little high on the hoppy side of the ever important hops/malt balance equation for me, and I’m not one to shy away from bitterness.

While we agreed on just about everything else, KJ and I differed a little in our opinions of BridgePort’s darker beers. I preferred the Porter, with its smoky flavor and subtle coffee-like undertones, while KJ was partial to the Black Strap Stout, a pleasantly creamy offering that just didn’t do it for me.

Bottling line at BridgePort
Overall, the beers rated fairly highly, but our tour guide didn’t. He seemed rushed and not as willing to speak in layperson’s terms as our excellent host at the Ommegang Brewery was. He also was at least ten years younger than both of us, yet greeted us by asking “Are you kids ready?” The pace and disappointing nature of the tour turned out to be alright, though, as our meter was running out and the beers themselves made the trip to BridgePort more than worthwhile.


  1. Nice post.

    I visited the Long Trail brewery in Vermont a week or so ago. Easily the most disappointing beer experience of my life. Their wheat beer offering had an unpleasant, sharp, artifical, lemon-ish flavor that could only be described as "essence of Pledge". Only drinkable offering was their new Imperial Stout.

    Overall the brewery is an OK place to eat a burger and sit outside by the river, but don't go for the beer.

  2. Thanks Joey. I'm kind of surprised to hear that about Long Trail. They're not my favorite, but some of their beers are pretty good.