Sunday, January 23, 2011

I want to love you BridgePort, but ...


As an Oregon beer geek, I really want to like BridgePort Brewing.

The state's oldest craft brewery, BridgePort has some great history. Originally named Columbia River Brewing, BridgePort was the first Portland microbrewer to bottle its own beer. They've got a great brewpub in the the Pearl District, a spot which when they moved there in the late 1980s was surrounded by industrial wasteland. And their name and logo might be one of the sweetest in the country.

But how often do you buy a six-pack of BridgePort? What's the go-to beer in their lineup?

I ask these questions because the brewery has released a trio of new beers in what is what seems to be another rebranding of the company. (For more details, Beervana blogger Jeff Alworth has a nice recap of the company's history and constant reshuffling of beer lineups.)
Cafe Negro (coffee porter), Kingpin (double red ale) and Nightcap (seasonal winter ale) are all new brews by BridgePort. The brewery is aggressively marketing Cafe Negro, which was available for $5.99 a six-pack a couple of days ago at Safeway.

Wanting to try some new beer, I put together a mix-and-match pack of BridgePort beers, grabbing a couple of Cafe Negros, a pair of Hop Czars (the company's imperial IPA, which came out in 2008) and one each of BridgePort's old standbys, its Blue Heron Pale Ale and the BridgePort IPA. It pains me to say it, but nothing really knocked my socks off. The Cafe Negro was decent, but I'm not sure I'd have more than one in a sitting. It wasn't as smooth as some of the better coffee porter/stouts other breweries in the state are making.
The Blue Heron and BridgePort IPA were OK, but rather bland. I made me think of some of the gateway beers I drank when I first started getting into microbrews. Both just seemed like really low-risk, low-reward beers.
Of all the BridgePort offerings I had, I enjoyed the Hop Czar the most. Yes, big IPAs in Oregon are as plentiful as bank-owned homes in Bend, but the Hop Czar seemed like the one beer in my variety pack that was brewed without a safety net.

Just my thoughts. I'd love to hear from some die-hard BridgePort fans who can show me the error in my ways. Because, like I said, I love everything about the brewery except for the actual beer.

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