I was contacted a few months ago by the Bridgeport Brewery in Portland, Oregon. They wanted to send me some beer. That was nice of them but living in Ireland makes it very difficult to get beer from the US, though it is possible if perhaps not entirely legal via post in the US so it may or may not get here.
The problem was quickly rectified by suggesting they send it to family in Colorado where I would be visiting over the summer. That's exactly what happened and I got two bottles of each of the three beers below.
The brewery is owned by the Gambrinus company which should not be confused with the Czech lager of the same name. I certainly thought that at first until I delved a little further. It appears that Bridgeport is Oregon's oldest craft brewery, established in 1984, a time in which I believe there were only three large breweries in Ireland at that time.
As everyone knows, Portland Oregon is probably the number one city for beer in the USA. I'm sure shouts of derision might be heard from Denver, Fort Collins & Boulder in Colorado (They can have the best state though) and from places like San Francisco, San Diego and so on but no matter what, Portland is a very impressive place for beer and somewhere that I have to get to some day. Imagine my sadness when I was in Chico (Northern California) and thought of driving up to Portland for the night and then realising it's a nearly 9 hour drive and I did not have that sort of time. Some day Portland, some day.
Moving on to the beer. I started off with the IPA, standard fare for any American craft brewery. At only 5.5% I think this is one of the lower end of the ABV scale IPAs available in the USA and it's the better for it. It may be a little too high in ABV to be considered sessionable but you can at least have a number of them before the one that's one too many. It starts off with a fair bit of orange peel and a hint of lemon before you notice just how refreshing the beer is. It's a real thirst quencher this one, though since it's also moreish, I guess that cancels the former out? In the middle you should notice a strong malt driven backbone just before the bittering hops kick in down the back of your throat. Subtlety is the name of the game here. This is not an in your face IPA that is trying to beat you senseless with hops. I'm reminded of Bells Two Hearted here, a beer I am in love with. Bridgeport IPA is an absolutely beautiful beer with astounding drinkability that's not trying to be anything more than it is.
Time to leave subtlety aside now for their Imperial IPA - Hop Czar (where subtlety does not belong). The floral and citrus aroma wafting from the glass on pouring fantastic and my nose did not need to get anywhere near the glass to pick it up so they obviously late hopped the hell out of this beer. As soon as I took my first mouthful, I was assaulted by the bittering hops (lots of those too I guess) but that only lasted a moment before bringing on the citrus bite of which orange and grapefruit dominate and a hint of pepper. I did not think it was as sweet as many imperial IPAs tend to be, it definitely leaned more towards the bitter end of the scale. At 7.5% it's as strong as some breweries regular IPA offerings can be. The finish was a bitter pithy orange that coated my mouth like an oil slick. Surprisingly though, it's still a refreshing and easy to drink beer. You could easily forget that it's 7.5% and find yourself in trouble.
Think it's all good news? Not so fast because the last beer was one that I was looking forward to trying as soon as I opened the box to see what they sent me and it was a bit of a let down. This may have just been me building up my expectations after reading the label though. I will explain....
Stumptown Tart is a Belgian style ale brewer with strawberries, raspberries and marrionberries. I had to look up marrionberries as I had no idea what they were. It turns out they are just a type of blackberry. I was expecting fruit and I was expecting tart. I'm not always a big fan of fruit beers, unless they are tart or sour so I was expecting great things. What I got was an aroma of home-made jam, off to a good start.
Now, this is a big beer. Not only did it come in a large bottle called a bomber in the US, it's also 7.7% making it the strongest of the three beers supplied. You wouldn't know it as there does not seem to be a hint of alcohol in the whole beer. In fact it was more like a fizzy fruit juice than a beer with almost no hop presence at all. Did I like it? Yes I did and so did everyone at the table when I opened the second bottle to share at dinner one night. So what's wrong with it? To be honest, I think it's just not my sort of beer. Had it been wild fermented or at least a controlled fermentation with a wild yeast strain and the resulting beer was sour then it might have worked for me but a beer that tastes like fruit juice rather than a beer is not my kind of thing. I also feel that it could have done with a little more body, it came across as a little thin.
All the women at the table loved it though, so perhaps that's their target audience. I'll stick to their fantastic IPAs though.
One other thing I should note, and perhaps someone from the brewery will read and take note. The website needs some work. It looks good but I don't find it user friendly and I do find it needlessly complicated (code wise) and slow. For instance navigating the beers was something I thought broken. Clicking the image of the beer just moved them across the screen for me and gave no info. Eventually I noticed a tiny little tab for more info which does bring up the info on the beer when clicked but it's almost invisible on my screen and my 19" monitor only supports 1280x1024 so I dread to think how it looks on a higher resolution monitor. I'm not sure why it's so slow, it seems like it's trying to do something graphically but perhaps it's just server speed. Out of curiosity I tried viewing it on my iPhone and it seems to do exactly the same thing and takes about the same time to navigate from page to page or beer to beer.
I look forward to trying some more Bridgeport beers in the near future and hopefully some day it will appear in Ireland for sale. Shipyard for instance is a brewery I can do without over here so maybe whoever imports it will import Bridgeport instead.