During the summer just gone, Bridgeport (Orgeon) sent some beer to family in the US that I would be visiting in Denver. You can read what I thought here. For Christmas, they very kindly did the same thing but to Alabama this time.
First up is a newish seasonal called Smooth Ryed ale. Rye in beer can sometimes be to its detriment and I suspect it might not be doing this beer any favours. It's a rather strong red ale at 6.3% so I expected a little alcohol heat but there was little to be found. Instead I got what seemed like a strong funky cheese aroma off the beer and this was even more evident in the flavour. It's not a bad flavour as such, but it is a little odd. I'm still a little unclear on exactly what Rye brings to a beer.
I would like to see a brewery do two beers, one with rye and one without, with the recipe being identical except for the rye. Or I can just do it myself I suppose. I have used Rye before but it never really impacted on the beer that I could tell. Maybe I just did not use enough.
Anyway Smooth Ryed is a decent enough beer but not something I would personally be inclined to drink. Since there is a proliferation of Rye beers in the US though, there is clearly a market for such beers.
Kingpin is another red ale, this time a double red with an ABV of 7.5%. I was actually expecting a super hopped beer and was surprised to find that not to be the case. This one also has rye in it but it's only an ingredient as opposed to part of the gimmick behind the beer. Think of your average American red ale and then whack up the ABV to 7.5% and that's what you get. The result is a caramel forward ale with a pleasant bitterness that just keeps the sweetness in check without dominating the beer. I personally prefer more hops in my beer which is why I loved their Hop Czar so much. Kingpin is a cracking beer though and I rather enjoyed it.
Old Nucklehead is their barleywine and I was looking forward to this. The one I got was the oak aged version No. 013. The resulting beer is 9.2% beer that has aged for 3 months in American oak barrels. On the nose I got raisins and sultanas complementing a strong toffee backbone. It tastes pretty much how it smells with the addition of an obvious oak character. Plenty of vanilla but not enough to distract from the rest of the beer. It's a fantasticly easy beer to drink and not cloying like some barleywines.
My mother in law's partner, who usually drinks cocktails, wine and PBR tried some and really liked it. I had been getting him to try various beers while there and while hop forward beers are not his thing, the sweeter styles certainly were.
Some day I will get to travel to Oregon and visit all the breweries my liver allows me to, Bridgeport included. It would be easier if there was family in that state. I came close though, my time in San Francisco was close but even when I was as far north as Chico, Portland was simply too far to drive in the time we had so I had to suck it up and I'm waiting patiently for an opportunity. If I ever move to the US, you can be sure I will be making that a priority.