Beer writers are regularly invited to events celebrating the launch of a new beer or the arrival of an existing brand into the market and these occasions range in style from a formal dinner down to a bunch of beer lovers fronting a bar and enjoying samples of the brew dujour.
The format is nearly always the same with the host welcoming all and thanking them for their support before the beers flow, the beers are sipped, those who know a bit about beer nod approvingly and watch for those funny little screwed-up-face looks given by the small section of the crowd who usually drink wine. You have to get your laughs where you can in this caper.
Other launches, however, provide those delightful little surprises which make this whole beer caper the best darn game in town. Such an event took place last week in an upstairs room of one of Melbourne’s finest CBD restaurants, The European. The event was held to welcome into Australia the first three brands from Bridgeport Brewing in Portland, Oregon. Coming in under the stewardship of Trumer Australia, Bridgeport will send eager drinkers their flagship India Pale Ale, Hop Czar Imperial IPA and the triple-hopped Double Red Ale, Kingpin.
And the reason for my surprise? Well, the quality of the beer, for one. The long sea trip did not appear to have dented the taste as it often does with imported beers and, learning that the Bridgeport beers are bottle conditioned and a little higher in both alcohol and hop profile, may be responsible for that. But that’s not all. Special guests as advised in the invitation were none other than Willie Simpson, Australia’s leading beer writer for some 25 years and the man often described as the Godfather of Australian craft brewing, Phil Sexton.
Having spent more than a little time and more than a few beers with Willie at similar events in the past few years, the opportunity to continue the conversation was appealing as, like Brews News, Willie has many and varied opinions on all aspects of beer, gathered as they are over years of tasting, writing and brewing the stuff. Phil Sexton, on the other hand, is a man whose reputation precedes him in a way that few others can claim. He founded, along with others, The Sail & Anchor as a brewpub which grew into Matilda Bay Brewing Company. When MB was sold to CUB Phil teamed with three others to form Little Creatures.
What was most surprising to learn was that, in between Matilda Bay and Little Creatures, Phil popped over to The States to create none other than – Bridgeport IPA. Answering the call to revive Bridgeport, Phil set to work on creating an English styled IPA utilising the native hop varieties available locally. Without wishing to suggest that Phil ‘sold ice to the Innuits’ and discovered the charms of the hops native to Oregon* he was certainly instrumental in crafting the style that became attached to the Bridgeport IPA with a bitterness and hop flavour not then prominent.
So, in a nice sequence of circumstances Bridgeport is now available on our own shores. Fans of hop-prominent IPAs will love the IPA and Hop Czar while the Kingpin provides a beautifully crafted malty-sweet/hop flavoured red ale. All three beers (tasted from 330ml bottles poured expertly into fine glassware) presented as well balanced and rewarding in their flavour, aroma and finish.
Keep an eye out for Bridgeport beers which will be available through specialty retailers as well as major chains with a rollout beginning in October.
“Also in 1996, BridgePort developed a new beer that would forever change the face of brewing. BridgePort IPA. The idea is credited to Phil Sexton, and Australian brewer who had been working on the style for some time. “It was a fun thing working on this new style with Phil” says Ockert. “He pointed out that this is the biggest hop growing section in the world, so we should make a big, big hoppy beer. In 1996, 50 BU was huge. (The IPA) had a lot of flavor in addition to aroma. I remember when (John) Foyston came by and said ‘I can smell that from here.’ There wasn’t anyting on the market like it.” BREWPUBLIC magazine, July 27 2010