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I first encountered BridgePort beers in 2001 (I think) when I first met my Yankee chums at the Oregon Brewer's Festival. One of our friends is a head honcho at the Gambrinus Company and organised for me a private trip round BridgePort Brewery, which they own. The Head Brewer then, as now, is Karl Okert. Now brewers by and large are splendid fellows, but Karl is more splendid than most. He was kind enough to give me a tour of his brewery and on one occasion, when the lovely E was all beered out, his wife took her out for less beery pursuits. Great people.

The Brewery Tap is in a wonderful old converted warehouse alongside the brewery and we spent a fair bit of time there drinking their excellent beers. Portland is a fantastic city and I have very fond memories of it. It is a beer destination par excellence. Recently Karl sent me some of his beers to enable me to renew my acquaintance with them and to allow my friends and I to taste them fresh. Eileen and I decided to give them a go by way of quality control.

First up was Blue Heron, named after Portland's City bird. Reminiscent of an English light ale, but with more body and hops, this was easy drinking and we both liked it. Ropewalk Amber was full bodied, slightly sweet with a barley sugar and hop finish. Opinion divided here. I again liked it, but E found it a bit too gassy. The IPA was next up. This one is bottle conditioned and shows it in a more complex mouthfeel, a firm malt body and a refreshing grapefruit hop finish, with some balancing bitterness. We both liked it a lot. Last for this tasting was ESB (6.1%) and it was special too. Like a souped up English Strong Bitter with a dry character and a full bodied mouthfeel which hid the alcohol well. We had two more, but these weren't tried. The Black Strap Stout is being saved for my mates in the pub to try (along with the others) and E didn't fancy the Hop Czar, so it was down to me to go it alone on that one immediately preceding this write up.

Hop Czar, described as an Imperial IPA, opens with a zing of C hops (it has Nugget, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial in it) and has all the bitterness, grapefruit and pine resin you want against a good malt base and hides its strength very well. It has such drinkability you'd suspect it was nearer 5% than the 7.5% it is. I polished it off far too quickly. Lovely stuff.

BridgePort beers have a distinct house style of balanced understatement. They are so well crafted that you have drunk the whole bottle before you know it. Each has noticeable poise and elegance. Even the Imperial IPA hasn't any of the harshness that you find in some hop monsters. You can just tell that these guys know what they are doing. They are a class act. If you ever get the chance to go to Portland, go without hesitation and go to BridgePort. You won't regret it and they still cask condition some of their beers for the Brewpub.

Told you they are classy.