The NCAA men's basketball tourney is around the corner and in honor of this event I have decided to coin the big craft brewers in Oregon the Mid-Majors: Bridgeport, Full Sail, Deschutes, Portland, Widmer and Ninkasi.
These are craft brewers that are packaging
breweries of considerable scale, not nearly the scale of the big boys
like Miller, Coors and Bud but quite distinct from a Gigantic or
They are kinda underdogs, but kinda
not: they can play with the big boys, they box out the shelf space and
defend the tap handles....oh, I give up on this silly basketball theme.
both Bridgeport and Widmer have revamped their IPAs and are out with
new recipes and new marketing. Bridgeport is talking a page from the
Widmer playbook and starting a rotating IPA series using the (admittedly
wonderful) Hop Czar monkier and Widmer is going the opposite direciton
in creating a permanent IPA in its Upheaval IPA.
appears that the Hop Czar rotating IPA now replaces the regular Hop Czar
so there could be some confusion about this for a while because their
über-classic, the eponymous IPA, is still going (and a huzzah for
the rotating IPA strategy does, is appears, is allow breweries to make
and market new beers from the latest hops which seem to be multiplying
like rabbits. It means minor changes to labels which probably speeds
approval and registers better with consumers.
first entry is dry-hopped with Citra, one of the new 'it' hops that
breweries are using in vast quantities. It is a fine beer and the
citrus aroma and flavor of the Citra hop is well captured. My only
quibble is it feels slightly thin. They have not achieved the total
saturation that is characteristic of my favorite IPAs these days like
Gigantic's or Breakside's. This is probably down to the reliance on
dry-hopping instead of using a massive infusion in the hopback. On the
other hand, that makes the Hop Czar a bit more sessionable - it is a wee
6.5% ABV (que the guffaws from across the pond...)
can quite honesty say that I like them both and I don't have a clear
favorite. I have both in my fridge in six-pack form and they are both
disappearing at the same rate which, by revealed preference, shows that I
am relatively indifferent. I suppose I'd say the Bridgeport is a more
summer/session IPA while Upheaval is probably the one in the Oregon
gloom. Both are definitely worth a try.
One note however: as breweries of considerable scale, I expect a prime selling point for both to be their price-point. However, I remember paying almost $9 for a sixer of both. That's simply too much.