Karl Ockert founding and longtime brewmaster at BridgePort Brewing Co., and the man who helped make Portland an IPA town is leaving the brewery on July 30.(A longer version of the story appeared in today's print edition of the paper but is, as usual, not online.)
While I was stunned when I first read the news, it's actually not too surprising. Karl helped found BridgePort nearly 30 years ago. He's had the same address (minus one short period away from the brewery) for all that time. Very few people stay in positions that long. A few of the old-timers who own breweries are still around, but it may be unprecedented for a brewer to have such a long tenure--at least among craft breweries. When you think of the people involved in the beer world when Karl entered, pretty much only the Widmers and McMenamins are still active. Gordon Bowker and Paul Shipman have long been out of Redhook. Art Larrance is at a different brewery and Fred Bowman is out of brewing. Bert Grant died and his brewery is gone. John Harris in onto his third brewery.
I think the news is shocking because many of us appreciate the continuity Karl represents. There's something comforting about having one of the founders still around brewing beer. On the other hand, it makes all kinds of sense. With the new gig, Karl moves on to a new challenge, but still gets to stay in Portland. For him, it's continuity and change.
I don't know how many people relate to BridgePort as the old city brewery like I do. Most think of it as a more impersonal holding of a Texas concern (Gambrinus, which bought BridgePort back in the 90s.) My relationship to the brewery has always been a function of Karl's tenure there. Yeah sure, the guys writing the checks changed, but Karl's the guy brewing the beer. For me, that made it more or less local. After Karl leaves? Hmmm. I guess we'll cross that bridge soon enough.
In any case, good luck, Karl--