Here's some rough math. There are something like 55 breweries in Portland, and around 140 statewide. At any given moment, those breweries will have on two to--what, six, eight?--specialty beers available. Let's say four apiece, on average. That means that at any given moment there are 200+ specialty beers in Portland, and 560 statewide. Add to that imports and special releases from national breweries, and there are way, way more beers than any human can hope to drink.
When this blog started, I tried to review new breweries and at least gesture toward new releases--an endeavor I had to abandon years ago. Last night, as I swirled BridgePort's newest release around my mouth, an epiphany struck: what people really want is not reviews of every random beer, but a neon sign pointing to the few among the crowd that really stand out. A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide them to the beery mountaintop. I don't profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I do find one that really stands out. So why not an irregular feature that highlights them? (I have already inaugurated a recent irregular feature, "I have a minor complaint!", but two irregular features doesn't seem out of bounds.) I trust you to let me know if this is ill-advised. So, without further ado, let's get to the new feature.
BridgePort Trilogy 1
The first up does not, on paper, look like a world-beater: a pale ale, just 5.2% alcohol and 40 IBUs. No wild yeasts, no barrel-aging, no exotica like cold-press civet coffee or epazote dry-hopping. Just a basic pale, the kind craft breweries were making back in the 1970s.
Ah, but if you really wanted to prove your mettle, if you really wanted to illustrate your mastery over the mash tun, you wouldn't try any of that civet razzle-dazzle, would you? You'd take the most basic, elemental beer style and attempt to make it fresh and alive. Wow a punter with epazote and so what; wow him with a pale, now that's a feat.
Last night I was the punter, and I stepped up to a frothy pour of Trilogy 1, yawning. The aroma, however, roused me. Trilogy 1 is dry-hopped with Oregon Crystals from Gail Goschie's hop farm. Crystals are lovely, if understated, hops--all bright and enlivening without being show-offy. They are stippled with citrus but not marked by it--lavender is as much a part of their DNA as lemon. In Trilogy I detect something slightly more musky, like the over-ripe scent of Summit, but I can't be sure. It's a delicate aroma but complex.
The flavor is even more satisfying than the aroma. As he is wont to do, brewer Jeff Edgerton has kneaded some rye into the grist, as well as a bit of Munich. There's no spice from the rye, though; it's delicately light and frothy and holds a head as well as any beer I've seen. The last swallow was half foam. There's a bit of sweetness to draw out the flavors from the hops, which are mostly clean and bright, but also the mouthfeel is soft and bready, giving it a tactile dimension. It's not especially bitter and certainly not heavy and dank. There's nothing going on that's especially flashy or self-conscious. Trilogy 1 is just a perfectly executed pale brimming with flavor. You could easily drink this all night long without wearing out your palate or spending a minute bored. The bottle came straight from the brewery, so it was perfectly fresh--I can't say what might become of this beer if it sits a month in the bottle. Get it fresh, though, and man, that's one king-hell of a pale.