Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Scattered Thoughts about the Bridgeport Pubs

Yesterday I took advantage of Bridgeport's Monday beer special at their Pearl District pub while watching the Rose Bowl -- $3 imperial pints is about as good a deal as it gets in Portland these days.  As I was leaving, I happened to walk directly in front of the bar, and noticed that Bridgeport's new "black pale ale" Dark Rain was on tap.  Funny, I'd been there for hours, and it wasn't listed on the sign above the bar, nor was it on the printed menus, nor did anyone bother to tell me about it.  Talk about hiding your candle under a bushel.

It points to an issue at that pub: the employees do not seem very happy. The service is rarely great but usually OK there, but sometimes it's really bad. Unhappy employees are unmotivated employees -- you know this yourself from whatever bad work experience you might have had in the past. Somewhere on the management side is something keeping these people gloomy. If the wheels were running smoothly, someone would have read me as a beer geek -- first question: "What's on cask?" -- and alerted me to the new beer.

Something else was odd yesterday.  Looking up at the bar chalkboard, I ordered a pint of Ebeneezer -- the winter warmer -- but was told, "Oh, that's only in bottles".  Reasonable enough, it's a seasonal release, they ran through the kegs, but some bottles remain.  But the next bit of information was more surprising: "That, and Blue Heron.  The brewers have been on vacation."  Out of kegs of Blue Heron?  It's no longer the flagship beer, but it has a following and its low alcohol makes it a great choice for a few pints watching a football game.

In case you missed it, the coffee porter Bridgeport released last year, Cafe Negro, is out of the lineup at least temporarily.  No surprise, it was due to be replaced by Ebeneezer when that rolled out.  A straight-up Bridgeport Porter -- the previous recipe, last seen a little over a year ago? -- is on tap right now.  A cask version of Kingpin double red was on yesterday. It was darker than I remember it being, and a little smoother and richer than the non-cask version, but still not as malty as many of its local competitors.

Finally, if you've been to the "remodeled" Bridgeport location on Hawthorne, what do you think about it?  I'm disappointed that it's no longer open for lunch, only dinner.  And the changes to the interior were very minor.  Was the whole thing just a tactical maneuver to be able to lay off all the staff -- some of whom I remember seeing there even before I moved to Portland eight years ago -- without calling it a layoff?


  1. Glad you brought up this topic as I definitely think Bridgeport has gotten a pass for far too long. I am thankful to them for bringing the IPA to Portland, but they have significant issues.

    I live about 6 blocks from the Hawthorne spot and noticed before the remodel that it was incredibly hit and miss. On a given night I could get some of the best burger and fries that I have had at any beer pub, but then a week later I'd leave pretty much disgusted by the lack of quality.

    I liked the Hawthorne place significantly better before the remodel. I can't comment on the laying off of staff, but I felt like the remodel didn't add much to the feel of the place. Probably the biggest condemnation of it is that I felt less comfortable there post remodel.

    I did notice that the food was trying to go upscale and had prices to match. Felt like I was paying too much for too little. Plus, going upscale doesn't fit Hawthorne at all.

    I really wish they went the opposite direction. I bet they would have done really well in that location if they went for a Lucky Lab sorta feel with better beer and food. Keep the food simple and inexpensive and focus on quality control. Probably an even better point of reference for what they could have been is Lompoc's Hedge House that's in the same neighborhood, but at a worse location.

    Certainly they have to focus the food. Hawthorne Hophouse is five blocks away. Belmont Station, Horse Brass, APEX and HUB aren't too far away either. There's no way that Bridgeport can pull a crowd through beer alone, they have to focus on the food.

  2. Bridgeport has become the New Pyramid brewing. LOST!

  3. Bridgeport? They're still around?

    Seriously, though, every time I've gone there, their food was horrible. And their beer really is no better. I'd never suggest Bridgeport as a destination, ESPECIALLY with out-of-town guests. There are too many good pubs around to waste any time at Bridgeport.

  4. @Shawn: Horrible food? Horrible beer? Come now. It may not be cutting edge, but it's not horrible. For brewpub food at that price point, Bridgeport definitely has Rogue and the Full Sail Pilsner Room beat, and it's not that far off from Deschutes. Maybe not the first place you'd recommend, but it's not a place to avoid.

    @MossHops: I haven't been back much since the remodel, so I can't comment much, but the lunch food before was pretty good. Interesting idea to go more casual/cheaper.

  5. I totally disagree. Rogue, while not haute cuisine, is definitely better than Bridgeport. They're not even in the same ballpark. And Deschutes, well....they were better before they changed their menu and got all 'fancy'. Their food is still a much higher quality than both Rogue and Bridgeport, though.

  6. @Shawn- As a point of reference, what do you suggest as a destination, 'ESPECIALLY with out-of-town guests'? Curious to know as this comes up frequently with my visitors.

  7. @Norman, For me the first place I'd take out of towners is HUB. You can pretty much check off the "Portlandy" aspects of it (Microbrew, eco-friendly, hipstery, bicycles). But if all they really want is beer, Horse Brass is still one of my favorites.

    The funny thing for me is that I personally only go to HUB for the out-of-towners, whereas for Horse Brass, I am there for most any reason I can muster.

    Rogue: I'd say the beer is better than Bridgeport and the food is on par with it. However, I can't seem to shake the feeling that Rogue is a marketing organization first, and a brewery second, so I find myself avoiding the place on principle.

  8. Getting off the subject here, but I second MossHops on taking guests to the Horse Brass: atmosphere, beer, food, all good. I always take out of towners to the Lucky Lab, though I suppose that depends on how beer snobby your guests are.

    Really my favorite thing is to impose pub crawls on people: say, Division Street, or Green Dragon-Cascade-Lucky Lab-(Commons|Barley Mill|442).

  9. I am late reading this but I agree with most of what Bill says. I never go to the pearl location unless its for a special event. The Hawthorne location I was near boycotting after the whole layoff remodel fiasco but went in about a month ago and actually liked it better. Your right about the layout, the only thing different seems to be a smaller bar so more seating. What I liked better though was they had a much better Happy Hour, actually the combo of HH food and HH beer was quite good. As for the beers and their marketing I think it is a total mess. They have done such a bad job its ridiculous. Most of the beers including the new ones are not very good but the 'Hop Czar' I think is killer. It is a tasty beer, and cheap and a great bang for the buck. Dark Rain is such a stupid idea, its a bad name and basically takes the whole concept of CDA and waters it down as if that will make it stand out. I actually have not had it yet so maybe it is tasty but the execution is horrible. As for the food, I think its the same level as Deschutes and definitely way better than Rogue. Are you kidding? Rogue is at the McMenamins level of quality.

  10. The whole Oregonian conceit of the CDA is a joke anyway, so who cares?


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