Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bridgeport Kingpin and Cafe Negro

This week Bridgeport released two new beers in six-packs and on tap:  Kingpin, a double red ale made with Liberty hops and 20% rye malt, and Cafe Negro, a coffee porter made with Sumatran beans from Pearl District roasters World Cup Coffee.  It appears Kingpin will be a regular part of the Bridgeport lineup, forming a royal alliance with Hop Czar to move the brewery a little more towards hoppy Northwest tastes and away from its British-inflected roots.  Cafe Negro is rolling out under the same bar code as Ebeneezer, so it will be out until at least next fall, but it might have to yield to the seasonal at that time.

Recently-promoted brewmaster Jeff Edgerton showed off the beers at a debut dinner at the Bridgeport Pub Monday night, and we were given some bottles to take home.  I've been doling some of my stash out to the neighbors to get their opinions:  both beers are well-received, but so far the favorite is the Kingpin.  It's nicely hopped, a very well-balanced beer, and much drier than other NW Reds, which I usually think of as being very malty and chewy.   At 7.5%, it's nearly as strong as Hop Czar, and definitely on the high end of NW Reds -- most are under 6%, and even the burly Ninkasi Believer is under 7% -- so maybe that's where the maltiness has gone.  The rye is very subtle.  At first I was going to say I couldn't tell what it contributed at all, but now that I let a glass of Kingpin warm up I think I'm getting just a little rye tanginess in the finish.  I'd like to see Jeff do a batch for the pubs without the rye so we could all geek out on what the rye does to the beer.

I said that Kingpin is the favorite amongst the neighbors, but Cafe Negro got a couple of votes also, and I predict that I'll end up drinking more of it than the Kingpin.  It's very drinkable, and a not-too-punishing 5.5% ABV.  The dominant flavor is coffee -- not too surprising -- over a smooth, light-bodied porter.  There's no hop bitterness to speak of, and the dark malt doesn't give any kind of burnt flavor.

My inner cheapskate is happy about Bridgeport launching these new beers in the economical six-pack format, instead of in inefficiently-priced bombers that are so common right now (Widmer also deserves mention as a brewery that sends their trial balloons up in reasonably-priced sixers).  I think they were happy with Hop Czar's six-pack success and wanted to give the new offerings a leg up.  The six-packs of Kingpin bear a goofy motto:  Feared by Some, Cheered by Many, but I like the way the Kingpin label twits Bud/Miller/Coors:  notice the Bud-like crown on top of the thumbtack logo on the pint glass, and the incantation "Triple Hopped", which tiptoes around Miller-Coors' trademarked "Triple Hops Brewed".

Jeff mentioned that the directive to come up with a couple new six-packable beers had come from Bridgeport's parent company Gambrinus.  The choice of styles was left up to Jeff, but Gambrinus owner Carlos Alvarez did suggest the coffee angle -- as Jeff put it, he said "Hey, you guys have all this good coffee up there, and I like coffee, how about some kind of coffee beer?".  When the boss gives a hint like that, it's a good idea to pay attention, and maybe you should even name the beer in his mother tongue.  Jeff did say that the Four Loko brouhaha gave them some sleepless nights this fall as Oregon and Washington considered banning caffeinated alcoholic beverages just as they were about to unveil Cafe Negro.  Hey, at least they didn't name it Moko Loko.

Speaking of Gambrinus, I know there are those who grumble about corporate ownership of homegrown breweries, but I will forever be grateful to Gambrinus for rescuing Shiner from imminent demise in the late eighties.  The company seems to be handling Bridgeport well also; hopefully its backing and creativity will prevent Bridgeport from meandering down the dreary roads that MacTarnahan's and Pyramid seem to be stuck on.

Check out the new brews when you get a chance.  I think they're a welcome addition to the Bridgeport lineup.


  1. What a blatant display of Corporate commercialism and marketing. Just a sad sight... makes me want to go out and Widmer beer! Uh.... or maybe not?!

  2. Mmm... Widmer. Think I'll have one right now.

  3. Nice article! I look forward to buying both! Though I am not overly impressed with the Hop Czar (because of some odd metallic taste I get in it, I think I will really enjoy these both.. and Imperial Reds are one of my most favored styles.

  4. A little more background on Shiner's history:

  5. Thanks, Lee. Here's a link to the Shiner story.


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