The End of BridgePort Brewing Co.: Parting Words from Jeff Edgerton

Like many in the Portland beer community, I was shocked by last month's news of the closure of BridgePort Brewing Co. As I processed the news and reflected on my own journey with BridgePort, the shock has turned to sadness. I started this blog nearly 10 years ago. The first event I covered was BridgePort's 2010 Hop Harvest Release Party. Here's what I said in one of my first blog posts:

"Their IPA was among the first craft beers I tried when I moved to Portland over 10 years ago.  They showed me that beer could be so much more than Miller or Bud Lite.  In fact, BridgePort IPA is still one of my all-time favorites"  --  September 10, 2010

I've written 47 posts about BridgePort during the life of my blog (you can see all of them here). I interviewed Jeff Edgerton, BridgePort Brewmaster, a number of times and wanted to reach out to him to discuss the closure. But dissecting and probing the reasons for the end of BridgePort didn't feel right to me. If you read my blog, you know that I'm not a hard core beer journalist. I'm just a guy that likes to write about beer and the people who brew it.

To my surprise, Jeff reached out to me today wanting to share his thoughts with the Portland Beer Community. I'm absolutely humbled and honored to share Jeff's words. The statement below was written by Jeff today.

To the Portland Craft Brew Community:

In my 30 years of brewing in Portland and 20 years with BridgePort I have never issued any statements via beer blogs or offered up my opinion because I didn’t see the point and didn’t care to get into online debates.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions and I respect that.  I decided to write this today, the day following the closure of our brewpub, to leave everyone with a few parting thoughts and to clarify a few things.  I know that not everyone will agree, but many of my points are simply facts from a timeline perspective and I think should be brought out in the spirit of full disclosure.  I have tried to keep my opinions to a minimum.

First off, I want to personally thank everyone for their patronage of BridgePort over our 35 year history.  The number of people that have contacted me since the announcement of our closure has been overwhelming.  It’s hard to grasp the extent that BridgePort has touched people’s lives in this community and beyond.  I’ve made so many great friends and been privileged to have been involved with so many great projects and causes that I cannot begin to name them all.  The brewing community and its customers is truly a special group and I don’t regret a minute of the time that I’ve spent with them.  I hope that I will be able to continue to work in this great industry for the rest of my career.  

Second, I have to thank all of the people that have worked for BridgePort over the years.  I have been so lucky to have extremely talented people working with me and for me.  My crew believed in BridgePort and stuck with me even when things were starting to look pretty bleak.  

I have read some of the articles that have been published lately about BridgePort’s closing that omit a number of important details and I think it is important for proper perspective that a few of these get filled in:

  1. BridgePort IPA, once considered the brewer’s standard, was created by Phil Sexton very soon after Bridgeport was purchased by the Gambrinus Company.  Phil is an Australian brewer, winemaker, and entrepreneur who is a good friend of Carlos Alvarez.  This beer launched an IPA revolution and was the driving force that started BridgePort on its biggest upward trajectory.  Yes, this style has evolved dramatically since its first release in the mid-nineties, but BridgePort IPA remained the same and is still a great beer. Until I run out, it will be my gold standard.
  2. The Gambrinus Company invested heavily within the brewery to modernize and update brewing equipment.  Following their purchase of the brewery a new bottling line was installed; added brewing capacity in the form of new fermenters, bright tanks, and physical plant equipment was purchased and installed.  The pub was remodeled completely twice and several smaller remodels were done as well.
  3. The Gambrinus Company has taken good care of its people by paying good wages and providing excellent benefit packages for their people.  As we close, all employees are being provided good notice and good severance packages.  
  4. Carlos Alvarez donated a million dollars to Oregon State University to build a state-of-the-art pilot brew system for their Fermentation Science program.  No strings attached.  Please go down and check it out:  it is really nice.

I hope that everyone will take a moment to realize that, while BridgePort is owned by this Texas based company, the people that worked here were all Portland-based people that have deep roots here. We were here because we love the NW and love making great beer.  No one person or factor was what made BridgePort great or caused its eventual demise. Its closing is the result of a complex set of issues and now, at the 11th hour, it doesn’t matter anyway.  I find it decidedly inconvenient that the timing of beginning of our slide began with my taking the helm in 2010.  I would hope that everyone remembers that we had many successes and failures of products before and after I took over.  It is the nature of the business.  We worked very hard to create unique and tasty products and I’m proud of our lineup and commitment to quality.

This was also the time when a huge number of breweries were being started in Portland and across the country so competition from hyper-local nano-breweries became a factor very quickly. The advent of the taphouse changed the beer scene dramatically by offering new beers constantly and effectively killing the concept of flagship beers.  I’m not saying that any of this is bad, but the playing field has changed and consumers expect new beer experiences at an alarming rate while legacy brands are suffering.  A lot of good breweries will struggle and may not succeed, but things will eventually settle out.  Unfortunately, my legacy here will be that I was at the wheel when the BridgePort closed.  Timing is a bitch sometimes.  

Anyway, thanks again to everyone for all of your kind words and thoughts. 


Jeff Edgerton
BridgePort Brewing Company

There you have it. I'd like to thank Jeff for allowing me to share his closing thoughts. I wish all the best to the entire BridgePort crew as they navigate this big transition in their lives.

As I write my final post about BridgePort, I'm reminiscing with bottle of their Ropewalk Amber Ale. I stashed this bottle away in my beer fridge about nine years ago. Today seemed like the right time to drink it. It has held up surprisingly well! They don't make 'em like that anymore. Cheers and goodbye to BridgePort Brewing Co.!

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