The Oregon-based craft beer pioneer was one of the first to sell an IPA.

By Mike Pomranz
February 13, 2019
GarysFRP/Getty Images

Being a pioneer comes with its perks — your name written into the history books — but just because you’ll be remembered, doesn’t mean you’ll have longevity. For every band like The Beatles that continues to generate interest generations later, there’s a Dave Clark Five that, while notable, isn’t getting namedropped by today’s hip artists. America’s craft beer scene has been facing a similar turning point. Though some brands from craft brewing’s seminal days are still considered classics, other simply can’t compete into today’s world of limited-release cans and milkshake IPAs.

Founded in 1984, Portland, Oregon’s BridgePort Brewing is, based almost on age alone, important from a historical context. According to the Brewers Association, America had fewer than 100 breweries back then compared to the over 7,000 we have now. The brand embraced this history — calling its flagship IPA “The Original IPA” and billing it as the Pacific Northwest’s first IPA.

But yesterday, Bridgeport announced that its 35-year run was coming to an end, a casualty of poor sales in a crowded craft market that has been more fueled by up-and-coming local brewers than larger established names.

“We unfortunately announce that the BridgePort Brewery will cease brewing operations effective immediately, while the BridgePort Brew Pub will close effective March 10th, 2019,” the brand wrote on Facebook. “The decision to close was extremely difficult for all involved. Back in April 2017, declining sales caused the brewery to restructure its operations. However, sales and distribution continued declining in the extremely competitive craft beer market of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in this final decision.”

According to Brewbound, the brand will be discontinued, and 87 employees will be laid off with severance packages. “The business has not been viable for a long time,” a spokesperson for The Gambrinus Company, which has owned Bridgeport since 1995, told the site. “Older brands have failed to attract younger drinkers.” Gambrinus also owns Texas’s iconic Shiner beers and the Trumer brand, both of which it said would not be affected.

Meanwhile, Bridgeport was gracious in its downfall. “We extend our most sincere thanks and gratitude to our hardworking brewers, pub staff, our suppliers, and sales and marketing team for their dedication to BridgePort over the years. Because of their contributions, BridgePort’s enduring legacy as Portland’s craft beer pioneer will always be remembered,” the Facebook announcement continued. “We would also like to thank you—our BridgePort drinkers, pub customers, and fans—for your loyal support over the past 35 years. We invite you to stop by the pub for one last pint before we close next month. We would love to host you and reminisce one last time.”

Advertisement