Bridgeport's Imperial IPA: Hop Czar. Available in 22oz bottles next week.
Bridgeport's Hop Czar Imperial IPA Preview

Bridgeport's Assistant Brewmaster Jeff Edgerton gave the media a preview of their new release for their Big Brews series today. The Big Brews program started last October with their Hop Harvest Ale and continued on with Old Knucklehead and Stumptown Tart--all 22oz limited release bottles. Continuing this journey, Bridgeport has taken their flagship IPA, stuck a bike pump to the bottle, and had the employees hand pump for weeks, until--POP--out came a bigger version: Hop Czar Imperial IPA--well it's sort of like that.

"Hop Czar, an Imperial IPA brewed from BridgePort’s award-winning IPA recipe, is a triple-hopped (brew kettle and two separate hop jack charges) bottle-conditioned, Imperial-style IPA. It carries a deep malt background with enthusiastic citrus and floral notes paired with high hop bitterness. Sitting at 8-percent ABV (alcohol by volume) and 100 IBU's, Hop Czar is a strong blend of Nugget, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops."

Bridgeport's Hop Czar Imperial IPA Preview
Assistant Brewmaster Jeff Edgerton gives a tour of the brewery.
Bridgeport IPA is often overlooked in a town where everything is hopped, hopped more, and sometimes over-hopped. Now, don't get me wrong, I seldom turn down hop-bombs, but I also feel that they tend to stretch the IPA category a bit thin. IPAs, while they can be hop heavy, should still be a balanced beer, with a noticeable malt character. For me, Bridgeport IPA has always been the IPA that exemplifies the IPA category. I have recommended it for years to people who want to know where to center themselves in the world of Portland IPAs.

That is precisely why I was so excited to hear that the Hop Czar was based on Bridgeport's IPA foundation. The tasters we had were directly out of the bottles that were filled earlier today. It pours perfectly, great aroma, and a is very well-balanced Imperial IPA. Jeff told us that their hopjack, which has about a 70 pound capacity is first filled with hops. Then, half of the Hop Czar batch(about 37 barrels) is run through the hops . The hopjack is then emptied, refilled, and the rest of the batch is run through for a total of about 140 pounds of dry hops per 75 barrel batch! As it should be, it's definitely in the "very hoppy" category, but my favorite aspect was the hop bitterness. With 100 IBUs, it going to be bitter, but the malt profile does a great job of not letting that bitterness overpower the beer.

Bridgeport's Hop Czar Imperial IPA Preview
Hop Czar on the bottling line.
Hop Czar Imperial IPA will be available starting today at their downtown on draft only. 22oz bottles should start appearing on store shelves next week. And thankfully, the Big Brews series doesn't stop there. For their next release, we will be seeing a bourbon barrel aged porter.

ADDENDUM (Same Day): I just got back home after bringing my only bottle over to a friends place, so that three of us could try it against some Bridgeport IPAs. Wow, this really puts it in context! Everyone was impressed. Definitely a great beer--grab 'em when you see 'em!

Check out the rest of the photos here.