The nice people at Bridgeport Brewing invited me to their debut of this year’s Stumptown Tart ale, so I went. I had a chance to try the beer and grill the brewers for a little bit, which I am very grateful for. After my questions, they gave me a bottle to try at home, which I’m very grateful for because it gave me a chance to properly evaluate the beer.
While at the event, the pours I got seemed flat, as though it was being cask conditioned. I couldn’t smell anything and that always concerns me when I’m trying to describe a beer for someone else. That experience was odd and didn’t feel like what I’d get when I bought it from a store. The beer was solid enough at the event, though, that I held off on talking about it for a few days, when I could get a bottle home, chill it and pour it fresh into a glass.
The brewers I spoke with, Kevin and Jeff, told me the beer had three kinds of berries: raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry, tweaked after made after last years batch. They blended a Belgian ale and ale made from their house yeast in a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio, which is the reverse of last year, in order to bring up the Belgian character more. They felt that last year’s batch didn’t have enough of that quality to it and the strawberry just didn’t come through at all. I believe they said they used close to 2000 pounds of berries, but I neglected to write down the number so I’m going from memory here. Again; thanks to them for indulging me and answering so many questions.
Now, the Stumptown Tart itself presents an interesting set of questions for me. I will get it out of the way: I like this beer. It’s got a soft Belgiany funk at the beginning which rapidly gives way to the berry-ish flavors in the beer. Raspberry comes in at end with a hint of blueberry in middle. So in some respects, Bridgeport’s blending efforts have been quite accomplished.
It isn’t tart though, by any measure. I wouldn’t even suggest that this is a beer to start people off on sour ales, because it’s so mild. It may be the dreaded fruit beer. This would be less of a problem if having a tart flavor wasn’t in the name. There are expectations that aren’t being met, now.
That’s mostly fine, (even if I do wish there was just a teeny bit more) it just leads me to ask: Who is this for? And I think it’s for people who want to get into craft beer but are put off by the hardcore IBUs, or the potentially dense, technical language of yeasts and malts. They just want to go to a store, look at something and go: yeah, I know Bridgeport, they usually do good stuff and this is different. Let’s try it!
There’s enough flavors in the Stumptown Tart in common with white wine that from a flavor profile viewpoint, it can be offered to many people, the label is fun and just cheeky enough that women (that I know, anyway) wouldn’t feel insulted or weird about buying it. It’s a nice beer that is meant to be popular and I appreciate how this could serve as a gateway beer for people who might not like or just be intimidated by the craft beer scene. I would buy it, especially if I was going to share it with people.
I do wish it was a little tarter, though.
Final note: I’m on the road this week so there probably won’t be a new post until next Wednesday.