Review Date 2/23/2010 Last Updated 9/14/2013
A funny thing happened the other day at the liquor store. It was at Green's on Buford highway to be precise, perusing the aisles as I am wont to do for the latest and greatest beer arrivals. One of these was Bridgeport Hop Czar, an "imperial" IPA from Portland, Oregon's Bridgeport Brewing Company. Spying it, I placed a six-pack in my cart along with the other goodies I had so far collected.
And then it happened. A gentleman whom I took to be sales rep saw the Hop Czar sitting in my carriage and came over to talk to me about it. If the fact he was putting up promotional signs and placards did not betray his profession, the words he uttered certainly evinced his bias.
"Great stuff, that Bridgeport Hop Czar," he said.
I confessed that I had head good things about it.
"Very hoppy, and a steal at $6.98 a six-pack", he pursued.
I agreed with this wholeheartedly, and indeed I had been surprised the beer wasn't more expensive. And then he dropped the hammer on me.
"It's just as good as the Bell's Hopslam, which is a little ridiculous at $10 a six-pack more".
Obviously, he didn't distribute Bell's beers, and really Hopslam wasn't entirely the same beer. It has 10% or so alcohol by volume compared to Hop Czar's 7.5%, and is brewed with honey as well. Still, having tried the Hopslam a few weeks earlier, I was intrigued by his comments and headed home to see how the Hop Czar would fare.
Bridgeport already has an India Pale Ale, of course, in Bridgeport IPA. Bridgeport Hop Czar is a little stronger and hoppier than that beer, however. Bridgeport says the beer is
"a triple-hopped bottle-conditioned, Imperial-style IPA", made with two pounds of hops per barrel. It has 85 IBUs, quite impressive, and is made with "Nugget, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops" per the company website.
Bridgeport Hop Czar pours to a bright orange color with a thick and creamy head formation and an amazingly bright and citric hop aroma in the nose. OK, I may seem to be a little excited about this beer, but that's just because I'm a little excited about this beer. I like the tasty toasty caramel malt palate that lies beneath as I first sip, but I also like the fact that it's not overpowering. enough to let you know that it's there, but not so much that the beer becomes unto a barleywine, a pitfall many "imperial" IPAs fall into.
The hops take over straight away, at once piney and resiny, citric and grapefruity, and really, really aromatic. They absolutely permeate the beer, and explode in a delightfully long, dry, bitter finish that screams those resiny pine and citric grapefruit notes all over again, laced with a bit of herbal aroma. This one really is a glass of hop juice, and I think it deserves to be called Imperial IPA since it takes the hops to a level beyond that in already hoppy American IPA while still retaining an IPA malt profile.
This just might be one of the best six dollars and ninety eight cent beers you can buy. Thinking back on our slightly biased salesman's comparison to Hopslam, I tend to agree with him. After all, you can get Hopslammed six times for about sixteen bucks, or for the same amount be crowned Hop Czar twice that number of times, and still have a few bucks left over.
Bridgeport Hop Czar is a beer hopheads simply should not miss.
Update 9/14/2013: Hop Czar, my friends, is still a great beer as I update my review, either on draft or in the bottle. it's still an over-the-top, big chewy malty hop bomb loaded with resiny hop goodness and a long dry bitter finish that means business. And it's still a great deal. I enjoyed it at Taco Mac recently on tap for just $5.25 for a full mug pour. I bought a 22 ounce bomber bottle at Kroger the other day for $2.79. Are you kidding me? $2.79 for 22 ounces of this wonderful imperial IPA?In 2013? Face it folks. We hit just hit the jackpot.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.