BridgePort Brewing Company announced Tuesday that it will cease beer-making immediately.
Its NW Marshall Street brewpub will remain open until March 10.
The brewery opened in 1984, making it one of the oldest breweries in Portland.
BridgePort’s announcement follows the demise of other local craft beer operations. Widmer Brothers closed its North Portland pub late last month, though its brewery is still operating. Burnside Brewing closed its doors last week.
Local beer expert and writer for the blog Beervana Jeff Alworth said BridgePort is arguably the most important brewery in Portland.
“BridgePort Brewing, for the first 15 years of its life, was the Portland brewery,” Alworth said. “It was synonymous with Portland.”
He added: “BridgePort was different in that it was one of those founding breweries that people really connected with.”
Although BridgePort is so intricately connected to the City of Roses, Alworth said new breweries have made it tougher for older ones to stay relevant.
“You continue to have new breweries open; this last year we had a series of wonderful breweries that opened,” Alworth said, “and you get a crowded and more crowded and more crowded marketplace and these older legacy breweries, if they’re not nimble at making changes to be relevant, it becomes more and more difficult for them to stay in people’s consciousness.”
BridgePort’s public announcement, via Facebook, mentioned this increased saturation of craft brewing operations.
“[S]ales and distribution continued declining in the extremely competitive craft beer market of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, which resulted in this final decision,” the company statement reads.
According to data from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, BridgePort ranked fourth in the state for the most barrels of beer sold in 2010 — more than 24,000 barrels.
In November 2018, the latest date available in OLCC data, BridgePort’s ranking slid to 21st, with the brewery only selling slightly under 6,200 barrels at that point in the year.
Alworth said other specific circumstances could have led to BridgePort’s closure. He said the brewery was owned by an out-of-state company — Gambrinus Company in Texas.
“[Gambrinus] made a bunch of decisions over the last 15-20 years that were mystifying to folks here in Portland,” Alworth said.
Gambrinus owns multiple other brewing companies.
Alworth said BridgePort’s location on the edge of the Pearl District could also be a factor in its decision to close.
“They have this incredibly valuable real estate there in the Pearl which, when they opened up in 1984, was an industrial tract and it made a lot of sense to put an industrial facility there,” he said. “Now that it’s very valuable real estate and no longer an industrial area, having a brewery there doesn’t make a ton of sense, and that was before all of these lost sales started happening.”
Things aren’t looking equally bad across the industry for craft brewers. Hood River brewery pFriem announced an expansion earlier this week.
“Every time we have one of these closures, people wonder about the trend, and they add up to a trend I think, but every time one of these happens, there’s also a bunch of specific circumstances that are really unique to each case and I think that was true here, too,” Alworth said.