BridgePort Brewing Company


Established: 1984
Founders: Richard and Nancy Ponzi
Brewers: Karl Ockert (original); Phil Sexton (previous); Jeff Edgerton, Eric Munger, Jeff Thompson (current)
Location: 1318 Northwest Marshall St., Portland, OR 97209
Specialty: BridgePort’s IPA is largely credited with popularizing the brew style among American brewers and consumers alike.
Fun Facts:

  • Founders Richard and Nancy Ponzi are best known for their immense contribution to Oregon’s Pinot Noir wine industry.
  • When Gambrinus Co. took over the company in 1995, executives decided to largely retire BridgePort’s original lineup of brews. Public displeasure with the decision prompted the return of local favorite Blue Heron.
  • The Old Knucklehead barleywine label always “features the likeness of a local civic figure.” The first label depicted the Ponzi’s landlord, Roger Madden.

Located in the craft brew capital of the United States, BridgePort belonged at the vanguard of Portland’s burgeoning brewing identity. Founded in 1984 as Columbia River Brewing by vintners Richard and Nancy Ponzi, the Ponzis viewed Portland as a mine of opportunity and purchased a dilapidated rope factory in the then-rundown Pearl District. Their landlord laughed outright when he heard their plans for a craft brewery, but offered six thousand square feet for $600 per month. Already well established in the winemaking industry, the Ponzis quickly translated their experience and knowledge of grapes to hops.

BridgePort began to face issues of expansion in the early ‘90s, when a plummeting demand coincided with an explosive growth of new brewpubs. In the midst of the flooded market, the Ponzis faced a difficult decision: go public or sell to a larger company. In 1995, BridgePort Brewing was officially sold to the Gambrinus Company, a San Antonio-based beer importer best known for the promulgation of Corona and Spoetzl across the United States. Since the ownership change, the brewery has changed and grown along with the Pearl District outside its doors. A renovated, upscale interior and full restaurant menu back the catchy slogans plastered on advertisements throughout Portland. CEO Carlos Alvarez even trademarked the term “Beervana,” perhaps fittingly so. With just over 30 years in the business, BridgePort and its incredible successes undoubtedly paved the way for “Beervana” to become a reality.