Let us say here at the front that BridgePort is really workin it. A couple of years ago they came out with Supris, last year they put out Hop Harvest, and now Stumptown. Clearly a brewery that likes to experiment and take chances. I particularly appreciate the journey into Belgian-style ales, an exploration far too few breweries have taken. And Supris was a a good effort and an authentic beer.
(You sense a "but" here, don't you? Read on.)
Nowhere does Stumptown Tart advertise itself as a lambic-style ale. But how are we to conclude anything but that this was the approximation of the latest "Belgian style ale" in the brewery's Big Brews line? It contains a nod to Dan Carey's famous Raspberry Tart, a beer Carey (whom BridgePort consulted) describes as a "framboise"--a traditional style of fruit lambic.
BridgePort doesn't say how they managed the sour. In traditional Belgian versions, the sour comes from wild yeasts that float through the Zenne Valley. The quality of the sour may range from dry and puckery to fertile and almost compost-y. The addition of fruit gives the beer added depth, but hardly any sweetness. The fruit becomes an essence, turning the lambic into something very similar to a dry wine.
BridgePort's version, however, has a quality unlike any lambic I've ever tasted. Let's start with the positive--the aroma and appearance of the beer beguiled. Marionberry essence rises off the glass like fresh fruit. There's a sour note there, too, and it seems very lambic-like. My two pours produced little in the way of a head, but the beer looked like a nice fruit lambic--hazy and berry purple.
It's the palate that's strange. The sourness is wrong. I'd describe it as inorganic, like a chemical creation, rather than the interplay of yeast and sugars. Aging it in oak probably didn't help matters; although the berries add some softness and flavor, it finishes with a long, puckery dryness. I had Sally try it, and she didn't like the sour note, either (though, caveat emptor, she likes sour beers less than I do). Although I admired the berries in the beer, and liked the idea, whatever it was the brewery used to sour Stumptown Tart didn't work.
I have a couple more bottles in the cellar, so I'll see if anything changes. For now, I hate to say that I can't recommend it.
[Update. It did change--and for the better. See this later review from February '09.]