Proper Job IPA: Cornwall Via Oregon

Several times in the last couple of years, we’ve said that we thought St Austell Proper Job began life as an homage to particular American IPA, but couldn’t for the life of us work out exactly where we’d got that idea.

So, last Sun­day, we trav­elled up to St Austell and spent the day with its cre­ator, Head Brew­er Roger Ryman, and got the sto­ry straight from the horse’s mouth.

My friend­ship with Karl Ock­ert [head brew­er at Bridge­Port Brew­ing, Port­land, Ore­gon, from 1983 to 2010] is well-known and has been writ­ten about many times. 

In around 1999, I was invit­ed to take part in judg­ing for the Brew­ing Indus­try Awards. That’s the one that’s been run­ning since the 19th cen­tu­ry and, if you’re going to win any­thing, that’s the one you want – the play­ers’ play­er of the year, judged sole­ly by work­ing brew­ers. You’re all cooped up in a hotel togeth­er for three days and you get to know each oth­er. When we were leav­ing, we all exchanged busi­ness cards – “You must get in touch if you’re ever in town, let’s stay in con­tact,” – but you nev­er expect to do any­thing about it. A cou­ple of years lat­er, I was in Den­ver with Paul Cor­bett from Charles Faram, the hop mer­chants, and I did actu­al­ly give Karl a call. He arranged all these brew­ery vis­its for us – Anheuser-Busch, Odell, Coors…

After that, we arranged an exchange: Carl spent a week here at St Austell – all the pic­tures of ‘tra­di­tion­al Eng­lish brew­ing’ in his book were tak­en here – and then I spent a week in the US, at Bridge­Port.

Bridge­Port IPA was one of the first of those real­ly hop­py West Coast US IPAs, though it’s prob­a­bly con­sid­ered a bit tame by mod­ern stan­dards.

Bridgeport IPA Label.(It’s list­ed in Michael Jack­son’s Great Beer Guide, 1998/2000, where it is described as hav­ing a ‘rush of intense minty, woody, cedary bit­ter­ness’.)

I remem­ber clear­ly stand­ing in the sam­ple room here [at St Austell] and Karl said, “You should brew some­thing like this – a big hop­py IPA – and stick it out there.” I took this as a kind of chal­lenge. This was in about 2003 and there wasn’t any­thing out there in the [UK] mar­ket like that.

(Though PJ was­n’t the first Amer­i­can-style IPA in the UK, it was cer­tain­ly one of the ear­li­est. For con­text, Alas­tair Hook brewed one at Mash & Air in Man­ches­ter in the 90s; and Thorn­bridge launched Jaipur in 2005. There’s more on IPA-fever in the UK in Chap­ter 13 of Brew Bri­tan­nia.)

The first ver­sion of what became Prop­er Job, brewed on that lit­tle brew­house down there, was inspired by Bridge­Port IPA. I had the orig­i­nal recipe from my exchange vis­it and it had the same spec – 5.6 ABV, 50 IBUs.

Straight­away, though, I start­ed to tune it and, real­ly, sim­pli­fy it.

St Austell Proper Job IPA.The orig­i­nal had some­thing like five malts but I just used one; the hop grist had every­thing and his dog, includ­ing Gold­ings, Amar­il­lo, Chi­nook… I thought, what are all these hops actu­al­ly bring­ing to it? What I real­ly want­ed to achieve was what I thought were the key flavours of Bridge­port IPA – spruce pine-iness, a lit­tle hint of pineap­ple – and I knew those were com­ing from Chi­nook, so I made that the key hop. The grapefruity/elderflower qual­i­ty was from Cas­cade, so I used those, too.  Then I also want­ed a mod­er­ate, bal­anced hop in the back­ground and so I chose Willamette, which I was already using in Trib­ute, and which round­ed it out – gave it drink­a­bil­i­ty.

Post-Thorn­bridge and Brew­Dog, in a world where Stone and Russ­ian Riv­er are far more influ­en­tial than the rather staid Bridge­Port, bot­tled Prop­er Job, now at 5.5%, is no longer an espe­cial­ly aston­ish­ing beer. Drink it along­side attempt­ed IPAs from oth­er regional/family brew­ers, how­ev­er, or after a pint or two of Bass, and it still seems like a breath of fresh air. In a vari­ant form at 4.5%, made yet more ‘drink­able’, it is our go-to beer in the pub, and was our favourite cask ale of 2014.

Dis­clo­sure: though we brought our own sand­wich­es, Mr Ryman did pro­vide us with a cou­ple of cups of tea and we tast­ed sam­ples of a few beers dur­ing the day.

10 thoughts on “Proper Job IPA: Cornwall Via Oregon”

  1. Maybe you got the idea from Prop­er Job’s review in 1001 Beers, writ­ten in 2009: The ori­gins of the beer go back to 2004, when Ryman returned to the UK after a month’s sab­bat­i­cal at Brid­port Brew­ery in the US. He was a great fan of Brid­port IPA (see page xxx) and this beer was very much in his mind when he designed Prop­er Job. There wasn’t a com­pe­ti­tion in 1999, there was one in 1998 and then the next was 2000, when Brid­port IPA was cham­pi­on ale in the small­pack class, just fin­ished my his­to­ry of the event (out next month!) hence the rare pedan­tic note…

    1. Cheers, Adri­an. We’ve not got 1001 Beers though we have browsed copies in pubs, so you might well be right. Must admit that we did­n’t cross-ref­er­ence or check Mr Ryman’s dates – naughty!

  2. Bridge­port IPA is one of the select group of US beers that turned me into a beer evan­ge­list. I first encoun­tered it in Cal­i­for­nia in 98/99. Sad­ly it is rarely seen in the UK: I don’t recall hav­ing tast­ed it in the past 10 yrs since I last vis­it­ed to the US.

    In 2003ish I was brought a six pack by a cus­tomer. I put the bot­tles in a behind-the-scenes fridge for con­sump­tion lat­er. When I returned lat­er I found one of our bar staff had sold them. I was bloody furi­ous.

    1. So… what do you think of Prop­er Job, then?

      We’ve only had two bot­tles of Bridge­Port IPA, both a bit tired, from the bar­gain bin at the Nation­al Brew­ing Cen­tre gift shop. Tast­ed rather like stale Prop­er Job!

  3. It’s actu­al­ly good that Bridge­Port IPA is not avail­able in the UK. It is incred­i­bly per­ish­able, and with­in a cou­ple weeks the hop char­ac­ter that makes it–still–one of the great Amer­i­can beers dulls. Come to Ore­gon and try it at the source.

    1. One day, Jeff, when mon­ey, time, day jobs and fear of fly­ing per­mit. In the mean­time, we’ve got Prop­er Job!

  4. Due to Prop­er Job being rec­om­mend­ed by your­selves and appear­ing in my local Booths on a mul­ti pur­chase dis­count, I con­sumed quite a few bot­tles over Christ­mas and enjoyed them very much so thank you. Roost­er’s Fort Smith is my local­ish equiv­a­lent.

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