When Upright Brewing opened in 2009, there was a a lot of buzz surrounding the Northeast Portland brewery. As many beer geeks like us were anticipatory of the French and Belgian farmhouse-inspired beers that former BJ’s brewer and Ommegang apprentice Alex Ganum would make, others expressed skepticism regarding the viability of a brewery that didn’t march to the beaten drum. Brewing in an open barrel fermenter might have lead many to think the guy was just crazy, but this never deterred our man.
Since the bold undertaking of Ganum three years ago and his apparent success, a number of other daring regional craft beer adventures have broken ground. These include Cascade Brewing’s Barrel House, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, Block 15, Breakside Brewery, The Commons Brewery, and more. To say that Ganum is a visionary of what craft beer in our region could sustain, seems in retrospect a bit of an understatement.
Upright’s core lineup of numerological named beers that include his sessionable wheaten Four, a more aggressively hopped Five, a rich dark rye Six, and his boldest and most assertive Saison, Seven, exemplify just how originative Upright is. But, these are just the tip of the iceberg, and in someways, seemingly pedestrian when considering the risks Ganum has been willing to take when devising and executing many of his beers over the past three years. Delving into barrel-aging and blending of wild ales, Ganum’s vision for beer is more than just a quaff for the average dude, it involves a mindful approach to the culinary arts and ties in elements of history and science. As a parter in the restaurant and bar, The Grain & Gristle, Ganum continually illustrates his appreciation for a vast range of flavors in beers that he achieves by a variety of means. Whether it is unfolding new flavor profiles with beers like his Flora Rustica Saison which employs the addition of calendula flower and yarrow, or revamping historic styles like the Oyster Stout or the German-inspired Gose, it is evident that Ganum refuses to let himself get complacent, therefor, his audience is seldom bored.
As an example of Upright’s constant evolution, Ganum has altered its house strain of yeast for the Number Series three times since the brewery’s inception. “Five is also hoppier now and the aroma is more pronounced” says Ganum. “With our new yeast, the Four, Five, and Six are now coming across as more French Biere de Garde styles.” he adds. “This allows them to come across as more ingredients-driven and way less floral and fruity.” Ganum says the boisterous Seven is perhaps the only beer of the regular lineup that has remained mostly the same.
Over the past month, Upright Brewing has brewed a handful of noteworthy beers that are sure to inspire salivation in the mouths of beer lovers and foodies alike. Not playing on the popularity and hype of barrel-aging, Ganum’s reserved and humble demeanor channel an inclusive vibe to his trade. Further, Upright’s beers when compared to many other daring brewers bottling in 750ml champagne bottles, is considerably affordable.
Here is a look at more than a handful specialty beers that you can expect to find in bottles and on tap from Upright. Get them while you can because they may disappear soon.
You may remember this beer from its inaugural release last year. Named for the Dutch meaning “Little headbutt”, Kopstootje is a beer crafted specifically to be paired with Bols Genever from Amesterdam. A whiskey-like tipple grain distillate made from corn, wheat, and rye and an assortment of botanicals, the spirit which has been around since the 16th Century is traditionally served with a glass of light lager beer.Ganum, inspired by local Bols Genever representative and mixologist Jacob Grier was moved to replace the liquor’s fizzy yellow counterpart with a brew more complimentary. “(Grier) came up with the idea to design a beer as a back” Ganum says. “Over (in the Netherlands) the beer is usually a generic Pils style. His thought was to make something more interesting to pair, like a spiced beer, which I am always into.” Ganum says the base beer is a Biere de Garde. “Almost text book” he says, “but spiced with the same spices and grains as the liquor.” Barley, wheat, rye, and corn are married with juniper, clove, angelica root, licorice root, ginger, and anise seed. “We made little tweaks from the last batch” Ganum attests. “This version is a bit maltier with a little more rye and a little bit more hops. It is a pretty small difference.”
Kopstootje has made its way around some of Portland’s pubs that cater to the mixologist mindset such as Grain & Gristle, Kask, Beaker and Flask, Circa 33, Sunshine Tavern, and Interurban. Less than ten barrels of the beer were produced in total.
If Ganum was to ever hype a beer, Fantasia would be the one. The name of this beer (pronounced fan tuh ZEE uh), according to Ganum, is in reference to a musical term regarding improvisation in classical music. “I am really stoked about this one” he says of his first waxed-dipped bottled beer to date. A barrel fermented sour beer with an asspile of fresh peaches, the beer spent a year in barrels. “It’s Lambic-esque in taste and look, but it’s all barley, no wheat” says Ganum. The 5.75% ABV ale is soured with a strain of Brettanomyces as well as Lactobacillus. “All that fresh fruit added carries some wild yeast and wild bacteria with it” adds the brewer. “That’s the cool thing about fermenting with fruit.” So what kind of flavor profile can one expect from Fantasia? “It’s not as funky as Cantillon, but it’s half way there” he tells us. “It puts the fruit character across in a really beautiful way. The essence of peaches are concentrated, floral, and almost appear distilled.”
Fantasia will be released at Upright’s tasting room on January 20, 2012 at 4:30PM. The beer will sell for $20 per bottle and $225 for a case with a one case limit. Extremely limited amounts of bottles will make it out to fine bottleshops.
Upright has just bottled up their latest run of Oyster Stout and is expected to be released in about three weeks. “We’re feeling really good about this” Ganum admits. “The finish on this year’s is saltier than ever.” He likens the beer to Upright’s Gose, a beer in which salt is added to the beer. “It actually makes you thirsty after you swallow” he attests, adding “It doesn’t quench.”
Oyster Stout’s first incarnation at Upright came as a collaborative effort formulated and carried out with Burnside brewmaster Jason McAdam. At the time, McAdam was working to get his own brewery open and had an itch to get to doing what he does best – make beer. Now in its third run, the big saltiness of this year’s is a credit to variability in the oyster portion, according to Ganum. “It’s not a standardized product” he says. Using a Scottish ale yeast which is the house strain at Burnside, this year’s batch promises to not only be saltier, but will also carry out a much drier finish. Look for 750ml bottles to release in the coming month.
Another noteworthy collaboration brew coming out from Upright is their Scotch ale brewed with Laurelwood brewmaster Vasilios Gletsos. This strong 7.78% ABV beer was devised for Laurelwood’s latest Collaboration Brewers Dinner on February 8, 2012. The beer, slated to be paired with smoked pork belly and pomegranate barbequed brisket with potato-chard gratin, and pomegranate demi glaze jus. “It’s a straight up simple recipe” Ganum says. The Grist is a mix of two English base malts, Maris Otter and Pearl with some light roast barley added as well. Ganum tells us that the beer was brainstormed with Gletsos, Hopworks brewer Tom Bleigh, and Gigantic brewer Van Havig, all of whom will also showcase beers of their own at the dinner.
“One cool thing (with this beer that) I’ve never done” attests Ganum “was Vasili and Van’s idea.” This idea was to directly heat the kettle dry. “We got the bottom of the kettle super hot” he says.”This scorched it and gave off flavors of burnt sugar; super caramelly.”
For more information on Laurelwood’s Collaborative Brewers Dinner, click here.
Upright’s first nationally recognized beer was their Gose which took home a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in Chicago in 2010. A light and subjective historical style, the beer looks to make another appearance in bottles and on tap in March. The brewery will enter it once again in this year’s World Beer Cup in San Diego. Gose is a nearly extinct style of wheat beer from Germany that is brewed with coriander and salt and is both light, refreshing, slightly tart and yet has a subtle salt finish that leaves you wanting another.
This unique one-of-a-kind blend was concocted specially for Brewpublic’s 3rd Annual My Beery Valentine event at Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern. Upright’s wheaten Four was put to barrel on Valentine’s Day of 2011. Tart cherry puree used in Upright’s tart Four Play was added, but this time without inoculating with Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces. “I was worried that the old Four Play barrels used for Blend Love got too sour” Ganum admits. “This beer is not Brett heavy, just a natural Lacto funk to it.” Ganum and assistant brewer Gerritt Ill filled up one keg with a portion of dark cherry-infused Six. “It is from the same orchard run by Trevor Baird where we obtained our peaches for Fantasia” Ganum tells us. “It’s super intense. We used (a lot) of cherries. It looks like blood from the sweet, intense cherry.” This beer is then blended with the cherry-infused Four for the final product. The second in Upright’s “Blend Series”, it is a tribute to Breakside brewmaster Ben Edmunds.
Blend Edmunds will be presented on Sunday February 12, 2012 at Saraveza for Brewpublic’s My Beery Valentine event. Look for an assortment of other dessertif and delicioso beers designed with sweethearts and sweet tooths in mind.
Sole Composition Series Releases
Upright’s small on-off series of beers known as Sole Composition will release two versions of the Seven. On is a blend of two cask aged beers that spent 14 months with two different strains of Brettanomyces. This is the second rendition and release of this Barrel-aged Seven and will be released this weekend at Upright’s tasting room.
The other is a similar brew, a version of Seven aged for seven months in one barrel. “Both are dry, twangy with a distinct farmhouse character that reminds me of Nick (Arzner of Block 15 Brewing in Corvallis, OR)’s beers.” says Ganum. “Both are edgy and sharp.”
The aforementioned beers making their way down the pipeline at Upright are just a few of the more exciting releases you can expect to find coming out of their brewhouse. Chances are you can always find something new and inspiring each weekend at their tasting room.
Follow Alex Ganum and Upright Brewing’s adventures on Upright’s Beer Blog here.
Upright Brewing is located in the basement (room 002) of the Left Bank Building, located at 240 North Broadway in Portland, Oregon. For further information, visit their website: www.uprightbrewing.com or call (503) 735-5337. Cheers!