Upright Brewing opened in the Leftbank building in North Portland in early 2009. Helmed by Alex Ganum, Owner and Head Brewer, this 10-barrel brewery focuses on open fermentation and traditional French brewing values. It recently reopened after a brief closure for a taproom remodel, the first upgrades after nine years in business. The changes add finesse to the general feel of the basement brewery, while maintaining the intimate ambiance they’re known for.
Location: Intimate basement taproom
Beer: Complex saisons & other things
Branding: 70’s jazz influenced
Open four days a week, Upright Brewing‘s space within the Leftbank building is a little complicated to find if you’ve never been in the building before. My advice? Find the elevator located at the center of the first floor businesses and take it down to the basement. Otherwise, you’ll have to wander down the maze of a back hallway.
The updated taproom now has a bar! No joke. They didn’t have one until last week. Prior to the remodel there was just a cash register next to the taps, where you’d approach and politely ask for a pour. The new bar is a gorgeous slab of live edge wood that seats seven or so. More taps have been added, as well as a shelf for glassware. The seating remains intimate, with only a handful of tables in the bar area.
Upright’s culture is focused on music, which is most apparent in their branding, beer names, label designs, and in the tunes played in the taproom. The beers I sampled went well with the general mood created by the jazz floating from their sound system. Both were mellow and easily digested, while at the same time complex and well-executed.
Besides the taproom, there are several tables scattered throughout the brewery’s production space. It’s a small area, but a fun place to sit and enjoy. It’s not often you get to be so close to brewing equipment. Overall, the space is great for a chill afternoon or as a stop before a Blazers game.
Food isn’t available on-site, and minors are only allowed with an accompanying adult. Bottles are available to purchase, and a crowler machine is in the works.
Overall Taplist Impression
I can’t tell you how many times I said out loud, “This beer is so mellow, yet complex.” Of the twelve Upright Brewing beers I tried with my friend Sarah (of TwentySomethingandTipsy), there were definitely more standouts than duds. I had a hard time narrowing my favorites down to five!
Upright’s most commonly brewed style is the saison, something they’ve perfected and continue to experiment with. Open fermentation continues to be their way of life, as well as blending barrel-aged varieties. Each style is unique and interesting. I can’t wait to try more.
Taster Tray Favorites
🍺 Single Cask Saison Vert
5% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
Was aged in a vintage barrel dating back to the very beginning of the brewery in 2009. The cask was filled with Saison Vert in December 2016, when we were still tinkering with the recipe and used more black limes than in the current version. The bright lime shows clearly in the nose but blends well with a surprisingly preserved lemony hop character and complex wild yeast notes, a signature of the unique barrel.
My notes: Tart lemon-lime flavor, bubbly mouthfeel, and complex yeasts. Nicely balanced.
🍺 Four Play
5% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
Four Play is a wheat based saison that spends 18 months in casks with tart cherries and a variety of yeasts and bacteria. The blend yields a snappy beer with strong aromatics and a complex finish full of oak and minerality.
My notes: Gentle tartness from the cherries, nice oak barrel characteristics, minerality apparent.
8.9% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.5)
Our hoppiest brew of the year, is back with a revised recipe. The 2018 version, formulated with chef Ben Schade of Old Salt Marketplace, uses Chinook, Azacca, Mosiac, Huell Melon, Citra, and Simcoe hops. This layered blend leans fruity like many modern IPAs but retains some old school character, most notably a firm bitterness that’s absent in several supposedly hoppy beers these days. The Schade finishes extra dry and drinks remarkably easy despite a solid strength.
My notes: Nice melon fruit flavor, Mosiac hops were out in full force.
6.25% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.25)
Jacaranda was formulated and brewed with Adam Henderson & Matt Kohlen of Superflux Beer Company. They have a taste for beers with strong hop character, so we decided to combine that with our love of saisons to produce a modern take using oil rich varieties. Jacaranda started as a simple, light, wheat based saison heavily hopped in the kettle, then open fermented with our house yeast blend. The beer was then transferred into a conditioning tank where a portion of Shades, our rainier cherry based beer, was added, accounting for roughly 12% of the volume. To round out the blend and add some depth, the beer was then matured in a mix of vermouth and gewürztraminer casks for two months with brettanoymyces, then bottle conditioned.
My notes: Cherry, hoppy, brett? Yes, yes, yes.
🍺 Barrel-Aged Kopstootje
7% ABV 🌟🌟🌟🌟 (4.25)
Barrel aged Kopstootje is a vermouth cask version of our spiced bière de garde inspired by the Dutch spirit genever. The base beer uses a complex recipe with barley, wheat, rye, and corn, along with several botanicals commonly found in genever. A rest in the vermouth barrels mellows the spice profile while adding new layers of bright fruit, oak, and other spices.
My notes: Loved the botanicals mixed with oak barrel flavors.
(Beer Descriptions in italics are provided from the brewery.)
Logo: There are two versions of the Upright Brewing logo floating around in the wild. The first is the hand-painted option that’s used on signs and older label artwork. The second is a more updated, type-based mark that’s on the new packaging. The modern logo has 70’s jazz influences, something that pairs well with the custom artwork seen on the labels. It’s a simple mark, something I hope was intentional. It lets the beer and supplemental art speak for themselves. Does it have some technical flaws? Yes, but the overall vibe fits the brewery.
Favorite Brand Elements: The labels are by far my favorite designed elements from the brewery. Each is unique, colorful, musically themed, and nicely executed.