It’s a bit of a trek, to say the least, to travel from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Portland, Oregon. About eight hours, give or take a layover. It’s just enough time to take up a significant chunk of your day. Still, it’s about how long it would take to drive from where I live to Atlanta, so I think for going across the country it’s good timing.
In any case, this summer my wife embarked on a week-long conference outside of Portland, of which I pounced onto the tail end to make it a vacation of sorts. This was not to be a simple vacation, but a research trip into the breweries and beer culture that permeates the Portlandia lifestyle.
It began when I landed at PDX on a Thursday, and made my way via the TriMet red line to the first brewery in our four day excursion.
Upright Brewing Company
Just a block northeast of Broadway and Ross, Upright Brewing Company was my first exposure to how different breweries outside of South Florida could be. Walking into the building, a shared space between a few offices and a bright and spacious cafe, there is no obvious sign of a brewing operation. I ask the cafe operator if they have beer on tap, thinking perhaps it is like my experience at Bone Island Brewing Company in Key West, but she directs me to the elevator off to the side and says that the brewery is in the basement. Yep, much different than South Florida.
With this speakeasy approach, the brewery is indeed a part of the underground of this building: it’s cool, dimly lit, and filled to the brim with wooden barrels and stainless steel fermenters. The brewery “focuses on farmhouse inspired beers rooted in France and Belgium but made with a Pacific Northwest twist” and as such boasts a beer list that’s almost entirely in that camp: table saisons, rye saisons, funky brews with oak casks full of dark cherries, all produced using large open top fermentation vessels.
On my stop, I sampled their numbered saison series, starting with Four, a wheat based table saison with floral aromatics and a dry, slightly tart finish. Five is a herbal and hopped-up saison, while Six is their dark rye saison, very enjoyable with a nice spicy maltiness. Seven is declared as their “modern” saison, at 8% ABV and pushing out a lot of hay and toasted corn aromas.
In addition, there were a few tasting room beers that were on that could not be passed up, including the Four Play, where the brewery takes Four and ages it in a barrel with tart cherries, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus. At only 5% ABV this beer is full of complex character that belies its strength and makes it even that much more impressive. It is ridiculously good.
Finally, it’s no surprise to see a beer here that’s been aged in wine barrels, since Oregon is also a prominent wine producers. It’s exciting to see the level of collaboration between brewer and winemaker in Oregon Native, a beer created between the brewery and Derek Einberger of Patton Valley Vineyards. Here, pinot noir grapes meld with cask fermentation to create a beer that’s subtle on the fruit but full of its spirit.
After this bit of sampling, I took in one last look to marvel at the stainless and made my way back top-side to take the red line into downtown, and ultimately my home for the weekend. It was time to sleep and prepare for the next day of brewery hopping.