Celebrating July, Oregon-Style

Two of Oregon’s greatest offerings are the month of July and truly excellent craft beer. Coincidentally, these pair quite well.

Two of Oregon’s greatest offerings are the month of July and truly excellent craft beer. Coincidentally, these pair quite well. July is Oregon’s Craft Beer Month and the Oregon Brewer’s Festival is always held over its last full weekend (this year, that’s July 22, 23, 24 and 25). Thousands of Oregonians celebrate July with an IPA on their front porch, but plenty of bars, beer shops and breweries take this month as an opportunity to get creative and treat their fans to something special.

Nobody’s doing it better than Upright Brewing Co.

So far this month, UBC has held special tappings of two new releases and participated in an event called “Brewing Up Cocktails” at The Hop & Vine, a North Killingsworth bar and restaurant where talented and adventurous bartenders spent an evening mixing local beers with spirits. Still to come is a four-course dinner, prepared by chef Gregory Smith of Noble Rot and paired with Upright’s four farmhouse-style beers (July 25, also at The Hop & Vine).

Upright has also designated July as Month of the Barrels, and each Friday the brewery taps a limited release, oak barrel-aged beer in their tasting room. So far they’ve unveiled aged versions of three of their four farmhouse-style classics, with additives ranging from rose hips to a wild Belgian yeast that provokes a flavor profile akin to cherry pie. A definite standout is the Four (an extra-dry wheat beer) barrel-aged with homegrown yarrow and rose flowers—complex, refreshing and incredibly special.

This Friday, July 23, UBC will tap a keg of their Apricot Anniversary beer that has been aged in Old Tom Gin barrels. A preliminary tasting hinted at a beer that accomplishes the same crisp, fruity dynamism that every gin cocktail hopes for; Upright owner Alex Ganum says the beer—pulled from the barrels just two weeks ago—will be in full form on Friday.

UBC is only a little over one year old, but it is fast becoming a Portland favorite. Its beer can be hard to find, as Upright’s two-man operation only produces 750 mL bottles and kegs, but the brewery’s tasting room is everything one could ask for (minus snacks, though sometimes there are complimentary selections). Tucked into the basement of North Broadway’s Leftbank Building, Upright’s serving stations and wooden tables stand alongside the barrel-aging beers and the production facilities. Somehow, despite the rather industrial surroundings, the space feels warm and homey—on my last visit, an older couple played cribbage while they drank.

Prices are great. 12-ounce pours of UBC’s farmhouse-style stand-bys are $2 while the seasonals are available for $3, or try a $6 you-choose taster tray of six five-ounce pours. “The brewery—the source—should be cheap,” says Ganum, and we’re certainly grateful. Bottles of Upright beer range from $9 to $14, with the seasonal releases being more expensive, so the tasting room helps make this gem of a brewery more accessible.

Currently, Upright’s seasonal offerings include a German-style pilsner, a peaty throwback to Ganum’s first sips of Adelscott (Upright’s version is called Auld Reekie) and a semi-accidental mishmash of sours (aptly titled Sour Blend). Aside from the Old Tom barrel-aged Apricot Anniversary beer, expect to see a lot of Reggae Junkie Gruit—a hop-less brew featuring lemongrass, Sichuan peppercorns, hyssop and bitter orange peel this weekend.

Upright’s greatest appeal is it’s tiny production facility and obvious love of the craft, which yields exciting and often fabulous experiments in flavor. UBC also makes great efforts to utilize local and organic ingredients, but never at the expense of exceptional results.

Rather than expand the hands-on brewing at UBC, Ganum would like to pursue separate (though invariably related) ventures around town. Considering his knack for herbs and alcohol, it should come as no surprise (and great delight) that Ganum is hoping to begin distilling Italian-style bitters here in Portland.   

The tasting room will open this Friday at 4:30 p.m., and will remain open until 9 p.m. Afterwards, walk, bike or MAX across the Steel Bridge and jump into the opening night festivities of the Oregon Brewers Festival—it’ll be one of the best things you’ve ever done for yourself.