Beer that Tastes like Wine #2 - Upright Brewing "Six"


Upright Brewing "Six"
Dark Rye Saison
Portland, Oregon
6.7% Alcohol
$10, 750 ml

Only a few days after Upright Brewing opened to the Portlandia crowds in 2009, I spent a long evening with my friend Colin at their "tasting room," which consists of a few tables surrounded by oak barrels tucked in the corner of their main brewery area. The brewery is in the basement of the Leftbank building on Portland's inner northeast side. We were given a plate of hearty bread and began a three-hour tasting endeavor through all of Upright's initial offerings. We were stunned. The beers were beyond interesting. We had tasted plenty of Belgian style beers before, but this was different. The beers contrasted so distinctly with the average Pacific Northwest beer that we weren't quite sure what to do with ourselves... except to drink more. That night still goes down as one of my most memorable beer experiences.

Upright was a bit of an anomaly in the brewing world and was one of the first breweries in the US to stray entirely from the standard portfolio of hoppy IPAs, stouts, porters, pale ales, and hefeweizen. You know, the beers you expect every craft brewery to produce. Upright came from way out in left field by focusing on farmhouse-inspired beers. They ended up doing it damn well and carved out a nice niche for themselves. From their website:

Upright Brewing specializes in farmhouse inspired beers rooted in France and Belgium but made with a Pacific Northwest twist, while also dabbling in both classic and quirky projects from around the world. The name references the primary instrument of Charles Mingus, a musician whose compositions defy categorization. At Upright the recipes and processes are decidedly unbound, making for true hybrid styles that share Mingus’ spirit of exercising creativity and craft.

Upright produces four year-round beers, which are labeled 4, 5, 6, 7 (named after their starting gravity in Belgian brewing degrees), and a number of seasonal and specialty beers, all of which are sold in 750ml bottles. I chose #6 for this post because it's flavor profile hits many of the same notes as red wines. It's recently become available in Chicago and when I saw it at Lush Wine and Spirits, I had to snag a bottle. Alas, on to the beer!

The beer poured a hazy, dark, reddish brown with a large, khaki-colored head that lasted 10-15 minutes. On the nose, pleasant and mild aromas of dark fruit, caramel malts, raisins/dates, bready notes, and a mild, funk-tinged earthiness. The palate was similar, but the hops were more apparent and accompanied by delicate dark fruit, caramel, baking spices, maybe a hint of earthy black cherry. Medium- to full-bodied with slight bitterness on a medium-length finish. I'm not a huge fan of rye IPAs but the rye was not out of control and added a balanced level of spiciness.

The carbonation was quite high though and the beer seemed a little off kilter; just not that well integrated overall. All of the components of the beer were fine by themselves but there was a volatility/nerviness to it that stopped me from rating it more highly. That being said, this is probably my favorite of Upright's year-round beers and it exhibits a lot of same general characteristics of some red wines, including dark/dried fruits, complex bready/earthy components, and spiciness. Tasty from the first sip and well worth a try.

Upright also produces Billy the Mountain, a barrel-aged beer infused with brettanomyces that will likely make a lot of red wine drinkers very happy. If you want to be more adventurous and think terroir is only applicable to wines, Upright makes an Oyster Stout that is sure to blow your mind.