10 November 2016

Points north

I mentioned in Tuesday's post the single Portland brewery that was on Jeff's must-see list. There was only one on mine too: Upright Brewing. This was partly because I'd read good things about it, though also because its opening times meant there was only a small window of opportunity to visit. It's in a north-eastern neighbourhood of the city and we were able to take in a couple of nearby breweries as part of the excursion.

First call, then, was Culmination. This place only opened last year but has already made an impact on Portland and picked up a few awards. I met their marketing guy Steven at the Mt Tabor event and he suggested I drop by: how's that for direct marketing? It's based in a small business centre with several other craftsy start-ups. The bar is quite small but there's a lovely sunny terrace. Let's get the IPAs in.

I opened with their flagship, Phaedrus, a 6.7% ABV number mixing up classical tropical fruit with a bit of a savoury turn and some oily pine resins: all of the new world IPA food groups in a single nutritious serving. As it settles on the palate the peach flavour comes to the fore, while there's a brief flash of bitterness on the end before it all finishes quickly and neatly. Very easy drinking, overall, and pleasant with it.

My wife opted for Translator IPA, brewed by Ruse, a client brewer which uses the Culmination kit to create beers for the local art community and its events. How very Portland. This one is 6.6% ABV and a slightly darker orange than Phaedrus. I got a bit of worrying stickiness on the nose, but thankfully that ended right there. There's a touch of aspirin dryness and it's spicy rather than fruity: a mild sweetness present but under control. This is another decent, easy going IPA, though rather less complex than its cousin.

For the next round I couldn't resist the beer called Sour Flower Power Hour: not an easy phrase with my accent but I did manage to get served. It arrived a clear and pale yellow, tasting of lemon sherbet with just a very light tartness and no weight from its substantial 5.5% ABV. I was reminded a little of White Hag's The Púca, though it's not quite as full-on. The finish is dry and chalky, and haunted by a slightly out of place acrid sharpness which I suspect might be oxidation, but there wasn't enough of it to be sure. The beer still works as a refreshing thirst-quencher.

And lastly Choco Mountain Stout. The name had me expecting a major sugar rush from this 5.8%-er, but that's not what happened. Instead, the aroma opens on a huge kick of dryly roasted grains. The texture is appropriately smooth and creamy while coffee is at the centre of the flavour, though milk chocolate puts in an understated cameo appearance. A slightly severe burnt edge on the finish prevents it from getting sweet and cloying. This is all rather classic and elegant, and not the breakfast cereal disaster implied by its name.

It was a solid half-hour walk to Upright from here. The brewery is notoriously hard to find, buried deep in the bowels of the nondescript Leftbank Project building, another artsy business hub. Down the twisty stairs and winding corridors one eventually arrives in a starkly lit concrete bunker with a handful of folding tables scattered around the tanks and an array of taps bolted to the coldroom wall.

A flight for starters. Beginning on the left of the picture below, that's Four, a 4.5% ABV saison which looks a lot like a witbier to me, and has a very similar gentle orange and dry wheat flavour profile. Stylistic qualms aside, it's a simple quaffable session beer, not about to set the world alight, but not meant to either.

Beside it is Five, another saison, up an ABV notch to 5.5% and this time a clear dark gold colour. This time the style it reminded me of was German bock: that mix of heavy grain and green bitterness. There's also a Belgian estery quality on the periphery of the flavour and just enough saison pepper to be on style. This is another decent but unexciting beer.

Next along is Green Hour, a fresh hop saison at 6.1% ABV. Fuggles from day one of the harvest went into the boil and a month l