Is it beer or is it wine?
Spoiler: It’s beer.
Last year, Upright Brewing topped many best of lists with Oregon Native, a wild farmhouse ale aged on pinot noir grapes. The only yeast introduced to the beer by the grapes themselves. It blew everyone away. “One sip you will say beer, the next wine, in the end it’s something wholly unique and mind blowing,” said Old School Beer. Willamette Week named Oregon Native the number two beer of the year. Oregon Native “was the first beer we’ve tried that ever truly expressed the beautiful flavors of skin-on wine grape amid the light hop bite and aromatics of beer.”
I was excited to try it, but I had to wait for a new batch. Oregon Native 2017 follows the same regimen, pinot grapes from Patton Valley Vineyards, yeast from the grape skins, with a few other bugs hitching a ride in the barrel. I was psyched. But I should’ve known the beer wouldn’t live up to the hype.
Don’t get me wrong, Oregon Native is super tasty. It’s very fruit forward with strong notes of cherry and black raspberry. The acidity is restrained. There’s still enough residual sugar to give the body a jammy heft. It’s balanced and well executed, but it’s not this crazy chimera I was promised. I don’t know wine, at like all, but this doesn’t taste like wine. It tastes like beer. Like a really good American lambic.
I could make some argument about the difference in the grapes, the temperamentality of yeast, the difference a barrel can make, or even the subjective nature of taste. But I’m not going to. It was hype, plain and simple.
By all means, go out and buy a bottle. Buy three, it’s really good. But don’t read the reviews.