Style: Saison / ABV: 5.2 percent
Alex Ganum can do no wrong.
At least, that's the prevailing opinion of the Upright Brewing founder among industry nerds. And when his small-batch beers keep landing on our top 10 list of the state's most outstanding offerings—Ganum's current streak began in 2015—it's hard to disagree with them. The latest case in point: Saison Ellende, which is described as "an amaro-inspired brew blended from nocino, fortified muscat, and pinot noir barrels." Maybe he threw in a little magic pixie dust, too.
"Ellende was a really interesting one," Ganum says. "It started between me and Chris Hainge from Kyoto Brewing as a part of the Fuji to Hood fest in 2018."
That one-off, Pacific Herbs, was made with Japanese-inspired ingredients, such as rice, shiso and mikan citrus peel. Ganum was then inspired by a couple of casks from Sheridan's Ransom Wine Company and Distillery.
"I figured we could move Pacific Herbs in a neat amaro-esque direction by using the nocino barrel," he explains, "and the muscat—plus a killer used pinot barrel we already had in-house—were filled to mellow the nocino portion, which we correctly assumed was going to turn out intense."
The blend resulted in a harmonious final product: a hint of sweet nuttiness, a light bitterness and even a lively tartness all playing out against a winelike backdrop. Saison Ellende is an example of what Upright does best—push boundaries to create an utterly beguiling take on a loosely defined style.
Dirty little secret here: The beer is actually part of Upright's 2018 Frequencies Series—bottled in September of that year—but we like it so much, we're giving it a nod now. Get to your best specialty beer shop soon, though. Ganum produced only 133 cases.