Portland U Brew: Learn To Brew Beer With An Expert

Here is an activity I thought I would write about for my beer loving Portland readers.

So as much as I love good beer, I’m no expert.  I know good beer when I taste it.  I know what flavors malts and hops contribute, but as far as the specific brewing process and how that impacts beer flavors I know little.  So when a friend of mine told me he had a gift certificate to Portland U Brew and asked if I wanted to join him, I said of course. 

Portland U Brew is a cool place down in the Sellwood neighborhood. They are a one stop shopping for all things beer.  Upstairs is a pub where you can sample some of the beers they make.  Next to the pub is a brewing supply store.  There you can buy anything you need to brew beer at home.  In the basement is a small brewery where you can brew beer with one of their brew masters and learn the ropes.

PUBbrewery

Portland U Brew is not the only shop in town where you can brew beer with the guidance of a brew master, but I think Portland U Brew is the only one where you get to do all grain brewing.  All grain brewing is where you get to pick your own grains (malts and barleys), grind them, then steep them in hot water to make your wort (beer without the hops and fermentation).  At other places you are limited to extract brewing.  With extract brewing you buy already made wort from a beer supply store.  With extract you are at the mercy of the folks who extracted it, which is not necessarily a bad thing especially if you are beginner.  A lot of beginning home brewers start with extract brewing.

Here is a picture of our grains steeping.  In deciding what kind of beer to brew we decided to make a Lagunitas IPA clone, but with a modification to the type of hops.  Steeping the grain is the first step in the brewing process.

grainsteeping

After the grain was done steeping we extracted the wort to a kettle where we boiled the wort and added hops.

boil

When it came to hops we decided to change the kind of hops the Lagunitas recipe called for.  We used just one type of hop called Apollo Hops.  The hops had a sweet and piney smell to it. In total hops were added 3 times during the boil (I’m told that is a lot).

This is a close up of our beautiful beer after the boil was finished.

boilfinish

Next the beer is transferred to a carboy and yeast is added.  The yeast eats the sugars that were produced during the brewing process converting the sugar into alcohol.

carboy

The beer then ferments in the carboy for 3 to 4 weeks before it goes into a keg and then into a cold room where the beer conditions for a few more days.  After the conditioning is done you are ready to bottle.

bottling

When you brew beer at Portland U Brew, you brew a 15 gallon batch which translates into about 140 12 oz bottles of beer.  My buddy and I split the haul so I only have 70 bottles of beer to drink, that’s not too much right???

thepint

I am quite pleased with the beer we brewed.  One thing that surprised me was how balanced it was.  This beer was hopped 4 times, three times during the boil and then it was dry hopped while conditioning.  With that many hops I was expecting more bitterness to the beer.  Instead it turned out to be a well balanced beer that is pretty darn good.

After having done this I definitely know a lot more about the brewing process and how each step of the process can have a different impact on the flavor of your beer.  I found Portland U Brew to be fun and educational.  If you live in Portland and are at all interested in brewing your own beer, brewing beer at Portland U Brew is a great place to start.

Portland U Brew is also a pretty good bargain too.  The brewing session will put you back $160.  That come out to about $1.11 per beer.  Considering the quality of the beer you are making (these guys know what they are doing and I doubt you will make a bad beer), that is a great deal.  I’m not quite sure if I will take up home brewing just yet but my friend and I are likely to go back to Portland U Brew.  We had a lot of fun and I’m sure you will too.

As for those of you who are just passing through I have wracked my brain trying to figure out how this could work for visitors.  One could easily come here on a vacation and brew beer at Portland U Brew, but I’m not sure how you would get your beer home.  I asked the guys if they would ship a person’s beer for them and it sounded like they would, but the cost of shipping would be prohibitive.  They would have to ship you 6 cases of beer and I doubt that’s cheap.  I suppose if you did this you would have a good excuse to return to Portland in a month.  Would an airline have a problem with you checking a keg of beer?

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8 thoughts on “Portland U Brew: Learn To Brew Beer With An Expert

  1. You’re right, you won’t make a bad beer. I’ve brewed there 8 times, everything has been fantastic. Kolsch, couple of Reds, a Honey IPA, a Milk Stout others, all delicious!

  2. Pingback: Another Successful brewing session — Portland U-Brew & Pub: Brew your own beer right here

  3. Scott,
    I’m very glad that you took the time to review Jason and the crew at Portland U Brew. I’ve brewed there several times and have made some mouth watering brews. Every time my beer has come out full and store quality, without the store price! These guys take the time to ensure your experience is both informative and memorable. I’ve even taken business clients there, and now they are coming back to brew beer.

    The sky’s the limit with these guys!
    I went in and told them I wanted the ‘beer baby’ from a Lagunitas IPA and a Blue Moon. Jason and his team went to work and after 2 good and drinkable batches, we produced EXACTLY what I had in mind and it’s INCREDIBLE and I call it “Skirtlifter IPA.” I’ll be brewing another batch in a few months when my stock gets low enough, and I can’t wait!

    In the mean time…
    I’m going to take the proverbial ‘training wheels’ off this weekend and try my unguided hand at home brewing. Unguided, ok that’s a stretch as I already contacted Portland U Brew and they’re setting me up with everything I need… This next batch will be called “Dead Red Head” Irish Ale

    I’ll let you know how my home-brewed batch comes out, so stay tuned and keep brewing!

    Cheers
    Mark (aka Mr_PDX)

    • Glad to hear you have had great experiences at Portland U Brew. I think the guys there are superb. I can’t wait to go back and make a beer for the summer. Maybe I should add and update to my post but every person who tried the beer we made at P.U.B really liked it. I don’t mean that as a compliment to myself since it was really those guys that helped us figure out a recipe but it was awesome. And kudos to you for trying something at home. Will you be grain or extract brewing at home?

  4. Just discovered the U-Brew last weekend and put my first batch together with Jay’s expert supervision. Invited a co-worker and we decided on a German Wit style beer. We added orange peel and coriander in anticipation of a nice summer brew. Can’t wait to bottle it in another month. I’m going with 22.0z bottles. I just can’t imagine where I’d put 140 12’s.

    Thank you for your blog on this. I agree 100% with the convenience and quality of the experience. I really can’t see investing in a home brew operation on my own when I can get a variety of quality ingredients, high-grade equipment and professional assistance. Oh…and was it mentioned that U-Brew does all the dirty work with the clean up? And that they feed the spent grains to the pigs of a local farmer? In return they receive bacon at harvest time and put that directly into a seasonal brew. Yeah…I like the whole operation and will definitely seek out a bottle of that!

    Also, when you’re not “working” your batch you get to enjoy all of the craft brew that they have perfected. I think $3.15/pint is a fabulous price for such great beer! I’ve gotten so used to $5+ pints of mediocre stuff.

    Do yourself a solid and head over to the UBrew. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back with more recipe ideas.

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