For the Oregon Beer Growler
Uptown Market had a very exceptional beginning; in fact, you might call it backwards. Unlike the majority of craft beer establishments that begin with an idea and progress to a place, this one started with an empty space and progressed with an idea.
Uptown Market started out as a real estate opportunity for three guys. They bought an empty convenience store, and then figured out what to put in it.
Brothers AJ and Chris Shepard and their friend Stuart Faris independently came up with the same answer to the question of what to do with their Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location — they all wanted a place where they would hang out and drink beer.
Four years ago this December, the Portland Uptown Market opened as a bottle shop with six taps. Since then, it has expanded. There are now more than 30 different brews on tap, including its own beers, a vast selection of bottled beers and wine as well as homebrew supplies. Almost from the beginning, the casual market developed a loyal following — a dedicated group who wanted to … what else? Hang out and drink beer. With the recent opening this spring of its new location in Lake Oswego, complete with a kitchen and new chef, Uptown Market is branching into brewpub territory.
The business model for the relative newcomer is certainly unique. “Uptown Market is a very expensive hobby that makes them [the owners] money and brings them together. It’s also a showroom for the kind of work they can do,” said Liz Soucie, director of marketing.
AJ and Chris Shepard also own and operate a successful property management company, Uptown Properties. AJ Shepard is a licensed contractor, both commercial and residential, and Chris Shepard is a licensed broker. Faris is the director of marketing for an engineering company. They did much of the design and renovation of the Lake Oswego space themselves, with help from Soucie. In contrast to other startup businesses that often operate on a lean budget, Uptown Market has plenty of capital, said Soucie.
Once the first location was up and going with steady business, the three owners decided to add their own brewery. Actually it was their manager’s idea. Herb Apon, who is now manager for Portland beer hall Loyal Legion, pushed them to brew on-site. “Apon thought it would be a cool idea for Uptown Market to make use of its extra storage space in back and brew its own beer,” said Soucie.
They set up a 7-barrel system purchased from Two Kilts Brewing Co. When empty, the space looked fairly large. But with the brewing equipment installed, the 800-square-foot area filled up quickly.
“The original brewer helped create the brand,” said Soucie. “But Tyler Staples, our new brewer, has really grown the production and reputation of the beer.” Staples came from McMenamins Highland Pub and Brewery in Gresham at the beginning of summer 2015. “He’s skyrocketed our production,” said Soucie.
Staples is focusing on six production beers — from a pale ale developed for Portland Golf Club to a stout, along with seasonals and apple ciders. His two fresh-hop selections were very popular at this fall’s Portland Fresh Hops Fest held at Oaks Park. Soucie said they sell one-third of their fresh-hop kegged beer to other locations, and Staples’ relationship with distributor Willamette Valley Hops is a huge plus when it comes to ensuring seasonal supply.
Both Uptown Market locations feature special events and create a festive atmosphere by having something special “on tap” every weekend. During the summer, the shops often host tastings. “We enjoy bringing in guest brewers. One of their reps comes in. We put up to three or four of their beers on tap. They pour samples for our clientele to promote bottle sales,” said Soucie.
Once the Lake Oswego location opened, the chef started creating food specials to pair with the beer. The menu includes snacks, salads, sandwiches and sausages from Otto’s in Portland, along with burgers and daily specials/happy hour food. The Oktoberfest pork shank was such a hit, it continues be featured on the menu. “We did a special for Baerlic of a pineapple salsa and avocado burger and a beer brat with beer cheese and crispy shallots, using Baerlic beer,” added Soucie. Since the cozy pub is located in the midst of small businesses and professional offices, they also offer catered meals and boxed lunches. The Southwest Scholls Ferry Road location also has a food cart with a similar menu.
Recently, Uptown Market started a mug club for loyal customers. For a $10 monthly fee, members receive in-store discounts on pints, growlers, bottles, food and merchandise. Plus, they have the opportunity to purchase the hand-selected monthly 12-packs of hard-to-find beers and ciders. An optional benefit is your very own personalized mug.
Meanwhile, big plans are in the works for the fourth anniversary celebration of the original Uptown Market on Dec. 12. The fun will come in fours. Four bands, four guest tastings, four food specials, four variations of Uptown’s beer, four firkins and more.
Although the news this summer of a possible partnership with Logsdon Farmhouse Ales appears to be off the table, at least for now, the owners are on the lookout for a large scale production facility, most likely on the east side. As Soucie explained about the Logsdon deal: “The opportunity was brought to the ownership of Uptown Market and at this time it appears there are no plans to move forward with it.” Meanwhile future plans include finding a warehouse facility that’s around 4,000 square feet or so. The space would allow the brewery to can or bottle, build a large-scale pub and store an ample amount of supplies. Additionally, Uptown would like to buy a home and not lease, according to Soucie.
[a] 6620 SW Scholls Ferry Road, Portland
[a] 3970 Mercantile Drive #110, Lake Oswego