Craft Beer Issue 2018
Things move fast for Little Beast.
Not much more than a year after Charles Porter opened the brewery in February 2017, his envelope-pushing, mixed-culture beers have won fast acclaim from all corners of the beer world. It didn’t take long for Little Beast to outgrow its original production brewery behind the Westgate Bourbon Bar in Beaverton (formerly Brannon’s Pub and Brewery). Porter and his team have recently secured a new brewery-ready facility on Highway 212 in Clackamas, in a spot whose previous tenant was Drinking Horse Brewing, and will hopefully start operations there at the end of the summer. In May, Little Beast opened a taproom and patio on Southeast Division, in the Craftsman bungalow previously home to Lompoc Brewing’s Hedge House. It would be enough of a draw that the Little Beast Brewing Beer Garden is now the publicly accessible entry point to one of the country’s most exciting breweries, but its spacious outdoor area is simply one of the most gratuitously pleasant places in the city to sit and sip a beer.
If any of this seems sudden, it all came together gradually for Porter, who did time at Full Sail Brewery and co-founded Logsdon Farmhouse Ales before embarking on his own with Little Beast. “We were waiting for something that seemed right,” he says, emphasizing how he’s learned the value of patience over the years. “This feels so good here—it’s so comforting.”
Porter’s beers are, broadly speaking, in the Belgian farmhouse tradition, and make use of the unconventional, flavorful properties of yeast strains—such as Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, and Lactobacillus—not traditionally employed by Northwest brewers, who have historically opted for clean, invisible-tasting yeasts to ferment their beers.
“I’ve been brewing these types of beers for 15 years now—as soon as I moved to Hood River and started working at Full Sail,” Porter says. “I started working with the guys at Wyeast Labs [yeast cultivars in Hood River] to get all the critters I could to start making different kinds of beers that I’d never done before.... I’ve always had a passion for drinking Belgian-style beers, and I’d made some before, but none with what we call ‘bugs’ in them, per se. ‘Bugs’ is sort of what Little Beast is named after—the critters that ferment the beer. We do a diverse selection of microflora to create the flavors that we do.”
The beers are immensely flavorful and full of surprises, encompassing a full spectrum of flavors, from earthy to tart, fruity to smoky. They also lend themselves to food, and Porter’s wife, Brenda Crow, has put her 20 years of food industry experience—including time at Olympia Provisions, Dean & DeLuca, and San Francisco’s Tartine bakery—to good use in creating the Beer Garden’s menu with Chef Tyler Auton. Their focus is on high-end, picnic-able snacks like cheese, charcuterie, and tinned fish, and to that end, you can check out a picnic blanket and sit on the grass in the Beer Garden’s front yard, in the shade of the catalpa tree.
Little Beast continues to grow. Porter mentions upcoming projects, including a rotating series of IPAs that’ll be available only on draft at the Beer Garden, and a Kellerbier that will mark Little Beast’s first foray into lager brewing. They’re also hoping to do events such as paella and oyster nights. The newest seasonal, Pomme Sour brewed with quinces, is being released this week in time for the American Homebrewer Association’s annual conference.
Porter’s also putting in a coolship in the new Clackamas brewery—an open fermenter much like the ones used for traditional Belgian lambics. It’ll be exposed to whatever wild yeasts are in the area. “It’s really neat because even though we’re in a business park, you go out the back door and you feel like you went through the looking glass,” he says. “There are these old-growth-looking oak trees and a meadow, so there’s definitely going to be some influence from whatever’s there.”