By Holly Amlin and Pete Dunlop
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The little beasts have been unleashed. In this case, little beasts are the tiny critters that do the arduous work of fermenting Charles Porter’s Old World, barrel-aged specialty beers.
Porter, co-founder of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales and creative force behind many medal-winning beers before departing two years ago, recently launched Little Beast Brewing in Beaverton. The beers, like those at Logsdon, will feature mixed-culture fermentations as well as Oregon produce and plants.
“I suppose I always knew I would do my own thing,” said Porter, who started his brewing career in Indiana before moving to Oregon to work at Deschutes, Full Sail and, eventually, Logsdon in 2009. “Little Beast was on the drawing board before I left Logsdon. I knew that was my future.”
The initial Little Beast beers have hit select beer bars and shelves in premium grocery stores around the Portland area. Bes and Fera are examples of the types of beers Porter will be creating as Little Beast evolves.
“Bes and Fera are both entry level beers,” he said. “Bes is a sour beer with training wheels. Fera is super dry. Neither is particularly tart. Fera is so dry, that the hops come through a little. Some IPA fans will like it. But we don’t intend to cater to the IPA crowd. That’s a numbers game we really don’t care to tap.”
Planning Little Beast took some twists and turns. Leery of making the substantial investment required to build his own brewery, Porter initially planned to buy wort from various sources and do fermentation and packaging in a then-to-be determined location.
“The reality is, we struggled to find a space,” he said. “We didn’t want to pay retail price for square footage that would be used mostly for production. Finding a space probably would have been easier had it not been for recreational marijuana, which was competing for spaces we were interested in.”
Things took a fortunate turn when Porter stumbled on an available turnkey brewery next to The Westgate Bourbon Bar & Taphouse in Beaverton. The equipment had previously been part of Brannon’s Pub & Brewery, which closed its doors in 2015.
“It was a fortuitous find,” Porter said. “Coming across a turnkey arrangement in our situation was a brewer’s wet dream. It solved a lot of challenges and allowed us to get started without making a huge upfront investment.”
The Westgate location isn’t forever. Porter hopes to find a permanent location in Portland, a place where he can have a taproom and do some production. Even now, the tiny brewing space behind the Westgate is crowded with barrels and brewing equipment.
“We’ll stay here upwards of two years,” he said. “We’re looking for storage space now because this place is jammed. But we’re also looking for a taproom and production space. We may end up with separate production and retail spaces — not necessarily a bad thing.”
The arrangement with Westgate was a meeting of shared values. When Brannon’s folded, Dave Heinsch, who also operates The Fireside Grill in Beaverton, signed a lease for all of what had been Brannon’s. He wasn’t sure what to do with the attached brewery, but he wanted the location.
“To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in the brewery,” Heinsch said. “I was after the space. I figured we’d stash the brewery, let people forget about it while I shopped around for the right brewer. I thought that might take some time.”
Heinsch, whose vision for the Westgate was a destination for high-quality food and drinks, was pleased to discover Porter was looking for a brewery.
“I knew of Charles from his work at Logsdon,” Heinsch said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this venture, even if it’s just a stepping stone to something bigger. The guy makes great beer. Plus, having him here takes the brewery off my hands for a year or two while I focus on Westgate. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Porter is subleasing the brewery space at The Westgate, operating as a separate business. So he’s not partnering with Heinsch. But Porter does have a partner in the Little Beast venture. That would be his wife, Brenda Crow.
Crow has a lengthy background in sales, marketing and branding connected to food. She was national sales manager at Olympia Provisions and currently manages sales of several artisan cheeses in the Northwest.
“Brenda is a spreadsheet queen and a great communicator,” said Porter. “Her strong food background and extensive contact list is helping us get our beers into restaurants, which is great for us. She also played a key role in our brand development process.”
When it came to branding, Crow and Porter hired Andy Morris of Chandelarrow Design Co., a Portland-based studio, after vetting several local artists. Morris has a background in food-and-drink packaging, having done work for Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Widmer Brothers Brewing and The Woodsman Tavern, among others.
Morris’ style appealed to them, though it did take several rounds of logo concepts to get what they wanted. The end result is a modern look that gives nod to the sophistication of Old World-style beers, mixing subtle blackletter with strong visual elements.
“We were initially worried that the logo might come across as too cartoonish,” Crow said. “Andy’s response was that it would work well embossed on a label. He was right. The logo looks amazing when embossed on the label.”
The result is an image that’s bold enough to be recognized from across a room, while at the same time containing enough intricate detail to provide a fairly complete story of what the brand is all about — the sort of thing consumers have come to expect from premium beers.
Goodies far beyond the description of the beer occupy the back side of the bottle. Look for the bottled-on-date coding, batch information, when to drink and suggested glassware (if that isn’t obvious from the goblet in the lion’s mouth in the logo). It’s elements like these that demonstrate Porter’s dedication.
“I felt strongly about including bottled-on dates,” Porter said. “Not enough breweries are doing that, in my opinion. The drink-by dates will vary by beer. Through the labeling, I can go back and know exactly what I was doing with each of these beers. I’m tracking everything.”
As a final, personal touch, Porter added his signature to the label. In a market where there is increasing competition among premium brands for the hearts, minds and dollars of consumers, Little Beast offers a quality product in a finely tuned package. This will likely turn out well.
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Even at 218 or so breweries, Oregon has yet to reach peak status. True, industry growth is slowing and real estate in popular places like Portland and Bend are harder to come by. But there is still room for the local brewpub. Some large towns — like La Grande — don’t even have a brewery yet, but 2017 looks to change that. Here are our top 10 major breweries scheduled to open this year.
Bodega Beer - Portland
This 15-barrel brewery and taproom will open on the corner of Southeast 14th Avenue and Stark Street right across the street from Meat Cheese Bread and their taproom/bottleshop called Beer. Ex-Laurelwood brewer Steven Balzer will be on board to focus on hop-forward beers with a lager and some international styles represented. They won’t have food, but will have a food cart on site.
Breakside Brewery Slabtown - Portland
Breakside Brewery’s third location was scheduled to open in the Slabtown neighborhood of Northwest Portland last summer, but it’s now on track for a spring 2017 launch. The space will feature a full restaurant, event room mezzanine and outdoor seating on both a patio and rooftop. Best of all — the 10-barrel brewhouse is going to pump out completely new, experimental hop-centric beers.
Crooked River Brewing – Prineville
The 4-barrel startup is taking over a 7,000-square-foot industrial space that used to house an antique shop. Prineville’s second brewery will favor IPAs and pizzas in a setting that will include outdoor seating, a conference room and pool tables. Brewing is still a good six months out or more due to city and federal permitting. (Read more on page 14).
Ferment - Portland and Hood River
Daniel Peterson moved to Hood River to work at Full Sail and then pFriem after experience with microbiology at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery. In 2015 he set out to open his own project with a brewery in Hood River and a taproom/restaurant in Portland, originally slated for the Yard development on the east side of the Burnside Bridge. Peterson said he’ll now look for a nearby ground-floor location that will be more accessible to foot traffic.
The Horn Public House & Brewery - Depoe Bay
Chris Jennings, one of the Hillsboro Brew Brothers before leaving to join the team at Alameda, now takes on the role of head brewer at this upcoming coastal establishment. From the owners of Gracie’s Sea Hag comes this 10-barrel, two-floor brewpub that is already open and should have its own beer on tap sometime after January. Jennings plans to make a variety of styles, with 10 house beers — plus guest offerings — on tap. (Read more on page 18).
Level Beer - Portland
A trio of all-stars came together to launch Level Beer: Bailey’s Taproom owner Geoff Phillips along with brewer/partners Jason Barbee (formerly of Ex Novo) and Shane Watterson (formerly of Laurelwood). Making its home on garden/farmland in outer Northeast Portland off I-84, there will be a tasting room (but don’t expect farmhouse beers).
Little Beast Brewing - Beaverton
When Charles Porter left Logsdon in 2015, he sought a warehouse space to open his own sour blendery, with a brewery off-site. But in late 2016, he found the defunct Brannon’s Pub & Brewery in Beaverton where he’ll start his business before eventually relocating to a space in Portland with more room for barrels. For now, he shares the building with The Westgate Bourbon Bar & Taphouse, which opened in December.
Reach Break Brewing – Astoria
This new 7-barrel brewery and taproom will focus on barrel-aged sour and wild beers, but will also pour clean East Coast-style IPAs and farmhouse brews. Customers can enjoy a covered outdoor beer garden with food carts and to-go menus from local establishments. If there aren’t any holdups, Reach Break could be open by the time you read this with non-wild yeast/bacteria beers and barrel-aged styles debuting as they are ready.
Ross Island Brewing - Portland
Ex-Alameda brewer Carston Haney’s inner Southeast Portland project has been hit with numerous delays by the City of Portland. After waiting more than a year, he hopes to open the taproom in January while work continues on the brewery. Expect big and sessionable English, German and American styles of beer in a cozy neighborhood pub with an outdoorsman's touch.
Side A Brewing - La Grande
When Eastern Oregon University professor Scott McConnell realized that La Grande was the only city in Oregon with a population of more than 7,000 that didn’t have a brewery, he knew he had to do something. Along with two partners, one with brewery experience and the other food and beverage, they are slated to open Side A Brewing in the historic Eastern Oregon Fire Museum this spring.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.