Just over a year after it commenced operations in Beaverton, Little Beast Brewing opened the doors of its Beer Garden in the former Lompoc Hedge House on Southeast Division Street in Portland. A much larger production space in Clackamas is also in the works.
“The reception on Division has been really positive,” said Brenda Crow, who operates the business with husband Chuck Porter. “Some people are surprised. They knew this place as the Hedge House. They wander in and see that things are different. Most of them stick around. We like that.”
Porter and Crow scoured the city core for a place to open a tasting room last year. When they learned the Hedge House was closing, they initiated a conversation that ended with them signing a lease. Next came getting the space ready.
“There weren’t many licensing issues here, since it had been a pub,” Crow recalled. “But it took some time to get the space ready. We hoped to be open in March, then April and finally opened in May. Except for the electricity and plumbing, Chuck did most of the work.
It was a long haul.”
The result is a cozy indoor space alongside a sizable patio that will be user-friendly year-round.
Expect the mixed-fermentation, barrel-aged beers Porter is known for through his work at Logsdon and, now, Little Beast. Mainstream beers also have a place.
“We have 14 taps,” said Porter. “Besides the specialty stuff, we pour popular styles that can be made more quickly, including IPAs, wit beer and other light stuff. I’ll be bouncing IPA recipes back and forth with [head brewer] Paul Rey. We’ll keep things interesting.”
In addition to the draft selection, patrons can choose from a selection of Little Beast bottles, available to-go or consume on premise with no corkage fee. Porter contemplates some sort of club that would give hardcore fans first access to his rarest brews, some of which are currently stewing in barrels.
Crow, who has an extensive culinary background, worked with chef Tyler Auton to develop a menu that includes a mix of cheeses, meats, dips, sandwiches and salads. Items are designed to pair well with the Belgian-influenced beers. It’s a work in progress to some extent.
“We have a full kitchen here, but the equipment is limited,” Crow said. “That creates some challenges. I expect we’ll add more hot items to the menu as we go through summer and into fall.”
While the pub gains momentum, Porter is busy planning the impending move of beer production to the former Drinking Horse Brewing Company space in Clackamas. Little Beast beers are currently produced where Brannon’s once operated.
“The situation in Beaverton allowed us to get started without having to buy a brewery or renovate a building,” Porter said. “But we always wanted a taproom or pub in Portland. The old Brannon’s space is small and not great for tastings or events.”
The shift will increase brewing and barrel storage space from 1,300 to 5,700 square feet, a big deal when you’re dealing with a lot of barrels.
“We’ll be in Beaverton for a while yet,” Porter admitted. “I just acquired a brewhouse and it will take some time to get everything in place and jump through all the permitting and licensing hoops. For now, we’re staging materials in Clackamas and hope to start brewing there in a few months.”
As seems to be the case with a growing number of breweries in the area, Porter will add a coolship (open fermentation vessel). That will enable him to make the beers he appreciates most.
“I installed the original coolship at Logsdon years ago and brewed the first batch on it,” he said. “Spontaneous fermentation beers have always been my favorite and I look forward to seeing what we can do with that vessel in the new space.”
Despite almost unanimous positive reviews, Porter and Crow are taking a measured approach to building the business. They have no interest in massive expansion.
“We’re a family company,” said Crow. “It’s just the two of us. We’re far more interested in making and selling quality products than we are in wild growth. In fact, we don’t believe in grow, grow, grow. We think it’s important to grow thoughtfully and that’s our goal.”
Going from what was strictly a distribution model to one in which the pub is the profit center has created some unexpected challenges. Crow had been running the sales side of the operation, but now finds herself functioning as general manager of the pub.
“We’ll continue to self-distribute outside the pub,” she said. “That’s an easy decision, particularly since we don’t plan to expand our distribution footprint. But managing distribution requires time I no longer have. We’ll eventually organize a plan and hire a salesperson to handle most of that work.” •