WHERE: 3412 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97202
When I first moved out to Portland from New Jersey nearly four years ago, one of the first things I was struck by is BIKES EVERYWHERE. In New Jersey, a bike was how kids got around, or what adults did for exercise while wearing goofy clothes.
In Portland, a bike is possibly the easiest way commute through the city and go about your life- and the city leans into that fact hard. Special low-traffic “greenways,” specially-marked bike lanes, bike accessibility on public transit… for a city rife with steep hills and busy streets, cycling is how you get around. In fact, I’d say that bike commuting is as much a part of Portland’s constantly metastasizing culture as “weird,” beer, small food businesses, and big green spaces.
So when I was tooling around Division Street on my bike yesterday, felt the need to dodge the near-record heat for a bit and came across a cute little house with a big front lawn, a sour beer menu, and some simple eats, you didn’t have to twist my arm.
That’s Little Beast in a nutshell.
This wasn’t my first time walking through the doors of Little Beast Brewery, but I couldn’t have imagined a better time. The afternoon heat was beating down, I was on a bike on a sunny day, and just desperately needed a glass of cold refreshment. On days like this, that patio and lawn can fill up quickly.
Yes, the lawn. While you are expected to order at the bar indoors, you can bring a picnic blanket and crash out on that lush lawn if you are so inclined. They’ll bring you your food and beer all the same.
I was not so inclined yesterday- I needed to cool off more than anything and beat feet indoors.
A Taste for the Strange
The main foyer and living room of the small house had been converted into a long warm wood bar and pub-style seating. Tightly spaced to be sure, but it somehow still gives a feeling of sunny openness and air. I pulled up a stool (conveniently directly in front of the air conditioner) and went over the menu.
Little Beast is the brainchild of Charles Porter- a twenty-five year veteran of brewing with a biology degree-and Brenda Crow, a culinary grad with an expertise in specialty food and sourcing local goods. Not content with the traditional, more-popular varieties of beer (to say that Portland loves its IPAs is an understatement) Charles and Brenda chose to specialize in the more delicately-managed, funkier tastes of “farmhouse” style beers.
Specific strains of bacteria- such as Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus- and introduced into the wort (what beer is called before it’s beer) in order to create different and more pungent flavor profiles. Wood-aging and wild fermentation are also encouraged. The result is beer made from local ingredients, fermented with local flora, that tastes like the place it was made. In fact, it’s taming these “little beasts” that gave the brewery it’s name.
All this is to say- don’t roll up in there looking for a Miller Lite or Corona clone. You came looking for funky. You want sour. Salty. DANK. MUSTY. And you want it all rolling over what was already a cornucopia of fine ingredients from the farmers and suppliers of the area.
For real, get a look at this menu, and take your “Can I just get a Bud Light” butt down the block.
No, those prices are no joke- but they are WORTH IT. Small-batch brewing with this much care and attention? You absolutely get what you pay for.
Given that I’m a round-heeled pushover for the salty/sour refreshment of a Gose, the Sylvestris was the obvious choice.
Look at that color. It’s nearly as bright as my shirt. Fermented on Pinot Noir grapes and a mostly wheat mash bill, I need to tell you that glass was empty in a hurry.
Of course, I wasn’t about to come in out of a hot day on the bike and just drink beer. That’s a REAL bad idea. I needed some food to go along with it- and Little Beasts love of the local doesn’t end with their beer.
A beergarden that offers MORE and BETTER food than what comes from a deep fryer? OH YES. Little Beast offers a tight-but-delicious menu of bar snacks, appetizers, and a couple heftier entries if you are down for a meal- and I was. It needed to be something specific though- I was looking to cool down, and I wanted a nice cold sandwich. The bartender pointed me at their Oregon Grinder.
Olympia Provisions capicola (right down the street). Olli fennel pollen salami. Prosciutto, cotto, provelone, arugula, red onion, pepperoncini, and vinagrette?
Back up a second… THAT’S AN ITALIAN SUB. Finding one that can measure up to my memories of the Jersey Shore is a task on it’s own, and that looks really damn close.
YES. THAT. PLEASE.
It is really hard to beat a memory… but I need to tell you, this sandwich came VERY close. The meats chosen are some of the area’s best. The argula filling in for the traditional shredded lettuce and tomato lent a bitter component to cut the fatty meat and cheese, and- honestly? I was glad this one had actual oil and vinegar on it, and NO DAMN MAYO.
Like the beer, the sandwich was not long for this world.
A fairly modest tab was paid, and I was back on my bike. As I left, I realized that the next day- today- would be their one-year anniversary, and they were teaming up with local ice cream business Salt and Straw to do an ice cream and beer-pairing party.
Looks like I’m gonna be on my bike again tomorrow. That sounds like a VERY Portland way to beat the heat.
WHEN: Wed- Thurs, Sun-Mon 12p-10. Fri- Sat 12p- 11p. Closed Tuesday
HOW: Just come by, and check out their website at littlebeastbrewing.com
WHY: Because you have a tasty for the funky and want to relax in a space- and with food and drink- that’s about as local as you can get without just staying home.