Way back in 2011, while he was running Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in Hood River, Charles Porter made Willamette Week's very first Beer of the Year. Porter brewed a fresh-hop version of the house saison that wowed me in a way few beers ever have.
It was nothing fancy, Porter says, just the Logsdon saison racked onto an assortment of different hops gathered and blended from a buddy's farm in Dufur.
That's how Porter tends to talk about his beers at Little Beast. Porter is a journeyman with two decades of experience at Deschutes, who finally has his own brewery, housed in the cramped backroom of a Beaverton strip mall. While there's a Little Beast tasting room slated to open in the former Lompoc Hedge House, Porter spent the last year moving bottles of his twin flagships, Fera and Bes, and producing an assortment of interesting one-offs, including one of the very few strawberry beers we've ever had that doesn't have any plasticky notes.
Of all the great beers Little Beast has made, Fera is our favorite. It's Porter's, too: "It's really my go-to beer. If I'm going to drink a bottle of something, that's it."
Porter has been an active homebrewer throughout his career, and the recipe for Fera has been in the works for three years. The result is a dry, approachable Brett beer that's lightly tart with nice but subdued hop character.
And to hear Porter tell it, it's not complicated. It's a traditional saison build with Pilsner malt that's fermented warm, at about 80 degrees, for a long time. It's made using only one strain, Brettanomyces claussenii. It's finished with three types of hops, Hallertau blanc, Saaz and Golding.
"I wanted to make a beer that was 100 percent Brett that wasn't too funky," Porter says. "It has a lot of white grape character and it finishes really clean."
While being clean, it's also complex and subtle—and a little surprising to anyone who bought it expecting huge funk, given the lack of other yeast strains. As Porter says, it doesn't really taste like a Brett beer unless you spend some time with it. It also has a nice balance of hoppiness, despite being just 27 IBUs, because it's so dry that the hops can come forward.
Like so many of Porter's beers, it's an elegant expression of his minimalistic philosophy.
"Simple is better in a lot of respects, especially because it gives the yeast a chance express itself," he says. "Since it is such a simple recipe, you get to taste the water, hops and yeast."