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A Nano Brewery in Portland with Big Ideas

Little Hop Brewing may be nano, but don’t call them small. Check out the brewery shaking things up in Portland, Oregon.

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Little Hop Brewing in Portland, Oregon

They say big things come in small packages. However, a brewery in Oregon recasts this old adage into a new rallying call: where less truly is more. Operating in the outskirts of Portland lies a homebuilt nano brewery called Little Hop Brewing. Husband-and-wife brewers/owners, Zak and Lisa Cate, operate in a 400 square foot space, 2 barrel production system of hyper local beer styles using regional suppliers. 

Photo Credit: Little Hop Brewing

Little Hop Brewing has taken the idea of what it means to be a brewery and turned it on its head. They may be nano, but don’t call them small. “Some examples of a [nano] brewery are those that produce 15,000 barrels or less a year, other examples are less than 3.5 barrel batch size. We meet the criteria for both,” says Zak. Their beer making novelty and boundary pushing ways are very much in line with the schema of Portlandia.

“Hyper local is something we pride ourselves on, being from the Pacific Northwest, all the ingredients we use to make our beer is grown here in Oregon and we’ve chosen to primarily use the closest growers and producers to us.”

Lisa Cate, Little Hop Brewing

For instance, the malt used in the brewery comes from a family farm only 88 miles from the Cates home; their hops come from another family farm less than 30 minutes south. And the yeast also comes from another company in Portland. Even the honey is locally sourced from a bee farmer in the area. 

In a time when the microbrewery is king within the craft beer industry, a nano brewery takes it one step bigger…um, we mean smaller. With scaled down operations, uncomplicated logistics, easy access to locally sourced ingredients, and quick brewing turnaround, a nano brewery like this has certain freedoms much larger breweries would kill for. 

“What sets us apart is an ever-changing line up without the gimmicky beers. [. . .] You will find experimental hop IPAs and lagers, and seasonal fruit and herb farmhouse styles. Quality in its simplest form. Our tap list does not feature any flagship beers or familiar favorites, rather we hope every visit to Little Hop Brewing will be a new experience.”

Little Hop Brewing in portland, or

Be that as it may, running a nano brewery is no picnic either — especially when it comes to a spouse team like the Cates. Zak and Lisa seem to have found a way to make it work though. They’ve struck a balance sharing brewery responsibilities 50/50. Zak is the brewer, with formal training and education with the Business of Craft Brewing certificate program at Portland State University. He also has professional experience working for a larger, very well-known brewery in the Oregon and Washington area. And Lisa collaborates on new brew ideas and beer styles, while also helping with home deliveries (yes, they deliver beer to your doorstep Portland!). She even manages their social media presence too (Lisa tells us Zak needs a little help in that arena).

As for work-life balance, the Cates reassure us there isn’t an issue there. “We’ve always worked well together. We’ve known each other for 23 years now, ever since highschool. So we know what to expect from each other. The biggest con is that we’re both green in sales and marketing, and so we’re having to navigate that road together” says Lisa. 

Lisa and Zake Cate of Little Hop Brewery

A place like Portland is no joke when it comes to starting a brewery. It has quickly made a name for itself as one of the fastest growing craft brewery cities in America. When asked how the Cates want Little Hop Brewing to stand out from all the other great Portland breweries, they had this to say:  

“Well our real passion is lagers and we want to focus on hyper local lagers, not necessarily making style appropriate lagers. For instance, we have in tank a schwartz-like beer that is really a hybrid of a cascadian dark ale in lager form made with Wickiup (vienna wheat from Mecca Grade) that isn’t great for clarity but brings a lovely toasted sweet bread flavor that is to die for. Also, lagers that are made with heavy doses of American hops bring a fruity characteristic that just goes well with a crisp clean beer that is normally hopped with noble varieties that are more spicy and floral.”

Zak Cate, brewer/owner of little hop brewing

Unmistakably, Zak knows his stuff. And he wants his beer to do the talking for him. His philosophy is simple: creating high quality beer from locally sourced ingredients that brings community together in a time when more and more people want to stay inside their homes.

Photo Credit: Little Hop Brewing

And if money wasn’t a factor, the dream for this nano brewery would be “a modern farmhouse style brewery on a little null with a babbling brook surrounded by a world class disc golf course and farm to table food from local growers (insert joke about Chip and Joanna Gaines welcoming committee here).” Did we mention they have big dreams?

Make no mistake, this is no pipedream. The Cates have a 3 phase plan to get their nano brewery where they want it to be. 

  1. Phase 1 includes online sales and farmers markets with the amount of fermenters they currently have.
  2. Phase 2 is to build a food cart/tiny farm house on wheels, and join a food cart pod to start selling draft. With a food cart they can keep overhead down. Plus, it’s mutually beneficial for them: they won’t have a kitchen to run and other food trucks don’t have to deal with beer sales. 
  3. Last but not least, Phase 3 is a modern farmhouse brewery, babbling brook, disc golf course, Chip and Joanna, and all. 

Planning is only half the journey. Actually running a brewery is a different story. It’s no easy feat, or everyone would do it. Blood, sweat, tears, and all come with the territory, but can be well worth it in the end. “Everyone’s experience [starting a brewery] that I’ve talked to has been different. Some people interpret the rules differently, agencies don’t talk to each other or tell you who you need to contact or when so you really need to be self motivated to get your permits and licensing done to be compliant. Luckily, I had a good idea of what needed to be in place through my [past brewery experience].”

As to where you can find their beer, it’s in Zak’s fridge. Currently, it’s only available for sale online for now — we have a feeling that won’t be the case very long.

They offer free delivery to most of the Portland metro. Cheers to Little Hop Brewing!

Libation Nation Travel Contributor. Drink(s) of Choice: Lagers and Honey Blonde Ales. Also like a good martini. Favorite Breweries: Too many to name, mostly on the East Coast. Favorite Music: Some classics, acoustic mostly.

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Travel Guide

Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon

We traveled to Portland, OR in search of the exclusive, members-only spirits establishment known as the Multnomah Whiskey Library. Not only did we find it, we got in! Take a peak inside with us.

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Chandelier hanging at the Multnomah Whiskey Library

Believe it or not, there’s an exclusive, members-only whiskey establishment lying incognito deep the heart of downtown Portland. The Multnomah Whiskey Library sits inconspicuous between buildings, rife with flannel wearing, coffee sipping hipsters walking past its doors everyday. But inside it’s a whole other world. 

Not quite a tome of whiskey knowledge (although their whiskey experts would probably agree to disagree), it’s a floor to ceiling ode to the finer things of life — at least when it comes to libation and fine eating. 

It’s vintage feel in a dimly lit environment transports you to, well, pretty much anywhere other than Portland. But it’s there, and a bit difficult to get into. 

Their philosophy is simple, yet elegant:

“From the bartender who creates the perfect cocktail or combs the shelves for a rare bottle, to the chef offering a thoughtfully curated menu – we undertake to honor our collection of spirits through education, shared experience, and classic hospitality.”

Multnomah Whiskey Library

Quite a few hurdles need jumping through just to step foot through those inoculous, but oh so coveted doors.

Caveat: keep in mind this information's accurate at the time of this written article.
  • Non-members can purchase a $25 non-refundable hall pass (per person) to secure a 2 hour reservation slot. This is just to get into the doors, and does not go towards food or drinks. 
  • Limited days and times of the week, which is subject to change however (and whenever) they see fit. Members always get priority status.
  • You can only book a spot through their online reservation scheduling (no other option’s available). And good luck getting a person on the phone. 
  • You can only make a reservation 2 weeks in advance, no sooner. If you miss this time window you might not get another chance — reservations fill up rather quickly. Best to set a reminder on your phone.
  • Need to show proof of vaccination at check-in. Failure to do so will result in denied entry, not to mention forfeiture of your non-members deposit. Goodbye hard-earned money, goodbye one-of-a-kind whiskey experience. 

But patience and perseverance prevailed: we got in! It almost felt like we cracked some code to a place few have ventured. And yet here we were, sitting amongst the elite ethanol enthusiasts of high society. It felt wrong, but we didn’t want to be right. 

In the end, we were welcomed. The members made us feel like we belonged. Wouldn’t be surprising if mutual respect was a character trait required of any member (which we hear has a quite a lengthy waitlist, with some reports of 3 years or longer) but it’s probably credited to the Portland mindset.

Once inside, we were absolutely blown away. Wood and leather covered every square foot, with a massive collection of spirits functioning as the ascent wall. Sliding ladders (yes they have more than one) were needed to reach every whiskey row.

Side note: Our theory is a whiskey map exists laying out every bottle on every shelf (especially for the top-shelf stuff); it looks easy to get lost up there.

Whiskey prices range from the fairly affordable to exorbitant (which is to be expected). Their 2 most popular cocktails are the Desert Caravan and Origin Story. The Desert Caravan is described as a Zheng Shan tea infused with Russell’s Reserve 10 year Bourbon, while the Origin Story takes Wild Turkey Rye and McClellands Islay Scotch mixed with milk thistle and butter, which was quite tasty.

Charcuterie board with cocktails at the Multnomah Whiskey Library.

Lastly, we partook in their charcuterie board with a selection of artisanal meats, cheeses, seasonal mostarda, toasted marcona almonds, house pickles, and a toasted baguette — the perfect end to cap off the night.

If you find yourself in Portland, take one night to splurge on an experience like no other. But just like anything else in life: the best experiences are shared. Not to say a lone traveler couldn’t, or shouldn’t, visit the Multnomah Whiskey Library; it just takes everything to another level when you have fine whiskey, delicious dining, and good company.

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Travel Guide

Portland Breweries Recommended by Portlander Beer Lovers

We traveled to Portland, OR to explore some of the best breweries local beer lovers recommended. We asked, Portlanders answered, and Portland delivered!

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Portland Breweries Recommended by Portland Beer Lovers

Beer culture is certainly alive and well in Portland, Oregon. In fact, it’s been thriving for the better part of a decade now. With more and more breweries opening their doors every year in this ever-expanding millennial mecca, it can be hard to know which of Portlandia’s breweries are worth checking out, and which are not. 

Short answer: Pretty much every Portland brewery is worth a visit — time is the only issue.

We wanted to know what locals recommended. So we asked, Portlanders answered; and Portland delivered! 

Here are just a few breweries recommended by local Portland beer lovers:

Ex Novo Brewing Company

Located in the Eliot neighborhood, Ex Novo is quite popular for many reasons: good location in North Portland, award winning beer lineup, and great community atmosphere to name a few. 

But perhaps it’s most famous for its underlying altruistic mission. Initially established as a non-profit entity, Ex Novo has an amazing presence in community outreach by donating their profits to various charity groups. As the brewery grows, so does its philanthropic endeavors.

“Our mission was simple, to brew great beer and to use our business as a platform for good in our community and across the globe. Our mission has always been to donate 100% of net profits to organizations building a better world.”

Ex Novo Brewery

They’ve even collaborated with Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore, to co-brand a beer (fittingly named City of Books IPA) to support independent bookstores across the country. The only thing better than a good read is over a good beer.

Any libation partaker of this fine establishment can feel good knowing your beer money is going to a good cause.

Ex Novo Brewing Co. 2326 N Flint Ave, Portland, OR 97227

Modern Times Brewery

Its humble beginnings stem from the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego, California. Today, Modern Times has recently experienced an explosion in popularity. Employee-owned, this establishment has evolved into something beyond mere beer brewing, landing them into several satellite venues throughout the Pacific Northwest. This brings us to Belmont Street in Southeast Portland.

“Modern Times is an intrepid cadre of brewers, coffee roasters, culinary wizards, creative powerhouses, and beer-slingers that began as a 30bbl production brewery and tasting room […] the Modern Times multiverse has expanded to include a robust and ever-growing barrel program, killer satellite brewery & tasting room locations, and the addition of several restaurants, each serving a breathtakingly tasty menu of boundary-pushing plant-based cuisine.”

The Belmont Fermentorium | Modern Times Beer

With that, Modern Times has a complete 180° feel and environment than Ex Novo (but in a good way). Both breweries offer their own unique spin when it comes to brewing and libation experience; different mission statements, business models, brewery layouts, and beer styles stand out the most. We recommend visiting both breweries in a day to truly appreciate this complimentary juxtaposition.

Modern Times Beer – Belmont Fermentorium 600 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214

Baerlic Brewery & Taproom with Ranch Pizza

Peanut butter and jelly, ketchup and mustard, and continuing this classic pairing: beer & pizza. Located in Southwest Portland, Baerlic Brewery is touted as stubbornly independent & brewer owned. It has that nostalgic neighborhood feel that never gets old. A large open space sharing pizza-making and beer-pouring, you can get lost for hours chatting with good company over endless hot food and a a variety of cold craft brews.

And to say they take beer personal is an understatement.

“Our point of view comes from a belief that we are all in this together and that our actions shape our world – by being honest, we are approachable; by being consistent, we are trusted; by being considerate, we can sleep at night; and by choosing to keep it simple, we are able to do this really well.”

Baerlic Brewing Co.

It’s no wonder the look and feel of environment and product meets the human needs for closeness, for togetherness. They’ve certainly accomplished this purpose. Baerlic is probably the closest thing to Boston’s Cheers Bar as you can get at least by Portland’s standards. Everyone will get to know your name.

Baerlic Brewery & Taproom | Ranch Pizza 2239 SE 11th Ave, Portland, OR 97214

Bonus: Hopworks Urban Brewery (at Portland International Airport)

And just in case you didn’t want to the Portland fun to end, you can catch one of its finest breweries, Hopworks Urban Brewery, before boarding the plane. Nothing quite as convenient as beer-to-go and great tasting meals within easy reach at a busy international airport.

We create exceptional beer and food with sustainable business practices that protect our planet and support our community.

Hopworks Urban Brewery

You can take a bit of Portland with you to wherever you call home. Home may be where the heart is, but Portland International Airport must be where the stomach is.

Hopworks Urban Brewery PDX AIRPORT 7000 NE Airport Way, Concourse E, Portland, OR 97218

Bonus, Bonus: Coava Coffee Roasters

Cortado coffee with steamed whole milk and espresso.

Not exactly beer, but after visiting a few breweries you’ll be ready for a little caffeine fix. And wow does Coava Coffee Roasters deliver!

Their philosophy is simple:

“We focus on quality, complexity, and balance in the cup. We have invested in long-term partnerships with exceptional coffee producers and have diligently refined our craft in order to roast some of the highest scoring coffees in the world. It’s an honor to share them with you.”

Coava Coffee Roasters

They’re famous for their cortado coffee, a beverage roughly 1:1 ratio of espresso to steamed milk compared to the traditional latte (which consists of a lot more milk). Tip: go for whole steamed milk — makes for a much fuller, frothier cortado that’ll warm you up nicely in the cold, wet Pacific Northwest weather.

Coava Coffee Roasters 2631 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214

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New Libation Nation Channel on YouTube

Check out the new Libation Nation Channel on YouTube. New episodes of podcasts, interviews, brewery tours, and travel guide to come. 

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Libation Nation YouTube Channel

Check out the new Libation Nation Channel on YouTube. New episodes of podcasts, interviews, brewery tours, and travel guide to come. 

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