Portland’s Ex Novo

Photo © Adam Sawyer

By Adam Sawyer

Portland’s love affair with craft beer is well documented. As home to 70-plus microbreweries and counting, the city has certainly earned the moniker of Beervana. The brewpubs of Portland all strive for excellence but prioritize how they get there in different ways. As it should be, brewing a lineup of outstanding beer is the core competency for any microbrewery. But then things jump around a bit in terms of what’s important. How much does a quality food menu matter? Location, ambiance, patio seating, entertainment amenities, and the list goes on. But for one brewpub in Portland, a new priority that wasn’t on anybody else’s radar shares top billing with their beer. And that priority is the greater good.

Ex Novo is the world’s first non-profit brewery. You read that correctly. 100% of the net profits go to local and worldwide organizations that work to effect positive social change. The current lineup consists of the Mercy Corps, Friends of the Children, International Justice Mission, and Impact NW. Though as time goes on, new charitable organizations will cycle in and out as fundraising goals are met. Meaning ‘from scratch,” Ex Novo is not quite two years old yet but has established itself as a brewpub of repute in Portland, and not just because of their charitable inclinations.

Being a non-profit is undoubtedly admirable, but let’s face it – if you’re a microbrewery and your beer isn’t up to par, especially in the Northwest, the chances of success aren’t good. Fortunately for Ex Novo, the beer isn’t just good, it’s award-winning. At the 2016 Oregon Beer Awards, their Nevermore Black Barleywine won the gold medal in the Flavored Beer category. Utilizing cacao nibs from local chocolate maker Moonstruck, the 12.5 ABV brew is a 12-ounce snifter of balanced but powerful decadence. And if top-tier beer and social consciousness weren’t enough, the cuisine at Ex Novo is arguably as good as any brewpub with a food menu. Their offerings include a number of traditional items accentuated by elevated pub fare dishes like Warm Confit Brussel Sprouts and Braised Beef Cheek Sandwich.

Portland might be the most competitive market for beer makers anywhere. Based on food and beer alone, Ex Novo would be a standout brewpub in a hyper-competitive market. But the added resume bullet of being the world’s first non-profit brewery puts them in a class all their own. exnovobrew.com