Thebeerchaser in the South – Part I

Atlanta's wonderful Piedmont Park - a short walk from Mid-town.

Atlanta’s wonderful Piedmont Park – a short walk from Mid-town.

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We had company on our walk in Piedmont Park!

My wife and I spent twelve wonderful days on a road trip through Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina in May.  We stayed in Atlanta, Asheville N.C, Charleston and Savannah.  The people, history, food and beer were all memorable as were the sixteen bars and brewpubs that we visited in Thebeerchaser’s continuing journey.

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We started the trip in Atlanta – staying in Midtown, where we had a fine dinner (twice!) at Max’s Wine Dive – which also had some good beer.  Their fried chicken was outstanding.

2015-04-18 17.38.57This was after a Happy Hour cocktail at the The Nook on Piedmont Park – voted “Best Patio Bar in Atlanta” for obvious reasons and a good selection with thirteen beers on tap.

The first of our outstanding food experiences in the South - at Maxs

The first of our outstanding food experiences in the South – at Maxs’

And our favorite beer on the entire trip where we encountered some great breweries – especially in Asheville – was from the Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta.  Everywhere we went in Georgia people were drinking and raving about Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale.

We checked to see if we could buy it in Oregon, but they don’t distribute west of the Mississippi.  Our remedy – taking one of the bottles in the six-pack we bought, stuffing it in a tennis shoe and checking one bag on the plane so we could at least talk about it when we came home.

Sweetwater 420 - Just Do It!

Sweetwater 420 – Just Do It!

We also had a beer and enjoyed the ambiance of the bar right below our hotel – the Eleventh Street Pub.

A nice little pub by the hotel

A nice little pub by the hotel

 

First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta

First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta

Our first Sunday started with church in the historic First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta  – a good experience and we found, as we tried to look inconspicuous in the back row, that people still dress up for church in the South!

The history in Atlanta is more compelling than the urban attractions and we visited, with awe, the Martin Luther King Center including a guided tour through his childhood house – we learned that he did everything he could to escape piano lessons….He and his wife were remarkable and their impact on America is well chronicled in this memorial.

“The King Library and Archives at the Center is the largest repository of primary source materials on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement in the world.”  

MLK Birthplace

MLK Birthplace

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The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum was in a beautiful setting and impressive as was the Atlanta History Center.  The amazing Atlanta Cyclorama and History Museum were also worth the time:

“Visitors view the cylindrical painting from the inside, entering through an entrance in the floor. After being seated, the central cylinder rotates slowly, affording a view of the entire painting (of the Battle of Atlanta). The painting at one time was the largest oil painting in the world, and if unrolled would measure 42 feet (13 m) high by 358 feet (109 m) long.” (Wikipedia)

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We absorbed the history in Atlanta and after picking up our traveling companions – Jeff and Susan Nopper, we traveled to North Carolina after picking up our traveling companions.  We spent a day in Great Smoky National Park – America’s most visited National Park.

Clingman's Dome

Clingman’s Dome

The Blue Ridge Parkway was a beautiful route to the Smoky’s, but although very scenic and after ascending to the tallest point on the Appalachian Trail at Clingman’s Dome (6,643 feet), the range seemed a bit limited compared to what we have with our 10,000 to 14,000 foot peaks in the West.

The Appalachian Trail - Where's Reese Witherspoon....?
The Appalachian Trail – Where’s Reese Witherspoon….?

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And on to “Beer City USA” – at least that’s how Asheville, North Carolina advertises itself – perhaps not realizing the fact that Portland’s 85 breweries surpasses the 13 in Asheville (not counting the New Belgium facility that will come on line later in 2015) although there are 20 others as mentioned in the “Western North Carolina Beer Guide” that lays out the Asheville Ale Trail.

Nevertheless, it is a charming and beautiful city with great beer: 2015-04-23 20.00.30

Wisdom from Beer City

Wisdom from Beer City

“With so many great breweries, taprooms and brewpubs, it’s easy to see why Asheville, North Carolina won the crown of “Beer City, USA” for four years in a row, handily beating out national heavyweights like Portland, Boston and San Diego in a popular nationwide survey.”                         

Time precluded the Ale Trail journey, but we did have a wonderful meal and great beer at the Wicked Weed Brewery (over 25 house beers on tap and fantastic burgers).

The Wicked Weed - Great food and a good selection of beers

The Wicked Weed – Great food and a good selection of beers

 

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The next evening we had a superb pizza and several of the “unfiltered, naturally carbonated and additive free beers” from the Lexington Avenue Brewery.   (The Eleanor’s Rye – Red Ale was memorable.)

The Lexington Avenue Brewpub

The Lexington Avenue Brewpub

2015-04-22 21.17.48

 

 

The people in Asheville were fabulous.  First, we met a gentlemen named Dana Stonestreet, Chairman, President and CEO of Home Trust Bank, the fifth largest community bank headquartered in North Carolina, who saw us standing outside a restaurant.  He said “hello” and then spent no less than twenty minutes advising us about everything we should do in his city. Dana was the epitome of Southern hospitality.

Vestal, Janet and Susan and Jeff Nopper at the Tourist game
Vestal, Janet and Susan and Jeff Nopper at the Tourist game

Then we met another Southern gentlemen we will remember for a long time.  We wanted to take in a minor league game in Asheville’s impressive McCormick Field, so we saw the Single-A Asheville Tourists play the Hickory NC Crawdads on a beautiful evening.

Both parking lots were full and as we passed a VIP parking lot – fairly empty of cars – we stopped and said to the attendant, “We came from Oregon to see the Tourists play.”  At which point, Vestal Caldwell responded, “I guess that means you should park in my lot and take these discount tickets.”  So Jeff and Susan Nopper and the two of us, sat in box seats for a total of $18.

Tourists vs. Crawdads at McCormick Field

Tourists vs. Crawdads at McCormick Field

In the fourth inning, Vestal slid into the vacant seat next to me and regaled me with stories of his career in Naval Intelligence, his purchase of twenty-two acres outside Asheville in which he grows apples and then pointed out a lady sitting by the dugout.

“She was my third-grade sweetheart and owns a Bed and Breakfast and provides free lodging to three of the Tourist players, so she gets a season ticket.”

Jack of the Woods entertainment

Jack of the Woods entertainment

We only had three days in Asheville, so time constraints precluded some additional visits to the charming watering holes and brewpubs.

But before leaving we enjoyed a beer and the vocal group at the Jack of the Woods Public House, including a nice chat with the owner of the pub:

“On a typical evening at Jack’s you’ll find many of the patrons gathered around the black walnut bar or at long wooden tables engaged in conversation. Others play darts or scan the papers while sipping a pint or munching on a plate of fish and chips. P1030364

When local musicians are fiddling away on Irish reels or picking some old-time mountain music in the corner, you can blink your eyes and imagine yourself in the Celtic Isles or an early American tavern.”

Asheville –  We shall return!

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Beerchaser Miscellany – A Compendium of Trivia and Bar-related Information

fireworks beerchaser miscellany with beer glassPeriodically Thebeerchaser blog has a post that departs from reviewing a single bar, tavern or pub and attempts to update you on various topics that may be of interest:

Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Tavern and Pubs –  Initiated in August, 2011, this blog  recorded its 50,000 view on June 9th.   On that date, 51 individuals viewed 71 different Beerchaser posts.  The count included ten visitors from eight different countries including Germany, Australia, Nigeria, the Czech Republic and Coasta Rica. They hit the blog as a result of internet searches.

The 121 individual blog posts since inception (each averaging about 1,500 words) comprise reviews of 63 Portland establishments, in addition to about 71 watering holes in Europe, Colorado, Alaska, Eastern and Central Oregon, Washington, the Oregon Coast and the Southeastern US (not yet posted).

Jud after patrol 65

Cpt. Blakely USMC – after patrol in 1966

This blog has also “honored” twenty-two individuals or groups as Beerchaser-of-the-Month or Quarter ranging from authors, to academics to athletes to those directly connected with beer such as the Beer Goddess (Lisa Morrison) in April 2015.  Perhaps two of the most auspicious are Art Vandelay – CEO of Vandelay Industries and the crew of the USS Constitution.

Jud Blakely, besides being a hero for his actions in combat during the Viet Nam War and an excellent athlete and writer – as documented when he was named Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in September 2013 – is also a whiz at using technology to communicate.

He is the talent behind the second and current Beerchaser logo and also responsible for the new “business cards” below – I often get requests from those I meet in watering holes to give them the blog address.  (Jud’s creativity is exemplified by the slogan on the back of the card.)

Front and back of new "business cards"

Front and back of new “business cards”

And Thebeerchaser traffic has increased…….Counts and averages for the last four years are as follow:

August – December 2011:  an average of 150 per month

2012:  6,703 views for an average of 558 per month

2013: 15,224 views for an average of 1,269 per month

2014: 18,098 views for an average of 1,508 per month

January through June 2015:  average per month has been 1,701

Bar Closings – A Concern Says Whom?  – I noted with interest a December 2014 article in Willamette Week entitled, “Closing Time” with a subheading, “2014 Was Barmageddon in Portland.”  The article maintained that the closing of notable bars such as Slab Town (reviewed in October 2013), Produce Row, the East Bank Saloon, and others such as Tiga, is the “canary in the coal mine.”  It quoted one bartender as stating, “Every good bar, everything you see is going under.  Everything is going straight to shit,”  

Slabtown - Gone but not Forgotten..

Slabtown – Gone but not Forgotten..

However, the good news is that the article may have vastly overstated the situation.   Anecdotally, Thebeerchaser in multiple visits to the nine PDX bars reviewed so far in 2015, ranging from dive bars such as the Yamhill Pub to genteel venues such as the Pope House Bourbon Lounge to the most recent historic gem, Kelly’s Olympian – has witnessed robust and enthusiastic crowds.

Step up to Joe's Cellar - now reopened

Step up to Joe’s Cellar – now reopened

And bars, like the mythical Phoenix, have a tendency to rise from the ashes.  For example, Joe’s Cellar reviewed September 2011, closed because of structural issues and was reportedly gone for good.  It reopened within a year and is now going strong.

The East Bank Saloon, a 36-year venue, was closed earlier this year and was reopened last month as “the blockbuster new bar” Bit House Saloon.  (“Look for barrel-stave flooring, lots of brick and brass, an atrium and big French doors blowing out to a new fire pit in the back.”)    The same scenario occurred with the Grand Café (reviewed in January 2013) whose proprietor was the well known, albeit controversial icon, Frank the Flake Peters, when he retired.  It closed but has now reopened as the Pour Sports Bar and Grill.

The Not-so-Grand Departure of the Grand Cafe

The Not-so-Grand Departure of the Grand Cafe

A WW article late last year speculated that the historic treasure – the Skyline Tavern (reviewed in January 2014)would be closed and the property developed.  The paper recently updated the news and reported that Scott Ray Becker, a local filmmaker, is the new owner and he plans to improve the bar including serving quality food rather than just micro-wave popcorn and pre-packaged sandwiches.  Produce Row has also reopened.

And there’s Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby, who previously have done wonders refurbishing or resurrecting  bars such as Club 21 (reviewed in September 2014) which replaced a lackluster predecessor.

They also opened Gold Dust Meridian (reviewed in October 2012) and the Double Barrel (reviewed in April 2015) – all of which have been visited (multiple times!) by TheBeerchaser and were great bars.

The refurbished Sandy Hut, is the latest example of their genius, and the changes to this historic dive bar  will ensure that the beloved “Handy Slut” will serve a lot more PBR in future years. “..the sort of rearrangement a mother might give her son’s bedroom after he finally moves out: scrub the stink out of the carpets, move some furniture around and open a damn window.” Willamette Week 6/24-30/2015

The "Handy Slut" is refurbished and cleaned up - so to speak.....
The “Handy Slut” is refurbished and cleaned up – so to speak…..

Not to belabor the point, but let’s also consider the new Loyal Legion Bar – scheduled to open in July 2015 at Southeast Sixth and Alder, (“….about 120 seats clustered around a circular bar with kegs kept in a 50-foot long walk-in cooler in the basement .”) serving 99 beers in the historic building formerly housing the Police Athletic Association.

Or there is the once resurrected Bitter End Saloon on West Burnside – a Portland Timbers bar reopened in 2013 – closed again in April 2015, but evidently to be reincarnated again – as St. Helens a new bar.

Ecliptic - one of the 58 in Portland - with more on the way.....

Ecliptic – one of the 58 in Portland – with more on the way…..

And what about breweries and brewpubs?  Portland now has more than any other city in the world – last year, according to the Oregon Brewers’ Guild, 28 new breweries opened in the Portland metro area.  The total is now 83.

Many bemoaned the acquisition of Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing by Annheiser Busch; however, shortly thereafter they opened a new 6,200 square foot pub in Portland on NW Flanders seating 175, with plans for a rooftop beer garden this summer .

Those like Thebeerchaser, who love the unique character and ambiance of Portland’s 750 + bars and taverns,  should be more concerned with trends such as Burgerville, Starbucks, Music Millenium and theaters serving beer – “Entering a movie theater that doesn’t serve alcohol feels like finding a dry county in Nevada.  (“It’s now) get your ticket, get your popcorn, get your pint.   In fact, it suggests that very soon, theaters which serve beer and wine will soon outnumber those which don’t.”

I hope your join me in believing that people should drink their beers at their neighborhood bar – not at a fast food joint, a coffee shop run by an international corporation or a Regal Cinema.  As quoted previously in this blog:

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.”  Samuel Johnson

“A bar is better than a newspaper for public discussion.” Author, Jim Parker

This is not to suggest that bar closures such as Slabtown, with its rich history, are not a loss and sterile corporate brew pubs don’t come close to replacing a venerable neighborhood bar.   However, there are still a lot of new establishments ready to garner a loyal clientele and join the idiosyncratic hole-in-the-walls just waiting to become the new Cheers.  The Lost and Found started by two female entrepreneurs in 2013 in North Portland is a great example.  Another one – Shift Drinks – recently founded by two former Multnomah Whiskey Library employees on SW Morrison.  Another trend is the advent of cider bars.P1020400

I will close this section with evidence from my own journey.  In almost four years, I have reviewed 63 different bars and pubs in Portland. (And almost all of them were memorable…)

Only 29 of these made the “2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide” – their reporters’ 125 favorite watering holes.  I am not worried about running out of establishments to visit on my continuing journey…..!

What About the Lawyers – I have talked to a number of lawyers for whom brewing was initially a hobby – until they realized that they enjoyed their avocation more than practicing law and are now an integral part of the craft brewing scene in Portland.  Examples are the owner of the Occidental Brewery in St. Johns and Kevin Brannon, now a partner in the new Beaverton venue, Brannons’ Pub and Brewery. There are others as well.

It’s also interesting to note how attorneys who are still practicing law are also getting involved in the micro-craft industry.  Even in 2010, the Portland Business Journal reported, “Oregon law firms are swallowing huge chunks of business as the state’s alcohol industry continues to thrive.  The workload of attorneys representing wine, beer and liquor distillery interests have jumped between 20 percent and 30 percent during the last year.”  (PBJ 11/19/2010)

American_Bar_Association_svgGiven some of the developments in the legal profession, perhaps the lawyer-to-brewer scenario will become a trend and lead to new “bars.”   An example is reported in the ABA Newsletter, which cites the Washington D.C. lawyer who is ending his law practice to open a gourmet grilled cheese establishment combined with a wine bar.  “Law lends itself to a certain kind of creativity, but this is a whole different thing.” (ABA Newsletter 2/26/2014)

And as Long as We Are on the Topic of Lawyers – My thirty-five + years  working with lawyers at the Oregon State Bar and the Schwabe Williamson firm made me appreciate the passion, intelligence, commitment to civic and charitable service and communication skills of most of the individuals in this honorable profession.  And one of the most interesting traits is their unabashed creativity in defending their position –  some people mistake this for arrogance…..

An outstanding firm with great lawyers....
An outstanding firm with great lawyers….

 Two of my favorite examples occurred a number of years ago, but are still good examples – both involve prominent Portland attorneys  and the accounts were reported in The Oregonian at the time.  The third is from the weekly American Bar Association newsletter – always a good source of bizarre legal stories

Akin Blitz : While driving his German luxury car over a mountain pass and trying to get ahead of multiple vehicles including an RV – he asserted in court with a Powerpoint presentation supporting his position – that he had no idea  he was traveling  76 mph in a 55 mph zone because of the vehicle’s “handling characteristics.”  The judge, in fining him $182, informed him that Mr. Blitz – not the automaker was at fault.

Marc AbramsEven more creative, this former Portland School Board member, explained his 88 mph speed (in a 65 mph zone) on Interstate 84 by the fact that he was following a deputy sheriff.  Making the case more interesting was the deputy’s response that he was going 75 mph when Abrams first started following him and the deputy increased to 88 mph before he cited Abrams who continued to follow him.  In a two-page letter to the court defending his actions the lawyer stated:

“I therefore have no basis to know my speed, having simply assumed I was within the limits on the basis of actions of the officer who subsequently cited me for doing precisely what he was doing.”

To bolster his position and because at the time, he was an Oregon Senior Assistant Attorney General, the intrepid lawyer offered a second defense  – a statute that he asserted gave him immunity as a Justice Department employee (he was driving to Pendleton to meet with another lawyer on a State case).  Unfortunately, neither the judge nor Abrams’ boss at the time – Attorney General Hardy Myers – agreed with this rationale.   One of Myers’ Deputy AGs reportedly wrote in an interoffice memo that

  • The DOJ disagreed with this interpretation of ORS 464.530.
  • Abrams was not authorized to represent to the court that his argument reflects the views of the AG’s office.
  • The AG does not believe that any part of the state law immunizes the department’s employees from prosecution for traffic offenses.

The good news (at least for Abrams) was that the police officer cited him for the 75 mph speed and his ticket was $97 rather than $145 it would have been for the higher figure. (Based on the dollar amounts, you can tell that this was a number of years ago!)

scales of justice from italy

Texas Lawyer, Martin Zimmerman:  When his drunken driving defendant client blamed Zimmerman for his conviction (he didn’t remember his client’s name during jury selection, called no witnesses and fell asleep during the trial.)

“Zimmerman blamed sleep apnea for his naps during the trial….but defended his courtroom performance (rating it) an eight or nine out of ten……Zimmerman is planning on running for a judgeship next year, but he told the (Texas Express News) he doesn’t expect his napping to affect the election.” (ABA newsletter 9/18/13)

Deadwood, South Dakota (circa 1890)

Deadwood, South Dakota (circa 1890)

And Maybe a Lawyer Should be Retained by this Saloon – While Republican Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee has adopted the campaign manifesto “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” a Deadwood, South Dakota saloon has a slight deviation (so to speak).

As reported last year by the Associated Press, his business complex would include a gun shop, pawn shop and a combined shooting range/bar offering expensive cigars to be named The Bullets and Beer Saloon.  (Evidently his plans were successful as the link above is for the home page of their website)

“It’s all the things I like: alcohol, tobacco and firearms,” he stated.

To assuage those concerned about safety, he stated, No one shoots or handles a real gun unless they can blow a 0.00 on a breathalyzer.”   Furthering his business case, the proprietor also offers a simulator used to train law enforcement officers interactively.   “We’re not using live ammo or a live gun or anything like that……It’s almost like gun karaoke.”

And the Deadwood City Council is doing its part by requiring no more than 50% of the business income can be derived from alcohol sales.

Beerchasing on the Springwater Trail

Beerchaser, David Dickson on the Springwater Trail

Beerchaser, David Dickson on the Springwater Trail

Last month, to offer a respite on an 18 mile bike ride along Portland’s wonderful Springwater Trail, Beerchaser regular, David Dickson, and I stopped on the return loop to have lunch and a brewski at the Springwater Station – a great dive bar on 82nd Ave. where the bike corridor crosses.

“From the looks of the building design, both inside and out, this bar/restaurant must have been a beautiful place 20 or so years ago.   It is not currently a dive bar – but just give it a couple more years of neglect and it will easily fall into that category.” (Yelp June 2013)

The Springwater Saloon

The Springwater Station

April, the friendly and informative bartender, who also tends bar at Area 52“a blues bar with great jazz,” located in the Woodstock neighborhood on SE 52nd Str. filled us in.

David and I sat at the bar with some friendly regulars and consumed a draft beer while wolfing down a wonderful three-piece fish and chips special for the unbelievable price of $4.50.  (We decided to splurge rather than opt for the two-piece option for $3.50.)  If you are cycling or jus driving SE 82nd, stop and say hello to April.

April, the friendly bartender

April, the friendly bartender

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pope and High “Mash” *

Like Being in Kentucky

Like Being in Kentucky

Those who have had a drink and/or some of the quality southern-style food at the Pope Bourbon House Lounge are virtually unanimous about the setting:

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“I give Pope House a 5 star for ambiance alone! It’s the perfect place to grab a drink on a nice summer day in PDX. .”  Yelp 5/10/15 

Find your way there on a sunny day and it’s not so different than a Kentucky porch swing.”  Willamette Week 2014 Bar Guide

Dan Swift, server - Danielle, Dan Eller and Mike Jones

Dan Swift, server – Danielle, Dan Eller and Mike Jones

And after “paying penance” recently at two dive bars – one, the Yamhill Pub, that was grungy beyond belief and the other, the Low Brow Lounge, in which the bartender and servers set new standards for surliness, it was a pleasure to visit this wonderful old Victorian house in NW Portland.

And Danielle, our server, was friendly and prompt – as was the case with Miles, the bar manager, who was very knowledgeable and helpful with background information.  In fact, Miles, who has worked at the Pope for six years – after the prior martini bar (The Brazan Bean) closed and Joel Carson, a lifelong Portlander and his partner – a lady from Kentucky opened what became one of Bourbon Review ‘s “55 Best Whiskey Bars in America” (2013-14)

One of Bourbon Review's 55 Best
One of Bourbon Review’s 55 Best

I was accompanied by two Beerchaser Regulars –  Schwabe Williamson attorney, Dan Eller and Merrill Lynch financial adviser, Mike Jones, in addition to a novice – commercial real estate guru, Dan Swift of Cushman & Wakefield.  On a sweltering afternoon, we thought it was a good idea to bring Dan because of his statement, “Bourbon is a good way to chase the taste of all that water I drink when it is hot.”

Miles is a celebrity, of sorts, and knows his spirits: “You may recognize Miles, the scruffy and amiable bartender who has appeared on local Fox network affiliate KPTV’s show “Good Day Oregon” to give some mixology pointers.”  (About.com Travel)

One of the nice features of the old structure is the multiple room or alcoves which provide some muffling of the sound and allow a conversation.  The patio is wonderful and on the ground level there is a separate bar – The Downs (open on Fridays and Saturdays and for private parties) that one reviewer labeled, “One of the closest things to a speakeasy type lounge (without being a speakeasy) we have in NW Portland.”

The "Brain Trust" killing some brain cells on the patio

The “Brain Trust” killing some brain cells on the patio

Distinctive Characteristics

The cocktails (and the beer…) – the Pope has an impressive list of cocktails: “Ask Miles and the rest of the knowledgeable staff to send some of those pointers your way and to craft something for you based on your predispositions. And check on the special barrel-aged cocktails and various infusions in the works.”  (About.com Travel) 

Three of the nine Happy Hour Specials

Three of the nine Happy Hour Specials

We tried several of their nine Happy Hour Specials : the Palm Beach Special (gin, sweet vermouth and grapefruit)Black Ginger (jim bean black, ginger syrup and soda), the Hot Toddy (bourbon, lemon, honey and spices) and our group’s favorite – the Half Man (4 roses bourbon, vermouth, rocks, twist). 

The Pope also has fourteen other cocktails and six Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.  And for good measure, nine rotating draft beers!

P1030506The Bourbon Derby – while the cocktails are great, the Pope is very serious about its bourbon.   As proof, check out the numerous horseshoe plaques hanging on the walls commemorating those who are “winners” of the Bourbon Derby – partaking of fifty different bourbons (not necessarily in one setting). 

And there are formal rules to garner the plaque and a lifetime discount at the Pope, to wit: “Bourbon purchases must be full shots for full purchase price to qualify. Half shots, tasters, flights, and cocktails do not count…” 

and

“Only bourbons count – Scotch Whiskeys, Canadian Whiskeys, American Whiskeys, and other liquors do not.”

The Bourbon Derby is "wildly popular."

The Bourbon Derby is “wildly popular.”

The number of plaques affirms Mile’s statement that the Derby has been “wildly popular.”  Derby membership comprises about an equal number of males and females and one can’t help but be amazed at Christine Vu, the only Three Bagger (150 different bourbons).

Chris Stearns - Three Bagger - he takes "My Old Kentucky Home literally."

Christine Vu – Three Bagger – she takes “My Old Kentucky Home literally.”

 

 

A little detective work reveals that Christine “walks the talk” as she is the Co-chair of the Portland chapter of Women Who Whiskey – an experimental whiskey club for women started in New York City and whose mission is:

“Both for amateurs and connoisseurs, Women Who Whiskey gives our members the opportunity to learn about varieties of whiskeys and cocktail culture, and to join a network of young women with a taste for curiosity and strong drinks. We host events in different venues around our chapter cities, where members can try new spirits, discuss mixology with seasoned bartenders, and enjoy the company of other whiskey-loving ladies.”

P1030507No one could question her commitment, most notably because a shot of traditional old standards (Four Roses, Old Crow, etc.) runs between $5 to $14   My favorite “Rebel Yell” was a reasonable $6 while the “Top Shelf” bourbons included A.H. Hirsch Reserve (16-year) where a 1 ounce shot would cost you $100.  Or if you want to sample a variety of whiskeys, try one of their eight “Flights” ranging from $14 to $55 for three half-pours.

And at the Pope, they take their craft seriously with special events such as an Annual Kentucky Derby Party with “music, mint juleps, and the big race!”  – also a hat contest.  Miles even teaches a class – Bourbon 101 (“The class combines great information about  ‘America’s Native Spirit’, samplings of different bourbons, and light appetizers in The Downs at the Pope House.”)  So if you have a group of six, who for $60 each want to learn from the experts, sign up.

Small alcoves or rooms provide a nice ambiance and minimize the noise

Small alcoves or rooms provide a nice ambiance and minimize the noise

The Food  – While we did not sample the food, reviews are very positive and those around us on the patio who were eating echoed their approval of the presentation and the menu selection.

It is a very nice combination with a “Down South” emphasis ranging from hush-puppies to Texas Frito pie to jambalaya to catfish and chips and a lot more. The prices are very reasonable especially during Happy Hour (daily from 4:00 to 7:00 and all-day on Sunday).

The themed art is a nice touch

The themed art is a nice touch

If one is looking for a criticism of this establishment, it would have to be that the parking can be a challenge.  That said, after reviewing over 100 Portland bars, taverns and brewpubs on Thebeerchaser’s Tour since 2011, the Pope was clearly one of my favorites – combining a quality environment, knowledgeable and friendly staff, a great selection of beer, cocktails and whiskey and great food – definitely worth a short to moderate walk from your car.

Mike Jones and Dan Eller - also fans of the Pope (even if they are Protestant)

Mike Jones and Dan Eller – also fans of the Pope (even if they are Protestant)

 

 

That said and without Thebeerchaser trying to give management advice to a staff that clearly is ahead of the curve, the Pope might want to consider implementing a shuttle service from an area which would allow patrons to leave their vehicles away from the bustling NW 21st Avenue parking nightmare.

And what better method of shuttling than to use a vehicle based on an internationally famous prototype – The Popemobile.  And no need on this model for bullet-proof glass or space for those transported to stand.   It might be advisable to have the driver avoid wearing a white hat, but you get the idea.

Brand-name shuttle transportation

Brand-name shuttle transportation

The Pope Bourbon Lounge

2075 NW Glisan

 

Sour mash is a process in the distilling industry that uses material from an older batch of mash to start fermentation in the batch currently being made, analogous to the making of sourdough bread. The term sour mash can also be used as the name of the type of mash used in that process, and a whiskey made using this process can be referred to as a sour mash whiskey. Sour mash does not refer to the flavor of the whiskey, as is sometimes thought.  (Wikipedia)

 

Tall Tales and Highballs (okay-beer!) at the Low Brow Lounge

 

The Low Brow and the Pearl District - An Inherent Contradiction in Terms??

The Low Brow in the Pearl District

Perhaps there should be some recognition for a watering hole that was voted, “Best Portland Dive Bar” back in Willamette Week’s 2005 Readers’ Poll and still, amidst the burgeoning high-rise condos and pretentious shops and eateries in the Pearl District, retains its reputation as a dive bar in 2015.  (Note: The Sandy Hut and Marathon Taverna, both reviewed by Thebeerchaser were second and third place in 2005.)

Note this review from Willamette Week’s 2015 Bar Guide:

“Low Brow Lounge didn’t land in the Pearl, the Pearl landed on Low Brow Lounge. Once just another dive proudly declaring its lack of pretension, the bar has, somewhat miraculously, survived long enough to take up the mantle as an oasis of indelicacy freaking out the nouveau-riche squares filling the condos that have sprouted up around it in the last decade.”    

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A dive amidst the high rises…..

Thebeerchaser ended up at the Low Brow Lounge at the suggestion of his daughter’s boyfriend, Ryan Keene, who established some credibility in bar discernment by previous Beerchasing events at Sniff Cafe, Quimbys and Club 21.  Ryan is a very good athlete and enterprising young man as well as a good drinking companion.

Ryan, Ron (in the shadows) and Sam with Thebeerchaser logo

Ryan, Ron (in the shadows) and Sam with Thebeerchaser logo

 

Also joining us were Dr. Sam HollowayUniversity of Portland professor and his dad, Portland attorney, Ron Holloway, who first crossed paths with Thebeerchaser in his freshman year at Oregon State University, when Ron, a junior, was his room-head in the SAE fraternity house.  (More on that chronicled history below.)

The student reviews of Dr. Holloway are overwhelmingly superb and Ryan, enjoyed his interesting lectures.  He was also reassured after a conference with Sam in which the good professor admonished him, “Remember, 50% of all students are below average….”

P1030256Ryan had been to the Low Brow before and it was close to the senior Holloway’s digs in the Pearl.   Arriving on a Friday afternoon, we passed on the their signature dish – chicken breasts and tater tots – they label them , “Tits and Tots,” and ordered beers and the more mundane but equally unhealthy  – tots and mini-corndogs.

The Low Brow fits the general definition of a dive bar (see Beerchaser post “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First.”) and it reminded both Ron Holloway and me of similar venues in which we matriculated while in college in Corvallis – Price’s Tavern, The Peacock and Don’s Den, to name the most popular, but certainly not all the bars.

An Ashley Montague mural
An Ashley Montague mural

The Low Brow was not totally absent of class and the mural on the external west wall by Portland artist Ashley Montague  was distinctive.  (His work consists mostly of commissioned murals on authorized walls, like the side of Lowbrow Lounge or the wall at Chapter 24 Vineyards)

 

Otherwise, it was the typical dive environment including pinball machines, a Wonder Woman mural, some memorabilia and a curious four-foot high Miller High Life bottle with thousands of bottle caps in it.

Bartenders to busy to tell the story behind this artifact

Bartenders to busy to tell the story behind this artifact

The reviews of the Low Brow often have comments about surly bartenders and it appeared that those working that day fit the mold – also one reason that I have no explanation for the Miller bottle cap collection.  In almost every watering hole visited by Thebeerchaser – even in the grungiest dive such as the Yamhill Pub, the bartenders are friendly and willing to share some stories or chat about their bar.

Not so with the Low Brow, which is one reason this blog post is written after just one rather than the customary two or three visits.

Others agree as evidenced by the following:

“…..bartenders so perfectly surly they must be coached in unpleasantness.”  Portland Barfly

“……the bouncer—who looks about one phone call away from being arrested for loitering.”  Willamette Week 2014 Bar Guide

Surly bartenders.....

Surly bartenders…..

“The new, extremely rude, bartenders have ruined this once great dive bar destination and as a result this place is now the most uncomfortable bar in the city.”  Yelp review 3/9/15

That said, any time one can drink cheap PBR, stuff down fried food and share tales (both true and concocted) with old (and in Sam’s case) new friends, is memorable.  Thus, I’ll end this post by focusing on the company.

Sam Holloway

Dr. Sam Holloway

Dr. Sam Holloway

Sam Holloway (who in an unprecedented early disclosure by Thebeerchaser, will be featured in June as the 20th Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter) is a well-educated gent.  His first degree was in physics from Willamette University, followed by an MA in teaching from Pacific University and finally his Ph.D. at the U of O.  This excerpt from the summary of his credentials at University of Portland conveys the breadth of experience for a young guy:

“Professor at the University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business Administration. Prior to completing his Ph.D. in management, Sam’s professional appointments spanned a wide array of industries, countries, and areas of expertise. These positions include being an estimator in the U.S. highway bridge construction industry, teaching advanced physics in Prague, Czech Republic, and teaching secondary mathematics in Beaverton, Oregon.

 He has received several teaching awards, including being named the outstanding graduate student teacher at the University of Oregon.”  

Sam was awarded tenure at UP in 2015 and as mentioned earlier, was Ryan’s favorite professor during his undergraduate days at UP – an outstanding educational institution.   He played a key part in the recent implementation of a Master Crafting Strategist Certificate – a graduate level curriculum to give craft beer industry professionals specific business training and wisdom.  800px-University_of_Portland_entrance_sign

Thebeerchaser in the forthcoming post will also discuss Sam’s reputation in the craft beer industry including consulting both nationally and internationally as a principal in his company Crafting a Strategy.

 

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Sam Holloway’s Consulting Company

 

With typical humility, Sam defers praise and said while consuming his PBR:  “I give all of the credit for my success to my parents – especially my mother and father.”

There is consensus on Sam’s genetic make-up among those of us who know both Ron Holloway and his college sweetheart and now spouse, Dinda.  While Sam may have received some of his aptitude for higher education from his dad, (Ron served for several years as Assistant Dean at Willamette University) but his intelligence, interpersonal skills and good personal appearance all emanate from his mother’s side of the family.

Ron Holloway

Ron was my room-head for several terms at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house in my freshman year at Oregon State, where “Ronnie Clyde” claims he molded me and laid the foundation for all of my future accomplishments.   He was also nicknamed “Root Beer” because to his credit, he did not drink alcohol until he was 21 (I told his son it was because he had an affinity for A & W).    He served as President of the fraternity and player-coach of our intramural C-League basketball team.  His leadership-coaching style was kind of a bizarre combination of Rutherford B. Hayes and John Calipari.  The SAE’s won the all-university championship in all three intramural leagues that year (1967).

Ron Holloway as SAE President in 1969.

Ron Holloway as SAE President in 1969.

Portland attorney, Ron Holloway

Portland attorney, Ron Holloway

Root Beer went on to law school and served as an Assistant Dean at Willamette before entering the private practice of law and in 1996 co-founding the firm of Sather, Byerly & Holloway, a successful twenty-lawyer litigation firm in Portland. 

(It should be noted that the firm’s website reference which sites the co-founders’ concern at their prior law firms for “….soaring overhead costs and the inefficiencies of an overgrown bureaucracy,” is not a reference to Thebeerchaser when he served in firm management while Ron practiced at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.)

The SAE house was loaded with ahtletic talent that year (where future OSU basketball starter, Mike Keck, and former all-state round-ballers, Bob (BA) Allard (also Pac-8 Golf Individual Champion in 1969) and South Salem’s Chris Haag made up part of the A-League squad.  The B-League roster also had several former high school all-league basketball players.

Ron and I along with teammate Craig (The Dude) Hanneman (Defensive tackle for OSU -1968 to 70 – where he was 2nd Team All American and First Team All Pac 10 and All Coast in addition to playing in the East-West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, the All America Bowl and the College All-Star Game) showed our hardwood talents in the C League.   Ron and I regaled Ryan and Sam at the Low Brow with tales of legendary exploits in high school basketball where both of us lettered in the old TYV League  – Ron at McMinnville HS and Dirt at Oregon City HS.

1966 TYV League Champions - coached by Dale Herron (Beerchaser is #10)

1966 TYV League Champions – coached by Dale Herron (Beerchaser is #12)

C-League teams were  rated low in finesse, but high in belligerence.  (Hanneman’s  personal experience in those games ingrained him with the grit for his successful post NFL business career.)

More so, the games imbued him with what he needed to become the first former NFL or NBA player to scale Mt. Everest – he accomplished that in 2012 and “Run with the Bulls” in Pamplona the next year –  he was showcased as one of the 2012 Beerchasers of the Quarter)

The Dude (right) on Mt. Everest climb

The Dude (right) on Mt. Everest climb

 ——–

It also attests to Ron’s motivational skill when as a coach, he channeled the rage Hanneman expressed during the championship game when a competitor showed poor sportsmanship and Mike Tyson-like behavior.  (Hanneman called a time-out because he was bleeding and said in the huddle,“That Beta SOB, just bit me in the shoulder.”)  The Dude went on to a triple-double in the game besides making sure the offender looked over his shoulder when he walked on campus for the next month.

Thebeerchaser and Craig Hanneman at OSU

Thebeerchaser and Craig Hanneman at OSU

Ronnie Clyde, inspired by Mike Keck’s no-look passes in the A-League games, developed his own version “the no-pass look,” where he established records – probably still standing – for most shots taken in one season. (Also the inverse record – shots taken verses shooting percentage.)

Ryan Keene

Ryan - athlete and enterpraneuer

Ryan – athlete and enterpraneuer

After graduating from the University of Portland, Ryan joined O’Neill Electric as a project manager and demonstrates his work ethic by part-time work on the weekends at Artleta Library and Bakery Cafe as well as serving as an assistant coach for the track and cross country teams at Clackamas High School.    He is an accomplished runner and was a member of the Gonzaga University Cross Country Team his first two years in college.

Laura Williams and Ryan Beerchasing at Quimbys

Laura Williams and Ryan –  Beerchasing at Quimbys

In 2013 he ran a 50K that’s 31.1 miles – ultra-marathon in Bend on the Flagline Trail. He finished 3rd overall with a time of 4:15. – that’s essentially an eight minute mile for the distance!

The first time I met Ryan’s mom, Nancy, I talked to her about his running and the conversation went something like this:

Beerchaser:  Ryan is a good athlete and his running is amazing.  How did that happen?

Nancy:  Well Ryan liked to run when he was little and in the ninth grade, he decided he was going to focus on this sport so he started running ten miles every day that summer.

Beerchaser:  Wow, ten miles every day.  That’s really dedication for someone that young.

Nancy:  Well, it sounds impressive, but it wasn’t all good.

Beerchaser:  What do you mean?

Nancy:  Well in the fall when it was time for him to start high school, we had no idea where he was……

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Another mural – this one of Wonder Woman inside the bar

We enjoyed our time at the Low Brow in spite of the environment.  Perhaps one visit is not enough to appreciate its idiosyncratic ambiance, but this comment in City Search seems to be typical.

It also explains why Thebeerchaser will look for options with more amiable staff when checking out Portland dive bars in the future.

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Used to be a decent place to wind down…A long, long time ago, in a far, far away dream.  To say the service is poor would be a compliment.  Dive bars are supposed to be nice for their local feel and charm. The Low Brow is now anything but.”

——–

Old-fashioned pin ball machines

Old-fashioned pin ball machines

Typical dive bar memorobilia
Typical dive bar memorobilia

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Low Brow Lounge    1036 NW Hoyt Street

Thebeerchaser Does Colorado – Breckenridge – The Final Chapter

Breckenridge - A Colorado city with great views and great brews.....

Breckenridge – A Colorado city with great views and brews…..

We finished our twelve-day trip to Colorado last fall with a week in a Breckenridge condo, after visiting Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.  Breckenridge, since its ski areas opened in the early 1960’s, has shed its reliance on mining and this bustling burg of about 5,000 people, is now a tourist mecca.

Breckenridge - where the skiing is superb and the beer is brewed with "altitude."
Breckenridge – where the skiing is superb and the beer is brewed with “altitude.”

 While known primarily as a winter ski resort, it is also an inviting destination when the lifts are not running.  Hiking, cycling, fishing and, of course, since this is Thebeerchaser blog, let’s not forget, lively and interesting eateries and watering holes in which to raise a mug.

A short hike on the Iowa Hill trail in Breckenridge

A short hike on the Iowa Hill Trail in Breckenridge

Based on multiple recommendations, our first night, we ate at Angel’s Hollow, in a quaint old house and which not only had outstanding food (Janet said the best minestrone soup she has ever had) but an interesting bar with friendly people from all over the US.

The Angel's Hollow

The Angel’s Hollow

 

 

 

 

 

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They included Joe, Paul, Shannon and Len, who were drinking beer with straight shots of Jamison’s as a chaser.  They wanted to buy us shots and to join them –  I did and Janet declined!.  Angel’s Hollow is also known for wonderful margaritas – understandably.

Nothing like a few shots of Jamison to break the ice......
Nothing like a few shots of Jamison to break the ice……

 

It’s co-owned by a husband and wife.  Lee, the husband is also the cook – a good one who takes no guff from unruly patrons – possibly because after attending culinary school in New York, he cooked for the Hell’s Angels for several years.

A May 2015 Yelp comment summed up this bistro quite well:

Lee, the bartender and cook (not mellowed by Hells Angel's gig)

Lee: co-owner, bartender and cook (not mellowed by Hells Angel’s gig)

 

“Amazing drinks! Killer margaritas! The music is super loud and awesome! The bartender is the most bad ass dude I’ve met in awhile and it’s like a big party in a log cabin!”

The Breckenridge commercial area is pretty compact – and not far from the slopes – so tourists are advised to refrain not only from drinking and driving, but drinking and skiing. 

Janet "pouring" over the extensive list of craft beers - notice the "PumKing" tap

Janet “pouring” over the extensive list of craft beers – notice the “PumKing” tap

 

Another nice little bar – also on Main Street – Apres Handcrafted Libations – beckoned us for a nightcap and presented a lot of choices.

“30 rotating craft taps, 40+ rotating craft bottled/canned beers, craft and small batch whiskey and the finest handcrafted cocktails in Breckenridge.” 

 

Instead of a cocktail, we split a New York beer – Southern Tier “Pumking” Ale – a great choice with a neat tap…P1020984

The next night we ate at Ollie’s Pub and Grub – a good brewpub with stand-out hamburgers – advertised as “The Best in Breck,” – and if not, they had to be close.  As usual, we sat at the bar which makes it easier to strike up conversation and met a friendly couple from Texas.

Ollies - the best burger in Breck?

Ollies – the best burger in Breck?

A short road trip the next day took us over the pass to Vale – which seemed more effete than the amiable village of Breckenridge and returned through Dillon.  The recommendations of locals held sway and we had lunch and a beer at the Dillon Dam Brewery -opened in 1997 and now with thirteen of its own beers on tap.

It advertises itself (I’m somewhat skeptical) as “The largest brew-pub in the Colorado Rockies” – but regardless if this claim is accurate, they keep their promise of brewing “Dam Good Beer” – most notably, the award-winning Chili Lager.

Dam Good Beer found here....

Dam Good Beer found here….

Two other breweries while in Breck were on the agenda for short visits – the Breckenridge Brewery and the very new Broken Compass Brewery (it was just opened in May 2014) and was pretty sparse using a ski lift seat as one of the benches……)

The former was opened in 1980 by a “typical ski bum – with one significant difference. He had a knack for making extraordinary home brew……..Breckenridge Brewery has grown from a small 3,000-barrel-a-year brewpub (and)…we now craft well over 62,000 barrels of fresh beer annually, and we operate five brewpubs and ale houses in the state of Colorado.” 

Thebeerchaser at the Breckenridge Brewery

Thebeerchaser at the Breckenridge Brewery

 

Broken Compass Brewery was founded by some home brewers with backgrounds in chemical engineering and sustainability.  The brewpub is pretty meager (see the picture below) and ambiance is lacking but……

Ski-lift chairs for furniture
Ski-lift chairs for furniture at Broken Compass

 

 

 

 

They have expanded from six to twelve beers and the reviews on the beer are good.  We met a sister and two brothers who were on a road trip from Florida to spread their mom’s ashes in the Rockies.

The last bar visited in Breck was also the most interesting and has a rich history as per the description by Dr. Thomas Noel, author of Colorado – A Liquid History and Tavern Guide to the Highest State, in his description of the Gold Pan Saloon:

Quenching the thirst of miners, skiers and residents since Rutherford B. Hayes was President!

Quenching the thirst of miners, skiers and residents since Rutherford B. Hayes was President!

“In 1880, the town had eighteen saloons and three dance halls on Main Street…..The number of saloons and mines began to taper off by 1910 when Breckenridge went into total hibernation.  

The town shrank to less than 300.   The drowsy decades ended with an avalanche of development triggered by the opening of the Breckenridge Ski Area…..in the early 1960’s.  By 1990, the town had grown to 1,285 nearly its mid-1880’s peak population.  A dozen new saloons opened, but none outshone the old Gold Pan, which has quenched Breckenridge’s thirst since 1879.” (emphasis supplied)

P1030061And I would suggest that although the bar with the same name on Mt. Rushmore Street in Custer, South Dakota, also has some stories to tell, the Breckenridge version has a more esteemed position in its contribution to the annals of American saloons.

While it is in a clapboard building and does have some flat screen TVs and pool tables, the authentic historical trappings in the two rooms (one for the restaurant and one for the bar) of the saloon are compelling.  And remember – it stayed open even during Prohibition.  P1030059

 

Dr. Noel describes the classic wooden backbars in many of America’s older bars.   The Gold Pan is no exception as described on page 32 of his book: “The Brunswick-Balke-Collander Company of St. Louis made the classic altar of Bachhus with egg-and-dart trim and Ionic columns framing a huge mirror whose centerpiece is a rusty gold pan with broken clock hands.”

Inscription in the historic backbar

Inscription in the historic backbar

 

And perhaps the stories and conversation I heard are more contemporary then those described by Tom Noel below, but they are still engaging.

My friendly bartender told me how any such job in Breckenridge is cherished –  “We work in the off-season to buy our season lift tickets…” and how the City Council is trying to adapt to marijuana initiative: “They don’t want a recreational marijuana dispensary on Main Street, but is that hypocrisy or a contradiction given the number of bars not only on this street, but the two adjoining ones running through town.”                                      P1030055

And I listened to what had to be a regular complaining to his companion about Washington politicians:  “Perhaps Obama and Congress should come out and go skiing.  Then they can see what it’s like going downhill like the rest of America.”

This compares to Dr. Noel’s personal experience in the Gold Pan in the 1970’s – his first visit:  “Before I knew it, the shaggy, huge bartender was yelling at one of our party:  ‘You calling me a liar?  I didn’t short change you, you bitch!  Here’s your money back, all of it.'”  He then kicked all Noel’s party out of the bar.

Thanks to Dr. Tom Noel - rich stories of Colorado's watering holes

Thanks to Dr. Tom Noel – rich stories of Colorado’s watering holes

Admittedly, that’s not as pugnacious as the story he relates about a more congenial Gold Pan employee named Travis who gave the following account – and given the wonderful sagas in Dr. Noel’s book (available at Amazon and one you should acquire) it is fitting to end the narrative of our twelve days in Colorado in which we visited eighteen bars and brewpubs with one final story from the good University of Colorado professor:

“The meanest S.O.B. in here was a little guy who was part Injun.  One night I saw two rednecks hassling him.  He keep telling ’em to bug off, but they wouldn’t.  They were big guys.  Finally, he had enough.  He jumped on one of the guy’s lap, grabbed his ears and bit the tip of his nose off.  He spit it out and yelled, ‘You’re lucky I’m not hungry!'”

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Part III -Thebeerchaser Does Colorado – Fort Collins and Colorado Springs

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Colorado aspens in the fall
Thebeerchaser and spouse, Janet, road-tripping in Colorado
Thebeerchaser and spouse, Janet, road-tripping in Colorado

 Followers of Thebeerchaser blog may remember the first two narratives on our Colorado trip in the fall of 2014 – a general description of the fifteen-day trip and reviews of venues in the Boulder area.

Posts about local Portland watering holes and a twelve-day trip to the Southeast (Atlanta, Asheville, Charleston and Savannah) have delayed the final posts on our trip to the highest state, but establishments in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs are below.

Professor Tom Noel's book - an invaluable Beerchaser reference
Professor Tom Noel’s book – an invaluable Beerchaser reference

  Chicago Tribune Beer and Travel Writer, Josh Noel, in an article originally published in 2010 asked and answered the question: “The air is clean and the skiing is great, but do you know what really inspires fervor in the Rockies?  —Beer.”   

(I wonder if he is related to Dr. Thomas Noel, the author of Colorado: A Liquid History and Tavern Guide to the Highest State, cited in Thebeerchaser’s previous Colorado posts as well as below?)

Josh Noel’s article describes New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins as “(setting) the standard for craft beer success. (There are now 280 breweries in Colorado)  Founded in a basement in 1991, it has become the nation’s seventh-largest brewery on the strength of its Fat Tire Amber Ale and more daring offerings…”   

A chance Oregon meeting of my wife, Janet, and New Belgium Executive, Shawn Hines (he’s worked at NB since 2003 and his official title is Field Branding Manager and Pharoah of Phlow) when he and his wife, Allison, were wine tasting in Oregon’s Yamhill Valley, yielded an invitation to visit New Belgium’s brewery and two passes to the very popular New Belgium tour.

New Belgium - a great employer and major player in the US Micro-craft industry
New Belgium – a great employer and major player in the US Micro-craft industry

 

And according to multiple sources, based on its enlightened management style and benefits, New Belgium is THE place to work in Fort Collins.  Outside Magazine named it the No. 7 in its list of Best Places to Work in 2014 and it has cracked the Top 20 list six times – named No. 1 in 2008.

The impressive Fort Collins brewery - and Asheville N.C. comes on line in late 2015

The impressive Fort Collins New Belgium brewery – and Asheville N.C. comes on line in late 2015

                        ———–

 

Any job opening has a flood of applications and there are great promotion opportunities.  Our charismatic tour guide, Marie, is living proof.  She started as a fork-lift operator in the warehouse and has now worked there almost ten  years.

Marie told us that her forthcoming one-month paid sabbatical is standard for ALL employees after ten years, as is a Fat Tire Bicycle on their first anniversary and an all-expense trip to Belgium to learn more about the brewing legacy after five years.

New Belgium guide, Marie and Janet Williams

New Belgium guide, Marie and Janet Williams

They also have a great benefit package with one unusual perk: “Co-workers also receive a 12-pack of Employee Beer each week and an opportunity to enjoy (1) shift beer after docking out after their shift.” (I guess “opportunity” means it’s not mandatory!)

I can taste the Fat Tire now.....

I can taste the Fat Tire now…..

The majority of time slots for the tour are filled for the next 2.5 months and it was interesting plus a chance to taste about seven of the beers during the 90-minute walk through their facilities.

New Belgium will open a new brewery in Asheville, North Carolina in late 2015, which will enhance its scope and distribution.  The company also has an outstanding reputation for its sustainability and environmental ethics.

Automation at New Belgium

Automation at New Belgium

Marie enthusiastically explains barrel aging on the tour

Marie enthusiastically explains barrel aging on the tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Collins, home of Colorado State University is also a typical college-town with great bars.  While time limited our selection we visited a wonderful  historic bar – The Town Pump, established in 1909 and right on College Avenue downtown.

The Town Pump - since 1909
The Town Pump – since 1909

 

According to Dr. Noel, it’s the oldest watering hole in Fort Collins and sits in an historic structure built in 1897.  “It’s a tiny, dark, old-fashioned saloon.  An armadillo greets customers from atop the miniature back-bar, and numerous other stuffed animals watch glassy-eyed from the walls …….(including) a horned bobcat on the back-bar.”

Authentic dive-bar character...
Authentic dive-bar character…

We were there on a Friday night when it was jammed with college-kids, regulars and tourists (like us).

Checking ID's on Saturday night at the Town Pump

Checking ID’s at the Town Pump

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Noel does a good job integrating history in his reviews and stated, “During Prohibition, this was a drugstore with a speakeasy in the basement.  Booze came out of the closet for good in 1936, when the drugstore was reborn as the Town Pump.  Because Fort Collins was a semi-dry town until 1969, this place was allowed to serve only 3.2 beer.”   P1020958

This fact and the idiosyncratic law prohibiting most grocery stores from selling anything but “near-beer,” evokes the quote from Prohibition years, “Whoever called it near-beer, was a poor judge of distance.”

While there were a number of other great options, we had to limit our other Fort Collins venues to dinner and beer at The Mayor of Old Town.  This pub, which was on the 2012 Draft Magazine 100 Best Beer Bars and Craftbeer.com’s Top Fifteen Beer Bars in America the same year, is locally owned.

100 Beers on Tap at the Mayor of Old Town

Like many on the Draft Magazine list it has over 100 beers on tap and is more about beer selection than ambiance although they did have good pub food and the service was excellent notwithstanding the bustling Friday night crowd.

The Mayors Bar

The Mayor’s Bar

And as we headed south to Colorado Springs, we left what has been named The Napa Valley of Beer”– the area between Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. This moniker is understandable, because it has the Coors, New Belgium and Avery breweries in addition to “six-dozen other award-winning brewpubs and micro-breweries.” (Denver Visitors’ Bureau).  It’s also called the Denver Beer Triangle.

While Colorado Springs does not compare with Fort Collins’ charm or the number and quality of bars and brewpubs, the trip there was memorable with great scenery including the impressive Garden of the Gods Park.

Thebeerchaser rests during our hike

Thebeerchaser rests during our hike

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—-

We also visited the 18,500 acre US Air Force Academy and marveled at the renowned Chapel as well as being impressed when we witnessed the 4,000+ Cadet Wing assemble and march to lunch.

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My interest in visiting the underground bunker at Cheyenne Mountain and see the nearby NORAD headquarters was squashed when I learned that they no longer have tours – somewhat understandable given the state of security in today’s world.  I guess I will have to be satisfied with what I remember from the portrayal in Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe – movies from my youth.

————

An impressive architectural vision - the Academy Chapel

An impressive architectural vision – the Academy Chapel

The Cadet Wing assembles

The Cadet Wing assembles

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In downtown Colorado Springs, we hit the Ritz Bar and Grill – this time on a Saturday night and it was rockin’.  We were attracted by the historic building and although I love beer, a good martini is an invitation not to be denied.

As Dr. Noel states in his book:

“Colorado’s largest martini can be found in the Art Deco watering hole.  Bright neon lights, marble counters and chrome fixtures are nifty……This bright high-ceilinged space in the turn-of-the-century Carleton Building retains its Roman tile floor from its former life as a music store (also a beauty saloon and barber shop according to the bartender).”

Blair and her outstanding dirty gin martini (up with olives..)

Blair and her outstanding dirty gin martini (up with olives..)

 

And Blair, our friendly bartender, mixed a great martini. The description from the Ritz website is a good description:

Saturday night at the Ritz

Saturday night at the Ritz

“The friendly, nostalgic atmosphere of the Ritz Grill has been a longtime favorite of the downtown crowd. The Ritz has been a Tejon Street hot spot for more than 15 years, and has gained notoriety for its food, cocktails, and live music……After 9 pm, the Ritz begins its transformation into downtown’s premier nightclub. Friday and Saturday, the Ritz features the best in Colorado live music with absolutely no cover charge.”

Although the menu and the food at the Ritz looked very good, we wanted to hit one more establishment before heading back to Breckenridge the next day, so we had dinner at the Phantom Canyon Brewing – a few blocks from the Ritz.

This inauspicious brewery and pub advertises as the oldest brewery in Colorado Springs – opened in 1993 – also in an historic building on the National Historic Register.

Opened in 1993

Opened in 1993

The structure, built in 1901, was the Cheyenne Building and originally the local offices of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad.  It was renovated in 1909 and re-opened as the Cheyenne Hotel.

An historic 1901 building

An historic 1901 building

They have a typical pub menu (we had delicious hamburgers and pizza ) and thirteen of their own draft beers plus a good selection of bottled beers.  We enjoyed the Inside Out Pilsner and a zesty 42 Seconds (Peppercorn Saison) which lived up to its billing -“brewed with rye and a four peppercorn blend that gives it a nice spicy character.”

And on the second floor is “the most elegant Billiard Hall in Colorado Springs” – with ten pool tables, dart boards, a jukebox and flat screens scattered throughout.

The Phantom Canyon bar

The Phantom Canyon bar

 

 

 

And one more excerpt from Tom Noel’s book:

“The unusual 1902 Brunswick backbar came from the Depot Bar in Pueblo;s Union Station.  Besides oak arches framing its mirrors, the bar has stained-glass Art Nouveau panels that are electrically backlighted, giving it a holy glow.”

The next morning we headed back to our Breckenridge condo for the final part of our Colorado stay.  The time on the road, while not lengthy, brings to mind a great quote on road trips from novelist, Lee Child in his book, Never Go Back:

“There were cities and there was countryside. There were mountains and there were valleys.  There were rivers.  There were museums and music and motels and clubs and diners and bars and buses.  There were battlefields and birthplaces and legends and roads.  There was company if I wanted it and there was solitude if I didn’t.”

An ode to Road Trips

An Ode to Road Trips

The Yamhill Pub – A Dive Bar with Character or Grunge?

the Yamhill Pub - Dive or Grunge - or is there a difference?

The Yamhill Pub – Dive or Grunge – or is there a difference?

One of the wide-ranging debates in contemporary society – rivaling that of climate change, the future of Congress as a viable institution and gun control is that of the definition of dive bars i.e. how does one determine if the PBR he is drinking is consumed in a true dive bar or a trendy hole-in-the-wall that tries to masquerade as one (or is there even a level below “dive bar”?)

Justice Stewart - probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Justice Stewart – probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Some will reference the late Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart’s threshold test for obscenity when he wrote in his legendary opinion about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” 

Others try to identify specific dive bar characteristics,as exemplified by reference sources used by Thebeerchaser in his journey to visit bars, taverns and pubs in Portland – and subsequently, other locales including Europe, Alaska, Colorado, the South and Oregon regions east of the Cascades, and on the Oregon Coast.

seattle-dive-bars

An invaluable Beerchaser reference source

For example, my favorite from pages 9-10 of Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely:

“Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom.  Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then……..But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term “dive’”is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.    

The Yukon Tavern - one of Portland's other dive bars

The Yukon Tavern – one of Portland’s other dive bars

 

Dive bars is one of the subsets of venues reviewed on the home page of this blog and of the approximately 115+ bars reviewed since August 2011, about fifteen have been so categorized including Portland’ dives the Ship Tavern, Bar of the GodsJoe’s Cellar, the Yukon Tavern and Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska to name a few.

And up North - Darwin's Theory in Anchorage

And up North – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage

 —————

The Yamhill Pub in downtown Portland is the latest addition to the class, although I would submit that this historic bar may be submerged one additional step below “dive” to “grunge,” as discussed below.  In this scholarly discussion, I will first quote in full, the summary paragraph from Portland Barfly, because it so eloquently captures the “aura.”

“A genuine dive-bar lurking midst the downtown shopping arcade, the Yamhill Pub maintains an unreconstructed seediness through blaring juke, food…

Toilet No. 1

Bathroom No. 1

(and, for that matter, toilets) best avoided, actively-encouraged graffiti upon the smoke-stained walls, pennies-a-serving pitchers, and a fiercely-protective cadre of underemployed regulars (seniors, rockers, bike messengers) willing to throw themselves in front of Hummers to prevent the forces of gentrification. Intimidating for the first-time visitor, but that’s sort of the point.”

The bar at the Yamhill
The bar at the Yamhill

 And this excerpt from one of the Bar Fly reviewers in 2011 is edifying albeit puzzling,  “Yamhill IS the  bar in all of Portland, if not the world. I love it and will never stop drinking there.” 

 

You will not find the Yamhill Pub in the annual Willamette Week Bar Guide nor will it ever be one of the five Portland watering holes in Draft Magazine’s exclusive list of Best 100 Beer Bars in the United States

I visited the Yamhill three times – once with the Portland State University Athletic Department’s erstwhile, Denny Ferguson.  He also accompanied me at prior visits to the Cheerful Tortoise and The Cheerful Bullpen.  I also had an afternoon beer on my second visit with Merrill Lynch financial wizard, Mike Jones (also a Beerchaser at the Oregon Public House).

Beerchaser Regular - Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy)
Beerchaser Regular – Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy) with Thebeerchaser logo and PBR!

 

P1030195

Beerchaser and financial wizard, Mike Jones

 

 

 

 

 

——-

What “distinguishes” the Yamhill?

The Bathrooms – the bathrooms are most often characterized with adjectives similar to this description in 2010: “Bathrooms are disgusting,” and brought current by this Yelp reviewer in 2015: “The restrooms (were) just sick,” – both patrons evidently not disturbed by the fact that one of the heads has no lock on the door.

———–

Bathroom No. 2 - also no paradise!
Bathroom No. 2 – also no paradise!
These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent...

These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent…

The Graffitias you can see from the picture, every conceivable space in the one-room bar is covered with words and phrases accumulated through the years since it’s opening in 1939, and the same is true on the bathroom walls.

While some neat classic beers signs and one for Camel Cigarettes were displayed, there was a real paucity of the good memorabilia – okay junk – that typifies many dive bars and adds to the character because there are usually stories behind them.  Unfortunately, the graffiti, rather than offering the usual range of intellectual expressions and philosophical albeit trite drivel, was either indecipherable scribbling or obscenities ranging from one or two words to more graphic short phrases.  P1030321 P1030324

The only exception I found, notwithstanding a zealous search, was this truism which might be a suitable campaign slogan for Hillary Clinton:

“To be one with your weaknesses, is your greatest strength.”

And immediately below this phrase to add context –  if not a verifiable scientific hypothesis:  “You smell better when you are asleep.”

The Clientele – unlike a number of social media comments suggested, we did not find a group of hostile regulars who resent any new patron as an interloper. The approximately fifteen-seat bar was filled on each visit with a diverse group (male and female and a broad age demographic) ranging from tattooed punkers, a jovial drunk, some blue-collar serious beer drinkers to a few office workers – presumably downtown employees.

P1030325On my third and final visit over the lunch hour, I sat at the bar next to a guy who was on his second Rainier Tall Boy when I sat down.  After spilling a good part of the second can on the bar which went on to his t-shirt, he told me that he was “getting ready” for his 1:30 court appearance for second degree trespassing.  (I did not suggest to him that the judge was probably not going to be impressed with his pre-function.)

The bartender on each visit was friendly and his conversation with those at the bar was ongoing. Unfortunately, it was difficult to the point of unattainable to carry on a conversation because the rock music pumping out of the juke-box was so loud.

The Food and Beer – Most of the dive bars reviewed at least have decent grub which helps one appreciate the usual lack of selection of quality beers; however, at the Yamhill, there is a microwave for popcorn or for a limited menu of frozen “treats” such as wings, corn dogs, chicken strips or lasagna and mac & cheese (the latter two obviously to be avoided). Kevin, the owner and bartender, told me that you can also bring your own food in although besides a Subway and the YUMM Chinese restaurant, there’s not much near by.   (Warning – you might get beaten up if you bought food in a YUMM container.)

And by the way, don’t look for a website with their menu, the beers on tap or anything for that matter.  They do have a surprisingly decent selection of beer with ten on tap, including Blue Moon, Widmer Hefeweizen, Georgetown Porter, Oakshire Amber, Sam Adams Nitro Stout and Alameda’s Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA.  (Mike and I downed draft Blue Moons – as expected, the standard orange slice on our class was missing!)

The Standard at Yamhill!

No. 18 in North America in 2012!

Denny and I had PBR’s – $1.50 during Happy Hour and the bartender affirmed the astounding claim that the Yamhill is the top seller of PBR in Oregon (“We have four kegs of it on tap daily“).

Not only that, but at one time in the ’90’s they were #5 in North America!!  Before I could scoff, he pointed out this PBR sign from 2012 – Number 18 in North America in PBR sales.  Perhaps it’s the special they advertise “$3 for a pint of PBR and a shot of Old Taylor Whiskey.”

Thebeerchaser has used more quotes than typical in this post; however, they are so rich that they are worth sharing and it is fitting to close with the following two:

“The Yamhill Pub is a glorious sh*t crater. It’s a hole, a mess, a f*ing dive. The walls and floors and sundry surfaces are more graffiti-ed than not, and the pub certainly came by every squiggle honestly. Plastic cups do for the dirt-cheap well drinks, and the very idea of ordering any kind of cocktail seems vastly inappropriate. The only thing that clashes with the Yamhill’s perfect image of a dive is the surprisingly decent collection of taps. Even in the midst of punk squalor, Portlanders still demand a decent IPA. The Yamhill Pub is amazing. It’s perfect. Never go there. You’ll ruin it.”  (Joe Streckert – Portland Mercury)        

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

And this one from a regular I chatted with briefly about Thebeerchaser blog. He ended our conversation with the lament, “Mark my words, this place will be gone in five years and that will be a tragedy.”

Although the Yamhill Pub is a grunge pit – He’s correct.

The Yamhill Pub

223 SW Yamhill