Crackerjack’s Pub – Open the Door and There’s a Prize Inside

 

Crackerjack's Pub in NW Portland

Thebeerchaser at Crackerjack’s Pub in NW Portland

One of the joys of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs, which commenced in 2011 and has resulted in review of over 60 establishments, is that it motivates one to discover hidden gems.  While I have visited some classic venues such as The Goose Hollow, The Lutz, The Mockcrest Tavern, et. al., many have been neighborhood bars I never would have otherwise discovered.  And some of them are the most memorable.

The Willamette Week annual "Bar Guide" - a great resource for Beerchasers.....

The Willamette Week 2014 “Bar Guide” – a great resource for Beerchasers…..

As evidence, consider one of my favorite resources, Willamette Week’s Annual Bar GuideThe just-published edition has 150 of the paper’s favorite bars (this included six strip clubs which Thebeerchaser does not review on this blog….).  And only twenty-one of those visited by Beerchaser’s to this point, were in the 2014 listing.  For context, remember that Portland has about 750 taverns! 

Crackerjacks Pub and Eatery is a perfect example.  Although it has been a gathering place at 28th and NW Thurman for fifteen years, it has never made the Willamette Week list.

While I don’t rank the bars I review, I can say that my two visits to Crackerjacks were among the most enjoyable of any since this journey commenced.

A Cheers-type Ambiance

A Cheers-type Ambiance

A small-curved bar...

A small-curved bar…

 

 

 

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It has a Cheers type of ambiance and Sam, the wonderful female bartender who made us feel like we were regulars on our initial trip, kidded me about my nickname – “Dirt,” which you can see on the logo above and the caricature below.

I don’t have enough space to explain how that moniker was bestowed my freshman year at the Oregon State SAE house.  Suffice to say it was when I weighed 120 pounds and spent Saturday mornings running obstacle courses in an ROTC counter-guerilla training group called “Raiders.”

When I walked in a week later on my follow-up visit, Sam yelled so every patron could hear, “Dirt Williams is back!”  It reminded me of the shouts of “Norm!”  at the famous TV bar in Boston when he entered Cheers.     

The birth of "Dirt"
The birth of “Dirt”

The following reviews -  the first by The Portland Mercury and the other from City Search sum it up well:

“This longtime neighborhood pub sports everything a dive-bar aficionado requires: strong drinks, cheap happy hour specials, an easy balance of hipsters and old-timers, “sports” on the big screen—when I was there, MMA was being featured instead of the Winter Olympics… priorities and all—satisfying pub grub and pizza slices, ’80s music on the jukebox… 

P1020127

You can either plop down alongside the curved bar, or cram your pals into any of the spacious booths that sprawl throughout the establishment.  Don’t forget to drink and laugh heartily.  Crackerjack’s was dropped from the heavens for exactly this.”  (Steven Humphrey)”

Memorabilia to enhance the environment

Memorabilia to enhance the environment

Or take this review from City Search:

“Neighborhood Pub the way it should be – Man, I love this place. I love the atmosphere, the owner, the servers and the food. I always feel like I’m at home. At a home with free pool and tasty little corndogs, mind you……I don’t know a better place to get a salad in a bar. And the patio is great for an afternoon beer.”      

Free Pool....
Free Pool….

 

While Thebeerchaser is certainly no gourmet, one of the best parts of this bar was the food – excellent on both  visits.  My good friend and Beerchaser, San Francisco consultant, Dave Hicks, (see prior reviews of The Horse Brass Pub and The Belmont Station) and I watched two simultaneous NCAA Elite 8 games on the big screens.

Dave had an excellent hamburger and I had four pieces of delicious friend chicken and French fries for only $11.50.   While they have twelve beers on tap, I opted for the LLL Pilsner in a bottle and Dave had a Dead Guy Ale.

A hamburger rivaling anything in New Haven
A hamburger rivaling anything at Princeton, NJ
Scrumptious fried chicken
Scrumptious fried chicken

 

Dave went to undergraduate school at Princeton (his nickname was “Lucky”) and then to law school at the University of San Diego including a semester studying law in Paris.  He honed his musical talents singing bass at Princeton in the famous a capella group The Nassoons.

One of the treats during our visit was the great line-up of  ’70′s  tunes being played on satellite radio – the line-up ranged from Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac to Hall and Oates and the Eagles.  Dave talked about his thrill of seeing them live at the LA Forum in January this year and meeting lead guitarist, Joe Walsh and his wife, Marjorie, back stage.

On my second visit, after a bowl of fantastic Portuguese bean soup, I had an amazing Southwest Chicken Salad – huge pieces of chicken and very little lettuce unlike the converse in most pubs’ version of this dish.   According to Sam, they recently overhauled their menu and serve nothing that has been frozen.  We asked to meet the cook and had the pleasure of greeting Jimmy, who has held the position for the last eight years.

Sam and Jimmy - Crackerjack's ace cook.

Sam and Jimmy – Crackerjack’s ace cook.

P1020129

 

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About the only negative comments I could find were from a 2007 Yelp review, “..The fries are decent.  The only problem is that the clientele’s average age is about 38.  Kinda like ‘Cheers.’ I guess I should have picked a better fantasy.” 

Okay - since a lot of this bar’s clientele are regulars and the above review was 7 years ago, logic dictates that the mean age has now risen to 45 – and I was a significant deviation from the mean!   That maturity opens the door to reminisce just a bit about the original Cracker Jacks….

Still tasty, but instead of a decoder ring, a tiny decal.....

Still tasty, but instead of a decoder ring, a tiny decal…..

This delicious concoction of caramel popcorn and peanuts with Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo on the box were first sold at baseball games.  Anyone attending a Major League game has mentioned the treat in the seventh inning stretch when singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game“.  On June 16, 1993, the 100th anniversary of Cracker Jack was celebrated at Wrigley Field.

Baby Boomer’s can remember the neat “prizes” in every box such as puzzles, baseball cards or decoder rings – now they are cheap decals.  And speaking of decoder rings, this raised another great memory - Captain Midnight and his decoder rings a Saturday morning TV favorite…..

Captain Midnight and the amazing decoder ring (Thanks to Jerome Holst and TVacres.com)
Captain Midnight and the amazing decoder ring (Thanks to Jerome Holst and TVacres.com)

But if you want a prize inside that has not diminished in value, make a visit to Crackerjacks Pub.  Open the door, walk in and tell Sam and Jimmy, “Dirt and Lucky sent us!”

 

 

 

 

 Crackerjacks Pub and Eatery              2788 NW Thurman

(To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)

 

 

 

Beerchaser Miscellany – April 2014

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses at Church Bar
Beerchaser regular, John Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses at Church Bar

 Thebeerchaser.com 

Views of this blog have now exceeded 26,000 since its commencement in August 2011.  Average views per month during the last year are about 1,200 and there are now 53 Followers – folks who get an e-mail automatically every time there’s a new post.  If you want to be in this esteemed group, click on the little black box in the bottom right of the screen and put in your e-mail address.

And one reason for getting more views - amazingly from all over the world (today there were hits from Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands and Greece)  – is the “tagging” in each post.  For example, I tagged “Portland lawyer John Mansfield,” in my last post and several persons searching for him on Google came across his name and clicked on Thebeerchaser.com – something I’m sure that John appreciates as a marketing opportunity for his intellectual property law practice!

And since the blog’s statistics page showed that someone had searched on “Don Williams Drinks Beer,” I tried it myself and the screen came back with 3,260,000 potential hits – and “Don Williams Thebeerchaser” was first on the list.   A lot of them were links to the country-western singer by the same name, who is also referred to as “The Gentle Giant.” 

Not the Beerchaser, but The Gentle Giant probably also likes beer....

Not the Beerchaser, but The Gentle Giant probably also likes beer….

Some of these links were kind of interesting - like the one on page 10:  “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy.”  It was about hazing at Dartmouth and Williams College.   (To clarify, I was an Ag College Frat Boy.)   Another hit was entitled, “Hops in Beer and Estrogen Level…..”

 Lists…..Who cares!!???

I’ve always wondered about awards naming “the best” or lists with rankings - they are very questionable.  Part of the skepticism is Thebeerchaser’s own example – named as “Wittiest” in 9th grade and “Most Likely to Succeed in High School” – no further evidence needed to affirm this theory….

The Bar at North Portland's Saraveza

The Bar at North Portland’s Saraveza

For example, this blog, while making very positive comments about Saraveza (reviewed in March 2014) – one of the five Portland bars again making Draft Magazine’s Top 100 Beer Bars in the USA, questioned the criteria and the same issue was raised by another repeat 100 Best Bar – Portland’s Bailey’s Taproom.  

My recent visit impressed me with Bailey’s outstanding selection of beer and the expertise of the staff; however, the only food available had to be ordered from the restaurant across the street.   

Bailey's Taproom - another one of the five Portland beer bars in Draft Magazine's Top 100

Bailey’s Taproom – another one of the five Portland beer bars in Draft Magazine’s Top 100

That same day, I went back to Crackerjack’s Pub, a quaint neighborhood dive bar in NW Portland, which is one of my all-time favorites since Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced.  

Could it ever be a Top 100 venue?  Stay tuned for reviews of both of these establishments.

Not in the Top 100, but an outstanding bar (review coming soon)

Not in the Top 100, but an outstanding bar (review coming soon)

 While lists may not be valid for some purposes, they are interesting.  For example, as reported in an October, 2013 edition of The Week magazine, residents of North Dakota consume more beer than any other state – an average of 46 gallons last year, which is an increase of 9.5% and exceeding the 44 gallons of New Hampshire residents – No. 2 on the list.

West Linn – One of America’s Safest Cities

Not to belabor the point, but The City of West Linn, where I reside, was recently voted the 31st safest city in the US and according to Neighborhood Scout – a real estate service (which obviously is a credible source….) the safest city in Oregon. 

Again, it raised question as to how this ranking was determined.  Any doubt was laid to rest, however, when I read a few  actual excerpts from past West Linn Police Reports in the West Linn Tidings.   See below and you may also agree that “safest” may be synonymous with “boring” or perhaps in a few cases “crazy:”         

City of West Linn logo

City of West Linn logo

1/10 – Someone wrote “vulgar” in the dirt on a vehicle in the 1700 Block of Willamette Drive.

11/29 – A caller was frightened by a “round, bright, white light shining through the trees.”  It was the moon.

11/29 – A suspicious man with a gas can asking for gas in the 4600 block of Elmran Drive really was out of gas.

8/26 – A man eating a bowl of cereal while driving ran a stop sign in 22900 block of Willamette Drive

8/26 Two suspicious men with a basketball were seen entering Midhill Park.  Officers found them playing basketball.

10/26 – What appeared to be a severed leg in a driveway in the 19200 block of View Drive was really a Halloween decoration.

12/31 – A man walking  out of tall grass near northbound I-205 at 10th Street seemed “odd.”  In reality, he had run out of gas and was retrieving some.

At least one word of advice – “Keep a full tank of gas when you are in Oregon’s safest city!”

 And for the curious, the safest city was Franklin, Massachusetts and the most dangerous, East St. LouisLake Oswego ranked number 84.

And speaking of weird headlines, I found the following in my collection:

“West Linn Man Cited for Hanging Dead Squirrel” - The Oregonian

“Death of 105-year old Milwaukie Man Investigated as Suspicious” - The Oregonian

 

Resourcefulness and Beer

A liquid with multiple vocations....
A liquid with multiple vocations….

The off-duty Houston firefighter was returning with his wife from a car trip when they spotted a large truck on fire – not a big fire but one that could spread. The truck was hauling beer.

The small fire extinguisher on the truck was not enough so they started “shaking and spraying cans of beer on the blaze and the fire went out.”  This refutes the quote by the 19th century German who opined, “Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation.”

 

The Plover by Brian Doyle

The recent Beerchaser of the Quarter, Portland author, Brian Doylealso the editor of the wonderful University of Portland’s Portland Magazine, with whom I recently had the pleasure of raising a mug at his favorite pub – The Fulsom Brew Pub, just had his most recent novel published.           

Brian Doyle at The Fulsom Brew Pub

Brian Doyle at The Fulsom Brew Pub

The Plover, is a nautical tale and the following reviews indicate that those who enjoyed Mink River or his wonderful short stories and essays, will be in for a good read:

“A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit.” Kirkus Reviews

“Doyle has written a novel in the adventurous style of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson but with a gentle mocking of their valorization of the individual as absolute. Readers will enjoy this bracing and euphoric ode to the vastness of the ocean and the unexpectedness of life.” Library Journal

Don’t “Sniff” at Quimby’s

Quimby's - formerly known as Cheers
Quimby’s – formerly known as Cheers

If you glance at the new Beerchaser map (see link below), you will see that most of establishments visited on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs, commencing in August 2013, are located on the southeast side of Portland – in what includes the infamous and beloved Barmuda Triangle.

Sniff -- Anyone for a Hair of the Dog IPA??
Sniff — Anyone for a Hair of the Dog IPA??

It is thus fitting, to hit a Northwest venue – the last one was Slabtown last October - especially when two are located in the same block.  And Sniff Cafe may be accurately labeled a “unique” watering hole in Portland in that it appears to be the only one that is integrated with a canine day-care and hotel.

My initial reaction was to harken back to Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Eastern Oregon last summer when I witnessed the antithesis of Sniff at the entrance to two different taverns – one in Burns and one in Prineville.  Take a look at these two signs greeting patrons at the doors of these bars.

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P1010724

Non-ambiguity re. furry friends.....

Non-ambiguity re. furry friends…..

To the contrary at Sniff, if you stop in for a glass of beer or wine during the Happy Hour times of 5:00 to 7:00 P.M., you get a $1 discount on beer and wine — plus, your pooch gets a free romp in the pet indoor play area - even getting occasional personal attention by one of their attendants.  You also get to view not only your pooch, but the other dogs cavorting in this puppy play pen.

One wonders if they may be playing, "Duck,  Duck -- Goose!"

One wonders if they may be playing, “Duck, Duck — Goose!”

____ serving a beer.

Taylor serving a beer.

Sniff is a neat little bar – it does not have hard liquor, but beer, wine, coffee and snacks ranging from pastries to pizza to wraps.  According to our bartender Taylor, who has been at Sniff for two years, it has been successful since it opened in 2010  – even to the extent of recently expanding as can be seen from the picture below.

Expanded bar areas at Sniff

Expanded bar areas at Sniff

Instead of hard-boiled eggs, pickles or other unhealthy stuff placed on the bar for snacks, Sniff had dog biscuits!!

Healthier than Pickled Pigs Feet....
Healthier than Pickled Pigs Feet….

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I did not have the guts to ask Taylor if he had heard the joke about the dog who walked into the bar and asked the bartender, Have you seen the guy who shot my paw??? ” 

Sniff also has some rules for their pet guests that might be a good idea for some bars to institute as well - especially dive bars with a rough clientele.  For example, check out these guidelines below.  Substitute “you” for the canine equivalent in the following and you’ll see what I mean:

We want all our guests to play nice. That’s why we pick and choose which guests will socialize the best…..Call ahead and schedule your free temperament evaluation.

 

Leaving an  impression...

Leaving an impression…

WHAT IF MY DOG DOESN’T PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS?  If your dog is not social, or requires one-on-one attention, for the safety of our guests, he or she is required to stay in a private suite and participate in private play sessions and/or walks; additional fees will apply.”

Artwork to keep the guests comfortable...
Artwork to keep the guests comfortable…

To further the above premise, they also have special rules for females in heat, because they “can stress our male guests…” 

Sniff has only four beers on tap (inexplicably no Hair of the Dog Brewery products) but seven additional bottled beers.  Also three white and three red wines to try.

To momentarily digress, Sniff also reminded me of my favorite Beerchaser regular, Portland lawyer, John Mansfield.   He tends to view phrases literally and on one of our bar trips after he saw a sign stating, “Temporary Dog Play Area,” commented, “Given my scheduling constraints, I would be interested in getting one of those temporary dogs.”

Okay, so let’s assume you either don’t have a dog or you just dropped off Fido at the Sniff Hotel and want to have a nightcap in the vicinity.  Just walk one block to a neat little neighborhood bar at 19th and Quimby.

The bar at Quimbys.

The bar at Quimbys.

Quimby’s prior to 2011 was named Cheers, which allows mentioning one of my favorite quotes from Cliff Clavin – intrepid regular at the beloved television bar:

“Well Norm, it’s like this.  A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo.  And when the herd is hunted, it’s the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first.  This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole….because the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:American_bison_k5680-1.jpg) US Department of Agriculter

The beer vs. buffalo analogy as framed by Cheers’ Cliff Clavin (Wikimedia Commons – public domain)

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first.  In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s always why you are smarter after a few beers.”

Quimby’s is a quaint and typical neighborhood bar – with seven beers on tap.  Although they have a decent menu including sandwiches, pizza, good soups and more, the bar has a partnership, of sorts, with six food carts immediately adjacent to the back entrance and patrons can bring their cart cuisine inside while consuming their favorite beverage.

The patio and adjacent food carts

The patio and adjacent food carts

According to Steve, the affable bartender, who has been in the business 16 years, although he had just started at Quimby’s that day, their specialty is Buffalo Wings – we verified that they were really good.

They also serve reasonably priced breakfast all day, although when I tried to order one of the breakfast combinations in the early afternoon of my second visit, was informed that they had run out of eggs.

I had heard that the bar could be rather sparsely populated although the late afternoon of my first visit with my daughter and her boyfriend, Ryan, on a Thursday, we had to scramble for a table because it was Trivia Night and people came early for what is usually a big and raucous crowd.  The neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds and patronage at the bar will continue to grow – especially in the summer with the patio area available.

Laura and Ryan with Thebeerchaser logo

Laura and Ryan with Thebeerchaser logo

There is both a free pool and ping-pong table plus darts, pinball and three big screen TVs which have PAC 12 and Big 10 broadcasts – evidently Ohio State and Michigan State fans frequent the bar to root for their teams.  Happy Hour is every day from 3:00 to 6:00 and they have specials each night such as Taco Tuesdays, Whiskey Wednesdays, etc.        P1020008

A recent Yelp review summarized pretty well by stating:

“The service is rather impeccable.  Attentive, kind and respectable bartenders round out an overall enjoyable experience.”   

     

So the next time you’re in Northwest Portland, give both Sniff and Quimby’s a visit.

P1010965

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Sniff Café             1528 NW Raleigh Street

Quimby’s                   1502 NW 19th

(To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)

The New Beerchaser Map of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs

A toast to Jamie Magnusson!
A Beerchaser toast to Jamie Magnusson!

Good news for followers of this blog and their colleagues and friends who are interested in exploring new bars.

Thanks to the extensive help of son-in-law, Jamie Magnusson, who is not only a great traffic engineer, but excellent with technology, each bar previously visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs is now identified on a Google Map plus some additional features as shown at later in this post.

Engineer and technology wizard, Jamie Magnusson

Engineer, technology wizard and Husky,  Jamie Magnusson

As you can see below, each bar is designated with a beer mug icon (Go figure…..!).  If you click on the icon, it will bring up information about that individual bar including a link to the original Beerchaser post, a short paragraph from the review, the address, a picture (in some cases) and a link to other Google reviews as shown in the example below the map.

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Further, if  want to see a complete listing of Beerchaser bars reviewed, just click on the “View Larger Map” link, (immediately above or below the map).  All of the establishments will appear on the left hand side of the screen in alphabetical order and allow you to bring them up for additional information as in the example below for the Northeast Portland bar Church.

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Church
Last Updated by Don on Feb 8

Church is a relatively new bar on 26th and NE Sandy.  Opened in 2013, it has an intriguing interior to mitigate the nondescript exterior and lack of a really viable patio.

Willamette Week, in its review accurately states, “Though it is a neighborhood bar in no neighborhood at all, it’ll likely gather a congregation,” – affirmed on both of our visits – an energetic crowd to complement the friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Church 6 reviews 2600 Northeast Sandy Boulevard Portland, OR 97232 (503) 206-8962 churchbarpdx.com

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After this post, the map can be accessed on the blog by clicking on the words “Map of Thebeerchaser Bars” in the white lettering on the black panel just below the logo.

Saraveza – Breaking the Top 100 – Again…

A beacon in Northeast Portland - Sareveza

Saraveza – A beacon in North Portland

Saraveza in North Portland is a great bar and for the fourth year in a row, it is on the list of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the country - along with four other Portland establishments in 2014 – Bailey’s Tap Room, Bazi Bierbrasserie, Belmont Station (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in April 2013) and Imperial Bottle Shop.  Missing for the firm time in three years are The Horse Brass Pub (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in May 2013) and Apex.  It should be noted that there are only 31 bars in the entire Western region of the US which garnered this honor.

Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station in 2013
Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station  – another in the Top 100

Without making any inference about these venues, it raises a few questions about how Draft Magazine determines its annual listing of the best beer bars in the country. For context, the publication prefaces its 2014 awards with the statement:

 “After six years of making this annual list, we had to rethink the definition of a top-notch beer bar. New ones are opening every second, and “good beer bar” no longer equals a zillion taps; there’s just more to it now. We needed to walk out of these places saying, ‘Now there’s a bar that really, really cares about your experience with beer.’”

So what does that mean? Having well-cared for, thoughtfully selected beer with an eye toward variety, trends and tradition, in the kind of place you’d want to stay awhile, delivered by someone who knows their stuff. We don’t want to send you to a place where the server doesn’t look up from her texting when you ask questions….”

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

To support its premise, the publication even uses the example of Bailey’s in Portland which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. 

This statement raises the question, however, about how sophisticated or picky a beer drinker has to be to truly enjoy his brewski – harkening back to college days when a luke-warm Blitz in a can (even if it had already been opened for several days) was synonymous with Nirvana on a hot day in Corvallis.

Year and temperature unknown, but eminently drinkable -- still

Year and temperature unknown, but still eminently drinkable — (Thanks to Olyguy and Olygal for the photo)

One reader who questioned the criteria stated, “Interesting that a bar from one year can be left off the list the next year, even though nothing has changed about it to warrant not making the list.”

And the list does make one wonder if Draft personnel personally visit all these bars – and more importantly, about the thousands of other watering holes which didn’t make the list but serve a mean micro-brew and have great ambiance.

Okay!  So I worked around lawyers for almost forty years – process is important – but rather than castigate Draft Magazine, I will put forth Thebeerchaser’s Theorem on Bars based on my experience visiting 52 bars since August 2011 when Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced:

“Bars are like  Bull Markets or ______, (fill in your own option) when they are good, they are fantastic and even when they are bad, they are still very good.”

The bar at Saraveza

The bar at Saraveza

But I digress – Saraveza is a really neat bar.  It has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Drink Guide or best bar list every year since it opened. The 2010 description is representative:

“With illuminated PBR signs posing as art, a bottle-cap mosaic tabletop and a misguided allegiance to the *#+*% Green Bay Packers, Saraveza is like the coolest Midwestern dorm room ever. The only problem is that Portland lacks a soul-crushing winter freeze to justify the heft Saraveza will donate to your midsection.”

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers - but don't publicize it in this bar

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers – but don’t publicize it in this bar

       

 “There’s the beer, of course—in bottles big and small, drafts bitter and sour and strong—but the pasties will do some damage, too. Bring a date and split one of those flaky meat pies and a mountainous Caesar salad.”

One important factor which makes a superb bar is the staff.  And from Sarah Pederson, the owner and founder of the bar in 2008, (the name of the bar is derived from a combination of her name and the Spanish word for “beer.”) to Tyler “The Elder” Vickers – the original bartender, who is still there, they have a great team.  I heard Sarah speak to a civic group a few years ago and she truly has a passion for her craft and is another Oregon example of a young entrepreneur who successfully pursued her dream.

In fact, our waiter, Brian – who had only worked at Saraveza for about six months – was one of the best waiters encountered on Thebeerchaser tour to date.  He was friendly, knowledgeable and the epitome of a great server.

Brian - an example of the great Saraveza team

Brian (on the left) – an example of the great Saraveza team -  Roy holding Thebeerchaser logo, Mary and Janet

Thebeerchaser and his wife, Janet, were pleased to be accompanied by Roy Lambert, a retired tax lawyer from Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt.

Roy who could be considered an Ivy League guy having graduated from Cornell before going on to Columbia University Law School and then hitting the books again where he earned his LLM – a Masters Degree in tax at NYU – is also an avid swimmer. In college, he swam for Cornell and now swims every morning at 6:00 AM.  His background prompted me to find my favorite quotes to promote some erudite conversation that night about taxes:

Will Rogers - "I can't figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation."

Will Rogers – “I can’t figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation.”

As a starting premise: “The Internal Revenue Code should provide some evidence that it was written on purpose.” He was also reluctant to agree with Will Rogers, who stated, “The reason death is not as bad as taxes is because death does not get worse each time Congress meets.” 

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Nine beers on tap and then there's the bottles....

Nine beers on tap and then there’s the bottles….

Brian did a great job of walking us through the nine beers on tap and encouraged us to sample those that were not familiar.

Interestingly, three of the four of us immediately chose the Occidental Brewery’s Dopplebock – a great choice.

Roy’s companion was Mary Maxwell, who is a very interesting lady and had a demanding and important job as Director of Aviation for the Port of Portland for four years before she retired in 2009.  Prior to that she was the Port’s General Manager of Business and Properties for seventeen years.  I’m sure that she has stories which would make novelist Arthur Hailey’s Airport Manager, Mel Bakersfield glad that his fictitious job was prior to the TSA.  The tales would also be much more interesting than Roy’s yarns about the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code.

Wikimedia Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portlandinternationalairportfromtheair.jpg)  Photo by Mike Teague, September 2005
PDX – An operation exceeding $150 million annually

Mary had a bottle of Red Nectar Ale from Humboldt Brewery in California. “….. a floral aroma, distinctive accents of toasted malt, caramel, spice and a sweetness to appease those demanding taste buds.”

Red Nectar Ale - an excellent bottled beer

Red Nectar Ale – an excellent bottled beer

And those who love Saraveza for the food, have a reason.  Our group had macaroni and cheese, bratwurst and the fabled Caesar salad – it was mountainous!  We reluctantly passed on the free bacon (if  you buy a beer) because we were there on Bacon Night the second Monday of each month.

The pasties also receive rave reviews.  I was not familiar with this traditional British pastry filled with meat or mushrooms or vegetables or combinations thereof - a specialty at Saraveza and one which they have mastered.  The rest of the menu is also varied and extensive.

The pasty - Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

The pasty – Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

We took home what was a first-rate  quart off Portland’s Upright Brewing ” Five” (“Five blends three hop varieties with pale caramel malt to create full flavors. Subtle pale fruit aromas produced during the fermentation brighten the profile and provide contrast to its bitterness.”)

Upright Brewing's  Five -  Beer-to-Go...
Beer-to-go: Upright Brewing’s “Five” 

It’s  one of the 250 different kinds of beers they have in attractive display cases.  In fact, Brian stated that a sizeable portion of their clientele is patrons who come in on beer tours and one can understand why such a tour would choose Saraveza.

Beer in Surround - sound.....

More Beer Stuff….

And one last thought about Draft Magazine – perhaps after Thebeerchaser hits the remaining 700 Portland watering holes, the Tour should start visiting the top 100 and those that did not make the cut too!

Saraveza Bottle and Pasty Shop

   1004 N. Killingsworth

Beerchaser of the Quarter – Author and Wine Drinker, Brian Doyle

Author, editor and former basketball all-star

Author, editor and one-time basketball all-star

I knew that I had to meet and have a beer with Portland author and editor, Brian Doyle,  when I saw the Portland Tribune article“An Egghead Walks Into a Bar.”  It reports on his work with University of Portland alum and inventor, John Beckman, to create what has become the annual Brian Doyle Scholarships in Gentle & Sidelong Humor – $3,333.33 per student for one academic year, during which the multiple recipients must create and publicly share a project of some sort that “brings the community together in laughter…”

According to Brian, who is the Editor of the University’s award-winning magazine, The Humor Project” makes UP, the only university of its kind to have this type of project, and affirms a key personal philosophy - “Humor defeats fatuous pomposity and arrogance.”  Realizing that Doyle’s talents are creativity and marketing - not administration, one of Beckman’s stipulations was that Brian was to be integrally involved, but not in charge of the project!

Brian Doyle self portrait - Humor - What humor??

Brian Doyle self portrait – Humor – What humor??

Reinforcing my intent to have a brewski with him was the quote in the preface to Doyle’s book, Osama Bin Laden’s Bald Spot. After one of its short stories, “Hurtgen,” won a national award from the Catholic Press Association, he wrote, “(This) was pretty cool, although there was no beer in it for me…..”

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The Fulton - opened by the McMenamins in 1988 and reportedly the original home of Hammerhead Ale.

The Fulton – opened by the McMenamins in 1988 and reportedly the original home of Hammerhead Ale.

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So I wrote Brian and told him that I wanted to “honor” him in the Beerchaser blog.  I was pleased, if not somewhat surprised that he accepted this unusual request and we met in his favorite bar – The Fulton Brew Pub.  (To be reviewed in this blog in the next month or two along with Brian’s essay on the pub.)

In preparation, I read some of his essays, a bunch of short stories and watched videos of a few of his speeches.  His creativity, humor and well….his off-the-wall idiosyncrasy was impressive.  One does not know how many of these tales are based on his actual experience, embody some embellished conceptual truths or he just dreamed up when he was ruminating in his den.  But after chatting with him for ninety minutes at his favorite pub, I would suggest most are the former.

Chatting over drinks at The Fulton

Chatting over drinks at The Fulton

Let me give you a few examples:

One of his short stories  – “Three Basketball Stories,” chronicles:

“…. a basketball league once in Boston that was so tough that when guys drove to the hole, they lost fingers.  One time a guy….got hit so hard his right arm fell off, but he was a lefty and hit both free throws before going to the bench….

I heard that his team later had a funeral for the arm with everyone carrying the casket with only one arm as a goof but they all got so howling drunk that they lost the arm and had to bury the casket empty and then they spent the rest of the night trying to remember every lefty guy in the history of sports……”

(Brian was named to a city league all-star team in Boston in 1983 and has the jersey framed in his office.  (Fortunately, he did not appear to have a prosthetic device for his right (drinking) arm.)

Worth an arm and a leg....

An honor worth an arm but probably not a leg….

One of his short stories, “The Boyfriends Bus,” is about a guy who organized a field trip with nine of his wife’s former boyfriends – another example of the writer’s active imagination:

“….So we rented a bus for the day, a small bus, sort of half a bus….and we hired a guy to take us out in the wine country for the day….Anyway, we all got sizzled, the other nine boyfriends and me, and all day guys were ribbing me for having won her hand, I was elected president of the bus and got to make decisions about which wineries to stop at and all, and in the end it was kind of poignant…..

Each guy said with genuine affection and respect that my wife was a wonderful woman, absolutely, an unforgettable woman, that his time with her was really a highlight of his life.”

The look if you split and infinitive or misuse an adverb...

The look if you split and infinitive or misuse an adverb…but not if you like long sentences…

Speaking of bars…..there’s an essay – “On the Misuse of Adverbs” – in which he relates the hilarious account of his five brothers and him getting kicked out of a New York City bar based on an altercation.  It erupted when they were defending a young woman — and the English language:

“Finally there was a moment when the young man leaned toward the young woman and gently covered her exquisite digits with his offensive paws and said:

‘Hopefully, you and I… ‘ at which point my brother Thomas stood up suddenly, launched himself over the balcony rail, landed with a stupendous crash on their table, and said to the young man, ‘Never, and I mean never, begin a sentence with an adverb.”‘

Portland Magazine

Portland Magazine

While some of these tales may lead you to think that Brian is a total flake, that would be the wrong impression  - he’s mirthful and loves humor, but is a gifted writer and editor of the superb University of Portland magazine, Portland, and very serious about his craft.

Portland Magazine cover  - Autumn 2013
Portland Magazine cover – Autumn 2013

Brian is the second editor of the quarterly journal – assuming the position in 1994 when he came to UP.  “The intent is not to have a glossy piece for alumni public relations.  The objectives are to make you laugh, cry, lose your temper or kneel in prayer while concurrently punching you in the gut.”

The first Portland article I read (and excerpted for this blog ) was Father Patrick Hannon’s wonderful essay about the Twilight Room – the fifth bar I reviewed on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

I am now a regular reader based on articles such as Brian’s profile of Portland swimmer and speaker, Karen Gaffney, who just received an honorary doctorate from UP for her achievements and work on Downs syndrome.

Profile of Portland's Karen Gaffney in the Winter 2014 edition of Portland

Profile of Portland’s Karen Gaffney in the Winter 2014 edition of Portland

Or read Brian’s 2009 essay, The Terrible Brilliance,” based on the art therapy work his wife does for young children with serious illnesses – a piece which both punched me in the gut and brought a tear to my eye because my daughter, Laura, works as a pediatric oncology nurse with these same children.     brilliance

Portland Magazine, won Newsweek Magazine’s “national championship” of college and university magazines, beating out the Harvards, Stanfords and the other powerhouses in the SEC and Pac 12 that have academic programs even their football players admire.  It has also won five Gold Medals.  Perhaps it’s because the magazine is, “addicted to silly humor, roaring anger and is deliberately provocative.”

Even though I had two outstanding pints of Nebraska Bitter (first brewed at The Fulton Pub in honor of Nebraska Street where it was first brewed) and Brian had two glasses of pinot, we ran out of time to talk about his ten books – his next novel (The Plover) will be published in April and Mink River was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award in 2012.

Brian Doyle's novels

Brian Doyle’s novels

If you do a Google search like I did to research Brian Doyle, you will get 3,230,000 potential hits and discover there are other famous Brian Doyles – a Canadian children’s author, a former New York Yankee who starred in the 1978 World Series (even though his career batting average was only 161) and even a former Deputy Press Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – forced out after conviction of a felony.

In fact, Brian decided in 2002 to  write letters to the other 215 Brian Doyles he found in a national directory to learn more about them:

Tell me a little bit about yourself, I wrote us recently. How did you get your name? What do you do for work? What are your favorite pursuits? Hobbies? Avocations? Have any of us named our sons Brian? What Irish county were your forebears from? Where were you born? Where did you go to college? What’s your wife’s name?

He spoke to or corresponded with 111 and his essay, “Being Brian,” was published in Harper’s Magazine“Oddly, we were all neurotic about getting to airports early (at least two hours) and all had terrible handwriting.”  After talking to Brian, I have a feeling he would have undertaken this endeavor even if his name had been Jim Johnson or maybe even Alexi Fronkiwiecz……..

Being Brian....

Being Brian….

While there may be 215 or more Brian Doyles across the US – and who knows how many more in Australia, Asia, Africa and Antarctica –  we are fortunate to have our own right on the University of Portland campus.

In 2006, he wrote a book, The Grail  - a chronicle of  “A year ambling and shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world.”  Maybe that’s when he converted from drinking beer to wine although he admits he will still have a Hammerhead at the Fulton if it is really hot.  

The Grail - available at Amazon.

The Grail – available at Amazon.

Brian Doyle is a gifted story-teller with a great sense of humor and a good jump shot, albeit a slowing first step to the hole.  He’s also a man of strong faith and values and a good dad.

Doyle is humble and has the courage and conviction to castigate both institutions and individuals for hypocrisy or pomposity whether it’s the Catholic Church or a politician.  And his gift of language makes his criticism piercing and memorable.

The above reasons explain why a guy who now drinks wine instead of beer can still be the Beerchaser of the Quarter.

Read his stuff – you will admire and enjoy it!

P1020030

The Cheerful Bullpen

The Cheerful Bullpen - across from JeldWen Fiedl

The Cheerful Bullpen – across from Jeld-Wen Field

One of the earlier bars reviewed on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Pubs and Taverns was the historic Cheerful Tortoise in 2012.  This noted sports bar adjacent to the campus at Portland State University is owned by Amy Nichols - also the proprietor of the Cheerful Bullpen – located right across from Jeld-Wen Field (news flash – now Providence Park.)  The Bull Pen reportedly has had five previous owners and been around for 66 years.

Amy, Denny and our waitress, ___ with Thebeerchaser log
Amy, Denny and our waitress, Ashley with Thebeerchaser log

I was accompanied by Denny Ferguson, who also Beerchased with me at the Tortoise, and persuaded Amy to join us – a good decision.  Amy is a great story, herself, and has owned both bars since 2008.

An airbrushed version....

An airbrushed version….

Denny, who served as President of JBL&K Risk Services, before becoming Director of Business Development at Portland State University, is a Portland “institution.”

He is a formidable golfer and tennis player and a great human being – so positive that he sings along with the music in elevators. His initial months in college at Santa Clara University were a little traumatic because it was the first time he had been away from home —-other than serving in the Marine Corps…..

The name of this bar evokes memories of what once was in Portland – The Portland Beavers, established in 1903 and playing in Vaughn Street Stadium, then Multnomah Stadium and ultimately Civic Stadium before it became a soccer venue.  That’s when there was actually a bullpen at the stadium across from the Cheerful Bullpen!

The Beavers, although only a Triple A farm club for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960′s, had a rich history.   Future major leaguers such as pitchers “Sudden” Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and left-fielder and then Major League manager, Lou Pinella, thrilled Portland fans and the antics of player/manager Frank “The Flake” Peters (now proprietor of the Grand Café) are legendary.

Pitcher and manager, Walt McCredie, part of the Portland Beavers heritage.

Owner, pPitcher and manager, Walt McCredie, part of the Portland Beavers heritage.

I have fond memories of taking my daughters to Beaver games.  Some consider the fact that one now has to travel to Hillsboro for minor league baseball to be a tragedy.  Given the preponderance of current Cheerful Bullpen patrons who are soccer fans, there are probably those who would advocate a name to something like the Yellow Card Inn or changing to an Irish name such as Kitty O’ Shea’s.  Don’t do it, Amy!!

But we digress – now back to The Cheerful Bullpen…Amy, grew up in Long Beach, Washington and earned her stripes serving as the “only girl deckhand” on an Alaskan fishing boat when she was thirteen, was a beer-cart girl at Heron Lakes Golf Course and then eventually waitressed at both Harvey’s Comedy Club and then the Cheerful Tortoise, where she worked her way up to manager. 

Amy and her staff - not afraid of working hard...

Ashley and Amy - not afraid of working hard…

Former owner, Pat Lockhart, was a mentor and sold the The Tortoise and The Bullpen to her in 2008.

She remembers scrubbing walls at The Bullpen to rid it of built up grease and cigarette smoke stains and investing to make it a quality sports bar experience – and that it is.

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If it's a broadcast sporting event, you are probably going to see it on one of the 21 TVs.

If it’s a broadcast sporting event, you are probably going to see it on one of the 21 TVs.

There are 21 TV’s, two pool tables, Big Buck Hunter video, two fireplaces and a very big patio which holds 50 -60 people - it’s especially popular after Timbers’ games or other athletic events at Jeld-Wen.

The twelve beers on tap that night were:

Bud Light  – Budweiser Laurelwood – Widmer Hef
Alameda Rotator
Bridgeport IPA
10 Barrel Rotator
Deschutes Rotator
Ninkasi Rotator
OakShire Rotator

Two Bullpen Bartender Choice Rotators

They also have a brisk “Beer-to-Go” trade with twenty-two different beers from all over the world in bottles, cans and available for growlers.

           P1010947

You may have one of the twelve draft beers drawn by The Cheerful Mascot.

You may have one of the twelve draft beers drawn by The Cheerful Mascot.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The Food – As with the Tortoise, the Bullpen offers its legendary $2 breakfast (2 pancakes and 2 eggs) all day.  But their most notable menu item is the wings.

You can get 17 to 20 different flavors and on Tuesdays nights (Tightwad Tuesdays) six wings for $2 in addition to $1 beers.  One patron who heard us talking about the wings called them “really amazing.”                    P1010940

As evidence, here’s an October 2013 Yelp review excerpt:Every Tues starting at 8pm is Wing Night – wings of all flavors for $2…You want to get there before 8 to avoid a $3 cover, and to grab a table especially if there is a big game on. The list if flavors ranges from mild to “burn your face off.”

"Really Amazing" Wings

“Really Amazing” Wings

And on Saturdays - there’s all you can eat pasta dishes from $6.95 (noon until midnight). Otherwise you’ encounter a full menu with burgers, fish and chips, pizza, etc.

Buffalo!!??  If you go to the Bullpen on Sundays during football season, you will encounter scads (as many as 150 – 200) Buffalo Bills fans rooting for their team – an arrangement Amy brokered in 2009. 

Every time the Bills score, the group breaks into song. (In 2013 - 339 points scored (21.2 / game) or 22nd of 32 in the NFL) – so the songs are infrequent enough not to be disruptive!!)

The Buffalo Sabres hockey team also has a fan group as does the American Outlaws soccer team.

Now evidently this doesn’t square with one guy who wrote a Yelp 2012 review and was irate because, “….I found myself here on a Sunday, so everyone else was here to watch football. Yuck. I don’t think the baseball games were on any screen and I’m pretty sure there would have been a brawl if I had requested a channel change on even just one TV.(He could have just gone to The Cheerful Tortoise)

Reviews of the Bullpen were good although some complained about delays after Timber games or summer events at Jeld-Wen when the 60-seat patio and the bar are both filled - to a certain extent, something one would expect. Based on the staff we saw, they are good people who work hard.                    P1010946

Amy Nichols is an entrepreneur, a good marketer and a Portland success story.  She keeps her establishments hopping with events such as Wednesday nights Pub Trivia through the “Geeks Who Drink” organization,  monthly VIP Blazer Packages and sponsors periodic charity events such as golf tournaments.

And when you visit the Bullpen, you just might get to say hello to Denny Ferguson – although he will probably greet you first!

cheerful logo

The Cheerful Bullpen

Denny Ferguson - a man with no closing time and who is comfortable with a Budweiser

Denny Ferguson – a man with no finish line, no closing time and who is comfortable with a Budweiser although he could drink Dos Equis if he chose it