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.

 

Logo_Vertical

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

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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

The Marathon Taverna – What’s(a) in(a) a Name(a) ?(a)?

Not what you might expect!

Not what you might expect!

While working in downtown Portland for over thirty years, I would often promise myself that I would pay a visit to the Marathon – a bar housed in an interesting looking building on W. Burnside not too far from Providence Park (aka Civic Stadium).  I figured it was a dive bar with an eclectic group of regulars with a storied history – like some of the classic dive bars I’ve reviewed – Joe’s Cellar in NW Portland and the Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village were stellar.     P1020721

Perhaps it will keep you from reading the remainder of this post, but I was sorely disappointed by this watering hole – a pseudo sports bar with a paucity of character and little to distinguish it.

We should have instead opted for the nearby Cheerful BullPen, which has more character or Claudia’s with a rich history.

The saving grace was being accompanied by Beerchaser regular and Beerchaser-of-the Quarter Jack Faust and his son, Charlie.  Their company and conversation could make a discussion on the Rule Against Perpetuities seem interesting or make a soccer match ending in a scoreless tie, stimulating.  (I would get into trouble by suggesting more globally that such would be the case for any soccer match…..)

Faust & Son with Thebeerchaser logo

The Fausts with thebeerchaser logo

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but one or both have joined me for great trips to the Buffalo Gap Saloon, the Grand Cafe and Bailey’s TapRoomJack’s daughter, Portland radio personality, Amy Faust (99.5 The Wolf), recently Beerchased with us at the Rookery (review still pending).

Upon entering the Marathon Taverna, I raised the question as to why there was an “a” at the end of the word tavern. A taverna is defined as a small Greek café or restaurant.

Not the character or ambiance one would expect on West Burnside

Not the character or ambiance one would expect on West Burnside

There wasn’t any moussaka or souvlaki on the menu and no retsina wine or even ouzo or Mextexa Brandy to drink.  Alas, the only things Greek in this watering hole were Faust who was a Sigma Chi at Oregon, Thebeerchaser – an SAE at Oregon State and a few gyro sandwiches.  Socrates would not be impressed with that line-up.

And what’s with the name Marathon?  The website mentions that the bar – opened in 1974, was originally located in the Acropolis Tavern – also a well known Portland strip club, but whether this heritage is accurate could not be verified.

To better understand the lure of the Marathon, Charlie Faust suggested that instead of driving, we start in Marion County in the city of Donald.  A run to Portland with a short side-trip around Forest Park – would yield a route of 26.2 miles.   We would therefore honor the Greek soldier Pheidippides – who was reported to have died in 490 BC after his run from Marathon to Athens to proclaim the Greek victory over the Persians.  Before dying, he shouted, “We have won!”

I thought this would be fitting, since these are the same words Jack uttered when he represented Bing Russell and the Portland Mavericks in the now famous arbitration with Major League Baseball in the 1970’s and chronicled in the great new documentary, The Battered Bastards of Baseball.”

Jack Faust ordering a beer from the Marathon Bartender
Jack Faust ordering a beer from the Marathon Bartender

Jack, however, based on his undergraduate and law school days at the University of Oregon, countered with the suggestion that we each drink 8.75 pints of beer to arrive at the 26.2 milestone.  Looking at the photos below will demonstrate that his idea could offer some synchronicity, but his son and I demurred.

Jack Faust drinking a beer at the U of O after a 26 mile swim

Jack Faust drinking a beer at the U of O after a 26 mile swim

 

But we digress.  What was good about the Marathon Taverna?  Well, they have free popcorn – not a Greek dish, but still very good.  There are also a lot of TVs with different sporting events, if that’s what you like with your beer.  A small, but ardent group of  Portland Timber supporters was watching a match on one of the TVs –  20 high definition and a giant 92-inch monster.

Not Mediterranean, but free.
Not Mediterranean, but free.

There are nineteen reasonably-priced beers and also cocktails on their menu – but neither is listed on their website.

A number of reviews are positive about the gyros and the cheeseburgers – and their $2.00 breakfasts served until 2:00 P.M.  But the rather agressive and surly attitude of the staff was also mentioned multiple times in reviews – a downside, especially as you enter.

And this may be because of the physical layout confronting you when entering the bar – the only such arrangement I have seen in visiting over 50 bars in Portland.

There is a bouncer – a security guy, of sorts – sitting at a dias or throne-type arrangement which makes him look – and possibly act like Alexander the Great.  The “welcome” signs shout out, “No soliciting and “No Trespassing.”

Power hungry??

Power hungry??

Portland Barfly sums up this issue and the overall atmosphere of the venue quite well:

The  loyal shift of elderly patrons and the unsmiling doorman – those regulars may have been arriving every morning the past fifty years, but they’d best have their ID on hand to enter – are the only traces of The Marathon’s rather-more-dangerous past.

Plenty of TVs, but where are the grizzled regulars?

Plenty of TVs, but where are the grizzled regulars?

Weekend nights have largely been overtaken by a large, tight-knit, metal-happy, pool-playing, irritatingly-attractive group of twenty-somethings seemingly brought en masse from Beaverton for reasons beyond our imaginings.”

 A sentiment echoed by this excerpt from a City Search review:   Great place with horrible irrational staff – This used to be one of my favorite places until the last two times I’ve gone there, the bouncers have gotten extremely aggressive and kicked me out for no reason.”

Now perhaps the bar’s management feels that they need this type of defensive screening based on its Burnside location although the only altercation I could find occurred in 2008, and did not seem to be too savage.  As reported in Willamette Week:

A University of Portland grad is suing a Vancouver man for subjecting him to an uninvited bear hug outside a dive bar on West Burnside Street. In a lawsuit filed Sept. 10 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Patrick Geraghty claims that Brian Yoakum and his friends were standing outside the Marathon Taverna on Sept. 13, 2008.

Yoakum, “without warning, clutched [Geraghty] in a ‘bear hug’ and twisted [Geraghty’s] body after securing said hold,” the lawsuit says. Geraghty suffered a broken right foot as a result, according to the lawsuit. The suit, filed by Portland lawyer Sanam Dowlatdad, seeks seeks $75,000 for medical bills and lost wages, plus $500,000 for pain and suffering.

We don’t know if this suit settled or was tried, but for those wondering, Sanam Dowlatdad, after graduating from Willamette Law School, worked as Multnomah County Deputy DA and then at the Cosgrove Vergeer Kester law firm, before establishing her own firm in 2011.

Charlie Faust and Thebeerchaser - good company but no ambiance.

Charlie Faust and Thebeerchaser – good company but no ambiance.

No Greek national flag either.....

No Greek national flag either…..(Faust and Son)

And the only other egregious conduct recorded is that of Welches area con-man named, David Wilson.  Several years ago he purportedly tried to scam those at the Marathon and nearby establishments by stating that he was desperate for a loan because he’d lost his wallet at a Timbers game and couldn’t get his car out of the parking lot.

 

I guess if you just want nothing more than a cheap beer and to watch a sporting event, hit the Marathon.  But unless you can get the Fausts to join you or maybe start running from a mile and one-half east of the Vista House on the Columbia River Highway – it would allow your marathon to finish at the Marathon – it may not be fulfilling.

 

Marathon Taverna           1735 West Burnside

 

 

 

 

 

Bazi Bierbrasserie – More Than Just a Walk in the Park!

Another one of Draft Magazine's 100 Best Beer Bars

Another one of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars

Bazi Bierbrasserie (Bazi) is another one of the select five Portland taverns which made Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the USA for 2014.  And Thebeerchaser has done reviews of two of the others in this list – Bailey’s Taproom (reviewed 4/13 – somewhat of a disappointment) and Saraveza (reviewed 3/14).      P1020153

Bazi was a definite favorite with our group, which included Roy Lambert, Mary Maxwell, David and Kate Dickson and Janet, Thebeerchaser’s spouse.  We typically take a walk before eating and drinking – a great way to get exercise and mitigate the guilt from partaking in pub faire.

And Mary, who prior to retirement in 2009 was the Director of Aviation for the Port of Portland, demonstrated her superior planning skills by charting a superb 2.5 mile walk through the Lone Fir Cemetery and Laurelhurst Park on a rare, beautiful spring day.

Perhaps this should be labeled "The Beer Walk"....

Perhaps this should be labeled “The Beer Walk”….

Strolling through the Lone Fir was very interesting and we learned about the ties with Portland’s Russian community – as evidenced by many of the family plots with pictures engraved in the stone monuments.

” ….Russian immigrant graves  which are distinguished by colorful plantings of genuine, live flowers, creating a patchwork of color among the somber greens. The Russians are particularly fond of a kind of black granite which they have laser-etched with their likeness and, usually, a highly romantic scene. (Flickr – “Dead Man Talking”

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Laser-etched likeness….

For those interested in Portland history, Lone Fir Cemetery “….reads like a good book, telling the story of the many eras of settlement and development that have transformed the Portland area since the cemetery was founded in 1855. This 30-acre property is the resting place for more than 25,000 people, including famous Portlanders with names like Lovejoy and Hawthorne. Visitors will also find notable trees and shrubs, giving Lone Fir the feel of an arboretum.” (Metro website)  P1020142

 

We then walked through Laurelhurst Park, which on one of the first nice days in many moons, teemed with people and activity.  The 27 acre park was purchased by the City of Portland in 2011, and in 1919, the Pacific Coast Parks Association named it the “most beautiful park” on the West Coast. It was also the first city park ever to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Portland Gem!
A Portland Gem!

Although the walk was great, the biggest treat was still to come – drinks and great food at Bazi.  And it was evident by the total experience why this bar made Draft’s Top 100 list.

The beer selection is extensive, the staff is knowledgeable and the food really good.  “Bazi is a Dutch word for lovable crook or scoundrel….Bierbrasserie is a noun used in Flemish Belgian to describe establishments that have great food and a killer beer and beverage selection.” (Bazi website)

The Portland Barfly summary is apt:

A great place to watch Timber (or Blazer games.
A great place to watch Timber (or Blazer games.

“Suds snobs rejoice! This friendly Hawthorne neighborhood hang has more than 15 Belgian-style brews on tap, including locals like Double Mountain, Pfriem, and Commons. It’s a dandy spot to watch Portland Timbers games on the 119″ big screen, and the food is surprisingly awesome….”       

 

An extensive selection of Belgian beers.

An extensive selection of Belgian beers.

 

One of the distinguishing features for Bazi is its management –  Hilda Stevens is the owner.  I was surprised to find while researching before my visit that she responded to many comments from sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor – most notably, the critical ones – which often times are really trite and unwarranted.

Hilda, the owner, (holding the logo) with our group.

Hilda, the owner, (holding the logo) with our group.

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An example was a complaint on Yelp, by a customer who thought the food service was too slow:

“Thanks for taking the time to write. Can you let me know when you visited recently that you experienced slow service?….

I’ve also been monitoring our food tickets and they’ve been in the 5-25 minute range. Considering we make everything from scratch that’s within industry standards. The more information you can send me as to your recent visit the more valuable it will as I investigate the situation. Thank you again for being a return customer. I value everyone’s feedback, but specially those who continue to support us.” Hilda

I have to admit, given the ongoing success of the bar, which opened in May, 2011, and was an immediate hit and the moniker, “Hilda,”  I was expecting the proprietor to be a much older person.  When we chatted with her, however, we met a delightful, young entrepreneur, who was raised and went to college in Texas.   She traveled extensively in Europe and did a bunch of research – most notably on Belgian beers.  She completed her Masters’ Degree at Oregon’s George Fox University and developed a smart business plan – to specialize in Belgian beers – and capitalize on service and quality – this was evident.

The bar at Bazi

The bar at Bazi 1906 reclaimed wood from the Jim Beam distillery in Lexington, Kentucky!

Our server, Sydney, was also very knowledgeable and offered specific and detailed comments on several of the seventeen beers on tap, which helped in our selection – we tried a few including Oakshire Frederic’s Lost Arm Farmhouse Ale and the Bavik Premium Pilsner – all very good.

In retrospect, given the superb selection, we should have done a flight of four 5oz. pours ($10 Domestic and $15 Imported.)

Given the outstanding line-up of handcrafted cocktails, Thebeerchaser also tried the $5 Happy Hour Cocktail which that day was “Sleepless in Oostende” (Jim Beam, lemon and orange juice and orange bitters.)  The cocktails are named after Belgian cities.

Oostende is a Belgian city located in the Flemish province of West Flanders.  The “sleepless” reference might result from worry that the series of the dikes that keep the North Sea from flooding this town would fail.  Or perhaps it is in recognition of the City’s guards during The Siege of Oostende (1601 -1604) of which it was said that “the Spanish assailed the unassailable and the Dutch defended the indefensible”  (Wikipedia).  The siege resulted in 80,000 combined casualties – the single bloodiest battle of the Eighty Years’ War.

Bazi also has an extensive list of bottled beers and ciders, a nice wine selection, a bunch of hard liquor selections you can get by the shot, and you can also fill your growler.

Impressive Happy Hour menu.

Impressive Happy Hour menu.

You can see from the picture that they have a robust Happy Hour menu.  The Baon burger, fried chick peas, brussels sprouts, veggie burger and most notably, the Stoemp (Yukon mashed-potatoes and veggies) were all scrumptious.

Great food - made from scratch....
Great food – made from scratch….

The patio was full that day and it was obvious that it was both dog and family friendly.

The Patio

The Patio

As stated in the most recent Beerchaser post, I have conceptual difficulties with rankings; however, having visited five of the eight Portland bars making the Draft Magazine Top 100 Beer Bars in the last five years, Bazi is my favorite so far.  (The Horse Brass Pub (reviewed in 5/13), Concordia Ale House, the Green Dragon and Imperial Bottle Shop have also made the list in prior years.)

And when you visit Bazi, try a walk in the park and a stroll through the burial grounds – it’s a hike with a plot!

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Bazi Bierbrasserie           1522 SE 32nd Ave Phone (503) 234-8888

Old-growth timber in Laurelhurst Park

Old-growth timber in Laruelhurst Park

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(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)

Say “Tug Boat (Brewery)” Ten Times Really Fast……

Sam Adams at the entrance to the Tug Boat Brewery

Sam Adams at the entrance to the Tug Boat Brewery

Wait a minute, I guess “Toy Boat” is the phrasing that’s supposed to mess up your diction when rapidly repeated.  However, Portland’s Tug Boat Brewery, is a treasure waiting for you on SW Ankeny Street in downtown Portland.  Notwithstanding the fact that I worked downtown every year since its founding in 1993, I had never even seen it.  Ankeny Street reminded me of my long-ago trips to Dan and Louis’ Oyster Bar (near what is now Voodoo Donuts) where I used to take dates in high school.

I spent a productive and enjoyable two-hours at the Tugboat with former Portland Mayor and now, the new City Club Executive Director, Sam Adams, talking about issues and his vision for the City Club of Portland, which Thebeerchaser joined in 1971 after graduating from Oregon State.  Established in 1916, the City Club is Oregon’s premier public affairs forum and promotes civic engagement through its volunteer research and other activities.  Sam was selected from a pool of 80 very qualified applicants.

He was in a good mood (I suggested that it resulted from not having to listen to Randy Leonard on a daily basis anymore) and has dynamic ideas for City Club.  He did not fall for the joke I tried to pull, however.  (Have him order a Samuel Adams Lager and the bartender bring a picture of the former Mayor to the table.)

Sam Adams, new Executive Director of the City Club of Portland

Sam Adams, new Executive Director of the City Club of Portland

Sam suggested we visit the Tugboat, described by the following excerpt from Willamette Week’s 2011 Drink Guide:

You’d be forgiven for mistaking Tugboat for a classy Prohibition-era speakeasy.  The dimly lit microbrewery, Portland’s smallest and downtown’s oldest, brews tiny batches of browns, ambers and stouts………the laid back pub is surrounded by books; regulars strike up conversation behind a battered copy of Ulysses. “

Note:  Not to digress, but the only problem I have with the above quote is that assuming the WW reporter was old enough to visit a speakeasy, he or she would have to be about 110 years old to make this assertion!         

No legal beer?  No wonder there were speakeasys.

No legal beer? Glad that none of us were around to experience this period.

“The place even has an Emmy on display (Thebeerchaser verified that this is correct and the father of one of the bartenders was the Director of “Rich Man, Poor Man”)…..It has nabbed some much-deserved medals for its unfiltered beers, making it a perfect environment for casual drinkers looking for peace and conversation. “ 

A Limited, but Quality Selection of Drafts

A Limited, but Quality Selection of Drafts

Matt, one of the bartenders, was extremely helpful and based on his prior employment as a pedi-cab tour operator giving Portland brewery tours, also knowledgeable.

He stated that the Tugboat location was originally a coffee shop.  The interesting furnishings as described above and below are all remnants from the prior tenant.

Matt and Thebeerchaser with the famous logo.....

Matt and Thebeerchaser with the famous logo…..

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Distinguishing Characteristics

The Beer:  Unlike most breweries, Tugboat does not distribute their beer – they produce  just enough – only eight kegs per batch – to serve in the brew-pub – it’s truly a craft beer.

Because they do not mass produce it, the beer is not filtered. “…our ales retain their freshness because the yeast is allowed to live…The pasteurization process that strips body and color from beer is a necessary evil in ‘big batch’ commercial brewing.  But, thankfully, that ain’t us.  We filter our coffee. Not our beer.”

Although the number of Tugboat brews available that night was limited to about four, Sam and I thought their beer was very good (we had a Red Cloud and Snow Plow IPA).  They also have other draft beer available.  Since I was driving and Sam rode his bike, we did not have the courage to try their Chernobyl Stout (13.5%!)  I also tried a Pear Cider which was excellent.

Almost all of the Internet reviews were positive although some, such as this somewhat pretentious critique by PortlandBarFly asserted that the beer is too hoppy: “….Leftist bike messengers, fauxhemians, silly old men that wish to be taken for professors, the sort of couples that enjoy playing board games before strangers – there’s a suffering self-satisfaction about the crowds keeping Portland’s smallest brewery afloat that makes one wish to jump atop the bar and force regulars to admit their beer just isn’t very good. The emperor has no clothes and far too many hops.”

Is there really a copy of "Ulysses" in this collection?

Is there really a copy of “Ulysses” in this collection?

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In contrast, some out-of-town visitors were impressed, “I LOVE THIS PLACE!….an eclectic mix of people and everyone’s so approachable and nice!  I wish I could live here. (They did not clarify whether they meant Portland or in the Brewery itself…)  “I’m ready to crown it one of the friendliest establishments in Portland.”  (Bing – 4/29/12)

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The Interior and Furnishings: “This place is awfully unassuming from the outside – just a door down a side street and some heavily tinted windows.  But that adds to the effect of being inside and feeling like you stepped into someone’s basement rumpus room.”  (Bing – 8/21/12)                                                                  

A comfortable "rumpus room" environment...

A comfortable “rumpus room” environment…

On one wall, there are thirty-five 33 RPM album covers from the  past – and speaking of eclectic, one row consisted of The Village People, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Grand Funk Railroad, The Royal Marines and Peter Nero’s “Summer of ’42.”

Before CDs and Pandora.....

Before CDs and Pandora…..

One person suggested that there was even a secret door to Portland’s infamous Mary’s Club in the back, but the bartender stated that this was true of the Mexican restaurant next door.

The food is pretty limited, but reasonably priced and good: “When the pita plate came out, everyone raved about the
hummus, but when the nachos came out, jaws dropped. I would have to guess there
was an entire bag of chips on the plate, loaded up with cheese, peppers,
olives, etc. for just $7.” (Bing – 8/21/12)

Grand Funk - old but after Prohibition....

Grand Funk – old but after Prohibition….

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Tugboat has only one wide-screen TV which purportedly cannot be tuned to any sports channel….. 

Terry Nelson (husband), Megan McEnroe-Nelson (wife), and John McEnroe (father-in-law/father)     are proud of their own owner-operated brewery and have an establishment with good beer and an environment with great character and ambiance.

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Tugboat Brewery                      711 SW Ankenny

45 degrees latitude        132 degrees longitude

A limited menu but good food at a reasonable price.

A limited menu but good food at a reasonable price.

Beer Chaser Miscellany V and The Davis Street Tavern

An Evening at the Davis Street Tavern

An Evening at the Davis Street Tavern

Thebeerchaser offers these tidbits and a quick commentary on the Davis Street Tavern – more of a restaurant than a pub, but worth a cursory review based on our visit.  However, first a few miscellaneous Beerchaser items:

This Beer Really Hops

Thebeerchaser’s youngest daughter, when she was in grade school, had a wonderful frog collection – ceramic amphibians, posters, stuffed frogs like teddy bears, etc.  Each time I had a business trip, I would seek out and bring home an addition to that collection, which grew to be almost 100 in number.

The remnants of a once great amphibian collection.....

The remnants of a once great amphibian collection…..

Frog Poster from Collection

Frog Poster from Collection

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As her aggregation grew larger, it became more challenging to find suitable new toady trinkets.  While at a conference in either St. Louis or Chicago, I was therefore quite proud of myself to find a unique amphibian addition – Bad Frog Beer!   A pub I discovered, featured this product which had interesting roots in Michigan. 

I consumed an excellent light-colored amber beer and decided that the empty bottle with the amazing Bad Frog logo would be a unique supplement to the group of polliwogs in my daughter’s room.  The bottle survived a suitcase ride home and my daughter liked it.  Thebeerchaser’s spouse, however, had better judgment – and you will probably understand and support why she did not accept my assertion that our young collector did not yet understand the underlying message conveyed by this rebel frog.

From the Bad Frog Brewery

From the Bad Frog Brewery –

The Bad Frog story is quite interesting and you should visit this link to their website to see their story and perhaps even purchase a sweatshirt.

Jim Wauldron, the founder, was not a brewer, but a graphic artist and t-shirt designer, who created the image and merchandise – but no beer – much to the consternation of people throughout the country who wanted both the t-shirt and the non-existent beer. According to their website:

Well we did learn about beer and started brewing in October 1995.  Then the whole thing went BESERK!  We’ve expanded to 25 states and overseas.  We were BANNED in 8 states. The banning of the Beer and the non-stop legal battles with each State prevented the expansion of the Beer, but BAD FROG fans all over the world still wanted the BAD FROG merchandise.  We’ve been featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC. BAD FROG was even featured in PLAYBOY Magazine TWICE.”

The legal challenges resulted because of the frog’s none-too-subtle extension of what is presumed to be its middle finger.  Liquor boards in multiple states banned the beer.  Eventually the US Second Court of Appeals overturned the New York State Liquor Authority‘s ban on selling Bad Frog Beer in an interesting and extremely entertaining  First Amendment case Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York State Liquor Authority 134 F.3d 87 (1998).

 Lawyers would love the language from the court opinion which has some great footnotes and includes,“…..(The logo) is patently offensive’ and presumably a suggestion to have intercourse with oneself.”

And a February Oriented Bar Joke……

Thomas Edison (born on February 11, 1847) walks into a bar.  The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t get any ideas.”             

The Ultimate Idea Man - Born in February
The Ultimate Idea Man – Born in February

                

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The Davis Street Tavern                          

Happy Hour at the Davis Street Tavern

Happy Hour at the Davis Street Tavern with Janet Williams and Kate and David Dickson

Several months ago, Thebeerchaser and spouse, Janet, were joined by our good friends, David and Kate Dickson, for a happy-hour repast at the Davis Street Tavern.  Dr. Kate is one of the most knowledgeable authorities on secondary education in Oregon, or for that matter in the US.  David, the retired VP of Development for Marylhurst University, is a Stanford University grad and earned his graduate degree at the U of O.

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He is one of the brightest and wittiest minds you can find – for example on backpacking trips he sings country-western tunes such as “She was only a bootlegger, but he loved her still…..”

This statement on his mental acuity begs the question, “Just how bright is he?”  Well, let’s use this example of dialogue from David’s sophomore linguistics class in Palo Alto:

Professor: “In English, a double negative forms a positive.  In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative.  However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

David: “Yeah. Right…..”

Our last Beerchaser Tour adventure with the Dicksons was at the delightful Muddy Rudder Public House in Sellwood.  (see review in this blog in April 2012)

The guidelines for Beerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars and Tavern disdain taverns which are primarily restaurants and this establishment comes close.   An abbreviated review, however, is warranted since it does have a great Happy Hour (Mon. – Fri. –  4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Saturday – 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.)  There is also a nice late night menu from 9:00 until midnight.

Opened in 2008, it is still almost pristine and has very nice dark wood interior –  “It handsomely preserves a piece of Portland’s past, with sandblasted beams and pillars, original brick interior walls and acres of polished wood for a splendidly burnished effect.” (The Oregonian – April 2009)

Davis TV and BarThe bulk of the space is occupied by the restaurant in what Portland Magazine described as a “roomy pub atmosphere.”  The Bar is located by the front entrance.  It reminded me of Interurban on N. Mississippi Ave. – a nice place, but none of the character of a good neighborhood or dive bar.  One doesn’t patronize based on the ambiance.

This description from Portland Barfly in 2009 is an apt description: Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t a tavern, but an upscale (fairly expensive) restaurant……The dining area is much bigger than it appears from street level with a front bar/dining area, a huge dining area in the back, and an upstairs. The atmosphere is cozy with dim lighting and the décor is rather rustic with the original brick walls and timber beams left over from when the building was constructed.”

Another nice touch as stated in their website: We proudly show artwork generously provided by Butters Gallery,”  as evidenced by the following work displayed in the bar when we were there.

                                Davis Art

 Davis Street Tavern   500 NW Davis Street

Portland Weather During the Winter Months

Yes, it gets frustrating living in The Rose City when daily cloudy skies and rain are the standard for the Northwest between October and April.  This old gem in Thebeerchaser’s newspaper files – it’s old enough that Phil Stanford was still writing a column in The Portland Tribune (2001-08) – summarizes it well.

“A guy gets off a plane at PDX and its raining…..He checks into his hotel and next morning it’s still raining……Next day, same thing.  And the next……A week later, he’s waiting for a cab to take him back to the airport and, would you believe it, it’s still raining……He spots a paperboy in the lobby. ‘Kid,’ he says, ‘Doesn’t it ever stop raining around here?’ ……’How should I know,’ says the kid, ‘I’m only 12.'”                  

The Rain Cycle - That means over and over and over.......

The Rain Cycle – That means over and over and over…….

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Now Get That Snack After Reading This Closing Note……..

In the November General Election, voters in Washington approved the sale of marijuana subject to State regulations.  Washington also privatized the sale of liquor, which has had an unintended consequence – the price has risen causing many people to flock to Jantzen Beach just over the Oregon border to buy their hooch.   This prompted one letter-to-the-editor which summarized the situation very succinctly:

“With the Washington marijuana initiative passing and the Oregon one failing, and the increase in Washington residents traveling to Oregon to buy cheaper liquor, building a new Bridge over the Columbia River is now an imperative.”                

The Columbia River Crossing ---- Now and Imperative!!

The Columbia River Crossing —- Now and Imperative!!