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!!