Reflections on Western Towns and Cities – Part II

In the last post, I talked about both my 2,700 mile solo road trip for ten days through Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 2004 and also the fifteen-day journey through six western states in the fall of 2019 – this one 3,700 miles.

The treasured time on the road, brings to mind a superb quote on the topic from novelist, Lee Child, in his book, Never Go Back:

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

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And most notably in Montana, one can see a heck of a lot of scenery rolling along on the good roads – usually at the 80 mph speed limit although that can have some disadvantages from a highway safety perspective as shown in the photo below. 

Montana has a very high rate of traffic fatalities.  It’s a combination of a high speed limit especially in rural areas, bad weather and road conditions in many months of the year – that and a high rate of alcohol consumption.  

In my first few days in 2019, I kept seeing white crosses along the highways – both single and in some cases, groups of them – even in very remote areas and wondered about the background. 

According to a  2004 article in the Billings Gazettethis program started in 1953 by the American Legion and is done solely by volunteers. By 2015, there were more than 2,000 crosses erected. Each signifies a death from an auto accident.

Let’s examine some of the items mentioned in Lee Child’s quote above. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming exemplified these and as you can see from the above photo, each day offered additional perfect panoramas. 

As he stated and as exemplified in the gallery below, there were “Cities, countryside. valleys and rivers.”

And continuing: “There were museums and music and motels and clubs and diners and bars.”  Yes, we saw all of these on the trip both on my six-day solo portion and when Janet joined me in Billings.

I even stayed at Deffy’s Motel in Hamilton, Montana for which $45 got a suite of sorts with a king bed, refrigerator, microwave, couch, desk and a shower that most people would not want to try unless they were dirtier than the tiled shower wall….(I wouldn’t have asked Janet to stay there, but it did have a certain type of character!)

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It did, however, rate four out of five stars on Trip Advisor and as one reviewer stated “If you want Hilton finishes and amenities this is NOT your place.”  But I guess it depends on your benchmark because the next review asserted:

Yes, it was clean but in need of some attention. There was a hole in the wall where the door knob hit it, plastered over in spackle, neither primed nor painted. The throw rug in front of the futon and the carpet in the bedroom were spotted with who-knows-what and in need of a good shampooing.

The vinyl on both kitchen chairs was torn and there was a huge gap under the front door, letting in all the exhaust from the construction crew’s pick-ups warming up at 6:30 a.m. The soap holder in the shower was rusted and loose.”

By the way, for anyone interested in relocating to Montana, Deffy’s is for sale….

Now I don’t envision myself as a Jack Reacher type – Lee Child’s inimitable character of grit and integrity – after all, instead of hitchhiking and taking Greyhound buses, I cruised along in my Prius – but Child goes on with his itemization in the road-trip description which does a superb job of describing the variety:

“There were battlefields….and legends and roads.” 

And he finishes with the truism which I experienced.  That’s because I did part of this trip alone and enjoyed the solitude of the Big Sky open road, but then realized that I was missing something. 

So when my sweetheart of 41 years joined me after flying into Billings for the remaining nine days. “There was company if I wanted it and there was solitude if I didn’t.”

I mentioned in an earlier Beerchaser post, that there were some favorite cities and towns in those six western states. Those that captivated me and then us for the latter part of the trip with their charm, scenic beauty and character – oh yes, don’t forget the notable bars and breweries. Bozeman, Livingston and Hamilton, Montana; and Sheridan, Wyoming are highlighted below.

Bozeman Montana

This beautiful city in the southwest corner of the state with a population of just under 50,000 is the fourth largest city in Montana  Now admittedly, the paragraph below is from the Montana Visitors’ Bureau, but I think it is an accurate depiction:

“Bozeman is called ‘the most livable place’ for good reason. Enjoy world-renowned fly fishing, dramatic mountains for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, hunting, and backcountry exploring, Yellowstone National Park and impressive wildlife.

When you are ready for a more city experience, dive into Bozeman’s thriving arts and culture communities, ranging from main street festivals, farmers markets, cultural centers and museums to symphonies, theaters, and art galleries.”

It’s also a university city – the home of Montana State University.  Now admittedly, visiting a city is different than living there and a reporter for the High Country News enumerated the Top Ten Reasons Not to Move to Bozeman in a 2013 article, but they are somewhat lame.   

For example, he asserts that the name of the town sucks, you’re isolated, the weather during much of the year is bad and there’s a nearby inactive super-volcano which “underlies Yellowstone National Park, generating the heat for all the geysers and hotpots, and….could erupt at any time and some experts say this is ‘overdue’ – it will obliterate Bozeman, along with ruining the whole planet’s atmosphere.”  

Of course, I’m a Pacific Northwest resident with an active volcano (St. Helens) in our “backyard” which killed fifty-seven people and thousands of animals when it erupted in 1980.  And in Oregon, we live on a major earthquake fault which is overdue for seismic pandemonium.

Don’t forget the wildfires this summer and our rainy season which lasts about eight months of the year.  We’re also named Portland rather than Boston because one of the two guys deciding, lost a coinflip in 1845.   And yet, I would not move anyplace else.

Livingston Montana

Livingston is a quaint and historical town sometimes known as the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park. As stated in a blog on Yellowstone:

The quaint town of Livingston, Mont., has attracted cowboys, ranchers, the rich and famous and artists enamored by the scenery for more than 100 years. It’s also been featured in ‘A River Runs Through It,’ ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and Marlboro advertisements.”

And I was almost not able to get a hotel reservation because they were filming an episode in Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone series. I absolutely loved staying at the Murray Hotel which not only has a great bar but as the photo below shows, one could just sit in the lobby for hours and drink up the ambiance.   

Given the size of the town, the bars and breweries are plentiful ranging from the historic Mint and Stockman (built in 1895 and recently sold for $595,000) bars to the Katabatic and Neptune Breweries.   The Livingston Bar and Grille offered what was one of the best dinners I had during the entire trip.

It also enhanced the mood of adventure remembering a fact from at least some reliable sources 

“Singer Jimmy Buffett also wrote the hit song ‘Livingston Saturday Night’ about this town’s raucous night-life. And judging by the number of bars, saloons, and casinos within a 3-block radius – more than a dozen in all – you can see why.  You could do your own kind of pub crawl, moving from the old timer’s cowboy clique at the Stockman, to the rowdy biker sanctum of the Hyatt House or to the sound of blues at the Murray.”
(Source: “Yellowstone and Grand Teton” by Brian Hurlbut) Google Books

And just walking through the neighborhoods, one block off the main drag, shows that Livingston has the feel of a town that would be nice to call home.

Hamilton Montana

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People from throughout the country are becoming aware of this small city on the eastern side of Montana.  For example, an article in The Oregonian in July 2014 “  aptly entitled, “Hamilton in Montana right up there among best small American mountain towns, with brewery, ballpark,” states:

“Hamilton, population 4,508,  is located near the center of the Bitterroot Valley, an 80-mile north-south valley tucked in on the east slope of the Bitterroot Mountains in far western Montana and about 50 miles south of Missoula. Blodgett Canyon, just five miles from the center of town, is nothing short of gorgeous.

Hamilton was a designed town, with planned street grids right from the beginning, unlike so many other Montana towns that grew up out of mining camps.”

My curiosity was also piqued by another April, 2019 article I read in the Washington Post entitled, Small towns are dying everywhere but here.”  Included in the article was a sentence about two local boys coming home from college and launching a microbrewery which now generates more than $1 million in annual sales.   (How could Thebeerchaser resist that lead….”)

While I wasn’t there long enough to interview co-owners, Fenn Nelson and Jasper Miller, I had one of their thirst quenching IPAs. The two, who after graduating from the University of Montana, returned to their hometown and took a big risk. Employing used equipment – including some scavenged from an aircraft carrier – they leased a former natural foods emporium and converted it into Higherground Brewing,” 

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The good beer was consumed while I had a great conversation with a teacher on summer vacation who was bartending and told me the story of the enterprise, before I went to dinner at the town’s other memorable brewery – Bitterroot Brewing – another impressive watering hole. 

Right next to Bitterroot was a baseball diamond in which I watched several innings of American Legion Baseball and saw the first-place hometown Bitter Root Red Sox in the process of thrashing the Kalispell Lakers.

I finished with the evening with a delightful, long walk along the Bitterroot River, through a beautiful park and the neighborhoods before returning to Deffy’s Motel – for a restful night’s sleep – I woke up before the exhaust fumes were noticeable.

Sheridan Wyoming

This northern Wyoming city with a population of 17,500 and founded in 1882, is halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.  Named for the legendary General Phil Sheridan, my attachment to this berg, may have been, in part, based on some family roots.

My dad’s father Floyd Williams, was a US Postal Service Inspector and while traveling by train which stopped in Sheridan in 1912, he spotted young Clara Sarah Willey on the platform at the station.

Clara’s family ranched cattle (the Diamond Bar T brand) there for three quarters of a century.  Kings Saddlery, (see photo below) one of the largest tack stores (equestrian outfitting) in the US, also had a museum (through the rope store in back of the main saddlery) in addition to countless saddles and western gear and there were historic pictures from the Willey spread.

Sheridan has some sprawl along the highways, but a picturesque and historic and thriving main street with fascinating shops and one of our favorite breweries – Smith Alley Brewing.  There are numerous and scenic walking paths through the city, nice parks and notable outdoor art sculptures on almost every corner.  It is a picturesque and charming village.

Well, as you can tell by this and previous posts (and a few more to come) I’m enamored with the western frontier states – especially Montana and could continue writing about them. That said, since this is a blog primarily about bars and breweries, some of you may be impatient with the digression although for the last year, it was due to a global pandemic.

So I am pleased to report that on Wednesday, March 31st for our 41st wedding anniversary, we traveled from Portland up the Columbia River Gorge to another outstanding western city – Hood River, Oregon and had our first beer (sitting outside) at a brewery or bar in over one year.

We had been to the Pfriem Brewery once before, but this was our first encounter with Ferment Brewing where we had first-rate cheeseburgers and beer worth making a return trip. Stay tuned!

Cheers and Be Safe!

Reflections on Western Towns and Cities – Part 1

I’ve mentioned in prior posts, our September 2019, fifteen-day 3,700-mile road trip through six western states.

And those who follow Thebeerchaser know that besides touring a number of fantastic National Parks and Monuments as well as the impressive Custer State Park, we visited wonderful bars and breweries – 29 of which I hit on my first six days (23 bars and 6 breweries).   After my first two nights in the village of Yaak, I stayed in scenic Montana cities of Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston.

A field at the city limits of Hamilton

The idea for this road journey emanated from the ten-day solo road trip I took through Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 2004 during part of a law firm sabbatical.  In that 2,600-mile journey in which I carried my Trek bicycle on our Subaru Forester and essentially had no planned itinerary except to explore and discover – also to escape my Blackberry….

Oh, to be 56 again — my 2004 Road Trip

A number of those miles were on gravel Forest Service roads – including the challenging Trail Creek Road out of Ketchum, Idaho shown in the photo with the cattle I saw along the way.

After staying at Oregon’s beautiful Wallowa Lake, and lodging for two nights nights in Stanley, Idaho,I stayed in Salmon, Idaho – right on the west border of Montana – and joined  a lot of folk rocking out to a country-western group at the Lantern Bar on Saturday night.

There was no room except one seat at the bar and I started talking to a construction worker about where I should head.   He was very helpful and I asked him if I could buy him a drink.  He responded “No.  But you can dance with my girlfriend.”  (Sitting next to him.)  She then made a valiant effort to teach me how to do the Cowboy Two Step.  (I was about the only guy in the bar without cowboy boots…)

The next morning I attended church at Salmon’s United Methodist Church where I enjoyed the sermon and talking with friendly members of the congregation at the coffee-hour afterwards. 

I then headed for Butte and marveled at the Big Sky Country and camped near Wisdom before staying my last night in Missoula.

Historical sites such as the Big Hole National Battlefield and the Historic Montana State Prison and Auto Museum at Deer Lodge took an entire day to adequately appreciate.

Of course, I also hit several of the “ghost towns” – all of which were fascinating, especially Bannack, Bonanza – home of the now restored Yankee Fork Dredge and nearby Custer, which has many of the historic structures preserved – founded in 1879 by a Harvard Law School graduate who gave up his law career to become a prospector.

Looking down from Boot Hill in Bannack

The seeds of Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars and Taverns which commenced upon retirement seven years later, were sown on that 2004 trip based on my initial visit to the legendary Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Stanley, Idaho and the the Dewey Bar in Wise River, Montana..

The Dewey Bar in Wise River, Montana

The narrative on those two bars can be viewed at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/09/08/beerchasing-in-idaho-part-ii-stanley-and-the-sawtooths/

and

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/08/19/pondering-during-the-pandemic-1/

Downtown Stanley

The Rod and Gun was operated from 1971 until his death in 1990, by the singer and songwriter Cassanova Jack.  It’s located just east of the corner of Ace of Diamonds and Wall Streets in Stanley.

Located in Custer County, the town has a population of a little less than 100 and winter temperatures that made it once, the coldest place in North America. It’s in the heart of the wonderous Sawtooth Mountains and the gateway to the Idaho backcountry.

I returned – this time with my wife in 2016, and Cassanova Jack’s brother and fellow musician, Jonny Ray, was an engaging host and full of stories on their days touring and captivating bar stories.

Jack’s band was named the Stardusters and Jonny Ray (who still is known as the “Singing Bartender“) subsequent band was named JR & Cheap-N-Easy

Johnny Ray at the Rod and Gun in 2016

The Dewey Bar, is really in a remote area – in Wise River, Montana, along the Big Hole River.  I camped that night in a Forest Service Campground.   I naively walked into what came close to being the first bar fight I witnessed.

Due to the mediating skill of a retired attorney from Seattle, the fracas was avoided when he admonished the two guys on the brink of fisticuffs in a commanding voice, “If you two will sit down and shut up, I’ll buy everybody in the house a drink.” 

This was followed by rousing cheers and a fairly hefty bar bill which he gladly dispatched.  I then spent the next hour sharing lawyer stories and a few drinks with this former counselor, which was the last time I’ve ever seen him. (I checked with the regulars to see if he was still around when I went back in 2019.)

Telling law firm stories in 2004

Just as in the fall 2019 trip, in my earlier road journey, besides the magnificent scenery, I was captivated by the rich history and most notably, the character and heritage of some of the smaller cities such as Stanley and Salmon, Idaho; Darby and Missoula, Montana; and Joseph and Baker Oregon. 

American Historian

This journey reaffirmed Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”:

“….the American character was decisively shaped by conditions on the frontier, in particular the abundance of free land, the settling of which engendered such traits as self-reliance, individualism, inventiveness, restless energy, mobility, materialism, and optimism.” (Britannica.com)

The Sawtooth Range from the outskirts of Stanley

On the 2019 trip, I also discovered that Turner’s premise shapes the political philosophy of Montana residents but more about that in Part II.

My trip in 2004 was ten unforgettable days of adventure and gaining an appreciation for the rustic western countryside.

Janet – “Don’t Even Think About It!”

Runkle – An invitation for a bucket list item….

When we discussed the 2019 proposed route for our trip, my wonderful spouse of 40 years, informed me in unequivocal terms that she was not going to take a several hundred mile side trip to the far NW corner of Montana so I could visit the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak.

This storied bar had been a bucket list item since shortly after I started this blog in 2011 and had talked to the owner, John Runkle.  He  extended an invitation to visit him and stay in Yaak.  I was therefore downcast with the ultimatum….

But through the negotiating process, refined over those four decades, she then generously agreed to my spending the first six days sans companion and picking her up when she flew into Billings, Montana to complete the rest of our trek.  Now you know why I honored Janet with Thebeerchaser-of-the-Year title in 2015.

In South Dakota’s Badlands National Park

So like a little kid on Christmas Eve, I drove the 520 miles from our residence in West Linn – a burb of Portland – to Yaak where I stayed for two nights in the Wolf Room of the Yaak River Lodge – it’s also owned by John Runkle – and about a mile down the highway from his saloon.

Yaak, with a year-round population of about 250 is an unincorporated community with minimal commercial operations and on which the “Welcome To” and “Come Again” signs could theoretically be placed on the same telephone pole.  It’s thirty miles west of Route 2 in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest on the Yaak River Road.

The Yaak River

But it was a wonderful start to the trip.  John was an outstanding host and I loved the people I met those two days on which I will expand in my next blog post.

On the remaining four days before I picked up Janet, I drove our Prius (sans gun rack) while being enthralled with the sights from Flathead Lake to the 585 foot Anaconda Smelter Stack.   My companion, of sorts, was Sirius Satellite Radio and I rotated through the channels from Jazz, to classical to Big Band, while always returning to Classic Country.

A plethora of styles on Sirius

That’s because these tunes helped capture the mood while visiting bars such as the historic Montana Bar in Miles City – serving folk since 1908 – shown below.  Each watering hole was filled with friendly bartenders and regulars, wild animal trophies, spittoons (a few) and juke boxes.

And they didn’t play the new pseudo country rock tunes – but the old-time vocalists I love, most notably, George Jones, Don Williams, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and more recent crooners like Alan Jackson and Dan Seals.

Unfortunately, I never heard the tune I longed for “She Was a Bootlegger’s Daughter and I Loved Her Still.” 

(Maybe that one was a figment of my imagination and I made up the title while downing a Miller High Life at the Antlers Saloon in Wisdom.

The Champagne of Bottled Beers

Now with the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, I’ve had a lot more time to reflect – rather than visit new bars.  And what brought back the best memories were some of the towns and smaller cities which just seemed like great communities to live, work and raise a family.

I’ll talk about that in my next post, but since I mentioned Dan Seals, it’s fitting – at least in my view – to end with some of the lyrics of his song, “God Must be a Cowboy at Heart” which perfectly captures the sentiment engrained on that trip.

Sleepin’ in the moonlight
A blanket for my bed
Leaves a peaceful feelin’ in my mind…
Wakin’ up in the mornin’
With an eagle overhead
Makes me want to fly away before my time

And I think God must be a cowboy at heart
He made wide open spaces from the start…
He made grass and trees and mountains
And a horse to be a friend
And trails to lead old cowboys home a-gain…

Along Montana Highway 43 near Wisdom

A Plea for Common “Cents” …..$

A  number of recent Beerchaser posts have chronicled the challenges faced by Oregon bars and breweries over the last year because of the pandemic.  Demonstrations/riots in the City of Portland, which have made national news and wildfires which ravaged the State, exacerbated the virus-caused lockdowns – all economically adverse.

Another unfortunate victim – closed indefinitely

Then most recently, a once-in-a-lifetime ice storm caused widespread power outages and again shut down business just as many had gotten the green-light to reopen.

For example, the innovative Oregon Public House closed its doors in November and the excerpt from its website is typical:

“This choice, made by our Board of Directors, reflects the reality of where we are after many months of reduced sales and related challenges….In this moment of ‘freezing’ restaurants and other businesses, we hope that you choose to support small and local businesses in whatever way that you can, because many of them have been struggling in the same way that the pub has.”

Well, I’m amazed and appalled to report that a new – avoidable specter – now rears its ugly head.  It’s one that could throw another wrench into the efforts of the beverage and hospitality industry to survive.  This one was originated by some sorely misguided, myopic and, quite frankly, apparently mindless individuals – mindless at least given the economic context.

Just as the virus has invaded our daily existence, it seems like common sense has often concurrently evaporated.  A number of times during the pandemic, I have uttered the phrase, “What were they thinking?” – the most recent involving a Cancun getaway, but there have been many others and not just those which make us laugh when we read the annual Darwin Awards.

Even those with a net worth of $87 billion sometimes make crazy financial decisions….

Like Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Pederson’s decision to give a third-string quarterback playing time in a game with playoff implications for other teams.  Then there was Vice President, Mike Pence visiting the Mayo Clinic without a mask in May 2020 and Mayo Clinic officials not challenging this action.

A leading stock market newsletter even questioned the legendary investment guru recently with an article entitled, “Berkshire Hathaway: Respectfully, Mr. Warren Buffett, What Were You Thinking? “(BRK.A) | Seeking Alpha

This time – and in one of the most egregious – it’s several Oregon Legislators (Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) and Rep. Rachel Prusak ( D-West Linn) and an Oregon non-profit – Oregon Recovers – led by its Executive Director, Mike Marshall – who are proposing an extreme increase in alcohol taxes.

“Marshall said businesses could pass the increase in cost to consumers, arguing that the tax hike is the only way to curb harmful consumption and binge drinking.”  (emphasis added)  (KOIN.com 3/2/21)

As reported in this Fortune.com article article excerpt, they are proposing to raise $293 million over the next two years by this tax increase.

“Oregon brewers and vintners could see a dramatic rise in the cost of doing business if a new bill making its way through the state legislature passes. Oregon House Bill 3296 seeks to increase the state’s beer tax by 2,800% and wine tax by 1,700%.

Officials in Oregon’s wine industry say the bill would result in a $2 or more price increase on every bottle of wine sold in the state. Beer and cider could see even bigger jumps.”

Beer tax – from $2.60 per barrel to $72.60 in one fell swoop

Currently the Oregon tax on each barrel of beer is $2.60.  House Bill 3296 would increase that tax by $70 to an astounding $72.60 a barrel.  For beer, this would amount to about thirty-one cents per pint.

Michaeal LaLonde, the President and CEO of Bend’s Deschutes Brewery, stated;

“Unfortunately, a recent economic report from the Beer Institute and Brewers Association estimates 25% of those Oregon beer jobs will be lost by the end of 2020 because of the COVID-19 recession.” 

His 10/12/20 guest editorial in the Bend Bulletin responding to the proposal also asserted:

“Oregon is proposing to kick you when you’re down. COVID-19 has hit the restaurant, food, and beverage industry hard. In order to shore up state coffers, the Oregon Health Authority has released a proposal to raise $293 million by increasing the tax on beer, wine, and cider by 800%.  Not staggered, not stepped, but an instant 800% increase. The consequences would be simply devastating.” *

* Evidently the original Oregon Health Authority proposal in Gov. Kate Brown’s budget last October was for the 800% proposal and the more draconian increase followed in February by the Legislators in HB 3296.

Portland’s renowned Oregon Brewers’ Festival

As an example of the hardships, it was announced just this week that for the second year in a row, the Oregon Brewers’ Festival – Oregon’s largest and one of the longest-running in the nation – according to Willamette Week  is canceled this summer – again!

“Recovers” is a relative term…..

It is ironic when small business owners are wondering if they will survive and how they are going to recover after what they’ve faced in last year, that the Co-chair of Oregon Recovers stated:

“As we recover from the pandemic, it’s critical that we adopt strategies to protect our families and increase prosperity.” (emphasis added)

To ensure that those promoting the idea get the point, one more recent statistic – this one from Guy Tauer, an economist in the Oregon State Employment Division:

“Leisure and hospitality had 211,000 jobs in December of 2019 and by December 2020 employment fell to 129,400, essentially erasing the industry’s previous 25 years of job gains,” Tauer writes. “Of the 178,200 payroll jobs Oregon lost during that time, 81,600 of those, or 46.9%, were in the leisure and hospitality sector.”

There have been debates over the years about sin taxes – on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and more recently, sugary drinks, and there are pros and cons. There’s essentially a consensus, however, that sin taxes are regressive and the heaviest burden is on lower income individuals.

Will it accomplish its purpose in reducing addiction and underage drinking or just reduce consumption generally and hurt small businesses?  And how effective have Oregon’s addiction and recovery programs been to this point without adding substantial millions – especially since there is no infrastructure to handle the increased funding.

From the Oregon Recovers web page:

“Build A New System of Intervention:  ACRA will shift the burden of engagement and/or intervention in an individual’s substance use from the criminal justice system to the healthcare system by providing healthcare, social service, education and criminal justice professionals with the education and tools needed to engage patients earlier in their addiction.” (emphasis added)

It’s true that Oregon businesses have a stake in reducing alcohol addiction which is a drain on productivity and increases the cost of operations. I notice, however, that with one exception (Andrew Rowe) no one on the Oregon Recovers Steering Committee (Board) indicates having worked in the private sector or having a business background – nor does its Executive Director.

And the people of Oregon have been very generous in approving taxes for social causes – most notably in Portland where in May – during the height of the pandemic – a nationally innovative homeless service tax measure was approved.

It will raise $250 million annually for ten years towards funding behavioral health services, job training and other services for homeless people.

While it is true that the current tax on beer in Oregon is one of the lowest in the country and has not been raised since 1977, the approach in this legislation (HB 3296) is clearly not the way to accomplish it.  Oregonians are empathetic and will endorse reasonable ideas to address alcohol addiction and underage drinking.

The Oregon Beverage Alliance has started a petition drive entitled “Don’t Tax My Drink” to ask local Oregon lawmakers to oppose tax increases on Oregon breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, restaurants, bars and their customers.

To this observer, the tax proposal is brazen and arrogant.  Remember the pandemic slogan, “We’re all in this together?”  So I hope people will write to Mike Marshall and Reps Sanchez and Prusak.   You might start your communication by asking, “What were you thinking?”  And let’s hope that at least a modicum of common “cents” will prevail.

And Cheers to the Oregon Brewers’ Guild!

Analysis Paralysis and Efforts to “Be Better”

Well Beerchasers, you will have to excuse the lack of news about bars and breweries in this post.   And the image above (thanks to my sister-in-law, Pam Williams) and the pre-pandemic photo below from the gone but not forgotten Club 21 in Portland are the only pictures related to beer reminding us of what we are missing,. 

Chatting with a fascinating group of Club 21 regulars in 2014

My rationalization is that I still cannot really follow my protocol of going inside to new establishments and interviewing bartenders and regulars.   In addition, this platform is one where I can fret about annoyances and pet peeves and get them off my chest – even if I’m the only one who reads them…..So be forewarned, however, some of you may have the same frustration with the issue below.

The pandemic and events leading up to it, have made me a lot more conscious about statistics.   And it’s not that I was oblivious to numbers and trends previously.   In my twenty-five years in management at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm in Portland – first as Business Manager and then for the last twelve as  COO – analyzing and interpreting data and trends on collections, billings, hours worked and expenses were an ongoing priority.

Originator of the lamppost analogy…

In fact, Dave Bartz, our Co-managing Partner and now Chair – Emeritus at the firm, loved to quote Scottish poet and literary critic Andrew Lang who asserted:  “Most people use statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost; more for support than illumination” 

And when we were trying to motivate lawyers to pay more attention to the business of law so both attorneys and the staff could get paid, we didn’t hesitate to use that maxim – especially at year-end!

Of course, lawyers were aware of efforts to frame the key statistics to enhance our position and one of them would inevitably respond with Mark Twain’s assertion:  “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”

“Don’t bullshit me with figures…..”

Now – to digress – and  speaking of drawing a conclusion after analyzing, let’s use the example from Wikipedia when citing the source of the photo of Lang above.

The disclaimer states, “The copyright situation of this work is theoretically uncertain, because in the country of origin, copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author, and the date of the author’s death is unknown.”

Then in an incredibly dry and understated manner it adds:

However, the date of creation of this work was over 120 years ago, and it is thus a reasonable assumption that the copyright has expired.”   Since it also stated that Lang died in 1914, I felt reasonably reassured that I could use this photo with the public domain attribution.

In 1980, I also had the experience of taking two terms of Data Analysis in graduate school with my new wife – her first two courses in the MPA Program at Portland State University – and my last two.

There was no on-line personal computer capability then and it was a real strain on our new marriage.  We’d negotiate on who got to go down and stand in line at Shattuck Hall on Saturday morning to run the punch-cards to get the report we had to analyze and who got to clean the bathrooms at our house. (The loser had to drive to Portland State!)

But over those months, we grudgingly learned Regression Analysis and stat concepts such as Hypothesis Testing and Statistical Significance, and Central Tendency.

Shattuck Hall – It looks so welcoming now, but in 1980??

The last year makes us realize more than ever before that data can be manipulated, interpreted differently or even blatantly distorted to promote a position.   It seems that ethical and rational conclusions have been discarded at will – and it’s bipartisan practice.

Whether it was Donald Trump’s infamous assertion on February 26, 2020 about COVID 19:  “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,”

Signing the Congressional Funding Bill for Coronavirus Response on March 2020 – it didn’t work……..

Andrew Cuomo

But the Dems reinforce the practice whether it be New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo’s manipulation of nursing home deaths due to COVID

or

Kate Brown

Oregon’s own Kate Brown’s (D) administration’s alleged “massage” of COVID statistics to reinforce the rationale for Oregon’s policy.  The Oregon Health Authority – up until a KGW television reporter pointed out the flaw – also skewed the data on the number of Oregon COVID cases:

“OHA counted only ‘new’ people who got tested. If someone got a test in June and was negative, then returned for another test in July and was negative, that second test would not be counted as part of that July day’s total of tests given…..Not counting all the return people getting tested increased the positivity rate because it created a smaller denominator in the equation.”

While this approach may have been an honest mistake in uncharted territory, some would assert that it was a deliberate and nefarious attempt to increase case data to justify Oregon’s stricter lockdown policies.  And it was statistically significant……

The State has also exhibited it’s abhorrence to data transparency until objections by the media and constituents forced a turnaround on work-place outbreaks in May, 2020.

So what can each of us do in these times where mutual trust is as scarce as a glass of fine Pinot in a dive bar.  As rare as an NFL lineman who has never undergone concussion protocol or as infrequent as….. – sorry, I got carried away.

Statistics – not very attractive as a course offering

Broadcast and print news media now often have a political slant and newspapers struggle to provide investigative reporting staff.

Statistical Analysis tends to be a course  avoided in both high school and college – especially when one can, as an example, get three hours of credit at Michigan State University for “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse—Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior.”  Go Figure – so to speak…

And, of course, social media (like this blog….) is not exactly the most appropriate repository of veracity.

Some tips on how to mitigate this issue.

Read your paper – be informed and support it!

  • Support your local newspaper to help promote independent journalism in the future.
  • Employ some journalistic standards on your own e.g. checking multiple sources to verify what is stated as fact in articles – especially those on social media.

A timely (2/28) letter from Editor, Therese Bottomly, in The Oregonian entitled  “Yes, you should read us but please read lots of other sources, too,”  eloquently affirms my advice:

“Pew’s new analysis is a reminder that we should all broaden our media diet…..I encourage you to read widely. It’s worthwhile for those on the left and on the right to consume news from a broad spectrum….And it is wise to keep in mind the differences between fact-based news and straight-up opinion writing.” 

  • Challenge – through letters-to-the-editor and ongoing dialogue – baseless assertions made by those who are not well informed or conversely, those who are well informed and deliberately offer falsehoods.

Yes Virginia, there are THREE branches in the US Government and the Judicial Branch is one

  • Promote civic education in your local high school.  These courses are increasingly absent from curricula.   A 6/4/20 Brookings Institute report quoted a 2016 survey led by Annenberg Public Policy Center citing the “limited civic knowledge of the American public, 1 in 4 of whom, are unable to name the three branches of government. 
  • And for those with students in the house, engage in dinner-table discussion (also becoming more infrequent) about current events and what they garner from school and the internet on the issues.

Perhaps working with lawyers for over thirty years, taught me (the hard way….) the discipline to question rather than blithely accept claims without examining underlying assumptions for validity or context.  Let’s take one example.

Be Better – A Case Study??!!

For the last few years, the NBA Portland Trailblazers and Moda Health Systems, as part of their partnership, have had a program entitled Moda Assist Program.  Television announcers at every game describe with exuberance the arrangement.

As stated in the Moda Website:

“For every Trail Blazers assist on the court during the regular season, Moda Health and the Blazers each donate $10 dollars (that’s a total of $20 per assist!) to the Trail Blazers Foundation.

At the end of each season, the money goes towards building a new all-abilities playground in a deserving Oregon community.”  The Blazer website states, the amount per assist was doubled from last year.

Naming Rights — $40 million over ten years……

My instincts compelled me to analyze this program.   For background, it was reported by an article in a 2013 Lund Report entitled,  “Moda’s Vast Pool of Resources Makes the Rose Garden Affordable:”

“Moda expects to pay out $40 million for those naming rights.  Moda paid the Blazers approximately $40 million over a ten-year period for the naming rights” to the former Portland Rose Garden.

While the exact terms were not disclosed, Moda did not challenge the above estimate and it was similar to other stadium or arena naming deals in the NFL and NBA. Also see 8/13/2013 Blazer’sEdge.com.  Note:  Moda is classified by the IRS as a non-profit service provider.

Some Moda subscribers, at a time when premiums were rising and claims receiving additional scrutiny (and rejection) were also not happy as set forth in this 8/23/13 Oregonian article:  Moda Health Subscribers Express Frustration With Rose Garden Naming Rights Deal

“I am a terminal cancer patient. My insurance company, formerly ODS, is now Moda. Last week I received notice that Moda would no longer pay for one of my prescriptions on the same day I read that it reportedly paid $40 million to have its name on the Rose Garden. I just hope the company doesn’t decide it needs more advertising.”

Let’s analyze what this means for the sponsoring organizations and Oregon communities.  The program sets out the metric – “for every assist on the court” which could just mean the home court, but let’s be generous and assume it’s on the basketball court – home or away.  So they pony up $20 collectively.   Remember, it’s just during the regular season and not during playoffs.

A normal season would mean eighty total games.  The Blazers, according to teamrankings.com for the 2020 season, ranked last among all NBA teams in assists per game with 19.9. (They were also last in 2019 with 20.4 – maybe this is why Moda selected this performance metric…..)

Both of the last two years have had abbreviated schedules, but for the sake of discussion let’s assume the typical 80-game regular NBA season.  With the 2020-21 season about half over, the Blazer website states that the number of assists to this point is 636.

So this means for a normal NBA season, Moda would shell out about $16,000 and the Blazers about the same amount – it will again be less this year since the regular season is only 70 games because of the pandemic.

Now to provide some context, it is intuitively believed that health insurers (as contrasted to hospitals) did pretty well financially during COVID 19 last year because so many elective surgeries were postponed and people shied away from trips to the ERs or hospitals for non-COVID issues because of fear of contracting the virus.

The Kaiser Family Foundation newsletter on 12/16/20 on “Health Insurer Financial Performance Through September 2020” stated, in part:

“By the end of September, average (profit) margins across these four markets (Medicare, Medicaid, group and individual private insurance) remained relatively high and loss ratios relatively low or flat compared to the same point in recent years.

These findings suggest that many insurers have remained profitable even as both COVID-related and non-COVID care increased in the third quarter of 2020.”

There has been no slide in health insurer profits…..

To conclude, I’ll leave you with what kind of playground $32,000 would provide.  According to Gametime.com which designs and manufactures commercial playground equipment for schools and communities and why the Moda website in some subtle wordsmithing statestowards building” rather than buying and installing the entire structure(s).

“You should budget around $1,000 per child. That makes the average cost of playground equipment between $15,000 and $50,000. If you are looking for a larger play structure with inclusive (accessible) features or a custom design, set a budget closer to $150,000.”  (Emphasis providedMar 12, 2020)

So when I hear Blazer players and announcers enthusiastically proclaim the Moda slogan “Be Better” and look at an excerpt from Moda’s mission statement: “Be outstanding community citizens through gifts of our time and resources,”  I ask for a little corporate introspection.  Not to be a wet blanket and admitting the program conceptually is to be lauded       

BUT

Given the need to promote outdoor recreation at schools as the pandemic continues and given the number of Oregon communities decimated by wildfires, ice storms (and in Portland) vandalism to public facilities, could both Moda and the Blazers be better in this program without causing much internal organizational distress?  Rather than have three communities vie for the funds with one “winning”  how about awarding all three or more?

Cheers and Be Better by Getting Your Vaccination!

Beerchaser Miscellany – The Bad, the Unfortunate and the Good!

In one of my last posts entitled “Destiny of the Dives,” I listed a number of Portland bars and breweries that had closed based on the pandemic and resulting lockdowns and the civil disorder that was rampant in Portland last year.  Unfortunately, there’s a couple more, both of which I had hoped might reopen, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Bailey’s Tap Room – right on Broadway in downtown Portland and known since 2007 for its robust tap list (its twenty-six rotating taps were displayed electronically) will definitely not reopen although that was the intent when it first closed.

Unfortunately, the Upper Lip – a great lounge on the upper floor of the same building – is also gone.  The building was quickly sold and who knows if another watering hole will eventually take over the space.  An article in Brewpublic.com echoed the same pessimistic outlook.

One of the first electronic displays of its kind

Willamette Week reported in a  January article headlined  An Oregon economist could not think of another example of ‘an area that has so quickly fallen into disfavor.’”:

“Portland plunged from one of the most desirable cities for real estate investors to 66th among 80 cities (Urban Land Institute)….The reputational damage is what’s going to exacerbate or prolong what we saw unfold in 2020.”

Grixen Brewing – my former neighbor was one of the partners in this brewery opened in 2013 in SE Portland that featured a spacious taproom and good beer.

Great taproom and quality beer…

Grixen — Sorry to see them go…..

It was announced in August that they would temporarily close although their website now states:

“We have permanently closed.   We are still navigating a way to keep the beer alive.  Follow us on social channels for announcements.” 

Well, there is nothing in social media or on the internet that updates that info except a piece in NewSchoolBeer.com in October stating “Lease the Former Grixen Brewery.”  I hope I’m wrong, but don’t count on seeing them again.

Tax and Legislative Changes and Lifting of Restrictions

Fortunately, at least in Oregon, there are some positive developments which will now help bars and breweries after a tumultuous year.

Oregon Craft Brewers avoided what would have been a 100% tax increase:  “The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress Dec. 21 includes a set of tax breaks that offer substantial relief for Oregon craft brewers, distillers, winemakers and cider makers, who are among the small businesses hit hard during the pandemic.” 

As an example, a brewery that produces 10,000 barrels a year would have jumped from paying $35,000 a year to $70,000 a year in excise taxes

My favorite cocktail — gin – up with olives

  At the end of 2020, Oregon Legislators passed a bill that allows bars and restaurants to sell mixed drinks for offsite consumption – something the industry has been seeking for the last year statewide.  It requires food with the drink order, but that’s a start.

Well, it took long enough, but at least they got this one right!

  Because of falling COVID rates, “For the first time since November, restaurants, bars and brewpubs in the Portland metro area will be allowed to reopen their indoor dining rooms at a limited capacity at the end of the week.”  (2/12)

So on 2/12, Portland area Beerchasers, while still practicing social distancing and wearing masks, could go out and support their local watering holes and not just  sit in the cold with portable heaters.

And to show how it goes, just when the COVID restrictions were loosened, Portland and the burbs got hit with an incredible ice storm that closed roads, led to hundreds of thousands losing power and trees either coming down altogether or large limbs breaking under the weight.

Matchsticks….! My sidewalk and street

I’ll take a pint over push-ups or pilates…..

Our own street and sidewalk looked like a behemoth tossed limbs like match-sticks.

But I’m confident normality will resume In Oregon.  It’s just a matter of when and how one defines “normality!”

After all, it was reported by Willamette Week, that a recent national survey by the American Addiction Centers revealed that bars won out over gyms on which adults missed most.  In Oregon bars won by a decent margin: 59% to 41%.  Go figure!

The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory and a Sad Farewell..

Followers of this blog know that one of my favorite dives outside Oregon is Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska.  I first came across this unique watering hole in 2014 and it has been serving beers (not on tap – just bottles and cans) for over forty years.

I always look forward to their pithy and biting quarterly newsletter – until I can return, but was glad to see in the latest edition that they reopened in late January:

“Several establishments won’t be opening at all.  Some were old, established icons around town.   (We will reopen) with the same wonderful staff that are known and loved – some as long as twenty six years.  Some minor tweaks were done during the shutdown, but the same free popcorn and free Jukebox will still be there too…..So get vaccinated and let’s end this crap.” 

My last mention of Darwin’s was to post a picture sent by Jon Magnusson’s – father-in-law to our older daughter when he and his wife, Nancy and two good friends, Dr. Bob and Stephanie Thompson visited Anchorage on a trip to see the Northern Lights in February, 2020.

I told them they had to check out Darwin’s and I got a text from Jon with the picture below and the comment, “Exploring Darwin’s – Great Place.”

From left – Jon and Nancy Magnusson and Stephanie and Dr. Bob Thompson at Darwin’s Theory in February 2020.

We were shocked and saddened to learn that Dr. Bob passed away last week following a heart attack while swimming.   He practiced Family Medicine in Seattle and was loved and respected by patients, colleagues and all who knew him.

In 2013, he was honored as the Outstanding Health Care Practitioner in Washington State and as stated by the CEO of the Valley Medical Center where he practiced for over thirty years:

“Dr. Bob, as he is fondly known, has worked at Valley for over 25 years and he is an emblem of what it truly means to be a tireless and compassionate care giver, committed to helping people in need.”

Dr. Bob Thompson was an outstanding person-of-faith who worked on many volunteer medical missions including Belize in Central America and Albania.  He was active in numerous charitable organizations and a loving husband, father and grandfather.  We will miss him.

New Times for Old Town

In an 8/16/20 Beerchaser post, I mentioned how entrepreneur, Adam Milne, the founder of the iconic Old Town Pizza in 2003 and his later expansion to Old Town Brewing, faced challenges during COVID and the riots/protests in Portland this summer.

Adam Milne – a bright and creative businessman

They caused him to temporarily close one of his his two establishments – the downtown location as reported in a July 12 Willamette Week:

“‘The moment of a temporary closure became, sadly, clear on Thursday when our revenue for the day was $18.75,’ he says….. ‘We really need help from the city. Downtown businesses have been hit especially hard with the high density, vandalism and tents in front of our business.'”

While Old Town Pizza is still closed, he has not been sitting idle and will expand with another eastside location besides the Northeast Brewery.

Just this month, he purchased Baby Doll Pizza on Southeast Stark – he won’t change the name although it will now feature a number of the excellent Old Town beers on tap.  Baby Doll is known for its’s New York style pizza.

Congratulations Adam.

Parting with Encouraging Words

In my recent post, Destiny of the Dives, I bemoaned the loss of some historic Portland watering holes, but parted with a hint of optimism – that during and after the pandemic – required restrictions, a number of establishments have either expanded or innovated to stay open and in some cases, grow and prosper.  The pent-up demand caused by isolation would be a beacon to Beerchasing…..

And then I came across an outstanding January 12th article from New School Beer.com that was stunning in the expansiveness of such plans in 2021 —  The Most Anticipated Upcoming Oregon Breweries and Taprooms of 2021 — New School Beer + Cider

The most exciting news is the info about Steeplejack Brewing – plans to open this summer – a heartening story not only because of the spirit of the co-partners (Brody Day and Dustin Harder) who are two college buddies, but because their partnership and cooperative efforts with the Metropolitan Community Church.

Portland’s Metropolitan Community Church

The result – a wonderful historic landmark will be saved and still serve as a community gathering place.  This is an incredibly ambitious project. Stay tuned and Godspeed!

“The church at NE 24th and Broadway is a landmark of Portland’s Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood known for it’s ornate steeple and long history.

The building’s most recent owners Metropolitan Community Church left the building in 2019 and it narrowly avoided being demolished. Turning down competing bids, the MCC leaders chose to sell the space to two homebrewers who wanted to keep the building intact and as a central hub or the community.”

Conceptual photo of the planned brewpub

Amen!!

 

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter —Moving and Shaking

In a recent post on Thebeerchaser, entitled “Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter (Who?  What? Why?)”,  I listed the thirty-five individuals I’ve named in the almost ten years since this blog started.  These “honorees” may or may not have anything to do with bars, breweries or beer, but have interesting stories and have made their marks in both their personal and professional lives.

And their stories continue so I decided to give you an update on what five (or maybe six) of them have done recently – even during the pandemic to continue their legacies.  To see their stories in the original posts, click on the link that highlights their names.

Dwight (The Godfather) Jaynes – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (December 2016)

The Godfather

Besides his blog, this Oregon Sports Hall of Fame journalist (also five-time Oregon Sportswriter of the Year) and broadcaster, works for NBC Sports NW.

Since the start of the NBA Season, he and Chad Doing, co-anchor of Rip City Drive on Portland’s Rip City Radio, do a one-half hour segment before every Portland Trailblazer game.

Chad Doing

This “Blazer Warmup” is entertaining and informative.   They play well off each other and Dwight’s knowledge, both of the history of the Portland team and his analytical insight make this a show worth watching.

Chad is a delightful radio personality and unlike some talk-show hosts, he doesn’t take himself too seriously although he’s very knowledgeable and provides good commentary.

Jay Waldon – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (March 2016)

This Portland attorney and former colleague at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt has an active Energy and Environmental Law practice.  Since being named a BOQ in 2016, Jay has continued moving and shaking.

In 2017, he was admitted to the US Rugby Hall of Fame.  He is now Chair of the US Rugby Foundation’s fundraising and has served as a Director.  A 2017 article in the Providence College News (his undergrad alma mater) stated:

“(His contributions span) nearly five decades as a player, coach, TV broadcaster, and ambassador of the sport. He began his rugby career in 1968 as a University of Virginia graduate student, where he received his master’s degree, worked on his Ph.D., and then received his juris doctorate while serving as a player, president, and captain. Waldron played on numerous rugby representative teams and won the university boxing championship.”

The Dancing Bear spars with Ray Lampkin

(The story of the UV Boxing Championship is worth a glance alone and explains how he acquired the moniker “The Dancing Bear.”)

As you will see if you check the original blog post, Jay’s yearning for adventure (possibly caused by some of the blows to the head on the rugby field or sparring with pro-boxer Ray Lampkin) have led him to extreme adventures.

Death Wish? (This is Waldron)

Among these are river rafting including a 1996 China trip down the Upper Yangtze, in addition to motorcycle racing and well over twenty road trips on his motorcycle throughout the US, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

Jay still practices law and continues riding his motorcycle – he favors BMW’s or Ducati’s (“Harleys are too slow, too clumsy, too noisy.”) which was the cause of a recent concussion and broken clavicle – but that’s another story.

And speaking of Dwight Jaynes, you can read The Godfather’s recent column about both Jay and his son, Shane, at the link below.

Shane was just announced as the new Offensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. He evidently inherited some of his parents’ work ethic and athleticism.

Karen and Jay have been married for fifty-two  years (they met at a bar when Jay was a bouncer – but that’s another story…) and both have won decathlons for their age group at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

https://www.nbcsports.com/northwest/seahawks/father-seahawks-new-oc-shane-waldron-hard-work-can-do-amazing-things-people

Karen and Jay Waldron (Did not wear a bow tie when he was a bouncer….)

Shane was most recently the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Los Angles Rams.

This followed assistant coaching gigs at Notre Dame, the New England Patriots, the University of Massachusetts and the

Shane Waldron in earlier coaching days

Washington Football Team (formerly Redskins).  He played football at Tufts University where he was a tight-end and long snapper.

Amy Faust – Beerchasr-of-the- Quarter (April 2017)

Amy had a very successful career as the co-host of the award-winning Mike and Amy Show on KWJJ – the Wolf, which ended in 2018 after almost twenty years.

Not a long-term career option

Upon graduation from Scripps College, she realized (rather quickly) that she was not going to make a living as a professional mandolin player and singer in a New York City group called The Bushmills.

Her fascinating career through 2020 includes stints in documentary film production, freelance writing, authoring advertising copy, producing TV commercials, television production and as location manager for the show Portlandia.

Amy’s journey continues to be fascinating, having attended a eight-day Clear Lake, Iowa school in 2018 at the World Wide College of Auctioneering where she was certified to be a benefit auctioneer.   In addition to her other work, she now emcees/auctioneers fundraising events.

Program Host at Portland Classical 89.9 FM

Then her background in writing and broadcasting led to her two current roles – copywriting for national brands and, most recently, as contributing host and producer of On Deck with Young Musicians for Portland’s All Classical Radio (89.9 FM) each Saturday at 5:00 PM.

Lunch with Amy in 2016

A Portland native, Amy has lived in New York, LA, Dublin, Paris, and DC, but I’m glad that this truly captivating individual continues to call the Rose City, her home.

Jack Faust – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (September 2014)

In a recent (February 1) article in the Portland Oregonian on the late actor Bing Russell, Jack, who was a very good friend and played a key role in the wonderful story of The Battered Bastards of Baseball, was quoted on his friend and client:

“’The world was his stage,’ says the retired lawyer and former Portland TV personality. ‘He was the most unforgettable character I ever met. Bigger than life.’”

Jack Faust in 2012 Beerchasing at the Buffalo Gap

The article mentions Jack’s recollection of the arbitration in which he was the lawyer in the litigation against Major League Baseball and stated of his star witness:

“’He (Bing) was Jimmy Stewart playing Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ Faust, his lawyer, wrote years later in a remembrance of his friend. ‘This was not about money, Bing said, it was about the soul of a city.  The testimony ended with Major League Baseball’s lawyer answering ‘God, no,’ when he was asked, ‘Any more questions?’”

Jack Faust at a 2014 Beerchasing event in Frank Peters’ Grand Cafe.  Frank “The Flake” was the legendary Manager of the Battered Bastards. (Faust’s Oregon State jersey was at the cleaners.)

Russel was offered $20,000 to settle, but refused and “Bing won — he was awarded a staggering $206,000, an amount he had suggested.”  And to read more about the incredible story of another character – Frank Peters – in that saga read: https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/01/23/a-frank-conversation-about-the-grand-cafe/

And for those wondering, Jack and Amy Faust are the only father-daughter Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter and are well deserving of the “honor.”

John Runkle – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (August 2019)

Those who follow this blog know that my favorite watering hole of the almost 400 visited in ten years of Beerchasing is the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, the Montana village, where I  stayed for two nights on a 2019 Montana road trip.

That’s where I met one of the most charismatic Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, John Runkle – besides owning the Saloon he owns the Yaak River Lodge – a mile down Yaak River Road.

Notwithstanding our divergent political views, John and I had great conversations while I was there getting information for the blog and we have stayed in touch electronically since that time.

Thebeerchaser and John in 2019 – notice whose on the right…..

You should read John’s story in my August 2019 post and his interesting background growing up in Orange County, CA, his military service as a paratrooper, his success in real estate and how he ended up in Yaak in 2004 after first purchasing the Lodge and then The Shame in 2013 – out of foreclosure.

Since I fell in love with Montana on this six-day solo road trip before I picked up my wife who flew into Billings for the remainder of our fifteen-day journey, I’ve subsequently read a number of books about Montana history – particularly on its early mining industry, the outlaws, vigilantes and the efforts of early law enforcement to enforce justice in the raucous frontier environment.

And I can just picture John as a larger-than-life sheriff in one of those historic towns such as Virginia City, Lewiston or Fort Benton.

And being a sheriff, might have come in handy when he encountered a crazy guy with an A/R 15 who John bear-sprayed after he tried to get back in the bar after Runkle kicked him out.  (See this story in the Daily Missoulian entitled:   “Troy Man Charged Following Saturday Night Incident at Yaak’s Dirty Shame Saloon.)

The Dirty Shame is not only a great and historic dive bar, but a cultural phenomenon and John, through his dynamic style of communication, entrepreneurial spirit, story telling and splendid sense of humor, maintains the spark even on cold Big Sky nights.

Part of John’s story is how he met his wife, Dallas, about five years ago when she applied for a job at the bar while on break from getting her Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Arizona State University.  She is now a teacher and tutor.

Their adorable older daughter was two and one-half years old when I was there and Dallas was nine months pregnant with their second daughter.

The Proud Papa with “The cutest little girls in the World.”

In a January 16, 2021 Facebook post, John wrote:

“So my wife is pregnant again.  Can someone explain to me how a 60 year old man
keeps getting his wife pregnant?”

Well, the 131 comments responding to his rhetorical question are entertaining as you might imagine.  So what’s ahead for this guy?   Well, if you check out the info in the link from Yaak River Realty, you will see the opportunity to purchase the Dirty Shame for $349,900.

In a telephone conversation with John today, he said that the Lodge is also for sale. “When I was younger, I didn’t mind the snow and cold weather. Now I do.”

The family will be moving to Yakima for about a year where Dallas is teaching and then ultimately to Texas where most of their families live. I asked if he was going to own a bar in Texas and he said, “If I do, it will not be a seasonal one like the Shame.”

We ended the conversation with him asking me if I was going to be in Yaak on Saturday night.  “Don, it’s the first time male strippers will be appearing at the Dirty Shame.” 

I told him that I’d wait for the Adult Easter Egg Hunt in April when it’s warmer. Go Figure…

Art Vandelay – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (January 2014)

I’ve known most of the BOQ’s personally, but never had the opportunity to meet this titan of the latex industry.  Notwithstanding the fact that Vandelay Industries flourished supplying PPE during the pandemic, Art became depressed and out of sorts.

During the lockdowns, he was consumed with watching old Seinfeld reruns, binge rubber bridge matches and recording the whale migration along the California coast.  However, after recollecting old memories such as his two-year tenure as president of his eighth-grade class and the thrill of being voted “Most Likely” his senior year in high school, he got inspired.

Ensconced at corporate headquarters

Thus, his malaise ended and with the election of Joe Biden, he took action notwithstanding his one-time admonition at a corporate retreat, “Annoy a liberal – Work – Succeed – Be Happy!!”

Drain the Swamp???

Art started lobbying for the Secretary of Labor position until a White House official phoned him and stated, “The closest you are going to get to a Cabinet position is to enroll in a woodworking class at Community College.”

So while Art is temporarily stymied, stay tuned for continuing exploits and the future Work of Art.”  *

* Thanks to Carson Bowler – a Vandelay understudy and mentee and his assistant, Doreen Winterbottom for their cooperation.

 

Cheers and Stay Safe!

Destiny of the Dives!

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

My beloved City is a MESS!

Portland, Oregon – the Rose City – again made national news last week because of continuing riots.   The city has served as an unfortunate national example of the most contentious and continuous riots/demonstrations since March.

A riot in August and still going on….

Many of those participating are exercising their First Amendment rights and feel strongly about the causes eliciting their participation.

That said, many just revel in  looting, indiscriminate violence and attacking law enforcement officers and demonstrators opposed to their views – if they even have them.

The question is how long does this continue especially given the impact on downtown businesses, many of which are small family-owned enterprises.   A 1/24 headline in  Oregonian entitled, “Pedestrians Vanish from Downtown” stated that foot traffic is down 80% from 2019.

Economist, Bill Conerly

Well known Oregon economist, Bill Conerly, describes the current situation and the implications in an excellent article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Death Of A City – The Portland Story.”

The impressive high-rise building in which I worked for twenty five years now has a fence around it to prevent vandalism and Starbucks and other vendors have disappeared from its lobby. (They were possibly going to remove it after the Inauguration.)

PacWest Center –Now fenced off and mostly vacant lobby.

This led the Oregonian in a January 22, story to ask, “What are we Marching for?  On inauguration days in Portland, protestors and observers wonder alike.”

“An on-the-ground view of Wednesday’s protest shows the lack of cohesion, the divergent ideas of what constitutes free speech in Portland and the turbulence of the crowd…..’I don’t know where the %*#% I’m going, but I don’t give a *&^%,’ yelled Princess Warner (20)……’This is the worst *&^% march I’ve ever attended,’ another one yelled.”

Other than hoping that someone shows Princess the *&^%$ way to Disneyland, I won’t make any other comments except to say, the riots are a primary factor contributing to the demise of my beloved dive bars (and other businesses.)

A grunge bar with character…

Just a few blocks away from where this unlawful assembly occurred and my former office, is the diminutive Yamhill Pub – not a dive, but a noted grunge bar that I featured in 2015 – home of $1.50 PBR Happy Hours.

In my last post I wrote about the GoFundMe campaign to save the Yamhill – struggling to survive based on pandemic considerations and restrictions.  Although the pub had a Facebook post on January 5th, nobody answered the phone tonight (Friday) – not a good sign.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/01/07/leaving-2020-in-good-taste/

The grunge bar interior at the Yamhill

The Concern….

I have written about dive bars before in Thebeerchaser – first trying to define them in 2011 – “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First” but also periodically citing the concern about their continuing existence.  A Portland Mercury article in 2016 featuring the Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society stated:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.”

This 2016 piece listed twelve classic Portland dives that might be endangered:

Reel’ M Inn, Billy Rays, Kenton Social Club, Georges, the Trap, Ship Ahoy, Blue Diamond, Tavern on Denver, Checkered Flag, My Father’s Place, Slims, Water Trough Saloon and the Lariat Lounge

Billy Ray’s – Still a Neighborhood Institution

The good news is that of these, only two have closed permanently – Tavern on Denver and the Water Trough Saloon although the legendary Reel ‘M Inn – known for its fried chicken and jojos since 1994 – is closed indefinitely.  Fortunately, the others are still pouring cheap Budweiser to regulars.

West Coast Dave Hicks at the Reel M Inn

That said, every week one can read about other bars or breweries that have not weathered the pandemic lockdowns or the depressed economy.  The following January article from Portland Eater gives a fairly extensive list of the bars and eateries (about eighty) that have closed since the Pandemic.

I would add to that list the following three bars:  the Old Gold, Paydirt and the Oregon Public House (closed indefinitely.)

Since the Oregon Public House was an innovative community experiment, we hope that later this year they will reopen and not only serve good beer, but also continue their support of deserving non-profit organizations in accordance with their motto – “Have a Pint – Change the World.”

“Have a Pint – Change the World!”

For memories sake, I will just mention a few closures of the almost 400 bars and breweries visited and reviewed by Thebeerchaser since 2011 and the links will take you to the reviews if your are interested. There are two on the list of closures that I will highlight, because they break my heart and if you read the reviews I wrote, you will understand why (Links over the name)

Crackerjacks Pubthis wonderful pub – “a beloved dive bar and pizzeria for more than 30 years” – I visited twice in 2014 and was the closest to a Cheers ambiance of any in the ten years I’ve been on this exploration of watering holes.   

Thebeerchaser outside one of his favorite stops on the Tour

Sam and Jimmy – two gems met on Thebeerchaser’s Tour

The first visit was with my good friend, “West Coast Dave Hicks” and not only was the food great – as it was on the second visit – but the Manager – Sam and the cook, Jimmy were wonderful and friendly people.

The Tanker Bar – this beloved dive bar at the east end of Portland’s Barmuda Triangle “spent the last decade serving cheap well drinks and airing Blazer games.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my most frequent Beerchasing companions – Portland lawyer, Jim Westwood and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter – whose mom was my high school Latin teacher for two years, accompanied me in 2013 and also translated the motto – in Latin on the bar’s logo – for me “In heaven there is no beer, so that’s why we drink it here.”

The regulars will miss the Naughty Bingo Nights each Tuesday which had a signature cocktail list featuring The Naughty Bingo Martini.  Jesse, the bartender, was a class act and helped make this early stop on my tour of bars a memorable one.

Jesse and Jim Westwood share stories at the corner of the bar

Sidecar 11 – this upscale “hole in the wall” bar visited in 2013, was not one of the most memorable, but distinguished itself with signature cocktails and an  impressive wine list.  The bar also featured great art by local artists.

One of the many good bars on Portland’s Mississippi Ave, Sidecar 11 closed “after years selling barrel-aged cocktails and whiskey flights.”  It also had a beautiful backbar displaying an incredible array of whiskeys.

The General and Aaron

As usual, the bartender, Aaron, was friendly and I also enjoyed my companion, retired lawyer and Air Force National Guard General, Larry Paulson, who after he left our law firm became the Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver until his retirement.

Portland Brewing – This one is also based on sentiment because my former law firm (Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt) represented them for many years.  Our partner, John Guinasso, who provided excellent legal counsel to the Brewery for many years, would periodically bring a case of their flagship beer – MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale – to the office on Friday afternoons and we would toast the end of the week.

The brewery was founded in 1986 and has flourished with a great taproom and restaurant:

“(In 2008,) it was sold to Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing and then this entity was acquired by North American Breweries in 2010 and based in Rochester, New York. Two years later in 2012 this conglomerate of breweries was purchased by Florida Ice & Farm Co., based in Costa Rica.”) 

And that, my Beerchaser friends, illustrates why we should be concerned with the future of independent breweries as well as the neighborhood dive bar.

A Hint of Optimism

I’ll close with at least some good news.  A number of existing bars and breweries – those with a combination of sufficient space, adequate capital and management creativity and just plain grit – have either expanded or innovated to stay open and in some cases, grow and prosper.  Below are some captions for the stories on these enterprises:

Buoy Tap Room – Expansion Planned

Astoria’s Buoy Beer and Pilot House Distilling Are Preparing for Growth Along the Columbia River – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

http://Migration Brewing Is Opening Its Fourth Location in the Former Hopworks Space on North Williams Avenue – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Produce Row Cafe Has Reopened Its Patio for Service After a Two-Month Closure – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

The great patio at the reopened Produce Row

The Owners of Roscoe’s Have Turned an Old-School Chinese Restaurant Into the Craft Cocktail Bar North Portland Has Long Needed – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Beerchaser Regular Westwood at pre-pandemic Beerchase at Mad Hanna

https://www.wweek.com/bars/2020/12/16/one-northeast-portland-dive-bars-plan-for-surviving-the-pandemic-transitioning-into-a-general-store/

The owners of Mad Hanna have come up with one of the most innovative ideas by integrating a new General Store adjacent to the bar and I would bet that it will continue to thrive after the pandemic is over.

If you have not checked out this wonderful neighborhood-dive bar, you should definitely put it on your list and try their $4.50 Happy Hour peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I am grateful to my friend Hillary Barbour, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville. who introduced it to me and I returned with Beerchaser regular, Jim Westwood. (And Northwesterners, if you have not tried Burgerville take-out during the pandemic, you are missing out.)

And you can see others examples.  For instance, last weekend Church Bar – whose motto is “Eat Drink and Repent” – did a live, virtual concert entitled, “Save Church Bar.”

Mansfield toasting 95 patents at Church

I certainly hope this innovative bar with great ambiance survives so my former Schwabe colleague, Intellectual Property attorney, Jon Mansfield, can again post his 95 Patents in commemoration of Martin Luther’s 1517 masterpiece “Ninety-five Theses” on the entrance.

16th Century Theologian Martin Luther

As you can see by the example from the photo above while Jon was drinking a cocktail at the bar, he and the great theologian have a striking resemblance!

Onward and Upward

But all of us – whether in Portland, Boston or Amsterdam – can help these establishments to survive until they reopen and normal Beerchasing can occur.

Get a gift card, or order takeout – food and/or a growler (tip well!)  (The Oregon Legislature passed a bill this month in Special Session in which bars can now sell cocktails-to-go provided some food is purchased with the highball.)  Or just call the owner or manager, offer encouragement and tell them you will return when you can.

Because the alternative, if many of these independent entrepreneurs go out of business, is their locations to be absorbed by Applebee’s or a bar such as the Yard House – a sterile chain of bars owned by the same corporate entity as the Olive Garden and in my 2016 review I concluded that it did not “measure up.”  (Are you prepared for unlimited garlic bread with your pint of beer?)

Portland’s Yard House – Is this the kind of entrance you want to see on your neighborhood bar?

Wear Your Mask, Stay Safe and Blessings in the New Year.

Leaving 2020 in “Good Taste”?

Image courtesy of Pam Williams

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The Taste of Beer – Follow-up

In my last post, I did a rant, of sorts, about beer reviews – where some of the descriptions of my favorite beverage, in the reviewers’ attempt to be creative, are ridiculous.   I had saved examples clear back to 2014 to illustrate my point.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/12/23/holiday-cheer-and-the-taste-of-beer/

The Von Ebert Boarmobile

The reaction was positive and I wanted to follow with one more current example – from Willamette Week’s 2019 Beer Guide.

It’s an excerpt from the eighth-ranking in their Beers-of-the-Year the Pilsner (4%) from Von Ebert Brewing – a small and good brewer right in Portland’s Pearl District

 I’ll follow with what I regard as some common sense advice on tasting beer from two experts.  I might add, that of all of them, this description was one of the most ludicrous although the brewery’s Pils is a great beer:

“When the first sip of Von Ebert’s Pilsner crosses your lips, it tastes as if you were reading a 19th-century love letter painstakingly translated from German.

Three different Pilsner malts, each with its own crackery nuance, join like the tiny gears inside an imported continental timepiece, ticking beneath a flowery blend of Perle, Saphir and Tettnanger hops lifted into your nose by spritzy natural carbonation. And after weeks of cold-temp lagering, you can actually read a letter through it.”

“Crackery nuance?”

Wie hat Ihnen diese Beschreibung gefallen?

Oh sorry, I meant “How did you like that description?”  I got so carried away with German that I forgot some of you may not be enlightened enough to know the nuances of German to English translation (much less the “crackery nuance” he mentions). The reviewer’s tirade of wacky similes made me laugh.

For some more practical advice, and because he is a smart and gifted entrepreneur with common sense and a great knowledge of beer, I asked Adam Milne, the owner of Old Town Brewing for his take. (His brewery also produces one of my five favorite beers – Shanghai’d English Style IPA – a 2018 Gold Medalist at the World Beer Cup.)  His e-mail stated:

“I always like one of two approaches. One is to use common terms that are known to beer drinkers, so the readers have a universal understanding. This can be words like bitter, hoppy, fruity, malty, IBU’s and many others. 

The second approach is to go outside the beer world for terms that apply to food and drinks that everyone is familiar with. This can be describing sodas, cakes, fruits or vegetables. Basically compare to any ingredient in a grocery store or made in a restaurant. This allows for people who are not as familiar with beer to easily relate.”

Goethe – did not mix German beer and love letters

Notice Adam did not use Shakespearean metaphors or an example from Wolfgang Von Goethe although the WW reviewer might have taken the advice from this 18th century German poet, playwright, novelist and scientist who opined:  “A person ‘hears’ only what they understand.” 

I thought another good source might be an article in Draft Magazine entitled “What a psycholinguist can tell us about how we describe beer flavors,” but unfortunately, Draft Magazine was discontinued in 2017 and the pieces is no longer available.

There was, however, a practical article entitled “How to Describe Beer Like a Pro,” that seems reasonable.  https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/how-describe-beer-pro

Finally, before I leave the subject, I have to give Parker Hall, the reviewer from Willamette Week at least some credit.  Although I think his beer reviews are pretentious, I respect his education and background.  He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music – a very respected institution, where he studied jazz percussion on a scholarship.

Oberlin – respected educational institution

“He remains a professional musician in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and is an award-winning homebrewer besides being a contributor to Portland’s alt-weekly Willamette Week.”

And While I’m Ranting About Reviews…

I guess before I depart from the subject of reviews, I’ll also talk a bit about book reviews.  Obviously, my exploits to new bars was stymied this year by the virus, so I read a lot more – mainly fiction, but also some good non-fiction works as well.

2020 warranted escapism so a much of my literary menu was thrillers by popular authors such as Lee Child, David Baldacci, Harlen Coban, etc.  But I found that relying on well known authors to rate their contemporaries is not very helpful in selecting a good read.  Usually, they are one or two sentence comments on the front or back covers and thrillers typically have phrases such as “fast-paced, a real page turner, superb plotting, absorbing nail-biter, an all-night read, etc.”

James Patterson writes of Lee Child, “I’m a fan.”   Best selling author, Lisa Gardiner writes of David Baldacci, “…one of the all-time best thriller authors,” and New York Times best-selling author Lisa Scottoline states, “Baldacci delivers, every time!”   One has to ask, with their writing demands and appearances, how thoroughly are these best-selling authors going to read and digest another writer’s book?

Perhaps others have arrived at the same conclusion as stated in a 2012 Los Angeles Times article,Why is Amazon deleting writers’ reviews of other authors’ books?”   The author quotes Amazon in a response to a reviewer inquiry:

Amazon Book Store

“We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.”  (emphasis supplied)

And, of course, this raises all kinds of questions such as, “How does one define ‘directly competing?'”  The article quoted one writer opining “….author-on-author reviews comprise so little of Amazon’s overall site content as to be nothing more than a “sparrow’s fart.”  Evidently, Amazon amended its position because the policy now allows authors to submit reviews of others’ books:

“….unless the author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process.”

A Solution?

Now since in the last blog post and this one, I railed against the over-the-top creative license by beer reviewers and now I’m slamming book reviews for being boring gibberish, one might ask, “Okay Don, what’s your solution?”

My answer – after giving it about the same amount of contemplation that Lisa Gardiner demonstrated in her review of David Baldacci’s book above – is in two parts:

First, since one of the purposes of book reviews and comments is to help readers avoid wasting their time on bad books and other literary works, reviews should be limited to those of lousy writers, poets and other artists.  To illustrate, I will use the example of English poet William Topaz McGonagal (1825-1902).

I became aware of him from a calendar of events in the Oregonian which noted the date of the death of the man “who is affectionately considered Britain’s worst ever poet.”  Upon researching, I learned that others “celebrate” him in more exalted terms – “The world’s worst poet.”

An excellent 2011 article in the British newspaper The Independent entitled, “The Story of William McGonagal” stated:

“In his lifetime, he was a music hall joke….He was paid five shillings for a public recital so that his mostly working-class audiences could jeer at his bad poetry or pelt him with rotten vegetables…..

….Yesterday, the writer and comedian Barry Cryer went on the Today programme to pay tribute to the Dundee bard, and recite the only poem McGonagall was ever paid to write, which was an advertisement for Sunlight soap:

Requires minimal elbow grease….

‘You can use it with great pleasure and ease — without wasting any elbow grease.'”

In concluding this section and without trying to overdo the topic –  albeit extremely fascinating –  I leave you with a poem he wrote after visiting New York City.  It gives credence to the Wikipedia summary:

“He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers’ opinions of his work….. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme.

McGonagall’s fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language.”

Empire State Building – Tall,  but more than thirteen “storeys”

“Jottings of New York” by William Topaz McGonagal

Oh mighty City of New York!  you are wonderful to behold,
Your buildings are magnificent, the truth be it told,
They were the only things that seemed to arrest my eye,
Because many of them are thirteen storeys high.

McCongagal died in Edinburgh in 1902 in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave  leaving behind a vast quantity of work and a reputation that endures more than a century after his death.

To reinforce my point – reviews of bad literary work are much easier to write, there is more consensus on the degree of unworthiness, it helps readers avoid wasting their time and it may actually help the author’s awareness.  (I just need to be hopeful that reviews of this blog and the manner in which I play the oboe since retirement will be only mildly disparaging when included under this standard.)

“Bard” Reviews

Furthering my argument to essentially limit critiques to lousy literature or maybe even substandard beer, I would submit that the model in the following article could be used to promote creativity and more inventive descriptions.    Book Bub published a captivating piece, “Twelve of the Funniest Shakespearean Insults” – replete with affronts which would be fit for describing either a shoddy literary work or hideous malted beverage.

For example, let’s assume you’re about 120 pages into a novel that is boring, puts you to sleep and has no redeeming literary value.  You could aptly describe it as, A fusty nut with no kernel,” (from Troilus and Cressida Act 2, Scene 1).

Now since my nickname is “Dirt” as you will see from the blog header above, I might take issue with the following.  It could describe an author who should be pursuing a career using his or her hands to produce a product other than the written word – O Gull! O Dolt! As ignorant as dirt!” (Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

Or let’s suppose you hit a new brewery and after sampling their flagship beer, you have to force yourself to swallow the loathsome malted concoction.  It would lead you to describe the brewer as, “Thou cream-faced loon,” (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3) while describing his brew as “(A) mouthful of foul deformity.”  (Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2).

This scheme could be expanded to other classical philosophers such as Machiavelli who might have been describing a writer when he wrote  – “……fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.”

Socrates (left) with buddy, Aristotle

Or perhaps, Aristotle, advising a scribe to pursue another occupation – “To avoid criticism – say nothing, do nothing, be nothing!”

Upon reflection, it’s unfortunate that some of these utterances were not employed during the election cycle this last year.   So ends my rant and I guess, if reading annoying and trite reviews is my biggest annoyance, I’m pretty fortunate.

So Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser.  We are thrilled and encouraged that our two nurse daughters both recently received their COVID vaccinations and let us hope that the vaccines end up in arms around the world in a rapid, safe and responsible manner.

That said, since I’m a healthy, retired guy under 75, my older daughter when I asked her when she thought I would get my shot, responded with the following photo and said, “Drink up, Dad!”

So, until then, I will be a faithful mask wearer as I hope you will be.

Holiday Cheer and the Taste of Beer

Image courtesy of Pam Williams

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

Happy Holidays, Beerchasers.  In what may be my last post of 2020, I will address one topic which is very interesting, yet tends to perplex and frustrate me. Let’s talk about

The Taste of Beer…..

A Portland “grunge” classic

Although this blog is primarily about bars and breweries, I often mention beers – especially those produced by the various breweries visited and which strike a chord.   

I’ve covered “basic” beers from the $1.50 Happy Hour PBRs at the historic Yamhill Pub  *1 in downtown Portland and the $1.00 draft Hamms (it used to be all day on Wednesdays…) at The Standard in Northeast Portland.

Buck pints – gone but not forgotten

*1  A November story in Willamette Week stated that this institution – at one time it sold more PBR than any bar in Oregon and in the ’90’s was no. 5 in North America – may have to close.  “General manager Kevin Hill has launched a GoFundMe campaign to save the Yamhill Pub, which is struggling financially during the most recent governor-ordered restrictions on dine- and drink-in service.” 

And conversely Janet and I enjoyed a Grolsch Premium Lager in Amsterdam’s Cafe Karpershoek in 2013 – the oldest pub in Amsterdam dating back to 1606 when Dutch sailors and merchants bellied up to the bar.

We’ve experienced some of the wonderful and innovative craft beers such as the Shanghai’d English Style IPA – a 2018 Gold Medalist at the World Beer Cup produced by entrepreneur, Adam Milne at Old Town Brewing – in Portland, Oregon where one can enjoy some of the finest micro-brews on the planet.

Janet at the bar in the Cafe Karpershoek

Now, I also remember life at Oregon State University in the late ’60’s, when the brew choices were all essentially “beer you could see through.”    I loved Schlitz Dry beer although Blitz Weinhard was plentiful on campus.  Of course, when one of the frat bros made a trip to a state in which you could buy a case of Coors – not available in Oregon until 1985 – he gained immediate popularity and new friends. 

However, what mildly irritates me are reviews – those where beer geeks – similar to some snooty wine connoisseurs – go into extravagant, grandiose and sometimes ridiculous detail describing how a beer tastes. 

That said, I realize that producing the ingredients for beer and the brewing process itself has gotten very technical and increased in sophistication to produce the outstanding mix of products from which beer drinkers can choose. 

For example, programs such as the Oregon State Fermentation Science Major have trained and educated outstanding brewers and enhanced the quality and flavor of beer immensely –  “a hands-on applied science addressing the biological, chemical and physical processes of fermented foods, including those used in the production of wine, beer, and spirits…..”

How cold was it? Sign outside Lumpy’s Landing

I’ve  progressed from not really knowing much about beer except that it’s much better really cold and in a frosted mug and have gained an appreciation for the rich history of brewing which goes back thousands of years.

“…..ancient Chinese artifacts suggested that beer brewed with grapes, honey, hawthorns, and rice were produced as far back as 7,000 BC.”  (Wikipedia – The History of Beer.)

I’m trying to educate myself on types of beer (ales and lagers – depending on the fermenting process), brewing styles, differentiation in ingredients and elements of taste.

A prime resource for beer education

There are some great online references and books such as the highly-rated The Beer Bible by Northwest author, Jeff Alworth who is also the originator of the Beervana blog. His almost 600 page book, with five appendices, could fill an upper-division college course on beer.

Lisa Morrison – also known as The Beer Goddess and a previous Beerchaser of the Quarter on this blog also wrote a good basic book on NW regional beers in 2011 – Craft Beers of the Northwest.

And after viewing the following sentence on page four of Jeff Alworth’s book, I thought that perhaps I was being too cavalier in dismissing the intricacies of beer taste.  Was I missing something when I raised a mug?

“When you sit down with a glass of beer, you do a lot more than taste it.  You will eventually put your papillae to the task, but they won’t work alone.  Your eyes take in its color, clarity and vivacity. 

Your nostrils detect sharp or subtle aromas drifting off the surface.  When you taste, you’ll be smelling the beer while its inside your mouth.  Your tongue, meanwhile, will be noticing whether its prickly with carbonation or smooth and still, whether it is thin or creamy or thick.  You don’t merely taste a beer, you experience it.”

However, after looking up the definition of “papillae” (a small rounded protuberance on the tongue) and realizing that I don’t really think about the prickly nature of beer while quaffing, I realized that I should not alter my own approach. 

Beer expert, Jeff Alworth at the Benedictine Brewery structure raising in 2017

I really love beer, but a major factor in my enjoyment is the social interaction with companions while imbibing.  That and drinking in the ambiance and unique character of each dive bar and brewery I frequent. 

Focusing on “mouthfeel” which is defined on page 599 of The Beer Bible as “Qualities of beer other than the flavor; includes body and amount of carbonation,” would detract from my Beerchasing experience.

I also respect those home-brewers who want to enhance their expertise and those in the brewing industry where it is a bonified occupational qualification to possess this technical knowledge.  And there are national and international brewing competitions such as the World Beer Cup.

It’s the world’s largest beer competition and labeled as “The Olympics of Beer.”  In the 2018 competition, there were 295 judges, three-fourths of them from outside the United States and beers from over thirty countries.

One can also choose to become a:

“….beer judge and work your way up the ranks evaluating beer to the Grand Master level. The (goal is) to remove as much of the subjectivity involved in evaluating beer during competitions as possible by giving all certified judges the tools needed to objectively evaluate the beers they judge.” https://winning-homebrew.com/evaluating-beer.html

But many of the beer reviews one reads in publications are pretentious and questionable.  My favorite example was so ludicrous, I saved it from five years ago. The reviewer, from a Portland weekly newspaper, was describing a new Gose beer introduced by an Oregon coastal brewery:

“”The first sip of the brew was like tasting the salty foam just as a large wave crests off the Oregon Coast.”

“Gasp – Gurgle – Glub – I think I have salt in my lungs….” (Off Lincoln City, Oregon)

I haven’t seen any more reviews from this columnist who most likely drowned while pursuing his next review, but there are others which also struck me as set forth below.

Small anti-hero??

Perhaps this is the challenge of those who pen reviews – trying to be creative and interesting, thereby using superlatives and hyperbole to capture the readers’ interest.  It happens with book and movie reviews too, as exemplified by this review of “The Joker” which hit theaters in 2020:

“Joker is so monotonously grandiose and full of its own pretensions that it winds up feeling puny and predictable.  Like the anti-hero at its center, it’s a movie that is trying so hard to be capital b – Big, that it can’t help looking small.” 

Let’s take this example from a Willamette Week’s Parker Hall 1/22/19 review of Day Runner IPA from Portland’s Threshold Brewing.  Now perhaps more sophisticated beer experts could truly discern the flavor he describes but take a look:

Rub your hands together and then give a “high” five…..

“A blend of Columbus and Ekuanot hops brings piny tar and tropical funk furnished by a tiny bite of freshly baked sourdough that makes your mouth water for the next sip, it smells like your hands would after an afternoon trimming Portland’s second favorite intoxicant. 

It’s a welcome and decidedly West Coast interpretation of the style that melds classic lupulin bite with deep hop flavor….”

Now remember, the reviews I’m talking about are not those in beer geek periodicals, but newspapers and publications for a general audience.   Heater Allen – a wonderful family brewery  in McMinnville, Oregon, gets a number of raves for its beers including this one from the 2014 Willamette Week Beer Guide where its Isarweizen was rated number six out of the top ten Beers of the Year.

“If you’ve only guzzled Widmer or Blue Moon, prepare yourself. This beer will thump your nostrils with the smell of clove and then strike your tongue with the taste of banana.  It’s creamy and crisp, something like chewing a slice of Juicy Fruit gum – in the very best way.”

“So sweet, you can’t help but chew” – and in the very best way!

Now while brewing creativity is a good thing, one reader argued about restoring some sanity in his clip entitled, “Holiday Ale Festival Gone Amok” when he described a disturbing trend in the annual Portland event in 2018 as:

“The festival’s hallmark has always been wonderful strong, winter ales and cask conditioned brews. Just the thing to blast me out of my IPA rut. But this year the festival got too cutesy and lost its way. The so-called stouts all tasted like milkshakes or Snickers bars.  The ales were so fruity that a better name might be the Kool-Aid Festival. 

And then there are the sour beers. There are probably some folks who actually like this stuff, but how many sour beers does it take for the rest of us to learn what we truly don’t like? Let’s take the Holiday Ale Festival back to its roots and put great winter brews back where they belong.”

To demonstrate how the trend to get a sweet confectionary flavor has escalated, let’s look at a few more.  Ten Barrel Brewing released The Last Blockbuster which was described as “having a light body and smooth finish with nuances of red licorice.”

“Nuances” of Red Licorice……

And here’s another one that I’ve saved about Priem Brewing (Hood River) Vienna Lager

“The relaxed toastiness, gentle caramelly sweetness and elegant body that define (this Vienna Lager) are all present, as are deeper notes of liquid toast, caramel apples and hints of toffee. A swallow brings out smooth cashew butter and dried, herbal hops balance the semi-sweet finish.”

The composer would judge the symphony of flavor as “classical”?

Now, Pfriem references the beer as a “malted symphony that would make Mozart proud….” and the review above was even in Draft Magazine, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen “liquid toast”.  (Although the Urban Dictionary defines “liquid bread as “A beer with a high specific gravity at the end of fermentation resulting in a dense beer.”)

It also sounds like this reviewer would get the same eclectic taste by stuffing the entire contents of his Halloween bag in his mouth in one gulp.

After griping about this brewing pattern, I’ll end the comments about beer reviews on a more positive and healthy note (except for the “chocolate milk” reference below).  While I’m not a great fan of stouts and porters, I did like the description of Most Premium Russian Imperial Stout from Gigantic Brewing – another Portland brewer. 

It was also in the WW 2014 Beer Guide and was favored as the 10th Best Beer in 2014: “In a beer scene lacking in big, bottled Imperial Stouts, Gigantic’s might be the czar.”  

“Thick as chocolate milk and black as the Mariana Trench, it masks its 10% ABV in a complex, aromatic palette of flavors, intermingling touches of raisin and prune with deep caramel and nuts.  It’s dense and robust, not to mention, dark – like a Russian winter’s night.” 

We need to add some raisins and nuts

For accuracy sake, I would also point out that while one would expect the Mariana Trench which reaches depths of 36,000 feet in the Pacific to be black, the hue in its ocean floor is actually “….a yellowish color…because of all the decaying plants and animals, animal skeletons, and shells that are continuously deposited there.”  

(If you’re wondering why I’m quoting from  2014 published reviews, it’s because I’ve been meaning to write on this topic since that time….)

Scriptural Guidance?

Since this is the Christmas and Holiday Season, I thought there might be a Biblical reference – from the Holy Bible versus the Beer Bible -which would provide some direction on the issue of beer flavor and taste – and I discovered one.

Proverbs 20:1 states: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” 

A brawler…..

A “brawler” would hardly be perceived as a brew with “nuances of red licorice” or a “gentle caramelly sweetness” or for that matter, “creamy and crisp – like chewing a slice of Juicy Fruit Gum.”  This – in contrast to an imperial stout or porter, both characterized by their dark color and full body.

The gold standard probably being Guinness Draught, which Guinness states is “distinguished by its legendary stormy surge upon pouring.”  That and a brew such as Smuttynose Imperial Stout can definitely be considered as “pugnacious.”  (Perhaps those who prefer dark beer can consider this as Old Testament Divine Guidance.)

The Beerchaser’s Favorites

Since I talked about beer itself – rather than breweries in this post – I’ll end by offering my five favorite Oregon beers (in no priority).  And hats off to the beer aficionados who are into the more esoteric brews.  But I graduated from an aggie college and have less refined and expansive preferences based on my education at Price’s Tavern in downtown Corvallis.

I am not offering any flamboyant or eloquent rationale except, “I really like them!”

Black Habit

 1.  Black Habit Brown Ale – (7.8%) the flagship beer of the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary brewed by Fr. Martin Grassel

2.  Sticky Hands IPA – (8.1% – 110 IBU) Block 15 Brewery in Corvallis 

3.  Oakshire Amber Ale – (5.4% – 24 IBU) from Eugene’s Oakshire Brewing 

4. Shanghai’d English Style IPA – (6.5% 65 IBU) – Portland’s Old Town Brewing

5.  Buoy IPA – (7.0% – 70 IBU) from Astoria’s Buoy Beer Company 

But I Can’t Forget….

And I would be remiss without this honorable mention.  Now, I realize that this American lager is a Wisconsin – not an Oregon beer – from the brewery founded in 1844 and unfortunately now produced by Miller Coors, but it’s still a great beer. 

Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) – (4.74%)  Pabst Brewing Company

An outstanding honorable mention

Besides, in Thebeerchaser’s opinion:

“PBR tickles the olfactory epithelium with a pleasant and satisfying aroma and provides a hint of the forest on a fall day.  And the smooth malt-infused taste this sophisticated pilsner gives mid-palate is memorable.  

Topping it off is the no-nonsense hoppiness which creates an emotional mouthfeel similar to the crest of a wave breaking in the Pacific off Lincoln City, Oregon at high-tide.  PBR is tantamount to the Nectar of the Gods!”  (Don Williams 2020)

Christmas and Holiday Blessings from Thebeerchaser

And may all your shots be Pfizer rather than Vodka!

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter (Who, What, Why?)

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos by clicking on the title above so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

Followers of Thebeerchaser blog know that generally, each quarter I try to convey the story of an interesting individual or group – a departure from my usual reviews of bars and breweries. Originally, I posted a Beerchaser-of-the-Month, but that schedule precluded doing justice to each story, so I moved to a Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (BOQ).

Who are these people and why do I devote space in my blog to the thirty-five individual  “honorees” named during the nine + years I have been authoring Thebeerchaser. The answer is pretty simple.

Throughout my earlier years, during my career and in retirement, I have met (or read about) many fascinating and wonderful people with compelling stories and both notable exploits and accomplishments.  Those I’ve featured may or may not have anything to do with bars or beer. Exploring how to chronicle the BOQ tales has been fun and gratifying.

The late author and humorist, Brian Doyle

I’ve known almost all the BOQ’s personally – and in a few cases, such as the late Brian Doyle – a noted NW author, I met them after writing and asking to meet them over a beer – asserting that adding the BOQ entry to their resume would pack the same punch as having a notary-of-the public designation. 

One of my early “honorees”, Princeton Emeritus Professor, Dr. Harry Frankfurt – author of the magnificent treatise, On Bullshitsurprisingly responded to the missive I sent him at the University informing him of this new accolade with the following e-mail:

Dear Mr. Williams,   First of all, thank you for the honor of naming me the January 12, 2012 Beerchaser of the Quarter.  I have looked at the blog in which you announced my receipt of this distinction, and I was impressed by its wit, its charm, and its erudition. 

Emeritus Professor Harry Frankfurt

Also, I enjoyed the pictures.  I intend to follow your blog regularly.  Anyhow, thanks very much for writing.  Sincerely,  Harry Frankfurt”

Beerchaser followers have sometimes asked for a list of all those I’ve written about.  Although you can access the posts, by clicking on the category at the left side of the blog header above, I haven’t to this point published a complete roster of this disparate group comprising academicians, athletes, authors, clerics, consultants, developers, environmentalists, friends/family, media personalities, military veterans, musicians…..well you get the idea.

Coach Dee Andros – celebrates the Giant Killer 3 to 0 victory over top-rated USC in 1967

And joining these individuals listed below, are four groupsthe 1967 Oregon State Giant Killer Football Team, the 1798-99 Crew of the USS Constitution (Unfortunately, none of whom I’ve met!), OSU Football Coach Mike Riley and his 2012 Team and Lawyers, – the latter based on the respect and admiration I gained – for at least most of them – working with these professionals for almost forty years.

Drinking a Sam Adams IPA at Dirty Nelly’s in Boston

Oh yes.  And there is, appropriately, one Beerchaser-of-the-Year (well, actually it should be 40 years).  She has been my life partner since March 29, 1980, but also supported me in the pursuit of this idiosyncratic hobby over the last nine years.  Janet even went so far as switching from her favorite vintage of wine to IPAs on our road trips exploring new watering holes.

Janet on Alaska Cruise

The BOQ’s are listed by year below in reverse chronological order ending with Harold Schlumberg – one of the few I have not met, but the first person, I named in 2011 shortly after starting Thebeerchaser.   Yes, in some years, there aren’t four but let’s not get too formal. – this is a hobby!  Before enumerating them below, I thought I’d give you an idea of their memorable exploits by this simple quiz.   The answers are at the end of the post after the list:

  1. Who are the father and daughter who both garnered this title in separate posts?
  2. What BOQ has the nickname “Godfather?”
  3. What BOQ is known as Oregon’s “Beer Goddess?”
  4. What family member of Thebeerchaser took a deep dive?
  5. Who is the only BOQ whose existence is questionable – not that that’s a bad thing!
  6. Vandelay —– Latex  – Really?

    What 2012 BOQ was recently inducted into the State of Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for two sports and what other BOQ did he join in that organization?
  7. What two persons are the only married couple named as co-BOQ for their outstanding long-term environmental work?
  8. Sam Holloway with Guinness Master Brewer, Fergal Murray

    Which BOQ is a tenured professor and internationally recognized micro-brewery industry consultant? 
  9. Which BOQ was named because of his heroic military service and is also not only an author, but served two terms as Mayor of an historic Oregon City?
  10. Which BOQ authored a book known as “the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years” and had an opening line that one author/reviewer described as “….probably the greatest opening line of any book I’ve ever read.” 
  11. Which Portland lawyer was named BOQ not only for his legal skills, but helping put Portland State College in the national spotlight during the 1960’s?
  12. Who is the BOQ who designed the memorable logo for Thebeerchaser?

You can click on the link over the name of each BOG below if you want to see the narrative and pictures in the original post.  And if you want to suggest an individual worthy of this esteemed title in the future, please leave a comment or e-mail me.

2020

Fr. Chuck Wood Catholic Priest 12/4/2020
Billy Main Football player – entrepreneur 5/25/20 – 5/11/20
Lawyers Lawyers 8/31/2020
Jack and Jan McGowan Environmentalist – non profit leaders 2/19/2020

No 22 – Billy “Rabbit” Main

2019

John Runkle Owner – The Dirty Shame Saloon  8/13/2019
Col. Terry “Spike McKinsey – USMC Marine Aviator and Base Commander 3/26/2019

Marine Aviator Terry “Spike” McKinsey

2018

The 1967 Oregon State Giant Killers Collegiate Football Team 5/20/2018
Mark Edlen Developer and Philanthropist 2/7/2018

Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, Mark Edlen

2017

Fr. Martin Grassel Benedictine Monk and Benedictine Brewer 7/1/2617
Brain Doyle – Beerchaser Eternal Author and Humorist 6/9/2017
Amy Faust Media Personality and Writer 4/11/2017

Amy Faust – now on Classical 89.9

2016

Dwight Jaynes Media Personality, Journalist and Writer 13/13/16
Kelly Gronli Symphonic Musician – Oboist 6/29/2016
Jay Waldron Attorney, Athlete, Adventurer 3/29/2016

The Godfather – Dwight Jaynes

2015

Capt. Rick Williams USN Retired Military Veteran and Energy Consultant 10/22/2015
Sam Holloway University Professor and Micro-brew Industry Consultant 8/25/2015
Lisa Morrison Bar owner, Author, Media Personality 4/9/2015

First a hardhat diver, then submarine rescue vehicle then skipper of a nuclear sub

2014

Jack Faust Lawyer and Media Personality 9/2/2014
Steve Lawrence Veteran, Lawyer, Author, Mayor 5/29/2014
Brian Doyle Author and Humorist 2/24/2014
Art Vandelay Latex??!! 1/31/2014
Janet Williams Wife and Outstanding Human Being 1/19/2014

Jack Faust and son, Charlie, at Bailey’s Taproom

2013

Johnny Brose Winemaker, Brewer, College Instructor 11/14/2013
Jud Blakely Veteran, Consultant and Writer 9/16/2013
Doug Bomarito Veteran and Lawyer 9/16/2013
Jim Westwood Attorney and Civic Leader 3/28/2013

Lt. Jud Blakely in Than Thrah Viet Nam – July 1966

2012

Forrest Green Musician, Environmentalist and Counselor 11/4/2012
Mike Riley and the OSU Football Team Coach and Players 10/23/2012
Craig “The Dude”  Hanneman Athlete, Executive, Elected Official and Mountain Climber 8/27/2012
John Terry Historian and Journalist 5/29/2012
Dr. Harry Frankfurt University Professor and Author 1/6/2012

 

The Dude on Mt. Everest Climb

2011

Four Bartenders Portland Area Mixologists 11/9/2011
James Crumley Author 9/27/2011
Harold Schlumberg Retired Chemical Engineer and Philosopher 8/29/2011

Phoebe – Bartender at the Brooklyn Park Pub – my first bar visited

Answers to the BOQ Quiz Above

  1. Jack and Amy Faust
  2. Dwight Jaynes
  3. Lisa Morrison
  4. Rick Williams – my youngest brother
  5. Art Vandelay who has a remarkable resemblance to lawyer, Carson Bowler
  6. Craig Hanneman and Dwight Jaynes
  7. Jack and Jan McGowan 
  8. Dr. Sam Holloway
  9. Steve Lawrence
  10. James Crumley
  11. Jim Westwood
  12. Jud Blakely

Cheers and Have a Safe and Joyful Christmas and Holiday Season