Beerchasing in Wisconsin Part III – Water Street Bars and Lakefront Brewery

Impressive Milwaukee skyline along the shores of Lake Michigan

After a week of diverse natural sights, good restaurants, great beer at cool bars and breweries, our week in Wisconsin was drawing to a close.  We left Sister Bay in Door County on Lake Michigan and headed back for a final day in Milwaukee before catching a flight back to Portland out of O’Hare Airport.

A 90-minute boat tour on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan was touristy, but a good way to see the some of the city and the shoreline.  The River is bordered by old industrial buildings which have either been converted or torn down to make way for toney condominiums in a city which is a great place for millennials.

A view overlooking the river for a cool $300 million….!

Our tour guide on the boat was a young graduate student from the University of Wisconsin campus near the city who read a script.  Janet asked her the average market price of a condo in one of the buildings lining the river.  Without hesitation, she responded, “$300 million,” which resulted in no additional questions and her sticking to the prepared script.  (I checked and one of units in a  newer condo building ranged from $175,000 to $1.1 million for the penthouse!)

The Milwaukee Brewers were in town that weekend and the city was just rocking.   We “Sought Asylum” for dinner with a good view of the river at the Ale Asylum River House, where we each enjoyed a great burger and one of their own beers – the Velveteen Habit-India Pale Ale, (7.5% ABV) and the Demento-Session Pale Ale (4.7% ABV).

Since we were on foot, we dropped into several nearby bars all on the same block of N. Water Street that were jammed with people enjoying the weekend.

BarNone is a very small bar which advertises, “Slip into the tightest hole in Milwaukee.” According to its website, “It opened  for business October 30, 2009. With an entirely remodeled interior and soon to be exterior, BarNone attracts an attractive young college crowd. Located on the corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue, we are close to campus and the beat of everything that is happening nearby.”   It was so crowded and with two other options next door, we passed on having a beer.

The second bar in which we did have a beer was Pourman’s which is in a 125-year-old building and opened in 2012.  It has great old photos and impressive woodwork for the bar and tables and the top of the bar is filled with pennies.  Evidently they don’t have an equivalent to Oregon’s OLCC (Liquor Control) because at Pourman’s you could also pour your own beer if you sat in one of the booths.  Janet said that she would not tip me so we sat at the bar and our friendly bartender, John, poured the draft we split:

PourMans – Be your own bartender…..

“……..there are four tappers on each of three tables. Customers give the bartender an ID in exchange for a glass – one customer per group must provide a credit card – and can tap up to 32 ounces of beer per person right from their table.

If he or she wants to drink more after the 32 ounces, they check in with the bartender who assesses the patron’s sobriety and, if they’re not drunk, will program the tappers to dispense more beer.”   https://onmilwaukee.com/bars/articles/pourmansmilwaukee.html

Janet in front of McGillycuddys

Right next door was McGillycuddy’s Bar & Grill.  It is spacious and impressive and according to Thrill List “is an East Town watering hole that’s popular with Milwaukians for its cheap brews, generous pours, and low-key, locals-only attitude. The space features a long, oak bar and outdoor beer garden.”

More impressive than the interior of this bar was the patio or beer garden which was overflowing with suds and Saturday night revelers and had a long line waiting to get in.

The Beer Garden line at McGillycuddy’s

Lakefront Brewery “Thirty Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers!”

On Sunday morning, we had time for one more brewery tour before the flight and rather than try the big ones such as the historic Pabst or Miller-Coors, we headed to the Lakefront Brewery, which receives great social media reviews on brewery tours.  It’s  nationally recognized.

According to a 2015 ThrillList post, it’s:

“The tour by which all other tours are measured. Guides are informative and genuinely funny — though anyone talking about bungholes probably would be, especially after a few beers.” 

A brewery with history and personality….

We joined about twenty other people from all over the country who paid their $10 for the tour – it also includes tickets for four six-ounce pours and a Lakefront Brewery glass – the price for the tour is great even without the ancillary items.

Lakefront is another of the many stories of entrepreneurs who enjoy beer and are willing to devote their capital and time to building an organization.   Like a number of similar enterprises in Milwaukee, Portland, Denver and other major cities, the brewery is housed in historic trappings:

Justin, our erstwhile tour guide in historic setting

“……..the City of Milwaukee had a building to sell. In 1908, Lakefront Brewery’s current building housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant.

It was later sold to the City to house Milwaukee’s Forestry Department. But in 1998, the City was considering tearing down the old power plant to uphold a contract with a nearby apartment complex unless a local business was interested in the location.”

Justin was our tour guide – he could have been a stand-up comic given the humorous one-liners he worked into a nice educational briefing on the history of the brewery and some of its operations.   Justin would appreciate the stand-up comic comparison although he would assert that he wouldn’t qualify based on the amount of time he spends in a prone position after drinking free beer.

He did a great job covering the history of the brewery and briefly got into the mechanics of making beer and Lakefront’s approach to brewing and being an important member of the community.

We stopped strategically to see different brewery equipment which, of course, also provided the opportunity to sample another one of Lakefront’s good beers.  Of course, with his comedic wit, Justin placed special emphasis on the kegging function and exactly what was meant by the term “Bunghole.” 

The final part of the tour was viewing the bottling machine, which was an opportunity for Justin to work in a bit about Laverne and Shirley, the situation comedy legends from Happy Days (aired from 1976 to 1983) who lived and worked in Milwaukee.   He asked for two volunteers and Janet raised her hand.

“Laverne and Shirley” at the bottling machine

What followed was an old rendition of the “Happy Days” theme played on Justin’s cassette player while Janet and the other volunteer went through the bottling routine.

The brewery also offers a weekly 90-minute technical tour geared toward any home brewer or beer drinking aficionado led by one of their experts.  It concludes with a 90 minute food pairing featuring specific Lakefront beers which complement their chef’s selection of local and national cheese, meat, fruit, chocolate and coffee. (Although participants would miss Justin’s act…)

Lakefront is known for its innovative beers which  includes Organkica: “From the country’s first organic beer to the country’s first Gluten Free beer to be granted label approval by the U.S. Government, we have the perfect brew to fit your lifestyle.” 

After the tour we went into the spacious brew-pub and had the beers although I should have known better than to experiment by ordering a tea beer (Don’t remember the name….but I didn’t finish it).  That said, I really enjoyed their Imperial IPA/Red Ale which won an honorable mention at the United States Beer Tasting Championship and Janet loved the Riverwest Stein an excellent American Amber Ale.

I was disappointed that as with the case with the bars in Door County, we missed their traditional Friday Fish Fry, which at Lakefront includes a live polka-band and dancing…

The spacious tap room

We had a wonderful time during our eight days in Wisconsin and the Beerchasing stops which included those listed below were enjoyable and let us  enjoy new microbrews and a $1.00 Miller Genuine Draft (on tap)……We also liked the Goose Island beer:

Milwaukie:  Water Street Brewing, Scooters PubBar, Dukes on the Water, Pourman’s Bar, McGillycuddy’s and Bar None

Green Bay: Hinterland Brewing and Badger State Brewery

Door CountyDoor County Brewing, the Cornerstone Pub, AC Tap, Coyote Road House

You can see the reviews of these at the other two posts on Beerchasing in Wisconsin at the links below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/07/07/beerchasing-in-wisconsin-part-i/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/08/10/beerchasing-in-wisconsin-part-ii-door-county/

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Beerchaser Miscellany – Fall of 2017

The Brooklyn Park Pub – Revisiting the First Stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs and One of My Favorite Bartenders

Seven years ago, when I decided to implement my crazy idea as a retirement hobby, I was concerned about how it would be perceived by the bartenders I would interview.  For it to be successful, I needed them to answer my questions about what makes their bar different, comment on the tavern’s regulars and offer info on their own background.

Would they dismiss these inquiries as some old guy with idiosyncratic tendencies or support the idea that highlighting the history and distinguishing factors of Portland’s many watering holes was a cool idea?

Phoebe in August 2011

Well, my trepidation was unnecessary when the first bartender I interviewed became one of the most memorable.  Phoebe Newcomb was behind the bar at the Brooklyn, a great little Southeast neighborhood pub – and still one of my favorites after seven years.

She told me about the Whiskey Club, talked about the tradition of serving their draft beers in Mason jars and to check out the woodchuck posters…..

Phoebe’s gift at my first stop on the Tour….

When I told her that the Brooklyn was my first of what I hoped would be many bars on the tour, she gave me a Brooklyn Park Pub cap and signed it.   I still remembered her charming and distinctive laugh that echoed through the bar as she was interacting with her customers.

In July, I was reviewing Willamette Week’s Best of Portland issue and discovered that third place for Best Portland Bartender was none other than Phoebe, who now works at the Landmark Saloon besides the Brooklyn.

This motivated me to return to the first of what has become 85 Portland bars and another 125 in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, a slew of places in the continental US and all over Oregon on Thebeerchaser’s tour of Bars, Tavern and Pubs.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/08/07/the-first-establisment-on-the-chase/

A reunion six years later. And the beer is still served in Mason jars

I was not disappointed in Phoebe’s reaction when I again told her my story and that I had returned to thank her for the positive kickstart to Thebeerchaser’s Tour.  I donned the treasured BPP hat and one of the regulars took our picture.

Brian Doyle – His Legacy Lives On – As followers of Thebeerchaser blog and those who appreciate good literature know, we lost a great human being in May with the passing of Brian Doyle who succumbed to brain cancer.   Brian was prolific, authoring about thirty books including novels, collections of short stories and penetrating essays, was the editor of the award-winning Portland magazine published by the University of Portland and a gifted speaker.

Having a brewski in the St. Johns Pub with University of Portland colleague, Dr. Sam Holloway

I met Brian in 2013 when I informed him by letter that I had named him my eleventh Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and all it required for him to receive the “award” (a pint of beer) was to meet me for an interview at the saloon of his choice.  He chose the Fulton Pub.

We had drinks after that on a number of occasions and corresponded by e-mail in which he never failed to demonstrate his positive view of humanity, his religious faith and his imaginative and fanciful sense of humor.

I was therefore pleased when in July I received an e-mail  request from the Design Editor of Melbourne Catholic Magazine in Australia requesting permission to use one of the pictures posted in a tribute to Brian in the blog shortly after his passing.    I laughed when I found out that they selected the one I took at the Fulton Pub the first time we raised a mug.

In the Fulton Pub

The article entitled, “Minor Prophets – A Tribute to a Favourite Author” will be published in September.  Ann Rennie, the author, states in part:

“(Minor prophets) remind us of the universal and eternal.  They remind us of God and of good, and the everyday revelation of the glory in life in all its weariness and work and woe; in its humdrum, ordinary decency and its scintillating, soul stirring wonder.   One such profit (was) the American writer, Brian Doyle, whose beautiful words, written with candour and joy and lyricism, help us to find again the simple and larger truths.””

The picture of the main character on the cover has a strong resemblance to ……

I recently finished Chicago the second to the last novel which Brian wrote in 2016 and it’s my favorite – it’s a perfect example of his keen observations of nature, people and events, some of which many would view as trite or inconsequential.   I’m sure that Brian could have ridden the #33 Tri-Met bus (McLoughlin Blvd…..) from Oregon City into Portland and have written a lengthy and entertaining essay (with very long sentences…..) on what he observed that would have been a good read.

As with another one of my favorite Doyle novels, Martin Marten, I fold back pages as I read so I can go back and write down phrases or paragraphs I want to ponder and remember.  (The book ends up having more pages with folds than those that are not.)

Author, poet and hero of Edward

You should read Brian’s account of Chicago – his descriptions of Chicago White Sox games and players and the Chicago Bulls, gyros, meeting former NBA great Artis Gilmore on a walk, street basketball, Lake Michigan and dribbling his “worn and shiny basketball” through miles and miles of the urban landscape.   And as in Martin Marten, one of his main characters is an intriguing, erudite and marvelously resourceful animal – this one, a talking dog named Edward who had a strong and enduring admiration for both Abe Lincoln and Walt Whitman.  

“But to say of Edward merely that he was a dog and leave the description at that, would be a grave disservice not only to him but to you, for he was one of the most subtle and gracious beings I ever met, and the litany of his adventures alone would fill a shelf of books, before getting to his influence on other beings, for example, which was both considerable and renowned, so much so that creatures of various species would come to Edward for consultation and counsel, from birds to people of all manners and modes of life.”  (Chicago page 2)

The following is a description of his main character’s daily walks in Chicago as he ambled (dribbled…) through countless blocks of the urban landscape.  I offer this as one of many examples why Ann Rennie ended her article with the words, “Thank you Brian, for words that warmed our hearts, enlarged our minds and touched our souls.”  

“….So I walked; and there were days when I thought it likely that I had walked farther and deeper in Chicago that day than anyone else in the whole city, and this was a city of three million souls…

..I met a roan horse….I met buskers by the score, a hundred street basketball players, dozens of people fishing the lake.  I met librarians and bookshop owners and probably every gyro vendor north and west of the Loop.  I met train conductors and bus drivers and taxi drivers….I met teachers and policemen (curiously, never a police woman) and many mayoral candidates – it seemed like every other person in the city that year was running for mayor – and bartenders. (Chicago – page 188)

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/06/09/brian-doyle-beerchaser-eternal/

Pondering Those that Come and Go – I am saddened to report that one of Portland’s  most iconic breweries has “chugged” into the sunset.  The Tugboat Brewery, which I visited with former Portland Mayor, Sam Adams in March 2013 and was downtown Portland’s oldest craft brewery,  was severely water-damaged when the ceiling of the apartment above it in the Stewart Hotel collapsed.  While initially, the plan was to open after repairs, the damage was evidently too extensive.

They posted a sign which stated, “The flea bag hotel above us had an arson fire…..that caused water damage to our pub.”  https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/03/08/say-tug-boat-brewery-ten-times-really-fast/

Sam Adams at the Tugboat in 2013

Similarly, MadSon’s Pub closed in August although no reason was supplied other than rumors of electrical and HVAC issues which would have required extensive repairs.  MadSon’s was a cool and spacious neighborhood-type bar on the near Eastside which had a nice ambiance and a superb brunch.  My first visit was with Portland lawyer, Jack Faust and his clan.  

Add the Hop & Vine on North Killingsworth to the list of closures after eight years of serving beer and wine to its loyal customers.   And, of course, the historic and famous Lotus Cardroom, in downtown Portland is also gone in the name of development.

Fortunately, some other rumored closings did not occur including Tony’s Tavern, a noted dive bar for twenty-one years on West Burnside.   Like Joe’s Cellar, Tony’s reportedly closed because of lease issues, but reopened and is back in business.   This is fortunate.  As one of Tony’s bartenders stated in the Willamette Week clip “It’s where people are friendly.  Some of our customers are assholes, but they’re friendly.”

Other rumors of closings which fortunately did not become a reality were the Laurelthirst Public House and the Dockside, which will see a multi-story office building built immediately adjacent to it.  The Dockside is “best known locally as the place Tonya Harding’s then husband, Jeff Gillooly, tried to dispose of evidence in the kneecapping of (Olympic figure skater) Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.”  (Willamette Week)

And Some That Thrive….! – I am happy to report that on a recent and one of many return visits to what has become one of my favorite brewpubs – FlyBoy Brewing in Tigard, Mark Becker and Michelle Faubion report that their expectations have been exceeded since the opening earlier this year. The City of Tigard has been very helpful in the permit process and they will be opening a new patio in front of the pub in several weeks.

The Flyboy Management Team

The newest of the Flyboy Brews Pilot’s Peach Ale (ABV: 5.50%) has been well received (It had sold out on my visit) and Michelle stated that some patrons are mixing it with Flyboy’s White Cloud Imperial IPA (5.80% ABV).  My first pint of the Peach Ale is one – not the only reason – I keep returning.  https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/flyboy-brewing/

A remarkable beer

Drop by and try some of the thirty beers on tap and the great food on their menu.  Happy Hour is from 3:00 to 6:00 each weekday.

Thebeerchaser Goes Civic –  I was pleased to be able to make a repeat performance relating the story of Thebeerchaser blog and why it has become a wonderful retirement hobby – this time in August at the Lincoln City Rotary Club.   I made the same presentation to the West Linn Rotary Club in 2016.

They appeared to enjoy the stories on the dive bars, especially since one of my favorites is Lincoln City’s venerable Old Oregon Saloon.   And it was gratifying when the principal of one of the local schools came up afterwards and said, “I loved the dive bar stories and descriptions.  I grew up in one.  My parents owned a dive bar in Washington.”

Farewell to a Portland Legend – Born in Hot Springs, South Dakota, Jack Stutzman died in Portland last week at the age of 77.  He graduated from Oregon’s West Linn High School and found his niche in the bar and restaurant business after Army service.  His first tavern, the Green Spot was followed by The Local Gentry, Gassy Jack’s and he then purchased the Hoot Owl in John’s Landing in 1973.

It became the legendary Buffalo Gap Saloon & Eatery, named after one of his favorite towns in South Dakota:

“The Gap grew from a seating capacity of 25 to 250……Became a neighborhood tavern, a home away from home.  It sheltered a diverse crowd from all walks of life, the neighbors, the  young and old party goers, the students from Lewis and Clark, the medical community from OHSU, the commuters between PDX and Lake Oswego, the occasional celebrity and everyone in between.”  From obituary in Oregon Live 

Holly Eldridge, our server, and Jack Faust at the Buffalo Gap in 2011

The Gap was one of Thebeerchaser’s first watering holes visited when this blog started in 2011 with Beerchaser regular, Jack Faust.  Drop by this great saloon which still thrives on SW Macadam and toastJack Stutzman’s  memory.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/12/14/the-buffalo-gap-saloon/

Renners – “Generous Cocktails, Cold Beer and Good Food Since 1939”

Multnomah Village is a small community with a bustling, albeit small business district about five and one-half miles south of downtown Portland.   It was annexed by the City of Portland in the 1950’s.  “The community developed in the 1910’s around a depot of the Oregon Electric Railway.” (Wikipedia)  For many years, it’s been relatively off-the-radar except for those who like to visit the Annie Bloom’s Books or O’Connor’s Restaurant – a nice little bistro owned by Montana natives who have been serving good food for the last twenty years.

The Ship – just around the corner in the Village….

It is also home to one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite dive bars – The Ship Tavern – reviewed in 2012. https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/12/10/all-hands-on-deck-at-the-ship-tavern/.

Based on my two recent visits, I have added another memorable dive bar to my list of favorites – Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room, a well-known watering hole that’s been around since 1939.

Don’t be misled by the title and most notably the words “Suburban Room”  – the “Room” is a small, dark chamber in the back of the bar to which many of the regulars gravitate.

The Inner Sanctum..

And Renner’s for years had a reputation for being a tough place with stiff drinks and regulars who don’t welcome strangers.  In fact, one person told me that it was the hangout for those who were too tough or unrefined for The Ship.

Photo courtesy of Keith Watkins, Religious Historian *1

The Village has changed, however.  It’s becoming gentrified and a great location given its proximity to Portland yet largely retaining its small-town ambiance.  Property values have soared, there are new stores and restaurants e.g. a Lucky Labs Pub, in an old building that used to be a Masonic Temple. It’s now a challenge to find a parking place even on a weekday evening.

Renner’s has also changed, as you will see below, however, it has definitely retained it’s character and ambiance.  This excerpt from a May 23, 2017 Willamette Week review describes it well:

“…..This little hole-in-the-wall tucked among the century-old buildings of Multnomah Village is the epitome of a dive bar, minus any of the pretension about being a dive bar you’d get closer to the center of the city.

It’s dark, it’s a little gritty, it takes forever to get a drink, Fleetwood Mac is somehow always playing and the food is greasy in the best way possible……The wells are a dollar instead of the drafts, and as every night, they’re the strongest you’ll get west of the river.”

The  Multnomah Villager blog quoting the Portland Tribune in October 2005 stated, in part,:

“Renner’s is built into the side of a hill. It feels like the dining car on a Depression-era train, and it’s about that big. A lunch counter and a few raised booths fill the front.

….. Art deco lamps hang from the uneven  …….The back wall is lined with photos, like the signed celebrity photos in many historic dining rooms. But here they are all pictures of loyal customers.”

Renners regulars from years past

Even the sometimes cynical  Portland Barfly opines:   ”With some sixty-odd years under its belt, Renner’s vintage charms beckon a surprisingly diverse array of regulars. It’s a shining example of the endangered neighborhood bar.”

A distinctive and historic sign

As one approaches Renner’s, the sign, which looks similar to an old Rexall Drug Store sign, beckons you into what is a very tight and intimate space – very different than some of the spacious classic dive bars reviewed previously on Thebeerchaser such as Gil’s Speakeasy or Bar of the Gods.

But Emmie, the cordial bartender, who is a McMinnville girl like Thebeerchaser’s spouse of 37 years, gives a friendly “hello” and expertly goes through the list of eight drafts and six bottled beers available in addition to three Tall Boys – Ranier, PBR and Rolling Rock.

A good selection of beers

There are about eight or nine seats at the semi-circular bar and three booths with black vinyl seats in the front part of the bar with historic photos or newspaper articles on the walls of each.  The first time there, I was accompanied by Beerchaser regular Walt Duddington

Walt is a veteran of such bars such as the Lutz Tavern and more recently, Ancestry Brewing.  Walt had a draft Total Domination IPA from Ninkasi Brewing and I couldn’t resist a PBR Tall Boy.

Walt Duddington on the first Renner’s visit

We talked to a nice guy named Steve Potter, an insurance adjuster and also chatted with two personable chaps who were in their coveralls and had just finished the day installing and maintaining HVAC systems.  Their customer base includes a number of bars in Southeast Portland – nice fellows and typical of dive bar regulars.

On one of the two big screen TV’s, we watched part of the first round of the NBA draft wondering if General Manager, Neil Olshey, would pull off some kind of miracle to allow the Blazers to exceed the fifty-win threshold in 2018 and garner another trip to the playoffs.

Or alternatively, draft a tall, skinny kid from the WCC who wasn’t a starter the entire year before he turned pro…. maybe he should have opted for a Migration Brewing’s Terry’s Porter for his first draft choice (ABV: 6.7% IBU:42: Roasted chocolate malts with hints of herbs and coffee)

A draft while watching the Draft – NBA style…

The next trip to Renner’s was for both beer and dinner with another veteran Beerchaser, my brother-in-law, Dave Booher.  He has also accompanied me on two three-and one-half day Beerchasing fieldtrips  through Central and Eastern Oregon in 2013 and the Central Oregon Coast in 2014.

Dave, the Tapman on the Oregon Coast

Dave and I started with a beer at the bar and  then moved into the Suburban Room for dinner which I was anticipating with additional salivary gland adrenalin after talking for twenty minutes on my first trip with Josh, the co-owner, who also bears the moniker, “Uncle Stumpy.”

Emmie and Josh make you feel at home…..

 

Josh, has been the co-owner for  2.5 years although he has worked at the bar since 2010.  He is also a partner in another bar with great atmosphere in the Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland – the Hawthorne Hideaway which Thebeerchaser reviewed in the first full year of the journey. 

https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/03/26/the-hawthorne-hideaway-amiable-alliteration/

Now one of the characteristics of many dive bars is cheap but not succulent food.  One doesn’t expect a Steak Diane with your $2.00 PBR.  For example, given the cost, I was happy with my Friday Special of Sloppy Joes and Chips for $1.50 at Gil’s Speakeasy, but it didn’t rank up there with the faire at some of Portland’s fine restaurants.

Gils Speakeasy Sloppy Joe is typical of dive bar grub

However, Uncle Stumpy has aggressively worked to make Renner’s menu attractive and the food one orders from that extensive document is superior and something that makes his clientele want to return.  (I have not used the word “clientele” previously in a blog post about dive bars…..).  Josh speaks with pride about his bar and stated

“Renner’s is 5.5 miles from downtown Portland, but it might as well be 100,” Josh asserts. 

His goal is to “maintain the dive bar experience, but offer superior food from scratch and a neighborhood bar charm.”  So far, he is succeeding.  As evidence I offer our dinner experience and these recent reviews from social media:

Cozy bar with INCREDIBLE food. Seriously, Renners has managed to elevate pub food to a whole new level. Their buffalo chicken thighs are so good (yes thighs not wings). I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like!”  Yelp 5/7/17

They even have started a quality breakfast which is worth a trip:

This historical bar serves a whoppin’ size breakfast that’s really good! Old menus and photos adorn the walls and good old village folks like the happy hour too!”  Trip Advisor 8/12/15

This is just the specials……

Take a look at the five entree’s available during BBQ Month the night we were there, a number of which rotated during the week.   These are supplemented on the regular menu by thirteen burgers including an elk burger and a peanut butter bacon burger which should probably be avoided unless your nickname is “Skippy.” 

Outstanding onion rings

There’s also seven hot dogs and eight sammies from which to choose including “Connor’s Cardiac Arrest” which should come with its own defibrillator given the ingredients including brisket, pulled pork, bacon and barbecue sauce on a ciabatta bun.  And if you’re not up for dinner, there are seven Happy-Hour items ranging from fries to tacos, cheeseburgers and sliders.

The Taman pleased with his Hangar Steak dinner

The Tapman opted for the Hangar Steak with corn-on-the-cob, fries and cole slaw ($15.75) and I honed in on the Bison Meatloaf Sandwich ($14.75) and upgraded to some wonderful onion rings.  Dave said it was the best hangar steak he had eaten in Portland and my sandwich was excellent and large enough that it made a good follow-up lunch.

There were a few scattered and minor complaints about the bar on social media including the music being too loud and the pace of service:  “….the music is way too loud. It’s excessively annoying. I can’t have a conversation with the people I’m with. If I wanted to listen to music, I’d put some headphones on at home. It’s terrible. Everyone around us is yelling because the music is so loud. Bad ambiance.“ Yelp 4/15/17

However, both of us and a number of others at the bar who were over sixty, can’t hear most conversation anyway and don’t try when any kind of music is playing.

Looking out from the Suburban Room

Renner’s was filled the night we were there and Emmie did a wonderful job with our drink and dinner orders.  No complaints on what was excellent and friendly service on both visits when the bar was very busy.

This alley is grandfathered in the zoning ordinance

Overall, it was a great experience and Josh appreciates the historic ambiance provided by the turn of the 1900’s building including the small alley-walkway in between the bar and the next building.

He’s also being creative with specials and events.  Up until July, 2017, you could get a draft OR a well-drink for a buck from 9:00 PM to close.  Based on insurance issues, that was changed to $2 – still a good deal.  Or you can visit on Wednesday, which is Bingo Night and gets great comments.

And on August 21st – during the celestial event:  “All you can eat and drink during the eclipse.$25.00.”  (I didn’t check to see whether this was during the two minutes and forty seconds of totality or for the two hours and thirty-five from start to finish in which case, it could be a good deal…..)   

Start drinking and eating…..(Courtesy of R.W. Hap Ziegler)

You should take the succinct but accurate advice of this couple and hit Renner’s:

“Quaint little neighborhood dive bar.  The place looks well worn, but loved by the regulars.  Stopped in for breakfast at 7:30 AM, there were about a dozen or so other patrons scattered around.  Most were drinking and seemed to know everyone else.  So a friendly place to meet and plan your day or your mischief.“ Yelp /23/17

And perhaps your “mischief’ should include a walk around the corner with a stop at The Ship for a beer chaser after your tasty breakfast at Renner’s.

Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room

7819 SW Capitol Hwy

Multnomah Village

The bar in the Suburban Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

*1 Keith Watkins blog:  https://keithwatkinshistorian.wordpress.com/tag/james-david-duncan/  3/4/14

 

Beerchasing in Wisconsin – Part II – Door County

We drove north from our first night in Wisconsin – in downtown Milwaukee – up the peninsula separating Lake Michigan and Green Bay into Door County.   What a beautiful drive – rolling farmland with historic barns, small communities and all one identifies with rural America.

And Door County – surrounded by water and with over 300 miles of shoreline has a Cape Cod-type ambiance in the heart of the Midwest.   We stayed with my sister-in-law, Pam, in Sister Bay, and toured nearby towns , the names and heritage which could be portrayed in Mark Twain’s or any novelist’s work who wrote about small-town values and culture.

Janet and Pam at sunset in the heart of Sister Bay

Bailey’s Harbor, Turtle Bay, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Gill’s Rock, Sturgeon Bay, Ephraim, etc.all of which beckon vacationers who want to relax in a scenic, welcoming environment – and oh yes, one in which there are some great bars and breweries.

There are also some small wineries, but based on our limited sampling, the grapes are such that the wines tend to be pretty sweet and make an IPA a much better bet.  We visited four watering holes on our Beerchasing tour.

Door County Brewery – this establishment was recommended by multiple parties as having great beer. Located in a small building outside the wonderful village of Bailey’s Harbor (“BH is…..truly a place where everyone knows your name—and then some. We like cool breezes, water sports and parades with a drumming rabbit who thinks he’s a chicken. And beer.  Lots of beer!”)

A cool logo

The enterprise was established in 2012 by four family members.  Brady, the bartender told us that the brewery specializes in Belgian beers although they have some other nice options available with the ten on tap.  We tried their Pallet Jack Cruiser which is a good Session IPA.

Kyle, the brewer, was in and we had a nice conversation and learned that they will expand this summer to new quarters in the heart of Bailey’s Harbor.  We felt like we were regulars and met a wonderful guy named Buzz a high school coach who regularly vacations in Door County.

Janet with our new friend and coach, Buzz.

Besides having a great logo, the attitude reflected on their website is evidence of why they have won the hearts of their community:

We value family, friendships and community above all else and create one-of-a-kind craft beers to bring these all together…..The root of our brand is the authentic story of a small community who cares about the passion, hard work and significance of every day.….So welcome. We are glad you came and hope that you enjoy our community of friends, family and beers. Now let’s have some fun!”

Now in expanded space although this was quaint….

They moved to a larger building on July1st which will have a nice beer garden and more room for the crowds attending their Saturday night entertainment. Typical of the reviews was this one on Yelp – a couple visiting a little over a month after we did:

“We stopped in during a walk……The staff was very friendly.  A great atmosphere and vibe makes the patrons happy.  Might have something to do with excellent, easy flowing craft beer also. “

What better place for a dive bar???

AC Tap this was my personal favorite and a great dive bar.  Half way between Sister Bay and Bailey’s Harbor in the middle of some farmland on Hgwy 57, the setting of this bar drew me like a magnet and we were not disappointed.

Now one typically does not hit a dive for the food – it’s the cheap beer, the signs on the wall, the crusty regulars and pool (darts also at AC Tap).

And what a great sign!!!

Well, AC Tap has all of these and food that could shame some of the established bistros – in a kitchen that could fit in a closet.   Because of limited time, we did not have a chance to partake of the food, but let’s look at the reviews starting with this summary from a 9/9/15 Yelp reviewer:

“The Tap is an amazing place because they serve food all day everyday until bar close! The kitchen is always open until last call and the Tap does bar food the right way. They have a two-page menu along with a homemade special and soup each day. Mondays they do 50 cent wings and a beer special.

Tuesdays they do homemade sushi rolls. In the winter, Thursday nights are usually all you can eat homemade spaghetti. Friday of course they have fish fry specials– perch or shrimp (sometimes lawyer or blue gill) and Sunday nights they do 1/4 baked chicken and dumplings.”

And almost every review raved about a different food item:

“……you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu (and) great wimpy burgers,” “a juicy hamburger and delicious homemade French fries,” “tastiest fried perch ever,” “The fish and chips were good, the fish cakes were great,” “Best bar food around.”

There was a friendly group of guys who the bartender said were visitors from Illinois on a male-bonding golf trip who were totally immersed in a dice game which I later found out after a little research, is a staple at Wisconsin Bars – “Shake of the Day.”  No, it’s not an ice cream drink, but a fun opportunity to slam a cup with five dice down on the bar and take a chance on either winning a free drink or having to buy the entire bar a drink.  The following description is apt:

Who buys the drinks in Shake of the Day?

“This game can get pricey. The loser has to buy a round of shots for everyone playing, and if any player gets five aces, they’re buying a round for the bar. Them’s the rules…

..Of course, the rules tend to shift slightly from bar to bar. But one thing remains consistent — when the bartender loses, the bar buys all. It’s a big part of why people play; the odds of scoring a free drink are pretty high.” (On Milwaukee.com 2/12/09 by Julie Lawrence)  

Dive bar ambiance…

About the only complaints about AC Tap was that it was cash only, but get a clue.  If you cannot afford to throw down a twenty for several $2 PBRs (they have five beers on tap) and your dinner plus a nice tip for the bartender, you shouldn’t be frequenting dive bars.

By the way, the guys from Illinois, who had been there for quite awhile, left and said to the bartender, “We’ll be back in 90 minutes.  Keep the tab open.”   She did without hesitation.    We will definitely be back to AC Tap the next time we are in Door County – and for sure on a Wednesday night when we can taste what our bartender described as the owners personal  sauce he cooks for spaghetti night:  “Thick, spicey meat sauce with mushrooms.”

And the staff and owners are very nice people.

Coyote Road HouseI loved the name of this watering hole on the shore of Kangaroo Lake on County Road E. a few miles outside Baily’s Harbor.   (We should have asked how the lake got its name….)  It was another quaint building and more of a neighborhood-type establishment than a dive bar:

 “We offer one of those everybody-knows-your-name atmospheres. Friendly service and tasty twists on traditional fare will win you over inside. 

We offer over 30 different bottled beer and about 10 on tap, from Guinness to Fat Tire, and a martini is not an unusual order here. If you like onion rings, check out our ‘heaping loaf’ of thin, delicately french-fried strands that practically melt in your mouth.” 

Outstanding and plentiful onion rings

Their claim on the onion rings is accurate and unfortunately, we did not get a chance to taste their specialty – the Kanga Reuben, which has corned beef cooked for six hours and the following mouth-watering ingredients:

2 Slices of Dark Pumpernickel Rye Bread,

2 to 4 Slices of Swiss cheese,

4 oz. of 1/8 inch Cut Slices of Corned Beef,

2 oz. of Sauerkraut,

1 oz. of Thousand Island Dressing.

And I celebrated our visit with a rare Hamms on tap while Janet and Pam had a Summer Shandy from Jacob Leinenkugal Brewing.  The Coyote has a great patio adjacent to the lake with a volleyball court and would be a great place to hang out any afternoon. 

The view from the patio

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cornerstone Pubour final venue in Door County was this neighborhood-type bar right in the heart of Bailey’s Harbor on the shore of Lake Michigan, which also gave Janet a chance to dunk her feet in this famous body of water for the first time. 

The Cornerstone in Baileys Harbor

A nice selection of beer included Spotted Cow a cloudy farmhouse ale from New Glarus Brewing which is only sold in Wisconsin according to Matt our bartender – a nice guy.   Reviews of this place are good as typified by this 2/27/17 Yelp submission:

“The Cornerstone is solid as a rock.  Happy folks serving really good quality pub fare. Clean and cozy. Partial views of Lake Michigan – outdoor summer seating. Locals and visitors love it. Can’t go wrong.”

And while you are in Door County, you have to experience a fish fry, for which almost every bar or restaurant takes pride and asserts that theirs is the best.   People liked the Cornerstone’s:

Matt talks about Spotted Cow beer

“Perch on the porch – look at Lake Michigan.” – “Man oh man… tonight I had the Whitefish Basket and it was great.  I never saw so much of the fish I love on one order.” 

“There were several fish fry options to choose from, including perch, haddock, whitefish, shrimp, or the Door County Fry which include a piece of perch, haddock, and whitefish…..The fish was all cooked perfectly and appropriately seasoned. “  

And by the way, you should also add fried cheese curds to your list of consumables – maybe not the same night as the fish fry, but while you’re in the Badger State.

Eagle Bluff Lighthouse

The next day it was a hike in Peninsula State Park to work off the beer and onion rings – a nice jaunt through wooded splendor, a stop at Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and then a meal at the “famous”  Al Jonhson’s Swedish Restaurant in downtown Sister Bay, which was okay but when we return will be far behind AC Tap on our preferred list.

As we were walking down the main street of Sister Bay to the restaurant, we turned a corner and there was former Portland Trailblazer, Joe Pryzbylla and his wife walking by.  Pam is a season ticket holder and Blazer Ambassador and she and I immediately recognized him (hard to miss at 7 feet one inch).   She said “Hi” and thanked him for being the enforcer during his seven seasons with the Blazers.

Former Portland Trailblazer, Joe Pryzbylla

The one thing that was interesting about Earl Anderson’s  was their sod roof, which had a goat chomping on it.  (There was an explanation of how they get the creatures up there in the restaurant.)

Cheap labor for lawn maintenance at Al Johnson’s

Our week in Door County was superb and we headed back for a final night in Milwaukee before returned to O’Hare for the flight home.  Next up –“Beerchasing in Wisconsin – Part III.”

Americana at its best…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Martin Grassel Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter

Father Martin Grassel, O.S.B., is a monk who lives at Mount Angel Abbey, his residence for the last eighteen years.   He is the Abbey’s Procurator – the equivalent of the Chief Financial Officer and has responsibilities for technology, human resources, food services, facilities and financial management of the monastery and seminary located on a beautiful hilltop setting about twelve miles from Salem, Oregon.

But this man of faith with a quiet charisma has additional responsibilities which occupy his day – he is the lead brewer for the Benedictine Brewery, a small five-barrel operation starting up at the Abbey and for which there are exciting plans In the near future (see below).

The monks at  Mount Angel start their day with a 5:20 A.M. prayer service – one of six they attend throughout the day.  But Father Martin typically awakens between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M.

The monastery was founded in 1882 and its seminary in 1889.   Mount Angel is the oldest and largest seminary west of the Mississippi and the only such institution to have both a college and graduate school with a 2017 graduating class of 62. 

On this day, Father Martin is checking on his latest batch of English Pale Ale.  He checks the fermentation temperature and carbonation level to ensure the quality he demands and measures the specific gravity of the wort (or finished beer) with a hydrometer, while also making sure the fittings and hoses of the brewing equipment in one of the Abbey buildings are in good order. 

The attention to detail that yields a consistent and high quality beer and his appreciation for math and science are the same attributes that made this 1985 Computer Science graduate from the University of North Dakota, a skilled software developer for Honeywell Corporation in Phoenix when he was in his twenties.  Instead of technical brewery metrics, he was then working with flow charts, data modeling, embedded systems programming and gap analysis.

Father Martin is this blog’s second 2017 Beerchaser-of-the Quarter and the “honor” is richly deserved.  He joins the “elite”  list started on this blog five years ago which now includes writers, military heroes, academicians and even the crew of the USS Constitution for their “legendary” war cruise in 1798.

Although this is a blog about bars and beer, a number of these individuals have nothing to do with my favorite beverage – they are just interesting individuals who have made worthwhile contributions to society and have a good story which should be told.  Father Martin fits both categories.

The late Brian Doyle at the Fulton Pub

Past recipients include authors such as Portland’s own Brian Doyle (Mink River and The Plover), Princeton Professor Emeritus, Dr. Harry Frankfurt (On Bullshit), athletes such as former All-coast and then NFL tackle, Craig “The Dude” Hanneman and Viet Nam veterans and heroes, Jud Blakely, Doug Bomarito and Steve Lawrence.

(To see the narratives for this distinguished group, go up to the blog header and click on the tab entitled “Beerchaser-of -the-Month or Quarter.”)

The Chapel at the Abbey

Father Martin comes from a North Dakota family of four-children that was not a church-attending group.  He became involved in his parish in Phoenix after college graduation.   Although he tried to ignore the inclination, the divine pull to the ministry persisted – he considers Psalm Sunday in 1992 as his “faith anniversary,” and he enrolled at the Mt. Angel Seminary in 1995.

His intent was to return to Phoenix once he completed his formation for the priesthood.  That plan changed, however.  During his time in the seminary he felt attracted to the monastery.  “Once I stepped across the threshold at Mount Angel, I knew I was home,” says the mild mannered and friendly monk who made his final vows in 2003 and was ordained as a priest the next year.

Home……looking out over the beautiful countryside from the Abbey grounds

So what piqued his interest in beer and what’s in store for the Benedictine Brewery in the future?

“I was not a fan of beer in college or afterwards,” says Father Martin.  He did not drink soda or wine either.  

The monks occasionally have refreshments and appetizers before the main meal) and at a 2006 Haustus gathering of the monks (Haustus comes from the Latin verb meaning “to draw up” or “drink.” ) he tried Deschutes Black Butte Porter.  He liked it and later acquired a taste for other Deschutes Brewery beers.

He took an interest in the chemistry and production of beer.   “Beer stuck in my mind.  I’m an engineer.  What goes into making good beer and do I have the skills to accomplish that?” 

After all, brewing is a tradition with monks that goes back to eighth century in Europe:

The Benedictine saints Bonifatius, Gregorius the Great, Adelbertus of Egmond and priest Jeroen van Noordwijk (Circa 1529-30)

 “….when local water supplies were rife with disease, monks brewed beer as a way to sanitize the water and also produce a libation to serve guests who sought refuge….Beer was an important part of their diets, particularly because it could be consumed as a source of nourishment during Lenten feasts.”  (Catholic Sentinel 2/21/14)

There was no thought of “home” brewing, or I guess we should say “Abbey brewing.”  Then about five years ago, a friend of the Abbey offered to donate some beer equipment to the monks to which the initial answer was “No thanks.”

Father Martin adjusting the hoses

But after some reconsideration, the donated beer equipment became Father Martin’s experiment.   He read the book, How to Brew:  Everything You Need to Know to Brew Beer Right the First Time, and made his first batch in the kitchen of a friend’s house.

He started brewing at the Abbey and there were many mistakes – “Once the hoses blew off the chiller and there was beer spraying all over the room.”  However, he persevered and made a batch of Pale Ale and “The monks liked it!”

In his role as Procurator, Father Martin and the leaders of the Abbey had been contemplating additional revenue sources to supplement the Abbey’s income.  A tree farm, press and saw mill which had been part of the Abbey’s revenue stream were all declining or gone.  And there had been some, albeit not unanimous prior interest by the monks in furthering the monastic tradition of brewing.

After all, hops have been grown on the  Abbey owned acreage adjacent to the monastery since the 1880s.   A long list of potential revenue sources was developed to present during a community meeting.  Father Martin’s new hobby was last on the list.  “That was one thing I was sure would not fly,” Father Martin said.  (Catholic Sentinel – 2/21/2014)

Soon afterward, a stainless steel ten-barrel system was donated to the Abbey and the Benedictine Brewery became a reality with Father Martin as the lead brewer.  Initially, much of the brewing was done through contracts with Seven Brides and Upright Breweries with assistance from the Oregon State University Fermentation Science Program.   Father Martin was impressed and pleased with the collegiality of the brewing community.

Contract brewing at Seven Brides

Consistent with his education and training, Father Martin employs the scientific approach to brewing which is necessary to have the consistency for producing quality beer.

He remembers his early days at seminary when the students critiqued their colleagues’ sermons and he stated, “Beer is like learning to preach.  You either like a homily or you don’t.   What about the beer do you like and why?  Make that determination and then pay attention to what you like.”

Two bottled beers (Black Habit – dark and St. Benedict – light) were developed and tested and have become popular and garnered good reviews from sales in the Mount Angel book store. The Mt. Angel Octoberfest requested Black Habit, where it has sold out the last two years.

The Benedictine Brewery and Taproom seating about fifty will open in early 2018.  It will be located adjacent to the Abbey next to the hop fields and be the site of regular events involving the Mt. Angel community and those who travel to the Abbey to visit the beautiful grounds on which the seminary is located.

The Brewery’s motto is appropriate – “Taste and Believe.”  Father Martin reflects, “This started as a revenue project, but it has become an evangelization project……..(It) has been inspired by God.”  (Catholic Sentinel)

Don’t be surprised to see some home-grown artwork displayed in the taproom.  This man of many talents has another avocation — mosaic work.  He was inspired by the mosaics he found in Italian churches when he studied in Rome, and now he enjoys the detailed work required.

Thirty mosaics have been produced by the Procurator and a number have been sold in the Abbey book store and they also decorate Father Martin’s office.  Those you see here are two of his favorites.

Cecelia – a companion of fourteen years

And if you see Father Martin walking the Abbey grounds, you might also notice his companion of fourteen years – his cat, Cecelia:

“There are a lot of feral cats in Rome and I took comfort feeding some of them.  I was the only one they would approach.  Feral or abandoned cats roam our grounds, too, one of which was Cecelia.  I started feeding her and she adopted me.”  

I was privileged recently, to hear Father Martin make a presentation on Benedictine Spirituality – essentially analyzing the concepts of prayer and asceticism – a disciplined effort to live for God.   The purpose of humanity is to seek God and what sets the monk apart is seeking the vision of God in this life rather than waiting until heaven.

The training and lifestyle of monks is to promote sanctification – reading and meditation inspires a personal dialogue with God and then contemplation, which helps one discern a lot about himself and who God is.  Ascetic practices include celibacy, work, personal poverty and moderation in speech, eating and sleep.

His lecture evidenced his great dry sense of humor.  “Some observing the Liturgy of the Hours may conclude, ‘This is just a bunch of guys in funny robes with mediocre voices trying to be a choir,’ but it’s truly the body of Christ glorifying God.”

I am pleased and honored to be a member of the Benedictine Brewery Advisory Committee and look forward to the opening of the Brewery and tap room.   (The other committee members, besides Father Martin and me, are Stephen Zimmer – chair, John Limb, Les Fahey, and Chris Brown and Jodi Kilcup of the Abbey staff as ex-officio members).

As our newest Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter so aptly states, “The Brewery has inspired us.  God wants us to use the gifts he has given.”  

A tapestry at the Abbey

Stay tuned for updates on this project and if you want to try Black Habit (or buy a great looking t-shirt) contact the Mount Angel Abbey bookstore.  Or come and visit the Abbey, which has a marvelous museum and library besides being located in a beautiful and idyllic setting.

Mount Angel Abbey Bookstore and Coffee Shop  

503-845-3345

 

 

 

Beerchasing in Wisconsin – Part I

The sunset in Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a beautiful state, most notably Door County, which is in the northeast part of the state and borders both Lake Michigan and Green Bay.  My wife and I were fortunate to spend a week there with my sister-in-law, Pam, in June – in Sister Bay, a charming little burg of 876 residents, but which hosts year-round tourism in what some refer to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.” 

The Cape Cod of the Midwest…

It is the land of bays, beer, brats, churches and cheese.   I can’t understand why Hillary Clinton was reluctant to return during the 2017 Presidential campaign, but that’s another story and one left best ignored when chronicling Beerchasing exploits.

Milwaukee – historic ambiance with modern energy

After a smooth flight from Portland to O’Hare, we rented a car and drove from Chicago to downtown Milwaukee the first night – Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.

And the city, which we both really liked, has a lot of historic ambiance, but bustling energy and was hopping that weekend. Milwaukie is an  old and renowned beer town – for many years touted as “The beer capital of the world.”

According to Beerhistory.com, “……indeed, the city has been home to some of America’s largest brewers — Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, Blatz.” 

The historic Pabst Theater

The website states that factors such as abundant water, availability of raw materials such as hops and barley, cheap labor and even loads of ice from Lake Michigan were not responsible for the City’s preeminence in the sudsy brew.  Rather, it was a combination of factors including savvy business people with a vision and who expanded sales to outside markets and this very interesting bit of information:

This fire helped make Milwaukee the beer capital of the world

“Proximity to the large beer-consuming population of Chicago — and the easy and inexpensive lake transportation thereto — was always a boon to Milwaukee’s brewing industry.

For example, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 boosted sales of Milwaukee breweries enormously. Schlitz’s frequent shipments of beer to the devastated city earned it the slogan, ‘The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.’ Schlitz enjoyed a 100 percent jump in sales immediately after the Chicago fire.” 

First Brewery in the city

We arrived in the early evening and scouted Water Street – adjacent to the Milwaukee River for a good place to eat and a craft beer although some Northwest skeptics warned us that craft beer in Milwaukee is a “mug of PBR with an orange slice adorning it…..”

The Water Street Brewery was our first stop and one that was interesting for its history and its beer memorabilia – including collections of beer cans (50,000 of which 6,000 are featured in 25 displays), 1,400 tap knobs, 2,300 coasters, 825 bottle and can openers, etc.)

One of twenty-five displays of beer cans

The micro-brewery, opened in 1987, was Milwaukee’s first according to the “Water Street Journal”:

The bottle opener collection – all 825 of them

“The city’s first modern “brew-pub” – with six gleaming copper vats to brew beer for tavern patrons opened Wednesday…..the building dates back to 1898…..

Demand for Water Street Brewery beer was so strong that in the first six months, brewing capacity was increased by 50%…..At the time there were only 16 brew pubs across the US…”

We had excellent beers and great food – bratwurst and spaetzle dumplings included.

My affinity for dive bars was accommodated by walking only one-half block from the brewery with two adjoining bars – Scooter’s Pub and Duke’s on the Water.  Janet is not a fan of dive bars although she acquiesced when I told her I had to take advantage of Scooter’s special – drafts of Miller Genuine Draft in a large plastic cup for a buck!

Perhaps because of the weekend, the bars were more genteel and had an enthusiastic diverse crowd that night unlike this Yelp review (2/3/16):

“Aside from a hot bartender there were no women on this side of this odd bar connected to another bar on the other side which is called Dukes.

Responding to the demand for $1 draft beers…..

That side had many more people and few women ventured to Scooters and from judging and looking at the bro’ crowd I could see why. the dudes in here were both drunk and dumb and rude. The place seemed pretty shabby and the lone bartender was overworked providing fair service.”

—–

The crowd was fine and I downed my MGD and we were  on our way.

A lively crowd at Duke’s

Lambeau Field – Home of the Green Bay Packers


The next day, we decided to take a short side trip on the way to Sister Bay, so we could see Lambeau Field in Green Bay – the famous home of the Packers.  Now Green Bay, with a population of a little over 100,000 is known as Title Town USA in light of the thirteen NFL championships, the most of any NFL city.

Toilet Paper Capital of the World – the other title Green Bay has under its belt…….

And Green Bay, does not have much else besides football, except for a few meatpacking plants and it probably doesn’t brag about the city’s other title – “The Toilet Paper Capital of the World”:

“…..Green Bay, home to the Quilted Northern brand. In 1901, Northern Paper Co. produced its first tissue. Named Northern Tissue in 1902, the product became splinter-free in the 1930s, two-ply in the 1960s and quilted in the 1990s.” (American Profile 1/14/2007)

Hinterland Brewery – almost across the street from Lambeau

And as expected, there were two breweries within a short radius of the stadium.  The first, Hinterland Brewery had just relocated to a sparkling new building across the street from the stadium although it does have an older gastro-pub in Milwaukee. The brewery originally opened in 1995 in an old meat-packing facility.

Twelve of Hinterland’s own and twelve guest taps

It has a gleaming interior with a display kitchen, two large wood-burning fireplaces for those cold Wisconsin days and a great patio. We tried two of the twenty-four beers on tap –  Hinterland’s own Cherry Wheat Ale and the Nitro IPA  which the bartender told us was brewed with Oregon Simcoe hops.

A short drive down Vince Lombardi Ave. to the corner of Holmgren and Reggie White Ways….and we hit the massive parking lot for the Badger State Brewery.   On game days, the parking spots are only $20 if one patronizes the brewery – a great deal!

Our bartender, Josh, was friendly – as were all the staff we talked to in the Wisconsin bars and breweries – and recommended the On Wisconsin Red Ale

(“This red ale has a beautiful color given by the various caramel malts which also contribute a nice sweetness. All-American hops add light flavors of orange zest to the beer. Sweet – Fresh – Rustic – Hoppy.”)  Since we had just partaken at Hinterland, we split this one and liked the color and taste.

Josh reviewing the beers on tap with Janet

We drove the ninety miles to Sister Bay through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside – the flat terrain was a real contrast to our mountainous Oregon topography.

Water Street Brewery     1101 N. Water Str.  Milwaukee

Scooters Pub      158 East Juneau Ave.    Milwaukee

Dukes on the Water    158 East Juneau Ave.  Milwaukee

Hinterland Brewing    1001 Vince Lombardi Ave.   Green Bay

Badger State Brewing      990 Tony Canadeo Run   Green Bay

Stir Things Up at the Labrewatory

Tucked away on NE Russell Street is a small, relatively young brewery and taproom.  It’s in the same area as some favorite past watering holes on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – the historic White Eagle Saloon, Prost and The Rambler are just a few. (Click on the links to see the reviews)

Although the Labrewatory is typical of many small breweries – a large garage door that can be opened in good weather – the venue is more than a cool, fifty-seat taproom.  t’s actually a brewing experiment – an idea generated in late 2015 by its head brewer, Charlie Johnson.  And it gets some good reviews including being selected by Travel Portland as one of “Portland’s Best New Breweries in 2015:”

“A new project by Portland Kettle Works (a company that crafts equipment for many local breweries), this cutting-edge brew lab is the first of its kind in the city. Rather than employing its own brewers, The Labrewatory serves as a testing ground for sudsy new experiments from creative minds all over the country.”

Laura, Ryan and friend Kenzie Larson at 2014 Stamtisch Beerchasing

The idea to visit The Labrewatory (hereafter LB) was my son-in-law’s, Ryan Keene.  He and wife, Laura, are veteran Beerchasers, having been on several expeditions before their recent September marriage last year.  These included Stamtisch, Quimby’s and MadSon’s Pub.  (To see Thebeerchaser reviews of these watering holes, click on the link over their names.)

Ryan and Laura debating on the LB beer choice

 

 

 

It was a nice Father’s Day gift to me and Ryan’s dad, Ron, who along with Janet Williams, my wonderful Beerchasing spouse joined our group.  The five of us enjoyed both the beer and the venue.

This was the first Beerchasing expedition for Ron who grew up in Spokane and has been in Portland close to 35 years.  He works for XPO Logistics as a business analyst in IT working on pricing projects. Ryan, who is a an expert runner and excellent athlete, inherited much of his athletic talent from his dad although Ron asserts that “I owned Ryan on the Ping Pong table until he was 12.”

Charlie Johnson, the aforementioned head brewer, has both a masters degree in microbiology and a doctorate in chemical engineering and perhaps considerably more vision in his high school chemistry class than I did.

Dmitri wore a funny hat and drank vodka rather than beer……

Most of us just tried to understand the logic as to why Iron was abbreviated Fe (Atomic # 26) while Iridium was Ir (Atomic #77) on the Periodic Table of Elements and what Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was trying to prove when he created it.

The LB has a very upscale and attractive interior:

“The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom.”  Willamette Week Bar Review (12/30/15)

The LB is a great place to taste beers from smaller breweries with the four guest taps hosting Freemont, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Lakes breweries when we were there.  But you can also experiment with BL’s own innovative beers with ten on tap.

Ryan and Ron try a $12 sampler with six different beers.

We tried two of their samplers and were able, with the six beers on each tray, to try most of the options.

And the samplers are reasonably priced at $12 for six four-ounce pours.  Our two favorites were the BL Falcon IPA and the Cascade Lakes Brewing’s Salted Caramel Porter.   BL’s Yuzu Mimosa (Kettle Soured Golden Ale) and Gose in Your Mouth both had plenty of pucker power!

Given their business model, it’s understandable while LB chose not to provide food service – at least not right away – but that does not seem to be a problem.  Multiple parties were ordering food from Tamale Boy, right next door and the offerings (which they will deliver to the Labrewatory when ready) looked very good i.e. reasonable prices and expansive menu – while also getting stellar review in social media.  For example, this 6/21/17 review on Yelp.  

Tamale Boy provides great food options

The quality of tamale goes beyond just authentic. A single tamale is $5 but is almost double the size of tamales I’ve eaten in the past. It is plump and avoids being dry. Wrapped in a freshly steamed leaf, you can tell care went into its production…..The salsa that accompanied the had a great tang, on the spicy side with fresh chunks of cilantro and tomato- excellent!

Delicious, made to order, fresh and full of flavor! Qué fantastico. Super fun eating experience. You can sit (if w/kids), in between the store and the brewery, and they will serve you on your wine barrel.   (Yelp 1/8/17)

Where the innovative brewing takes place….

And the LB deserves credit for their enteprenaurial spirit and innovativeness.  For example, in January of 2016, they released a crowd-sourced beer brew – the @PDXBottleshare IPA...

What’s that?  Well read the description from their website:

“The beer was brewed during the December 2015 @PDXBottleShare event held in our taproom. Participants brought in a bottle of beer to share…and a bag of hops to contribute to the brew.

Nearly 40 people showed up to the event at Labrewatory, bringing in 50 bottles of beer and 23 different hops for the event brew!… For the IPA, Charlie used all of the hop additions in the mash and during fermentation- none in in the boil. He used a very low mash temperature and used traditional German mashing schedule to keep the beer dry, and then the beer was fermented with our house yeast strain from Imperial Organic.”

And the creativity is also reflected in their activities.  In six years of Beerchasing, I have not seen another combination of yoga and beer similar to what goes on once each month:

Monday nights are Yoga + Beer nights in Portland! The last Monday of each month is our class at Labrewatory…..After class we roll up our mats, spread out the tables and enjoy pints of their most recent (and tasty!) concoctions. This detox + retox class, led by Yoga + Beer instructor, Jana Bedard, is an all-levels flow yoga class. After class, yogis are invited to stay to enjoy a delicious beer!  

Yoga and Beer on the last Monday night of each month.

The cost is $20 for the yoga class and a pint or $15 just for the yoga.  (They didn’t offer a beer-only option for somebody who wanted to come and observe the class and just drink while they were inspired by those more motivated to stay in shape.)

There are other interesting stories and perhaps Charlie’s imagination got a little overzealous for one of his first creations.

Loligo vulgaris = squid. Supplied the ink for one of Charlie’s first beers

“…..It’s not too often that a brewer gets so much creative freedom to make beer. Then you get to ask yourself, ‘how far can you push the limits’?”   A cherry Gose brined with squid ink. Yes, squid ink. The ink will act as the salty agent in the beer and give an enticing dark color.”   11 November http://labrewatory.com/meet-our-first-brewer/  

Then there was another one based on an idea by a fellow brewer as documented in New School Beer.com: http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2015/12/the-labrewatory-is-now-brewing-up-strange-brews.html

“This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.”

No need to follow the steps of Pierre and Marie Curie when brewing….

Perhaps those experiments go beyond the cutting edge and maybe it’s a good thing Charlie got his PhD in chemical and not nuclear engineering.  (He might decide to do some brewing with Radium – that’s Ra and atomic number 88 in the Periodic Table.)  While I have no problem with brewing creativity, I don’t want to have to use a Geiger counter when having a brewski…..

Check out the Labrewatory.  You will enjoy it and there are a lot of other good bars nearby if you want to make it an evening.

Labrewatory        

670 N. Russell Street