Get a Read on the Rose City Book Club – Even Now!!

Explanatory Note

I was ready to publish this post on March 15th, but decided in light of world events, that perhaps I should suspend Thebeerchaser.com. for some period.   Offsetting this sentiment about being insensitive were quite a few comments from followers and family that by providing narratives that are on the lighter side right now might be appreciated and provide a diversion from the news.

With that in mind, I will do a few posts about some establishments that I visited months and maybe even a year or two ago, but never had the time to write – not the situation now….. You’ll also see updates on some bars and breweries that are adapting and still doing a good job of serving their customers now – in creative ways that comply with the Oregon’s regulations.

Such is the case with Rose City Book Pub, where owner, Elise Schumock, who you will meet below, is still open for “take out food, growler fills, and book sales.”  Her new hours are 11 am until 10 pm.  Check out the introductory paragraphs in her website which convey what she is doing and some great options you should consider not only for your own enjoyment, but to support a small business owner during this crisis.  (I visited Rose City three times in the last year.)

And if you have any thoughts about if and where Thebeerchaser should “go” in the next weeks – other than to have a draft beer in your favorite watering hole, leave a comment.    Don Williams aka Thebeerchaser

Cheers!

I have to admit that when I read about bars that have a dual function e.g. a tap room and also serve as a cycle or record shop, etc. it evokes reservations.   The bars and watering holes I love (all 367 in the last eight years) are almost always characterized by patrons – especially the regulars in dive bars – engaged in active discussions and interaction.

At home in a tavern…..

Two quotes by Samuel Johnson reinforce this idea although I have used the first on this blog before:

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

and

“’As soon,’ said he, ‘as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude : when I am seated….wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love.’”

Philosopher opposed nukes….

Would a book pub be one where patrons immerse themselves in 500-page volumes of Tolstoy or quietly ponder philosopher and historian, Bertrand Russell’s views on nuclear disarmament with only an occasional sip of a brewski while deliberately refraining from any typical barroom banter?

Thus, I had some skepticism about the announcement of the new Rose City Book Pub (hereafter RCBP) when it opened in November, 2018. Part of that was from the fond memories I had at a Beerchasing event in 2012.

I joined colleagues who were members of the Schwabe Williamson law firm Environmental and Natural Resources group when County Cork was located in the same space on NE Fremont.  It’s a charming space in a wonderful old building built in 1927.

Schwabe Environmental lawyers toasting the EPA in an Irish Pub

We had both cheerful and weighty conversations and we liked the pub’s Irish theme.  Brien Flanagan, who is now the leader of that group, a Notre Dame undergrad before law school, even told the joke about the Irish boomerang: “It doesn’t come back. It just sings songs about how much it wants to.”

Why Should You Visit the Rose City Book Pub?

After three visits and a great interview with the cordial and interesting owner, Elise, however, my reservations disappeared and I will return.  The concept works quite well.

And since on two of the three visits to the new establishment were also with lawyers who are Beerchasing regulars (former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jim Westwood – and Bernie Stea), the company was equally stimulating at both County Cork and RCBP.

Elise, Bernie and Jim

I say this as a non-attorney who worked with lawyers for forty years and as one family member said, was a victim of the curse, “May your life be filled with lawyers.”  I loved my career in legal management, however, and as evidenced by these three examples, still spend a lot of time Beerchasing with lawyers – voluntarily…..

The RCPB has a very nice physical layout and ambiance.  And in spite of my concern that it might tend to be a bunch of bibliophiles burying their faces in books, it was exactly the opposite.

Although there are some nice niches where one can cozy up with a book, most people are reading, socializing or working on computers at tables or booths which are an  integral part of the large comfortable and bustling room or chatting at the bar.  The book shelves on each of the far sides provide nice “bookends,” if you will, sitting against walls which are attractively painted.

And the bar with about ten barstools fronts the kitchen where the jovial staff has ongoing interaction with customers.   There’s also some nice art by local artists scattered throughout.

Bar opens to kitchen

What About Elise?

We should talk a little bit about Elise, who based on her outgoing personality, her entrepreneurial spirit and her interesting background deserves accolades.

Elise – “temporary” hiatus in LA….

This Portland native, who attended Grant High School, and then Whitman College, where she majored in Education.   She graduated during the recession and there were no jobs teaching Latin in the NW – her career choice – so she moved to LA in 2001.  She then worked at an elite K-12 private school in which the annual tuition was $40,000.   Her second week as a teacher started with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.

The neophyte educator tutored and taught Latin, which started a great conversation since Jim Westwood’s mom, Catherine, was both Jim’s and my Latin teacher for two years at Oregon City High School in the ‘60’s.   I threw out the only two Latin words I remember – “pulchra puella” which means beautiful girl.

Caeser – Bloody in Canada…

So Jim and Elise started talking about the Roman Empire and to keep it in context he informed us that a Bloody Caesar is the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary except it includes clam broth.

Her goal was always to return to Portland and after seventeen years, a friend, Matan Gold, had an conceptual idea about a “book pub” in Portland and she thought, “I could do that!”   After a six-month search, she found the building “which perfectly matched my parameters.

Is this used book store and pub the only such combination in Portland?  Well, according to critic Michael Russell in Oregon Live:

As noted by Eater PDX, which broke the bar news last week, this will be Portland’s first such establishment, joining Boston’s Trident Cafe, the Spotty Dog in Hudson, or Afterwords in Washington, D.C.”

They opened on November 3, 2018 and after starting months that saw packed houses,  the first part 2019 “was pretty lean.”  Since that time things have gone very well.  (With that said, Elise, who goes by the title of Book Publican, like any small business owner is concerned about the long-term economic impact of the Corona Virus.)

So does the RCBP have the feel of a typical pub or of a bookstore that just offers some alcoholic beverages.   Let’s look at Willamette Week’s well-stated description in January, 2019:

“It has all the makings of a Portland cliché: craft brews, staged poetry readings, rows of old, obscure books. But don’t be deterred by appearances. The simple bar manages to fuse two of the city’s trademarks—beer and used books—without a drop of pretension…..

This isn’t a bookstore you enter seeking something specific. It’s a humble, well-curated selection, presented for carefree browsing and happenstance discovery. Plus, the bar’s inviting atmosphere and free-flowing beer taps are a recipe for a rare Portland occurrence: chatting with strangers.” (Emphasis supplied)

What’s to Drink?

They have fourteen rotating micro and two nitros on tap in addition to two ciders and Kombucha.  As you can see from the image below, the beers are diverse and comprise 3 IPA’s, a couple amber ales, a Kolsch and Pilsner and a sour ale.  Elise reports, however, that her top single seller is the house red wine – one of four.

You can also have a cocktail as well. And the next time I go back, I will definitely supplement my beer and with a root beer float for $5.

Bernie Stea, a member of the elite law school honorary, Order-of-the-Coif and not to be outdone by Westwood’s erudition in his reference to the Roman Empire, made a point of ordering one of Camas, Washington brewery Grains of Wrath‘s beer.  He then quoted  John Steinbeck – thinking we might see the connection:

“There is nothing in the world like the first taste of beer.”

And his preference for beer from the Camas brewery is understandable since Bernie and his wife, former Portland radio personality, Debb Janes, have a successful high-end residential real estate practice there – View Homes of Clark County.

Grains of Wrath – A good Camas brewery option…..

What’s to Eat?

Elise on her website describes their menu as, “….cafe and bistro style with hearty, whole ingredients and bold flavors.” 

And while I didn’t eat there, it appears to be pretty robust and offers more options than one would expect ranging from sandwiches, salads, appetizers and even some entrees such as roasted chicken and pork shoulder – the latter at reasonable prices of $12.50 and $16.00 respectively.   Also deserts and a kids’ menu.

One Yelp reviewer commented that they should have more vegan options and Elise replied:

Our vegan options are Mediterranean Sandwich, Quinoa Bowl, Pasta Puttanesca, Hummus Plate, Fries made in our gf and vv fryer.  One of the rotating soups is always vegan, and several of our snacks are vegan, including olives, Chex mix, gf pretzels, hummus and carrots, apples and peanut butter, and ants on a log. 

The term “pub crawl” doesn’t apply to this snack.

Elsie asserted the need for diversity in her menu by also stating, “Vegans have friends who are not vegan.”

(BTW,I didn’t know what “ants on a log” were and was relieved when I learned the snack is made by “…spreading cream cheese, peanut butter, ricotta cheese…..on spreads of celery and placing raisins on top.” (Wikipedia)

For those put off by the title, it’s better than one of the variations “ticks on a stick” – substitute black olives for the raisins.  Elise asserted that ants on a log goes very well with a shot of whiskey.

She and her staff (Christine, Amy and John, the cook) are very friendly and helpful in explaining the food options and a very impressive tap list for a small, new establishment.

Christine and Amy are great ambassadors for the pub

One thing I have noticed in the eight years of my watering hole travels is that the bars that appear to be successful and radiate a welcoming vibe are those that have become a “community” of sorts, not only within their neighborhood but for those who gather socially from other parts of the City.

Elise promotes this approach stating:

“We host all kinds of events: readings and live music, book clubs, fundraisers, and stuff for kids, We aim to build a community, and become a hub of sharing, discussion, and good times.”

Stuff for kids…

And the Calendar-of-Events on their website is filled with gatherings such as Trivia Night every Wednesday from 7:00 to 9:00, affirms it.  Live music also brings in patrons on the evenings its offered.

They also have a very nice back patio.

What’s to Read?

The inventory of books on the shelves and in niches throughout the large space is about 5,000 (with about another 100 boxes in storage)  and Elise’s specialty is literary fiction.  They also have kids’ books.

How are the Reviews?

Certainly, one way to get a feel for how things are going besides personal visits and talking to the owner, is checking out social media reviews.   I always try to see if there are themes and if their are trends to the comments.  Also, if there are any crazy reviewers which is often the case.

My son-in-law, Ryan Keene orders from Christine

In the first year of operation, one would expect some negative reviews but other than one reviewer who complained that she thought it was too loud and another that he thought that it was too quiet and they needed music, many of the reviews were almost effusive (see below).

I was impressed that whenever there was a comment with even a mild criticism or some suggestions for improvements, Elise always responded – a smart move for any business owner.  And I did find one from 12/7/19 that seemed at least at little bit crazy:

Everyone here seemed nice, but snobby. I found myself to be the only one of 7-8 people grooming the book shelves in search of a life changing event. Most people keyed away on their laptops or tablets.

I really just didn’t like the kind of people in this place. Maybe it’s that I don’t fit in. I felt like I was surrounded by angry feminists and judgmental leftists. I was wearing business attire and the glares I got were uncomfortable. I just didn’t feel like I fit in. Otherwise this would be a 5/5”

I hope this person had a life-changing event other than the one all of us have experienced in the last few weeks, but in contrast, the comments below describe the ambiance of the pub:

“This place feels like a comfortable mix of a Powell’s and your favorite corner bar. People were sitting alone reading and sipping beer, playing games with family, meeting up with a friend or having a glass of wine while they worked on their computer.  I got lucky enough to meet the owner, Elise, who is as charming as this pub. She has made a place that everyone can feel welcome.”   (Yelp 12/29/19)

Beautiful space with friendly ‘barbarians’ and a warm atmosphere. Will definitely be back!” (Yelp 3/11/20)

“I stopped in for the first time on my latest trip to Portland and absolutely fell in love!  This place is basically Portland in a pub.”    (Yelp 9/12/19)

“Only in Portland will you find a place as cool as this. Where east meets west, the place that defines PDX. If you thought Powells was cool, this place trumps it in all aspects.”   (Yelp 7/22/19)

What’s Holding You Back?

And finally, another one that is more evidence that you should drop by and say “hello” to Elise and her staff:

“This place is pretty awesome! Do you ever have a book and want to read? Do you ever want to read with beer and or wine, maybe a cocktail? Not a bar, not some scene place, but some place where you can actually read. I’ve long wanted one and this is it.

It’s a mash up if you’re favorite small bookstore had food and drinks, this is what would happen. We came here for bookclub and it was so fun. We had a great discussion, their selection of beers on tap is extensive and they have several food options.”

And if you feel so inclined, you can even bring in and post some original writing or poetry for patrons to view which occupy one wall and add another nice community touch.  This photo  shows  their  “Take a Poem/Leave a Poem” feature.  Some are original works, some are copies of published works.  Another nice touch. (And by the way, if you want to help, the RCBP also takes donations of books.)

Rose City Book Pub     

1329 NE Fremont

 

BS Revisited – If Only I had Known in 2012!

The Brilliant Tome by Dr. Harry Frankfurt

“The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”

When I started this blog in late 2011, I decided that besides reviewing bars and breweries, I would feature an interesting individual or group each quarter.  They might not have anything to do with beer or bars, but in my opinion they’ve made a meaningful contribution to society and their story should be told.

In almost every case, I have known the approximately thirty-two individual or groups I’ve since tried to recognize personally and they range from athletes, authors, media personalities, military heroes and even academicians (including my graduate school professor in Public Finance).   One of the few I did not know, but felt compelled to “honor” after reading his brilliant essay, was Princeton Emeritus Professor Dr. Harry Frankfurt.

One of my friends in the Schwabe law firm, when I was COO, gave me a hardbound copy of the professor’s 1986 essay On Bullshit – I think as a subtle hint to describe the information conveyed by firm management….  I couldn’t put it down, laughed out loud throughout and decided to make Dr. Franklin my second Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

As a lark, I looked up his contact info at Princeton and sent him an e-mail describing Thebeerchaser blog and his designation as B-O-Q.   I thought it would get caught in Princeton’s spam filter or that a person with this distinguished Ph.D.’s schedule would just ignore it..

So I was surprised and thrilled to receive the e-mail below several days later.   His cryptic reference in the last sentence also indicated that he read the very long post in its entirety.  (If you want to find out what it is, you should also……)

Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 7:36 AM
To: Williams, Donald
Subject: RE: Hello Dr. Frankfurt

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. Also, I enjoyed the pictures. I intend to follow your blog regularly. I am especially interested in keeping up with the debate over whether to remove the letter M from the alphabet. I believe that, with regard to this issue, my mind is still completely open.

Anyhow, thanks very much for writing.

Sincerely,         Harry Frankfurt     

And I can say with some confidence that eight years later, few of us would believe that the level of BS pervading the airwaves and emanating from the Nation’s Capital would have far surpassed what even Dr. Frankfurt described.  So I decided to republish it – in some ways as a sad commentary on ongoing communication. 

A dramatic increase in BS percentage

I sent a copy to my late friend and author and another Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Brian Doyle, knowing that with his wit and appreciation of the written word, he would enjoy it.  His reaction was as follows:

“I read it (On Bullshit) instantly and was delighted.  In all my life, I never read such a careful essay on such a crucial subject and one with a humor so dry I was thirsty at the end and had a glass of the best.”

The narrative below will give you a taste (or sip) of what Brian described and I would recommend you purchase it.   Dr. Frankfurt is now fully retired at the age of 90, but his incredible perceptions on BS will be a lasting legacy!

The Original Blog Post – January , 2012

Although somewhat erratic in 2011, the intent of this blog is to recognize a Beerchaser of the Quarter four times each year.  The honoree, so to speak, may or may not have a direct relationship to pubs or beer.  When more indirect, I will attempt to explain the link, which is necessary for the January recipient.  Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., an author and professor at Princeton University, has shown wisdom and humor in promoting meaningful communication.

One of the reasons for thebeerchaser tour is to experience the ambiance unique to each bar, pub or tavern.  I would suggest that each ale house has its own character based, in part, on the conversations and relationships of its patrons.

The Yukon Tavern

Thus, by listening and interacting, I have gleaned pearls of wisdom from my visit to Joe’s Cellar that were distinct from Prost, the Yukon Tavern or the Twilight Room and other stops on my tour;

however,

All the discourse was worthwhile and sincere, which is not true of much of today’s dialogue – most notably in politics, government and law.  It seems fitting, therefore to start the New Year by acknowledging, Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., as the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  He is the author of a brilliant 67-page treatise published in 2005 entitled On Bullshit.

As the esteemed Dr. states: (all quotes below in blue italics)

Unmitigated Bullshit

“The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”       

 

In On Bullshit, Dr. Frankfurt, quotes from learned sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary The Prevalence of Humbug(an essay by Max Black 1985)   

The Economist,

St. Augustine

and ‘”Lying’ in Treatises on Various Subject in Fathers of the Church” by RJ Deferrari (1952) re. St. Augustine’s position on the  issue of lying.

Dr. Frankfurt’s stated purpose in On Bullshit will help you understand why this little book is so insightful:

“In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.  And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.  In other words, we have no theory. 

I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory analysis…..My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not.”

Understandably, the professor agonized that, “Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only answered, but unasked.” (emphasis supplied)  

Questions on BS??

With the Presidential election cycle upon us and the increasing use of the internet and social media for communication, On Bullshit becomes an invaluable resource to gauge communication….and character.

A recent column by The New York Times Columnist, David Brooks, entitled, “Behaving Badly in Cyberspace” wisely states:

“And if more people spent their evenings at least thinking about what exemplary behavior means they might be less likely to find themselves sending out emotionally stunted tweets at night.                                    

   ……The reason politicians behave badly these days is that we spend less time thinking about what it means to behave well.  This was less of a problem in past centuries when leaders, teachers and clergy held detailed debates over what it meant to have good character.” 

The New York Times David Brooks

Does the proliferation of e-mail and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, increase the amount of bullshit in global society?  Dr. Frankfurt wrote his tome before the advent of social media and since then the number of talk shows and reality shows has also increased dramatically.

Is the Amount of BS – Time Relative???

Even in 2005, when Dr. Frankfurt wrote his book, he opined that the amount of BS was distressing:

“Why is there so much bullshit?  Of course, it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times.  There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased.”        

Perhaps it is nostalgia, but it would seem that some of the great statesman and intellects of the past were more direct and concise – essentially far less inclined to bullshit, than current dignitaries.    For example, let’s compare the wonderfully concise assertion of Henry David Thoreau in 1854, to former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s response at a press briefing in February 2002:

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” 

Henry David Thoreau – Thought a lot before he talked….

Thoreau said this even before some of the statements uttered by George W. Bush and Texas Governor, Rick Perry  (I wonder if they had a pub in the vicinity of Walden Pond?)  It also begs the question whether Thoreau was implying that Maine and Texas residents are bullshitters, which Dr. Frankfurt does not address in his book.

Known Knowns (Although Rudy has become a known unknown in 2020)

And now, Rumsfeld’s comment on why no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq:

“There are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Rumsfeld’s quote may typify government communication and reinforces the need for a new law signed by President Obama, effective October 2011 – “The Plain Writing Act” – perhaps more aptly described as the “Anti-Bullshit Act.”

It was prompted by such examples as the Pentagon 26-page brownie recipe which included a directive that “ingredients shall be examined organoleptically.”

Frankfurt would certainly classify that directive as bullshit. A pre and post – Act comparison is edifying:

Before –The Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommends a half-hour or more of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably every day.  The activity can include brisk walking, calisthenics, home care, gardening, moderated sports exercise and dancing.”

After – “Do at least 30 minutes of exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.”

A Stark Contrast – Does it Drive One to Drink?

To further the premise that communication has declined in quality and the bullshit quotient increased, we can turn to the contrast between Benjamin Franklin and current Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.  Perhaps dialogue was more meaningful, tempered and civil in Franklin and Thoreau’s time because they exerted considerable effort to make it that way.

Founder of The Junto

Franklin integrated his social and civic life with his business life.  In 1727, he formed a club of young workingman called, “The Junto.”     

When they met they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics and devised schemes for self-improvement.  In a description of the goals of this group, Walter Isaacson, in his 2003 590-page book, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life states:

“Franklin stressed the importance of deferring, or at least giving the appearance of deferring, to others…… ‘When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him.’  

Instead, he would agree in parts and suggest differences only indirectly…. This velvet-tongued and sweetly passive style of circumspect argument would make him seem sage to some, insinuating and manipulative to others, but inflammatory to almost nobody.”

BS Trendline in Election Years

The contrast between Franklin and Gingrich’s demeanor and communication is striking.  Gingrich’s term as Speaker of the House, essentially marked the beginning of the end of bi-partisanship and civility in Congress.

Warning – BS Alert!!!

“I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words.

..There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

The above is Newtie’s rationale for multiple marital affairs – BS so profound that it would astonish even Dr. Harry Frankfurt.  Perhaps the following excerpt from On Bullshit is particularly apt during election campaigns — especially in this era of concern about global warming:

“When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor.  His speech is empty, without substance or content.  His use of language accordingly does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve. 

Hot Air!!

No more information is communicated than if the speaker had merely exhaled.  There are similarities between hot air and excrement, incidentally, which make hot air seem an especially suitable equivalent for bullshit.  Just as hot air is speech that has been emptied of all informative content, so excrement is matter from which everything nutritive has been removed.”

While Franklin’s Junto may not have initially met in a tavern or alehouse, it would seem that this type of setting would have been appropriate.  Although it is a generalization, I have found that those who frequent pubs have a propensity to identify and refrain from drinking with bullshitters.  There is a certain authenticity and candor to bar-room rhetoric that is refreshing.

This is not to suggest, however, that a good bull session is out of place in the tavern setting.  It is critical to understand the distinction.   

“What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond, without it being assumed that they are committed to what they say. It is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements people make do not necessarily reveal what they believe or how they really feel…..

Bull Session at Tavern

The purpose of the conversation is not to communicate beliefs.  Accordingly, the usual assumptions about the connection between what people say and what they believe are suspendedThe statements made in a bull session are different than bullshit in that there is no pretense that this connection is being sustained.

This resemblance between bull sessions and bullshit is suggested also by the term ‘shooting the bull,’ which refers to the sort of conversation that characterizes bull sessions and in which the term ‘shooting’ is very likely a cleaned-up rendition of ‘shitting.’  The very term ‘bull session’ is, indeed, quite probably a sanitized version of ‘bullshit session.’”

So let us embark in 2012 by toasting Dr. Harry Frankfurt and his essay – still available at Amazon.  Let us resolve to speak with candor and frankness, but with civility.  Let us not shy away from debating issues ranging from the Portland Trailblazers, to the Columbia River Crossing to the impact of eliminating the letter ‘M’ from the alphabet, in bull sessions.

But as we lift our mugs in 2012, let us at least attempt to avoid the furtherance of bullshit.

A Concluding Rhetorical Question from Dr. Frankfurt

Is the bullshitter by his very nature a mindless slob?  Is his product necessarily messy or unrefined?     The word ‘shit”’ does, to be sure, suggest this. 

Excrement is not designed or crafted after all; it is merely emitted or dumped.  It may have more or less coherent shape, or it may not, but it is in any case, certainly not wrought.”

Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser

Turn to The Vern!

The Vern in Southeast Portland (in the area sometimes referred to as ‘The Barmuda Triangle” because of the prevalence of bars and taverns in the area) epitomizes the debate Willamette Week aptly labeled, “(Portland’s) endless war between condos and character.”

You will see below that while a number of people in their social media reviews bemoan the fact that their beloved Hannigan’s Bar – the Vern’s predecessor which opened in 1986 – and the old Vern are now history – the bar was remodeled, the interior refurbished and the menu revamped, into what is now a cozy neighborhood watering hole that still has many aspects of dive bar ambiance.

Remodeled and refurbished

Now some take issue with what WW calls the transition from “haute-scumbag chic to fresh new spaces” of the rebooted Vern. I would suggest, however, that Portland is fortunate to have entrepreneurs, Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault to save these establishments from development into structures such as urban storage units or commercial office space.

In the good old days…..

Alternatively, some old bars with great character have permanently disappeared and supposedly suave cocktail and beer bars – many in strip malls – have sprung up.

The Club 21 was one owned by this duo which didn’t survive and what was a wonderful bar in an iconic building that at one time served as a Greek Orthodox Church is now gone.  Fortunately, as you will see below, some of the old signs and memorabilia from the Club 21 have a new home in The Vern.

What happens when a fine establishment like the Club 21 closes…..

An example of the urbane-type establishment  is the Yard House in downtown Portland – a bar although boasting “the world’s largest selection of draft beers featuring over 100 imported and local beers bars on tap,” has all the ambiance of an Olive Garden.

That’s quite possibly because the chain of Yard House bars across the US is owned by the same corporation as the above-mentioned pseudo Italian eatery which those who love boffo buffet flock to for “Never Ending Stuffed Pastas – Pick your pasta sauce and topping plus all the soup or salad and breadsticks you want – over and over….”

Urbane or sterile??

When I reviewed the Yard House on this blog in 2016, I asked rhetorically if it “measured up.”  (It didn’t…!)

Indeed, we can thank this duo for their commitment to save and invest in such great bars as the Sandy Hut, the Double Barrel, Gold Dust Meridian and the Elvis Room, which are still thriving.

(To see Thebeerchaser’s reviews, click on the links above.)

To further the case on why The Vern’s transition in late 2018, potentially saved it, take this excerpt from WW’s 4/9/19 review after it reopened, “(The Vern) weathered multiple waves of change with one foot planted firmly in the grave. It’s teetered on the precipice of extinction for decades.”

The Vern garnered its moniker purportedly by what the Portland Mercury described in its 12/19/18 review as “a long-neglected neon sign that once flashed ‘Vern’ after a decades-old auto accident 86’d the ‘TA’ in ‘TAVERN.’”

In fact, the story reminded me of another great east-side bar that had a similar signage story – Mad Son’s Pub – which changed its name from “Madison’s” after the “i” in the neon sign burned out.   To further my assertion regarding the precarious nature of old bars, Mad Son’s, which I reviewed in 2016 and had great ambiance, permanently closed in 2017.

The Vern was suggested by my friend, Hillary Barbour, who hit a home run when she previously recommended Mad Hanna’s as a dive bar that should be visited by Thebeerchaser. (Click on the link to see the review).

National Power List!

Hillary, a Reed College grad, is now the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville and was recently honored by The Nation’s Restaurant News on their 2020 Power List in an article captioned Burgerville’s Hillary Barbour Develops a Burger that is Better for the Planet.”

It should be noted that inclusion on any kind of establishment Power List may be viewed with reproach by her fellow Reed alums.

Hillary Barbour at The Vern

The space is expansive with two large rooms and features which make The Vern a good place to raise a mug or just hang out.  These include a great backbar with cool barstools, large booths with red felt cushions, several old-fashioned pinball machines as well as Big Buck Hunter (and a big buck head taxidermy mounted on the wall), a great fire-pit and a number of typical dive bar signs – many from the Club 21 – including my favorite Schlitz globe.

Don’t forget the iconic “STEAKS” sign from the aforementioned Club 21 as well as some posters from live music events at the former bar.

Maureen and Jelly Bean

There is also a great patio where we had a nice chat with Maureen, a Vern regular who lives nearby and was out on the patio with her friendly Newfoundland breed dog, “Jelly Bean.”

The Vern could improve a few minor things such as creating a website and improving its Facebook page which leaves a lot to be desired.  However, the history of the “institution” and the stories, which go back over thirty years, remain intact notwithstanding the spruced up interior fixings.

For example, many Portlanders will remember an August 2019 Oregonian story entitled “Man in MAGA hat clashed with crowd before his alleged assault at different bar, witnesses say.”

The Vern was where this saga began when at about 10:30 on a Saturday night, a guy and his wife, who told police that she “….wanted to see how people would treat her husband if he wore a Make America Great Again hat into some bars.”

(Not related to the Oregon Live story)

The female bartender at the Vern – she asked the man to leave – not because of his headgear, but based on his demeanor and actions.

And patrons said he began “Scanning the room and staring down anyone who would happen to look at him…..(and) began to accuse people inside the bar as being cowards and draft dodgers.” This in spite of the fact that he had no military service and the US discontinued the draft in 1973.

Usually a pretty staid environment..

Really??  Only one head where these belong!

Now the hat guy, who was subsequently assaulted by another woman and man outside the Growler Taproom – about ten blocks down Belmont Street -alleged that somebody at the Vern “placed a toilet seat cover on his head and that another patron threw something at him.”  That claim was questionable, but the two were later arrested by Portland Police for third degree assault.

The entire incident is somewhat humorous since nobody was seriously hurt, but the statement of a guy who filmed the debacle at The Vern before the couple left has to be one of the most misguided and ridiculous statements I’ve seen since starting this blog:

“I would equate wearing a MAGA hat while in hyper-liberal Portland to wearing Klan robes in a black community.”

Now while I may personally question the hat person’s  policy leanings, God help us when the expression of political preference – be it in speech or on apparel – is perceived in accordance with this intellectually challenged observer’s judgement.

How about pinball rather than politics……!

So what about the beer and the food at the Vern.   They have Rainier and two ciders on tap in addition to four micro-brews for which pints are a reasonable $6.

The food offerings are pretty typical of the other establishments of these two bar owners and the menu has a lot of options.  Take this WW review:

“…..customary spread of fried food snacks served with salty dipping sauces including honey-coated sweet potato jojos and cream fraiche ($7) and a plate of ‘golden nuggets’ which meld cheese curds and chicken into a singular deep-fried, bite size chunks ($8).”

While Hillary and I did not eat at The Vern, I had the above referenced golden nuggets when I visited the Double Barrel a few years ago and they were scrumptious.   (Given that Hillary is responsible for Burgerville’s locally-sourced and organic menu featuring regenerative agriculture, I wisely decided not to suggest anything on the Vern menu as she would have gotten up and left…..)

That said, the weekend brunch is one that might well motivate me to return even if it required a trip in from the burbs.

And this Yelp review from 8/13/19 certainly liked the burger.  That’s a tradition at the bars owned by this pair.  (8/13/19 Yelp)

“Everything about the burger was awesome, from the bun to the patty to the ingredients. However, my favorite topping was the crispy onion- it really pushed it up to the ‘wow- I love it, delicious’ burger list.”

Side Note – Different Bar(s) at Another Portland Vern(e)

I often convey related stories when writing this blog.   The latest occurred when I tried to call to check on the number of beers on tap.  I googled “The Vern” and hit the “Call” button on my i-Phone whereupon a very formal male voice answered “Control Room.”

Realizing no bar that I’ve ever been to had a control room, I quickly hung up and rechecked the link and the phone number and then realized that I had called The Vern(e) – but this one was a male prison in England. “The Verne is a men’s prison, located within the historic Verne Citadel on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England….operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.”  (Well at least it was in Portland……)

The Other Portland Vern(e)

And to end this review by again pointing out the dichotomy in views on bars that receive the Boothby/Archambeault treatment, I present a quote from Warren Boothby on their intent in their resurrection of the Vern:

“We used to hang out there a lot 20 years ago, and we want it to feel like home again for those who remember it as a place where you could be super comfortable and that wasn’t pretentious.” (Portland Mercury 12/19/18)

Comfortable and non-pretentious….

Reinforcing this sentiment is the realistic statement of this August 2019 Yelp reviewer who stated:

“What kind of bars serve $3.75 wells in 2019? Bars that close.

Granted I never went to the old Vern, but from the sound of it, not many other people went there, either. Checking out the remodel, I’m happy that somebody stepped in and saved this space, even if it’s not really what it used to be.

Again as a reminder, what it used to be was a bar that was going to close. At least this place was taken over by people who have genuine care for the space and the history and for operating great spaces. I’ll be back, and I’ll bring my crew in tow.”

They are also trying to create a community at The Vern with 50-cent wings during Blazer games, an interesting “daily six-shooter” featuring a shot of whiskey and a pint of Rainier  for $6, trivia nights, occasional DJ’s and their excellent brunches to encourage neighbors and groups to patronize.

The Daily Six-Shooter

Thebeerchaser will definitely return to The Vern.

And a tip of the hat (with no logo or slogan) to Warren Boothby and Marcus Achambeault for their continuing stewardship in preserving Portland’s watering hole tradition, notwithstanding a contrary view.

I regard the guy below as one who perhaps should make an effort to allow pragmatism to transcend his naive nostalgia when he wrote on Yelp on 4/23/19:

“Not a dive bar anymore. Sadly the Vern lost its charm in the remodel and we are left with yet another basic-yuppie bar. Well drinks went for $3.75 and now it’s $6. No more pool tables, no more bathtub in the smoking area, and ultimately no more personality.

This place that once felt like a quirky safe space feels awkward and uncomfortable. Trying way too hard to be something else, and it’ll never be the same.  I’m going to be switching my favorite dive bar to Bare Bones just up the street.”

The Charm still remains – it’s just different.

I guess I’ll have to visit and review the Bare Bones Cafe and Bar, but it appears to me to be more of a café than a bar. The Vern will continue the tradition of its predecessors. Go there and don’t be reluctant to wear your t-shirts or hats with slogans regardless of whether they are political or show a college sports theme such as “Go Beavs!!” 

The Vern         2622 SE Belmont Street   Portland

How Jack and Jan McGowan SOLV(E) the Equation

Meet Jan and Jack McGowan, the first Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter in 2020.

Oregon Governor Tom McCall, the founder of SOLV, once said, ”Heroes are not statues framed against a red sky.  They are individuals who say,  ‘This is my community and it is my responsibility to make it better.’”

There can be no doubt that by Governor McCall’s eloquent definition, Jack and Jan McGowan are true heroes, as few Oregonians have given as much time and effort as they have to making all of Oregon’s communities better. 

SOLV has played a special role in modern Oregon history, and Jack and Jan’s intelligence, integrity, and  indefatigable energy were instrumental in its success.

Kerry Tymchuk

When I asked Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society, a good friend of the McGowans, to write a short commendation to start this post, he agreed immediately.  Kerry, himself, is an outstanding Oregonian, having received Oregon Business and Industry’s (OBI) Statesman of the Year Award in 2018.

The picture above was taken on the seventeen-acre property at which Jack and Jan McGowan reside – about seven miles outside of Sisters, Oregon bordering Indian Ford Meadows.

The couple moved into the house and became caretaker/managers of it multiple properties near Sisters in 2008 through the generosity of very close friends.

They returned to make Sisters their home almost twenty-three years after they were married in nearby Camp Sherman and had their rehearsal dinner at the Sisters Hotel.

Not the average – but the lower range….

It’s a beautiful forested acreage with geese flying, hummingbirds fluttering, eagles swooping, woodpeckers tapping (four species – White-headed, Downy, Hairy and Northern Flicker) and wild creatures ranging from deer and elk to bear and coyote.

here are  guest quarters and a wonderful greenhouse in which Jan spends a lot of time during the winter when the average snowfall is about eight inches and the temperature stays around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. (Jack doesn’t even have the key to the structure housing the plants.)

The Greenhouse

Both Jan and Jack had extremely interesting and divergent backgrounds before they met – when they worked for former Portland Mayor Bud Clark starting in 1985.  I’ll explore each’s story, but their collective legacy is the leadership and sustained effort they devoted in shaping and developing SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism).

SOLV was created in 1969 and celebrated its fifty-year anniversary in 2019.   (The non-profit dropped the words from its name to just the acronym in 1998 and added the E in 2012 to reflect its expanded mission in the community and environment.)

What is Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter?

For context, besides visiting and reviewing bars, pubs and breweries, each quarter on this blog, I “honor” an individual(s) or an organization who may or may not have anything to do with bars or beers.

The late author, Brian Doyle – B-O-Q in 2014

Past recipients – almost all of whom I have known personally, have included authors, athletes, media personalities, academicians and military veterans. (To see their posts, click the tab below the header at the top of the page.)

They all have interesting stories, notable achievements in their careers or public service and deserve recognition for their contributions to make it a better world.

Amy Faust

Attorney Jack Faust

Although there has been a father-daughter awardee (Jack and Amy Faust) Jan and Jack McGowan are the first couple to be so named and by inference, the organization they co-directed to become a powerful and effective force in Oregon environmental history.

Lessons to be Learned!

When reviewing their tireless efforts for SOLV, there’s a distinct lesson for those who feel overwhelmed and powerless to address complex Oregon or national problems.  Pay attention to this story……

The story of SOLV and the McGowans epitomizes using one’s energy, talents and creativity to build and sustain a successful non-profit organization.   And most Oregon citizens, political officials, corporate and non-profit leaders and media outlets understand and respect SOLV’s contribution to their State.

As just one example, Jack and Jan are on the cover of the December 2003 Oregon Business Magazine recognizing SOLV as one of the recipients of the Oregon Philanthropical Awards in 2017 for effecting dynamic changes in Oregon communities.  And Jack McGowan, as was Jack Faust mentioned above, was the recipient of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors Portland First Citizen Award – Faust in 1993 and McGowan in 2006.

The announcement re. Rose Festival Grand Marshal at Sisters High School

Jack was the Grand Marshall of the Portland Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade in 2009, the Oregon State Parks Foundation published the couple’s book The Oregon Coast – a Legacy Like No Other in 2017 and Jan continues to lead her successful firm consulting for non-profits formed in 2008.

Jack received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Pacific University.  Among his political mentors were US Senator Mark Hatfield and State Senator Ted Hallock.

The couple’s other honors and civic service are too numerous to mention here.  As Jack’s profile on Linked-in states, “Retired, but still very much involved!”

It’s a saga of smart and creative marketing and use of the media, cultivating fruitful partnerships – including their marriage – political savvy, perseverance through challenges, dynamic management and maybe a little bit of luck as well.

The vision of Tom McCall continues…

In 1990, Jack McGowan became the first paid director of the organization founded by Governor Tom McCall in 1969 as a result of a heated political compromise with the bottle and beverage industry over Oregon Bottle Bill Legislation. It was a joint decision by the couple based on their love for Oregon as Jack’s initial annual compensation was $10,000 with no benefits.

Jack smiled when he stated, “When I started SOLV had no staff, no office, no phone, 100 sheets of letterhead and $12,000 in a checking account.”  The office for the first five yeas, was in the family room of their house in Helvetia. 

Besides having an infectious grin, is a splendid story-teller and several times during our conversation such as when talking about his parents or about returning to Manhattan with the Flight for Freedom from Portland in 2001, he teared up.  Although it is a cliché, Jack truly wears his heart on his sleeve – in this case a western ranch shirt…..

2001 Oregonians in New York City

After Jan joined the effort in 1991, they operated out of their home for the first five years.  And from that staff of one and budget of $12,000 to the time of their retirement in 2008, it grew to a staff of twenty-six (now 32) and a budget of $2.6 million and tens of thousands of volunteers.

The Beach Cleanup….and Then Some!

The initial Oregon Beach Cleanup was in 1984.  The McGowans have been to 34 of the 36 including the first one for their son, Travis, when he was three years old.  It has become an Oregon tradition involving countless individual volunteers and hundreds of organizations.

“Alarmed by the dangers of plastics to wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employee Judie Neilson Hanson organized the first state-wide beach cleanup, and SOLVE helped.

That year, 2,100 volunteers collected 2,800 bags of trash. In 1986, Hanson coordinated beach clean-ups with similar efforts in fourteen coastal states. The following year, SOLVE took over leadership of the Oregon’s beach clean-ups, which have continued to be successful.”  (From the Oregon Encyclopedia)

SOLVE is now the largest volunteer organization in the Northwest. And the initial beach cleanup has expanded to become a Beach and Riverside Cleanup with far greater scope. (Take a look at this graphic demonstrating the involvement in the 2019 Cleanup).

Jan Van!!

Janet Van Domelen, was born in Anchorage and raised in Banks, Oregon.  Her dad was career Army and she was one of six children. I first met her when we both worked at the Oregon State Bar in 1979.   “Jan Van” – her moniker – was the Bar’s only receptionist and first rate at what most of her co-workers viewed as a terrible and stressful job. 

Any person who was dissatisfied with the service provided by his or her lawyer, believed their attorney had committed malpractice or had violated Bar ethics rules — or just didn’t like lawyers in general……would call or write the Bar which was the admissions and disciplinary arm of the Oregon Judicial Branch.

Membership was approximately 7,500 Oregon lawyers at that juncture.  (In 2019, that number had grown to over 12,000.)  So you can imagine the volume of calls and letters received was significant

To give you an idea, take a look at one of my favorite letters received at the Bar in 1981 when Jan and I worked there, from what will remain an unnamed individual from Independence, Oregon.

And many of the callers were harsh and rude – sometimes under-standably, and they vented on Jan Van.  She handled them with grace and aplomb.  We all knew that she would move on and have a great professional career.

Former Mayor Clark in 2014 at the Goose Hollow Inn which he owns – flanked by Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter Jim Westwood and John Terry.

That started when she left in late 1984 and interviewed to the Executive Assistant for future Mayor Bud Clark who took office in 1985.

Jack who was to become the Mayor’s Press Secretary was working with the Transition Team and he was one of four people interviewing the finalists.  Jan later told a friend who inquired about the interview:

“I think the interview went well, but even if they offered it to me, I don’t think I could take it.  Jack McGowan is the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t get any work done.”

She obviously overcame this concern and served for six years as Coordinator for the Mayor’s Office of International Relations.  She headed the Sister City Program and traveled throughout Asia in this role.  When she left, Portland had expanded to seven Sister Cities.  (More on Jan’s post SOLV career below.)  They couple started dating and got married in 1986.

With Mayor Clark and after Jack came up with the concept “Dress as You Please Day” in 1985

Jack….

When my wife and I joined the McGowans at the Sisters’ home – the first time I had met Jack, I knew immediately I would relate to him because of our mutual New York roots.  In face, both of us born in 1948 – Jack on August 2nd and me eighty seven days earlier.  (Jack treated me like a respected elder…..)

Jack was born in Jackson Heights – a multi-ethnic neighborhood in the Borough of Queens and I in Merrick, Long Island in Nassau, County right outside the City – according to Google Maps – as infants, we lived only an about an hour or twenty-three miles apart by the Sunrise Highway – part of New York State Route 27……..

Jackson Heights in 2005 — 77th Street, Jackson Heights, Queens, between 37th and 35th Avenues, looking north )

Jack’s grandfather, John, came to America from Ireland and met his future wife, Nora.  They had three children, one of which was George (Jack’s dad), John – the oldest and Marie.  They lived in Manhattan.

His grandfather held numerous jobs (dockworker, chauffer for a prominent NYC family and lastly, the owner of a bar on West 57th St. in Manhattan named “McGowan’s.”  When Prohibition came, John continued to operate it as a speakeasy.

On January 6, 1932, a young punk who went by the name of William “Three-Gun” Turner, came into the bar with an accomplice – their intention was to rob the bar.

During a botched hold-up, Turner killed John, was arrested, found guilty and sent to Sing Sing Prison’s electric chair where he was executed on February 2, 1933.

The picture below shows confessed killer, Turner, handcuffed to Detective Jacobs, waiting for a grilling in the DA’s office.  Throughout the trial, he showed little, if any, remorse and played solitaire. It’s from the book New York Noir – Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive.

Nora converted their Jackson Heights home to a three-bedroom boarding house. Jack’s parents, George and Rosemary had a one room apartment several blocks away and Jack was born in 1948.  He slept on a convertible sofa in the living room through high school.

Richie and Jackie on the floor here starting in 1966

 

Fast forward to 1966 when Jack graduated from high school.

He and his buddy, Richie Grasso, went to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as floor clerks. (“In our neighborhood, every guy had an “ie” attached to his first name.  I was Jackie and Grasso was Richie.”)

Starting as a floor clerk and then to a floor broker was about the only honest way a kid from New York City with no higher education could grow up to be a millionaire.

Richie loved the work, but after four years Jack, who was then living in Greenwich Village – across the street from Bob Dylan grew disillusioned with the job, the War in Viet Nam and wondered what he was going to do with his life, so he quit in 1970.

Jan and Jack with son, Travis, at a cafe’ Jack where Jack was a regular in the ’60’s

Having never been west of New Jersey, he decided he was going to hitchhike to California for a new beginning. (Stay tuned for a marvelous follow-up story about Richie and Jackie below.)

But fate intervened when he and a friend were waiting for a light at the intersection of 6th Ave and 61st Street in downtown Manhattan.

Paul Simon in 1966 – a little before Jack ran into him at the intersection….

I don’t know if Jack was humming “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” but singer, Paul Simon, was also waiting for the light and they started what ended up being a twenty-five minute conversation in which the noted singer advised Jack not to go to California:

“Try the Pacific Northwest – Seattle is a lot like San Francisco and Portland is a great smaller city.” (Jack has the ability to keep people actively engaged in even a curbside chat!)

So Jack went up to Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and joined two guys who were looking for a third person to share expenses and drive to SF.  He got to Portland, by also sharing a ride – where he had no family, no car, no friends and no job, but decided “I need to get serious.”

Thus, while living in an $82 per month (including utilities) apartment – one of four in an old house at NW 24th and Pettygrove, he worked as a roofer, fork-lift operator and talked his way into a sales job at the British Motor Car dealer in Portland.  (He had his mom send out his New York suits and told the manager that he had just left his job on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.)

With his sights set higher, in 1974, using his personal appearance and ability to speak, he coaxed his way into becoming on-air host and Director of Promotion/Public Affairs at KINK-FM – a job he had for four years.  This was the first step in what was to become his first career – in broadcasting and public relations and the chance to use his creative talents as shown below:

1978 – 1981Public Relations Director for the Oregon Zoo. He created and produced the “Your Zoo, And All That Jazz” concert series, the world’s first musical series held in a zoological park.

1981 – 1984:  Partner, Biggs-McGowan Public Relations/Marketing. He conceptualized and co-produced Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz.

1984 – 1986:   Assistant to Portland Mayor J.E. Bud Clark. He was liaison/spokesperson to the Portland/National media and business communities.

From 1986-1989, Jack was a correspondent and on-air host for NBC Affilitate, KGW -TV Northwest News with Teresa Richardson and Elaine Busby.  He covered Oregon issues and hosted various international programs from Japan, Australia and the Amazon region of Brazil.

Besides his part-time broadcasting gigs, Jack was a house-husband, doing freelance writing and taking care of the McGowan’s son, Travis, who was born in 1987.  Jan was still working for Mayor Clark.   And then in 1990, SOLV came into the picture for Jack and Jan left the City in early 1991 and became Co-Director.

Son Travis – in the middle on the ____ Beach Cleanup

So Jack and Jan “retired” in 2008 and are living in Sisters.  SOLVE celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009.  Jan, based on her extensive experience with non-profits and her entrepreneurial inclinations, formed a successful sole-proprietor consulting firm –  in 2008 to assist non-profits in strategic planning, fund-raising and leadership development.

Her first client was SOLVE and she now has clients in Oregon and Washington.  Typical of the reviews is this one from Gwen Wysling, Executive Director of Bethlehem Inn in Bend – a shelter and resource for homeless persons:

“Jan  is a gifted facilitator and strategic thinker.  She worked closely with  our staff, board and stakeholders to quickly navigate and help bring  about positive and dynamic organizational change and development.  She  employs her talents genuinely and unselfishly.”

A skilled facilitator

Meanwhile Jack starts serving on various non-profit boards such as Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Providence Medical Foundation and is elected to the Board of the Sisters/Camp Sherman Fire District.

In 1993, he narrates a documentary for KPTV named “Beyond Eden’s Gate:  The Legacy of the Oregon Trail”  which wins the Western Heritage Award (“Established in 1961 by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.  The award honors the legacy of men and women for their works in literature, music, film, and television.”).

Jack’s Western Heritage Award on the McGowan’s Deck

Winners receive “The Wrangler,” a bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback and it is proudly displayed on the McGowan’s deck.

The Oregon Flight for Freedom

In 2001, we were all stunned by the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.   But Jack, having grown up there said, “When I saw the Towers go down, it affected me viscerally.”

Sho Dozono and Portland Commissioner, Nick Fish – right – with a NYC firefighter at the reunion tour

Portland travel agency icon, Sho Dozono, his wife Loen, the late Commissioner Nick Fish and Oregon Congressman David Wu, John Ray along with Portland influencers, Len Bergstein and Elaine Franklin collectively began orchestrating the concept in the lobby of KGW television studios shortly after the attack on NYC.

At the time, Jack was co-hosting the local part of a national broadcast and pledge drive for the rescue workers.

Elaine Franklin originated the name “Flight for Freedom” and Loen Dozono came up with the vision of a “Reverse Oregon Wagon Train” – only by air.

When New York City was struggling with the aftermath and people were avoiding airline flights as being too hazardous, they decided let’s get a group of Oregonians and “Fly to New York City, look terrorism in the face and not blink!”

Jack and John Ray went three days early as an advance party to pave the way for the official flight, which included Oregon dignitaries (even Mayor Vera Katz notwithstanding her fear of flying) and regular folks who felt compelled to show their support for New York and provide an urgently needed economic shot in the arm.  (Jan stayed home because she was coordinating the Beach Cleanup) The Oregonian’s  story was remarkable – especially for Jackie McGowan from Jackson Heights!

The unique group of about 500 flew into Manhattan where the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel was virtually empty.  (Delta Airlines gave a great deal on cost of the flight.) Few people were going to Manhattan unless they absolutely had to – especially tourists.  The Oregonians filled the hotel –  the only cost was for the room tax.  All other lodging expense was gladly absorbed by hotel management.  The Flight was covered by national and international print and broadcast media.

The original 2001 contingent – That’s Vera Katz in the middle in red….

And according to Jack:

“New York City went crazy!  Cops hugged us.  We went to a restaurant and when the maitre’d announced that we were the group from Oregon, we got a standing ovation and multiple parties debated as to whom would pick up the bill for the meal.

We met with Rudy Guliani and Governor Pataki and had appearances on Good Morning America and Today.”

A group from Oregon with Diane Sawyer from Good Morning America

But the highlight for Jack was when they asked ten of the Oregonians, including him, to ring the traditional opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on October 8th.  They gathered next to the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.

Former Oregonian, Ann Curry greeting the group on Today.

 

Richard Grasso

Jack who ended up standing next to the NYSE Chair and CEO (from 1995 to 2002) who according to print media sources was making approximately $140 million annually, looked to his side and exclaimed,

“Hi Richie.  How are you doing?”  And Richard Grasso, responded, ‘Hey Jackie!”  It was the first time they had seen each other since 1970.

From left to right front :Sho Dozono, Jackie, Richie, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, Oregon St. Treas. Randall Edwards, Julia-Brim Edwards. Back row: Pres. of Board of NYSE, Don McClave, Cheryl Perrin, Ron Saxton, Roger Hinshaw and John Rickman

Jack said that the trip to New York was, “One of the most profound experiences of my life,” and he was also involved in a reunion tour ten years later to commemorate the anniversary of the event with hundreds of firefighters from all over the country and to coincide with the World Trade Center Memorial opening on September 11, 2011.

Aerial view of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Monday, May 21, 2018. Credit: 9/11 Memorial, Photo by Jin S. Lee

Well, the McGowans are now enjoying their well deserved retirement, staying active and traveling.  Last fall, they toured the Southwest in a seven week RV trip.  This wonderful couple, who shuns the limelight, has a lasting Oregon legacy and earned a well-deserved toast as Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter.

Jan and Jan served on the Board of the Sister’s Quilt Show and the Sister’s Folk Festival, respectively.  What are Jan and Jack’s future plans for public service in their community?  Time will tell but maybe it can best be described as:

“Retired, but still very much involved!”

And if you want to honor their service and commitment, consider making a donation to SOLVE – or better yet, participating in the 2020 Spring Beach Cleanup on March 28th.

YUR’s. Truly!!

“Yur’s is a Dark Dive Perfect for Day Drinking.”
I could end this review right here and that caption above would be enough motivation for many of Thebeerchaser’s followers to put their jobs temporarily on hold and make a weekday junket to this watering hole in Slabtown, but there’s a lot more to the story of this wonderful bar than the caption of this 2018 Willamette Week review .
Last year I did a blog post devoted to my favorite Portland-area dive bars – visited after pursuing this tour of bars, breweries and pubs for seven and one half years.   You can see that post at the link below, but I will at least give you the four dives that made my all-star list:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/02/09/thebeerchasers-best-portland-dive-bars/

My favorite was The Standard – you can read the post and see why and lament with me that the only major change is that the renowned “Hamm’s for a Buck” – special on Wednesday is gone but not forgotten.

And while The Standard is still thriving, an alarming number of the great bars and breweries which have disappeared from the scene in the last few years including the legendary Slabtown – which poured its last PBR in 2017 and was right down the street from Yur’s.

(In the Standard’s case, it was their insurance coverage which mandated the change in the Hamm’s special.  And it is probable it was due to an  overly cautious insurance company lawyer – one I would suggest may not have bothered to review the Standard’s history and lack of problems with this arrangement for many years.)

The other three on my list – not in any order are below.  Click on the names to see the full Beerchaser review:

The Ship Tavern (Multnomah Village)        Gil’s Speakeasy

  Mockcrest Tavern

John Mansfield (on the left) with the owner of Church bar in Portland

And it wasn’t The Ship’s memorable exterior, the fact that Gil’s owner asserts that “We’re the nicest assholes in town,” or remembering my visit to the historic Mock Crest with one of my favorite Intellectual Property lawyers (and musicians) John Mansfield.

In each case, as with Yur’s, it’s the overall character of the bar, the people and the side stories.

Now had I visited Yurs’ in Northwest Portland (Slabtown), it would have been added to the list of favorites above.  And while Yur’s has some true dive bar characteristics, it was clean, did not smell of stale beer, has a wide variety of good food and even some interesting and worthy art.

About fifteen of my friends including  former colleagues from the Schwabe Williamson law firm gathered on a late Tuesday afternoon at this bar and our group was not disappointed for a variety of reasons.

Part of the group that afternoon from l to r: Steve Oltman, Mike Mitchell, Skip Greenwood, Jim Westwood, Jack Faust and Jim Larpenteur

These ranged from the cheerful hospitality shown by Bartender Eric Zoeller, to the regulars who populated the bar, to the distinctive art (see below) to the nooks and crannies in the expansive space, the signs, the free popcorn, the old-fashioned pinball machines, the free pool tables, the unique alleyway with street art and the general ambiance that made us unanimously concur with WW’s assertion.

A distinct group of regulars..

The Slabtown area of Portland is a working class neighborhood and the bar in the space Yur’s now occupies has served the cabbies, longshoreman and neighbors in that area for at least sixty years – since 1968 – it was called the 16th Street Tavern before Yur’s.  One characteristic of urban dive bars – they are rarely in strip malls and many such as the outstanding historic dives I wrote about in Pueblo, Colorado are in interesting old buildings which have served other purposes through the years.

Unfortunately, these usually expansive spaces are also prime fodder for developers for condos or commercial purposes which is one reason so many have disappeared. Yur’s is housed in a structure built in 1884 – it was originally was a cellar and stables. (For an interesting side story on the building, see *1 below)

The bar has been owned for about the last twenty-five years by former NFL lineman, Terry Hermeling – an offensive tackle (weighed in at 255 and is 6’5” tall) for the Washington Redskins during the 1970’s after starring at the University of Nevada at Reno).   According to Wikipedia, “He helped the Redskins win the 1972 NFC Championship and (the team) lead the NFC in yards passing in 1975.”   He played under Hall of Fame Coach, George Allen.

Terry Hermeling in his playing days

The Redskins meeting with Pres. Nixon in 1971 after winning the NFC Championship

Although he was undrafted in 1970, Terry Hermeling had an impressive NFL career, playing 120 games – starting in 103 and being listed on the Redskins official website as one of the  “80 Greatest Redskins”

Joe Theismann – 1983 NFL MVP, 2-tme Pro Bowler (1982-3) and Super Bowl XVII Champion

And joining him on the list above are some NFL Hall of Famers such as Sonny Jurgensen (QB), Sam Huff (LB), Charley Taylor (WR) and other guys with notable gridiron fame such as Chris Hanberger (LB), John Riggins (RB), Art Monk (WR) and quarterbacks Sammy Baugh, Mark Rypien and Joe Theismann.

In fact, a guy who has a website called “Hogs Heaven” and evidently travels the country to find Redskin fans wrote in 2014 about plans to meet at Yur’s:

“With that in mind, it is my pleasure to announce that Hogs Haven is traveling to Portland! I happen to know that there is a very solid representation of Redskins fans out there and I am hoping to meet as many of them as I can.”

Terry Hermeling – present day.

Terry’s son, Cody, is now the co-owner and his father trained him in the business aspects of the bar as he grew up.  The elder Hermeling evidently now resides in Palm Springs and Bend.

As an aside, former NFL players going into the bar business in Oregon is not unique to Hermerling. Former Oregon Duck quarterback, Joey Harrington, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2002 and played seven years in the pros tried it.  His partner was Ryan Magarian – the cofounder of Aviation Gin, an internationally known hospitality industry consultant and entrepreneur – in 2016 with his Portland establishment the Pearl Tavern which closed after only three years and is now the Portland brewpub of Backwoods Brewing in Carson, Washington.

Drew Bledsoe -Life after the NFL….

Another former NFL star – Boston Patriot starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe has owned a successful winery – first in Walla Walla.  The Bledsoe Family Winery expanded into Bend, Oregon where Bledsoe and his wife reside with vineyards and a tasting room in 2019 as reported in the Oregon Wine Press.

(Interestingly enough, there appears to be no explanation on why the Pearl Tavern closed.  Media reviews in 2017 were positive and the Backwoods Brewpub appears to be doing very well in the same location.)

But I digress….Yur’s bartender/assistant kitchen manager is now Eric Zoeller, who was a great and helpful resource in giving me background information and reflects the warm personality of the bar itself.   He is a Kentucky native who moved to Portland from California and has worked there for four and one-half years.

Eric – friendly bar manager

Eric wrote in an e-mail to me:

“What makes us different is that we are more than just a bar to our customers. As one of the last old school bars of old Portland, we provide a haven for those who remember what this neighborhood used top be and those who are just now learning about the area. We have customers who have been coming here for 50 years and those who’ve found out about us.”

We strive to provide a safe place where friends and family gather to meet, where everyone can be themselves. If it’s a holiday, a sporting event or just a normal day, our customers always feel at home here at Yur’s and we feel very much at home in our neighborhood.”

Classic pinball machines

And our group was welcomed by the regulars sitting at the bar who chatted with us and Eric and he tended bar.   Six of us were sitting in one of their big booths drinking beer and chatting and one got up to hit the restroom.   A middle-aged guy promptly and without hesitation sits down in the booth next to me and started looking at the beers on tap.

I didn’t recognize the guy (and I was the one who invited everyone to Beerchase) so I casually stuck out my hand and asked if he was a regular at Yur’s.   He said, “No,” aren’t you guys part of the motorcycle club that meets here?”   (We felt complimented that he would think a bunch of old guys looked like Harley people.)   I told him we weren’t and he got up and when I saw him an hour later, he said that he never found the group, but liked the bar and decided to have a few beers and skip his meeting.

There is a cool room around the corner from the kitchen with couches and a table which houses about twenty people that is used to watch sporting events or just for groups (such as motorcycle clubs….).  They call it the “Front Room” or “The Alcove.”

A Dive Bar with Distinctive Art!!

One of the distinguishing factors at Yur’s was the art work – displayed over the booths which are located along a narrow hall, of sorts, in front of the long bar.   It is distinctive and attractive and I noted the artist’s name and website on one of her paintings. And as I have found with the individuals involved with a lot of watering holes visited, the side stories are fascinating.   And Anna Duvall, is no exception.

Beerchasers Jim Westwood and Alana Finn eat popcorn under Anna Duvall’s art…

I traded a few phone calls with her and eventually had a wonderful and interesting phone chat with this talented Berlin native whose mother is German and who moved with her parents to Maui when she was two. After graduation from high school, she went to the California College of Arts and Crafts.  

A move to Eugene in 2001 gave her the chance to pursue her passion at the U of O and she studied multi-media design, while working part time at a Dairy Queen.   After moving to Portland, she started showing her art while working as a server at Jake’s Grill.

Mo Mo Bar is next to Jakes in downtown Portland (see Thebeerchaser review) and she would sketch while having a brew after work.   In 2006, Thomas McLouglin, the owner, gave her the opportunity to display some of her paintings (they’ve never been taken down) which were then also displayed at the Low Brow Lounge. She also has a mural inside Sizzle Pie on the east side.   Yur’s then provided another venue where she could show her talent.

She was “discovered” by Tony Lawrence – the owner of Boneyard Brewing, who asked her to design a tap handle with his image on it for one of his beers Pabo Pilsner in 2016.   (Her college friend, Dana, who also worked at the Dairy Queen, was working at Boneyard in Bend and when Lawrence had a tap handle designed, she said, “My friend, Anna, could do a much better job than that.)

Lawrence evidently agreed and she has also done designs for Boneyard’s Incredible Pulp and Brewjeria American Lager.   When Boneyard celebrates its tenth anniversary in Bend next year, you will see Anna Duvall’s painting displayed in the Brewpub.

You can find this cheerful and talented artist working as a full-time server  at Jake’s Grill and view her creations at Mo Mo’s, Yur’s or on her Facebook page under “Killallartists” or on her Instagram account (@annadeeznutz).   Yur’s is the first dive bar I know to have an “art curator” but Patrick Zahn, the owner at Steel Door Gallery has been recently tasked with this function according to Anna.

Beerchasers Darien Loisell and Don Russo in the alley – but not smoking….

Anna’s art isn’t the only creative attraction at Yur’s.   If you take the exit by the pinball machines into what is used as a smokers’ lounge, of sorts, you will enter an alleyway that has some distinctive murals along the walls of this narrow passage-way which has to be about at least 100 feet long.

The only similar type of passage I have seen in my travels was adjacent to Renners’ Bar – another classic dive in Multnomah Village which I reviewed in 2017 before the disastrous fire which put it out of operation since – although they are trying to reopen.

Food and Beer

Yur’s transcends the typical dive with a reasonable tap list with the standards – Coors Light and a number of microbrews and two ciders. I loved their creative approach to PBR

The social media reviews emphasize the cheap prices and the stiff drinks – a good combination. I liked this one from an October, 2017 Yelp review:

“Great neighborhood bar with affordable drinks and free popcorn…. I’m still not sure why extra shots kept being poured into my drink (by friends not bartenders) and be prepared that the ladies’ room stalls have shower curtains rather than doors.”

I could not verify the shower curtain assertion, but possibly empathize with one of  the only other really negative Yelp reviews. – (Yelp 11/25/18):

“This bar allows soccer fans from out of the city to come in and take over there (sic) restaurant. For that reason, and for only that reason, they get one star.”

Yur’s gets great reviews for the quality and price of their food menu.  And they have specials every day. We didn’t have a chance to partake other than the popcorn, but I’m going back for either the Prime Rib Thursday (Prime Rib served with Seasonal Vegetable, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Au Jus $12.95) or Taco Tuesday (3 for $4).  And where else on Saturday morning can you get a two-egg breakfast and PBR Tall Boy for $6!

This comment from Yelp on 7/25/19 from a guy who had just moved from San Francisco:

Prime Rib on Thursdays….

“Had their prime rib steak. The prime rib is less than $11. It’s a nice portion size. It’s tender and juicy. The steak is served with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The potatoes were good; cooked to perfection and had a nice seasoning of salt and pepper. The steak is also served with horseradish…..A wonderful compliment to the prime rib steak. Enjoyable experience at this dive bar in my first day in Portland.”

And the burgers…….

“We went in for the $5 Burger-Week burger.  Friendly bartender, clean table, fantastic hamburger.  It is, without a doubt, the best burger I have ever had.” (Yelp – 8/10/19)

A burger with four strips of bacon…!

Now to be objective, one reviewer stated that the bratwurst was “simply shameful.  It was quite possibly the teeniest tiniest bratwurst I’ve ever seen, the texture was pretty gross, and it tasted nothing like a bratwurst.  
The fries were pretty good though.”  (Yelp 2/19/16)

Our group would have liked Yur’s even if the guy hadn’t asked us if we were motorcycle club members.   The environment is one that is all too rare and not found in almost any of the newer and more polished quarters which house brewpubs and cocktail bars.

These suave, sleek establishments have great and varied beer, but not the authentic ambiance (or distinctive art work…..) which, at Yur’s is a magnet for Slabtown neighborhood.  (And try getting free popcorn at one of these brewpubs….)

Former Beerchaser of the Quarter, Jim Westwood, pontificating on politics, philosophy and the statute of ultimate repose….

If you want to gain that experience and drink beer in a friendly and comfortable enviorment try Yur’s.

Truly!!!

Yur’s     717 NW 16th        Portland

Amy Faust – now a non-profit auctioneer among other avocations..

*1 One more interesting sidelight on Yur’s and historic buildings.  My talented and interesting friend and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Amy Faust, brought this issue to light because she was traveling and could not be at the Yur’s Beerchasing event.

Amy did a search on-line for Yur’s and came across the picture below.   She asked if I knew what the “U” on the building meant to which I responded in the negative.

Since she is blessed with a significant amount of intellectual curiosity, she had previously researched the symbol after seeing it on another Portland building and sent me the following link to an article in Oregon Live entitled “Fire Warning Signs Mark 21 Buildings in Portland Metro.”

Notice the upper left-hand corner of the photo

The good news is that the article was first written in 2010, but updated in 2019 and the pictures I took of Yur’s and those on current social media show no “U” remains on the building.  In addition, the article, which shows the addresses of all twenty-one of the current structures, does not list any with Yur’s address.

I concluded that this means they have addressed the deficiencies (although based on how well I like the bar, that designation wouldn’t have stopped me – just made me more cautious about where I was drinking my beer in the large space…..).

Quoting the article:

“The signs aren’t meant for the public; they’re for firefighters…..The signs, placed on at least 21 Portland buildings since the bureau introduced its Unsafe Building Alerts Program in December 2009, tell firefighters that if a fire were to break out in the building, it would be unsafe to battle from inside. Firefighters will still enter to rescue people, though.”

Thanks Amy, for the interesting sidelight.

Pueblo Beerchasing Continued…..

The Rio Grande Bridge outside Alburquerque

Two recent posts will give Beerchaser followers an idea of our trip to the Southwest US last September and the first installment on the wonderful historic dive bars we visited in Pueblo Colorado.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

The last post focused on Gus’ Tavern and Eiler’s Place, both of which have retained their rich character going back to the end of Prohibition.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

Shamrock Brewery and Irish Pub

Our next stop that afternoon was at the Shamrock Brewery and Public House right in the heart of downtown Pueblo.  Like the other Pueblo establishments we visited, it’s housed in an historic building and has been in operation for over sixty years.

Shamrock Brewing Co. is one of the oldest Irish pubs in Colorado.  Originally constructed as a mercantile building in 1908, the first notable tenant was Johnson Bros. Motor Company in 1913.  Founded as a bicycle shop, Johnson Bros. became one of the first Xcelsor dealerships west of the Mississippi.”  (Shamrock Brewing Website) 

It’s an expansive space divided into two parts – the east side which has an impressive mahogany bar with old-fashioned bar stools and a wonderful backbar was opened as the Shamrock Cafe in 1940.

The west side – acquired later and where we had our beers – has been a cigar shop and pool hall before the bar expanded and they started brewing.

It is a family- oriented and community gathering place:

“The Pub was the main meeting place in downtown Pueblo for many years and locals still reminisce about past business deal, raucous St. Patrick’s Days and old romances.  To this day, couples frequent the establishment on the anniversary of the day they met there so many years ago.”

The Shamrock gets good reviews on both food and beer – they usually have four of their standard and two seasonal rotating.  And, of course, as you would expect, green beer on St. Patty’s Day.

But what made the Shamrock such a positive experience was meeting the Taylor family (except for their son, Travis).

Cassy Taylor is our Beerchasing friend, John and Barb Senger’s daughter, and her husband, Kirk is the Sheriff of Pueblo County.  Their daughter, Sarah Taylor Gallegos, was there with her daughter, Penelope, and this is one impressive and friendly family.

From l to r: John Senger, Kirk Taylor, Cassy Taylor, Penelope, Sarah Taylor, Barb Senger and Janet

Since I’m not part of the family, I can do a little bragging about these new friends and Beerchasing companions…..Let’s start with Cassy – seen in the picture below with husband, Kirk.

Cassy has had a distinguished teaching career in Pueblo City Schools, where she is an elementary literacy specialist.  Like the rest of her family, she is an advocate of continuing learning and besides her undergraduate degree, has two Master’s Degrees related to education.

Kirk is an elected official for Pueblo County with responsibility for law enforcement and corrections as Sheriff – first elected in 2007 and re-elected three times.

Although I only spent several hours chatting with him, he reflects the quiet confidence plus having both a background and values which make Pueblo fortunate to have him leading the Department.

Kirk is a USMC Veteran and started as a patrolman in the narcotics division for the City of Almarosa, CO. After earning his associates degree and while ranching full-time, he completed his BA.

While working as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, he attended and graduated from law school at the University of Colorado.  He has been a leader in law enforcement serving on numerous state task forces in addition to teaching at the State  Police Academy.

Kirk is a man of faith, family, an avid outdoorsman, coaches youth athletics and is active in civic and non-profit organizations such as 4-H.   He is also a national authority on the impact of legalizing marijuana including an appearance on a CBS 60 Minutes special.

And then there’s Sara.  I was fascinated by her background because of her Navy experience – a 2009 graduate of the US Naval Academy with her degree in chemistry.  (Having had a brother who graduated from West Point, and Academy degree is an accomplishment in itself.)

But Sarah’s record since graduation at the Academy transcends the ordinary.

(Sarah – second from left)

She was the Captain of the Women’s Rugby Team and also a soprano in the Women’s Glee Club!

(Sarah is third from the left)

After commissioning, she became a Surface Warfare Officer and was stationed in Pearl Harbor with one tour aboard the USS Crommelin FFG 37 where she had two deployments to Southeastern Asia and one shore tour as a Communications Officer.

USS Crommelin FFG 37

Sarah states:

“I completed my pre-requisites for nursing school while on shore duty and got accepted to Colorado State University-Pueblo Accelerated Program for a Bachelor’s of nursing.

I was ready to come home and be closer to my family in Colorado.  I actually served as a bartender and a unit secretary at the local hospital during nursing school……I have been working as an  ER and ICU nurse for the past 5 years in Pueblo and am now going thru Walden University online program for my Masters of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner where I hope to graduate in 2021!”

Smitty’s Green Light Tavern

From the Brewery, our group walked one-half block to the Fitch Block in the heart of Pueblo and the home of an imposing three-story historic building – the oldest in Pueblo and originally the home of Stockholders’ Bank built in 1873 by Pueblo cattlemen, Charles Goodnight and Col. Michael Fitch.

The Pueblo Club – an association of Pueblo’s wealthiest – met there, President Teddy Roosevelt was a guest – and in later years, the Elks and Eagles also “lounged and loafed” in its luxurious furnishings.   In other words, it reeked of the history of this railroad, steel and mining town.

Before it became Smitty’s Green Light Tavern the building was also home to the Pueblo Telephone Exchange.

Now when the Sheriff walks into your establishment, patrons take notice and Greg – “Smitty” – was there to greet us with a warm smile and welcoming handshake.

The bar, which opened in 1933 and having four owners since, has been part of his family since his dad – Linn “Smitty” Smith bought it in 1956. Greg became the sole owner in 1985 and loves the building and has enhanced and remodeled it while always being sensitive to preserving its heritage.

This South Pueblo High School graduate is now sixty-two and his bearing and personality reflect his athletic background – he was captain of the football and wrestling teams in high school.

The clientele was diverse and low key the afternoon we were there and did not reflect the reputation that some assert Smitty’s carries as a biker bar.

Smitty’s response is:

“I’ve had the stigma of being a biker bar. They’re all my friends. They come in here and support the place.” 

(And Thebeerchaser has seen many bars where the Harley guys and gals who are regulars add character – not trouble – to the environment. The Gemini in Lake Oswego and the Corner Saloon in Tualatin are examples.)

Smitty, although the bar was hopping during “Panic Hour” (every weekday from 5 to 6 PM with beers $1 and premiums $2), joined us at our booand he radiated enthusiasm for not only his bar but the City he calls home.

Quite a few customers came up and shook his hand and chatted – and for many that was also the case with Sheriff Taylor – both well known Pueblo personalities. 

The bar’s décor is fitting the tradition of the region.   On weekends, there is live music

 

 

 

 

The Star Bar

While in Pueblo, we wanted to experience a  dinner built on the City’s reputation for green chile peppers.  Now at $5.00, the Starburger, a straight burger has a great tradition. 

And while many bars and restaurants serve “Sloppers,” the Star Bar in the Grove Neighborhood, is purported to be the origin of this amazing creation. The bar is also a Pueblo institution.

It was closed for a time and has had several different owners, but is now going strong.  Sam Romero, the current owner, was quoted stating he didn’t believe it was a dive bar.

“We try to make everybody as welcome as a regular.”

Well, Thebeerchaser has been to a lot of dives and the Star Bar appeared to be one – just look at the building this classic bar occupies – and the regulars in many bars welcome strangers contrary to the stereotype.

The dark mahogany bar, the old bar stools, the booths and the distinctive ceiling tiles all make the “dive” description appropriate as do the two beers on tap – Bud and Bud Light, sold in $2.50 schooners – cash only…..

The “Slopper” is an open-faced burger – single, double or triple – smothered in green chile and raw onions. As one November, 2019 review on Restaurant.com stated effusively (and somewhat redundantly…)

“I finally got to taste what generations of Puebloans have shared with me in their storytelling. WOW. I had a triple and added Pueblo Chile and bacon. WOW. I also had the fresh cut fries. WOW. Need I say more. And so affordable…..Add a schooner and you are all set.”

And is it popular?   According to an article in The Pueblo Chieftain:

“Star Bar goes through about five gallons of green chili a day. Five pound of green chilies, five pounds of pork, diced tomatoes and a bit of salt and pepper to into the pot and are simmered for at least two hours. The result is chili that’s brought customers back ever since the Star Bar began serving up the slopper forty-five years ago.”

My slopper experience replicated the reviewer’s above, although given my recent lack of exercise, I didn’t have the guts – so to speak – for the triple and wolfed down a double slopper with a schooner of Bud.

(At $7, my double slopper was a bargain and to validate that premise, I offer the following comparison)

The next night we stayed at a wonderful organic farm – the Los Pablosnos Inn and Farm on the outskirts of Albuquerque.   The expansive acreage with a picturesque old hotel and many acres with vegetables, bee hives, goats and other healthy stuff I usually don’t eat, had an outstanding, high-scale restaurant.   The cost of Janet’s glass of wine that night weighed in at 275% of my double slopper!!

Although being built in 1900 didn’t seem “old” compared to the previous Pueblo watering holes, the Star Bar, which Cassy Taylor recommended and at which she accompanied us, ended our Beerchasing adventures that day on the same high note that will notch the Pueblo bars in Thebeerchaser’s all-time favorites.

We were warmly greeted by Margarette, the manager, and we noticed the dart tournament in the back of the bar, a lively game at the pool table and the crowded poker room immediately adjacent. Part of the ambiance is reflected in the ceiling tiles – a remarkable recollection of those who have visited the bar in the past.

(I didn’t find out how one qualifies for the ceiling tile option, but since the allure of the Pueblo watering holes beckons me to return, I will find out.)

Margarette warmly welcomes our group to the Star Bar

Back to Albuquerque

And so ended our unforgettable time in Pueblo and after a stay at the aforementioned organic farm, we spent one more night and half-day in Albuquerque before catching the flight back to Portland.

The tap room at Sante Fe Brewing in Alburquerque

We went to four establishments – all which were nice but not notable: Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Bow and Arrow Brewing, Gecko’s Bar and Tapas and Santa Fe. Brewing.

We attended a climate change demonstration in the afternoon, visited an historic chapel – the San Filipe de Neri Church in a building constructed in 1793 and walked to the historic Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town

The San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church

And while the scenery on our Southwest trip – most notably the National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes) and the historic cathedrals –  were memorable, the history of the entire region was remarkable, the food was good (I still “relish” another slopper….) and the beer was varied and well-crafted from the Second Street IPA on the first night at Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe to the schooner of Budweiser at Star Bar in Pueblo, what will make this trip stand out to us when we reminisce are the people.

Horse at Eiler’s Place

From Ernie Bob at Second Street our first night, to shaking hands with “Horse” McHorsney at Eilers Place to reuniting with John and Barb Senger and meeting the wonderful Taylor family, to having a beer with Smitty from the Green Light and to Margarette’s greeting at the Star Bar that made us feel like regulars, our road trip reaffirmed why Thebeerchaser will continue his tour.

Even if in future years I end up bellying up to the bar to order just a soda water or Hires Root Beer….I will continue to meet the wonderful owners, bartenders, regulars and visitors that have made this an outstanding retirement hobby for the last eight years!

Check out the other blog posts from our Southwest trip at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

 

 

 

Thebeerchaser’s 8th Annual Report – 2019

240 blog posts totaling 370,188 words since 2011

A little over eight years ago, I hesitantly walked into my first bar as Thebeerchaser.  Having recently retired as COO of the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, I became convinced after visiting Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee, Oregon and the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Idaho, that visiting and writing about bars, breweries and pubs would be an interesting hobby.

The Rod and Gun in Stanley

Thanks to the warm greeting I got at the Brooklyn Park Pub when I told Phoebe, the bartender, in August 2011, that her bar was the first of what I hoped would be many on this somewhat curious project, I was motivated to go forth!

She gave me a BPP cap and autographed it, gave me great info on the bar and posed for a picture.

 

Phoebe – where it all started….

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of 2019

The count of watering holes I had visited and reviewed (Unless on the road, I virtually always hit a watering hole twice to get a more accurate picture.)  was 287 establishments of which 111 were in the Portland metro area and the other 176 in locations ranging from Europe to most regions of the US and all over Oregon – from the coast to the desert in Eastern Oregon.

For the complete list, check out the link below which categorizes them by year and in or out of Portland.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/01/17/hey-have-you-seen-thebeerchaser-during-the-last-seven-years/

2019 Was a Very Good Year

The Gemini – a classic in Lake Oswego

Now the good news is I visited more bars this year than in any since the blog’s inception – 80.  I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that only 8 of those were in the Portland area – another 1 on the Oregon Coast and 3 in Washington.

The Caroline Tavern in Seattle

All of the remaining 68 were on three trips – Phoenix for Spring Training in March (8) and two wonderful road trips – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas in June (48) and the Southwest (New Mexico and Colorado) in September (12).

To see the list for each trip, click on the links above.  The picture below from the Trappers’ Bar in Eureka, Montana was one of my favorites.

The chart below will give you the history by year of “Thebeerchasers 366”

Year Portland Outside Portland Yearly Total Composite Total
2019 8 72 80 366
2018 12 30 42 286
2017 15 27 42 244
2016 14 39 53 202
2015 11 36 47 149
2014 17 17 34 102
2013 13 21 34 68
2012 20 5 25 34
2011 9 0 9 9
  119 247 366

Blog Statistics

I’m pleased to state that Thebeerchaser.com for the fourth year in a row, had over 20,000 “visits” or internet hits – with 20,030 in 2019 by 14,800 individuals – that means each person who reached the blog looked at  an average of 1.35 different posts.

The Flag of Ukraine –

Persons from 111 different countries found Thebeerchaser with 17,621 from the US with India in second place at  601 hits.

And even the Ukraine registered 9 although I can’t tell if any were from the Embassy staff.   As was the case in 2018, one bold individual from Iraq took at least a momentary glimpse.  That’s where internet sites featuring bars and alcohol are probably discouraged…..

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

First Quarter 2020 – B-O-Q

While the number of bars I hit was a new high in 2019, I was remiss in “honoring” Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, naming only two last year.

I have already got three good candidates for 2020, so that performance issue will be SOLVed.  (That’s a hint for the first quarter as is the untitled picture here.)

Retired Colonel Terry “Spike” McKinsey

Terry McKinsey became a friend when we were shipmates on our first midshipman cruise on a WW II destroyer – the USS John R. Craig – DD 885 – he from the US Naval Academy and me from Oregon State NROTC.   We discovered that we attended rival high schools in Oregon – he West Linn and me Oregon City. 

Two other middies on that cruise were Larry Walters also USNA and Ken Guest from University of Kansas NROTCThe four of us spent the summer learning about how a ship operates, trying to meet young debutantes at Navy sponsored dances and making fools of ourselves on liberty in Honolulu and San Francisco.

Larry and Terry on 1/c Midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean

Terry and Larry took their commissions in the United States Marine Corps.    Terry married Anna, his college sweetheart and they had two children during their forty-nine year marriage.

Spike distinguished himself as an aviator and had a remarkable career after the USMC including Base Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard and as the Assistant Chief Pilot for Horizon Airlines.

After a lapse in contact, we reconnected in the mid-1980’s through a humorous business incident when Spike had moved back to Oregon and I was Business Manager at the Schwabe firm.

Terry died last January after a short illness. My reason for trying to honor Terry with his story including the legendary “steamroller escapade” at West Linn High School when he was on summer leave from the Academy is summarized well by this quote from Larry, his classmate and best friend since Academy days:

I met Terry ‘Spike’ McKinsey in 1966.  The country was chaotic and would get worse.  But for Terry, the choices were always clear.  He was guided by his love of God, family, good friends, and country.   He didn’t have to tell you about it, he lived it!”

To read the story and remarkable service of this amazing patriot, athlete and family-man, click on the link above on his name.

John Runkle

After visiting 366 bars, I can say without equivocation, my favorite and the most interesting was the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana.   And John Runkle, the owner of both the bar and the nearby Yaak River Lodge where I stayed for two nights in the Moose Room during my two nights in Yaak was a clear choice for Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

This former paratrooper and California real estate entrepreneur is a prime reason why the Shame  got three separate Beerchaser posts and more print in this blog than any of the waterholes during the past eight years.

He bought the Lodge in 2004 and the Saloon at auction in 2013 after the ignominious departure of the former owner left it in foreclosure (after being extradited back to Maryland).   John was the driving force to bring this fabled dive back to the status which had made it a destination for bikers, hunters and Beerchasers as well as a community gathering place.

John is a charismatic guy, who is a great story teller, born salesman and shepherds community events such as the Crawfish Festival, Yaak Attack and the Sasquatch Festival.

 

 

 

 

When we had a discussion in the bar with, Todd Berget – who died later last year – John described his friend as a guy “having a political philosophy slightly left of Stalin…” 

Todd and I tried to tell him without result that his politics were somewhat misguided and John needed to shift back and reflect some of his California upbringing, but at least we all ended laughing, shaking our heads and toasting  rather than cursing each other. (Rest in Peace, Todd!)

Todd and John – Still smiling after discussing national politics…

John puts in a work week at the Lodge and Saloon that would “shame” most people. his age.

He is also a devoted family man.   His beautiful wife, Dallas, just delivered their second daughter in August, shortly after I was in Yaak.

 

 

 

 

 

As author, Joan Melcher, wrote in her second book Watering Holes  – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars (Page 88):

“The Dirty Shame is the fresh, sharp smell of pine, and the dank odor of dirt-laden, beer-splashed floors, wild nights of revelry and mornings of shared pain.” 

The Dirty Shame was on my bucket list before my trip and now is the only item on that dwindling slate that returned to the list after getting there. If John Runkle stays in Yaak, you should add it to yours’ as well.

And 2019 Final Highlights

Beerchasing has been a wonderful hobby for a guy whose friends and family wondered how he was going to “survive” retirement.   As I’ve stated before, “I really like beer – especially a $2.50 Happy Hour PBR – but I could go to the bars and drink soda water rather than alchohol and continue this hobby indefinitely.”

My wife, Janet, has been a wonderful Beerchasing companion on our trips and even flew into Billings to join me so I could spend the first six nights solo – driving through Montana (in a Prius with no gun rack and a Starbucks mug) meeting bartenders and regulars at thirty historic bars before we continued to Wyoming and the Dakotas.

One of the highlights was hitting my 300th bar in June at the Leaky Roof in Portland, which was more memorable because I was joined by my friend of forty years, Denny Ferguson.

And for those of you who followed Thebeerchaser from the beginning and have continued through this post in January, 2020, you have read 241 posts which filled you with 372,173 words about bars, breweries and interesting people.  Thanks for sharing your time on this pursuit with me.

An always cheerful and youthful looking, Fergy..

The people I met this year continue to be unforgettable and supportive ranging from Ernie Bob at Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe to Edmonds Wash. Daphne’s Bar, legendary mixologist, Demond van Rensberg.

Ernie Bob and Janet in Santa Fe

Then there was Pete Pete Andrijeski of Seattlebars.org  King of the Beerchasers with 3,906 bars reviewed since he started his journey in 2006.  (1,659 of the bars in Seattle)

I met Pete at Daphne’s after coming across one of his posts when I was researching the history of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle.

Pete and Desmond on our night drinking cocktails at Daphne’s

And I can’t forget James “Horse” McHorsney, who is a regular at Eiler’s Place in Pueblo, Colorado.   Horse is in both of the pictures you see here and to learn the story, click on the following link:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/  

The Benedictine Brewery

Followers of the blog know I have been involved with this unique project for the last three years as a volunteer and I am proud to report that since the Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom opened in September, 2018, it has been an impressive success.

Fr. Martin, the head brewer and general manager has now developed seven beers after the initial positive reception to Black Habit – our flagship beer and his brews have drawn rave reviews.

The Brewery is one of only three in the US where the monks own and operate the enterprise.  Plan on coming to the Taproom in Mt. Angel and visiting the beautiful Abbey Hilltop.

Beerchasing Event at the New Oakshire Beer Hall

In October, about thirty Beerchasing friends gathered at the Oakshire Beer Hall in NE Portland to try out the establishment which opened in July – a Portland addition to the popular Oakshire Brewery in Eugene.  One of the attendees was Oakshire Brewing Board member, Dr. Sam Holloway, a professor at the University of Portland, President of Crafting a Strategy and a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Br. Thomas, Sam Holloway and Fr. Martin at the Oakshire Beerchasing

Thanks to the followers of this blog for their support and if you have suggestions for bars or breweries to add to my travels in 2020, please let me know by a blog comment or send an e-mail to dwilliams2951@gmail.com.

Although some might think it redundant, I loved the piece by Edgar Allen Poe which I used to end 2018.  While he is not known for a positive outlook, Poe got this one right!

Happy New Year.

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

At least he was positive about ale!

The list of the bar’s outside Portland can be found at the links in the narrative above.   The list of Portland establishments is shown below:

2019 Portland Area Bars

  Name Location Type Date of Post
2018-1 The Gemini Bar and Grill Lake Oswego Neighborhood January
2018-2 Old Town Brewing NE Brewery and Pub February
2018-3 Xport Bar and Lounge SW Hotel Bar – Hotel Porter June
2018-4 Bantam Tavern NW Neighborhood April
2018-5 The Leaky Roof SW Neighborhood June
2018-6 Roots Lake Oswego Non-profit Neighborhood August
2018-7 Oakshire Beer Hall NE Brewpub October
2018-8 Mad Hanna NE Dive Bar October

Pueblo – Rich in History and Dive Bars

A classic beer sign hanging from the ceiling at Gus’s Tavern

In the first post on our nine-day road trip through the Southwest, I mentioned that one of our stops was Pueblo – two nights in this Colorado city on the Arkansas River.  After visits to both Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes National Parks,we arrived in this historic steel town founded in 1870 – a melting pot of many nationalities.

We dined that night at the Brues Alehouse Brewery on the Pueblo Riverwalk in a large memorable building – at one time, the police station and jail.  The Alehouse had a nice riverfront patio and an expansive one on the second level.

Brues gets good comments on social media on their food and Janet enjoyed a spinach salad loaded with grilled chicken and I had an outstanding teriyaki chicken bowl.  I downed a Leaderhead IPA – their flagship brew.  It was one of their nine on tap and since one of their seven guest taps was from Ecliptic Brewing in Oregon, Janet had the Vega IPA.

The Sengers (on the right) – Beerchasing regulars!

The next morning we met our good friends John and Barb Senger – prior Beerchaser companions from our time in Boulder, Colorado where they reside.

And their research skills, honed as teachers and administrators during their impressive careers in the Boulder School District, were still evident.  They had lined up a full-day’s itinerary with a diverse group of watering holes, but focused on those with robust historic roots.

Followers of Thebeerchaser blog know of my great affinity for dive bars and the two Pueblo “institutions” I describe below join the classics on Thebeerchaser’s eight-year travels.

Gus’s Tavern

There are some dive bars with more recent histories, but which still appropriately reflect the dive bar environment.   Don’t ask me for a definitive description – as former Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, opined regarding pornograpy, “I know it when I see it.” (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964).

And then there are those dives, which based on not just their ambiance, but their longevity, the founder’s roots and the stories which linger in their no longer smoke-filled crooks and crannies from years back, that earn that distinction.   Gus’s is one of the latter – and it’s obvious when one walks in the door.

The photos, old newspaper articles on the wall, the booths, the round-red bar stools, the general décor and the rich legacy of it’s original owner all create a lasting impression.  A 2013 story in the Pueblo Chieftain gives some insight:

“The building that is now Gus’s was built as a church in 1892.   Gus Masciotra bought the building in the 1920;s and ran a mercantile shop out of it.  When Prohibition ended in 1933, he turned it into a bar and it’s stayed relatively unchanged since.  Gus’s was the first establishment in Pueblo to receive a liquor license.”

The hallmarks at Gus’s Place are the cheap, ice-cold schooners of beer and the Dutch LunchAnd we discovered why…. 

As stated in this 6/10/2017 Yelp review:

“…..a plate of build it yourself lunch Sammy filled with onions, several kinds of lunch meat, and tomatoes with condiments of mustard, mayo, all laid upon really fresh white bread to build your own sandwiches.  This combo comes from the Bojon history of the area and the steel mill crews from the 40’s & 50’s and still is delicious today.”

There was a 2015 article in the Oklahoman that stated Gus’s was for sale. (The fact this situation made the news in an Oklahoma  City newspaper is evidence of the bar’s celebrated reputation):

“Current owner Evelyn Masciotra, 93, is in ill health and now resides in a nursing home, prompting her decision to sell, according to her son, Gino Mittino….In its heyday, it made Ripley’s Believe It or Not three different years for selling more beer per square foot than any other bar in the world.”

However, the bar was actually not sold until last year.  Although Gus and his son, Robert, who helped him at the bar for 28 years, are now both gone, you can still envision, them smoking cigars and greeting the steel workers stopping by at all hours for lunch or an after-shift mug.

In any event, the experience at Gus’s set the stage for memorable Beerchasing the rest of that day.   Just a block away from Gus’s (and unfortunately 1,445 mile from our house in Oregon…) we took another step back into history in this notable Bessemer neighborhood (annexed into Pueblo in 1894) with our visit to Gagliano’s Bessemer Mercantile Company.

As described by this Trip Advisor reviewer on 6/28/18:

Try to by pass this tray if you are hungry.

“This small store, now in its 97th year, is chock full or gourmet foods from A to Z. Pasta, select olive oils and vinegars, sweets, home-made sausage, old world cheeses and deli meats, frozen hand-made heat and serve pastas, European cooking gadgets and more line every inch of this immaculate and charming grocery store. If you want a deli sandwich, they will fix you up.”

And it was a good thing we had gorged ourselves on the Dutch Lunch a few minutes earlier, because the selection of meats, cheeses and bread was irresistible.  In fact, Gagliano’s supplies the “raw materials” for the spreads at Gus’s Tavern down the street.

Eiler’s Place

Only .3 mile from Gus’s Tavern is another bar whose founding also dates back to the end of Prohibition.  Eiler’s is in a neighborhood that’s “long been know as Old Bojon Town (Croatian, Serb, Slovian and Yugoslavisn), after the Eastern European immigrants who came to work at the mill (Colorado Fuel and Steel Mill).”  7/16/14 KRCC  Public Radio

Eilers is across the street from the big Catholic church and near the elementary school in a grand old building which was originally a grocery owned by the Glovich family – Matt and Josephine, who lived next door.  Matt died only two years after they opened:

“She was left with five kids to support.  The neighbors said, ‘You need to get a liquor license. It’ll help.’ She borrowed $20 to buy some glasses and turned the grocery counter into a bar.  She started with a keg of beer and a few bottles of whiskey.  ‘She had some backbone, I’ll tell you,’ said her great granddaughter, Sue Mikita, who has co-owned the bar for the last six years with her brother, Ray ‘Ray Dog’ Vertovic.”  (Pueblo Chieftain 2012 on plaque in the bar.)

Now Eiler’s is a larger bar and not as dark as Gus’s place, but still reeks of the ninety-year history.  The two big screen TVs over the bar detract just a little from the ambiance.

As we walked in, there were some older guys – obviously regulars – in a booth just to the right of the entrance.   (When I say “older”, it’s a relative term.   They were older than Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russel Wilson, but younger than I.)  We could hear them talking and one said, “Well, I’ve been in jail two times,” with a response, “That’s nothing – I’ve been in jail three times!”

Eiler’s Initiation including Schlevo

When we sat down, John Senger told us that we had to have the “Bojon initiation” on our first visit to the fabled bar.   That means you down a shot of Schlevo (Slovian plum liquor) followed by your PBR – perfectly appropriate for Thebeerchaser.

When the bartender found out about the blog, she brought out some old photos from the early 50’s.  They included the one below and she then said:
“See that guy over there?” pointing to one of the guys in the booth by the door.  “He’s the second baby from the end on his mom’s lap in the photo.”   The photo was consistent with this story from public radio:

“They’d bring in their kids and we’d take their picture of the new babies and we’d put them on the wall – we have books and books of these things.  Kids are always welcome and the kids love to come because the customers would buy them candy or Pepa (the original owner) would feed them.”

So I went over to the guy she pointed to and introduced myself and asked if he would be in a picture with me.  He stuck out his hand and said:

“I’m James “Horse” McHorsney.  But you should just call me ‘Horse.’  I live across the street and I’ve been coming here for at least forty years.”

Horse and Thebeerchaser

After one more stop as described below, we left Eilers and met the rest of our group including John and Barb’s daughter, Cassy Tavlor, her husband, Kirk, their granddaughter, Sarah and great granddaughter, Penelope, at the Shamrock Brewery and Pub.  Kirk Taylor is the Sheriff of Pueblo County and his job includes responsibility for Pueblo County Corrections.
I told the story about babies in the picture from Eiler’s and showed them the picture with the regular.  Sheriff Taylor, smiled and said, “Oh that’s Horse….I know Horse!”
Walter’s Brewery and Alehouse
Walter’s – another historic establishment – and perhaps I’m over-utilizing that word, but in Pueblo, that’s just part of the background.   This brewery, however, doesn’t just go back to the end of Prohibition, but to the 1800’s when Martin Walter purchased the Pueblo Brewery for $7,000 and the Walter’s brewery known in Wisconsin, began its long run in Pueblo.
It thrived until 1975 when it was sold and reopened in 2014 by a group of Pueblo entrepreneurs.  As with other Pueblo bars and breweries, its primary clientele for years were the steel workers.
The Alehouse had thirteen beers on tap – not your typical microbrews, but concoctions such as Pueblo Chile, Chile Clamato, Chile Red Lime – reflective of the region’s affection for the peppers they grow.
But we tried its trademark Pilsner:
“History in a glass!  The one that started it all for the Walter family.  The pre-prohibition, 1800’s German pilsner recipe is the beer that made the Walter family famous.”
Our Beerchasing day was not finished, however, so stay tuned for the visits to the Shamrock Brewery and Alehouse, Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern and the Star Bar – all part of the bountiful Beerchasing scene in the City of Pueblo.

Daphne’s and Desmond in Edmonds…

In my recent review of the Caroline Tavern, I mentioned that my Beerchasing exploits in the State of Washington, paled in comparison to those in Oregon and surrounding states.

Outside the Caroline Tavern with the Magnusson clan

Based on the great experience at Caroline’s, I decided to expand the journey into the Evergreen State by visiting a bar in Edmonds, Washington.

And I definitely would not have discovered Daphne’s or its legendary bartender, Desmond van Rensburg if it had not been for Pete Andrijeski – a blogger, whose adventures at bars since 2006, far exceeds my own count of about 375 since I started Thebeerchaser in August of 2011.

I came across Pete’s blog when I was researching the history of Caroline’s and was impressed with both his narratives and the extent of his travels on our mutual topic of interest.

So I contacted him by e-mail and we agreed to meet and exchange stories and raise a mug together the next time I was in Seattle.

That occurred in November and I asked Pete for a recommendation.  Without hesitation, he stated “Daphne’s in Edmonds – it’s my favorite bar.”  (More about Pete and his exploits below….)

http://www.seattlebars.org/2019/08/3128-daphnes-bar-edmonds-wa-12222016.html

After a very enjoyable 90 minutes downing some of Desmond, the bartender’s, craft cocktails, I understand his affection for this place – essentially a medium sized room (250 sq. feet) – a former barber shop – whose character and ambiance far exceeds its physical dimensions.

Desmond in the “Living Room” environment at Daphne’s

A 2007 review in the Seattle Times was entitled, “Where Taste Trumps Elbow Room.”  And one recent Yelp reviewer (6/8/19) stated:

“This bar is literally the size of our living room. It’s cozy, lively, and is a local favorite. The bar top can seat up to 9, the booths up to 3, and outdoor seating up to 8.”

Desmond!!

Now after visiting about 375 bars, breweries and pubs over the last eight years, I can say that a primary factor in defining the character of the establishment is the bartender.  And I have met some outstanding barkeeps who affirm the statement by internationally acclaimed Canadian economist, Harry Gordon Johnson who said:

The economist who opines on mixologists…..(on the right)

“The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customer.”

(Why this quote is attributed to a noted economist, transcends the scope of this blog post.)

It so happens that two of the most memorable bar personalities I have met during my visits to watering holes in the US and Europe have been in the last two posts i.e. Ernie Bob from Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe and Desmond van Rensburg at Daphne’s.

Ernie Bob with Janet in September

It is noteworthy that the great majority of social media reviews on Daphne’s mention Desmond and the impact he had on their opinion of the bar.

An example is this 8/30/17 Yelp review:

“Desmond is the man, he takes the time to get new faces names and welcome them to his bar. He shows passion in every cocktail he makes.”  

Since I research each place I review before I visit, I wondered if the narratives about this personality might be overstated….

They weren’t!

Desmond knew Pete from his previous visits and welcomed me in the same animated manner as he did every Daphne’s newcomer.   And his exuberance had a positive impact on everyone else in the “living room.”

He is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa and is married with one son.  After a short sit-down conversation in a coffee shop near the bar, one of the co-owners, hired him in May, 2011 and he now practices his craft four nights per week.

In his new job, he quickly made an impression and was named in 2011 as one of KOMO Television’s Most Fascinating People in Edmonds:

“There are so many reasons why Desmond is one of Edmond KOMO’s most fascinating people, but OI think the main one is that he makes each and every person feel like they are the most fascinating person he’s ever met……He adds to the Main Street charm.  Desmond is always armed with a joke to tell and a smile to share.”

Daphne’s has a few beers on tap, but the specialty is cocktails and following Pete’s lead, I had two of the specials listed on the menu which range from the Moscow Mule at $10 (draws rave reviews) to a $12 Manhattan.

I tried the Sazerac – a rye whiskey concoction with New Orleans origin and also the Boulevardier – whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Campari.

Van Rensberg effort on these creations evidenced the same dexterity of Van Cliburn performing  Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 – well, at least almost…….

I can’t remember which he drank that night, but Pete’s favorite cocktails are Old Pal, Negroni, Corpse Reviver #2 and Sazerac

One doesn’t go to Daphne’s to eat other than munchies such as pretzels, nuts and popcorn although one review had a reference to Desmond’s meat and cheese platter.

Contributing to the favorably dark and somewhat raucous atmosphere are some old signs and mementos including a gold plated telephone.  The old (1923) Edmonds movie house next door on the City’s Main Street adds to the character.

 

 

A 2018 article in the Herald Business Journal of Everett  amplifies:

“The coup, however, is a story written by actress Anna Faris in Delta Sky Magazine that names Daphne’s as one of her favorite places on her favorite street in her hometown of Edmonds.”

Pete!!

A major contribution to my enjoyment of the bar that evening was meeting and chatting with the aforementioned Pete Andrijeski.  He is a burly guy, raised in Boise, attended the University of Washington and is a technology professional and now works for Expedia.  

If you check out his website    http://www.peterga.com/  you will find that he is a fascinating individual with diverse interests (besides bars…..) ranging from baseball to gardening to music and a voracious and impressive appetite for non-fiction.

Pete’s website cover photo

I identified with his zealous (some might say “compulsive”) tendency to keep lists such as this one which shows the breadth of his reading.

Time constraints limited our conversation that night to mainly sharing our favorite bars, but if you check out his website, you will also see that his sister, Julie is an acclaimed musician living in Pittsburgh

“….plays in several groups, as well as teaching classes and seminars……Julie has also played and recorded with several other orchestras (besides Chatham Baroque), operas, and early music groups, including the Cleveland baroque group Apollo’s Fire and the Celtic group Shanua.”

The section on his late wife of seven years, Cheryl LeRouix, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 1996 will bring tears to your eyes.

And as I mentioned in a previous post, my 375 + watering holes visited and reviewed since 2011, is dwarfed by his 3,906 bars of which 1,659 are in Seattle.  http://www.seattlebars.org/   (Some may be incredulous about these figures, but I definitely believe him and check out his blog.)

He downplays this feat and jokingly referenced “recognition” such as one person who recently became aware of his blog and stated, “You are the God of bars.”   (Maybe that would make Thebeerchaser a minor prophet equivalent.)

Pete made my blog procrastination less onerous when he lamented in an August post this year, “I’ve recently gone about 9 months without posting a blog entry, and I am now 1,154 bars behind.”

Off the beaten path in Shoup, Idaho…

His list of bars and other features are compelling including his favorite dive which will be on my list during the next trip to Idaho – the M.T. Saddle in Shoup, Idaho.

“I was not sure we’d actually reach this one, as it is 13 miles down a single lane dirt road along a river, and my car is the furthest thing from an off-road vehicle.”

My conversations and visits with Pete will continue in the future as he has an affinity for Tiki bars and wants to visit some of them in Portland.  His suggestion that we meet at Daphne’s was a gem and I will return there on one of our frequent trips to Seattle – the next time Desmond will not have to regard me as a first-timer.

The bar opened in 2006 and is co-owned by Brian Taylor and Louise Favier, who previously owned other establishments in Washington, but sold all of them except Daphne’s when they moved back to New York in 2013, where they also own two bars.

Taylor shared the sentiment of many when he stated:

“Daphne’s wouldn’t be the same without van Rensburg.  It was a great little bar before Desmond, but Desmond has taken it to a whole different level,” 

Desmond stopped bartending for a minute to pose with Pete.

As the Edmonds celebrity, himself, aptly stated in one of the many articles about him and the bar:

“It’s the press, you know, the place, the cocktails and the dysfunctional bartender.  It’s one great blend.  That’s what it comes down to.  When you mix it all together, it makes for a wonderful experience.”

Daphne’s Bar 415 1/2 Main St
Edmonds, Washington

Beerchasing in the Southwest – Part I (Oh, Ernie Bob….!)

The excellent ranger-guided tour at the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park. (see below)

In September, we flew to Albuquerque for an nine-day trip through the Southwest.   We hit twelve Beerchasing establishments in Santa Fe and Pueblo, Colorado besides Albuquerque and visited two National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes), the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, a number of impressive chapels and cathedrals, even stayed at an organic farm one night and attended a climate change demonstration on September 20 during the Global Week for the Future.

The Rio Grande Bridge over New Mexico’s Grand Canyon

From a Beerchasing standpoint, the most interesting and impressive part of the journey was the one and one-half days in Pueblo where there were three good breweries.  But the highlight was the collection of four historic dive bars – some of the most iconic watering holes visited in the eight years of Beerchasing.   Those bars deserve more pictures and narrative and will be the topic of two future posts of Thebeerchaser blog.

John and Barb Senger and Janet at Gus’ Tavern in Pueblo

Santa Fe – We flew into Alburquerque at night and drove to Santa Fe where the desk clerk at our hotel responded to our inquiry with a recommendation for Second Street Brewery – an enterprise that celebrated its 22nd anniversary this year and has expanded to three locations – all serving good food and with some excellent barrel-aged beer.

It turned out to be a stellar recommendation – we went to the original location on Second Street and met Ernie Bob – the most friendly and gregarious server we  encountered on the trip.

Ernie Bob and Janet at Second Street

Besides impressive beer, we had an excellent meal and enjoyed a long chat with Ernie Bob about his history – and the origination of his moniker.

One of the many “Friends of Ernie Bob”…

And you can see that Ernie Bob’s reputation as an outstanding representative of his brewery transcends our visit by the t-shirt the woman is wearing in the picture below (“Friend of Ernie Bob”).

When he introduced himself as Ernie Bob, I then asked him if he was from the South based on the “handle.”  The conversation went like this:

BC: “With that name, were you raised in the South?”

EB: “No, I was actually born in Michigan and have lived here since the ’80’s. My given name is Robert.”

BC: “So, tell us the story!”

EB: “It’s a long one….”.

BC: “We’re drinking beer and eating. We have time and if you do, we want to hear it.”

A few of the numerous beer awards

EB: “I started working at Second Street twenty-two years ago when it opened.   There were three Roberts who worked as servers then. There was a lot of confusion on whose orders were whose and in communicating so our manager said that we had to go by different labels.”

BC: “That’s understandable, but how did you get Ernie Bob?”

EB: “Well, I was the most junior guy and the first guy said I’m sticking with Bob. The next guy then said, well, I like Robert but will shorten it to Bert since that’s easier. I had always been a fan of Sesame Street, so I said, ‘If there’s going to be a Bert, there needs to be an Ernie.’   And it quickly became Ernie Bob.”

Ernie on the left has a legacy in Sanfa Fe!

Ernie Bob recommended the Second Street IPA – strong, malty and dry-hopped – which was one of the five beers on tap at Second Street.

We then had an excellent meal (Janet – Fish and Chips) and (Don – 1/3 pound Buffalo Patty Melt) and we left thinking,  “What a great start to our trip to the Southwest.”

Cathedrals and Chapels in Santa Fe

And we spent the next day visiting a beautiful chapel, a cathedral and an historic mission – all in the central part of Santa Fe.

The first was the beautiful Loretto Chapel – famous for The Miraculous Staircase – an impressive and memorable structure – “….has two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support.  The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair.”

It was built by an unknown carpenter who disappeared after he completed it and never asked for payment.  The chapel was built in 1873.

The Miraculous Staircase in the Loretto Chapel

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is also known as Saint Francis Cathedral and is a “working” Roman Catholic Church, built between 1869 and 1886.  Another example of beautiful carvings and stonework.

We started taking in these edifices in Europe and the three in Santa Fe rivaled some of those we saw on that trip.

And although it did not evidence the architectural grandeur of the two above, from an historical perspective the San Miguel Mission – a Spanish colonial mission church – is considered to be the oldest church in the continental US – built in the first quarter of the 17th century.

It has survived damage  incurred during revolts and warfare and  has been repaired and rebuilt, but the historic preservation is remarkable.  Its original adobe walls are still largely intact

The altar at the mission

Now I know that some of the followers of this blog, may ask, “What does this have to do with beer, bars and breweries?” It is healthy, however,monk to recognize and pay tribute to the divine inspiration that promoted early beer production and the legacy of the monks who were some of the early brewers dating back to the sixth century…..

Besides, one needs some culture and appreciation of the natural beauty of the US to fully enjoy your brewski at the end of a long day!  And there is a lot of material on actual Beerchasing in these posts to come.

One of the skyscrapers in the Georgia O’ Keeffe collection

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was also a highlight and the legacy and images of this remarkable artist in Santa Fe surprised me as I reluctantly, but fortunately tagged along with Janet.

This encounter with creative artistry, along with the impact of the architecture and décor of the religious structures, made Thebeerchaser forget – at least for awhile – the storied history of some of the Southwest’s dive bars awaiting us in the next few days…..

Well, since we were walking right by the Blue Corn Cafe after the museum tour, we stopped for one of their own five beers on tap and what were outstanding nachos.  They are known for great Southwestern food.

Janet had the Gatekeeper IPA and I downed a pint of the Atomic Blonde LagerBlue Corn Brewery opened in 1997 and asserts that it is “….one of the New Mexi o’s first breweries.”

Our friendly server made our day when we asked him to take our photo and he remarked, “What a cute couple!!??”

Cute??? How about “distinguished” or “urbane?”

Since this is a blog about bars and breweries, I won’t go into detail about our visits to Mesa Verde and Grand Sand Dunes , but the former is one of the most memorable of the many National Parks we have visited.

Mesa Verde is dynamic history (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) first hand – excellent ranger briefings and one can visualize the activity of the twelfth century Pueblo Indians constructing the still impressive structures and their daily lives. It’s the epitome historic preservation.

“With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.  The Cliff Palace (the one we visited) is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.”  Wikipedia 

By the way, the Mesa Verde Park Lodge where we stayed also had an outstanding gin martini.

Up with olives….

Now the panorama of the Dunes from the time they are visible on the horizon to right in front of them is magnificent.

We decided against hiking up them (or “boarding” down them – a rental option) because of the expansive dunes in Oregon’s Honeyman State Park – right in our own backyard…. – near Florence on the Oregon Coast.

On to Pueblo

Pueblo is an historic city in Colorado which has a fabled history dating back to 1842 including at one time being one of the largest steel producing cities in the US.   Thanks to John and Barb Senger (a friend of Janet’s going back to high school in McMinnville), who traveled from their home in Boulder, we were able to spend a great day with them.

Janet and the Sengers at the Sink in 2015

Since they have Beerchasing roots going back to 2015 when we hit several breweries and the remarkable and renowned  Sink Bar – right next to the campus of the University of Colorado, they had set up a mini-tour of breweries and dive bars – some with the most impressive histories I’ve witnessed in the eight years of this hobby.

John’s son-in-law is Kirk Taylor, the Sheriff of Pueblo County and he and his wife, Cassy – a teacher – and his impressive daughter Sarah – a US Naval Academy graduate, formal Navy officer and after obtaining another Bachelor degree is now an ER and ICU nurse – and her daughter Penelope, met us in the late afternoon for stops at a few establishments. (I will cover these bars and these wonderful people in a subsequent post.)

Beerchasing at the Shamrock Brewery Pub (l to r) John Senger, Sheriff Taylor, Cassy, Penelope, Sarah, Barb Senger, Janet

We completed our road trip in the Southwest returning to Albuquerque after a short side trip to see the  Rio Grande Bridge, and spending a night at the unique organic farm (Los Pablamos Historic inn and Organic Farm).

“Crashing a wedding at San Felipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our final day and one-half – the eighth and ninth of the trip, we spent the time hitting another chapel – this one at the San Felipe de Neri Church during a wedding ceremony we inadvertently crashed, hitting few more watering holes, attending a climate change demonstration in a City park and flying back to Portland in the evening.

The following shows the Beerchasing establishments we visited on this trip:

Oh – and did we tell you about Ernie Bob??

Santa Fe – Second Street Brewery and Blue Corn Café

Pueblo – Brues Ale House and Brewing, Gus’ Tavern, Eiler’s Place, Walters’ Brewery, Shamrock Brewing, Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern and Star Bar

Albuquerque – Boxing Bear Brewing, Bow and Arrow Brewing, Geckos Bar and Tapa