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

Beerchaser Wonderings and Wanderings…

Courtesy of the Oregon State Bar

Lawyers and Drinking

I was delighted that the November edition of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin which has a circulation of about 12,000 Oregon lawyers included multiple mentions of both Thebeerchaser blog and the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel.

Talented author and lawyer, Jennie Bricker, who writes at Brick Work Writing & Editing LLC, did a great job in her article entitled “I’ll Drink to That – The Power and Peril of Alcohol’s Connection to the Legal Profession.”   Check it out at the link below. (It starts on Page 28):  https://www.osbar.org/bulletin/issues/2019/2019November/index.html

A New IPA?  Don’t Count On It!!

The Benedictine Beers on tap in Mount Angel

I have been involved in the wonderful Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael Taproom since its inception in 2018 – one of three monk-owned and operated breweries in the US.

Fr. Martin – our Head Brewer has become an incredibly skilled brewer and there are nine of his beers on tap.  Benedictine beers draw accolades throughout the region.

The flagship beer is Black Habit – described as a “Belgian dark strong ale,” has been widely acclaimed for its rich flavor.  And don’t forget Mea Culpa Pale Ale.

I have been lobbying him to brew his first IPA and even have suggested the name and slogan.  (He hasn’t returned my calls about this…. and I don’t expect to hear anytime soon!)

Quid Pro Quo IPA – Real Beer Flavor for a Favor *1

Image courtesy of the talented and creative Pam Williams

*1 Not available in Alabama, Greenland, Kyiv or Kharkiv

West Point and Veterans’ Day

Ambassador William Taylor

The impressive career and sterling character of a primary witness in the Impeachment InquiryAmbassador William Taylor who graduated from the US Military Academy in 1970 made me reminisce about my late brother, Garry, who also graduated from West Point (Class of1972) and served with distinction during his six-years in the Third Armored Cavalry.

While at West Point, Garry was in both the Glee Club and a quintet-combo called “The Headliners,” which resulted in appearances on national television and at the White House as can be seen by the photo with President Nixon in 1971 below.

(Garry is the tall cadet to the immediate left of Nixon.)

Garry with the Headliners at the Nixon White House in 1971

And here’s a belated toast to all of our veterans, among whom are several who were previous Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter and were decorated for heroism for their service in the Viet Nam War.   Cheers to Jud Blakely, Doug Bomarito and Steve Lawrence.

Captain Don Wilburn

And two, who made the ultimate sacrifice – my best friend in high school, Garry Kestler, USMC in 1967 and my late father’s best friend and SAE Fraternity brother, Captain Donald E. Wilburn (after whom I’m named) and was a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World Watr II.

Amy, Amy, Amy

Those of us who were fans of the Mike and Amy Show are shaking our collective heads at the decision Entercom Broadcasting to discontinue the show after the two have been popular morning personalities on KWJJ The Wolf.

After canceling their show in 2012 – only to bring them back two years later, Entercom is making the same move as just announced after the duo has been together on KWJJ for a total of 18 years.

See the announcement from Amy below – and those involved in the non-profit world, get ready for what will be a win for your non-profit auction when Amy Faust finishes her training.

Amy (on the right) with three other members of the Faust clan – Charlie, Jack and Alice at a 2017 Beerchasing and a happy Beerchasing crew

And if you have any doubts as to why this talented and great-hearted lady will succeed in her endeavors, check out why she was named Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in 2017:

https://thebeerchaser.com/…/amy-faust-beerchaser-of-the-qu…/

“I’m quite excited to announce the (possibly surprising) fact that in a few weeks I will be traveling to Clear Lake, Iowa, for 8 days to attend the World Wide College of Auctioneering and get certified to be a benefit auctioneer…. please join me on Instagram at my brand new account @amytheauctioneer “

PS:  I received the following e-mail from Amy on 11/18 when I asked how her training was going:

“Greetings from Clear Lake, Iowa! I can’t even begin to tell you how strange and amazing this experience is.  But I’m learning a ton and i will be ready to roll out my new skills very soon……Cheers from Bennigan’s, where I have eaten every single meal since Friday!”  

(At least she’s hasn’t become a regular at The Olive Garden….!)

More Amy…..

And to demonstrate why I will appreciate the dry sense of humor of this lady, check out this from their Facebook page in 2018.

The Beerchaser’s Pet Peeves

At least I’ve only been around for 71 of these!!

As a guy who recently entered his seventh decade, I can say there are pros and cons about being older. An advantage reinforced each time one reads the obituaries is that at least there is less peer pressure.

And one has to get used to the fact that when you ask friends how they are doing, they spend way too much time telling you – typically including accounts on various parts of the human anatomy in their narratives.

Those on-line drop down menus that ask for birth date require too many “Page Downs” on the keyboard to reach the correct year.  But I find, that some things annoy me a lot more than they used to including the following:

Leaf Blowers – in the fall, Boomer kids used to spend a lot of time and earn their allowances by raking leaves and hauling them to the spare lot or other repository.

Nowdays, one hears the irritating scream of leaf blowers each day. Whether it’s my lawn service or people in the burbs, the habit of blowing the leaves either into the street or whisking them off their sidewalk into the street where they clog the gutters or just blow into the next yard is annoying.

I guess in some respects its analogous to Portland shipping its garbage to Eastern Oregon and not thinking twice about it.

That’s my shovel after the lawn service “finished.”

Poop Bags

We have two wonderful grandpuppies – Sullivan, a great little Havanese who visits us from Seattle and Wesley Walter, a wonderful Golden Retriever who comes for walks from NE Portland.

Wesley Walter and Sullivan on a recent visit

In both cases, we use poop bags to take care of their “dispatches” when we take walks. Now while I hate it when dog walkers let their canines do their duty and just leave it in my yard, even more egregious are the heathens who  do the following:

They self-righteously pick up the poop in a plastic bag but then leave the &*#*% bag along the sidewalk or parking strip where unless it is picked up by some good citizen, will set there for the next 250 years rather than decomposing naturally.

Yeah Right! Thanks for being a great environmentalist…..

Pharmaceutical Commercials – while the US is one of I believe, only two countries that allow these corporate behemoths to advertise their prescription medications on the air, the ads are ubiquitous   It may be comforting to some that the advertised pill may allay the symptoms of psoriasis notwithstanding the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, internal bleeding, memory loss and lower libido etc.

I also marvel at the over-the-counter ads for Prevagen – an over-the-counter dietary supplement pill which is supposed to help your memory.  In bold tones, the announcer lauds the benefits of this medication that is comprised of “ingredients originally found in jelly fish….”  

Why is this an advantage? Who has ever interacted with a smart jelly fish?  Do jelly fish have better memories than carp?  Why would you want to emulate any creature with no central nervous or respiratory systems, lives only a few years and has its mouth and anus in the same body cavity (at least that’s what is appears from the diagram below):

Medicine with ingredients originally found in jellyfish!!???

And how smart were the hundreds of jelly fish that washed up on the Oregon coast in January near Haystack Rock?  Did they show the same intellectual acumen as lemmings in following the leader to their ultimate demise?

Spelling Bees – now I may get attacked on this one, but it just floors me when I see the results of the latest Scripps National Spelling Bee – one with a 94-year history – and a story which states, “Spelling Experts say Tougher Words are Still Out There.”   In the 2019 Bee, eight kids ended sharing the championship “…because they were simply too accomplished to stumble over any of the words Scripps threw out.”

The labyrinthine path to becoming a spelling bee champion….

One has to give credit to the parents who I assume drill their little prodigies who are eighth grade and below (now usually with professional coaches) for hours on such words as “auslaut”, “aiguillette” and “erysipelas” – words that even my Google spellcheck does not recognize.  One has to ask, however,  “Of what practical use is all the time spent trying to accomplish this Augean task??” (I looked up the definition, but couldn’t use spell check to write the word.)

Would it not be better for them to be out on the playground, interacting with peers or just reading a good book?   Of course, I guess, some of you might ask, “Of what redeeming value is a blog in which the author writes about his exploits at 350+ bars, breweries and taverns?”

Metrics – these statistical indicators have become pervasive in all areas of our lives, and are now a staple for sports coaches and general managers. I think it was baseball that first relied on detailed statistical analysis of hitters rather than the gut instinct of famous Major League Baseball managers such as Tommy Lasorda, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack and my favorite Birdie Tebbetts, skipper of the Cincinnati Reds when I lived there from 1952 – 1959.

Birdie Tebbetts – notable Major League catcher and manager

But has it gone too far? I was struck by a recent Oregonian article entitled, “Blazers put Shot Tracking Into Practice.”   A company called Noah Basketball has developed cameras, sensors and software to provide over half of the NBA teams, major college programs and even high school basketball teams with data and “real-time feedback” on every shot they take.

It tracks “…the arc, depth, location and accuracy of each shot on a laptop.”

Perfect arc, depth and velocity

Sports has become more of a business, but does this kind of tool, take some of the joy and spontaneity out of the game?   Maybe the next step is to provide players with electronically edited comments in interviews after the game so the clause, “I just played my own game,” is replaced with more elevated prose……

“Well the radius of gyration and velocity of my shot was within the standard deviation laid out by Coach.”

Brewery Dynamics

Since this is a blog primarily about bars and breweries, I should end with a short section on the dynamic nature of the brewing industry especially in Oregon. One recent statistic I read stated that there are now more breweries than colleges in the US and that competition has resulted in some rather shocking casualties with some notable brewing firms.

There are too many closings in the last two years to list them all, but a number of noted breweries with Oregon roots are gone but not forgotten – also true of some fabled pubs and bars.  The good news is that new ones seem to pop up almost simultaneously.  The following does not purport to be all-inclusive, but just gives an idea.

Closings

Burnside Brewing Closes its Doors

Lompoc Tavern (NW) and Brewery (N) – Widmer’s Pub (N) – O’Neill Irish Pub (SE) – Burnside Brewing (E) – Bridgeport Brewing (E) – Alameda Brewing (SE) and Brewpub (NE) – Portland Brewing Taproom (NW) – Columbia River Brewing (NE) – Rock Bottom Pub (Downtown) – Henry’s Tavern (Pearl) – Seven Brides Brewing (Silverton) –  Laurelwood Brewing Pubs (Sellwood and PDX) – Riverbend Brewing Brewpub (Bend) – Coalition Brewing (SE) bought by Gorges Beer and reopened.

Openings

Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael Taproom – owned and operated by monks

Level Beer Co. (Multnomah Village) – Breakside Brewing Taphouse (3rd location Slabtown) – Hopworks Urban Brewing Pub (2nd location PDX)  – Ruse Brewing (SE) – Benedictine Brewing (Mount Angel) – Mt. Hood Brewing Taphouse (2nd location – Tilikum Crossing) – Backwoods Brewing (2nd location Pearl District)

And Finally re. Lagunitas Brewing 

I read an October Willamette Week article which stated, in part:

“After three years of providing free event space for local non-profits, California-based, now Heineken-owned brewery Lagunitas abruptly shuttered its Community Taproom in Northeast Portland this week, sending dozens of charities scrambling to relocate fundraisers.”

As were many Portland residents, I was outraged and on 10/31 e-mailed Lagunitas the following without really expecting a response:

“You can do better….Your decision to discontinue the Community Room in NE Portland without any prior notice, thereby leaving a number of non-profits in a real dilemma, is uncalled for, unnecessary and shows disregard for your loyal customers. This is not indicative of the Oregon Brewing Community and this move will be remembered.  How do you justify the manner in which this decision was handled?”

At least the Brewery Communications Dept. responded two days later:

“Thanks for reaching out and for your feedback.  We recognize that the closing of the Community Room was sudden, and truly wish that we could have given more notice to the community and those organizations who had previously scheduled events.

There were a wide variety of factors that lead us to make this incredibly difficult decision. We let the Portland non-profit community know as soon as we could, but also understand that for many organizations, it wasn’t soon enough.

We’re currently working with those organizations that had an event scheduled, and are providing beer donations for them at alternative locations.  We also look forward to continuing to support the incredible work that local Portland non-profits are doing in the future.  Thanks again for your feedback.”

I’ll try to let you know in future posts whether the intent to help in the future becomes a reality.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving

Sweet Caroline…..

The Magnusson crew and Thebeerchaser in front of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle

My Beerchasing exploits – visiting over 350 bars since starting this hobby in 2011, have taken me to only two previous Washington establishments – the Pour House in Port Townsend in 2012 and a recent review of Loowit Brewing in Vancouver, Washington.

The opportunity to have beers with three members of the wonderful Magnusson clan in Seattle, provided the motivation to add another.  My affection for Jon, Jamie and Rob Magnusson is well founded since Jamie (with the baseball cap below)  is one of my two son-in-laws – also because they are wonderful and interesting individuals.

Now married for twelve years, Jamie met my oldest daughter, Lisa, while both were students at the University of WashingtonAll three of the guys are Huskies – a long family tradition with football season tickets going back about sixty years.

Jon’s structural engineering firm – Magnusson Klemencic Associates did the engineering work on the revised Husky Stadium several years ago.  In fact MKA is recognized as one of the top five sports facility engineering firms in the US and their portfolio reflects NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB and collegiate projects.

Safeco Field in Seattle – home of the Mariners and site of innovative structural engineering

Some preliminary research on north Seattle dive bars to find one near Lake Forest Park  – where they all reside – yielded a compelling choice – The Caroline Tavern in nearby Lake City. It was listed in a Google search on “Ten Seattle dive bars “with a good reputation(although those two words may be a contradiction in terms).

“A bustling hangout place for a cross-section of ages, ethnic groups as well as subcultures..”  (We were probably part of the subculture category.)

On my second visit – in the morning – it was not a good cross section…..

How many dive bars look like this on the exterior?

And this historic bar was, in fact, a great choice which we all enjoyed (as was the case at the Lake City site of the Elliot Bay Brewery where we had dinner afterwards).  That said, since I claim some background on what constitutes a dive bar, I question whether the Caroline fits neatly into that description as discussed below.

The following excerpt about the Caroline is from a wonderful blog I discovered doing subsequent research.  I say “wonderful” because Seattlebar.org has the same mission as my own – Thebeerchaser – only my journey pales compared to blogger, Pete Andrejeski‘s,  exploits in the pursuit of this worthy goal..

Douglas – she makes her mark on the Parallel Bars versus Dives……

This Seattle resident has had a drink in 3,840 bars of which 1,6049 are Seattle watering holes. Now there are some that say Thebeerchaser’s 350+ visits and reviews over the last eight years is notable, but equating the two blogs is like comparing Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to a kid on the jungle gym at a local playground….

Pete stated in his post on the Caroline:

“There is no doubt that the Caroline is one of the 20 to 30 oldest bars in Seattle. The Caroline itself includes mentions of a start date in 1933.  (probably at another location until 1940) In the late 30s and early 40s the Caroline was owned by Mrs. Mary McNulty. “

Actually, the bar’s written history provided to me by Sarah, our friendly bartender, starts with the following historical narrative:

Sarah – a friendly bartender who knows the history of her bar

“There are references to the Caroline Tavern as early as 1926, with only four owners for the entire history, but city records indicate that Mary McNulty was the owner of record in 1933…….legend has it that she named it after her cat or her aunt, but there is a picture of Mary in the bar to this day and she is holding a cat.

The current building was constructed before Prohibition.   Mary eventually sold the bar to Jack Kelly for one dollar. Pictures of Jack in fifty year increments are featured at the bar as well. Mr. Kelly was a boxer, hence the bell from a boxing ring in the bar now, which is rung when the house buys a round……Legend has it that Will Rogers and Wiley Post ate and drank there after playing polo at the Olympic Riding and Driving Club.”

The Bell is still rung when the house buys a drink – in the upper right

As stated above, the Caroline was listed in Google as a dive bar and a number of the social media reviews also describe it as a dive.

That said, while there may not be a distinct dividing line, between what constitutes a dive versus a neighborhood watering hole, I offer this background on dives from one of my earlier blog posts: https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/09/18/analyzing-dive-bars-head-first/

Unlike the typical dive bars I have visited the Caroline is in a wonderful, large old house with an attractive front entry.

The Ship in Multnomah Village

Now compare this with two of Portland’s fabled dives – the Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village and the Yamhill Pub – right in downtown Portland and known for being one of the top sellers of PBR in the State of Oregon.

The Yamhill – Dive or Grunge Bar??

I would suggest that one would never see two life-size wooden nutcrakers “guarding” the entrance to a hard-core dive bar. Take a look at these two right inside the front door.

(No one at the bar when I was there could tell me the story of how these two festive “soldiers” became permanent fixtures at the Caroline, but I doubt you will see another dive with this type of décor).

Not to get too carried away with trying to pigeonhole this bar, but three other factors that argue for the “neighborhood” bar category:

1. Sitting on a shelf right below the large screen TV in corner were three VCR and one DVD movies as shown in the picture below. Now, I don’t know if the VCR even worked, but tell me a dive bar where one would have ever seen videos starring Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen or Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta.”

2. The Caroline was only the third bar in which I have seen a coin-operated breathalyzer.   Perhaps this is making an inferential leap, but I think this reflects a concern for patrons and the surrounding community verses a more laissez faire approach typical of dive bars.

3.  The Caroline keeps track of the birthdays of regulars and posts these. I didn’t have time to check to whether that meant that you should buy “Baby Ryan” a Budweiser when you are there in October or whether the bar provides a complimentary draft, but it’s a nice touch.

Now, whereas one should avoid generalizations, dive bar regulars, while generally not hostile to newcomers as is the stereotype, tend to stick to themselves, play pool or  ignore strangers. The Caroline seems to defy this image – in fact, according to Pete:

“(On the patio in back) we found two large, circular porch tables surrounded by outdoor, plastic chairs.  It was quite clear that these were communal tables.  Our addition to the deck, upon first appearance, seemed to bring the group count to 4.  4 groups, 2 tables…this is the kind of place where you grab a chair right next to a stranger and join in the conversation. 

Patio in back

It wasn’t long until we were ‘welcome[d] home’ by the regulars.  It seems that this is a traditional phrase at The Caroline.  “Welcome home”.  To say the very least, home was quite an experience.(emphasis supplied)

We chatted with a bricklayer who was drinking Busch Light, a carpenter who was sipping on Jagermeister and pounding bottles of Bud, a rapper and producer who, well I don’t know what the hell he was intoxicated with, and the list goes on…  We had entered a very diverse world of locals, who all seemed to know each other in some way or another.  Well, they knew each other as regulars at The Caroline, and it was quite a social experiment to enter the pack.

I still walked away with a fond feeling of family and community — something that is becoming more and more rare in the big city. “

I experienced this aspect to some extent myself on my second visit on a weekday morning at 10 AM when I found the bar stools all occupied by hard core regulars – a number of whom were chasing their beers with Bushmills or Jamesons.

After taking a few photos I was invited to join Ashley and Phil, who were sitting at a side bar and when I told them about my blog, started filling me on other stories from the Caroline.  They were nice people.

Ashley and Phil – personable regulars

And finally, to bring this issue to a close, one has to be careful to draw conclusions from social media review sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor, yet they can be edifying if one looks at trends identified and in the context of other research.

So take these two excerpts from Yelp reviews on 3/21/19 and 11/23/18 respectively:

“Came in to enjoy a drink and play pool with a buddy who comes here often. The people were friendly the drinks were very reasonably priced and someone even brought over some salty snacks (I think it was another customer but gives you a idea of the vibe here) the guys playing pool here we’re some of the best I ever seen extremely friendly giving me advice on how to better my game.

Had a great time if you want to have a good drink with friendly people that u can’t go wrong here.”

Sarah relating some of the history of the bar.

And

“We walked in and you can tell right away this is a locals kinda joint were there are a lot of regulars. They were doing a pot-luck style thanksgiving with the pool table transformed into a makeshift table….We were warmly greeted by the regulars there and overall this seems like a really cool place to grab some drinks….”

The pool table, a few old-fashioned pinball machines and open space with tables adjoining the bar, make it a comfortable atmosphere.

Perhaps it was because I enjoyed the companionship of the Magnussons at this bar, but the Caroline, regardless of whether one’s opinion of what type of bar it is, is a great place to stop, have one of inexpensive beers on tap, get a salty snack and enjoy the refreshing vibe and ambiance and be “Welcomed Home.”

Now I found the Caroline after some cursory internet research, unlike the questionable intellect of the Yelp reviewer below from 4/27/15 (and one who affirms my point about being careful about over-reliance on social media).

Perhaps this guy (he goes by the name “Kris Loudmouth T”) needs to just stay home and watch old reruns of “Full House,” rather than exploring the big world outside…..

“It’s almost like they don’t want new customers. It took me 20 years to find out the name of this place…” (emphasis added)

Since the selection of food at the Caroline is limited and we were hungry, we decided to hit the nearby Lake City Pub of Elliot Bay Brewing – a nice pub, but not with the same character is our previous stop.

That said, the special that night – “fully loaded chipotle carnitas nachos”  was memorable and we went home with appetites more than satisfied and cholesterol elevated.

(Jon Magnusson did some calculations to determine the static load of this Happy-Hour offering to determine if the plate would sustain the mass presented by the edibles it supported.  His conclusion was that it would – at least for the moment……)

The Caroline Tavern    13702 15th Ave NE #3102    Seattle

Elliot Bay Brewing      Lake City Public House 

12537 Lake City Way NE   Seattle

Dont Get Mad — Get Mad Hanna!

Beerchaser regular, Jim Westwood, at the entrance to Mad Hanna

While one can cruise the infamous Barmuda Triangle (also known as “The Stumble Zone”) in SE Portland and find numerous dive bars, unearthing these hidden treasures in other quarters of the Rose City, has become more challenging – particularly with the closure of some historic dives.

In the eight years of Thebeerchaser blog, I’ve reviewed quite a number of memorable dive bars.  I attempted to memorialize (if you will) the Portland all-stars in this category in a February post:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/02/09/thebeerchasers-best-portland-dive-bars/ .  It captures the essence of my four personal favorites.

Now my second visit to Mad Hanna was after publishing the aforementioned post or it would have been an addition to the four favorites.   And it is in NE Portland, which does not reflect the wealth of dives in the southeast quadrant.

Mad Hanna (hereafter “MH”), while clearly exhibiting the notable characteristics of a dive, borders on the temperament and character of a neighborhood watering hole.  As evidence of this slightly schizoid ambiance, see  both the martini glass and the Pabst sign which decorate the front of the establishment which is otherwise dumpy and rundown – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Notice the martini – gin with an olive – in the upper right part of the sign….

We have to be careful here because one description in a link to the MH website describes it as a “casual, playful tavern.”  (No dive bar should have the adjective “playful” characterizing it, so we will scratch that phrase as misguided…..), but it does have positive mood or presence similar to another one of the NE dives – The Standard. And it self describes in the caption to it’s own website:  “The Best Dive Bar in Portland.”

While I spend a considerable amount of time researching the establishments I visit, I had never heard of MH until reconnecting with a friend, Hillary Barbour.  She lives in the general area and said that it was a bar that deserved recognition by Thebeerchaser, so my first visit was with Hillary.

I first met her in 1994, when she was a research assistant for the Portland City Club and I was on the Research Board of this civic organization.   She was a recent graduate of Reed College and earned the endearing moniker, “Barbour the Magnificent,” by some of us on the Board because of her superior performance and enthusiastic work ethic.

After a few jobs trying to discover what she wanted to do with her life, she worked as a key staffer for Congressman Earl Blumenauer for almost fifteen years and became the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Burgerville in 2016.

Barbour the Magnificent on her throne at Mad Hanna

As a recent Reed graduate, Hillary spent a lot of time at the City Club trying to  convince us that she was really politically moderate, had worn dresses to most of her liberal arts classes and that most of the students at Reed were just like those at Oregon State University except that they major in Nuclear Physics, Bio-chemistry or Chinese Literature rather than Forestry or Animal Husbandry.  

Actual picture of Cerenkov radiation surrounding the underwater core of the Reed College nuclear reactor

Note:  Some Portlanders may not know that Reed is also the only undergraduate educational institution in the world to operate a research nuclear reactor.    Those who live near campus might consider acquiring a Geiger counter to supplement their portable generators if they view this excerpt from the Reed website: “We are dependent on incoming freshmen who want to run the reactor…..”

Hillary asserted that Reed’s intercollegiate sports program including rugby, ultimate frisbee and soccer, was less expensive and more inclusive that those of the PAC-12 – maybe it was the PAC-10 in 1994….

Ultimate Frisbee in between time at Reeds’ nuclear reactor…

And finally, she tried to explain the Reed’s Student Ethics Code to members of the Research Board  – it differs from most (maybe all) universities in that it is:

“….a guide for ethical standards themselves and not just their enforcement. Under the Honor Principle, there are no codified rules governing behavior. Rather, the onus is on students individually and as a community to define which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.”

Westwood offered explanation of Honor Guide…

Jim Westwood, a hard-core Beerchaser regular, who is also a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and one of the most skilled appellate lawyers and intelligent people I know, was also a City Club leader at that time.   He accompanied me on my second visit to MH.

So as we were drinking a PBR, as a conversation piece, I asked him for his interpretation of this somewhat abstract university credo.  He mumbled something about the substance of jelly-fish and then referenced protoplasm and amoebae…

But we digress….. Back to Mad Hanna……Why wouldn’t you like this bar?   While the outside might be somewhat off-putting, the inside has everything one could ask for in what is colloquially labeled “a watering hole.”

It has great old beer signs – such as Pabst, Oly and Rolling Rock and a good, although not excessive, selection of brews ranging from the standards to a few micro-brews  (Happy Hour = $4 micro – $2.50 standards and PBRs’ are $2) all of which are listed on a blackboard rather than an electronic display.  I was impressed with their line-up of ten cocktails – see below – which get good reviews.

There’s also an impressive pool table, a poster of Wonder Woman and a few, but not too many video poker machines in addition to arcade (video) games.

Adds to the ambiance….

There were a couple of TVs but ones which are of moderate size and for which the glare doesn’t disturb the somewhat dingy but very comfortable ambience.  And instead of low-scoring soccer games or Sports Center blaring on the main screen, there was a muted Charlie Brown animation film captivating the audience.

Dive bars are often characterized by hard-core regulars who react with mild to more aggressive hostility to newcomers, but on both of my visits, you are unnoticed when you walk in and stake out a location and head to the bar to order.  That’s because scattered groups of regulars are engaged in active discussions or in friendly interactions with the amiable and helpful bartenders.

People, whether on the excellent patio in the back (see below), gathered around the bar or sitting at tables in small groups, were having a good time.

Sterile environment – operated by the same corporation that runs the Olive Garden.

Now there are a few of the bars or breweries visited on Thebeerchaser’s multi-year tour which either reflect sterile, corporate-type settings or environments or worse, a benign neglect or seeming apathy of the owners.  A less genteel way to convey this is that the character of the bar “sucks!”

The only two Portland examples I can cite are The Yardhouse in downtown Portland and Bar 33-Brooklyn just north of Sellwood.

A lot of potential, but apathy greets you at the entrance

(If you want to learn the rationale for my conclusions, click on the links above, but suffice to say that if you really are thirsty for a beer, have at it.  But if you want a “bar experience,” don’t waste your time.)

Mad Hanna is the antithesis of these bars and I would suggest that it’s because of the attitude of the co-owners —Crystall Maddox and Liz Hanna, who not only came up with the good name, but also make efforts to instill community and the spirit that seems to radiate within the walls.

They get a nice mention in a 2017 feature in Portland Drink entitled “Visit One of Portland’s Many Female-Owned Bars” 

For example, their Facebook page is informative and filled with information and they also have a nice, but not overly sophisticated website with scores of pictures of people having fun and the inviting description below:

“Mad Hanna, your neighborhood living room, drinks are cold and the welcome is warm.  Need a laugh or ear to bend, swing on by and you’ll find it.  Fresh squeezed juice and house-infused liquors mean delicious hand-made cocktails. 

Enjoy ping pong, horseshoes and conversation in the sunny backyard or stay inside for pool, jukebox and sass from the best bartenders in town.  When you’re here your part of the family – we got your back!”

Let’s look at the evening activities:  Tuesday and Thursday they have DJ NIghts from 8:00 to midnight and on Saturday from 4:00 to midnight. On Wednesday, it’s Open Mic Night from 6:00 to 110:00 PM.  Don’t forget Karoke on Sunday……and periodic movie nights.

And their DJ booth is unique – also a great place to sit when they are not spinning discs.

As a side note, the Rovon Inn used to be the name of the bar prior to the change in ownership in 2012 that brought us Mad Hanna.   It was involved in a dram-shop lawsuit back in 2011 involving a drunken driver who allegedly drank there and at another establishment before being involved in a car wreck that killed a woman in another vehicle.)

While both times I was there, it was a typical Oregon winter day – cold and drizzly, but even so, there were people bundled up on the back patio and I can just visualize the activity during good weather – although as the sign indicates, under control…….!

 

 

 

Earlier I mentioned the tap list, but MH is also known for it house-infused cocktails and jello-shots they have a good collection and get excellent reviews in print and social media:

“……a chalkboard cocktail menu juggling the sublime (“$6.25 Ginger Whiskey Sour”) and ridiculous (“$9 CBD Margarita”).  While most regulars enjoy the well-curated array of mostly local brews, make sure to plunk down $1.50 for a pudding shot—an addictive dollop of soft-serve indulgence that’s become Mad Hanna’s signature libation. As an ideal blend of the playful and potent, the 80 proof is in the pudding.”  Willamette Week June 9, 2018

Now you won’t find an expansive menu here, but they do have some munchies from nachos to hummus and the grilled-cheese sandwich options gets good comments.  And my friend, Jim, paused in our conversation while chowing down on his $4.50 (Happy Hour) peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

This post is already too long, but there’s still a bit more to the story.  One factor that can add to or detract from a bar is the “juke box.”  MH’s garners great reviews not only for the music, but the bar’s approach is consistent with the tone set forth above:

 ……a special note – check out the jukebox here – it has such a great mix, everything from punk to classic country to ROBYN! don’t be afraid to throw in a few quarters and dance, also don’t be shocked if strangers join in too! its a real friendly place 🙂Yelp 7/8/14  (For those out of the cultural mainstream, ROBYN is a Swedish singer and songwriter…..)

Fantastic juke box, but who the heck is ROBYN??

Regardless of whether one considers Mad Hanna a dive or a neighborhood bar, it warrants a visit.

You will see evidence of the comfortable vibe mentioned in this post whether it is seeing a poster about a benefit to help an ailing bartender or resident of the neighborhood,  having a chat with one of the amiable bartenders or even hitting the bathroom – it also has character!

Further evidence of “community”

You should take the advice of this 6/9/18 Yelp reviewer who stated:

“Probably the coolest place I’ve been to in a long time. I will be going back to this place whenever I’m in town!”  6/9/18

And if you run out of conversation topics, you might want to revisit the interpretation of the Reed Ethics Code.  Alternatively, you could discuss the recent article, “What is a Reedie Anyway?”

Mad Hanna  6129 NE Fremont