Beerchasing (and Ubiquity *1) in Maine

Stormy seas along the Acadia Park Loop Road

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this on your phone, click  on the caption at the top to access the blog.)

After three-days in New York City and then a short two-day stay in rural Bridgton, Maine, we spent three days exploring Acadia National Park.  

We stayed in Sourthwest Harbor – population 1,778a little village about fourteen miles from Bar Harbor – population 5,394 – a larger burg, but the former has far fewer people and is not a docking point for cruise ships and SW Harbor still offers some nice amenities and great access to the Park.

Bar Harbor

(The two previous posts of Thebeerchaser related our stay in New York City and then Bridgton, Maine before going to Arcadia – see links)

Maine is a wonderful state – a lot like our Oregon.  The cities of Portland in each state are both jewels and are worth visiting or residing!  (However, different outer garments, are recommended….)

Before the narrative below on sights and breweries/bars we visited in Maine, let’s talk ubiquity (*1)  – six categories that are emblematic of “The Pine Tree State” – most of which we repeatedly witnessed on our delightful trip throughout the state.

Beals” Lobster Shack in SW Harbor

Lobster Shacks – Maine is the largest producer of lobster in the US with 130 million pounds of lobster valued at $533 million in 2016.   The eateries are everywhere you look.  (Portland Press Herald

Dunkin Donut Shops – There are about 150 of these shops in Maine – one for every 8,276 people.   Their coffee is excellent and more available than Starbucks.  (Lewiston Sun Journal)

Self-service Wood Sales  It seems that most rural residents make some extra income by selling bundles of firewood to campers or winter vacationers.   These little structures dot the road. 

Most are $3 (on the honor system) and we got a kick out of the sales pitch of one: “Organic Wood.”  We didn’t check to see how that was certified.

Portland Head Lighthouse

Lighthouses – While Michigan has the most, Maine has over sixty and we saw three beautiful structures close-up including Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and the Portland Head Light.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse

 

Lakes – There are apparently 6,000 water bodies in Maine greater than an acre in size and approximately 2,200 of these are named lakes. (“Science Answers”).

Eagle Lake in the heart of Acadia National Park – our favorite lake

We rode the 6.1 miles around Eagle Lake on one of the Carriage Roads.  There are fifty-seven miles of Carriage Roads that weave through Acadia National Park and are open to hikers, bicyclists and horses.

One travels through great scenery with no autos.  They are a wonderful legacy to John D. Rockefeller who gave millions to build these paths from 1913 to 1940.  They also have some beautiful stone bridges along the way. 

Scene along the Carriage Roads

Moose – well although Maine is supposed to have scads of them, we talked to a lot of people including locals and none had ever seen one.  According to: https://visitmaine.com/things-to-do/wildlife-watching/moose-watching

“Maine is lucky enough to be one of only a few states in the U.S. that has a sizeable moose population.  State biologists estimate that the Maine moose population to be around 75,000 – that’s the largest concentration of moose in the country next to Alaska.”

Okay, we weren’t in exactly wild areas, but  I was determined to have an “encounter.”   So I eventually brought one back to Oregon  – now a favorite coffee mug along with my Benedictine Brewery stein……I got the former at the Stow Corner Store in Stow, Maine – population 425. 

Favorite coffee mug…

 

 

 

 

 

And as you might expect, the last category of ubiquitous Maine features, but very important:

Breweries – While not getting bogged down in a myriad of statistics, suffice to say that the micro-craft industry is thriving in Maine.

According to one portal on national brewery figures, the leading brewery states – per capita in ranked order are Vermont, Montana, Maine, Oregon and Colorado.  Vermont has 11.5 per 100,000 people with Maine at 9.6 and Oregon at 8.5)

Significant economic impact….

The Maine Brewers Guild states that Maine has 89 breweries whereas, according to Oregon Craft Beer, our state has “281 breweries operated by 228 companies in 79 cities across Oregon with 77 people in Portland and 117 in the Portland Metro area.” (6/30/18)

As stated in another website – maybe not the most authoritative –  but this is not a graduate thesis:

“So the overall economic value of Maine beer to the state economy is between that of potatoes and lobster……..over one-third of overnight visitors to Maine (like Thebeerchaser and his wife…) report that going to local brewpubs or craft breweries was a major interest for their Maine trip.”

The afternoon, after our Oli’s Trolley tour of the Loop Road, we visited Atlantic Brewing right in downtown Bar Harbor.  We liked the modern lines of the tasting room and met two nice couples sitting at the bar – from North Carolina and Tennessee – extending their visit until Hurricane Florence had dissipated.

The bartender, although he only had worked there for a few months was very knowledgeable about their beer and the brewing process besides being generous in letting us sample their beers.

All of those we sampled were very good and we solved the problem by getting their five-beer sampler – a very colorful  lineup with our two favorites the Marko Polo  Red Ale (5.4%) and Lil Guy IPA (5.4%) a session IPA with citrus and tropical fruit flavors. (the second and fourth from the left respectively,)  

Atlantic – founded as Acadia Brewing in 1990, has expanded twice and now has two locations – the primary brewery is on a ten-acre farm a few minutes from Bar Harbor.

The tasting room we visited is “a site to develop new and exciting small batch beers only seven barrels at a time. This pilot facility allows fellow brewers from around the state, country, and world to collaborate on unique recipes and formulations in a shared environment.” (Atlantic Brewing Co. website)

Back in SW Harbor for dinner, I said to Janet that it had been quite a few years since I had tried lobster in Maine – Janet doesn’t like it – so we tried Beal’s Lobster Pier – only a few hundred yards from our bed and breakfast.   I tried a formidable, but not the largest lobster, with an Allagash White Ale.  My dinner without the beer set us back about $38.

Based on the taste and the challenge to eat it, I’m glad I tried it again, but after the two experiences, I will always opt for a steak or other seafood in the future or maybe get lobster roll instead of doing all the work myself.

I might add that I did not have guilt over the fate of the lobster although if I had known about Bale’s competitor down the street as featured in a Maine Press report after we returned, we might have gone to Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound.

Lobster “Pot”

“Charlotte Gill (owner) ….. told the Portland (Maine) Press Herald that she had been looking for a way to reduce the suffering of her signature menu item. 

She experimented with blowing marijuana smoke into a tank……to sedate her crustaceans before cooking them – granting them, she says a blissfully humane death.”

As one might expect:

“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which once tried to erect a gravestone for lobsters killed in a truck crash, is opposed to boiling lobsters alive under any circumstances.  ‘It is highly unlikely that getting a lobster high would make a lick of difference when it comes to the full-blown agony of being boiled or steamed alive, PETA said…..”

That afternoon, we strolled through “downtown” Bar Harbor and stopped at the quaint Cottage Street Pub.

We enjoyed sitting on the patio overlooking one of the main streets and split a Maine Brewery – Woods and Water IPA  (6.2%) – appropriately named!    They had a number of good Maine beers on tap.

September after Labor Day and before the “foliage peepers” who invade New England from late September through most of October is the best time to visit Maine.

While Bar Harbor was still bustling, the crowds there and in the park were not bad. Sitting on the patio overlooking one of the main streets was a treat.

The Cottage Street Pub – right in the heart of Bar Harbor and with good beer on tap

 

That night we ate dinner at the bar of one of our favorite restaurants on the trip – Sips in Southwest Harbor.   While Janet had an excellent pasta dish, I decided after my ill-fated encounter with the crustacean the night before, to have a hanger steak – a good choice.

However, the highlight for me was a Happy Hour Bloody Mary.  For $5 I relished the best looking cocktail, I’ve had in a long time.  Multiple olives, lemon, lime and bacon!

For a nightcap, we hit the Island Bar, a cubbyhole down the street with some great signs and some cordial regulars.  It had one side open to the street with a portable heater supplying the warmth. 

They talked about how the town and the surrounding communities would lose most of their tourists and many of their residents and the year-rounders hunkered down for the harsh Maine winters.  (The bartender was headed for Colorado to snowboard, while Hank, our driver/guide on Oli’s Trolley and his girlfriend were heading to Florida.)

We split an Atlantic Brewery Bar Harbor Pale Ale and skipped the bar’s “Margarita-of-the-Month – a blueberry mango.”

Our final morning in the Park was spent driving to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.  While the elevation of this peak pales in comparison to the mountains we see in the Pacific Northwest, it is noteworthy:

“It’s the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6…”

The view is outstanding and there is a walkway that provides vistas in every direction of the Park.

We made a quick trip to another pristine lake – Echo Lake, just before leaving the park .

We then were on our way down the Maine coast- south on US Highway 1 – the Coastal Route through Camden and to our next destination Rockland, Maine.

As an aside, a wonderful resource we used to help plan our trip both in Acadia National Park and in Portland Maine afterwards is the blog National Parks USA – A Tour of Public Lands and National Parks with T.

Theresa, the author, gives useful tips, historical background and has stunning photos on many of the National Parks and Monuments and related public lands – treasures we should not take for granted.  You should check out her blog!

https://nationalparkswitht.com/exploring-the-nps-with-t/

My intention is for this blog to serve as a resource for people with the same passion for the parks as me by tagging the units I review by state and including any off-the-beaten-path recommendations I have to offer.  At the very least, it will serve as a travelogue, a remembrance of where I’ve been and a reminder of where I still need to go.

(*1) The use of the word “ubiquity” is meant as a tribute to both my SAE fraternity brother and college roommate, Craig “The Dude” Hanneman – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in August, 2012 and Kirby Neuman-Rea, News Editor of the Hood River News.

New York City and On to Beerchasing in Maine


We started our ten-day trip to the East Coast with three-days in New York City.  (See the last post of Thebeerchaser for the initial glimpse of our time in NYC).

My only regret is I didn’t get a sausage too…

The last of three and one-half in the City was filled.   After starting with an excellent Apple Fritter at one of the many street carts, we boarded the subway for the ride to the 911 Memorial and Museum.

Words are not adequate to describe the emotions one experiences when walking through the museum after entering through the magnificent rebuilt One World Trade Center.

I remember that morning listening to NBC News seventeen years ago as I was getting ready for work, but to view the pictures and videos, hear the 911 calls, see material such as stationery and calendars pulled from the wreckage and witness the former foundational structure conveys new meaning.  

 

That afternoon, we walked around Midtown and before our Broadway play that Friday evening, stopped and had a pint at the excellent District Tap House – it’s actually two bars.

In the heart of the Garment District on Friday night

The smaller rear bar at the back.

They have an extensive tap list with over fifty beers.

Over 50 Draft Beers to selec

Given our initial encounter at our hotel the day before, we split another Brooklyn Brewing Defender IPA.

It was a friendly place with a Friday vibe as you can see from this picture of Janet and the “bouncer” at the entrance.

We then walked up Broadway to our theater to see the highly recommended play – “Once on This Island.”

“Revised and Ravishing…! Winner of 2018 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical

Part of our interest was the lead – a young woman, Haily Kilgore, who attended Clackamas High School in Oregon for two years and was a star in the Portland theater scene before furthering her education in New York and being cast as Ti Moune  in this Broadway revival. She was nominated for a 2018 Tony Award.

An Oregon transplant..

The theater-in-the-round experience was delightful, and Kilgore and the cast outstanding as evidenced by this excerpt from the 12/17/17 New York Times review entitled “Revived and Ravishing:”

“….and Mr. Arden’s (Director) staging serves his top-to-bottom terrific cast of black, and Hispanic and Asian actors beautifully.”  

On the morning of our fourth day, we took the morning Amtrak to Boston.  Although we had some great food in the City, my favorite meal was the lox and cream-cheese bagel I ate on my lap in the Penn Station waiting area.

Nice train ride….

The view from the window of our coach as we departed on d the four-hour trip to Boston was outstanding.  The coach-bus for the additional hour ride to Portland, Maine and the Amtrak ride were both clean and pleasant.

We picked up our rental car for the next week at the Portland Airport – a trusty Volkswagen Beetle This one was an automatic not like the stick shift on my college-era Beetle that had no gas gauge and a one-gallon reserve tank you switched on manually.   (This one may be the last time in a Beetle since VW is discontinuing the line.)

We stayed at a nearby hotel after dinner at the Sea Dog Brewery by the airport – one of nine locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Florida for this brewery founded in 1993.

Not much ambiance in this brewpub – kind of reminded me of the Portland (or Denver or Chicago or …..) version of the Rock Bottom Brewery franchise. 

That said, the staff was courteous and they had sixteen beers on tap.   I really enjoyed Sea Dog’s award-winning Windjammer Blonde Ale (4.8%) and Janet’s Deep Stowage IPA (6.14%) a dry-hopped cask ale, which is not itemized on their website, also got a good rating. 

We drove through rural areas about forty miles north to Bridgton, Maine, where our Oregon friends, Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell – frequent Beerchasers in Oregon, have a picturesque home named “Pinehaven” on one of Maine’s many beautiful lakes.

Our two-day stay with them was filled with hikes, kayaking on the lake and hitting some great nearby pubs.  They have both been very active in the Lakes Environmental Association – an important initiative to preserve the pristine nature of this natural resource throughout Maine.

Two of the interesting pubs we visited were Ebenezer’s in the historical town of Lovell, settled during the Revolutionary War and incorporated in 1800.  Ebenezer’s adjoins a golf course and is in an old house which includes a wonderful screened porch where we ate and also has a beautiful inside bar.

Picturesque lighted screened porch

The pub has won a number of awards and asserts it’s the “17-Time # 1 Best Beer Destination in the World.”   I didn’t inquire the source of this rating, but their incredible selection of beers is notable as described in this excerpt from a review on Thrillist:

“With more than 700 bottles available and a huge tap selction of Belgian rarities and favorites, Ebenezers has about 1.5 different beers stocked for each of its tiny hometown’s residents.”

That’s where I had my first of many Alagash White Ales (5.0%) on the trip – one of the most popular beers in Maine.  It’s cloudy and white with coriander and orange and was outstanding.

Outstanding Belgian White

Alagash Brewing, founded in Portland, Maine in 1995 now distributes its Belgian-inspired brews to seventeen states.

Ebeneezer’s also had outstanding food including our Reubens and Quesadillas.  This Trip Advisor (7/9/18) review describes it aptly:

Fantastic Food and Beer. This eclectic restaurant is a hidden gem. There is an amazing selection of beer and the menu was vast and most delicious.”

It was definitely one of the best establishments of the many we visited on the trip.

1.5 kinds of beer for every resident….

The next day we took a healthy jaunt on a 2.3 mile trail through Pondicherry Park – a 68 acre gem in the heart of downtown Bridgton  -population 5,384!

Roy and Mary have contributed time and money to improve and maintain it and there are streams, woodlands and abundant wildlife in this family-oriented park..

There are a number of small but innovative obstacles courses along the Pinehaven Trail – gifts of the Lambert-Maxwell family. One of the entrances is through a memorial covered bridge.

The next day after touring rural Maine, we hit an idiosyncratic but cool pub for dinner – the Standard Gastropub right on Main Street in Bridgton. 

This former gas station and mini-market was converted into a gas station and pub which is know for good comfort food and a large selection of beers – both bottled and on tap. 

That’s where we first tried the Kresge Kolsch (4.8%) from Cushnoc Brewing in Augusta, Maine and Bissel Brothers’ Brewing of Portland Maine flagship beer – Substance Ale (6.6%).

We love trying “local” beers and supporting small breweries – a good choice on both beers that night.  Bissel Brothers was founded in 2013 and has already expanded while Cushnoc was founded in 2017.

Nothing fancy – but good food and a LOT of beer options!

Early on Monday, we set out and drove north to Bar Habor and Acadia National Park“Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.” 

We checked into our quaint bed-and-breakfast – the Harbor Cottage Inn in SW Harbor and took Oli’s Trolley for a 2.5 hour tour of the Acadia Park Loop Road – the best way to get an overview of the park and avoid traffic problems. 

The weather was a bit stormy and windy which made the view along the coastline that much better.

The next post will narrate what we saw in the Park and some of the watering holes in both SW Harbor and Bar Harbor – two wonderful Maine Villages.

 

 

 

Autumn (and Beerchasing) in New York….

New York City from Brooklyn

Since the commencement of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in 2011, I have visited and reviewed upwards of 250 establishments – initially just in the Portland area.   Our retirement travel, however, prompted expanding the “journey” to bars in other locations ranging from those in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii and many regions of the US to those throughout the State of Oregon including the coast and Eastern Oregon.

Outside the Ed Sullivan Theater

My wife, Janet, although not accompanying me to dive bars, has enjoyed finding new breweries and neighborhood pubs on these trips. She has developed a fondness for IPA’s – a different route than her previous preference for only wine.

On our most recent trip to New York City, Maine and Boston, we saw breathtaking scenery, explored another one of our wonderful National Parks (Acadia), toured interesting museums, went to a Broadway play, attended the Stephen Colbert Show, took some great hikes/bicycle rides and had some great food in both urban and rural eateries.

During this time, we also raised a mug in five establishments in New York City, fifteen in Maine and one in Boston.

(To allay any concern about the amount of alcohol consumed, it should be noted that our standard practice when visiting bars or breweries is to split a pint of beer or have a 4 ounce sampler so we can both check out the watering hole and sample the beer.   It’s usually only when we have dinner that we each have our own drink.)

Janet at the bar in historic Durty Nelly’s in the North End of Boston

Another tip for travelers who want to have a similar experience – always sit at the bar if stools are open.  This provides the best chance to talk to a bartender and meet locals or strangers and share their experiences.

The following are the bars, breweries and restaurants we visited on our twelve-day trip:

New York City

Patio Bar – Marriott Pulse Hotel

Rooftop Bar – Marriott Pulse Hotel

The District Tap House

The District Tap House in the Garment District

Bryant Park Bar and Grill

Butter Restaurant

Heartland Brewery

A thriving Heartland Brewing near Times Square on a Thursday night

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maine

Sea Dog Brewery  – Portland, Maine

Ebenezers Restaurant and Pub –Lovell, Maine

Standard Gastropub – Bridgton, Maine

The delightful brewpub at Atlantic Brewing in Bar Harbor

Atlantic Brewery – Bar Harbor, Maine

Cottage Street Pub – Bar Harbor, Maine

Sips Restuarant – Southwest Harbor, Maine

The Island Bar in Southwest Harbor

Island Bar – Southwest Harbor,Maine

Marshall Wharf Brewery –   Belfast Harbor, Maine

Shipyard Brewing – Portland, Maine

Sebago Brewing – Portland, Maine

Rock Harbor Pub and Brewery – Rockland, Maine

Rising Tide Brewery – Portland, Maine

Boston

Giaccommos – Boston, Massachusetts

Durty Nelly’s – Boston, Massachusetts

Legal Sea Food – Boston, Massachusetts

This post will relate most of our three and one-half day stay in New York City, with two follow-up posts covering the final day in NYC, Maine and Boston.   Although this blog is about bars and beer, given the sights seen and the cultural experiences, I ask your indulgence to expand the narrative to be a Travelogue, of sorts, including pictures which made this a vacation we will long remember.

It should be noted for those who remember one of the late John Candy’s best films, this was a trip that involved planes, trains, subway, automobiles, buses, trolley, bicycles and even kayaks.

Penn Station

We flew into the Newark Airport and took the train into Penn Station, which was only about one-half mile from our hotel downtown on West 37th Street between 5th Ave. and the Avenue of the Amercas.  A great location in the heart of the City.

We split a beer on the patio bar outside the Marriott Pulse Hotel with two other couples.   One of them was an electronic engineer – he and his wife were from Australia.

He had an impressive academic  background and he pointed to the “Columbia” on my sport shirt and told me that he thought it was an impressive Ivy League University.  While Oregon State needs no apology, I simply informed him that Columbia was an Oregon sportswear company.

Brooklyn Brewing’s Defender IPA

We both had a new beer Brooklyn Brewing’s Defender IPA brewed with Cascade Hops.  (I wish I had known at the time that these Oregon hops which are the most widely used hops by craft breweries in the US and were “developed in the USDA breeding program at Oregon State University in the 1960’s.” Wikipedia).

Not the Ivy League, but a great aggie school! 

The brevity of our stay precluded visiting the brewery itself, but it has an interesting history starting with its roots in 1988.  It’s founder, Steve Hindy, is a former AP correspondent who covered the Middle East during a war-torn period.   When his Beirut hotel was hit by a mortar shell, he decided he and his family should return to New York.

“Steve befriended diplomats based in Saudi Arabia, where Islamic law prohibits alcoholic beverages.  The envoys were avid homebrewers and happily plied Steve with their flavorful beers.  Returning to live in Brooklyn and editing foreign news for Newsday, Steve started brewing at home.”  (Brooklyn Brewing website)

The history is very interesting including a glimpse at the grand opening of their Brooklyn Brewing brewhouse, tasting room and offices in 1996.  New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, foreshadowed his current role as a “TV lawyer” as follows:

Steve introduced Guiliani to about 100 reporters assembled in the street in front of the brewery’s towering front doors. The mayor, who had a combative relationship with New York City’s notoriously prickly press corps, pulled Steve up next to him and said, ‘I want all you journalists to look at this man. He used to be a reporter, but now he is making an honest living.'”  (Brooklyn Brewing website)

Since we got to the hotel in the late afternoon, we had an early dinner after walking through Midtown.  The ubiquitous sirens and horns create an underlying clamer which residents ignore.  I was struck by the sense of purpose reflected by pedestrians – also the incredible diversity. 

Take a look at this 7th Ave. intersection near Penn Station.  It aptly demonstrates the mix of nationalities and demographics that make New York City such an interesting and cultural melting pot — a good thing and one that is reflected in the amazing assortment of restaurants, shops and neighborhoods.

Although some might question the substance of my claim, I felt it was a homecoming, of sorts, since I was born in Mineola, New York when we lived in Merrick, Long Island.   We moved to Philadelphia when I was eighteen-months old and other than my brother, Garry’s graduation from West Point, I had only visited the City once before this trip.

Mineola, New York Town Hall and Community Center in Nassau County

(Note:  I might add that Janet fortunately persuaded me not to take a cab or rent a car and fight traffic to Mineola to see the hospital where I think I came into the world – NYU Winthrop Hospital.)

I agreed that the doctors and nurses who would have attended me would now be in either their late nineties or past the century mark.

This hospital also rates only three out of five stars on Yelp (if that’s where you look to choose a medical facility….)  One reviewer called it a “third-world facility” while another said her father “walked out and said he would rather die than continue the ER visit.”  (I’m sure it was better than in the late ’40’s).

Since Frank Sinatra hit the charts with it in 1949, the year after Thebeerchaser’s birth, nostalgia prompted me to excerpt a few verses from the classic – “Autumn in New York.”

Autumn in New York
The gleaming rooftops at sundown
Oh, autumn in New York
It lifts you up when you run down

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel I’m home

The view of the Empire State Building from our hotel’s rooftop bar.

Our restaurant that night was Butter – we had an excellent meal and we ate in the dining room although it also had a beautiful bar that was filled.  That night we capped off our evening with a drink on the open-air rooftop bar of the hotel.  It was notable for its impressive and unforgettable view of the Empire State Building.  The American Pilsner that we split was also very good and from another Brooklyn brewery – War Flag Brewing.

The walk across The Brooklyn Bridge

The next morning was a 3 ½ hour walking tour across the Brooklyn Bridge and through Brooklyn by Free Tours by Foot, an organization that has proven great for us in both Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.

The fee for the tour is totally up to the generosity of participants who  provide a gratuity at the end.  Our guide was knowledgeable and articulate.  The only negative factor was the 104 degree temperature. (As in the previous tours, one wonders about the humanity of those few who eagerly participate in these tours and then walk away without tipping!)

We were impressed by the subway system and used it each day we were in the City.  People were very helpful and besides hopping on a train after the Walking Tour that took us farther into Brooklyn rather than Uptown to Manhattan – it was great.   The problem was easily resolved by getting out at the first station and did not require an additional fare.

It is interesting to see the sizeable percentage of commuters who are “buried” in their cell phones during the ride.  I guess that aside from the medium, this is no different than in the old days when people spread out copies of the New York Times, the New York Post of the Wall Street Journal.  (It’s also probably a lot less annoying to seatmates.)

That evening was one of the highlights of the visit – VIP tickets to the Stephen Colbert show on Thursday thanks to my oboe instructor, Kelly Gronli, whose brother-in-law, Gabe, is a writer on the show.   Unlike most of the audience who had to wait from late morning until the 4:30 admission time at the Ed Sullivan Theater, we got in line at 4:00 and had great seats in the first row of the balcony.

Given the 104 degree heat outside, I “froze” in the air-conditioned studio while we waited for Stephen to appear and during the taping – two nights on that Thursday which allowed us to see two monologues.   It was a memorable experience.

There are no pictures from the inside of the theater because their policy on cell phones and photos was similar to that at the Vatican in the Sistine Chapel.   If they even viewed a cell phone or i-Pad, you would be extricated from the Theater, prevented from attending the show forever and presumably reported to the appropriate federal and state authorities or ex-communicated!

The Colbert band was amazing, Stephen was funny and candid when he spontaneously answered questsions from the audience before the show, his interviews of his guests – Emma Thompson and Troye Sivan (South African singer and actor) were superb.

Since we got out of the theater so late, rather than a restaurant, we went to the attractive open air bar at Bryant Park where we had an expensive and disappointing quesadilla.   We split a pint of Blue Moon Belgian White Ale because we were craving an orange….

It had been a long day, we walked back and stopped, but did not have a beer in to the Times Square brewpub of employee-owned Heartland Brewery – one of three downtown locations of this craft brewery that opened in 1995.  It looked interesting and was packed.

The next post will cover our final day in New York City and the first part of our trip to Maine.

 

Bar 33 (Brooklyn) and Then???


What draws a person to watering hole?   Having visited over 250 bars, taverns and breweries in the last seven years of which about one-half were in the Portland area, I feel reasonably qualified to opine…..

Multnomah Whiskey Library

In some cases, it might be the extensive tap list or whiskey labels.  Examples might be Bailey’s Tap House (24 rotating taps) or the Multnomah Whiskey Library (1,500 different labels) both in downtown Portland. (Click on the link to see Thebeerchaser review of all bars mentioned in this post.)

I would suggest, however, that when one confronts more than fifteen or so drafts or ten labels of Scotch, the incremental magnitude of the drink menu becomes somewhat irrelevant (as long as PBR is one of the drafts….).

Bailey’s Tap List – how many drafts does one need?

In other cases, it might simply be economics.  A good Happy Hour with $1.50 PBRs or cheap but strong cocktails can garner a loyal group of regulars.

At Gil’s Speakeasy, their claim to be “The Nicest A-holes in Town,” might just be correct, and the cheap beer is supplemented by a daily food special such as a $3 chili dog (Saturdays) or three tacos for a buck on Mondays — that’s also Dirty Bingo Night!.

Or maybe it’s just the attraction of an ice-cold Hamms on tap for a buck  – all day each Wednesday.  That’s the case at The Standard.  It’s a NE dive bar which Mathew Korfhage, the fabled (and now former) bar reviewer at Willamette Week in the WW 2017 Portland Bar Guide described as:

“….cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

The Standard – “A GD Treasure.”

While I could go on for pages on other criteria drawing one to a bar, I will complete this list by adding the critical factor of ambiance or character.  It’s where an establishment as you walk by beckons you – like the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.

Odysseus and the Sirens from Homer – tied to the mast…..

Maybe it’s the engaging and cordial staff or the friendly regulars that radiate a welcoming atmosphere that pervades the place like smoke from the Taylor Wild Fire in the City of Grants Pass.  (And before Oregon’s Smoke Free law passed in 1981, most dive bars had the same Air Quality Index reading…)

My favorite Portland examples are the Dockside along the Willamette River in North Portland or Cracker Jack’s Pub in NW.  As you walk out the door, you are already planning your next return trip…..

The Dockside – a hidden gem

Or perhaps its the idiosyncratic layout with an eclectic mix of red booths and scattered tables, classic pinball games and memorabilia including old beer signs, deer antlers, tacky but “timeless” art and placards with quotes such as these two from the historic Bay Haven Inn in Newport:

“I’ve been fishing so long, my worm is getting Social Security.”      

“Soup of the Day — Whiskey”  

The Bar at the Bay Haven Inn – established in 1908

One of the most memorable examples is the Tank of Death at the Tide Pool Pub in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast where Vicki, the owner, will tell you about going to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” in Iowa, when her dad worked in a slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant.

Vicki and Thebeerchasing crew in 2014 – she also makes the best pizza on the coast

The Tank of Death is graphically described by former coastal bar blogger, (“Letitpour.net”) Matt Love, as:

“A salt-water glass coffin called the Tank of Death.  It is packed with all manner of marine creatures caught by local fishermen who bucket in their curious finds and dump them in.  Eels, crabs, sea bass, perch, Dick Cheney, octopi and urchins all end up in the mix……….

The Tank of Death – a “Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation….

According to the bartender, aquatic creatures regularly stage a battle royal to the death and the tank serves as a Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation  – with bets slapped down and accelerated drinking when the water turns a creamy, cloudy red.”   

But I digress (considerably) with this 700 word introduction to Bar 33 – Brooklyn.  Perhaps, it’s my frustration with a bar that looked like it might be a very interesting site to meet some new people and experience the engaging climate that has typified a majority of the barrooms I have frequented on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

However after three separate visits, I left with the sentiment:

“Visit it for a mug of one of the ten drafts and to hear a good Van Morrison song from a decent juke box.  But then move on to an establishment where you will want to return – maybe even invite your mom to visit.”  (And a number are not far from Bar 33 – see below) 

Now it’s not because of lack of amenities – the bar is pretty spacious and has an attractive back bar.

There are a number of games such as Big Buck Hunter and even two Skee Balls, an electronic juke box, a number of big screen TVs, a pool table and an expansive albeit unspectacular patio with a fire pit that would be nice for a summer afternoon – dogs are welcome.  There’s also a large parking lot.

Most of the social media comments are above average although there are not that many reviews.  But on my visits, the bar had no vibe or energy – admittedly a subjective judgment and I might make a return trip on a weekend night to see if that helps.

Part of the problem is they have no web site – nor does their sister establishment Bar 33 – Gresham.   And their Facebook page has very intermittent material.  For example, besides a post on September 2nd announcing, “Thursday Night Football is Back,” the most current posts were on June 20th and April 18th – both for free comedy line-ups.

And evidently they have Karoke on Saturday nights and Trivia Nights, but unless you are a regular or see their sign, that information probably passes you by.

The last “events” advertised on Facebook were from December 15, 2017 launching their new menu and happy hour (no details were included) and live music by the Still River Drifters on October 14th. (The last entry on Bar 33 – Gresham Facebook page was posted on 2/27/17.)

A person answering the phone on 9/3/18 said, “We don’t have live music any more, but we’re looking into it.”   Since they had an empty popcorn machine in the bar, I also asked about this and he responded, “We no longer have free popcorn.”

The bartender on my visits was efficient, but preoccupied even though there were few people in the bar (you order food and drink at the bar).

The background info I got on the bar came from on-line research where I learned that the building’s predecessors were a Chinese restaurant named Yummy Garden  and more recently a Salvador Molly’s. (Sellwood Bee 12/24/18)

I assume that like the Nineteen 33 Taproom in the Willamette section of West Linn – a great pub Thebeerchaser reviewed in February 2017 – the name of Bar 33 is derived from the monumental year in US history, when Prohibition – the 18th Amendment was repealed and replaced by the 21st Amendment after a failed fourteen year fiasco.  However, one would never know otherwise the derivation of the name.

And the co-owners evidently have a hospitality background:

“After years of working in the bar, brewery and restaurant industry, Owners Jeff Pochop and Jake Whitney decided to work for themselves. 

Opening Bar 33 Gresham in 2011, Jeff and Jake are now on their fourth location.  Including Pastimes Sports Bar & Pizza in Fairview, Oregon and a small deli in Lebanon, Oregon.”

Besides the good Backwoods Copperline Amber I had, the other redeeming factor on one of my visits to Bar 33, was raising a mug with Larry Frank.

Larry Frank – outstanding lawyer and great guy…

Larry is a recently retired VP and Associate Legal Counsel for Standard Insurance.  A Lewis and Clark Law grad and University of Iowa alumnus, he is an outstanding lawyer and a great guy.

We can applaud Pochop and Whitney as entrepreneurs, but Bar 33 – Brooklyn has a lot of unrealized potential in Thebeerchaser’s humble opinion.   If you want to check it out it’s located at 4729 SE Milwaukie Ave – just north of Sellwood.

And maybe you will find a different environment than id did; however, I would suggest that after a quick beer there or one of their cocktails which seemed reasonably interesting, you spend the bulk of your time at one of the following:

The Brooklyn Park Pub, (2 minutes or .7miles) the first stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour in 2011, where one of Portland’s best bartenders, Phoebe Newcombe will serve you beer in a Mason jar and make you feel very welcome.  You can also ask her about the Brooklyn’s iconic Whiskey Club.

Phoebe at the Brooklyn Park Pub – a class act..

Or you could check out The Muddy Rudder (6 minutes or 2.1 miles) on the east side of the Sellwood Bridge, which definitely does have live music and a great environment.

Chart a course to the Muddy Rudder

 

 

Then there’s the Ancestry Brewery’s Taphouse (5 minutes or 1.9 miles) at 8268 SE 13th Ave where you can have a pint of their flagship beer – Best Coast IPA and some outstanding beer-battered fish and chips.

Ancestry Tap House

 

And if you want some exercise, just south of Bar 33, you can take the trail for 1.1 miles along the Oaks Bottom Wild Life Refuge to the Lompoc Brewing’s Oaks Bottom Public House.

You will walk through an urban wetland popular with bird watchers and full of other critters including beavers, otters and cranes (not the construction kind although there are plenty of those in Sellwood lately.)

Urban Wetlands in the Oak Bottom Wildlife Refuge

A “must” at the Oaks Bottom Pub

In the living room environment of the Pub, you can have a fantastic Cobb salad and a pint of their outstanding Proletariat Red Ale.

Now, there’s even a new brewery only 3.3 miles away – Ruse Brewing, whose co-owners and brewers, Shaun Kalis and Devin Benware, at least from their website and some early reviews, seem to have the passion which appears to be missing from the aforementioned co-owners:

“We brew small batch, flavorful, and thoughtfully-crafted beers. We work with local artists and musicians to design beers paired with their art for concept events and beer releases. Our community is a major inspiration for our company vision, we will do what it takes to be involved and support other businesses and organizations.”

Ruse will be a stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour in the next few months.

Now this is the first review of over 200 blog entries, in which I have set forth more words talking about other establishments than the focus of the post.   I can defend that, however, because all of the others mentioned above, captivated the imagination regardless of what time the visit or how many people were in the bar – not the case with Bar 33.

Bar 33 pool table and games

Bar 33 Brooklyn      4729 SE Milwaukie     Portlan

Taste and Believe!


The history of beer is as robust as an imperial stout and has religious roots.  These generally date back to the sixth century when the monks at the Benedictine Brewery in Monte Cassino started brewing beer in the monastery founded by Benedict of Nursia.  Saint Benedict is also the originator of the Rule of St. Benedict.

Benedict of Nursia

As stated in a Jesuit Press article entitled  How Monks Revolutionized Beer and Evangelization,: 

“If you love beer, thank a monk.  Monks have been producing beer for 1,500 years, and in that time, they have revolutionized and perfected the beer making process.”

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

Well, after more than five years of planning, constructing, training and testing,  Oregonians now have an opportunity to reap the fruits of that legacy in their own backyard.

The Benedictine Brewery is now brewing on site across from the hop fields on Mount Angel Abbey property in the City of Mt. Angel .

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll

The Brewery and the St. Michael Taproom were blessed by Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, in an inspirational ceremony on the afternoon of August 8th attended by monks, priests, seminarians, Abbey Hilltop employees and special guests.

Abbot Jeremy, an Idaho native was professed a monk in 1974, ordained as a priest in 1981 and elected the 12th Abbot of the Abbey in 2016.  The Abbey Monastery was founded in 1882 and the Seminary in 1889.

The ceremony commenced with Fr. Martin Grassel, OSB, who will be the General Manager of the Brewery and whose vision was the motivating force stated:

“Father Abbot, we ask a blessing on this building constructed for brewing beer, so we may live by the work of our hands bringing forth from nature and art, a drink we pray, will gladden hearts, bring friends together and lend them to the thankful praise of God.”

Abbot Jeremy and Fr. Martin at the Blessing Ceremony

The Timber Raising

Although planning for the Brewery commenced over five years ago and the monks have been brewing on a contract basis with Seven Brides Brewing of Silverton, the primary construction phase was marked by an old-fashioned barn or timber-raising last November. On that cloudy day, over one-hundred monks, seminarians and members of the Mt. Angel community gathered in the early morning.  

What began the day as a foundation and concrete pad ended up as a structural fame with six bents (two-dimensional transverse rigid frames and the building blocks that define the overall shape of a structure) using 14,000 board feet of Douglas Fir timber harvested from the Abbey tree farm.

To see pictures, video and read about that event see Thebeerchaser post:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

The following video is one example of those shown in the aforementioned post.

 

The first prayer ceremony in the brewery.

Workers broke at noon for the first prayer service in the brewery, rather than the standard service in the beautiful Abbey Chapel.

Fr. Vincent Trujillo, OSB, led the service – which was “uplifting”– very consistent with the theme that day! The monks sang and were joined by the other participants.

Scrumptuous even without pigs stomarch…

We were rejuvenated by a delicious spread of barbecued chicken, baked beans, potato salad, fruit and green salad.  Missing from the traditional feast of historic barn raising in Amish and Mennonite communities was the standard main course – pig stomach!

What a wonderful collaborative effort that day.

 

Who Should Come to the Brewery and Taproom and Why?

With over 260 breweries in Oregon, most with taprooms, why should you visit the Benedictine?  That question is answered more thoroughly below, but one reason is that it is one of only three in the US in which monks are the owners and operators of the brewery. You have to travel to the wild Chama Canyon near Abiquiu, New Mexico for the closest to Mount Angel Abbey – that of Christ in the Desert Monastery.

Fr. Martin Grassel –

Fr. Martin as General Manager and Fr. Jacob Stronach, the Head Brewer will be guiding other monks who will assist in the brewing, bottling and maintenance of the equipment.  The beer will use locally sourced hops grown on Abbey land and water from the monks’ well.

Fr. Jacob briefing his colleagues on the brewing process

Fr. Martin is a University of North Dakota graduate in Computer Science who started his career in Phoenix as a software engineer for Honeywell Corporation before he got the call and made the trip to Mount Angel for seminary in 1995.

“Once I stepped across the threshold at Mount Angel, I knew I was home,”   His fascinating story can be viewed at

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/07/26/father-martin-grassel-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/

The Environment

The brewery and taproom are in rural setting at the lower edge of the Abbey grounds and across from the hop fields.  A friend who is a noted NW architect and saw pictures of the taproom interior (not quite finished) and external shell responded with the following comment:

“The building looks splendid – adhering to the Benedictine principle of elegance through simplicity.  What a splendid project with which to be engaged – one in which rewards will precede heaven.”

Taproom as it nears completion

The interior of the taproom has a great Northwest ambiance – attractive wooden beams, community tables and benches.  There is a patio on the south end with picnic tables looking over the hop fields with the imposing steeple of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Mt. Angel in the background.

The magnificent steeple of St. Mary’s Catholic Church

And only a mile away, the Abbey Hilltop, overlooking Marion County farmland has an inspiring campus with the splendid chapel as the focus,

 

Besides the Chapel, there is a bookstore, museum which integrates art with natural history, a retreat center (guest house), seminary classrooms and dorms and a noted library:

“Housed in a world-renowned building …..the Mount Angel Abbey Library provides …. access to a large collection of books and other library material in a wide range of subjects including medieval manuscripts and rare materials from the Civil War.” (Abbey web site)

Library mezzanine

 

 

 

 

“It is one of only two buildings in the United States (the other is at MIT) designed by Alvar Aalto – one of the early giants of modern architecture. Completed in 1970, the library received the 2014 World Monuments Fund Award. Recently, Oregon architects voted it the second most iconic building in the state, after Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood.”  (Mount Angel Letter – Summer 2018)

The People

You and your family (including children) will find when you visit both the St. Michael Taproom and the Hilltop, that the Abbey Community including monks, seminarians and employees are a diverse, interesting and hospitable group.   And the people in the City of Mt. Angel are enthusiastic about this project and we expect them to be regular visitors to the taproom.

The Glockenspiel Restaurant will provide the food at the taproom ranging from chili, to pretzels to fondue and cheeses. As Fr. Martin said, “With Oktoberfest and a German heritage, this is a beer-loving town.”  (The St. Michael Taproom will be open to the public during Mt. Angel Oktoberfest, September 13 to 16, for tastings and tours and the Grand Opening will be September 22-3.)

The Mt. Angel Octoberfest Board at a Taproom preview event on the patio.

Br. Andre Love

The monks have come to the Monastery from all over the world with amazing backgrounds.   We already talked about Fr. Martin, but meet Br. Andre Love who is standing by the sign that he made which will hang on the outside of the brewery.

He is the Curator of the Abbey Museum, an artist who once owned a tattoo parlor and a talented designer who was a key figure in designing the Taproom.

Or you might raise a mug with Br. Bede Ramos who hails from the Philippines and  had a background in international human resources before he came to the Seminary.

Br. Bede with a bottle of Black Habit

And if you want to hear a marvelous southern drawl, just order a mug from the new Taproom Manager, Jennie Baxley, a Texas native who just drove across the country in her move from North Carolina to launch St. Michael.

She has a background in education and the hospitality industry and is shown in the picture below with Fr. Liem who is originally from Viet Nam – a monk for twenty-nine years.

The Beer

Initially, the number of beers will be limited to a certain extent as the Brewery ramps up production.  Taps will feature Belgian beers with NW hops including Black Habit – a smooth dark beer which has received an enthusiastic reception fom the brewing community and beer lovers. 

In addition, St. Benedict Farmhouse Ale and Haustus Pale Ale and Fr. Martin’s Helles Lager are some of the beers in the tap list still under development.  Cider (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and wine and root beer from Mount Angel will also be served.

The beer will be crafted in the brewing tradition that recognizes Saint Arnold of Metz, a Benedictine Monk who is known as the “Patron Saint of Brewers.”

“In medieval times, beer was an essential, as many places did not have access to clean drinking water. Arnold gladly brewed the beer for the local peasants and encouraged them to drink it instead of water”

St. Arnold of Soissons – Patron Saint…

He once said, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”

The People!!

This factor is worth restating as it will differentiate the Benedictine Brewery from others and also begs the question:

Is this a taproom where one has to be Catholic or have a religious bent to enjoy it and feel welcome.   Let’s look at the Brewery Guiding Principles authored by Fr. Martin:

“To say it should be a place of hospitality and welcome and family-friendliness would be too shallow. It should be a place where people are more than just welcome.

A place where they will feel blessed, where they will feel the peace of the Abbey, where they will encounter faith in an inviting and non-threatening way, where they will want to come back because of the spiritual atmosphere.” 

So how is that “blessing” imparted?  Fr. Martin goes on to state it is the feeling one will encounter there and leave with as exemplified: 

“By the greeting you receive.  The respect people are shown, the simplicity and the values encountered.  The presence of monks, priests and seminarians.  The peace of the Hilltop.  

The contemplative view of the hop fields.  The blessing of the taproom when it opens daily.  Having your personal items blessed if you make that request.”

You might even meet Abbey Jeremy, shown in the picture below toasting with Br. Anselm, from Bakersfield, California, who is one of four novices who one year ago made their simple vows (stability, conversion of life and obedience – essentially becoming junior monks).

And consider having Abbot Jeremy autograph one of the books he has written including The Monks Alphabet  – my absolute favorite and a wonderful read.

It’s a series of short essays with the Abbot’s own reflections on topics ranging from serious theology including his years spent teaching in Rome, to thoughts on literature to keenly observed moments in nature, to his unique experiences as a youngster.

The latter includes his adventures when he was nineteen – he and three friends had jobs as cowboys in New Mexico.  Fortunately, by then he had learned some lessons in life including how to avoid accidents:  “When I was five-years old, my brother and I burned our garage down.  It was a big accident.” 

So this fall, if you are taking a trip to nearby Silver Falls State Park, the Oregon Garden or just want to have an interesting and peaceful afternoon on the Abbey Hilltop, “tap” off your trip with a tour of the Benedictine Brewery and have a glass of Black Habit or one of the other Benedictine Beers.

Whether you meet Taproom Manager, Jennie Baxley, Fr. Martin, a resident of the Mt. Angel community, Br. Bede or someone who has traveled from Sacramento to see the wonders of Oregon, you will enjoy the fellowship and the beer.

(The video below is the Hilltop on the day of the St. Benedict Festival in July)

Beerchaser Miscellany – What’s up in Bars, Breweries, Etc.?

The Benedictine Brewery

After over five years of planning and months of construction, the monks at the Benedictine Brewery are close to fulfilling the vision at the Mount Angel Abbey.  I’ve worked as a volunteer on this wonderful project  for the last two years. It will be one of only two breweries west of the Mississippi in which the monks are the owners and operators – the other being that located near Albuquerque, at the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery.

Fr. Martin Grassel

Father Martin Grassel, will be the General Manager and Fr. Jacob Stronach, the Head Brewer.   The Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom will occur on September 22nd, shortly after the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest and you should plan to visit and raise a mug of their flagship beer – Black HabitOr if you are not a fan of dark beer, try the superb Benedictine Farmhouse Pale Ale.  Fr. Martin was Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in July, 2017. 

The picture above shows the facility as it draws closer to completion.  It has evolved from the remarkable Community Timber Raising ceremony in November at which over 100 monks, seminarians and community members helped erect the frame of the building from what started out as only the concrete foundation.  Some amazing videos of the event are included in the post below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

Benedictine Brewery hardware ready to go….

The Dynamic World of Bars and Breweries.

The world of bars and breweries is ever changing.  Fortunately, when we hear about bars closing, one will concurrently learn about new establishments – usually breweries, opening either in the former location as was the case with former Oregon Duck football star Joey Harrington’s Pearl Tavern (see below).

Backwoods – thriving in Carson and now in the Pearl

Successful enterpreneurs, Steve and Tom Waters, the owners and operators of the Backwoods Brewery and Taproom in Carson, Washington since 2012, will launch their new Pearl District pub in the vacated quarters at NW Everett and 11th.  The Waters are both University of Portland grads and great people.  Check out the new operation.

A loss to Portland is one of the first three bars I visited when I started Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in August 2011 – the Ash Street Saloon.   A Willamette Week article entitled, “From Ashes to Ash Street,” describes the unique place this bar played in the Portland music scene before its December 2017 closing:

Gone but not Forgotten

“When tales are told of the downtown ‘rock blocks’ that once cultivated a burgeoning music scene, the Ash Street Saloon often doesn’t take center stage…..But soldiering on for decades with genre’ spanning live acts 365 days a year served a function just as vital – and one we suspect, far harder to replace.” 

The Copper Penny – a dive but with an interesting history

Other closures in the last eighteen months or so include the Lompoc Hedge House, BTU Brasserie, the Commons and the historic Copper Penny in Lents – now a high rise surrounded by new development.

But new locations of existing breweries such as Sasquatch, Migration, Storm Breaker, Baerlic and Great Notion ensure that Portlanders will never lack for great locations to drink good beer.

And there are creative bars such as Fido’s, which according to Willamette Week purports to be the “world’s first dog tap house.” It opened last February in Tigard and “is part 40-tap beer bar and part dog rescue shelter with a playroom filled with six adoptable dogs…”

This brings back memories of Thebeerchaser’s 2014 visit to Sniff Cafe in NW Portland in which I reported:

If you stop in for a glass of beer or wine during Happy Hour….you get a $1 discount on beer and wine plus your pooch gets a free romp in the pet indoor play area – even getting occasional personal attention by one of their attendants.  You also get to view not only your pooch, but the other dogs cavorting in this puppy plan pen.”  

And while I am not generally a fan of retail establishments such as sports shop and especially Starbucks, ill-fated effort to substitute for the traditional neighborhood watering hole, I think two Portland establishments with this model deserve a visit.

From Music Millenium Facebook page

One is Portland icon, Music Millennium – the oldest record store in the Pacific NW, operating since 1969 and after having some challenges with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, added beer and wine in 2015 to its amazing collection of recordings sold in all formats in their Burnside store.

And after a quick call, I was pleased to talk to an amiable chap on a Sunday evening, who told me that they currently had three beers on tap – all of them excellent from three outstanding Oregon breweries – Barley Brown’s, Boneyard and Pfriem.

So if you want to pick up (or sell) an historic or fabled music item such as the two in my collection of ’78’s and ’33 RPM albums (see pictures) check them out and have a micro-brew while you’re there.

A classic Big Band 78 RPM collection

The second retail establishment that looks interesting is also music-related –  Strum.  This is not the brewery in Ontario, California, but the vintage guitar shop and wine/beer bar on SE Stark Str.

As a Willamette Week article stated shortly after their opening earlier this summer, “If a guitar is the vehicle for rock music, then beer is the fuel.”  (It has four micro-brew taps.)

Now these niche-type establishments have a place and deserve support, but Thebeerchaser harkens back to the neighborhood pub or dive bar for true ambiance.  (Recent Beerchaser examples include The Standard, Mock Crest Tavern,  or T.C. O’Leary’s or Gil’s Speakeasy just to name a few in Portland.

The Mock Crest in North Portland

Of course, then you have the Old Oregon Saloon or The Sportsman Pub and Grub on the coast or Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee.  But don’t forget … I could go on and on….!!  (Click on the name of the establishment above to see Thebeerchaser’s review.)

A Dundee classic!

An April, 2018 Willamette Week article entitled, “Bubble Bobble – After a Record Year of Closures, Craft Breweries are Rethinking Some Things”  sums up the trend well:

“…beer geeks (are) wondering if the craft bubble has finally burst…..The answer might be to freshen up your direct-to-consumer roots, like all the local beer bars that have recently remodeled….. 

One of such establishments that has done it right is Old Town Brewing – in its brewery and pub on NE Martin Luther King Blvd.

Old Town Brewing in N.E. Portland – sparkling, but feels like home.. Stay tuned for the review….

“Rather than expanding distribution, younger breweries…..are opening new locations to meet customers in person and compete as local watering holes…..Why shouldn’t breweries be more like coffee shops and local taverns instead of cold manufacturing spaces?”   

The Portland BrewBarge

Thebeerchaser’s first experience on a mobile bar (as contrasted to the similar sensation in college described as the “Blind Whirley’s”…) was in 2014 on the Portland Pedalounge. Lloyd, the owner and “driver” took us on a great trip through the streets of SE Portland, stopping for brewskis at several bars and breweries along the way.   

The crew with our fearless leader, Lloyd…

My friends and I really enjoyed this trip – and Lloyd was a kick.  All of us would recommend it.

The second “bar in motion” experience was last week on the Portland BrewBarge.   Unlike the Pedalounge or this company’s equivalent BrewCycle where you drink at stops along the way, you can enjoy a beer while “pedaling” the boat or just relaxing on your leisurely 90-minute cruise up and then back down the Willamette River – either with your own beer or what you purchase from them.

All Aboard!

My son-in-law, Ryan Keene and I joined two of my favorite lawyers – Brien Flanagan and Carson BowlerEnvironmental Law partners at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, where I worked for twenty-five years before retiring.

Ryan and Thebeerchaser

The BrewBarge was an outing for Summer Associates (law school students who clerk at the firm) and a few graduates who had finished the Oregon Bar Exam that afternoon and were understandably ready to slake their thirst.

Captain Eric in yellow shirt) brief his crew..

Note:  It was nice to be floating on the surface of the beautiful Willamette and Brien, Carson and I did not talk about the DEQ, the EPA or the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.   I also took comfort in a recent article I read in an OPB post (6/17/18) which based on their research with the aforementioned agencies asserted:

“A person would have to spend a very long time in the river – like hundreds of years – or be exposed to much high concentrations of heavy metals, industrial compounds, flame retardants, agriculture chemicals and pharmaceuticals to reach the level of exposure health officials worry about.”

Contemplating the hazards of PBR

(Carson opined that the likelihood of me having an adverse reaction was more probable based on drinking PBR than exposure to the aforementioned toxins…)

Captain Eric, a Wilson High School alum, and Eric Johnson, who was the deckhand, after advising us on safety procedures (given the number of lawyers on board, I assume this was more extensive than their standard spiel.)  headed north and the young guys and gals peddled while downing beer which was mostly bottled IPA’s.

Good view of the bridges with Eric Johnson and Brien in the foreground

I sat on the far aft bench with my two friends and downed two canned PBRs – it doesn’t get any better, especially since Brien – who got his law degree at prestigious Georgetown Law after graduating from Notre Dame – reminded me in light of Oregon State’s recent ignominious football record, how the Beavs cleaned the Irish’s clock 41 to 9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.

Captain Eric had worked there since the inception three years ago and business has been good for the owners who started the Portland venture after a successful run of the concept in Savannah Georgia.

Great view of the USS Blueback – SS 581 – at OMSI

It’s quite reasonable and the cost is only $35 per person unless you take the 90-minute sail on Friday or Saturday when its $40.  Bring your own beer to save on expense and enjoy the great views of the Willamette.

A Trusted Resource Goes Wrong at least for Thebeerchaser…

Speaking of local watering holes that feel like home (NOT!) my usually trusted resource Willamette Week hit it wrong on a recent recommendation.

The Happy Fortune on Barbur Blvd. had shifted its focus from dining to drinking and I checked it out with a friend.   WW asserted that:

“….Happy Fortune juggles an oddly congenial hotpot of upscale transients, Lewis & Clark undergrads, amiable suburbanites drinking through the commute, and an enviable corps of die-hard regulars.”

Well perhaps that’s true and to be fair, we only made one, rather than the customary two or more visits, but I will not return.  

The selection of beers was not great, (I had a bottled Tsingtao) but the weekday afternoon, we were there, had no ambiance – either in the environment, staff or regulars and just did not hit the mark in my opinion.  It seemed like an old and worn restaurant turned bar.  My fortune that day was not a happy one!

 

The Standard – It Redefines the Meaning of the Term


You last read about one of Portland’s fabled bars in the most recent post of Thebeerchaser – that being The Dockside Saloon and Restaurant.   Located in an historic building, this classic bar has been owned by the same family since 1986.  Well, the following narrative will tell you about another legendary bar you should visit – this one a dive bar in Northeast Portland.

Now when you see the term The Standard, (I’m choosing to capitalize both words throughout the post) you might automatically assume it references the Portland-based life insurance company.  Indeed, “The Standard” is a marketing name for Portland’s own Standard Insurance Company, which was chartered in Oregon in 1906, now employs about 2,500 individuals and owns several high-rise buildings in downtown Portland.

Not a sparkling exterior

But The Standard you will read about below is a bar which, even with a great reputation, has been below the radar in an inconspicuous location on NE 22nd Avenue – just off Burnside.  And some might assert that with the dark wooden fence with a dumpster in the middle, fronting the bar, it looks like a recycling center.

Opened in 2007, it doesn’t have the long history of some other classic bars, but demands recognition.   Why would you travel here and struggle for parking rather than hit one of the city’s many sparkling breweries or taprooms – some relatively close by including Upright, Laurelwood, Alameda and Culmination?

A spacious interior

The 2018 Edition of “The Bar Guide.”

Well, one of Thebeerchaser’s trusted resources during the seven years of this tour of bars, taverns and breweries is Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide.   The 2018 Edition) “Portland Bars and Happy Hours – the 101 Best Bars in Portland,” sums it up succinctly in a wonderful review written by the weekly’s former Project Editor, Matthew Korfhage:

“But the thing that made me treat this bar as an extension of my living room for seven years, what makes it different from every other bar with cheap drinks and a pool table and a covered patio in winter, is the simple decency of the place.  

The Standard is one of Portland’s last true neighborhood bars, a ramshackle version of Penny Lane decorated in shattered CDs and corrugated metal……More than any other bar I know in Portland, it is a sodden vision of an ideal society.”

And, in fact, going back and reviewing past issues of the Bar Guide, The Standard, unlike most Portland bars, has made the list of top bars – usually around 100 establishments – each of the last five years.   Now this may be in large part due to Korfhage’s long tenure at the weekly paper.

*Note:  Since he wrote a majority of the reviews in the Bar Guide, he is an expert and has written the piece on The Standard each year.   And you can see below that his favorable opinion has not changed.  Whether The Standard will hit a sixth consecutive year in 2019, may be in doubt since Korfhage wrote his last column for WW in April.

Korfhage – writing will be missed.

This reporter, who in 2017, was awarded first place for his columns on food writing by the American Association of Alternative Newspapers, has lived in St. Louis, Chicago, Munich and Bordeaux.

He just moved to Hampton Roads on the East coast to become the Food Editor for the Virginian Pilot. It’s Virginia’s largest daily newspaper.  His excellent writing will be missed in Portland. 

As can be seen by viewing his first two months of columns in Virginia, he continues his interesting and creative, if not somewhat unhealthy lifestyle, writing about bars and restaurants on the East coast. For example, his May 26th column was entitled and ends the first paragraph with this sentence.  “I sacrificed my own health to try hot wings at 22 spots all over Hampton Roads and picked the best.”

But you can see below, his praise of The Standard was unwavering through the years:

Bartender Tyler checks the reflection…

2014: “The Standard is what it says it is, ‘A neighborhood standard.’”

2015: “But The Standard is pure of heart, from its owner through its bar staff through the longtime patrons who took up a collection to buy a scooter for the retiring cook and bartender…” 

Friendly staff appreciated by the regulars.

2016: “It’s the best little bar in Portland, and I won’t hear otherwise.”

2017: “The bar is cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

The Standard has a wide variety of games and was even recognized in the website “Four Square Lists” as one of “The Best Fifteen Places for Bar Games in Portland.”   And it has a bunch ranging from Big Buck Hunter to the traditional Pac Man to pool tables to classic pinball games including Terminator 3.

Classic pin-ball machines to Big Buck Hunter

Last Call – Not in the Top 50 but…..

It even has a video puzzle arcade game named “Last Call.”  While not on the list of the Top 50 which includes classics such as Trash Panic, Tetris Attack and Super Scribblenauts, it will probably keep you interested and occupied??!!

Or you can pick one of the many “treasures” in a vending machine that has everything from old Playboy Magazines to heart-shaped sunglasses to Nutter Butter candy bars to a mystery package which says “Porn Pin – Probably.”  

(The only similar machine I’ve seen in eight years and visiting 120 Portland bars, was at Slab Town – a NW PDX dive bar with a once stellar reputation as an old-school rock and roll venue visited by Thebeerchaser in 2013).

Unfortunately, it became one of the classic Portland bars which poured its last PBR and hosted its last concert in 2017.  In the Slab Town vending machine, you could even buy guitar strings and drum sticks – not the kind you eat……!

On the left “Porn Pin – Probably”

You can also have your picture taken in one of those old-fashioned photo booths.

 

 

 

Visiting The Standard that day with me were Beerchasing regulars, Jack Faust and Jim Westwood, both former Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter based on their compelling stories. They did outstanding appellate work during their careers at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Stoel Rives respectively.

From left – Shannon, Charlie, Chuck Jack and Jim

In addition, three other friends added to the late afternoon gathering – Charlie Faust, a mortgage loan consultant and Jack’s son; Chuck Mitchell, another retired attorney and a trial lawyer who showed skill in the courtroom and Shannon Asato, who works in the Accounting Department at the Oregon Food Bank.

Shannon was the only Beerchasing neophyte and her good humor and competence when she worked with me for a number of years at the Schwabe law firm, made her a welcome addition to our crew.

“Standard” would not be an apt description for the exterior of the bar, and you might drive or walk right past it if you weren’t deliberately seeking it – in fact, Jack Faust was focused on joining us and drove past anyway.  He then called his son to find out where we were and took static for his lack of punctuality when he got there.  (Of course, he parked, before dialing his cell….)

A great covered patio for all seasons….

You walk in through the covered patio, which is vaguely reminiscent of the days before Oregon’s smoke-free legislation passed in 2008 and the interior of every dive bar had a hazy, smoke filled environment, which would be hazardous for anyone without pristine lungs. (The smoke was pretty minimal, however.)

Individuals and groups sit at the picnic tables chatting or working on computers – often accompanied by their dogs and drink cheap beers or stiff well drinks.

“Abbreviated” shuffleboard

The inside of the bar is also spacious and filled with the type of stuff which endears us to this type of venue.  Besides the old-style pinball machines and games, a pool table and a curiously-short shuffleboard, there are old beer signs, tacky art, an idiosyncratic (or bizarre) cracked mirror the full length of the bar behind it and, well, just a lot of stuff that makes you feel at home….

Careful – they sneak up on you….

There are too many features at The Standard to name them all including Jello Shots for $1, alcoholic Slushies, Sunday craft beers for $3, and a Crappy Book Club – “Bring your crappy books, and trade them for other crappy books!” 

And like a number of storied watering holes, the bar is a community unto itself.  For example, there’s traditional Christmas decorations in season (also Santa Claus horror movies), an annual Chili Cooking Contest – the proceeds in 2018 went to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge – a Kentucky Derby Party and occasional golf tournaments – the proceeds last year went to the Oregon Food Bank.

Call for schedule of Santa horror movies

Another distinguishing characteristic is a noticeable affinity for Hamm’s Beer.  This is manifested in its Wednesday all-day $1 Hamm’s pints, numerous logos and a notable stuffed “Hamms’ Bear” over the bar wearing a Portland Trailblazer jersey.

Trailblazer fan from Wisconsin

An affinity for Hamms

Don’t forget the sign on the two unisex bathrooms stating, “One at a Time,” possibly a concern that those imbibing in the $1 brews or jello shots may think they can join the “Mile High Club” without leaving terra firma. 

And I don’t think you will ever see The Standard take the appalling route of one of Portland’s other bars – Saraveza.  In 2015, perhaps to be trendy as quoted in New School Beer on 11/5/15:

“‘For seven years we have honored the world of domestic beer by always pouring a pint of Hamm’s alongside some of the best craft beers in the world.

It was important to me to acknowledge the industry that created a springboard for our recent craft beer revolution,’ said Sarah Pederson, owner of Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern. ‘Breakside’s Wisco Tavern Beer does the same thing for us, but with a new twist that we are proud to stand behind.’” (emphasis supplied)

Really???  (Maybe you want to change, Sarah, but don’t suggest that Breakside can replace Hamms!)

Founded in 1865 as compared to 2010….

The last time, I had a draft Hamm’s on tap was at a wonderful bar – The Coyote Road House, in Door County, Wisconsin.  That’s right next to the “Land of Sky-Blue Water” which is home to the Hamm Brewery, founded in 1865 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Another place to get Hamms on Tap

Now, when Faust and Westwood first got to The Standard, the practice ingrained in them for so many years — each worked in  different high-rises owned by Standard Insurance — got the best of them.  Both took out legal pads and started billing time as they drank their $1 Hamm’s.

The Standard Insurance Center – home for Westwood at Stoel Rives

Since Chuck Mitchell worked in a small plaintiff’s firm in Clackamas County, he took a more relaxed approach and talked the other two into just considering this a pro-bono engagement.

Mitchell on the left advocates pro-bono

And Jack always gets a kick each time the famous French opera bearing his name comes to Portland.  This time it was Portland Opera’s three and one-half hour rendition of French composer, Charles Gounod’s, “Faust,” in June.

In a deal with Mephistophele’s – the Devil, (a baritone in the opera), the protagonist, Faust, trades his soul for a chance at a second youth and the prospect of seducing a beautiful young maiden,

Mephistopheles is a baritone…

Charlie Faust became worried when he heard his father, quoting some lines from the opera, to wit:

“When will death free me from this burden?  I curse happiness and knowledge, prayer and faith.“ 

We had to convince the younger Faust that his dad was not depressed, but just showing his erudition and cultural refinement in addition to his tendency to share his philosophy on the human condition, temptation, redemption, Goethe and the Oregon Supreme Court’s latest opinion on the Gun Control Initiative.

But we digress….The Standard is not going to be your go-to place for quality pub food.  It’s line-up is limited and confined to items such as chips and salsa, a few sandwiches, mini-corndogs and fried ravioli(?)

Limited but cheap selections

They also have a drink special every day which includes the aforementioned Hamms’ special on Wednesdays.

Daily Drink Specials

The Standard was a great addition to the bars I have visited and all of us gave it a thumbs- up.

And you have to look hard for a social media review which is critical.  Almost all reviewers love the character, sense of humor and charitable heart of this saloon.  The few critical ones seem to be malcontents who didn’t like the service – kind of an anomaly when it is a self-service bar or maybe a bartender wasn’t as friendly as they would have liked.  Or take this one going back to 2012.  (I guess that’s not too bad…..):

“I have a hard time with this review. The location is really good and the people seem really cool. On the other hand their well rum was by far the worst rum that I have been in near proximity with.”  (Yelp – 4/9/12)

Now Portland has over 700 bars, breweries and taverns, but if you haven’t been to The Standard, you should remedy that.  And it does redefine the meaning of the word “standard” as there is nothing ordinary or typical about it.

While they have some good craft beer on tap, in the interest of history and honoring the character of this bar, belly up to the bar and ask Tyler for a draft Hamms’.   If it’s Wednesday, it will only set you back $2 – a buck for the beer and a buck for Tyler. 

The Standard         14 NE 22nd Ave.     Portland

Jello Shots – Even better with pop rocks on top…