Pausing for a MoMo of Reflection……


My recent visit to MoMo – a bar right in the heart of downtown Portland (on SW 10th Avenue one block north of the Library) made me and quite possibly, my friend, Portland lawyer, Jim Westwood, who joined me, reflect on why we didn’t make more time for this type of cultural pursuit during the earlier years of our careers.

Counselor Westwood

Counselor Westwood

Both of us worked (Jim is still billing hours as an appellate lawyer on a part-time basis at the Stoel Rives law firm) more than twenty-five years at our downtown law firms in high-rise office buildings, yet July was the first time we graced the premises of MoMo Maximo bar.  (There is disagreement on the origination of the name of this dive which has been around since 2002 and was previously a tea house.)

And the same is true for me regarding some other wonderful downtown bars within walking distance of the PacWest Center including the Tugboat Brewery, Kelly’s Olympian, Bailey’s Tap Room and the Yamhill Pub.  Thebeerchaser has reviewed all of these long-term establishments since starting this “journey” in August 2011. (The links over the names will take you to Thebeerchaser reviews)

P1040446MoMo’s is a fascinating venue, which gets mixed reviews in social media – a few very critical of staff and service levels – mostly because of its popularity and the large crowds in the bar especially on weekends.

That said, most are effusive about the expansive back patio which Willamette Week recently even included in its “Best Portland Patio Bars That Are Also Pokéstops”  – 7/12/16 W Week.  (In my mind this is tantamount to getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick…..)

Some who don’t remember the days when the interior of any bar had enough second-hand smoke to fully populate an emphysema ward, criticize the patio for the heavy concentration of smokers:P1040444

“The outdoor seating area is great, but the sheer number of smokers out there keeps me from loving this place. The patio (is) pretty large, but with so many people smoking it just fills the area and there’s no escaping it.”  Yelp 4/10/16.  We thought it was fine, however, and were sorry that we neglected to bring cigars for the occasion (see below).

Dating back to 1794

Dating back to 1794

We began with shots of one of the world’s quality scotch whiskeys – Oban.  This fourteen-year old whiskey was described in a review by the Scotch Noob blog as:

“A satisfying dessert dram. Honeyed and full-bodied, it reminds me a lot of white port, but with more bite. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving Oban 14.”  

And it has a great tradition with the distillery in the West Scottish Highlands dating back to 1794. The rationale for the fine whiskey was to toast the memory of our mutual friend, and my colleague for many years at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, Tim Haslach, who on July 6th lost his long and heroic battle with cancer.

Tim and Sara

Tim and Sara

An apt description of Tim as a person is the following: “He had a HUGE heart, was insanely loyal, loved his two kids completely and would have given anyone here, the shirt off his back if needed.”

Tim was also an outstanding attorney and partner:

“…an AV rated lawyer with Martindale-Hubbell, a testament to the fact that his peers considered him at the highest level of professional excellent.  He was a pioneer and giant in his field (consortia model for technology standards), known and respected internationally.  Equally important to him was his work for non-profits such as the Black Parent Initiative, Oregon Sports Authority and Jamii Moja.”  Haslach-Timothy Schwabe

But besides being a wonderful family man and a respected lawyer, his athletic achievements were notable:

“Tim was an accomplished athlete, having been an Oregon High School State Swimming Champion, an All-American Swimmer, United States Masters Swimmer, and a rugby player at Santa Clara. After graduating law school, Tim added sailing, skiing, body boarding, and golfing to his athletic pursuits.

1937257_1164769799603_7033498_nIn 1991, Tim found his way back to the pool and was part of a successful English Channel Relay Swim. He crossed the channel again in 2001 as part of the Team Gaffney Relay, which raised money for The Karen Gaffney Foundation, a non-profit organization headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and dedicated to championing the full inclusion of people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.” 

The Gaffney Team after the successful swim of the English Channel.  Tim first in the back row and Karen Gaffney in the front.

TeamGaffney after the successful swim of the English Channel. Tim first in the back row and Karen Gaffney in the front.



Now while the loss of our friend was a time for reflection and toasting Tim’s memory, we also had an opportunity to celebrate a significant achievement by Jim’s son, David.

David followed his dad’s Ivy League graduate school footsteps (Jim graduated from law school at Columbia) The afternoon we met at MoMo’s, David’s defense of his Ph.D. dissertation was formally approved at Harvard Univeristy.  His area of study – Chemical Biology.

David at Brookhaven

Dr. David Westwood at Brookhaven National Lab

No, that’s not biochemistry, but try out this explanation from the Harvard website:

Chemical biology is a rapidly growing field that combines the rigor and quantitative aspects of traditional chemistry and biochemistry programs with the excitement and medical relevance of modern molecular, cellular, organismic, and human biology.”

This above photo is David at the Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, standing by the huge X-ray machine that’s about to bombard (and destroy) a microscopic protein crystal he has carefully prepared. The aim is to determine the structure of the protein from the scatter image, the better to use it for application in attacking diseased or pathogenic cells.

Now our toast to David was with PBR-filled mugs; however, I am sure that as his career progresses, he will rate an Oban salute too.

___ the friendly bartender at work

Aaron, the cordial and helpful bartender at work

Mo Mo Maximo was a good stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Pubs and Taverns.   Aaron, the bartender, was a friendly guy, the deck was superb and the maroon interior with spacious booths, pool tables and an interesting bar added to the dive-bar ambiance.

Notwithstanding the fact that Jim and I both partially rely on Medicare as our healthcare delivery system, we were not disappointed in our reception even after the admonition by this October, 2010 reviewer in Portland Barfly:


“This place is just fine to go to if you are in your 20’s or 30’s……Anyone over 40 will probably not be wanting to come here cause its a little young.”

Perhaps this emphasis on the younger crowd explains the puzzling assertion by City Search in its description and reviews of MoMo, that “persons who like MoMo might also enjoy the Sylvan Learning Center.….??!”

And I don’t think our acceptance by the regulars was based on recognition of Jim’s celebrity status from his 1965 gig as captain of the notable Portland State College GE College Bowl team which set records on the nationally-televised program or celebrity-struck deference to his stint as a weatherman for KGW in non-prime time slots during the same era.

A young Jim Westwood with College Bowl teammates and coach Ben Padrow

A young Jim Westwood with College Bowl teammates and coach Ben Padrow (Portland State Magazine, May 2, 2005)

And if I might digress for a moment since this is a time for reflection, the accomplishents of the PSC team were notable as documented in this excerpt from the PSU archives:

“The final (championship match) score, 415 – 60 (against Birmingham Southern U.), marked only the second time a team had broken the 400 mark. Along the way to five straight wins, PSC set several College Bowl records:

Most total points scored in five games; most points scored in a single game; lowest total points scored by opponents; and most games in a row over 300. The producer of the GE College Bowl program told team members they had shown “the greatest team effort” he ever had witnessed during the more than 220 previous shows. (“Portland State and the GE College Bowl” by Clarence Hein – PDX Scholar)

Although a lot of the Mo Mo clientele are millennials, the patrons we saw appeared to personify the eclectic description way back when it opened in the fall of 2002 as described by a reporter from the Portland Tribune: “……(the lunch hour when) librarians from the downtown library come in on a break, is busy, too. Early in the evening, happy hour attracts area workers, and later in the night employees from nearby Jake’s Grill stop in for a nightcap.”

Jim used public transportation to make the return trip to his NE Portland home and assured me that he was not going to further his alcohol consumption while making part of the trip by Streetcar, thereby taking advantage of information conveyed in an August 8, 2015 Willamette Week article entitled, “Take the Portland Streetcar drinking tour. (Trolley Drunk)”.  

Portland Streetcar - A Drunk Delivery Device??

Portland Streetcar – A Drunk Delivery Device??

The journey “…..on the slow-moving, easy-riding streetcar is the perfect drunk-delivery device,” and the weekly paper’s recommended eleven stops included Mo Mo and former Beerchaser Pearl District bars Life of Riley (March 2016 review) and the Low Brow Lounge (June 2015 review).

To conclude, while the number has increased, there is still a paucity of good bars in the core downtown area and MoMo’s dark and spacious interior (described in this Portland Barfly summary) complemented by the bright and expansive patio along with friendly bartenders are a winning combination and merit a visit:

Grotto like with spacious booths

Grotto like with spacious booths

“A wondrous, jarring, thoroughly misplaced grotto remains from the former tea house, and Momo’s wisely……. left things alone beyond a few strands of Christmas lights less tacky than rakish given the context – Easter Island lounge as abandoned evidence of a once great culture utterly ignored by the natives currently in residence.”

And if you do drop by, raise a mug (or a shot glass) to the memory of Tim Haslach.

final picture of Tim

MoMo Bar Maximo        NW 10th Avenue  Portland

Thebeerchaser in Montana and Wyoming – Part II

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Part I of our Montana and Wyoming trip in 2015 was posted on this blog this February.  It reviewed the wonderful bars in the city of Missoula – a great college town, but also one filled with bars laden with character and history among them Charlie B’s, the Oxford and the Stockman.

The Tetons

The Tetons

And don’t forget some outstanding breweries including Draught Works, Flathead Lakes and Kettle Mountain Breweries.  You can review the post by clicking on the following link:

Eric, Cassie and Annabelle Hall

Eric, Cassie and Annabelle Hall

From Missoula we traveled southward to Helena on the way to Wyoming and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Helena is home to our friends, Dr. Eric Hall, his wife Cassie and her mom, Candy, and their wonderful little daughter, Annabelle.

Both work for Carroll College in Helena, which has an impressive campus.  Ph.D. Eric is an Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy and is working on his second book.

His first book, co-authored in 2014, was entitled: Groundless Gods: Post-Metaphysical Philosophy of Religion.  Dr. Hall is an extremely intelligent and learned guy and is also a great bar companion.  (I learned a lot about Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes when Eric linked the latter’s advocacy of dualism to an assertion that both Budweiser and micro-brews have redeeming social value).

Caroll has an outstanding academic program of which the football team can be proud…..It was ranked # 1 in Western Regional Colleges in the latest US News and World Report collegiate academic rankings.  Cassie, the college’s Registrar, also has an impressive background, having played soccer at the University of Washington where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and then earned her Master’s Degree at Claremont Graduate University. 

And the college has also had some notable football teams in the past:Carroll_College_Helena,_MT_Seal

The Carroll Fighting Saints football team began playing in 1920 and is one of the most successful programs in the NAIA division of college football. The program has won six NAIA Football National Championships and 40 conference championships, 14 while a member of the Montana Collegiate Conference and 26 as a member of the Frontier Conference.

The team is currently coached by Mike Van Diest who in his 12 seasons at Carroll, has compiled a career record of 144–20. His winning percentage of.878 is the third highest of any head coach with at least ten seasons of experience in college football history…”

St. Charles Hall at Carroll College

St. Charles Hall at Carroll College

It certainly bears noting that on the way to Helena, along US Highway 12, we passed through Clinton and I was captivated by the signs advertising  the Annual Testicle Festival, the World’s  largest.  It attracts 15,000 people each  year and as you might expect, it is not considered to be a family-type outing.

Rock Creek Lodge, just outside of Clinton, is the home of the Testy Festy where a $20 general admission ticket will gain you entrance to:

“………the world’s largest testicle festival every fall attracting more than 15,000 fans annually to its five day event.  Tossing around its motto, ‘I had a ball at the Testicle Festival,’ the festival feeds over 2 ½ tons of bull balls to its many hungry revelers. 

Not only can you get a taste of these yummy delicious deep-fried bull’s testicles, but while you’re there, you’ll no doubt want to participate in the bull-chip throwing contest, the wet t-shirt or hairy chest competitions, and bull-shit bingo.”

Rocky Mountain Oysters -- Really!!

Rocky Mountain Oysters — Really!!

And in case you thought that Rocky Mountain Oysters were shipped in from the coast after being harvested from the Pacific Ocean, this item on the menu consists of:

“USDA approved bull testicles(used) in preparing the delicacy……also known as Rocky Mountain Oysters. The membrane is peeled, marinated in beer, breaded four times, and deep fried to result in what appears to be a fat breaded pork tenderloin.”

While attendance at this “seminal” event will have to wait for another Beerchaser road trip, we pushed on to Helena where we toured the city and visited two breweries/pubs with Eric and Cassie:

Blackfoot River Brewing Company


Lewis and Clark Brewing Company

P1030613Blackfoot River Brewing Company and Tap Room is right in the heart of Helena and its two levels with a nice second-floor patio add to the enjoyment. The idiosyncratic Montana alcohol laws again were apparent by the sign stating:  “Montana law does however, limit consumption to 48 ounces per person, per day and only until 8pm,”

That means 8:00 PM even on weekends and meant we had to buy a ticket first and then obediently hand it to the bartender to get a twelve-ounce glass – you can’t even get a pint!   It makes one wonder why a state known for its rugged individualism and independence (which undoubtedly saw a lot of bar fights and cowboys throwing down shots at 3 AM in the past) allows a paternal regulation which doesn’t make a lot of sense. (I neglected to ask Eric what John Locke, the Father of Liberalism would think about this situation.)

Montana Tap Rooms Black River) - no tickee, no brewie....

Montana Tap Rooms Black River) – no tickee, no brewie….

Black River was founded in 1998 by three home brewers (a story Thebeerchaser has founded repeatedly in his five-year journey). It is another case of successful planning and growth as evidenced by this exerpt from their website:

“In May of 1998 the dreams of a brewery were coming to fruition in a recently vacated garage building located next door to Miller’s Crossing.

Given the bank loan, lots of creativity, loads of hard work, and help and encouragement from many friends, Blackfoot River Brewing Company became a functional brewery.   In October of 2008, after eight years of thriving in the cozy environment of the original building, the brewery moved into a wonderful new facility built on what used to be a parking lot next to the old brewery.”

 The Lewis and Clark Brewery

House in an historic building

Housed in an historic building

It is housed in a very cool, historic and expansive structure with great ambiance (considerably better than Black River if you only have time to visit one in Helena).  Part of the structure dates back 125 years.  And at least it’s open until 10 PM Sunday – Tuesday and 11:00 the remainder of the week.

“The oldest building is the Stone ‘Smokehouse’ which was built by T.C. Power in 1885 to smoke meats. Shortly thereafter the ‘Packing & Provisions’ building was built and was used as a 3 story ‘Ice-House’ with ice removed from the lakes in the winter then transported up the pass by rail and stored in caves until brought back down in the summer and hoisted up to the third floor to cool the entire building  P1030620

Montana Packing & Provisions Company closed the property (and it) could have been used as a jail (although no historical records support this so maybe the bars were installed for security), then a seed warehouse. Later it became the birthplace of Columbia Paint.”

P1030693From Helena we traveled southward to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. As a side note, since we are retired, we usually visit our wonderful National Parks while school is in session, but other travel plans precluded it and we wondered what the crowds would be like in the middle of July.     P1030694

We were pleased, however, that although there were a lot more people, it never seemed overwhelming – even at destinations such as Old Faithful. It did require, however, making reservations well in advance and we stayed in West Yellowstone at a somewhat dilapidated old motel that cost a lot more than it should have for two nights, because we could not get lodging in the Park.

Yellowstone Falls - may look like a painting but the real thing!

Yellowstone Falls – may look like a painting but the real thing!

And the first National Park in the US (dedicated by President Grant in 1872) was spectacular.   I had not visited since my family camped there during the earthquake in 1959.  (I still remember the shaking and the animals howling in the middle of the night from this 7.5 magnitude quake which killed twenty-eight people not too far from our campground.)

The scenery is dynamic – from bubbling muddy pools to Old Faithful to Yellowstone Falls to the wild animals – including the bison which roam freely and don’t seem to care about the highways and vehicles which invade their domain as the picture below shows.

This is MY territory...

This is MY territory…

And oh yes, while it was not a highlight, since this is a blog about bars and taverns, our beer at the Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon in West Yellowstone, is worth at least a mention.

It had a bunch of Harleys out front and one young guy in the saloon said to the bartender:

“I want to thank you for kicking me out of here last night which kept me from getting the crap beat out of me a few minutes later.”

P1030640You know when the men’s john has the label seen in the picture below, that this watering hole, which has live music four nights per week in the bar, has some character.  P1030639

Their pepperoni and sausage pizza was also recently named the best in Northwest (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado) in the International Pizza Competition in Las Vegas.  Had we known, we would have definitely had a pizza there!


2015-07-24 10.15.29While Grand Teton is less expansive than its neighboring park only twelve miles to the north, the spectacular view of this forty-mile long mountain range (without foothills because of the geological origination) rising abruptly from the prairie, has to rival Grand Canyon for its breathtaking beauty.

Jackson Lake Lodge - Amazing!!

Jackson Lake Lodge – Amazing!!

And better planning allowed a two-night stay in the Park at the marvelous Jackson Lake Lodge. Staring at the peaks while drinking a cold micro-brew and devouring a great burger in the Lodge bar, while listening to a performer’s impressive version of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” now makes me wonder why candidate Trump harps on the slogan “Make America Great Again.”       

Van Morrison would approve

Van Morrison would approve

Not that we don’t have significant challenges which need strong direction and discipline to overcome, but failure to recognize the nation’s blessings as evidenced by such visionary accomplishments as the National Park System and focusing on the negative is not the kind of leadership we need.

A raft trip down the Snake River in which we saw eagles, moose and elk, and a four-mile hike to Taggart Lake were highlights of our second day in the Park and then a stay in nearby Jackson (formerly known as Jackson Hole) was our final night before starting the journey back to Oregon. (Solitude Float Trips and our guide, Justine Evans were A+)

2015-07-24 10.59.23

Janet Williams on the Snake River

2015-07-24 12.25.35

And Jackson was hopping and home to many restaurants and bars we unfortunately did not get to visit because of time constraints.   That said we did enjoy our time at a few venues in this tourist town.


Although we stopped in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar because we had heard a lot about it, we didn’t have a beer.  First, there was a cover charge (although it is not advertised on their website) and secondly, it reminded us of the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau that we visited in 2012.  P1030733

Kind of garish and with little character – just a lot of bucks spent on touristy décor and an emphasis on their retail sales although it does have live music and dancing and they brag about authentic western memorabilia and features such as real saddles for bar stools…..


We then hit a neat little brewery, however – Melvin Brewery.  It actually shares space with a Thai restaurant (Thai Me Up).  The bartender was friendly, offered a lot of samples and they had good beer – an impressive nineteen on tap.

Their Indian Pale Ale won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup earlier this year.

Melvin - impressive beer for a small operation

Melvin – impressive beer for a small operation

And dinner at Gather, a superb restaurant where, as is our custom, we ate at the bar and met some people from Boston who were in Jackson for one of the many business conventions that come to town.

Fortunately, we got there late for their “reverse happy hour” (from 9 PM till close) and I had the best gin martini on the trip.


We left Jackson heading east for the two-day drip home to Portland.

Shortly after we left town, we passed Grand Teton Brewing Company.  Although closed, it was nice to see the home of outstanding beer we had enjoyed throughout the trip.

Two of the outstanding beers from Grand Teton

Two of the outstanding beers from Grand Teton

This brewery which claims to be, “…….the original brewery of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We have been brewing our handcrafted beers at the base of the Tetons since 1988,” is actually located in Teton Valley, Idaho which is on the west side of the mountain range.

And the narrative from their website, although fairly bold and which might be challenged by some Oregon brewers, seemed to be validated by the excellence of their beer – even though only bottled where we could get it – especially two of their signature brews – 208 and the Sweetgrass American Pale Ale.

“Our water is glacial run-off, filtered over 300-500 years by Teton Mountain granite and limestone before it surfaces at a spring a half mile from the brewery. Teton Valley grows the world’s best malting barley, and Southern Idaho includes some of the finest hop farms in the world.”

Janet and the Bartons

Janet and the Bartons

We spent the last night in Boise, where after forty-five years, I reunited with Gary “Golden Boy” Barton, who also was an SAE at Oregon State and is an investment consultant in Boise.  We had a great dinner with Gary and his wife, Kathy.

Our ten-day trip covered a lot of miles, but the clarion call from Montana and Wyoming to return for the majestic scenery and great bars and breweries will lure Thebeerchaser back for another road trip.

Cheers to Montana and Wyoming

Cheers to Montana and Wyoming










June 2016 Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter — Oboist Kelly Gronli

Kelly Gronli

Kelly Gronli is a wonderful mom and a professional musician who has assiduously worked on her craft since she was ten – she’s also a superb music teacher and the newest Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  See her remarkable story below.

800px-Oboe_modernI was privileged to first meet her four years ago – about one year after I retired.   I played the oboe for three years in junior high, but gave it up because of the conflict with high school athletics.   At the Marylhurst University Annual Dinner in 2012, I asked Dr. John Paul, Director of Music, if they had any adjunct faculty members who were oboe instructors.

Thus began my relationship with this extraordinary musician who is the Principal Oboe for the Portland Opera, Oregon Ballet Theatre and the Eugene Symphony and frequently plays in Oregon Symphony appearances.

After Kelly switched from piano to oboe

After Kelly switched from piano to oboe

Her musical talents first surfaced when she was three and asserted, “Mom, it’s about time we girls started playing the piano!”  Those lessons started the musical journey that saw her Advanced Band instructor relent after he initially said, “No you didn’t!” Kelly showed him that she had, in fact, memorized the complete major and minor scales.  

Kelly’s mom was her mentor and manager and found both the orchestras and bands in which Kelly played through junior high and high school.  She started going to summer music camp at age 11 at the Sewanee Music Festival on the campus of University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee – her summer routine for five years.

I have learned in my lessons when Kelly hums or sings an excerpt in dulcet tones from a piece I am trying to learn, that she also has a strong and beautiful singing voice.  Perhaps this was honed by her youthful roles in such productions as “The Music Man” when she was in grade school as illustrated below.

A leading role in "The Music Man" while in middle school.

A leading role in “The Music Man” while in grade school.

Her music instructors opened doors and she graduated from high school one year early so she could go to music conservatory at Harid Conservatory – at age 16.  Tuition was by scholarship and the only cost was for housing.

She was the youngest of about 60 students of which about 80% were gifted foreign students.  She lived on campus in Boca Raton, Florida, a distance from her home in Vienna, Virginia. (Harid is now a school of ballet.)  She majored in Music Performance and during the summers she performed at embassies in the Washington DC area.

A "young" Kelly at a recital while at Hared Conservatory

A “young” Kelly at a recital while at Sewanee – University of the South

Next came graduate school in the Chicago area (Evanston) at Northwestern University where she worked on her Master’s Degree in Music:

“The woodwinds program of Northwestern University has a long and distinguished history – it combines the study of performance, pedagogy, music theory, music history, and scholarly research and writing.”

She achieved this goal in one year when she was just over twenty (while part-time waitressing) and her Master’s recital featured the challenging Oboe Concerto by Richard Strauss (Concerto in D major for Oboe and Small Orchestra).  The video below is the First Movement in Saint Saen’s Oboe Sonata – one of the other pieces played in that recital.  (You may have to turn your volume up slightly for this first video. The videos below are YouTube and you may have to left-click on the square to engage the video)

Another example of her ability to make beautiful music with the oboe is exemplified by one of my favorite hymns I asked her to play spontaneously at one of my lessons:

A weekend trip with a friend to the University of Wisconsin at Madison is where she first laid eyes on Patrick, the guy who would become her future spouse (now of twelve years).  

Kelly and Patrick (he also plays the drums)

Kelly and Patrick (he also plays the drums)

While living in Evanston, she decided to audition for Second Oboe in the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra – a part-time position in which she competed with nineteen other people to win the chair.

I was curious about what constitutes an audition for such a position so I asked Kelly about the typical audition experience she labels as “expensive, stressful and difficult.”

“An audition is run in rounds. The first round or preliminary round is always blind or behind a curtain. Each candidate is assigned a number and everyone plays the same pieces usually comprised of a portion of a solo work (almost always the exposition of the Mozart oboe concerto, for an oboe audition) and a few excerpts from orchestral works.

People usually play for about 10 minutes. The audition committee will then make cuts and decide who they want to hear again. If there aren’t many candidates to begin with the second round could end up being the final round or the committee can decide to hear just a couple of candidates again. Sometimes candidates will be asked questions during the finals, usually inquiring about moving to a new city or something on their resume. An audition can last 1 day or a few days depending on the number of candidates.  

Tacoma Symphony Orchestra

Tacoma Symphony Orchestra

Well, she was awarded the position and she and Patrick moved to Tacoma where Kelly also became the Principal Oboe in the Bellvue Philharmonic Orchestra.  Waitressing duties at  a Ruby Tuesday restaurant  also were on the agenda and meant she was able to spend time around people besides musicians….

A move to Portland came next to balance the distance between Tacoma and Eugene after Kelly, in a competition with twenty-five people, became  Principal Oboe in the Eugene Symphony.  By that time she was giving oboe lessons to about fifteen adult and younger students.  While in Portland, Kelly soon began to sub in the Oregon Ballet under Director and Conductor, Neil De Pointe.

The English Horn - larger than an oboe but still double reed

The English Horn – neither English nor a horn….

Adding to her resume were some appearances as a sub in the Oregon Symphony under new Musical Director Karlos Calmar, playing the English Horn – another instrument in the Kelly Gronli arsenal……(You will hear her play it in two of the duets below.)  She also became a good friend with Oregon Symphony Assistant Principal Oboe, Karen Wagner.

Meanwhile, Patrick graduated magna cum laude in Geography from Portland State University and the couple got married in 2004 – five years and one day after they met in Madison.  He now works for Northwest Natural Gas Co.

Another successful audition and Kelly’s resume now included Principal Oboe for the Portland Opera in addition to continuing similar positions with the Eugene Symphony and the Oregon Ballet – while still teaching.  In her “spare time” she was elected as a Director on the Executive Board of Musician’s Union Local 99.

12313527_10153164283550658_365572813242749224_nIn 2011, Kelly and Patrick welcomed their first child, Dane, who I know from my interactions with him during the last four years as a delightful and personable five-year old, who loves his new sister, Piper, their daughter who just turned one-year old in May.

Piper - one year old

Piper – one year old


Kelly with Yitzhak Perlman

It is a privilege to have an instructor, who is not only a gifted communicator, but also has such extensive experience ranging from playing under Director John Williams on multiple occasions, but has also appeared with such luminaries as the world’s pre-eminent violinist, Yitzhak Perlman (three times); cellist, Yo Yo Ma, Marvin Hamlisch in addition to playing in the orchestra during appearances by Roberta Flack, Ray Charles and Debbie Reynolds.

Another highlight was playing with Phish’s  (Patrick’s favorite rock band) guitarist, composer and vocalist, Trey Anastasio, when he played at the Oregon Symphony.  Patrick also plays the drums in his own band.


Kelly with Trey Anastasio of Phish

And while Kelly’s musical career has been noteworthy, balancing her part-time positions in different cities, motivating her students with continued admonitions – if I’m typical…… (“sit up straight, breathe from your diaphragm, look ahead at the notes in the music, fix your embouchure, sit up straight…..”) and being a good parent is a continuing balancing act.

Asked to identify her most stressful moments, she immediately offered two – Playing a concert with the Eugene Symphony while suffering from pneumonia and pleurisy.  After the performance she burst into tears and went to the Emergency Room.

  • Playing a concert in Eugene while she was nine-months pregnant because there was no back-up oboe in the Eugene Symphony at that time (the baby was delivered the next day).

The most traumatic occurrence dates back to Feburary 11, 2007 when she and two Eugene Symphony colleagues (Kjersten Oquist and Angela Svendsen) were commuting back to Portland late one Sunday evening after a rehearsal in Eugene.  A woman, who was later convicted of manslaughter, DUI and assault, collided head-on with their vehicle near Albany after the woman drove the wrong direction in the northbound lane of I-5.   Kelly’s two colleagues were both killed in the resulting collision. The driver received a sixteen-year prison sentence.

Kelly the craftsperson at work on a reed..

Kelly the craftsperson at work on a reed..

Kelly also is a craftsperson, of sorts, since she makes oboe reeds for her own use and that of her students.  The oboe is one of the few woodwinds (besides the bassoon and the English horn) that employs a double reed.

This idiosyncratic mouthpiece “consists of two pieces of cane fastened together with an opening at the tip (which are) fastened to a metal tube, the lower half of which is normally surrounded by a piece of piece of cork.”   (The tube is inserted into small opening at the top of the instrument.)  WikipediaOboe_Reed

Oboe reeds are only 7 millimeters in width and very fragile and temperamental leading to the joke: “How may oboists does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Twenty, because they will have to try that many to find one that works for them.” 

How many oboists to screw in a light-bulb...?

How many oboists to screw in a light-bulb…?

The “temperament” of the oboe reed and the very specific structure of the “embouchure” (the way in which a player holds the reed in his or her mouth) may be one reason why learning to play an oboe is so difficult and the sound emanating can range from “horrific to hand sculpted by an angelwith no middle ground whatsoever.”

While at times Thebeerchaser has reflected that trying to re-learn the oboe in retirement is a fool’s errand, it has been a worthwhile experience.  After all, I met an inspirational instructor, friend and superb professional musician in Kelly Gronli.

The highlights were appearances in the last two years at the Pittock Mansion during the Christmas holidays, when at Kelly’s urging, four of us (Pianist, Faith Carter; Flutist, Sarah Rose and Kelly and I on oboe) played one of the two-hour gigs the Mansion offers to volunteer musicians while visitors are touring the impressive dwelling.

From l to r - Sarah Rose, Santa, Don Williams, Faith Carter and Kelly Gronli

From l to r – Sarah Rose, Santa, Don Williams, Faith Carter and Kelly Gronli








Before the first appearance in 2014, Kelly advised me that eating a banana would help with nerves.  She was correct although I have to admit to supplementing that fruit with a shot of vodka before I left the house (I wanted a vegetable extract too…..)

To listen to one of the lighter numbers we played at the Pittock during our last practice session, click on the video below:

And finally, two short duets (oboe and English horn) with Kelly and one of her students………..whose motivation to re-learn the oboe has significantly increased his affinity to drink beer!

You will see and hear more from Kelly Gronli as she continues to teach and entertain classical musical fans throughout the Northwest in the coming years.  Raise a mug to the newest Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter!


Look-out for the Ranger Station


There are a number of classic dive bars in Portland’s noted Barmuda Triangle in southeast Portland.  Thebeerchaser has enjoyed a number of these including the Bar of the Gods and Tanker Bar (see posts on 10/3/12 and 4/29/13).  It was therefore a nice surprise to discover a relatively new neighborhood bar at 42nd and SE Hawthorne.

P1040389The Ranger Station has only been around for a little over two years and its previous incarnations during the last ten years were also bars – Vertigo (closed in 2012) and then the Thorne Lounge.

Consultant, Dave Hicks

Consultant, Dave Hicks

My first of two visits to the Ranger Station was with San Franciscan, Dave Hicks.  “West Coast Dave” gets to Portland regularly on consulting trips and besides being my favorite Princeton graduate, is a Beerchaser regular, having visited the Double Barrel, Sloans’ Tavern and Crackerjacks among others on prior Beerchasing ventures.

The Ranger Station is a quaint a low-key bar, but has some limitations – the primary one being space. “There’s probably at least one snow-bound Alaskan ranger with a larger liquor cabinet than this pub..” (2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide)  It’s essentially a one-room rectangle with a small patio area adjoining and this may be one of the reasons that the duration of the prior two bars in this space is comparable to the half-life of a college education.

Small patio area

Small patio area

The room fills up quickly, especially since they have live entertainment most evenings and there are only a limited number of booths and tables.

The weeknight we were there, people were standing in rows between tables waiting for seats to open since the entry area is also pretty small.

Live entertainment in close proximity......

Live entertainment in close proximity……

Given acoustical and space limitations, it’s almost too small to have live music – the night we were there, a four- piece blue grass group played and in addition to not being overly talented, they eliminated the ability to have any ongoing conversation.

Dave Hicks savors his

Dave Hicks savors his “Half Bird”

That said, the food at the Ranger Station is a strength – particularly the elk burger ($12), which I devoured and the venison stew ($8) with meat purchased at Nicky USA Farms in Aurora and the Bucker’s Brussels ($7) – deep fried and slow seared with bacon, carmelized onion and a mustard vinaigrette sauce.

I chatted with Coltonan amiable part-time chef, and he expressed pride in the menu  and their skill with the grill.  Reviews of the food on social media are generally positive including this one from Dude on Yelp last November, which might be a tad over-stated:

“The food here is so good it makes me wanna climb the highest peak and punch the face of God.”  Perhaps this guy had too many Campfire Coffees (coffee with Makers Mark bourbon and cream and sugar)!

And the prices are pretty reasonable: for example you can get a happy-hour Ranger Burger for $6.50 or Tacos for $5 and try the chef’s choice of flavored pop-corn for only a buck.  Colton emphasized the reliance on local vendors such as Sheridan FruitGrand Central Bakery and Newman’s Fish Market.

TJ, the bartender, serving "Murph: - a Ranger Station regular

TJ, the bartender, serving “Murph: – a Ranger Station regular

Another limitation, however, appears to be lack of staffing especially given the bar’s popularity.  You order both your drinks and food at the bar and the night we were there the only individual taking orders and making drinks was quite harried and spent a lot of time in the kitchen which created a line waiting to order.

Servers bring the food, but the expectation appears to be that you bus your own dishes after your finish. “There is also a dish bin conveniently located for customers to bus their own tables and a tipping option – before the food is prepared.”  (Yelp 6/6/16)

Low-key decor

Low-key décor

The décor is cool and understated.  According to TJ, the bartender I talked to on my second visit and who has worked there since the opening, the owner did all the work on the knotty-pine bar and booths, himself.

There are items such as shovels, axes, lanterns, cross country skis, etc.  hanging on the wall to convey a forest-type environment.

“If you somehow woke up inside the Ranger Station, it would be easy to believe you were actually inside a ranger station. The tiny and rustic Hawthorne District bar looks very much like a Roosevelt-era public works cabin, from the picnic-table-style wooden benches to slatted lawn chairs.

Framed topographic maps and acoustic guitars hang from the walls, and a malfunctioning stove hood provides a cool draft from the kitchen. It’s a decidedly simple place.”  (2015 Willamette Week Bar Guide)


The Hug Point

Hicks raved over the Hug Point (Hornitos tequila, grapefruit and cranberry) one of five cocktails they serve, and on my first visit, I downed a strong Czech Pilsner from Bouy Beer Company in Astoria  (6.2 ABV – 35 IBU), one of the seven draft beers and one cider available.  My next visit, I attacked a good Hood River beer – a Double Mountain Kolisch (5.2 ABV – 40 IBU)

And perhaps I digress, but as long as the subject is ranger stations and a forest-type environment, it provides an opportunity to praise an absolutely marvelous book by New York Times columnist and author, Timothy Egan –  The Big Burn – which weaves a fascinating narrative on two topics:

  • Teddy Roosevelt’s and Gifford Pinchot’s efforts to fight the robber barons of the timber and mining companies and the railroads to preserve the public lands as a national treasure for every citizen.
  • The fire which started in August 20, 1910 that moved through the parched forests of Oregon, Idaho and Montana in a raging inferno, killing many and devouring towns:


“Forest rangers had assembled nearly 10,000 men – college boys, day-workers, immigrants from the mining camps – to fight the fire.  But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers or anyone else knew how to subdue them……

….The Big Burn saved the forests even as it destroyed them: the heroism shown by the rangers turned public opinion permanently in their favor and became the creation myth that droved the Forest Service….”

And since I opened the door with a small side trip about Tim Egan’s book, to give you another sample of his colorful writing, check out his New York Times opinion piece on 6/9/16 entitled, “Lord of Lies.”  While Thebeerchaser does not usually venture into the political realm, this one is too relevant and noteworthy to ignore:

I no more expect CNN to set Wolf Blitzer’s beard on fire than to instantly call out the Mount Everest of liars. Trump lies about big things (there is no drought in California) and small things (his hair spray could not affect the ozone layer because it’s sealed within Trump Tower). He lies about himself, and the fake self he invented to talk about himself. He’s been shown to lie more than 70 times in a single event.

Professional truth-seekers have never seen anything like Trump, surely the most compulsive liar to seek high office. To date, the nonpartisan PolitiFact has rated 76 percent of his statements lies — 57 percent false or mostly false, and another 19 percent ‘Pants on Fire’ fabrications. Only 2 percent — 2 percent! — of his assertions were rated true, and another 6 percent mostly true. Hillary Clinton, who is not exactly known for fealty to the facts, had a 28 percent total lie score including a mere 1 percent Pants on Fire.

But back to the Ranger Station bar……..

A small but diverse group of micro-brews on tap

A small but diverse group of micro-brews on tap

There are a slew of good bars in the Barmuda Triangle – sometimes known as the Stumble Zone in southeast Portland.

While the Ranger Station space has limitations which may ultimately have led to the demise of its forerunners, it still has a good vibe and some loyal regulars who enjoy the music and the opportunity to have a drink and some good food close to home.

Before the crowds arrive

Before the crowds arrive


But you may want to get there early, so you can then move on to some other watering holes that are more expansive in both their space and their vision.

Of course, if the owners have a strong perspective and want to promote their venture, they would be smart to negotiate with the owner of the adjacent space which is even connected to the Ranger Station by a hallway – they also use common restrooms.

P1030925While some of the neighbors in the area might not want to lose the Fat Straw, (coffee, bubble tea and sandwiches), it could provide the room for the Ranger Station to adequately fit the bands, bar regulars and even some mountain men from the forest that might amble in searching for a good mug!

The Ranger Station  4260 SE Hawthorne


Beerchaser Miscellany – May 2016

Memorial Day 2016 - A Time for Reflection

Memorial Day 2016 –

Periodically, Thebeerchaser posts a “Beerchaser Miscellany” item on this blog – not a review of one specific tavern or highlighting the contributions of Thebeerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  Just a compendium of brief interesting items, a rant by the author, significant events of which Beerchasers should be aware, etc.  You get the idea…..

This following includes a pitch for the forthcoming 6th Annual Beerfest in The Dalles, an update on a former high-profile sportscaster on KATU, a great bar and grill in Lincoln City, the latest exploits of Jay Waldron – the most recent Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and a public appearance by Thebeerchaser.  Read on……

PrintThe Sixth Annual Beer Fest in The Dalles

Former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (read about his story in the post of May 29, 2014) and Mayor of The Dalles, Steve Lawrence, sent this recent e-mail which bears noting:

“Mr. Beerchaser.  Wanted you to know our Beer Fest is bigger and outdoors this year. With a new brewery and three new brew pubs, we should have a good turn out.”

A now re-elected Mayor with former Beerchaser of the Quarter, Jud Blakely on the right

A now re-elected Mayor with former Beerchaser of the Quarter, Jud Blakely on the right


And just reading about what’s planned for an amazing $5 admission fee (waived if you spend $10 at a merchant in the City), it’s clearly  worth a beautiful drive through the Gorge to participate:

“With more than 50 beers from 25+ breweries from Oregon and beyond, we’re committed to providing a taproom experience for attendees. Each brewery has been asked to bring at least two types of beer.”

Check out the Beerfest website and say “hello” to the Mayor if you attend.


Macadangdangs Reefside Bar & Grill in Lincoln City

Last week, Janet and I met my Oregon State SAE fraternity brother, Larry Rich and his wife, Mary, at this quant little bistro in the Nelscott area in the south end of Lincoln City. (Milepost 117 on Highway 101)

2016-05-26 18.15.13Larry and Mary reside on the shore of D Lake at the beach and their recommendation was a good one.   Since Larry was a starter on the 1967 OSU Giant Killer Football Team, we left the parking spot designated for Beavs to his car. 2016-05-26 18.24.24 I guess since Janet was a Duck, we could have opted for that one.

A very nice ocean view and menu with “….items, ranging from fresh made burgers, seafood, home-made vegetarian chili, home-made chowder, delicious salads, incredible Reubens…..”  We each had one of their great burgers.  They also have an impressive breakfast menu.

2016-05-26 18.24.09No draft beers at this time, but a great selection of bottled and beers and wine and Jesse, our friendly server, is a beer aficionado.   Besides the good food and nice atmosphere, Jesse is the reason for a shout out in Thebeerchaser.

Jesse - a beer aficionado...

Jesse – a beer aficionado…

When he came to our table, he looked at me and said, “I think I know you.”  When I asked if we knew each other from OSU, he said, “no,” and we just moved on.   When he checked back, however, he asked:

“Wait a minute.  Aren’t you Dirty Don from Thebeerchaser Blog?  I recognize you from the picture after I came across your blog on a Google search.”        

Robust selection of bottled beers

Robust selection of bottled beers

Of course, I was thrilled and my dinner companions were surprised……   Macadangdangs has only been open about two years, but it is definitely worth a stop when you are at the coast.

Tell them that Thebeerchaser sent you!


Rod Luck – An Award-winning Sportscaster – Where is he Now?

Through the connection of another frat-bro (followers of this blog know Jud Blakely – shown above in the photo with Mayor Steve Lawrence, the designer of Thebeerchaser logo and also Thebeerchaser of the Quarter in September, 2013), I had a conversation with Rod Luck.    header_logo

For many Portlanders, that name will resonate because he was a colorful and award-winning evening sportscaster on KATU television during the early ’70’s.

He had a fascinating broadcasting career with more stops than my “misplaced” luggage on our last airline flight to the East Coast.  He worked at stations in Dillon, Helena and Missoula, Montana; New Orleans, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Orlando, Portland and San Diego – not necessarily in that order.

If you check out his website – now somewhat outdated – you will see that he was born in Cleveland and moved to Montana when he was five.  He was a standout athlete – football, track and baseball and the Big Sky State was where his dream to be in sports broadcasting became a reality:

“I did the play-by-play for the local high schools and Carroll College (Helena). I also broadcast Montana State University and University of Montana football and basketball games on T.V.  I was named the Montana Sportscaster-of-the-Year at age 20 My career ‘took off’ and I later moved on to Portland, Oregon. While in Portland, I broadcast the nightly sports on KATU-T.V., and did TV play-by-play of Oregon State University basketball and football.”

Rod on porchIn Milwaukee, where he did play-by-play for Marquette U basketball, he produced his first of a number of “specials” which make author, George Plimpton look like a minor leaguer:

“……I became the only man to ever pitch in, manage in, and umpire in a major league baseball game…….With special permission from the Baseball Commissioner’s Office I pitched in the Brewers final spring training game in 1978 against the California Angels, as part of a ‘special’ I produced.”

He won a UPI award for “Rod Luck – Rookie Manager” and there was also an award for “Rod Luck –  Rookie Umpire”:             

Rod Luck - Rookie Umpire....

Rod Luck – Rookie Umpire….

“The plan was to umpire one game at home plate, another ‘on the bases’ for the ‘special.’ That season, however, the umpires went on strike and I was asked to umpire 6 games to help out. It made for some interesting moments and confrontations with players and coaches.”

And, if some of this sounds far-fetched, the website has a video where you can actually see Rod’s “favorite sportscaster” wing-walking on a Stearman Bi-plane at 3,500 feet – part of another special entitled, “Rod Luck – Flying High!”  He repeated this stunt several years later at the Daytona Beach Air Show on a Waco Bi-plane.                        thumbnail_video_wingwalk

While he obviously enjoyed relating the highlights of his professional career, Rod was also quite candid with me when he told me about falling out of “Luck” and his struggles ranging from bad investments, addiction, legal problems and medical issues.

He is out of broadcasting and now living in San Diego, but is working on a book.  Rod makes occasional school appearances as a motivational speaker and offers warnings about addiction:

“I can speak about those things, because I was an abuser. Now 6 1/2 years ‘addiction free,’ I feel obligated to go into the community and ‘spread the word’ and, hopefully, save a life or two or more!”


(Note: That’s now 8 years as of May 10, 2016)

Like any colorful personality, there are those who will think Rod Luck’s ego got the best of him, but based on my long conversation, I thought he has gained humility from reflecting on the highs and lows in his life.

AA and religion have helped him get back on track and he has a riviting and worthwhile story to tell.  You might even want to send him an e-mail and say “hello” at 

Check out his website at


An Update on Beerchaser of the Quarter, Jay Waldron

Celebrating in Key West

Celebrating in Key West

 My 3/29/16 post entitled “Jay Waldron – Rugger, Rafter, Rider and Lawyer” profiles the interesting story of my colleague at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm

Raft trips including  the Upper Yangtze in 1996, as well as adventures in the courtroom, on the rugby field and bars (most notably, Jake’s) after the matches, sparring with Ray Lampkin Jr. when he was the world’s #1 ranked lightweight and motorcycle trips on several continents.

Well, Jay, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, just completed another motorcycle trip – from Portland to Key West, Florida – 4,528 miles in fourteen days.  He was accompanied by Portland lawyer, Ivan Gold.

I asked him for a summary and you can tell that it was another one for what should be Waldron’s eventual book……:

A detour in the Rocky Mountains

A detour in the Rocky Mountains

“We enjoyed Bryce Canyon and the surprising beauty of the Ozarks.  We didn’t enjoy 26 degrees and sleet in Telluride or a snowstorm at 11,300′ at Monarch Pass.  

A state trooper stopped us for going 80 in a 50 zone on a remote mountain road, but old age and white hair avoided a ticket. (Jay didn’t say whether it was his or the trooper’s….)  

Ivan crashed near Memphis, escaped with soreness, but totaled his bike.  He soldiered on to Key West via rental car and jet boat.  

Day 10 - the blues on Beale Street in Memphis

Day 10 – the blues on Beale Street in Memphis

Beale Street in Memphis was unsurpassed, but seeing an armed guard at the entrance to a fancy New Orleans restaurant was disconcerting.  Key West is still a margarita mix of Jimmy Buffet and Ernest Hemingway.”


Thebeerchaser at the West Linn Rotary Club

On May 4th, I had the pleasure of speaking to the West Linn Rotary Club about my experiences since Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in August, 2013.

After reviewing 75 Portland establishments and another 100+ watering holes in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii and several states including those in the Southeast and don’t forget bars visited on trips in my home state – ranging from the coast to central and eastern Oregon, one acquires some stories worth telling – at least in my unbiased opinion!

P1040376They were a good audience and also liked the bar joke that, Dave Booher, my brother-in-law, supplied (and encouraged laughter after I delivered it.)

“I was drinking at a bar last night, so I took a bus home.  That may not be a big deal to  you, but I’ve never driven a bus before.”



Thebeerchaser Rambles on N. Mississippi Ave.


Historic North Mississippi Avenue, while it does not have the overall quantity of watering holes as the fabled Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland, has become a gold mine for good bars.

P1040172Past visits to establishments such as Prost, Interurban and Sidecar 11 (see  posts dated 11/24/12 – 5/13/12 and 6/6/13) were notable and there are additional venues beckoning such as Bar Bar, Crow Bar and the Liberty Bar and Grill.

My three visits to The Rambler, however, were a pleasure – a quaint and classy neighborhood bar now owned by an entrepreneur who deserves to see his efforts come to full fruition after opening only about ten months ago.

Entrepreneurs with class and vision

Christian – an entrepreneur with class and vision

The ambiance and friendly environment of the Rambler – in a spacious old house was especially appreciated after the sterile, corporate hew permeating the last bar reviewed – The Yard House in Pioneer Place.  The 100+ beers on tap could not compensate for what it totally lacked in ambiance.

I visited the Rambler with my friend and fellow Portland State MPA graduate, Greg Wallinger, who until very recently, was the heart of the City Club of Portland’s respected research program, having served as Research and Policy Director from 2012 to 2016.

Wallenger with the traditional Beerchaser logo

Wallenger with the traditional Beerchaser logo

The Rambler replaces two prior establishments, Casa Naranja and then the Bungalo Bar, which was described by a neighbor in a 2015 Willamette Week article as “a magnet for dirtbags……evidenced by OLCC violations, noise complaints and license suspensions.”

After some lengthy and heated negotiations for the building, there was extensive remodeling to rebuild the bar, salvage the flooring and redo the front of the historic 1920’s bungalow while adding two patios and other features.

Outside by the bocce pit.

Outside by the bocce pit.

Christian Lee, the owner, who relocated to Portland from San Francisco, has established a neighborhood venue which draws rave reviews for the changes including adjectives describing the interior and exterior as, “stupendous, admirable, comfortable and awesome.”   


The back patio – like being at the beach……

“Here the fire pit(s) and tasteful stained-wood picnic tables are joined by – wonder of wonders – an outdoor flatscreen.  There’s another patio in the front, and in the sideyard, there’s a bocce pit.  You might as well be at the beach.” (2016 Willamette Week Bar Guide)                                         

P1040177Christian is described as “career bartender” and knows his craft well.  The Rambler has eight beers and five wines on tap – limited but adequate including one very interesting brew  premiered from Portland’s Grateful Deaf Brewery.

And $1 off during Happy Hour

And $1 off during Happy Hour

But it is the craft cocktails that garner the praise and descriptions such as “expertly-crafted and inventive.”          

“……a kegged cocktail named for Doc Brown, plus a host of $8 to $10 variations on the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and vodka fruit punch.”



Christian's boulevardier - bourbon, sweet vermouth and campari

Christian’s boulevardier – bourbon, sweet vermouth and campari

There are eighteen menu items – no heavy entrees’ but interesting sandwiches and appetizers. Christian stated that they have good dinner crowds.

Almost all of the reviews and comments on the food are favorable with emphasis on the Frito Pie, fried Brussels sprouts with charred onion, fish tacos, smoked brisket chili and a “$13 burger stuffed with more proteins than a vegan bodybuilder’s medicine cabinet.” Willamette Week 2015 Bar Guide.

Good results from the kitchen

Good results from the kitchen

“The Fritos pie and (pork belly) bahn mi (Vietnamese bread) are galactic affairs. Unequivocally great.  From a New Yorker in an April, 2016 Yelp review.

“The bartenders were fantastic, the fish tacos were delicious, and the overall atmosphere of the bar was just awesome.”  From two San Francisco visitors in a 9/15/15 Yelp review.

Lee at work on the brussel sprouts while downing a Portland Skies.....

Lee at work on the brussel sprouts while downing a Portland Skies…..

I did not eat on any of my three visits to The Rambler, but having a great chat with amiable neighborhood regular, Lee, who was eating the Brussels sprouts while consuming the special cocktail of the day as shown in the picture, tempted me to grab a fork and sneak several bites.

Christian explaining the special punch - gin, violette, lavender,lemon

Try the special punch – gin, violette, lavender and lemon topped with bubbly!


Of course, the quaint atmosphere of the bar fit well when one is chatting with an erudite fellow like Wallinger, who shepherded twenty-three volunteer-produced research reports through the City Club’s rigorous review process ranging from studies on property tax to marijuana legalization during his tenure.  He felt the one with the most impact was that on Portland’s Street Fees and Gas Tax.

Greg’s undergraduate degree at Susquehanna University was followed by work as a paralegal in a Virginia law firm where he worked on real estate, bonds and tax matters.   Two years followed as an AmeriCorps/Vista volunteer working on substance abuse issues for children in Helena, Montana, where he also met his wife, Stephanie.

After living in Reno for two years, they moved to Portland and he earned his Master’s at Portland State, followed by work for Stand for Children and then the City Club stint.   They have an eleven-moth old daughter.

Last day at City Club where Greg (center) left a legacy

Last day at City Club where Greg (center) left a legacy

To momentarily digress and since the City Club studied the issue of marijuana legalization, it is also interesting to note that the old house – next door to the bar is one of the five Nectar group’s recreational cannabis locations:

“Nectar is one of the largest Marijuana dispensary chains in Oregon. We pride ourselves on a phenominal staff, great selection of quality products and a wonderful atmosphere.”

Changing times in PDX...

Changing times in PDX…

I still haven’t figured out why they have a person regardless of the weather, continually sitting on the front porch (she’s hidden by the column).  I guess she is a “bouncer” of sorts, and checks IDs…..

Now while the emphasis so far has been on the downstairs woodwork and the rear patio, any description of this reconditioned bungalow bar needs to mention the upstairs

Walinger, showing he has athletic skills in addition to intellecualism

Wallenger, showing he has athletic skills in addition to a keen intellect

Its a cozy attic-type space with a pool table with “pristine red felt” and “a record player where you can play your own records!!!”           


Space for a cozy chat or to watch a game.

The art work, while it would not hang in a Park Avenue gallery, is cool and very much in keeping with the atmosphere intended.

And if one wants a cozy nook to either watch a sports event or just chat away from the crowd, there is a room right off the patio to accomplish that

Second-floor artwork

Second-floor artwork

There were good comments about the background music at the bar and since the Rambler reminded me of an old road house, in a fit of nostalgia I started thinking about all the tunes over the years with “Ramblin” or “Rambler” in the title or lyrics.

From Nat King Cole’s “Ramblin Rose” to the Rolling Stone’s “Midnight Rambler,” to the Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin Man.”

And don’t forget Dylan’s “Rambler Gambler” or my favorite – “Colder Weather,” by the Zac Brown Band, with these great lyrics:

He said I wanna see you again – But I’m stuck in colder weather –  Maybe tomorrow will be better,  Can I call you then?

She said you’re a ramblin’ man – You ain’t ever gonna change – You got a gypsy soul to blame  – And you were born for leavin’.

Zac Brown Band - they would like The Rambler too.....

Zac Brown Band – they would like The Rambler too…..

Well, while retired and not on a road trip or stuck in a truck-stop diner in Lincoln thinking of a girl left behind in Colorado, Thebeerchaser is definitely a Rambler Man.

I loved this bar, applaud Christian for what he has created and urge you to pay the Rambler a visit to say “hello.”  I might see you there.

The Rambler                 4205 North Mississippi Avenue







Beerchasing in Hawaii – Primo, Microbrews and Cocktails with Little Umbrellas!


The beautiful Napili Coast on the northwest side of Kauai

After a great week on Oahu at Koalina with some of our family, Thebeerchaser and spouse moved to an island we hadn’t visited before.   Our week in Lihue, Kauai was wonderful  – outstanding scenery, easy to navigate and memorable food and drink.

The cocktails were better than the b-ball in the first two games

The cocktails were better than the b-ball in the first two games

While still in Oahu, watching the first two Blazer playoffs losses against the Clippers was mitigated by sipping a Mai Tai while my daughter downed a Lava Flow.

Unfortunately, the little umbrellas from the drinks won’t work for future rainy seasons in Portland.

And I was reintroduced to Primo Beer – “Hawaii’s orginal beer…” – the first time since a 3/c NROTC midshipman cruise that took me to Pearl Harbor after my freshman year at Oregon State.

In this summer of 1967, an evening yacht cruise along Waikiki Beach with steaks and Primo is a vague recollection because many of the brain cells retaining the memory were destroyed.   But an offer of a free hat with the purchase of one beer was irresistible.   There was a little disappointment to see that Primo is now owned and operated by Pabst Brewing Company.

Moving to Kauai, we had a wonderful ocean-view room in Lihue and a two-minute walk to Duke’s – great dinners in both the bar and the restaurant upstairs.

Primo - Hawaii's original beer - now courtesy of Pabst Inc.

Primo – Hawaii’s original beer – now courtesy of Pabst Inc.

And Dukes - only a stones throw away...

And Duke’s – only a stone throw away…








Knowing that we were going to ultimately visit the two breweries on Kauai – I restricted my initial alcohol intake to cocktails – one fit for the Gods – a Mango Martini and one called a Tropical Itch – passion fruit juice, orange curacao and vodka with a dark rum float

The Bar at Dukes

The Bar at Duke’s

Duke’s, besides their legendary salad-bar buffet, also had great fish and a beet and kale salad with shrimp and goat cheese that was our entrée’ on one evening.



An scrumptious combination of beets, kale and shrimp

A scrumptious combination of beets, kale and shrimp

Lest you think we spent the entire time eating and drinking, we hit the both sides of the island in addition to having an unforgettable sunset cruise through Blue Dolphin Charters along the Napili Shore on northwest Kauai – magnificent waterfalls (although one can see comparable sights only an hour from Portland…), a pod of dolphins and a stunning sunset capped off by a champagne toast.


Blue Dolphin Charters lived up to its name with this escort of our boat.




P1040331Since this is a blog about bars and beers, I should return to that topic and mention our visit to Kauai’s two breweries – yes that’s right.  Seems stunning that the island landmass of 562.3 square miles has only two.

Not just eating and drinking...

Not just eating and drinking…

In contrast, Portland’s area of 145 square miles boasts 61 breweries in the city limits although the comparison may not be valid since Portland is not an island in the Pacific and it has more breweries than any city in the world.

For you statistical geeks, that’s one brewery for every 33,500 people on the island versus a per capita of 10,150 in Portland.  Perhaps we should toast to that fact.


Kauai Island Brewing Company (KIBC) – We heard that  KIBC was located on the historic Waimea Plantations, but found an empty building and were directed to an industrial complex in the City of Port Allen where it moved two years ago. 

On their website, they promote this space stating:

(We have) an industrial theme to go along with both (the) surroundings and purpose of crafting quality beers. (Our) 35-foot high corrugated metal ceilings and walls give an open and spacious feel. (Experience) the retro atmosphere with chandelier lights hanging from the ceiling, a catwalk leading to the second story mezzanine over the entrance, and picture perfect views of the sunset over Port Allen bay.”   

A bit stark and industrial

A bit stark and industrial


However, KIBC has very little ambiance and seems pretty stark in spite of their spin.  That said, Fred the bartender was very friendly and helpful in our selection of one of their ten beers including letting us sample several.  P1040289

We chose the Cane Fire Red (“a full bodied ale has a deep red hue with a distinctive malty character”) and the Westside Wheat (“brewed with equal amounts of malted barley and wheat….and just a touch of caramel malt for color and body”) which we enjoyed.  The five wide-screen TVs do not add to the charm although at least Boston won the NBA playoff game we watched.

P1040348Kauai Beer Company (KBC) – We really liked this small brewery although perhaps the fact that the general manager and head brewer, Justin, and his girlfriend, Kim, are both Oregon State grads, created an inherent bias.

They purchased equipment from other breweries and showed initiative:

“Once the equipment arrived, they were faced with the impossible task of putting together tanks and pipes and pumps without any instructions at all, not to mention vital pieces that were missing. Justin had to become an expert welder in this do it yourself arrangement.”  

Justin, an OSU grad with good management instincts and learned how to weld.....

Justin, an OSU grad with good management instincts and learned how to weld…..

They opened in fall of 2013 and are currently open Wednesday through Saturday.

Like its competitor brewery on Kauai, the external trappings are plain and anything but exciting, but one walks into a bright and comfortable environment.   And young  Jessie, the bartender was one of the most personable chaps we met in Hawaii.

Charisma behind the bar

Charisma behind the bar


Because KBC is one of only two breweries on Kauai, the management is being prudent in their business planning and growth.  They currently do not distribute although they are researching the possibility of making their beer available in cans.

KBC has a nice, but to a certain extent, limited menu with very reasonable pricing.  The reviews of the beer and food on social media are positive. Perhaps my favorite was by Marissa, interestingly enough, a Californian, who stated on Yelp:

“Tasty brews, and like walking into Portland, Oregon in the middle of Lihue.”

P1040347There was hearty endorsement of their six-beer sampler flights And KBC’s Truck-Stop Thursday, at which two food trucks park on the sidewalk in front of the brewpub at 5:00 PM and people bring their food. into the bar.

They also host a variety of other events such as Kauai Brew Club and Beer for a Cause, in which $1 from every beer purchased is donated to a designated non-profit organization.

We enjoyed the Lihue Lager (“malty German-style pale lager, a blend of traditional and tropical flavored hops”) and a friendly guy we sat next to at the bar, named Sim, who is an electrician and at one time lived in Tigard, raved about the taste of the KoKoBoPo (“a seasonal robust porter, made with chocolatemalt, aged on toasted oakchips soaked with bourbon and whiskey.”)They have eight of their own beers on tap and a selection of wine and ciders.

I was somewhat chagrinned at how rapidly our time in Hawaii had passed and the little time remaining when I remembered Edgar Allan Poe’s reflection, “Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today.” 

A shirt to supplement the Primo hat...

A shirt to supplement the Primo hat…

And touring the island precluded visiting any other bars although one on the same block as our hotel, will be worth exploring upon our return.

The Nawiliwili Tavern, located in an historic building and on a site dating back to the late 1800’s.  According to a 2011 article in The Garden Island – Kauai’s newspaper:

“The site where the Tavern operated was originally occupied by the Hotel Hayashi, built in the late 1890s. Katsuyuki Kuboyama purchased the building in 1925, demolished the weathered structure and built a new hotel four years later, called Hotel Kuboyama……..Hotel Kuboyama survived landslides and two hurricanes, but it wasn’t a match for termites and was demolished in 1994…”

The Naw Tavern - Interesting past and present...

The Naw Tavern – Interesting past and present…

 When I stopped in to take a few pictures, there were only a few patrons, but the bar has an interesting history and a was the topic of a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision in

According to the aforementioned newspaper on April 8, 2011:

“Kaua‘i Police Department used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue four men involved in two fights that broke out early Friday morning in front of the Nawiliwili Tavern.”

The bar closed in July 2011, in part, because of litigation commencing in 2006 resulting from a dispute over disclosure regarding sewer access and maintenance fees.  It finally appears to be resolved when in a fascinating 63-page 2015 opinion the Hawaii Supreme Court (Santiago v. Tanaka)   P1040363

“…. vacated the judgments of the lower courts (circuit and interim appellate courts), holding (1) Seller’s failure to disclose certain facts regarding the property’s sewer system was actionable under the nondisclosure and misrepresentation causes of action; and (2) Seller’s nonjudicial foreclosure of the property and ejectment of Buyers was wrongful.”

It evidently reopened sometime in 2015 and would be worth a visit if you don’t expect a warm welcome from the staff – at least based on two recent Yelp reviews:P1040362

1/11/2016 –“Seemingly nice bar set up, but the bartender was annoyed we didn’t immediately have our minds made up – did nothing to help us decide.”

12/19/2015 – Tall blonde bartender is insanely rude. If you’re not a local you will be waiting forever.”

2016-04-27 19.46.07Oh well, that will have to wait for our next trip and the memories of my birthday lava cake at Duke’s.  And memories of how little umbrellas have a function other than to shield us from rain will sustain us until the next voyage.   P1040385