The Nineteen 33 Taproom is a nice little bar in the historic Willamette section of West Linn, with an impressive selection of beers on tap, a nice menu including Happy Hour specials and live music once each week.
Now, you could also hit bars with the same name (or at least built around the “1933” title) in Bakersfield, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Dallas, Clearwater Florida, Ruleville Mississippi, Cantonville Maryland and even Utica New York.
So why do so many US bars adopt this moniker? It’s not their address. 1933 (December 15th specifically) is, however, a reference to an important year in US history, especially in the chronology of distilled spirits.
That’s because it was the year in which the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution – the legal basis for Prohibition adopted in 1919 – was repealed and replaced (those words have a new connotation…) by the 21st Amendment. The latter is the only one of twenty-seven to be ratified for the specific purpose of repealing another amendment. And most people think this grand social scheme was a failure including the infamous, Al Capone, who opined – probably while in prison…:
“Prohibition has made nothing but trouble.”
And Oregon was even more conservative than the rest of the country…….
“On November 3, 1914, the Temperance League won their victory—Oregon voters passed a state amendment prohibiting the sale, manufacture, or advertisement of alcohol in the state. On January 16, 1920, the 18th Amendment went into effect and the rest of the country joined Oregon in restless temperance.” (Portland Mercury 1/22/09)
Probably, the most notable of the 1933 bars in the list of cities above is Utica’s Gerber’s 1933 Tavern, which:
“…. is an historic speak easy restored to its original luster. The tavern was vacant for nearly 40 years before it reopened in April 2013. We strive to operate the tavern as it would have been nearly a century ago. The building that houses Gerber’s has a rich and varied history. It’s been a Tobacco shop, produce store, café, fish fry, saloon and more.”
But back to the 1933 Taproom in West Linn. Owned by Vince and Lisa Strafford, who evidently also own two Portland pizza restaurants, it is in a non-descript block in which one almost doesn’t notice that it is a bar.
It has a nice dark and quiet interior – this is not a bar where you are going to see a jovial and raucous group of regulars, but just friends sitting at a few tables having one of their thirty-three beers and two ciders on tap, a glass of wine or some interesting craft cocktails.
Happy-hour is from 4:00 to 5:00 each week day, 2:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays and all day on Sunday.
They have some great happy-hour small plates and the best option appeared to be the 1/3 pound burger at $6 with a heaping batch of fries for another $2. You can also take a buck of your beer or glass of wine – beer ranges from $5 to $7 for a pint at regular pricing.
We missed happy hour and the food is a tad bit expensive, but of notable quality and presentation. Jamie Magnusson had an outstanding $12 Prohibition Burger (“local certiﬁed Angus beef, caramelized onions, aged cheddar, peppercorn dijonnaise, pancetta, tomato. Served with fries.”)
Ryan Keene had the Romano Burger – also $12 (“local certiﬁed Angus beef glazed with balsamic, basil, tomato, fresh mozzarella and roasted tomato aioli. Served with fries.”)
My macaroni and cheese with white cheddar and crab for $14 was the best dish of its kind I had in 2016.
And we should talk about their beers because the selection is robust and the staff is both friendly and knowledgeable and more than willing to let you sample until you hit the one you want – an option missing in many bars these days.
“The waitress offered fantastic suggestions for the numerous local beers on draft. She knew every detail about each beer and offered to let us try multiple samples.” (Yelp 11/6/16)
On my second trip, my old friend and retired investment guru, Chet Dato, rode up to meet me on his Harley. When drinking beer, Chet is a stout fan (his favorite is Avery Brewing’s Tweak (16% ABV) and Uncle Jacob (17.1% ABV), both of which are not generally available in Oregon (and two pints of which would put you under the table…….!)
So after talking to our amiable and helpful bartender, Kevin, he decided on the Top O’ the Feckin Morning from nearby Feckin Brewing in Oregon City. He thought it was a very good stout although at 8.5%, pretty tame in comparison with the Avery brews.
Nineteen 33’s diverse tap list allowed me to try a Sun River Brewing Vicious Mosquito IPA, (7% ABV and 70 IBU)which since I was current on my inoculations, I did without reservation. (“This hop attack is coming at you like the vicious mosquitos at our nearby Cascade Mountains.”)
The Nineteen 33 Taproom scores very well in social media reviews. For example, this excerpt from a very long, but well written Yelp review on 9/6/16:
“Do not go to the Nineteen 33 Taproom. Seriously, I want this place all to myself. Comofortable old English style taproom with a bit of whimsy. A class act bartender that was down to earth, professional and could make a mean dirty martini.
The small menu leaves you wanting to order everything off of it. The person who designed the menu loves food with a passion. It is a wisp of Italian, southern comfort and an obvious fetish for tasty treasures from the sea. I did not hesitate on the prices once I tasted the food….The food was excellent.
“Then I started picking up on things. If you are going to go for a 30’s theme, how about some consistency? I think the digital boards take away from the look. The theme they use for these boards make them nearly worthless anyhow. Very basic. If you are going to use digital boards…..use the system everyone else seems to have. It is interactive and friendly on the eyes. (Note: Their system was fine and helpful in selecting a beer.)
Now, another ‘Why?’ If you are a ‘Taproom’ why do you have liquor? I can understand a couple types of wine on hand. But a basic bar is just confusing. You don’t have a taproom, you have a bar. (Note: “Confusing” – Are you kidding me???)
Then the music keeps changing over to different genres, or categories. Adult contemporary, 90’s? and some other basic non-offensive channels. But again, it is digital. Maybe I am too stuck on the decor/theme aspect, but it was just segmented and awkward. Then to top it off, a Kramer poster in the restroom. Not a painting, but a framed Seinfeld poster. (Note: Perhaps this guy needs to have a serious face-to-face chat with Chet or Irish Mike to gain some perspective.”)
“We have gone to Nineteen 33 more than a dozen times, Food is always great and drinks are prefect, service is a 10+. We go here once a week and have never been disappointed. Great tap selection too.” (Yelp 6/5/16)
There’s no Prohibition to stop you. Visit Nineteen 33 soon and tell them Thebeerchaser sent you — and try not to be disappointed with the Seinfeld poster. It was placed there in honor of Art Vandely…