Followers of Thebeerchaser know (or could have guessed) that the lockdown since mid-March curtailed both singular Beerchasing visits and group BC events which have been a hit in the past. This is the final post on my 2017-18 trips to Corvallis – the home of my college alma mater – Oregon State University.
The first post can be seen at https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/04/15/beerchasing-in-corvallis-part-1/
In reflecting on the absence of watering holes in my life for the last 3.5 months, it both reminded me and made me lament on one of my favorite quotes – used several times in prior blog posts – by 18th century English man-of-letters, Samuel Johnson. And it’s supplemented by a new one that reinforces his original assertion.
The latter I discovered reading one of David Brooks’ marvelous books (The Road to Character) yesterday afternoon during my Happy Hour on our deck drinking a great can of Bend’s Breakside Brewing’s Sweet As Pacific Ale.
Brooks gives a remarkable and insightful narrative on Johnson – the complex individual known as a “poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer.” (Wikipedia). However, he loved watering holes.
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
“I look upon every day to be lost in which I do not make a new acquaintance.”
These quotes epitomize the rationale for Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Breweries initiated upon my retirement in late 2011 and until the pandemic, the inspiration for visits (and reviews) of 375 watering holes during the last nine years in Portland, throughout Oregon and the US and even in Europe – also why I’m looking forward to the end of the lockdown.
The Kings Treated me Like
On the first trip in October 2017, I was privileged to be the overnight guest of former Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm colleague, Brian (Brain) King and his wife, Nancy. Brian had a notable career as an environmental litigator – first in the corporate sector and then with two large law firms. Before his retirement in 2016, he “anchored” Schwabe’s one-person Corvallis office after working in the Portland office for several years. The link below explains why I credit him as a primary inspiration for starting this blog in 2011.
(Brian has been on many prior Beerchasing expeditions in Portland, and for me, will always retain the moniker “Brain.” He will correspondingly label me as “Dan” although the humorous and true account surrounding those names will have to wait for the book I plan to write on law firm management.)
To demonstrate both his priorities and commitment, Brian even took a bus from the downtown Portland office after he drove up from Corvallis in 2016 to Beerchase at North Portland’s wonderful Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar.
Nancy King, Brian’s wife is also a lawyer and until her recent retirement was a professor at OSU and earlier at Willamette University College of Law. During her academic career, she taught graduate and undergrad business law courses including MBA courses on law and ethics for new businesses and emerging technologies.
She received a 2008 Fulbright Fellowship in European Union Affairs to conduct comparative law research on privacy and data protection issues related to mobile advertising enabling her to work on her research with law and technology experts at a University in Belgium. Earlier in her career, she distinguished herself as an employment lawyer for the Bullard Law, a firm in Portland.
Now in the first Corvallis post, I related our visits to Cloud and Kelly’s and Block 15 Brewing. The other establishments on this trip described below, included Squirrel’s Tavern, The Caves, and The Peacock.
The Kings recommended Squirrel’s for dinner and I could see why. It had great food and on a weekday evening was hopping, so to speak.
Since there were no seats available on the main level, we ended eating in the loft, which was a very good substitute. And for $8, the Squirrel Burger would be a treat wherever you consumed it:
(“Beef patty topped with fried egg, grilled ham slice, cheddar & swiss cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, mendocino mustard & ketchup. Potato chips & pickle slice on the side.”) It lived up to its reputation!
Squirrel’s has an interesting history as related in this story in The Corvallis Gazette Times on the tavern’s 40th anniversary in 2014. A great tradition is their hosted Annual Labor Day Party at a nearby park since 1976 – it always draws several hundred people.
Owning and operating a tavern for 45 years – especially in a university town, is a real accomplishment and Greg “Squirrel” Little, the owner, is known as an outstanding business man and citizen in Corvallis.
The bar obviously closed during the pandemic and will open again in July starting with curbside service. As stated on their website, “Look, it took a pandemic to get Greg to take cards!!!!
And besides a number of bottled beers, Squirrels has seventeen beers on tap. Of course, what better way to consume a Squirrel Burger than with a draft PBR.
Squirrel’s has great ambiance, from the cordiality of the staff and regulars to the interesting and idiosyncratic art, to the pictures, sports memorabilia and cool rodent-related accoutrements such as mounted squirrels….
The bar is also known for its popular live music gigs. The length of this post limits the number of social media reviews I can show, but this one (Yelp 10/22/19) does an apt job of summing up Corvallis’ sentiments:
“You cant beat Squirrel’s. Unpretentious. Good ordinary food at a good price. Really nice people. We’ve lived in Corvallis for over 40 years and Greg has been part of so many experiences for us. Off nights are best. You’ll get more of a local feel when it’s not so packed.”
According to Facebook, their plan is to reopen on July 6th, once safety protocols are tested and physical changes made to keep patrons safe. Drop by and show your support for a business which deserves your patronage.!
The Peacock Bar and Grill has been operating since 1929 – it’s birth was even before either Brian’s or mine and the history of this bar made at least a short visit on my trip mandatory.
After all, how many late night visits to the Top of the ‘Cock did we make when we were undergraduates and the second floor of this historic bar was always rocking and thereby lured us away from cramming for our Western Civ midterm the next day.
Unfortunately, based on the predominant sentiments in Yelp reviews from the last several years, the legendary $1.99 Early-bird Breakfast and quality burgers, don’t appear to overcome repeated concerns about rude and surly staff and bouncers such as (8/11/18):
“Don’t go to this bar for a good time on the weekend. The confrontation-happy bouncers will throw patrons on the ground as you walk out of the restroom. They will beat up patrons, and throw your girl in a ditch. After doing reviews on the peacock they are consistently calling the cops on these patrons.”
Fortunately, Brian and I were in no mood that evening to engage in either a physical or mental confrontation, and we just stopped in to survey the surroundings and departed.
And while the description above may be exaggerated, it appears that you can now assess the Peacock’s service yourself as:
“Benton County was approved to enter Phase 2 starting Friday, June 5. The Peacock Bar & Grill is open for dine in 7am-midnight daily, starting June 5. We will continue to be open for take out, curb side and delivery 7am-1am daily.”
Caves Bier and Kitchen (Les Caves)
We ended the night with class although Brian had to convince me that he wasn’t taking us to a crypt with dead OSU alums buried there.
The Kings and I stopped at this delightful European bar and bistro for a nightcap as they advertise – probably correctly:
“….Corvallis’ largest selection of draft and bottled beer from around the world with artisanal pub fare served in a cozy atmosphere.”
The pub is comfortable and with an upscale ambiance. Although they describe their menu as “artisanal pub faire,” it seems very suitable to someone with a discriminating palate and accustomed to more sophisticated culinary faire in contrast to a Squirrel Burger (which tantalized my taste-buds earlier that evening….)
The prices seem very reasonable for such items as Chicken and Apricot Tagine, Moules Frites, Chana Marsala and Elk Ragout.
“From a distance the bar top looks like a nice but somewhat standard wooden bar with a nice shiny finish, but once you pony up to it and grab a seat its beauty is immediately apparent.
Underneath its shiny polish are oak barrel staves from some of the Northwest’s best barrel-aged brews that have been re-purposed, cut up, straightened, and aligned meticulously for the bar top. Other than just being beautiful, it really speaks to the love of oak barrel-aging….”
Unlike the description of staff at one establishment above, our server was a very friendly and knowledgeable young woman who went through their robust tap list and let us sample a number before ordering:
“On tap you will find a selection of twenty beers brewed around the block and around the world. Our bottle list boasts over 130 unique bottled beers, stored in our temperature – and UV light-controlled beer cooler. All bottles are opened tableside and served in glassware appropriate to the style.”
The owners of Block 15 Brewery opened Caves in 2011 and its named for the cellars under Block 15’s brewery and Les Caves itself, which house more than 100 barrels of beer. They feature several of Block 15’s excellent beers. Brian and Nancy split a pint of their Alpha IPA (“6.5% ABV – Northwest style IPA with notes of citrus, fruit, and pine delivered by a robust blend of four NE grown hops.”)
Brian, knowing that in my undergrad days, I only drank in sips from the Fountain-of-Knowledge, suggested I down a pint of the Effect of Education Farmhouse Ale (also appropriate for an ag college).
It’s a collaboration with McMinnville’s Allegory Brewing (“8.2% ABV – Ransom whiskey barrel aged mixed culture Farmhouse Ale with local, hand-picked cherries.) A collaboration with our friends at Caves Bier & Kitchen.”)
Caves is worth a return trip to test their kitchen and would also merit some research on their World Bier Passport – “Take a trip around the world of artisan beer, guided by Caves’ World Bier Passport. By the time you complete your journey, you’ll gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of regional beer styles, timeless traditions, and emerging brewing techniques.”
We returned to the King’s and Brian and I had a nightcap in their living room. Nancy excused herself when I encouraged Brian to summarize his presentation a few years earlier at a local government symposium entitled, “How to Prepare for Your MS4 Inspection.” He was duly impressed that I knew MS4 is an acronym for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.
But when he declined and then got us some snifters of brandy, upon returning he did open up about the book he co-authored when I asked about it.
I have always respected Brian’s position on environmental issues and remembered reading an article in the Portland Business Journal shortly before he joined the Schwabe firm:
“Despite the upheaval of his now-defunct firm (Bogle and Gates), Brian King, also found the time to co-write a book published last month called “Fundamentals of Environmental Management.”
King said the book couches environmental compliance as a combination of law, science, politics and public relations….Despite company complaints, there is time and money to not only meet current regulations, but to exceed them.”
But the kicker was a summary of said tome which I had read from an unknown reviewer in Idaho which stated, in part: “Fundamentals of Environmental Management with stimulating chapters such as ‘Air Emission Inventory and Analysis”’or ‘Ozone-Depleting Chemicals (ODCs).’ (Environmental lawyers are not a real popular group in Idaho….)”
I thought his book could lead to a stimulating conversation that would help me fall asleep that evening (or possibly while we were still chatting…)
For those of you interested, this legal thriller is still available new on for $13.92 – a savings of $136.83 off the list price – but hurry there is only one left in stock at Amazon.
Now if you do a Google search for this book, be careful not to get confused and order by mistake a volume by prolific author Dr. Brian King. This Brian King has written less weighty manuscripts including ” The Art of Taking It Easy: How to Cope with Bears, Traffic, and the Rest of Life’s Stressors and also “A Field Guide to the North American Bloody Mary.”
Dr. Brian King, has an entirely different background from my friend according to his bio:
“…..trained as a neuroscientist and psychologist and for the past decade has traveled the world as a comedian and public speaker. By day he conducts seminars, presented nationwide and attended by thousands of people each year, on positive psychology, the health benefits of humor, and stress management. By night he practices what he teaches in comedy clubs.”
While “Brain” and “Dan” will always do a lot of mutual kidding, I would suggest that any person would be richer for knowing both him and his wife Nancy. Brian has a wonderful and dry sense of humor and was respected and liked by both his colleagues and adversaries in the courtroom.
Note: As a closing note, I was sorry to hear that it appears that the cherished Corvallis Flat Tail Brewery has permanently closed – not because of Covid 19 – but because of a dispute with their landlord over their lease as chronicled in a BrewPublic.com post on June 15th entitled “Flat Tail Brewing Closes its Doors in Downtown Corvallis.” We certainly hope the ten-year old brewery with the slogan “Dam Good Beer,” finds a new location and reopens in the near future.