Thebeerchaser studiously avoids political controversy although sometimes making observations on policy issues. That said, if you read the last blog post entitled “Thebeerchaser’s April Acknowledgements,” you will read about an admirable young man named Kevin Frazier – graduating this spring from Berkley Law to take a one-year clerkship for the Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court.
Besides his other accomplishments, Kevin, has been the Editor of an outstanding newsletter/blog named “The Oregon Way,” – a compendium of articles on public policy and current political issues by writers throughout the state.
Kevin suggested that I write several articles recommending the perfect bar or brewery for each of the major Oregon Gubernatorial candidates (there’s a slew as you’ll see below) to visit – to chat with constituents to find out what was on their minds outside of a political rally.
Now I know that many followers of this blog live a long way from Oregon, but I’m suggesting a model which is transferable to any jurisdiction. What better place to have meaningful dialogue than over a pint of beer in a watering hole? Regardless of whether someone is running for office in Missouri, Montana or Mozambique, they should belly up to the bar!
Below is the first of a number of installments that were published on The Oregon Way. Check it out and consider subscribing.
The Oregon Governor’s race has received intense scrutiny in recent months. From the controversial lawsuit regarding, former New York Times Columnist, Nicholas Kristof’s residency to the late entrance of additional candidates from both parties and the viable candidacy of an “unaffiliated” candidate, speculation, speechifying, and sound bites have defined the May 2022 Primary. (* External photo attribution at the end of the post).
But how does one who wants to go beyond the surface of these candidates’ (16 Democrats, 21 Republicans and 1 Independent) platforms determine substance. As Jeff Gudman wrote in a recent piece for The Oregon Way, entitled “Oregon’s Next Governor:”
“….it is easier to speechify, bloviate if you will, then to do the hard follow up work that is not as exciting as making a pronouncement of some new program or initiative. Don’t talk in platitudes like investing in the 21st century workforce or serving the under-served. Be serious, be specific and then provide the sound bites.”
That’s a great point, but it occurred to me, “I want to know what makes these people tick. How do they relate to others, what’s important in their lives besides politics and what do they think about day-to-day issues Oregonians face?”
To really understand a candidate and his or her ability to relate to everyday voters, you have to do more than know their party affiliation. I’ve been a member of both political parties and unaffiliated and I worked for five years in the Clackamas County Elections Department, so I have a decent grasp of each party’s values, attitudes, and without stereotyping – the personalities of their candidates.
I propose a remarkable, albeit improbable solution to get a better sense of the true character and relatability of each candidate. It’s a solution based on my main avocation since 2011 when I retired as the COO of a large regional law firm based in Portland.
My hobby is visiting and reviewing bars and breweries and writing about the experience in my blog entitled Thebeerchaser.com. The narratives aren’t about beer but the watering holes themselves – the history, the regulars, the bartenders, and distinguishing features.
Originally the goal was to include just Portland bars, but with retirement travel, it expanded. After eleven years, I’ve reviewed almost 400 establishments – all over Oregon and throughout the US and a few in Europe. And the conversations have been remarkable.
Essayist Samuel Johnson (not candidate Betsy’s Dad!) reinforced this idea about the suitability of a tavern for this dialogue:
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn … As soon, as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude: when I am seated…(wine/beer) there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse”
In future articles here on the Way, I’ll suggest some specific watering holes for the individual candidates to get a better sense of Oregon, but I’d first offer these two bars as a great option for all Democrats and Republicans. And these two favorite Beerchasing establishments are both within two blocks of each other in Multnomah Village.
The Ship Tavern
The Ship Tavern would be a perfect place for all candidates to chat with Democrats and get a better sense of their perspective. Opened in 1946 in what was once a garage, it serves peanuts in the shell which the patrons throw on the floor. As one reviewer stated:
“The Ship isn’t anything to write home to Mom about . . . heck it probably isn’t even a place I would tell my Mom I went . . . but it knows what/who it is.
The bar was once home bar for the Portland Rugby Club and the two most popular recording artists on the juke box were Jackson Browne and Waylon Jennings. And in tradition of a notable Democrat – former Mayor Richard Daley – the Ship is a Chicago hangout as evidenced by the fact a few years ago, any time The Bears, the Cubs or the White Sox played, Pabst Old Style Beer – A Chicago favorite – was $1.50 and margaritas and Bloody Mary’s $3.50.
The Democratic candidates might be uncomfortable with the Big Buck Hunter video game, but would otherwise love this place with 24 taps.
Rennners’ Bar and Grille
Conversely, Renners’ Bar and Grill is a more “establishment” bar focusing on cocktails rather than beer. Established in 1939, it’s a “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” kind of place Republicans would like – the bar burned completely down in 2018, but fought back and reopened in 2020. It’s known as a tough place with stiff drinks.
And the Republican political chats should be held in Renners’ Suburban Room – at the back of their bar – “it’s dark, it’s a little gritty…… Fleetwood Mac is somehow always playing and the food is greasy in the best way possible……The wells are a dollar instead of the drafts, and…. they’re the strongest you’ll get west of the river.”
The clientele is very different than the Ship – I talked to a nice guy who was an insurance adjuster. The guy on the other side actually ordered a vodka martini – wanted it shaken not stirred! Republican candidates could get an earful on their campaigns.
In closing, I should add that visiting a bar doesn’t imply nor necessitate drinking in excess (or drinking at all !), the most important thing is to engage in an open conversation with whomever happens to sit down next to you. Stay tuned for further discussion of “Beer and Politics!”
External Photo Attribution
*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_State_Capitol#/media/File:Oregon_State_Capitol_1.jpg) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Aboutmovies at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide. Author: MO Stevens – 16 March 2007
*2 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nicholas_D._Kristof_-_Davos_2010.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: World Economic Forum 30 January 2010
*3 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (http://, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.) Author: M.O. Stevens 12 January 2009.
*4 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dr-Johnson.jpg) This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. Source: The Gallery Of Portraits With Memoirs encyclopedia, United Kingdom, 1833.
Great idea for a series, Don. Politics is sadly becoming an even greater divider than in the past. Let’s hope beer can bridge the gap.
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Exactly my thoughts, Rich. While much of this was written tongue-in-cheek, I think this kind of interaction would be much more productive than the typical campaign rally. Thanks for the comment.