About thebeerchaser

Retired Chief Operating Officer at a large Northwest regional law firm. Attended Oregon State University in the late '60's and went to Portland State University for graduate school. Have resided in Oregon since our family moved here in 1960.

Thebeerchaser’s 2017 Annual Report

Cheers from Thebeerchaser

I would suggest that 2017 was a year of good cheer – but isn’t that what you would expect from the author of a blog entitled “Thebeerchaser.”  While there were national and international events which make me shudder, the following speaks strictly to my idiosyncratic retirement hobby i.e. visiting bars, taverns and pubs and then blogging about them.  The following is my rationale for asserting, “It was a very good year.”

Buffalo Bill’s Saloon in rural Beavercreek

Blog Statistics – while I would still pursue this hobby even if the only people reading my posts were family members (out of a sense of obligation), it is gratifying to see that the number visiting the blog has increased – a lot – each year from my first full year in 2012. 

The chart below shows the total number of views with the darker blue being the number of visitors each year.  

The unique Multnomah Whiskey Bar

For example in 2017, I had 24,577 views from 18,623 visitors – meaning each visitor looked at an average of 1.32 different posts.

This compares to 2013 when the views rang in at 15,223 by 10,031 people – a 60% increase in views over that four year period. My first full year, only 6,704 ventured in, so the increase has been gratifying.

Thebeerchaser’s Statistics from 2012 – 2017

Since its inception in August, 2011, I have published 189 posts – each one averaging about 1,500 words.  In 2017, followers of the blog saw twenty-nine posts, which is pretty close to the annual average over the six full years I have been on this “Tour.”   But in 2017, since we were on the road more, we visited more different public houses than in any prior year.

Wonderful scenery (and breweries) along the S. Oregon Coast

When we travel, I describe multiple bars and breweries in each post.  For example, in September we headed down the Southern Oregon Coast through Redwood National Park to Eureka.

In three different posts, I described eleven breweries, one bar and one bottle shop that we visited on that trip including our favorite, Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake California.

Drinking with the friendly staff of Mad River Brewing

And I am always amazed to see the locations at which the visitors to Thebeerchaser are doing their Google searches which bring them to my domain.

For example, in 2017, 85% of the views were from the US, but 3% were from India, followed by 1.8% from Canada and even ten views from Saudi Arabia.

Known to roam both New Guinea and Khazakstan

Perhaps that’s some people getting vicarious thrills from reading about watering holes because Saudi Arabia has a complete ban on alcohol – it is illegal to produce it, import it, or consume it.

In fact, in 2017 I even had two visitors from New Guinea and one from Khazakstan.  Perhaps they got to my blog by mistake and they meant to do a search for The boar chaser……

Thebeerchasing Itinerary

At the wonderful dive bar AC Tap outside Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin

My practice when Beerchasing in the Portland area is to generally visit an establishment at least twice – that gives me a better feel for the place and more opportunity to meet patrons and talk to the bartenders or staff about the bar or brewery’s history and distinguishing characteristics.

Now 2017 set a record for the most venues visited.   Although the Portland area total was lower than most years at fifteen bars and breweries, this number was supplemented by twenty-seven outside Portland including multiple entries in Wisconsin, California and the Oregon Coast.

Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee

You can see the list for both categories at the end of this post.  And one brewery is in a special category – the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel which will be discussed below.

Friendly owner Tom O’Leary

 

For Portland establishments, I devote the entire post to one venue.  For example, my favorite bar in 2017 of the nine Portland area watering holes, was TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub where I got to know the owner, Tom, a former star from Ireland’s most popular soap opera.

And the brewery which captured my imagination of the five Portland area enterprises reviewed was Tigard’s Flyboy Brewing.  The outstanding people in these establishments gave them the nod plus you haven’t lived until you have tasted their Pilot’s Peach Pale Ale.

Michelle Faubion and Mark Becker of Flyboy Brewing

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

Each quarter I also write about an individual or group for which I bestow the “honor” Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (BOTQ).  In the past, these have included authors, athletes, war heroes, media personalities and even my graduate school Professor of Public Finance, Portland State’s Dr. John Walker.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year was named in 2016 – my wife of thirty-eight years, Janet, who has shown the patience and given her support for the time I spend checking out these colorful and many times historic, public houses.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year

Fortunately, she has grown to have a fondness for IPAs (Buoy Brewing’s of Astoria is her favorite) – a change from generally consuming an Oregon Pinot when we dined out in prior years.

Amy Faust of 99.5 – The Wolf

 

 

 

I was somewhat remiss this year and only named three BOTQ – Portland radio personality, Amy Faust, of the Mike and Amy Show and then a  tribute to the late author and my friend (as a result of this blog) Brian Doyle.

And then there’s Father Martin Grassel, who is the head brewer at the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey (in addition to being the Procurator for the Abbey – a very big responsibility.) He is a wonderful man with a fascinating background.

Father Martin of the Benedictine Brewery

Stay tuned for a catch-up effort in 2018, when my first BOTQ will be Portland developer and civic leader, Mark Edlen.

For a list of past recipients of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, see the tab so designated on the header at the top of this post.  These people are interesting and have compelling stories and you probably know some of them.

Looking Back and Reflecting……

Dave Booher and Steve Larson at the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns

Since my visit to the Brooklyn Park Pub in August, 2011, my first bar on what has been a six and one-half year journey, I have visited and reviewed a total of 257 different watering holes.

While my initial intent was to restrict these visits to Portland locations, our retirement travel was conducive to telling you about bars in Europe and Alaska, Hawaii,  Montana and a bunch of other states in addition to saloons all over the state of Oregon – from the coast to John Day and Baker.

The personable Phoebe of the Brooklyn Park Pub

By the way, I was very happy that I returned to the Brooklyn this summer and had a visit with their wonderful bartender Phoebe Newcombe, one of my favorite of many dynamic personalities (also third place in Willamette Week’s Best- of-Portland Bartenders) I have had the pleasure of interviewing since 2011.

Darwin’s Theory – An OSU Beaver in Anchorage

So of that total (257) 114 have been in Portland and 143 in the aforementioned other geographical locales.  (Sometime if we have a beer, I will tell you about our visit to the bar right below the summit of  top of Mt. Schilthorn in Switzerland – at an altitude of 9,744 feet.)

Or there was my favorite dive bar of all time – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, Alaska – owned by an Oregon State University alum.

The Schilthorn Taverne in Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve got to be kidding? Beer at 9,500 feet!

The List of 2017 Venues

The charts below show the name, location type of establishment and date of the post for each place reviewed in 2017 – separated by those in the Portland metropolitan area and those outside the Rose City.

Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Multnomah Whiskey Library Downtown Whiskey Bar January
Nineteen 33 Taproom West Linn Neighborhood February
Buffalo Bill’s Saloon Beavercreek Neighborhood February
Ancestry Brewing Tualatin Brewery February
The Independent Downtown Sports Bar March
NEPO 42 Northeast Neighborhood April
Burnside Brewing East Brewery April
Gil’s Speakeasy Southeast Dive Bar May
Flyboy Brewing Tigard Brewery May
Cascade Brewing Barrel House Southeast Brewpub June
Labrewatory North Brewery June
Renners Multnomah Village Dive Bar August
Slow Bar Southeast Neighborhood October
TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub Northeast Neighborhood October
ZARZ Downtown Whiskey Bar December

Wisconsin Beerchasing

On the Oregon Coast

 

Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Nauti Mermaid Beach Club Lincoln City, OR Neighborhood July
Scooters Pub Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood July
Dukes on the Water Milwaukee, Wisc. Dive July
Water Street Brewery Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery July
Badger State Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Hinterland Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Door County Brewing Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Brewery August
AC Tap Sister Bay, Wisc Dive August
Coyote Road House Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Cornerstone Pub Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Pourman’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Lake Front Brewing Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery September
McGillycuddy’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Bar None Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
The Aly Asylum Riverhouse Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewpub September
Yachats Brewing Yachats, OR Brewery November
Defeat River Brewing Reedsport, OR Brewery November
Seven Devils Brewing Coos Bay, OR Brewery November
Bandon Brewery Bandon, OR Brewery November
Broken Anchor Bar and Grill Bandon, OR Neighborhood November
The Beverage Barn Bandon, OR Bottle Shop November
Arch Rock Brewing Gold Beach, OR Brewery November
Chetco Brewing Brookings, OR Brewery November
Six Rivers Brewing McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Humboldt Regeneration McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Lost Coast Brewery Eureka, CA Brewery December
Mad River Brewery Blue Lake, CA Brewery December
Benedictine Brewery Mount Angel, OR Brewery November

The Benedictine Brewery

Sign designed and created by Brother Andre’ Love

Fans of great beer and the rich history of brewing can look forward to the opening of the Benedictine Brewery and Taproom in mid-2018.   After an incredible community timber raising on November 11th, the Brewery is now framed and its flagship beer, Black Habit got a wonderful review at this link in Willamette Week.  http://www.wweek.com/bars/beer/2017/12/12/in-a-bavarian-village-in-oregon-you-can-drink-beer-brewed-by-benedictine-monks/  

I have been working as a volunteer on this project for the last fifteen months – it’s a vision of Father Martin Grassel.  When completed, it will be the only brewery west of the Mississippi in which the ownership and brewing is by monks – in this case those at the Mount Angel Abbey, established in 1882.

To see some videos which will amaze you and give you an idea of the energy and spirit shown at the timber raising at which about 100 monks, seminarians and friends from the Mt. Angel community worked as a team all day,  check out the following link from my post on 11/21.

 

Updated picture from 1/4/18

 

 

 

 

 

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

Happy New Year!

Beerchasing on the S. Oregon and N. California Coasts – Part II

The winter months are a good time to finish narrating (and remembering…) our three and one-half day journey down the southern Oregon coast and through the beautiful Redwoods as far as Eureka in mid-September.  Beautiful scenery in the state parks, some great hikes and twelve breweries, one bar (and a bottle shop) in which we raised a shared-mug (most times) along the way made it a trip to remember.

We left off the last post telling you about the personable and entrepreneurial owner of the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill in Bandon where we stayed our first night.   We enjoyed outstanding food, a good tap list and our conversation with Jessica Neal.

We were sorry to hear that shortly after our trip, she ran into a few strokes of bad luck with both a fire which destroyed her liquor inventory and her walk-in freezer malfunctioning – the latter resulting in a significant loss not covered by insurance.

Jessica – bouncing back from bad luck….

Not surprisingly, in a recent phone call to see how she had recovered, she was upbeat and positive.  Jessica was enthused about  moving forward into the holidays and thankful for her loyal customers.   When you are in Bandon, you should stop at this quality bar, partake of the great food and say hello to Jessica.

Note

This is a long post although it is hard to be concise when visiting so many quality breweries and witnessing the beautiful scenery.  But to see our favorite brewery of the entire trip, you have to either read or move down to the end of this post.   Here’s a picture of their taproom and if you are in Northern California, stop and visit this wonderful brewery.

What Tap Room is this?

Our last bar in Oregon before we hit the California border was in Brookings where we visited the Chetco Brewery – a brewery with a simple philosophy – “Small town brewing – world class beer.”  

The community had been decimated by the Chetco Bar Fire, which was started by lightning in July and burned almost 200,000 acres before it was contained, including severely damaging one of Oregon’s last redwood groves.

Businesses in that area including the brewery, were severely stressed by the haze and distinct possibility of evacuation during the zenith of the tourist season.  Just visiting the brewery’s small taproom with sixteen of their own vegan beers on tap, however, gave an indication how the community rallied.

It was appropriate that we shared a pint of their “Evacuation Ale”:

” With the ash falling around us, still sipping the morning coffee, it clicked. Smoked, Coffee, Porter. Pure delight amongst the panic. Just a little caffeine to settle the nerves. Smooth, complex, and interesting enough to take your mind off of your impending doom.”

Chetco Taproom – not fancy, but a community gathering place.

And it is not surprising to see how this enterprise is thriving.  Their website gives the story entitled, “Much to be Thankful For.”  It relates how they are “revitalizing” a much bigger building down the highway and moving the taproom and brewery in a project that will be incrementally completed next March.

Just over the California border, we made a short stop at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville.  The “Brew with a View” – overlooking the Pacific on Hghway 101, opened in 2008 by Talia and Meredith became the second all-woman-owned brewery in California and has also expanded with success.   The pub has a good menu and eleven of their beers on tap. 

We shared a half-flight of five 4-ounce samples for only $6 after our helpful servers, Erin and Rebecca let us sample a few to narrow our choices and especially enjoyed their Bluff Creek Pale Ale.

The taproom at Six Rivers

 

 

 

Another quick stop in McKinleyville was on the agenda. The taproom is essentially a small square room in a storage shed, but we wanted to see Humboldt Rengeration, because of its innovative and sustainable approach to brewing as evidenced by the three quotes below – the first from their webpage and the second two from Yelp.

“It’s a sustainable Farmhouse Brewery which means we are growing our own grains and hops. The barley and wheat are floor-malted on site.”

“A true heirloom Brewer – using cutting edge technology and methodology with old school craftsmanship…..A recent stop in Humboldt Regeneration had me sampling seven (7) different offerings the day of my visit – the brew master (Jacob) had produced 200+ different styles of brews in the past year.  His unassuming 2 1/2 year old nano brewery has been taking the northwest brewery scene by storm – voted one of the top nano breweries of 2014 in an industry paper.” (Yelp – 1/7/15) 

Humboldt Regeneration – a storage shed, but innovative brewing

“Sure, the atmosphere is a nano brewery (read: storage shed) but what you may lose in surroundings is more than made up for in the beer. Every beer I tried was complex and refreshing. The Faro Red– if you like sours– holy taste explosion.” (Yelp – 8/16/17)

We had a nice chat with Jacob the brewmaster and shared a good Whiskey Barrel Pilsner.

That night we stayed in Trinidad, California at the Turtle Rocks Inn, a picturesque bed and breakfast where we sat on our private deck and enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner while listening to the sea lions bark on the rocks below. One of the joys of road trips is discovering places off the beaten path – and there are many on the coast.

The Turtle Rocks Inn Bed and Breakfast

 

 

Lest you think this trip was only about beer, the next day was our favorite – a day spent touring and hiking in Redwood National Park.  A hike through the Lady Bird Johnson grove led by a Forest Service ranger, giving the history and interesting facts about the flora and fauna made this a highlight of the trip.

John Steinbeck’s quote on the Redwoods cannot help but ring true when you are standing in this magnificent grove gazing up at these trees which often grow over 300 feet and are hundreds of years old – the oldest purportedly were saplings before the birth of Christ.

Words are not necessary….

““The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable.

From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

And fortunately, because of bi-partisan effort  evidenced in that very spot when President Richard Nixon dedicated the park in 1969  and named the grove after Lady Bird Johnson – wife of his predecessor of the other political party – the Redwoods were saved from developers although many of the massive trees were logged before protection through park designation.

Keep this in mind and realize the current “occupant” of the White House on December 4th proudly announced in Salt Lake City that he was drastically scaling back two national monuments (Baby Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante) established in Utah by his Democratic predecessors.  It was the largest reduction of public-lands protection in U.S. history.

I guess when Nixon’s legacy (and demeanor) start appearing to be positive from a relative perspective, it is understandable why even blogs about bars and breweries have to digress (or regress) to political commentary to vent righteous indignation and disgust.

We finished that day with the Trillium Falls trail – a wonderful 3-mile loop through more majestic old-growth timber.

For dinner, we drove down to Eureka where we dined at the Lost Coast Brewery Restaurant, located in a 100-year old building in the heart of the city.  It’s another brewery started by a woman, Barbara Groom, and has grown and expanded to become the largest brewery we visited on our trip.

 

The restaurant was packed and has an expansive menu.  Janet had their flagship beer, the Great White – their original and a Belgian-style white, while I had the Tangerine Wheat. 

The pub at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka

We sampled this good beer on a trip a few years back and liked it so well, we stopped at a bottle shop and brought a six-pack home. The Lost Coast logo and artwork is wonderfully creative and distinct.

 

That night we stayed in charming Arcata and hit two last California breweries:

Unimpressive exterior but good tap list

Redwood Curtain Brewing – another unimpressive location – brewery and tasting room in a non-descript strip mall, but an impressive selection of beers on tap (24 of their own beers) in a nice tasting room.

Redwood Curtain brewing and tasting room

It was a Friday night and overflowing with students from nearby Humboldt State College, anticipating the live entertainment. Chris, the friendly bartender, gave us a good recommendation – their flagship Golden Ale.  We were going to stay for dinner, but Chris told us that a semi-truck had recently wiped out their food cart in the parking lot…..!

Mad River Brewery – okay, I told you I saved the best for last.  We tasted a lot of excellent beer and met wonderful people in breweries down the coast into Northern California, but our favorite in either state by far — Mad River.

Was it the charming and well-designed tasting room and patio?  Or was it the great logo and artwork on their bottles?  That was part of it, but we loved their beer – stopped and picked up a half-case to take home – and the staff we met that afternoon, that distinguished them.

Mad River, started in 1989 and has been going strong ever since, brewing with skill and pride:

“Our most prestigious awards include four Gold Medals, four Silver Medals and one Bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival. Two Bronze awards from the World Beer Cup and 2010 Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award from the Great American Beer Festival.”

And perhaps we hit the Taproom at just the right time – there were six employees sitting at the bar after they had finished their work day and were enjoying a fringe benefit – an after-shift beer with their personal mug – each one hanging on a prominent display to the side of the bar – a creative and positive gesture by management. 

A look at their website is ample evidence that they are a team-oriented enterprise.  All of the guys we met while sitting at the bar were very friendly and one could tell by their comments that they loved their jobs and appreciated their brewing company.   While we liked all of them – Sean, Nate et.al., our favorite was Zeke Branca(the first guy on the left in the picture) a big guy who is the Cellar Master and who stated on their website:

“I am a seventeen year MRBCo employee, with 35 years brewing experience as an award-winning homebrewer at both national and state competitions. Native Californian, married and father of two. Other interests include; officiating soccer, watching international futbol and Saturday night poker club….CHEERS”

And our half-case was a variety pack because we couldn’t decide on our favorite.  We especially enjoyed the Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, the Mad River IPA and the Jamaica Red Ale was one of the best I’ve tasted and lived up to its 2011 Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival

You could also get a delicious burger or sandwich in the taproom.

 

Well, early the next morning, we left and made the long drive to our beach house in Lincoln City, but of course, we made one stop that harkened both of us back to family vacations before we hit our teens.  In fact, with me, it was when our family made a 6,500 three-month camping trip in the summer and fall of 1962.

We lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and after that trip, my dad quit his job and my wonderful parents told us, “We’re moving to Oregon!”

“Nice shoes, Tommy! Where are you from?”

And just like Janet, I remember the Trees of Mystery on 101 although they now don’t have the guy who sat hidden in the bottom of the giant logger and fascinated young kids by talking to each one personally when they came up for a picture.

Janet gets her “bearings”

 

 

 

 

 

And thanks to Duane (FDW) and Frannie Williams for having the pioneer spirit and courage to move their family to a better life on the West Coast

To see Part I of the trip along the coast, click on the following link:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/13/beerchasing-on-the-south-oregon-coast-and-through-the-redwoods-part-i/

 

 

 

 

For Downtown Bars – Choose ZARZ

Janet, Kate and David ready for Happy Hour

With so many new bars east of the Willamette River in Portland, both in NE and SE, it is easy to ignore downtown Portland – or the Central Business District (CBD) as it was called during the 25 years I worked in its heart – on the 17th floor of the PacWest Center.

The venerable PacWest Center, home of the Schwabe Williamson law firm

A suggestion by my friend and Beerchaser regular, David Dickson, that we (his spouse, Kate and mine, Janet) take a jaunt by the river along the Promenade and then hit Happy Hour at Zarz on First, a relatively new bar (September, 2016).  It describes itself as a “neighborhood bar” and the “Best Happy Hour in Portland.”  

 

A brisk walk along the East Bank Promenade

David’s suggestion was a good one and after a brisk and delightful three-mile jaunt, we had a great dinner and good drinks at excellent Happy Hour prices.

Bernie Stea at lunch with our server, Erin

The experience was enjoyable enough that it motivated me to return for lunch a few days later with another veteran Beerchaser – Bernie Stea, co-managing broker with his wife, Debb Janes, at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm in Camas.  http://natureasneighbors.com/about/   (It should be noted that Beerchaser standard due diligence is to visit a bar at least twice before offering a review.)

Both my daughter, Laura and her husband, Ryan, graduated from the University of Portland and one of my favorite authorities on beer, Dr. Sam Holloway is a tenured professor at the school (and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, so I was happy to see that Zarz is the product of another successful UP graduate.

Zaryab “Zar” Sheikh graduated and earned his MBA from UP in 1979 and went on to earn his CPA, worked internationally and ultimately became President and owner of Gorge Hotels, a Washington corporation that owns several hotels besides the restaurant.

I had read about the bar’s extensive whiskey selection which their website describes as “inspired by Zar’s favorite signature cocktails and regional wines…..comprised of standout, premium cocktails made with quality liquor from top international and local distillers” and seeing the classy setting with a beautiful bar, I was reminded of two of my prior Beerchaser venues focusing on hard liquor rather than beer – Barlow Artisanal Bar (visited in 2016) and the Portland Whiskey Library (2017).

Multnomah Whiskey Library – a $600 membership fee

Although both of these bars were good experiences, I would return to Zarz again before either of the former.   Barlow’s menu is significantly more limited, the drinks and food are more expensive and the setting and décor do not compare.

While the ambiance of the Whiskey Library is outstanding, one has to either purchase an annual membership for $600 or buy a $25 “Hall Pass” and stand in line for what can be hours to drink in what admittedly is an exclusive, award-winning setting.  Fortunately, I had a benevolent host during my visit who picked up our tab…….

So why would Zarz get the nod over these other classy venues?  Well, the food is very good starting with the burger, which for Happy Hour is a very reasonable $8 for a large and delicious burger with fries – on the regular menu for $12.  All of use chose this option on the first visit.

Didn’t take long to go with the burger…

Almost without exception, the social media reviews are very positive on the food.

The Cuban sandwich, which Bernie thought was excellent draws raves: “Husband had the Cuban, which was one of the best he’s ever had. I went with the local Oregon raise fried chicken with grits and greens. I have to say it was the best I’ve have West of the Mississippi and North if the Mason Dixon.”  (Yelp 9/15/17)

The fish tacos get good comments:

“What really surprised me were the fish tacos. These were unbe-lievable and so good that we had to place another order of them. You will definitely want more than one order as these fish tacos are addictive.”  (Yelp 2/1/17)

Three small sliders for $8 – a good deal! Bernie’s Cuban is in the background.

Multiple compliments were also offered on the deviled eggs,  steak, hummus, bacon sampler and especially the fried chicken – available as an entrée or as one of  three slider options – three sliders for $8 or a buck cheaper at Happy Hour.  I had the fried chicken option for lunch and was very pleased with my choice.

The beer selection is good – nine on tap ($6 and $1 off at HH) along with two ciders and a reasonable choice of red and white wine.  My Kiwanda Cream Ale by Pelican Brewery that evening was good, but not very cold although this was remedied the next day when my excellent Suicide Squeeze from Fort George came and was cold as was Bernie’s Oakshire Amber.

But the flagship beverages at Zarz are their fifteen cocktails ($10 and $2 less at HH) -people seemed to like the margarita – and about 150 types of hard liquor on the shelf.  Now while this does not compare with Multnomah Whiskey Library’s purported 1,500 labels.

150 + options available

The selections range from old standbys such as Jack Daniels ($7 per shot) to about fifty labels of Scotch ranging from my favorite – the Balvenie 17-year Double Wood  for $45 to their most expensive which appeared to be a Cragganmore 25-year which would increase your tab by $152 for a shot

Erin, our wonderful server, asked the bartender, friendly Eric, who acceded to my request and climbed the ladder to retrieve the bottle of Cragganmore and pose in a picture. (Note: the bottle was about 2/3 full so somebody has tried it!)

Eric, gingerly holds the Cragganmore

I did some quick calculations and figured there are about 757 milliliters in a fifth and assuming a shot is 44 milliliters, that would mean the bottle would generate $2,615, so I told Eric to be very careful when handling the bottle.   Some internet research revealed that the retail cost of a fifth of Cragganmore is about $425.  It was evidently distilled in 1988 and aged in oak casks.

One on-line whiskey rating site stated in part:

Nose: sweet with lots of vanilla, heather honey and hints of honeydew melons. Nice bits of dried mango. The fruitiness is balanced (or muted if you like) by green, spicy oak and liquorice…………Mouth: creamy, still rather sweet with some honey and orchard fruits. Nice hints of pineapple and coconut….”  

In the village of Ballindalloch in Banffshire, Scotland.

They concluded: “The oaky notes, ginger, pepper and plenty of vanilla make this one typically American oak, but they also make it seem younger than it is. A lot of distilleries have this profile at half the age and a fraction of the price.”

And remember, the $152 taste of fruit as it sails down your gullet lasts for about three seconds. (Perhaps chewing a Bit O Honey candy bar while swilling a glass of good oaky Maysara Pinot Noir (McMinnville) would save you about $140 dollars and last a lot longer.)  The New York Times described as “In your face aromatically, with a blast of sweet red fruit.” (10/19/16)

Well, we digress – now back to Zarz.  Besides the food and drink and the friendly and helpful staff, the other attribute that speaks well of this bar is the ambiance created by the interior.   It is housed in one of Portland’s historic buildings (purported to be the 9th oldest) and the longish space besides having a great bar, has spacious booths besides a number of tables.

Adorning the walls are a number of retro pictures including those of Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Ray Charles and the Rat Pack.  (I took Bernie’s picture by this one because of our days working at the Oregon State Bar (He served as Director of Continuing Legal Education and I was the Business Manager).

He presented his budget on a laptop Osborne computer using VisiCalc software and would quietly sing Frank Sinatra’s classic “I Did It My Way, as he tried to justify a plan filled with what we budget people called “fluff.”  (He may not have gotten all of his funding approved, but he got high marks for creativity.)

The only negative about Zarz was the challenge of parking in that area of town although there are some Smart Parks in the area which is probably the best bet.

Oh, and if you like live music, check them out on a Friday or Saturday night.  Erin said that one of the most popular groups is Portland’s Toledo Kesch – a blues-based rock and roll group which was appearing that Friday.

Zarz has had some challenges which is not unusual in the restaurant and hospitality business.  After their September, 2016 opening, they evidently closed for a period earlier this year.  However, the bar and bistro has come back strong.  It deserves a visit, so check them out.

 

 

Zarz on First          814 SW First  

The Benedictine Brewery – “Beam” Me Up

The slab at the start of the day

On Saturday morning, November 11th, the future Benedictine Brewery and Taproom started as a concrete slab adjacent to the Mount Angel Abbey Hilltop, which is also the home of the Mount Angel Seminary.

By the end of the day, there was a structural frame with six bents ( two-dimensional transverse rigid frames and the building blocks that define the overall shape and character of a structure) using 14,000 board feet of Douglas Fir timber harvested from the Abbey tree farm.  And the next monumental step for this project – in the planning stages since 2012 – was taken.

Project Manager and Director of Enterprises, Chris Jones

Chris Jones, on the Abbey staff and a key player in the planning and construction, arrived at the site before the sun rose at 5:00 A.M. to contemplate what lay ahead for the almost one hundred volunteers.  They worked under the direction of the professionals from New Energy Works and participated in the modern-day equivalent of an old-fashioned barn raising. As Chris stated that day:

“This raising is a ton of right in a wrong-way world. Yeah, it fits right in with the mission of the brewery (support the Abbey, local charities and local economics), but it’s a lot more than that. It feels like making a change for good and right – one community step at a time.”  

A little over one-half mile away, the monks were participating in their first of five prayer services that day, before many of them would join the seminarians and residents of the City of Mt. Angel when the work started at 9:00 AM.  (The monks have “divine office” five times per day plus the Eucharist).

The beautiful chapel on the Abbey Hilltop

 

 

 

As inspiration, workers could see the impressive spire of the beautiful St. Mary’s Catholic Church visible through the Abbey’s adjacent hop fields.  (And Fr. Philip Waibel, OSB, pastor of the church was among those at the Timber Raising that day.)  The 350 acres of hops owned by the Abbey will be a source of the ingredients used in brewing Benedictine beer.

The steeple at St. Marys Catholic Church

 

The timber was milled through Hull-Oakes Lumber Company from Monroe – a family business founded in 1937 that specializes in cutting big timbers.

Another important firm which made the structure possible is Withers Lumber from Brooks – a family owned full service local lumber company with ties to Woodburn, Silverton and Mount Angel among other Oregon communities.

John Gooley, represented Withers (he’s worked there for forty-two years) that day and was a wealth of information.

A team effort by volunteers

To see the first bent raised by the group, check out the video I took below.  Remarkable!

John told me that there were 305 pieces of wood that were joined for the structure.  Besides the 14,000 for the structural components, another 11,000 board feet of lumber was used for the siding  and the tongue and grove boards for the top of the structure.  It will also be used for the actual bar in the Taproom.  It took seven truckloads of logs for the Brewery and Taproom and additional load that went in exchange to the plywood mill.  

Besides the source of the wood, there was another unusual aspect of the construction process:

“The timber was harvested, cut, dried, milled using mortise and tenon joinery, which is secured with wooden pegs — an age-old traditional craft — and prepared for a seamless, no-hammer, no-saw construction.”  http://www.capitalpress.com/Orchards/20171113/unique-brewery-raising-at-abbey

Mallets rather than hammers and nails….

The volunteers that day know that there labor will be “captured” in the structure for its duration based on the fact that all were encouraged by John Gooley to sign the pegs that secured the bents before they were put in place.  Thebeerchaser eagerly participated.

Thebeerchaser signing a peg

When completed in the spring of 2018, the 3,000 square foot Brewery and Taproom will house a five-barrel brewing system including boil kettles, burners, a heat exchanger, fermenters, chillers, bottle conditioners and related equipment such as siphons, pumps and hoses.

The building’s architect is Henry Fitzgibbon of Soderstrom, a leading Portland firm founded in 1984 and which has done work for many faith-based communities and educational institutions.  Henry donated many hours on the Brewery project and is one of the many skilled professionals without whose contributions this venture would not have been possible.  https://sdra.com/henry-fitzgibbon-2/

Henry Fitizgibbon

Conceptual drawing of finished Brewery and Taproom

In fact, Fitzgibbon’s most recent project has been designing a basilica for the tiny village of Kibeho, in southern Rwanda, after being approached by author Immaculee Ilibagiza; who saw work he had performed in Mount Angel at the Abbey.  http://sdra.com/interview-with-henry-fitzgibbon/

This blog has previously featured the remarkable story of Father Martin Grassel, O.S.B., the Head Brewer at Benedictine and under whose vision this project has come to fruition.  Father Martin, who is also Procurator (essentially the Chief Financial Officer) at the Abbey was featured as the most recent Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Father Martin with his current on-site brewing equipment at the historic Abbey “fort.”

He is a remarkable man with a unique story and background as a software engineer before his journey of faith and service brought him to the Mount Angel Abbey

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/07/26/father-martin-grassel

Notwithstanding the almost continuous showers during the previous week the sun shone brightly in the morning as the work started.  And the video below shows the remarkable process for raising each bent.  (It may also be one of the few times you see monks wearing hard hats and jeans rather than their traditional black habits,) 

New Energy Works, which has offices or shops in McMinnville, Portland and two locations in New York, conducts these public raisings all over the country – from private residences to barns to larger commercial buildings and they usually draw a crowd. And what a dynamic and environmentally conscious company it is.

They co-designed the building and designed the first layout and timber frame.

Father Martin – right – with the Jonathan Orpin from New Energy

As you will see from the video below in which the largest timber section – 80 feet in length, requiring forty workers  was raised, Jonathan Orpin, the President of New Energy was the equivalent of land-based coxswain for his “crew” team.  His enthusiasm and energy was inspiring to all present.

 

New Energy even supplied a drone to memorialize the action that day.  You should check out the video below for a “start-to-finish aerial view. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psEJsPahTfM&t=130s

Cab Construction of Mt. Angel was the general contractor and Chris Bischoff, the owner, was at the raising all day working both on the ground and in the rafters…..

Cab Construction – the general contractor

That day was also the occasion of the first prayer in the Benedictine Brewery and Taproom – held at noon before we ate and in lieu of the standard noon-day prayer in the wonderful Abbey chapel.  Fr. Vincent Trujillo, O.S.B., the Prior of the Abbey,  led the service which was “uplifting” – very consistent with the theme that day!   The monks sang and were joined by the other participants.  See the video below:

 

At noon, in the tradition of historic barn raisings, there was a feast for the workers and attendees, prepared under the direction of the Abbey’s Chef Paul Lieggi.  His spread of delicious barbecued chicken, baked beans, potato salad and green salad boosted the energy and spirits of the workers.

Chef Paul prepares…but not pig stomach…..

Research on the menu for historic barn raisings revealed that the traditional menu was often slightly different than ours that day, most notably for the main course.  In Amish and Mennonite communities Pig Stomach was often the main course at these events.  In case you want to try this yourself: 

“Remove the inner lining of the stomach and discard. Wash stomach well and than soak in salt water several hours. Drain and fill stomach with stuffing. Sew securely.

Use recipe for filling……Place stuffed stomach in a large roasting pan and bake at 350 for 3 hours. Serve with gravy made by adding flour and water to drippings in roasting pan.”  http://oldfashionedliving.com/barnraising.html

Although there are goats and sheep raised on Abbey property, fortunately pigs are not part of the livestock……

Beer expert and volunteer, Jeff Alworth

There were a number of print and social media reps and there covering the event.  One of them is a well-known Northwest beer expert and writer, Portland’s Jeff Alworth, who first wrote about plans for the Benedictine Brewery back in 2014 in his excellent blog – Beervana.  Jeff was there for the entire day with a hard hat on and actively participating.

His books include The Secret of Master Brewers and his award-winning comprehensive guide to beer, The Beer Bible. Jeff also writes a weekly column for All About Beer Magazine and co-hosts the Beervana Podcast, where he and Oregon State University economics professor Patrick Emerson discuss beer and the economics of beer.

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

The legacy of Benedictine beer goes back to the Middle Ages:

““….when local water supplies were rife with disease, monks brewed beer as a way to sanitize the water and also produce a libation to serve guests who sought refuge….Beer was an important part of their diets, particularly because it could be consumed as a source of nourishment during Lenten feasts.”  (Catholic Sentinel 2/21/14)

The Benedictine Brewery at Mount Angel will be the first monastery west of the Mississippi, and one of only two or three in the US, that does its development, major production, and taproom service on-site, with monks doing the brewing and running their own operation.

And the vision for this venture transcends the goal of making quality beer.  As Father Martin eloquently wrote in a recent missive:

” To say it should be a place of hospitality and welcome and family-friendliness would be too shallow.  I want it to be a place where people are more than just welcome:  I want a place where they will feel blessed, where they will feel the peace of the Abbey, where they will encounter faith in an inviting and non-threatening way, where they will want to come back because of the spiritual atmosphere.” 

Although the on-site brewery will not be completed until March, the Benedictine Brewery already has a record of producing great beer although much of it is done on a contract basis through nearby Seven Brides Brewery in Silverton.  (Some of us chuckle at the irony of monks brewing at Seven Brides)!

The flagship beer is appropriately named “Black Habit”, and has sold out multiple times at the Mount Angel Octoberfest.  Another of the beers garnering good reviews is the St. Benedictine Farmhouse Ale.  Black Habit was first brewed with the help of the Oregon State University Fermentation Program.  (Go Beavs!)

It is hoped that people traveling to the Taproom to taste the Benedictine Beer will also visit the Abbey Hilltop – a place of beauty and hospitality founded in 1882 and with a noted museum, expansive library and great bookstore.  

And for a memorial experience, attend Vespers – almost every day of the year at 5:15 where you will be inspired by hearing the monks sing.  Thebeerchaser is not of the Catholic faith, but has valued each time I sit in the beautiful chapel for this service.

And until the Taproom opens next spring, don’t hesitate to stop by the Bookstore and pick up a case of Black Habit or one of the other Benedictine beers on sale.  It will bring new meaning to the Brewery’s slogan –  “Taste and Believe.”

Thebeerchaser’s Note:   As followers of this blog know, I started Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in August 2011, (with the blessing of my spouse of 38 years, Janet) after retiring as the Chief Operating Officer at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm where I worked for twenty-five years of my career.

 

 

 

 

I became involved with the Benedictine Brewery about eighteen months ago as a member of the Brewery Advisory Committee at the invitation of its chair, Stephen Zimmer.

After getting to know the people in the Abbey and its Foundation and given the unique story and mission of the Brewery, I decided to take a more active volunteer role in helping to set up the business operations until a general manager is hired in four to six months.   This project is the epitome of a collaborative effort of individuals, companies and the Mt. Angel community.I chuckle at some of the similarities between the law firm and the monastery.   Both are wonderful organizations, filled with intelligent, passionate individuals devoted to their profession and both organizations are consensus-based in making decisions.   The primary difference is that lawyers do not wear habits and don’t get up at 5:00 AM and pray in church six times each day!

 

Beerchasing on the South Oregon Coast and through the Redwoods – Part I

The fall is a great time to see Oregon and Janet and I decided to hit the road for a few days driving down the coast through Redwood National Park as far as Eureka.   Along the way, we enjoyed a few superb hikes and marveled at the coastal scenery.  And, of course, in furtherance of Thebeerchasers Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, we visited twelve breweries, one bar and one bottle shop along the way – all of which were either on Highway 101 or close by. 

And we were thankful for the efforts of the late Governor Tom McCall and his foresight in preserving the Oregon Coast and the numerous outstanding Oregon State Parks along the way he championed.

The breweries we visited included Yachats Brewing, Defeat River Brewing in Reedsport, Seven Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, and Bandon Brewing, the Beverage Barn (bottle shop) and the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill in Bandon, Arch Rock Brewing and in North Bend Chetco Brewing in Brookings.

Into California, we hit  Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake, Six Rivers Brewing and Humboldt Regeneration in McKinleyville, Redwood Curtain Brewing in Arcata and finally, Lost Coast Brewing Co. in Eureka.  (See the links over the names for more info.)

We tasted some good beer and by always sitting at the bars, met great people.  While it is hard to compare, our favorite brewery was Mad River Brewing closely followed by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore as will be explained below.  And we loved the one bar visited – the Broken Anchor in Bandon.

We started on a positive note with the first stop being Yachats Brewing.  The quaint building right on Highway 101 with a great view, uses historic building materials in this reconditioned bank and at Tuesday lunch it was bustling.   A number of people were enjoying the patio, while choosing one of the thirty beers on tap. 

Jeremiah, our bartender and server, was a great guy, explaining the roots of this young enterprise going back to 2013.  Janet liked her Camp One IPA (an American IPA) while I downed a Thor’s Well India Pale Ale as we listened to Crosby Stills and Nash on their play list.  The food was great with a combo of quinoa soup and the barbecued chicken sandwich rating an A+.

My choice of beers was appropriate, because we then stopped to see the Thors Well sink hole, the Spouting Horn and the Devils Churn at Cape Perpetua on the highway, which was worth the stop.     

The Spouting Horn

 

We had read an article by Oregonian reporter, Jamie Hale on hikes along the southern Oregon Coast which was a great reference.  We stopped to see the beautiful Cape Blanco Lighthouse and then pushed on to Harris Beach and Cape Sebastian State Parks.

 

 

At Defeat River Brewing near Reedsport, our bartender, Jared, poured us  The Bravest, a pilsner inspired IPA, and we learned about another home-brewing effort by two partners which culminated in Reedsport’s first commercial brewery in 2016 in another reconditioned historic building.

Jared, a friendly and informative bartender

 

 

 

 

 

 A few more miles to a short stop at Arch Rock Brewing in Gold Beach – this time to a four-year old partnership after the co-owners converted their cabinet shop into a brewery. 

The brewer formerly worked at one of our favorite out-of-state breweries at which we tasted great beer – Grand Teton Brewing, which is actually in Idaho.  Arch River currently brews only three beers, is not fancy and has no real taproom, but the owner was very friendly and helpful.

 

The best hike of the trip – even better than the beautiful several mile stroll through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods National Park was our three-mile loop along the cliffs at Cape Sebastian – the highest point on the southern Oregon Coast.

Stunning views both north and south thrilled us as we walked through the waist high grass .  Make this an absolute must if you hit this part of the coast on a nice day. 

Coos Bay, is an interesting city that shows signs of having weathered some tough times in the new economy.   lt was interesting to see the full-size posters of Steve Prefontaine, the City’s most famous individual decorate the sides of two adjacent buildings harkening back to his high school days at Marshfield High School before he set records at the U of O.

Seven Devils Brewing in Coos Bay

Another Oregon grad who has helped the community is Annie Pollard, who did both undergrad and graduate work there before eventually partnering with Carmen Mathews to open the Seven Devils Brewing Co. in 2013.  They are now an important part of the community.

Only a block or two off 101, they have a very nice open patio and a quality taproom with a nice menu featuring locally-sourced food.  It is a family-friendly venue and they have free live music concerts every week featuring local and touring artists. 

A glass door reveals the sparkling brewing equipment, which is a nice touch.  The ambiance is also heightened by the hand-made furniture and fixtures and the paintings, which make the barrel room and tap house quaint and comfortable. 

An overnight stay in Bandon, – at first disappointing because the Bandon Brewery’s grand opening was delayed until the next day, but as a result, we met a wonderful person, Jessica, the young entrepreneur, who opened the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill almost next door, a little over a year ago.  

The place was packed on a weekday evening and she and her staff including a friendly waitress named Loofa, showed great customer service and their unique sauerkraut pizza was one of the hits of the trip.  They have an expansive menu including both pub food and seafood.  Their live music on weekends draws good crowds.

Friendly enterprenauer, Jessica

 

In spite of the full house, Jessica found time to chat while she was tending bar (and doing management stuff) and I found that she had worked at both Cracker Jack’s Pub and the Dixie Tavern in Portland -both prior stops on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bar, Taverns and Pubs. 

 Her bar’s social media reviews are very good on food, drinks and service.  Typical is this one from Yelp from July 18, 2017:

“Great place in Bandon. The fish tacos are breaded, plentiful and the aioli is perfect. If you like hot their jalapeños are fresh and hit the spot. My husband’s burger was great. Waitress was awesome and they have a great selection of local beers”

Crackerjack’s is one of the favorite neighborhood bars I’ve been to in the six years of this journey and Jessica even called the former manager, a charismatic lady named, Sam, while we were there and told her Thebeerchaser was in the house. 

Jessica, a Minnesotan, who after college and getting her teaching certification, started working in restaurants and bars (and according to the reviews, she knows how to make an outstanding cocktail) and is typical of the personable and enterprising people I have met since starting this hobby in 2011.

Another interesting stop in Bandon was the Beverage Barn, essentially a bottle shop and tobacco family business opened in 2015.  You can find forty beers on tap and four ciders as explained by Amy who helped us.  

Bandon Brewing – open for business!

 

Coming back through Bandon (this time on the return trip), we hit the Bandon Brewery on its second day of operation – for lunch.   Their wood-fired pizza was solid as was their grilled cheese sandwich and the friendly staff was ready for their first weekend.   

With a stay at the Bandon Inn, a nice motel with a great view of the town and the harbor, ended our first day on the road on this trip – a great combination of brews, bistros, beaches and …..coffee! 

Stay tuned for the rest of the Oregon and California part of this journey.  

 

 

The Doctor is in at T.C. O’Leary’s

In the six years of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars Taverns and Pubs, I have found that while there are some bars which leave a bit to be desired (such as my last visit to Portland’s Slow Bar), there are none for which I regret my visit(s).  Most of the bars or breweries are admirable small businesses, which radiate warmth, character and are replete with stories of the owners, regulars or the trappings of the watering hole itself.

Such is the case with Northeast Portland’s “T.C. O’Leary’s – A Little Irish Pub.”  Located on 29th and NE Alberta, the pub has interesting space, an excellent patio, innovative music and activities, and the background of Thomas Christopher O’Leary, the owner/manager, including the story of how he got to Portland and his PDX connections, could fill a small book. 

Some people will remember this space as the former Branch Whiskey, which was also managed by Tom and was a favorite neighborhood spot known for its classy selection of hard liquor which Tom has retained.  As one Yelp reviewer opined in May, 2016, “Branch is an amazing spot for sophisticated food and cocktails in a casual atmosphere.”  

Tom has a strong background in managing bars and hospitality based on years working in bars in Ireland, New York City and Los Angeles.  When the opportunity arose in 2016, he with the advice and financial help of family connections who had confidence in the investment potential, became the owner and changed the name and theme to that of an Irish Pub.  The bar would be a family-friendly neighborhood gathering place and would not serve pub or bistro grub, but authentic Irish food.

Tom Kelly

And those “family connections” are some of Portland’s finest citizens ranging from his wife, Siobhan’s, mom and dad – Anne Kelly Feeney and Dick Feeney to uncles Tom and John Kelly and aunt Susan Kelly – all individuals celebrated for their sustained community and public service and entrepreneurship.

Neil Kelly Co. logo

(Tom is the President of the Neil Kelly Co. started in 1947 by his father with a $100 investment and which is now nationally recognized for its award-winning design and innovative practices in home remodeling).

Dick and Anne from article in the “Catholic Sentinel” magazine

Anne was the Multnomah County Auditor for two terms and later served as CEO of Loaves and Fishes.  I remember Dick when he was the Public Affairs Director for Tri-Met and a skilled and effective lobbyist for the agency in the 1970’s and I worked for the Clackamas County Commissioners.

Besides being an investor, Dick has stopped by the bar almost every day since its opening.  He stuck his head into the Snug that day to say “hello” to our group. The couple now devotes much of their time to charitable work.  http://www.catholicsentinel.org/Content/Faith-Spirituality/Living-Faith/Article/Faith-fuels-their-ongoing-public-service/4/29/18615

In the short time since the bar’s “soft opening” – the day after Thanksgiving in 2016 – Tom and Siobhan O’Leary have taken big steps in achieving their goals for the bar.  Let’s look at two other Yelp reviews which reflect the overall sentiments of those commenting on the social media site: 

“This establishment is pretty fantastic….Ever changing specials, Guinness on tap and entertaining live music including a fiddler! You’ll find it here. The fish and chips are delicious. Their Shepard’s Pie is delectable and the service is outstanding. It is nice to know that you aren’t just a customer here, this is your friends and family. ”  (7/10/17) 

“Sweet addition to the Alberta neighborhood! Really nice genuine people own the place and their actually Irish- full accent and all! I have never eaten Irish food before. I really enjoyed the Vegetarian Blaa beet sandwich on soda bread and the fresh garlic and herb fries were pretty damn tasty!”  (6/30/17)

Chuck enjoying his fish and chips

And on my first visit with retired Portland lawyer, Chuck Mitchell, who had not been Beerchasing since our 2012 visit to 1856 – a NE Bottle Shop.   We both concurred that the fish and chips – one of T.C. O’Leary’s specialties – was superb.  Just looking at the menu with items such as Guinness Braised Beef, Bacon and Cabbage, Shepherds Pie and Haddock Chowder made my mouth water and made me come close to addressing Chuck as “Paddy…”

Besides those mentioned above, Tom talked about the compliments they receive on their bread roll and baked beans.  Their Saturday and Sunday brunch (Irish breakfast) is a neighborhood favorite with pork sausage and black pudding (pig) as favorite menu items.  They also have a good Happy Hour menu from 4:00 to 6:00  and all food items are $5, including a new offering of a half order of fish and chips and the “new O’Leary’s hot dog.”

A smiling Trinity coed

Adding to the Irish authenticity on my second visit was our server, a wonderful young woman named Caoiimhe (that’s the Gaelic spelling for Quiva) who is a third-year Trinity College student visiting and working in the US for three months before her final year in college.  Trinity is the oldest (1592) and most prestigious university in Ireland.

Besides Guinness, the bar has nine other beers on tap, (I tried my first Feckin Bewing beer – a tasty “Top of the Feckin Mornin”) several wines, a cider and numerous specialty and classic cocktails plus an amazing selection of liquor – try a shot of Whistle Pig Farm’s 2012 Boss Hog Rye for $48, which will allow you to see if you want to invest in an entire bottle which runs between $100 and $200…..

Kevin – Amys better half..

Our group on the second visit, besides my wife, Janet, comprised a number of Beerchasing regulars including the Faust clan (Jack and Alice, daughter Amy and her husband, Kevin) Jim and Janet Westwood (the combination of Faust and Westwood meant that we had two of the most respected appellate lawyers in Oregon on our side in the event of post-visit litigation….) and intellectual property lawyer, John Mansfield.

Mansfield, preoccupied with establishing his new practice at Harris Bricken, had not accompanied me to a watering hole for some time although he had made his mark at three noted dive bars – The Ship in Multnomah Village, the Slammer in SE Portland and Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar.  (click on the names for a link to the posts)

He also Beerchased at  the classic Mock Crest Tavern and finally at Church – a great SE bar where he tried to emulate Martin Luther by posting 95 patents on the entrance to commemorate the renowned theologian’s 95 Theses at Wittenburg.

A clowning Westwood with Mansfield – the Ivy Leagues finest..??

Westwood and Mansfield, both Ivy League law graduates (Columbia and Cornell respectively), obviously did not talk about their law schools’ undergraduate sports teams, but we all harkened back to Mansfield’s more creative undergraduate days at the University of Oregon where he played in a rock band and majored in music composition and theory. He is a talented musician.

The picture below (I think taken by one of his clients) shows he is not a traditional, staid member of the Bar.

Kiss My Patent…

It also is evidence that Amy Faust, who is a co-host on the Mike and Amy Show on 99.5 The Wolf, will not be spinning any of the tunes on his Pandora playlist on her stint at the crack of dawn each weekday morning.  (She and Mike just received the 2017 Country Music Association 2017 Broadcast Personality of the Year for a Major Market.) Interestingly enough, Amy and John played together in a band for their respective daughters’ school event where Amy dusted off her mandolin and they both sang.

It should also be noted that both Jack and Amy Faust and Westwood have been prior Beechaser-of-the-Quarter “honorees.”  To see their stories, click on the licks here.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/09/02/john-r-jack-faust-fall-2014-beerchaser-of-the-quarter/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/04/11/amy-faust-beerchaser-of-the-quarter-and-mandolinist/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/03/28/portland-attorney-jim-westwood-beerchaser-of-the-quarter-for-january-march-2013/

Call ahead to reserve….

Tom had kindly reserved one of the distinctive features of his bar for us – The Snug – a comfortable and fabulously quirky little alcove at the front of the bar which is a tradition in Irish pubs.  It  accommodates about twelve people and provides a wonderful small-group nook that allows a modicum of privacy while still facilitating enjoyment of the T.C. O’Leary ambiance. (Call ahead to reserve it)

The Snug observed from the street.

 

 

 

 

A great patio

 

Although the bar with its fifteen authentic whiskey-barrel tables, historic family pictures and memorabilia is a cool place to sit, another good place to congregate is on the patio at the back, which T.C.’s essentially shares with the adjoining bistros on either side.

Family pictures add to the character of the bar

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of décor, I noted the red athletic tool that looked a little like a hockey stick hanging above the bar.  Tom said it was a “hurling stick”  and I didn’t hear him, so naively asked if he said it was a Curling broom,” to which he replied, “God no!”  Probably the reason for the vehemence of the response was that the pace and action of the sports are total contradictions.  Hurling is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin and is the fastest field sport in the world. It is administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game has prehistoric origins, and has been played for 3,000 years.”  Wikipedia     

The antithesis of curling…

Of course, the theme of this bar begs the question, “What is it like on St. Paddy’s Day?”  Tom said they had about seven times the number of patrons on the first celebration of this “sacred” event since their opening, and it was kind of a three-day celebration.   They also moved a separate bar out to the patio and there was a line down Alberta Street.

And Tom, like many of the owners or bartenders I have met so far on this six-year journey, has a great story.  Of course, the most unusual aspect of it was the notoriety he accrued in his six years starring as Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City. 

Dr. Brendan Daly…..

Tom grew up in Killeny.  “During years working as an actor in Dublin – from small theatres to six years playing Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City, Tom and fellow performers communed at local pubs, drinking pints like they would never age.

For his wedding reception, a magical pub in the West of Ireland suited him and his new wife better than any hotel.”  (T.C. O’Leary’s website)

Fair City is the most watched drama in Ireland, with average viewing figures of 550,000….. tackling many controversial and taboo issues previously unseen on Irish television, such as rape.”  Wikipedia 

Siobhan, his wife of ten years, first met Tom in Ireland when she spent nine months at Trinity College.  Tom knew her sister, Catie, and agreed to show Siobhan around Dublin.  Tom had a girlfriend at the time, but he and Siobhan had an “instant connection.”   Tom lived in a big house with extra rooms and offered (partly as a gesture to her sister) to let Siobhan be a boarder.  Her sister told Siobhan somewhat jokingly, “You will fall in love with Tom.”

Catie was correct .  Tom broke up with his current girlfriend.  Siobhan in the subsequent term, got her lowest grades at Trinity.  They decided to pull a practical joke and Siobhan told Catie that she detested her landlord (Tom) and couldn’t wait to leave.  For the next month, the fiction gained momentum until her mom, Anne, insisted that she was going to fly over to Dublin to rescue her “baby.”  As with many practical jokes, after Siobhan  revealed the truth, the family was not amused although fortunately, they approved of the relationship.

Tom came to New York and he and his future wife drove across America while camping along the way.  Fast forward and Siobhan moved to Ireland for a year where they were married on December 29, 2007

They moved to New York City where Tom had some acting gigs and worked in bars on the Lower East Side.  That’s where the dream of owning an Irish pub first crept into his consciousness.

With family on the west coast, they moved to LA for three years, where Tom worked in high-end bars, working two jobs six nights per week with the goal of building collateral to own his own Irish Pub.  And now they had a little girl in the family……

Moving to Portland in the summer of 2014, Siobhan labored at an office job while Tom worked construction.  (Contrary to the popular belief, good bartending jobs are not that easy to get in the Rose City.)

Anne Feeney knew the manager of Branch Whiskey, and with his extensive experience in bars, he hired Tom immediately which began a two-year stint until the owner announced he was closing.

Tom got good advice from his investors and negotiated successfully.  After only a three-week interim closure, they were back in business with some new trappings thanks to a great work by their general contractor Megan Beaver of Eight Penny Nail, and T.C. O’Leary’s “Little Irish Pub,” has become a neighborhood fixture ever since.

I was somewhat critical of the last bar visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs i.e. Slow Bar on Grand Avenue.  While it is known for its great hamburger, I questioned whether the bar lived up to its potential by simply relying on its notorious burger and a juke box known for its collection of Heavy Metal selections.

Let’s examine some of the activity Tom has orchestrated at TC’s compared with Slow Bar’s “hot” juke box as a comparison:

The James Joyce book club – a bunch of serious dudes…..

On Tuesday nights, TC’s hosts a James Joyce book club in the Snug and they plow through about fifteen pages reading Joyce’s classic Ulysses with each participant reading his or her selection until the egg-timer rings for the next reader to start.  (Maybe it takes longer because James Joyce, according to one recent article I read, is an “exclamation point fanatic.”)

Of the ten authors with the most prolific use of exclamation points ranging from Elmore Leonard – 10th place to Virginia Wolf – sixth place to F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4th place, Joyce came in first with 1,105 exclamation points per 100,000 words in his three novels!!!  — What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt, published March, 2017.  (Read the book and you will also learn stuff like Nabokov’s favorite word was “mauve.”)

Every second Monday night, they have Irish music with a fiddler with the other Mondays devoted to other local musicians.  On Thursday evenings patrons see a specialty act – Michael Sheridan, a unique and nationally recognized singer-songwriter who has packed them in according to Tom. https://www.facebook.com/events/1917437525206189/           

If my two visits are typical, you should definitely drop by TC O’Leary’s where Tom will greet you as he does every patron at the door.   This personable Irishman, entrepreneur and former actor can give you advice on which draft beer or one of their specialty cocktails will enhance your visit.

But if he approaches you with a scalpel in his hand, you can be assured, it’s to carve some of the high-quality beef they use and he is not reenacting  his days as Dr. Brendan Daly.

 

T.C. O’Leary’s     2926 NE Alberta

 

Take a Fast Trip to Slow Bar

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars,Taverns and Pubs focuses on the bars themselves – the beer and the grub is incidental.  The grist of these reviews is the bar’s history, the regulars, the bartenders and the ambiance.  What distinguishes this saloon or brewery from others?

In the case of Slow Bar, however, the emphasis will be on the food – to wit: it’s notable “Slow Burger,” which makes numerous lists as one of the best or in the case of Willamette Week’s 2017 Best Burger competition, the best in Portland.

And the focus here is on the food, because otherwise the bar at the corner of Grand Ave and SE Washington is not particularly noteworthy.  The exterior has several small picnic tables with umbrellas.  The entrance is unremarkable with a glass door over which is a dark green awning with scarlet letters bearing the bar’s name. Two beer barrels with flowers are placed on the sidewalk.

And the interior is essentially a large rectangular space with five large red booths – described by one Portland Barfly reviewer as “private bedroom style booths.”

Secluded and/or horizontal dining possible….

There is a long twelve-seat bar with hanging red lights and elk antlers over the selection of whiskeys and drafts — also one large poster on the far wall.   The high ceilings and exposed brick for the south wall are appealing.

There is none of the historical ambiance, idiosyncratic cubbyholes or illustrious symbols or tokens which characterize a good neighborhood or dive bar.  But maybe that’s intentional because the bar is evidently named after the “Slow Club” in the 1986 cult classic movie “Blue Velvet” starring Isabella Rosellini and Dennis Hopper.  Based on its homage to Pabst, the movie was described by the Portland Mercury as “one of the great beer movies.”  

The current bar was opened in 2003 by Michael Barnash and Rob Hemmerling, two veteran Portland bartenders.  It was previously a bar named Caswell’s and in my conversation with Hemmerling, he said that it was once owned by Frank Peters of Portland Maverick fame.  It evidently was also the site of one of the only known “failed” Starbucks locations.

Note: Notwithstanding considerable research effort, I could find no reference to Frank Peters owning Caswell’s.  He is well known for his other bars – the Grand Cafe (on the same street), Peters’ Habit and Satan’s Disco.  However, one reference in Portland Barfly to the bar having a “very attractive all-chick staff….” and Peters’ affinities seemed to warrant additional investigation, so I contacted the source.

Frank Peters – Known for his memorable and spirited bars

Frank stated that “………during Grand Cafe days we had Caswells for about 2 years. my gal partners got married so we sold it to Slow Bar people. We did ok and they took it to another level.”  He also confirmed that the space had been a Starbucks so “it had great air conditioning.”

To see the 2013 review of Thebeerchaser’s visit to the Grand Cafe and some more about Frank Peters see:   https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/01/23/a-frank-conversation-about-the-grand-cafe/

The Notable Slowburger

The famous Slow Burger. Notice that the top part of the bun is off to the left side and that’s the two onion rings at the top.

So let’s talk about the food.   Virtually all of the social media reviews ranging from Trip Advisor to Yelp are very positive. The Southern Fry, pastrami sandwich and the steak frites all rate favorably; however, the Slow Burger, as their flagship menu item, draws close to universal raves (except for one factor which concerned a few of the experts as will be seen below)

“This is a solid burger.  Satisfying, juicy, and extremely filling.” Yelp 9/7/17

“HOLY COW!  This is an amazing burger.  Place looks like a hole in the wall, but don’t let that fool you.   This place has AMAZING food and drinks.”   Yelp 9/6/17

Even back in February and April of 2006, the burger drew plaudits as evidenced by these reviewers in Portland Barfly: Additionally, Slow Bar has the best burger in Portland and serves the best Manhattan”  and “….the food is always excellent. One of the 3 best burgers in town.”

And the papers and food review websites echo the compliments:

Willamette Week in its 2017 “16 Best Bar Burgers:”  “No other burger is more deserving of the top seed in our rankings.  It is the unholy monster of Portland bar burgers, the behemoth that made even fancy-restaurant burger-makers take note.”  The paper in a May 23, 2017 follow-up article even went on to assert, “Haven’t Had the Slow Burger at Slow Bar? Then You Don’t Really Even Live Here.”

SeriousEats.com in a March, 2012 article entitled “The Towering Triumph of Slow Bar’s Slowburger,” describes it this way:

“The beef is quite tender, arriving with a lovely crust on the top and bottom and a semi-loose grind that keeps most of the juice inside the meat and off your plate (or hands). The thick slice of nutty Gruyère melting on top of the patty is a good match for the simple beef.”

However, notwithstanding these laudatory comments, it goes on to add a caveat:

“The mighty Slowburger is simply to heavy for bread this dainty and the pickle relish alone, eats through the bottom bun halfway before you finish……As it stands, expect to get a lot of that relish all over your hands.”

And Thrillist in its 2016 expose on the “Eleven Best Burgers Ranked by our National Burger Critic,” after rating the Slowburger Number 8 finished its review by stating:

“For me, the thick patty was flavorful but a giant meaty mouthful, and the even temperature throughout gave it a little bit of a meatloaf flavor. On top of that, the lead lettuce and onion ring slid off as you’d try and bite down, causing most of the toppings to drop out of the back, like a cargo plane opening up its bay door.”

Tiny hands interfere with eating the Slow Burger and governing…..

Willamette Week chided the Thrillist critic for his trifling gripe and petty whining stating, “Thrillist’s national burger critic, Kevin Alexander, declared it too unwieldy for his presumably tiny hands. But Portland is not a welcome place for short-fingered vulgarians.”  (We can therefore assume that the paper would also not approve of a visit by the current President……)

I returned to Slow Bar on a Wednesday evening with my wife and we split a Slowburger and a green salad.  (The salad with goat cheese and an assortment of nuts was very good.) We had no beer and were both stuffed after we finished and our tab was a very reasonable $20 plus tip.

But we ended up eating a lot of the burger with forks because the bottom bun had soaked through.  (Not an overwhelming conundrum given a lot of society’s contemporary problems.)

Okay, enough on the burger routine with one more aside.  These articles on great Portland burgers made me realize that I need to expand my horizons.  Although I have visited 85+ bars in Portland, aside from the one at MadSon’s Pub (RIP) and Stanich’s, I have not been to any of the venues where the great burgers listed by the experts come off the grill.

The Thrillist comment about their #1 pick – Stanich’s Nick’s Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions – is worth repeating:  “This burger is a national treasure that I’d like to keep discovering over and over again.”

The jukebox is located close to the bathrooms for those who get overly excited about Heavy Metal

So what else distinguishes this bar from others?   The juke box get repeated mention for its excellent selection of heavy metal selections.  “A jukebox that will make you piss yourself with joy.”  (Portland Mercury 7/15/04)

The night we were there, selections included Metallica,  Portland’s Poison Idea and Red Fang (their single “Blood Like Cream” while eating the burger seemed a little bit out of harmony…..) and Acid Wash.  The juke played loudly and aggressively which seemed somewhat incongruent with the dimly crimson-lighted environment.

With ten draft beers, their tap list is not expansive but adequate with micros from $5 to $7 and includes a traditional Rainier at $3.    They have a decent selection of wines with about ten interesting cocktails including their popular Manhattan – “our own Slow Bar single barrel Woodford Reserve Bourbon.”

Given the non-descript interior, perhaps one of the draws to Slow Bar is the diverse and interesting crowd that frequents the bar. The following gives an idea of the eclectic group:

Portland Barfly“….a steady stream of Portland’s most beautiful trickle through the narrow corridor between the stainless-steel bar and large custom booths….”

Willamette Week (8/3/2004) “….a bizarre Southeast Grand Avenue homage to ‘seedy bliss,’ where business suits, Burnside skate punks and Milwaukie suburbanites all collide.  In Portland, were every club boasts its own culture and devotees, Slow Bar is a prime candidate for the swing voters of the nightlife world.”

I was also a little bit amused and surprised by co-owner Barnash’s reactions on Yelp to two critical reviews, especially since the overwhelming majority of the comments were very positive.  Before responding, one should also remember that some people on social media have the judgement and discretion of former Secretary of Health and Human Service, Thomas Price…..

Yelp   4/23/17 – “I’m amazed you could give us such a horrible review when the food critics and writers and other Yelpers all disagree with you.”

Yelp 2/27/17 – “I know all my servers well as they have all worked with me for years (because it’s a rad place to work and they kick ass) so if you have had bad service both times you have been to my establishment, then I firmly believe that it’s you not them.  I see you left the review at 2:30 A,M.”

On my first visit, I intended to have lunch with my former Oregon State Bar colleague in the early ’80’s, Bernie Stea.

After many years, we had recently reconnected at a great lunch in Camas, where he and his wife, former Portland radio personality, Deb Jaynes, are managing brokers at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm.  We subsequently had a memorable lunch experience at Northeast Portland establishment NEPO 42.   https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/nepo-42/  

A good bar in NE Portland

Bernie had a meeting in downtown Portland and our plan was to meet at 12:15 at Slow Bar.  He called me at 12:30 to tell me that he was stuck in a traffic jam on the Fremont Bridge.  I wondered why he chose that route rather than just coming across the Hawthorne which is more direct.

However, from our years working together, I learned not to question a guy who graduated from the University of Maryland Law School as a member of the prestigious Order of the Coif honorary and who also did budgetary manipulations on his Osborne computer that were both esoteric and somewhat terrifying……

Bernie and NEPO 42 burger – the Slowburger will have to wait

Bernie called again at 12:45 asking where I was, to which I replied, “Slow Bar.”  He then somewhat sheepishly informed me that he was sitting in Low Bar in downtown Vancouver.  In order to salvage his pride, I did not remind him that I sent him a link to Slow Bar the day before confirming our lunch appointment.  

We agreed that we would try Low Bar next time which looks interesting and consistent with venues visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

You should check out Slow Bar.  While it may not have the distinctiveness of some other SE watering holes – most notably in the Barmuda Triangle, it has some features warranting a visit.   And as Frank Peters said, “They have done a really, really ‘Tip of the Cap’ job in a very difficult business during a very competitive time in a marginal area. ‘Many are called—–Few are chosen.'” FJP

The “Flake” at Thebeerchaser visit to the Grand Cafe in 2013

Although Frank’s bars are not operating any longer, they were always colorful and oozed character.  Perhaps Michael Barnash and Rob Hemmerling should hire the former OSU Beav and Maverick as a consultant…….

 

Slow Bar         533 SE Grand Avenue, PDX