Montana Bars – The Continuing Saga – Kalispell

Since I started recounting my adventures on our 2019 Montana (and more…..) road trip – 3,700 miles in fifteen days – in the last two blog posts, I’m on a roll of sorts.  So I’ll tell you about a few more of the 29 I hit in the six days I drove solo before I picked up my wife in Billings, for the remaining nine days of our trip.

The Blue Moon’s bar – plenty of room for bellying up…

In my last post –  “Two Montana Classics,” I told you about the Bulldog Saloon in Whitefish and the Blue Moon Saloon in Columbus Falls.

The Antler Saloon

And before that in “Pondering the Pandemic – No. 1”, it was the Saw Mill Saloon in Darby, the Wise River Club in Wise River, the Antler Saloon in Wisdom and the Dewey Bar – also in Wisdom.

All of these had great people – bartenders and regulars, great historic ambiance and the “watering hole character” which the forward to author, Joan Melcher’s first book Watering Holes – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars:sums up:

“…..the role of the western saloon remains what it has always been.  As an institution of importance it has always had its detractors — indeed it has always been been venomously attacked by the pious and the righteous. 

The attacks have never really mattered to the  keepers of the institutions nor to the patrons.  The western saloon is simply too important a social, economic and political instrument of western society to be turned aside from its predestined course.” 

(K. Ross Toole – Hammond Professor of History, University of Montana) 

Although the bars discussed below are not historic, they still fit that mold.  And Moose’s Saloon is another shining example of Montana culture – this time as part of the bustling city of Kalispell.

Moose’s Saloon

I rolled in late on a Sunday afternoon after driving from Yaak with stops in Whitefish and Columbus Falls – only about 125 miles and through beautiful Big Sky scenery.

I checked into the historic Kalispell Grand Hotel right in the center of town.  It dates back to 1912 – the bars aren’t the only vestibules of frontier history – and it still has an outstanding old-fashioned elevator and a pipe organ in the lobby.

The lobby of the Grand Kalispell

Then a dinner – only a few blocks away – in a former blacksmith shop – now called The Forge which houses the Desoto Grill and a superb barbecued rib dinner.

Then I moved onto Moose’s Saloon on Main Street and the west end of town.  Since it was a Sunday evening, I expected somewhat of a staid environment – not what Joan Melcher described on most other nights:

“The first time I described Moose’s Saloon, I said walking into it was ‘like opening the door to an eighth grade study hall….Both times I drop by during the summer of 2008, the place is wild.”

Moose’s is not real impressive on the outside – kind of a tacky wooden false front – and the building doesn’t seem to be historic – evidently it was called the Corral Bar before it was transformed to Moose’s in 1957 by a guy who played tackle for the Montana Grizzly Football Team.

Moose and his wife built a thriving establishment and never looked back. (He died in 1999 and it’s now owned by his daughter according to my friendly bartender, Frank.)

Friendly Frank

Frank is from Pittsburgh and has worked there eight years although he called himself “the new boy” compared to the tenures of his co-wokers.

But Frank gives a great rundown of the 24 beers on tap.  I was inclined to get an MGD on tap, but thought “Dirt, (That’s me as you can see from the header at the top of the screen.) this is Montana,” so I had a pint of Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewing.

Although the room adjacent to the space housing the large rectangular bar, filled with big wooden booths and picnic tables, was hopping, the bar had only a few people seated.  That changed quickly and by the time I finished my mug, it was pretty much filled.  Moose’s has a lot of ongoing events and specials which draw customers as you can see by this sign. 

I had a great conversation with a guy and his wife who drove their RV out from the east coast for a conference in Great Falls. Since meeting new people is one of the joys of Beerchasing, I soon found out that the guy’s name was Huck, the conference was the Beer Now Conference and his avocation is of all things – a blog called “Huck’s Beer Buzz.”

What’s that you ask – as did Thebeerchaser!  It’s summed up in the home page of his blog and as you might suspect, Dirt and Huck had a fairly robust conversation about our favorite topic – bars and beers!

“Huck hails from Blacksburg Virginia in the Roanoke Valley. With the help of “Huckette,” his lovely wife, Huck writes about craft beer and various related topics.

Huck travels for work in his ‘real’ job which allows him to travel and sample beer at various locales. Huck  tries to document the places so that others can find the good places and be forewarned about the bad!”

Huck and The Huckette

We traded cards and then went on our separate ways.

Moose is known for it’s great pizza and I was almost sorry that I had eaten (although I still had some ribs in the mini-fridge in my hotel room that I would gobble down the next day – or maybe when I got back that night since Janet wasn’t with me…..)

The pizzas were flying and everybody at the bar was consuming loads of unshelled peanuts – a gob of them for only $1.50 – many of which landed on the sawdust floor. (They’re in the plastic bag in the photo below.)

While Joan’s recommendation was enough for me, if in doubt, check out the comments on social media, almost all of which mention the great quality of the pizza:

“If you like an old fashioned country atmosphere, then this place is for you! Sawdust on the floor, beer flowing, and country music accompany the best pizza in town! Don’t miss out on this if you are visiting the Kalispell area. (Trip Advisor, November 24, 2019)

And they also usually mention the atmosphere like this one:
“Just what the title says! This is probably the most unique place in Northwest Montana! EXCELLENT pizza!”  (Trip Advisor , January 1 , 2020)

The VFW Bar 

I had seen that in Montana a number of the VFW Posts open their bars to the public and curiosity got the better of me as I was leaving Kalispell late the next morning, so I stopped in at one – again only a few blocks from the hotel and on 1st Street.   It was the Glacier Park Chapter.

It would be just a nice place to grab a beer, play some pool or have a card game and interact with some wonderful people, most of whom were veterans who had served their country.  I sat at the end of a long bar and talked to a grizzled regular former Army guy who talked about the good old days in Kalispell:

“There were thirteen bars within several blocks on Main Street.  We had a Friday night ritual – we’d start with a shot of Galliano (43.2% ABV!) and then start having a beer at each bar to see how many we could get before one guy would pass out.”

The bartender, a veteran, was friendly and when I told him about my blog he introduced me to Jonathan who was an officer in the Chapter and had recently returned from a tour in Afghanistan where he was an electronic aviation technician.   He and the bartender let me tour the Chapter museum which was in a spacious locked room adjacent to the bar.  It was interesting and humbling to see the magnitude of the military service of the members.

Del’s Bar in Somers Montana

After the great visit at the VFW, I drove about ten miles and stopped at Somers – on the north shore of Flathead Lake.   There was one more bar – not anything historic, but the reviews made it look like it was an interesting community bar — and it was.

Del’s Bar from the outside, would not pique your imagination or make one inclined to explore further, but I’m Thebeerchaser.

At 11:00 AM on a Monday morning, however, it was just the young female bartender, Kylee and a nice guy named Tom who was a painting contractor who was a Montana State grad in the place.

Now Del’s is spacious inside besides having a nice sized bar and it appeared to be a community-oriented watering hole which is a cherished spots for the regulars, who come for Bingo Night every Wednesday.  But the reactions from some others is somewhat tepid – at least that’s the cursory impression one would get looking at some of the Yelp reviews: https://www.yelp.com/biz/dels-somers

That said, the pizza gets great reviews and I wish I had been there to partake of some of their daily dinner specials such as the Buffalo Stew, which if you look at their Facebook Page is supplemented on other nights with chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, elk chili, spaghetti with sausage and mini corndogs – enough variety to keep you happy throughout the week, but lead to an early coronary if you are a regular.

Del’s also has a nice patio and a spacious outdoor area which in the months in Montana one can be outside, gets heavy use as you can see from this picture taken on one of their summer Bingo Nights – voted Best in Flathead in 2019:

Bingo Night – check out the reviews on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10157464601228316&set=

And to give you a better idea of the regular vs. tourist opinion to which I earlier alluded, check out the link on the picture above where a tourist commented:

“The woman bartender calling the numbers, used the “F” word all the time on the microphone. Very inappropriate. We won’t be back. Surprised the manager is not saying something to control her language.”

This comment garnered fifteen responses suggesting that they hoped the lady was serious about her threat not to return.  Every comment was along the sentiments below – most with profanity interlaced, including one guy who sarcastically agreed with the lady in a comment that had twelve uses of the F-word in one long paragraph:

“Don’t like it?? You don’t have to come, there’s plenty of other bingo’s to attend! Have at ‘er bud!!!  The bingo caller makes bingo at Dels worth going to. People come hours in advance to get a seat. Welcome to the bar and the best bingo in town.”

I finished my bottle of MGD – the first time during the trip I had a morning beer, but it was Monday……, bade farewell to Kylee and Tom and traveled south along beautiful Flathead Lake where I stopped and had my lunch (the rest of the ribs from the night before) at a picnic table.

Nice picnic spot

Then a drive through Missoula for about 160 miles and three hours to my next night stop in Hamilton – a wonderful Montana community on the west border of the state with great bars and breweries.   Stay tuned for more Beerchasing adventures…..

Cheers

Image by Pam Williams

Two Montana Classics – The Bulldog and the Blue Moon

Yaak River Falls in NW Montana

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking on the title above so the post is not clipped or shortened.)

Unless you have been hiding under a rock since early March, you know that the ability to explore new bars and breweries is either extremely limited or in many locations, non-existent.  Thus, Thebeerchaser, in a fit of maudlin retrospective, has harkened back to past trips to Montana (2004, 2016 and last summer) and the wonderful scenery and historic watering holes of the Big Sky State.

In a recent blog post, I remembered the great adventure we had last June when Janet and I embarked on a fifteen-day road trip through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming before we returned to Oregon.  We visited 49 great establishments in addition to our adventures in several memorable National Parks and Monuments we encountered on the 3,700 mile journey.

Mt Rushmore – still with the original four…..

In the above post, I mentioned five bars – all in Montana which were my favorites and I want to continue the story on others since I didn’t write these up right after the trip.

Bernie – bartender at the
Antler Saloon in Wisdom

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/08/24/pondering-the-panemic-no-2/j   All five have robust histories and great character as evident in the picture above.

Now one might wonder, “Why focus on Montana?”  I’ve visited almost 400 bars and breweries in the last nine years since commencing my Beerchasing exploits – 125 in Portland, Oregon and the others throughout Oregon, various regions of the US and even a couple in Europe – talk about memorable!!

Sheriff Plummer – a man of controversy

Well, perhaps I can answer that with a description from my most recent book:

Hanging the Sheriff – A Biography of Henry Plummer – a fascinating book about an iconic Montana ghost-town that I visited while on a sabbatical from my former law firm in  2004 road trip.

I spent about seven hours touring Bannack – including Hangman’s Gulch where Sheriff Plummer came to his untimely demise, and the cemetery in this photo I took.  Men – both innocent and guilty were summarily tried, immediately hanged by the vigilantes, and left to “swing” so they could be a graphic example to others before they were laid to rest.

The book describes one notable saloon in “downtown” Bannack:

“…..the important role played by the saloons:  They occupied a ‘large space in the social and public life of the camps to which nearly everyone was driven….’ Most were ‘hospitable, conducted by well-behaved attendants or proprietors, only a few of them contented to be known as bad.’

Of the ‘bad’ saloons, the one guaranteeing the most action was the Elkhorn, so named because of the pair of huge antlers the owner, Cyrus Skinner had purchased and tacked over the front door.   Inside was a long, polished, dark wood bar, a few card tables and attached to one wall, two rows of bunks with grass-stuffed mattresses, usually occupied by customers.”

The Montana Bar – present day in Miles City

Indeed, besides the mattresses, the narrative above could describe a majority of the bars I visited on my trips to Montana as evidenced by this picture of the Montana Bar in Miles City which has been serving beer since 1908.

And while I love Oregon, Montana will continue to lure me back.  I contemplated showing you a few stanzas of the Montana state song to convey that allure, but they are really boring.  So I decided to illustrate with the song written by my new friend, Geoff, and to which I and several others were serenaded at the Yaak River Tavern after I bought him a beer on my trip last summer.  (Besides, every song about the Big Sky State should also have the word “banana” in it.)

(I asked the bartender to credit his tab and let him collect the next day as he didn’t need another beer that evening……)

 The Bulldog and the Blue Moon – Two Great Watering Holes 

In the interest of brevity, I’ll only touch on two additional bars and save others for future posts.   The Bulldog Saloon in Whitefish and the Blue Moon Saloon in Columbus Falls, right outside Kalispell.

I didn’t stay in Whitefish – just passed through on Highway 93 on a Sunday afternoon in between nights at Yaak River Lodge and the historic Grand Hotel in Kalispell, both of which I strongly recommend.

Author, Joan Melcher’s second book – Montana Watering Holes  describes the Bulldog Saloon as:

“Sometimes there’s nothing better than a surprise.  And the Bulldog is that…..A step in the door and you know you’re in a world unto itself.  The walls and ceilings are black, providing a sharp relief to the hundreds of decoupage photos mounted on primal colors of wood and varnished to a glow…..School pennants hang from black ceiling tiles”

(I immediately noticed the Oregon State banner in one section of the ceiling – also occupied by the LA Dodgers and the SF Giants, the Hamilton Mont. High School Broncs and the Marquette University Golden Eagles…)

And I had a feeling of ambivalence as I drank a bottled Miller’s and talked in the dark environs of the saloon to the great young bartender – a college student on summer break from Montana State .

He filled me in on the bar’s history and told me about recent visits from sports stars, Stephen Curry, who owns a place on nearby Flathead Lake and his brother, Seth – also Jerry Rice and NBA star, Kevin Durant, who stopped in while vacationing.

Why the contradictory perceptions? Well in Portland, aside from Claudia’s Sports Pub and Grill – I reviewed in 2012 and was opened in 1959, none of the sports bars are historic. The Bulldog, is on the ground floor of a 1903 building, which housed doctors’ offices on the second floor, but a pool hall – the Pastime thrived on the first floor.

“In addition to pool, the Pastime was the place to go for card games such as poker, pinochle and pan. During the prohibition era, the Pastime survived selling everything from guns, fishing tackle, batteries, and work gloves, to tobacco and cigars. There was even a soda fountain for teenagers located in the basement during a short period following World War II.”

Named after Whitefish HS mascot

It eventually became The Bulldog Saloon in 1983, when the owners, Buck and Linda May, opened it and named the bar after the Whitefish High School mascot.

Most sports bars, I’ve visited in almost ten years of Beerchasing are not family-type bars, but that’s not true of the Bulldog.   That said, there’s a slight dissonance, because both the men’s and women’s heads, have semi and fully nude photos from magazines decorating the walls along with additional sports memorabilia.

A small section of mens’ restroom photos

For example, on the photo at the right, you can see the Penthouse Pet of the Month’s photo right above an autographed photo of former New York Met pitching star, Ron Taylor (1967-71) thanking the Bulldog for its hospitality.

And aside from that, it’s pretty typical – scads of big screen TVs, video poker, local team photos, signed jerseys and memorabilia from college and pro sports stars.

But my favorite part and a lasting image of the Bulldog Saloon was ensconced in my memory as I was leaving the men’s head — the life-size, smiling visage of a younger, Boston Celtic great, Kevin McHale holding 60% of a basketball in his left hand and a full can of Miller Lite – only 96 calories and 4.2 ABV – in his right.  He was rumored to favor the beer because it tasted great rather than being less filling….

The Blue Moon Saloon

After reading Joan Melcher’s effusive reviews in both her books about the history and the memorable owners, Dick and Charlotte Sapa, I absolutely had to stop at the Blue Moon – less than 25 minutes outside of Kalispell in an expansive building.  Maybe that’s because the bar is over sixty feet long – one of the longest in the north western states.

Over 60 feet long

There’s also a big dance floor and multiple glass-covered exhibits which house the largest display of taxidermy I saw on my trip.  And as you will see from the picture shown below, they weren’t just native Montana species such as grizzly bear, moose, elk and antelope and the biggest big horn sheep brought down in Montana.   That’s a polar bear which they bagged in northern Ontario, Canada.

When I walked in, sat down at the middle of the (very long) bar – which had a stuffed alligator hanging from the backbar – and ordered a beer,  I asked the bartender if the Sapas still were the owners.

She nodded and pointed to her right and said, “That’s them sitting down at the end of the bar.”  I took advantage, moved to the end of the bar and began an extended conversation with this amazing couple who were not hesitant to regale me with stories.

The Sapas opened the bar in 1947 and have owned it since.   They were very friendly and among the questions I asked was whether the story about the cowboy patron who showed up shortly after the bar opened  was true.  They knew which one I meant!

As Joan Melcher relates:

“A young man was bragging about the horse he just acquired.  He told Charlotte, he wanted to bring the horse over to show it off…..Sure enough, the guy goes and gets the horse and rides it into the bar.

He orders a ditch (a small glass filled with some ice and 2 oz. of whiskey and 2 oz. of water) for himself and a gin and tonic for horse. (Charlotte explains that they are supposed to like gin.)”   

Dick and Charlotte

But as Charlotte explained to me while laughing, the story doesn’t end there:

“The cowboy rode right in front of the middle of the bar and his horse took a big dump!   We spread saw dust on it until we could fully clean it up after the bar closed.”  

What made the story even funnier was that while Charlotte was relating it, the song on the jukebox happened to be “Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphy, about another pony, but this one in Nebraska.  I still thought it was a funny coincidence….

Charlotte told me about their family and Dick talked about the rodeo they have at the adjacent arena which draws big crowds and professional riders every weekend during the summer. 

Their son, Bill, who was drafted by the New York Yankees came in with his son – they were still tired after branding cattle on their 200 acre farm the day before.

After we talked awhile, he offered to take me up to the fabled upper rooms – “an honor not many outsiders get” .  You walk behind the bar to almost a hidden door and then a stairway to the second floor – several rooms are completely filled with additional trophies from their big game hunts in Montana and all over the world

Bill Sapas – son of Charlotte and Dick

The Sapas are wonderful people – typical of the owners and regulars I met during the solo part of my trip, and later Janet and I encountered throughout the remainder.  I could have stayed there and talked for several more hours but the dinner special at Moose’s Saloon in Kalispell beckoned.

Nevertheless, if you take a road trip to Montana, stop at the Blue Moon Saloon.  It’s a rather non-descript building on the outside, but oozes character once you walk in and is a great example of why I have such an affinity for the bars in this beautiful state.

 

 

 

Beerchasing in Corvallis (and Stanley, Idaho) Part II – Drinking with Kings….

As mentioned in my last post, I am “catching up” on a number of bars and breweries visited during the last few years which never got written up – something which makes sense now when watering holes are closed except, in some cases, for pick-up.

The last post was Part I of two trips to Corvallis.    The most recent in 2018, in which I talked about our trip to the Oregon State vs Washington State game and a visit to the outstanding sports bar – The Angry Beaver Grill.  We met with former Beaver Giant Killer, Billy Main, who got us fifty-yard line seats. The link to that post is https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/04/15/beerchasing-in-corvallis-part-1/

One year earlier, in October of 2017, I was the overnight guest of Brian and Nancy King at their Corvallis residence.   During the day and one-half I was there, Brian and I hit several watering holes and in the evening, Nancy joined us briefly at Block 15 Brewery and Tap Room south of town and then we had dinner at Squirrels Tavern and in the evening, a nightcap at Caves Bier and Kitchen .

Gracious hosts in 2017 – Brian and Nancy King at the Block 15 Brewery

Brian and I also hit the following establishments:

Cloud and Kelly’s,  The Peacock

Those of you who follow my blog know that in my twenty-five years at the Schwabe Williamson firm and prior to that, six years at the Oregon State Bar, although not a lawyer, I loved working with them in my legal management role.

And my general affinity for the lawyer personality was characterized by Robert Elfers, a lawyer himself and my mentor/boss for over twenty of those years in both organizations, as a “pressing need for ongoing psycho-therapy…”

Thebeerchaser and “Brain” on 2017 visit

I have many wonderful attorney friends both at Schwabe and all over the country, but Brian (Brain) King, an environmental lawyer from the time he passed the Bar in -1980, until his 2016 retirement, is one of my favorites.  He epitomizes why I hold most lawyers in such high esteem.

He has also been on a number of Portland Beerchasing expeditions including the memorable Mummy’s (along with Schwabe colleague, Margaret Hoffmann and Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar (with lawyers, Carson Bowler, Brien Flannigan and Cheryl Rath).  This also occurred in 2016.

Before social distancing – in 2016 at Billy Rays. Brian is holding the can of Tecate…

Before talking about the Corvallis saloons, I need to tell you why I make the assertion above.  Brian has a wonderful dry sense of humor and notwithstanding the accolades he garnered in his professional career as both corporate counsel at Boise Cascade, the Bogle and Gates firm and then at Schwabe, he does not take himself too seriously.

He was a skilled advocate and extremely knowledgeable in his specialties, but also an attorney held in high esteem by not only his firm colleagues, but those who were on the opposing side of the legal issues in question.

Thebeerchaser at the Rod & Gun

Now I also may be biased because he was a primary factor in the motivation to start this blog when I retired in 2011.  I’ll write another post to finish the Corvallis visits, because I feel compelled to offer this background.

Based on his own experience, Brian insisted on my 2004 sabbatical road trip to Idaho and Montana, that I visit the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Stanley Idaho.

The Sawtooths on the edge of Stanley city limits.

When he served as corporate counsel in Idaho, he spent time in Stanley at the foot of the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains and told me, “You need to stop at the Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon and say hello to the owner and notable musician, Casanova Jack. You can find the bar at 44 Ace of Diamonds Street in downtown Stanley.”

The musician had a reputation throughout the West having at one time played with Marty Robbins and his band.   Jack’s bar also has a colorful history:

“Tall Mary, at 6-foot-4, ran the Rod and Gun Club with Casanova Jack, and a French woman served whiskey and great hot sandwiches all night long at the Kasino Club. (That’s just a block away and also on Ace of Diamonds Street.)  ”  (“Winter 2010 Sun Valley Guide”)

While visiting Stanley years ago, Brian even took the stage and was lead vocal on “Blue Suede Shoes” with Jack.

So while staying at Stanley on the road trip, I spent hours at the bar on Karaoke Night.   I made sure to ask if Casanova Jack was in and my conversation with the female manager went like this:

Beerchaser:   “One of my colleagues made me promise that I would say hello to Casanova Jack.  Is he in tonight?”

Manager“No.  And for your information, Casanova Jack died in 1990.”

Beerchaser:  “I’m sorry to hear that.  I’m sure that he lived a colorful and active life.”

Manager:   “Not really.  He was a raving a-hole….”

My wife and I returned to the bar on a road trip in 2016.  The bar is now owned by Jack’s brother, Johnny Ray and his wife of thirty-eight years, Eve.

The personable Johnny Ray on our 2016 trip

Johnny Ray played the bass guitar and sang in Jack’s group and spent a good amount of time filling me in on his story and that of the bar.

For Johnny Ray’s interesting version of the bar’s history, check out this link: https://www.facebook.com/155766471164/posts/casanova-jack-ran-the-rod-gun-club-from-1971-until-his-untimely-passing-in-1990-/10154619946136165/

After the notable experience at both the Rod and Gun and Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee, Oregon, I decided that visiting bars and breweries would be a fantastic retirement hobby which led to commencement of Thebeerchaser in 2011.  More about Brian and his wife in the next post.

Cloud and Kelly’s 

See narrative below re. the women at the left side of the bar…….

This spacious bar downtown has an interesting story as evidenced by this excerpt from a Corvallis Gazette Times article dated June 30, 2017 entitled, “Tiki Bar Stirs Up Cocktail of Accusations”:  (Pardon the length but the story is compelling)

“The Hapuna Kahuna Tiki Bar & Kitchen — until recently, the location was Cloud & Kelly’s Public House, an Irish pub — will close Sunday and reopen Sunday night as an extension of the Downward Dog, an adjacent bar that Davidson owns.  Hapuna Kahuna started its short run on June 22.

Davidson said that residents of Polynesian ancestry, including those with the Oregon State University Asian and Pacific Cultural Center, complained about a combination of factors such as the use of a Hawaiian name, traditional iconography displayed in a cartoonish way, and how plastic leis were handed off to customers.  Some Hawaiians and other Polynesians liked the Tiki-themed bar and didn’t want him to change it, Davidson said.

Culturally inappropriate?

A local Facebook forum also had numerous comments about the situation, including questions of whether it was appropriate for chefs to cook ethnic food that wasn’t from their ancestry, such as a Korean chef running a sushi joint, since the cuisine is Japanese; discussion on the origins of Tiki ‘culture’ as an inauthentic fantasy mashup of tropical influences, and how there are Tiki bars in Hawaii; and comments on the evolution of Hawaiian cuisine to include items from numerous cultures, including those of Asian and Western countries.

The Tiki bar also made more financial sense than Cloud & Kelly’s, Davidson said, as the price of Irish cheddar, heavy creams, butters and lamb was rising. There also are rather obvious limitations to Irish cuisine, he added.

‘It all came down to the cost. … I know it had a good reputation but I felt I was at a crossroads and I was willing to try something new,’ he added.”

Now, since I don’t know the entire story in detail, I will refrain from making comments other than the cultural appropriation issues laid out above seem to pale considering the global health and economic issues we’re now facing.  And the story didn’t end there as set forth in two additional local news stories.

Downward Dog still has a campus location

The downtown Downward Dog, Cloud Davidson converted, closed in late 2018.   What is a sad commentary is David’son’s understandable sentiments in the November 24, 2018 article:

“I’m OK with letting it go, but I’ll always have an ill feeling about how it happened…I took a big risk doing Cloud & Kelly’s and it took off like a rocket ship,” Davidson said…..From the middle to the right to the left, I couldn’t do anything right…..It’s beyond rhyme or reason. But it all just blew up in my face,”

Morgan Orr

We wish Davidson, who appears to have done everything he could to assuage the objections, the best as a small business owner, since he still owns the Downward Dog location near the OSU campus.

The good news is that Morgan Orr who was his right-hand person for years, is now the owner of The Brass Monkey: A Public House, which is operating out of Davidson’s former downtown space.  The campus DD is still open for takeout and the BMPH is temporarily closed during the lockdown.  Both have received great social media reviews.

Brian and I hit the former Cloud and Kelly’s in the early afternoon on a weekday and one of only two other customers was the dark-haired woman you see sitting at the left end of the bar in the photo above.   She evidently listened to us telling some stories and laughing and then went into the bathroom.  We had finished our beers and were ready to leave when she came out carrying a small paper bag. Walking boldly up to me with a big smile she said,  “You deserve a present,” placed the package in front of me and walked out.

“Calm down and lower your voice, Beerchaser!”

Well, inside the bag were four marijuana gummy bears in the original package.   I was astonished and started to say  in a loud voice, “Hey Brian, those are ……..,” whereupon Brian in his best lawyerly voice said softly, “Lower your voice, Don and let’s split.”  

Even though marijuana edibles are legal in Oregon, I harkened back to my NROTC days at OSU when even inhaling second-hand marijuana smoke was probably enough to lose my scholarship …..Brian, as usual, was giving good advice.  The package hit the next garbage can on the way to our car.

Block 15 Brewery

Having opened their initial brewpub in downtown Corvallis in 2008, Block 15 Brewery and Taproom is south of town in a very attractive building with a beautiful view of Mary’s Peak.   They also opened a European-style pub—Caves Bier & Kitchen downtown which we hit later that evening after dinner.

Two of my favorite Oregon beers are Astoria’s Buoy Brewing IPA and Block 15’s Sticky Hand Ale. (Both with fairly high ABV at 7.5 and 8.1 respectively)

A great IPA and my opinion was not influenced by the glass!

Block 15 is known for its “barrel-aged rarities and one of the Northwest’s most extensive wild & sour programs.”  According to an 8/29/19 Oregonian article

….Block 15 remains fresh and innovative with ten years of brewing under its belt….From its well-known Sticky Hands Ale to a near-perfect pilsner, Block 15 has few holes in its game.”

An impressive tap list of creative brews

Although we did not eat there, the social media reviews on the food are very good, as exemplified by this recent 1/7/20 Trip Advisor review:

Great beer and perhaps the best sandwich I’ve ever had!   Every summer Block 15 has a sandwich called the ZATS – zucchini, avocado, tomato and sauce, on a french roll. I love this sandwich, and along with one of their hoppier beers I’m as close to heaven as I’m ever likely to get.  Also, their hamburger may be the best ever, as well. ….. ‘Nuff said.”

Note:  I’m happy to report that all three of the establishments covered above – Block 15, the Downward Dog and the Brass Monkey are continuing to offer safe options where you can still support them through takeout or home delivery.

Well Beerchasers, stay tuned for the third and final installment of Corvallis Beerchasing and some final comments on my wonderful hosts – the Kings.

Cheers (Image created by Pam Williams)

 

 

Beerchasing in Corvallis – Part 1

As I stated in my last post on Thebeerchaser blog, with all Oregon and Washington watering holes closed except for takeout, I ‘m going to “catch up” on some great bars and breweries that I visited in the  last few years, but just didn’t write up because of my formidable Beerchasing agenda……

And what better place to start then two trips to Corvallis, Oregon – home of my undergraduate alma mater – Oregon State University.  The next Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter will also be introduced to Beerchaser followers in the following post and is part of an OSU legend.

Ariel view of the Memorial Union and the Quad

As a precursor, I can state that OSU was a wonderful place to live and learn for four years.  Although some refer to OSU as simply an aggie school, it has nationally recognized programs in Ocean Sciences, Engineering and Forestry. 

It was also one of the first colleges in the country to initiate a Fermentation Science degree in 1996, which still ranks among the best in the country – certainly dear to the heart of Thebeerchaser.  It comprises about 50% of the students who are pursuing a degree in Food Science and Technology.

West Coast IPA has been one of the fastest growing styles of craft beer and “the hop that launched this revolution was an Oregon-grown variety called Cascade, developed at Oregon State University by the USDA hop breeding program.”

Fermentation Science at OSU

The two Beerchaser posts on Corvallis will be on ventures back to my undergrad stomping grounds:

In October, 2018:  I accompanied my fraternity brother and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jud Blakely and his friend, Dr. Bob Gill when we drove down to see the Beavers play the Washington State Cougars.

If you click on the link above you will also see the compelling story of my friend of 50 + years, Jud, ranging from his time – albeit abbreviated – as OSU Student Body President, to his heroic service during the Viet Nam War and beyond.

Dr. Bob Gill, Jud Blakely and Billy Main

Thanks to the generosity of former Beaver Giant Killer, Billy Main, who played running back on that fabled 1967 team, we also had 50-yard line complimentary tickets and attended a reception for alumni in which new Coach Jonathan Smith appeared about an hour before the game for a ten-minute inspirational briefing.

Coach Smith inspiring the alums right before the game with WSU

Indeed, Billy Main epitomized that Giant Killer football team which is one of the great sports stories – not only in Oregon, but in American college football lore.   For those who want to know more about that legendary team check out my own post:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2018/05/20/the-1967-osu-giant-killers-beerchasers-of-the-quarter-part-i/

Or for the most comprehensive and impressive chronology and documentation, check out the aforementioned, Jud Blakely’s website.  It is a labor of love by this OSU alum and I consider it the War and Peace equivalent of sports websites:  https://www.oregonst67giantkillers.com/

I knew Billy as a fellow NROTC midshipman – one class ahead of mine.  His college football and subsequent professional career in the hospitality industry are stories that deserve to be told and are inspiring as you will learn in the next post.

On the first trip back – also in October one year earlier – I was privileged to be the overnight guests of former Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm colleague, Brian (Brain) King and his wife, Nancy.

Brian was an environmental litigator in the corporate sector and then with two large law firms.  Nancy King – also a lawyer – after her career in private practice – served as a professor at both Willamette University College of Law and in the Oregon State School of Business.

Gracious hosts in 2017 – Brian and Nancy King at the Block 15 Brewery

Before his retirement in 2016, he “anchored” Schwabe’s one-person Corvallis office. In the second post on Corvallis, you will learn more about Brian’s notable legal career and why I credit him as a primary inspiration for starting this blog in 2011.  Nancy also retired in 2016 although she taught during the summer at Aarhus University in Denmark in 2017.

Why Would One Go to College in Corvallis?

NROTC Class of 1970 at OSU

Not to belabor the point, but Corvallis is not only a wonderful community, but an ideal college town.  Now perhaps, I was slightly parochial in 1966, but as a recipient of the NROTC scholarship, I had the option to attend any of the fifty or so US universities that offered that program (and to which I could get admitted which, of course, narrowed the list quite a bit….) 

College recruitment and selection is a lot different these days (maybe not going forward) but I only visited OSU, loved the campus and also the opportunity to pledge the SAE fraternity.

Oregon State SAE House at 29th and Harrison

Corvallis has a population of 59,000 – 85 miles south of Portland, it was founded in 1845 and has the motto “Enhancing Community Livability.”   (We earnestly tried to live up to this standard while we were students….)

In doing some research for this post, I did find one interesting statistic (and perspective) from a real estate blog: (https://www.estately.com/blog/2016/06/15-things-you-should-know-before-moving-to-corvallis-oregon/

“Corvallis has the lowest percentage of children of any of the 20 largest cities in Oregon. This is great news for those of you don’t enjoy the sounds of screaming children while dining out, seeing a movie, riding public transport, meditating in the park, or playing video games at an arcade. On the other hand, if you have small children the city might feel a little devoid of other youngsters.”

Now during my college years (1966-70), there were no breweries and just a few notable bars – classics if you will including the SAE’s favorite – Price’s Tavern.  Also Don’s Den and The Peacock Bar and Grill.   The Peacock and it’s iconic rooftop pavilion – “The Top of the Cock” – is the only one surviving to this day.

Corvallis now offers a great variety of bars – including nine sports bars, breweries , distilleries and even a meadery to suit just about anyone’s preference.   In fact, the Corvallis Visitors’ Bureau offers a brochure entitled the Mid-Valley-Sip Trip listing seventeen establishments – all within the City limits.

On my two trips, I hit the following:

2018:  The Angry Beaver

2017:  Block 15 Brewing, Caves, Squirrels, Cloud and Kelly’s, Flat Tail Brewing and The Peacock

What you Should Know about Bob Gill

The trip to Corvallis was the first time I met Dr. Bob Gill – who attended and played football at both OSU and then Portland State after starring at Jefferson High School his senior season in 1953.   He was selected for the Shrine All-Star game and got a scholarship to OSU.

All-star Quarterback

He was a successful Portland dentist for many years.  But like many of Jud’s friends (other than Thebeerchaser), Bob also has an outstanding Oregon legacy as both an athlete and in the annals of athletics for the State of Oregon.

Click on the link to read his full bio when he was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame  in 2019 along with two former Beaver Basketball players from the ’80’s Mark Radford and Ray Blume.

Among his achievements to garner this honor:

  • Bob’s research led to the publication of “It’s in Their Blood,” a history and legacies of 53 Oregon football coaches.
  • As a historian, Bob successfully nominated Tommy Prothro, Neil Lomax and Ad Rutschman into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame. For 14 years, he presented the “Walk of Champions” award to champion high school coaches.

  • In 1998, Bob Gill provided the early leadership to return the North-South All-Star Football Game to Portland establishing the Les Schwab Bowl.
  • In 2010, Bob offered to write the story of Oregon and NFL legend, Mel Renfro. After 5 years of research and writing, he authored the biography “Mel Renfro: Forever A Cowboy.”

And from spending a day with him, I can also state that he an amazingly humble and classy gentleman.

When we got to Corvallis, we had lunch at the Angry Beaver Grill where we met Billy and were also joined by Giant Killer Quarterback, Steve Preece and his wife, Karen.

After college, Steve played in the NFL for nine seasons – as a defensive back and his last year, in 1977, he started for the Seattle Seahawks.  After football, he has been a successful Portland commercial real estate broker and developer and is a member of the Beavers’ radio broadcasting crew.

From left – Billy Main, Jud Blakely, Don Williams, Karen Preece, Steve Preece, Dr. Bob Gill

The Angry Beaver Grill is a bastion of Oregon State sports history, co-owned by former Beaver football running back Randy Holmes (#31) who averaged 3.7 yards per carry during his four years at OSU.  Randy was a great host to our group and is a wonderful story teller.

Holmes – an expert in the kitchen

He was also known for catching a 12-yard touchdown pass from Beav quarterback, Ed Singler to make the score 28-14 against Fresno State in the 1981 season.   The Beavers after being behind 28 to 0 in the first half, won 31 to 28 and ended a 14 game losing streak.

According to Wikipedia, “With the win, Oregon State had set the record for the biggest comeback (28 points) in major college football history at that time.”

And the Angry Beaver is a great venue – especially on game day although according to the OSU student newspaper – The Barometer – it was the best live music venue in Corvallis in 2020.

The Angry Beaver Reuben

For lunch we had burgers and their outstanding Reuben sandwich, but Randy made his mark for years as a chef and according to a 2/2/18 story in the Corvallis Gazette Times

“………..resurrected a bit of Corvallis’ culinary history with the Angry Beaver, which opened in January 2018. For more than a decade, Holmes was the chef at The Gables, which was known as Corvallis’ premier restaurant for years before it closed.

‘I literally made the croutons and chicken bisque soup every day,’ Holmes said. Angry Beaver chef Mike Adams also worked at the Gables.  Naturally, that signature chicken bisque soup with croutons is featured on the menu, as is a prime rib with Danish whipped potatoes special on Friday nights, and that also was a Gables’ staple.” 

Retired Coach Jimmy Anderson

After lunch, Jud wanted to stop by former OSU Head Basketball Coach, Jimmy Anderson’s (from 1989-95) house.   Jimmy was coach of the freshman basketball team in 1961 and Jud got cut in the final round of tryouts.

They ended up playing together on the Truax Oilers AAU team and have maintained a friendship since.  (Of course, Jud told Jimmy he made the wrong decision by cutting him.)

The Beavs on their way to the locker room before the game.

Then we moved on to Reser Stadium for the early evening game.   However, Billy insisted that we be his guests at the Alumni Reception – and it was in the beautiful quarters above the north endzone.   Bob, Jud and I joined about 150 people and soon realized that they were all former OSU athletes and their guests.

And among them were a number of former Pac (8-10-12) all stars and a both current and former pro-athletes – which made me feel a little out-of-place although my size when compared to most of them meant that my presence was not conspicuous.

Scott Barnes OSU AD

We heard the great talk by Coach Jon Smith and then affable OSU Athletic Director, Scott Barnes, closed the affair and understandably started making the rounds shaking hands with those who attended.  He stuck out his hand to me and said, “Thanks for coming back.”   Given the presence of all the other athletes, I almost could not resist responding to his greeting with “Don Williams, SAE Intramural Basketball 1966 – 70.”

Well, although it was a pretty good game for three quarters, Oregon State lost 56 – 37. In retrospect, sitting there in a crowded stadium on a lovely fall night even when your team loses, seems like a wonderful future scenario.

Go Beavs!!

And although the Angry Beaver Grill is now closed during the pandemic, when bars and restaurants reopen, be sure to stop in and say “hello” to Randy and his friendly and effective staff.   You will enjoy the great atmosphere, the good tap list and the great food.

Pueblo Beerchasing Continued…..

The Rio Grande Bridge outside Alburquerque

Two recent posts will give Beerchaser followers an idea of our trip to the Southwest US last September and the first installment on the wonderful historic dive bars we visited in Pueblo Colorado.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

The last post focused on Gus’ Tavern and Eiler’s Place, both of which have retained their rich character going back to the end of Prohibition.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

Shamrock Brewery and Irish Pub

Our next stop that afternoon was at the Shamrock Brewery and Public House right in the heart of downtown Pueblo.  Like the other Pueblo establishments we visited, it’s housed in an historic building and has been in operation for over sixty years.

Shamrock Brewing Co. is one of the oldest Irish pubs in Colorado.  Originally constructed as a mercantile building in 1908, the first notable tenant was Johnson Bros. Motor Company in 1913.  Founded as a bicycle shop, Johnson Bros. became one of the first Xcelsor dealerships west of the Mississippi.”  (Shamrock Brewing Website) 

It’s an expansive space divided into two parts – the east side which has an impressive mahogany bar with old-fashioned bar stools and a wonderful backbar was opened as the Shamrock Cafe in 1940.

The west side – acquired later and where we had our beers – has been a cigar shop and pool hall before the bar expanded and they started brewing.

It is a family- oriented and community gathering place:

“The Pub was the main meeting place in downtown Pueblo for many years and locals still reminisce about past business deal, raucous St. Patrick’s Days and old romances.  To this day, couples frequent the establishment on the anniversary of the day they met there so many years ago.”

The Shamrock gets good reviews on both food and beer – they usually have four of their standard and two seasonal rotating.  And, of course, as you would expect, green beer on St. Patty’s Day.

But what made the Shamrock such a positive experience was meeting the Taylor family (except for their son, Travis).

Cassy Taylor is our Beerchasing friend, John and Barb Senger’s daughter, and her husband, Kirk is the Sheriff of Pueblo County.  Their daughter, Sarah Taylor Gallegos, was there with her daughter, Penelope, and this is one impressive and friendly family.

From l to r: John Senger, Kirk Taylor, Cassy Taylor, Penelope, Sarah Taylor, Barb Senger and Janet

Since I’m not part of the family, I can do a little bragging about these new friends and Beerchasing companions…..Let’s start with Cassy – seen in the picture below with husband, Kirk.

Cassy has had a distinguished teaching career in Pueblo City Schools, where she is an elementary literacy specialist.  Like the rest of her family, she is an advocate of continuing learning and besides her undergraduate degree, has two Master’s Degrees related to education.

Kirk is an elected official for Pueblo County with responsibility for law enforcement and corrections as Sheriff – first elected in 2007 and re-elected three times.

Although I only spent several hours chatting with him, he reflects the quiet confidence plus having both a background and values which make Pueblo fortunate to have him leading the Department.

Kirk is a USMC Veteran and started as a patrolman in the narcotics division for the City of Almarosa, CO. After earning his associates degree and while ranching full-time, he completed his BA.

While working as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, he attended and graduated from law school at the University of Colorado.  He has been a leader in law enforcement serving on numerous state task forces in addition to teaching at the State  Police Academy.

Kirk is a man of faith, family, an avid outdoorsman, coaches youth athletics and is active in civic and non-profit organizations such as 4-H.   He is also a national authority on the impact of legalizing marijuana including an appearance on a CBS 60 Minutes special.

And then there’s Sara.  I was fascinated by her background because of her Navy experience – a 2009 graduate of the US Naval Academy with her degree in chemistry.  (Having had a brother who graduated from West Point, and Academy degree is an accomplishment in itself.)

But Sarah’s record since graduation at the Academy transcends the ordinary.

(Sarah – second from left)

She was the Captain of the Women’s Rugby Team and also a soprano in the Women’s Glee Club!

(Sarah is third from the left)

After commissioning, she became a Surface Warfare Officer and was stationed in Pearl Harbor with one tour aboard the USS Crommelin FFG 37 where she had two deployments to Southeastern Asia and one shore tour as a Communications Officer.

USS Crommelin FFG 37

Sarah states:

“I completed my pre-requisites for nursing school while on shore duty and got accepted to Colorado State University-Pueblo Accelerated Program for a Bachelor’s of nursing.

I was ready to come home and be closer to my family in Colorado.  I actually served as a bartender and a unit secretary at the local hospital during nursing school……I have been working as an  ER and ICU nurse for the past 5 years in Pueblo and am now going thru Walden University online program for my Masters of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner where I hope to graduate in 2021!”

Smitty’s Green Light Tavern

From the Brewery, our group walked one-half block to the Fitch Block in the heart of Pueblo and the home of an imposing three-story historic building – the oldest in Pueblo and originally the home of Stockholders’ Bank built in 1873 by Pueblo cattlemen, Charles Goodnight and Col. Michael Fitch.

The Pueblo Club – an association of Pueblo’s wealthiest – met there, President Teddy Roosevelt was a guest – and in later years, the Elks and Eagles also “lounged and loafed” in its luxurious furnishings.   In other words, it reeked of the history of this railroad, steel and mining town.

Before it became Smitty’s Green Light Tavern the building was also home to the Pueblo Telephone Exchange.

Now when the Sheriff walks into your establishment, patrons take notice and Greg – “Smitty” – was there to greet us with a warm smile and welcoming handshake.

The bar, which opened in 1933 and having four owners since, has been part of his family since his dad – Linn “Smitty” Smith bought it in 1956. Greg became the sole owner in 1985 and loves the building and has enhanced and remodeled it while always being sensitive to preserving its heritage.

This South Pueblo High School graduate is now sixty-two and his bearing and personality reflect his athletic background – he was captain of the football and wrestling teams in high school.

The clientele was diverse and low key the afternoon we were there and did not reflect the reputation that some assert Smitty’s carries as a biker bar.

Smitty’s response is:

“I’ve had the stigma of being a biker bar. They’re all my friends. They come in here and support the place.” 

(And Thebeerchaser has seen many bars where the Harley guys and gals who are regulars add character – not trouble – to the environment. The Gemini in Lake Oswego and the Corner Saloon in Tualatin are examples.)

Smitty, although the bar was hopping during “Panic Hour” (every weekday from 5 to 6 PM with beers $1 and premiums $2), joined us at our booand he radiated enthusiasm for not only his bar but the City he calls home.

Quite a few customers came up and shook his hand and chatted – and for many that was also the case with Sheriff Taylor – both well known Pueblo personalities. 

The bar’s décor is fitting the tradition of the region.   On weekends, there is live music

 

 

 

 

The Star Bar

While in Pueblo, we wanted to experience a  dinner built on the City’s reputation for green chile peppers.  Now at $5.00, the Starburger, a straight burger has a great tradition. 

And while many bars and restaurants serve “Sloppers,” the Star Bar in the Grove Neighborhood, is purported to be the origin of this amazing creation. The bar is also a Pueblo institution.

It was closed for a time and has had several different owners, but is now going strong.  Sam Romero, the current owner, was quoted stating he didn’t believe it was a dive bar.

“We try to make everybody as welcome as a regular.”

Well, Thebeerchaser has been to a lot of dives and the Star Bar appeared to be one – just look at the building this classic bar occupies – and the regulars in many bars welcome strangers contrary to the stereotype.

The dark mahogany bar, the old bar stools, the booths and the distinctive ceiling tiles all make the “dive” description appropriate as do the two beers on tap – Bud and Bud Light, sold in $2.50 schooners – cash only…..

The “Slopper” is an open-faced burger – single, double or triple – smothered in green chile and raw onions. As one November, 2019 review on Restaurant.com stated effusively (and somewhat redundantly…)

“I finally got to taste what generations of Puebloans have shared with me in their storytelling. WOW. I had a triple and added Pueblo Chile and bacon. WOW. I also had the fresh cut fries. WOW. Need I say more. And so affordable…..Add a schooner and you are all set.”

And is it popular?   According to an article in The Pueblo Chieftain:

“Star Bar goes through about five gallons of green chili a day. Five pound of green chilies, five pounds of pork, diced tomatoes and a bit of salt and pepper to into the pot and are simmered for at least two hours. The result is chili that’s brought customers back ever since the Star Bar began serving up the slopper forty-five years ago.”

My slopper experience replicated the reviewer’s above, although given my recent lack of exercise, I didn’t have the guts – so to speak – for the triple and wolfed down a double slopper with a schooner of Bud.

(At $7, my double slopper was a bargain and to validate that premise, I offer the following comparison)

The next night we stayed at a wonderful organic farm – the Los Pablosnos Inn and Farm on the outskirts of Albuquerque.   The expansive acreage with a picturesque old hotel and many acres with vegetables, bee hives, goats and other healthy stuff I usually don’t eat, had an outstanding, high-scale restaurant.   The cost of Janet’s glass of wine that night weighed in at 275% of my double slopper!!

Although being built in 1900 didn’t seem “old” compared to the previous Pueblo watering holes, the Star Bar, which Cassy Taylor recommended and at which she accompanied us, ended our Beerchasing adventures that day on the same high note that will notch the Pueblo bars in Thebeerchaser’s all-time favorites.

We were warmly greeted by Margarette, the manager, and we noticed the dart tournament in the back of the bar, a lively game at the pool table and the crowded poker room immediately adjacent. Part of the ambiance is reflected in the ceiling tiles – a remarkable recollection of those who have visited the bar in the past.

(I didn’t find out how one qualifies for the ceiling tile option, but since the allure of the Pueblo watering holes beckons me to return, I will find out.)

Margarette warmly welcomes our group to the Star Bar

Back to Albuquerque

And so ended our unforgettable time in Pueblo and after a stay at the aforementioned organic farm, we spent one more night and half-day in Albuquerque before catching the flight back to Portland.

The tap room at Sante Fe Brewing in Alburquerque

We went to four establishments – all which were nice but not notable: Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Bow and Arrow Brewing, Gecko’s Bar and Tapas and Santa Fe. Brewing.

We attended a climate change demonstration in the afternoon, visited an historic chapel – the San Filipe de Neri Church in a building constructed in 1793 and walked to the historic Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town

The San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church

And while the scenery on our Southwest trip – most notably the National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes) and the historic cathedrals –  were memorable, the history of the entire region was remarkable, the food was good (I still “relish” another slopper….) and the beer was varied and well-crafted from the Second Street IPA on the first night at Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe to the schooner of Budweiser at Star Bar in Pueblo, what will make this trip stand out to us when we reminisce are the people.

Horse at Eiler’s Place

From Ernie Bob at Second Street our first night, to shaking hands with “Horse” McHorsney at Eilers Place to reuniting with John and Barb Senger and meeting the wonderful Taylor family, to having a beer with Smitty from the Green Light and to Margarette’s greeting at the Star Bar that made us feel like regulars, our road trip reaffirmed why Thebeerchaser will continue his tour.

Even if in future years I end up bellying up to the bar to order just a soda water or Hires Root Beer….I will continue to meet the wonderful owners, bartenders, regulars and visitors that have made this an outstanding retirement hobby for the last eight years!

Check out the other blog posts from our Southwest trip at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

 

 

 

Thebeerchaser’s 8th Annual Report – 2019

240 blog posts totaling 370,188 words since 2011

A little over eight years ago, I hesitantly walked into my first bar as Thebeerchaser.  Having recently retired as COO of the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, I became convinced after visiting Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee, Oregon and the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Idaho, that visiting and writing about bars, breweries and pubs would be an interesting hobby.

The Rod and Gun in Stanley

Thanks to the warm greeting I got at the Brooklyn Park Pub when I told Phoebe, the bartender, in August 2011, that her bar was the first of what I hoped would be many on this somewhat curious project, I was motivated to go forth!

She gave me a BPP cap and autographed it, gave me great info on the bar and posed for a picture.

 

Phoebe – where it all started….

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of 2019

The count of watering holes I had visited and reviewed (Unless on the road, I virtually always hit a watering hole twice to get a more accurate picture.)  was 287 establishments of which 111 were in the Portland metro area and the other 176 in locations ranging from Europe to most regions of the US and all over Oregon – from the coast to the desert in Eastern Oregon.

For the complete list, check out the link below which categorizes them by year and in or out of Portland.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/01/17/hey-have-you-seen-thebeerchaser-during-the-last-seven-years/

2019 Was a Very Good Year

The Gemini – a classic in Lake Oswego

Now the good news is I visited more bars this year than in any since the blog’s inception – 80.  I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that only 8 of those were in the Portland area – another 1 on the Oregon Coast and 3 in Washington.

The Caroline Tavern in Seattle

All of the remaining 68 were on three trips – Phoenix for Spring Training in March (8) and two wonderful road trips – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas in June (48) and the Southwest (New Mexico and Colorado) in September (12).

To see the list for each trip, click on the links above.  The picture below from the Trappers’ Bar in Eureka, Montana was one of my favorites.

The chart below will give you the history by year of “Thebeerchasers 366”

Year Portland Outside Portland Yearly Total Composite Total
2019 8 72 80 366
2018 12 30 42 286
2017 15 27 42 244
2016 14 39 53 202
2015 11 36 47 149
2014 17 17 34 102
2013 13 21 34 68
2012 20 5 25 34
2011 9 0 9 9
  119 247 366

Blog Statistics

I’m pleased to state that Thebeerchaser.com for the fourth year in a row, had over 20,000 “visits” or internet hits – with 20,030 in 2019 by 14,800 individuals – that means each person who reached the blog looked at  an average of 1.35 different posts.

The Flag of Ukraine –

Persons from 111 different countries found Thebeerchaser with 17,621 from the US with India in second place at  601 hits.

And even the Ukraine registered 9 although I can’t tell if any were from the Embassy staff.   As was the case in 2018, one bold individual from Iraq took at least a momentary glimpse.  That’s where internet sites featuring bars and alcohol are probably discouraged…..

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

First Quarter 2020 – B-O-Q

While the number of bars I hit was a new high in 2019, I was remiss in “honoring” Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, naming only two last year.

I have already got three good candidates for 2020, so that performance issue will be SOLVed.  (That’s a hint for the first quarter as is the untitled picture here.)

Retired Colonel Terry “Spike” McKinsey

Terry McKinsey became a friend when we were shipmates on our first midshipman cruise on a WW II destroyer – the USS John R. Craig – DD 885 – he from the US Naval Academy and me from Oregon State NROTC.   We discovered that we attended rival high schools in Oregon – he West Linn and me Oregon City. 

Two other middies on that cruise were Larry Walters also USNA and Ken Guest from University of Kansas NROTCThe four of us spent the summer learning about how a ship operates, trying to meet young debutantes at Navy sponsored dances and making fools of ourselves on liberty in Honolulu and San Francisco.

Larry and Terry on 1/c Midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean

Terry and Larry took their commissions in the United States Marine Corps.    Terry married Anna, his college sweetheart and they had two children during their forty-nine year marriage.

Spike distinguished himself as an aviator and had a remarkable career after the USMC including Base Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard and as the Assistant Chief Pilot for Horizon Airlines.

After a lapse in contact, we reconnected in the mid-1980’s through a humorous business incident when Spike had moved back to Oregon and I was Business Manager at the Schwabe firm.

Terry died last January after a short illness. My reason for trying to honor Terry with his story including the legendary “steamroller escapade” at West Linn High School when he was on summer leave from the Academy is summarized well by this quote from Larry, his classmate and best friend since Academy days:

I met Terry ‘Spike’ McKinsey in 1966.  The country was chaotic and would get worse.  But for Terry, the choices were always clear.  He was guided by his love of God, family, good friends, and country.   He didn’t have to tell you about it, he lived it!”

To read the story and remarkable service of this amazing patriot, athlete and family-man, click on the link above on his name.

John Runkle

After visiting 366 bars, I can say without equivocation, my favorite and the most interesting was the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana.   And John Runkle, the owner of both the bar and the nearby Yaak River Lodge where I stayed for two nights in the Moose Room during my two nights in Yaak was a clear choice for Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

This former paratrooper and California real estate entrepreneur is a prime reason why the Shame  got three separate Beerchaser posts and more print in this blog than any of the waterholes during the past eight years.

He bought the Lodge in 2004 and the Saloon at auction in 2013 after the ignominious departure of the former owner left it in foreclosure (after being extradited back to Maryland).   John was the driving force to bring this fabled dive back to the status which had made it a destination for bikers, hunters and Beerchasers as well as a community gathering place.

John is a charismatic guy, who is a great story teller, born salesman and shepherds community events such as the Crawfish Festival, Yaak Attack and the Sasquatch Festival.

 

 

 

 

When we had a discussion in the bar with, Todd Berget – who died later last year – John described his friend as a guy “having a political philosophy slightly left of Stalin…” 

Todd and I tried to tell him without result that his politics were somewhat misguided and John needed to shift back and reflect some of his California upbringing, but at least we all ended laughing, shaking our heads and toasting  rather than cursing each other. (Rest in Peace, Todd!)

Todd and John – Still smiling after discussing national politics…

John puts in a work week at the Lodge and Saloon that would “shame” most people. his age.

He is also a devoted family man.   His beautiful wife, Dallas, just delivered their second daughter in August, shortly after I was in Yaak.

 

 

 

 

 

As author, Joan Melcher, wrote in her second book Watering Holes  – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars (Page 88):

“The Dirty Shame is the fresh, sharp smell of pine, and the dank odor of dirt-laden, beer-splashed floors, wild nights of revelry and mornings of shared pain.” 

The Dirty Shame was on my bucket list before my trip and now is the only item on that dwindling slate that returned to the list after getting there. If John Runkle stays in Yaak, you should add it to yours’ as well.

And 2019 Final Highlights

Beerchasing has been a wonderful hobby for a guy whose friends and family wondered how he was going to “survive” retirement.   As I’ve stated before, “I really like beer – especially a $2.50 Happy Hour PBR – but I could go to the bars and drink soda water rather than alchohol and continue this hobby indefinitely.”

My wife, Janet, has been a wonderful Beerchasing companion on our trips and even flew into Billings to join me so I could spend the first six nights solo – driving through Montana (in a Prius with no gun rack and a Starbucks mug) meeting bartenders and regulars at thirty historic bars before we continued to Wyoming and the Dakotas.

One of the highlights was hitting my 300th bar in June at the Leaky Roof in Portland, which was more memorable because I was joined by my friend of forty years, Denny Ferguson.

And for those of you who followed Thebeerchaser from the beginning and have continued through this post in January, 2020, you have read 241 posts which filled you with 372,173 words about bars, breweries and interesting people.  Thanks for sharing your time on this pursuit with me.

An always cheerful and youthful looking, Fergy..

The people I met this year continue to be unforgettable and supportive ranging from Ernie Bob at Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe to Edmonds Wash. Daphne’s Bar, legendary mixologist, Demond van Rensberg.

Ernie Bob and Janet in Santa Fe

Then there was Pete Pete Andrijeski of Seattlebars.org  King of the Beerchasers with 3,906 bars reviewed since he started his journey in 2006.  (1,659 of the bars in Seattle)

I met Pete at Daphne’s after coming across one of his posts when I was researching the history of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle.

Pete and Desmond on our night drinking cocktails at Daphne’s

And I can’t forget James “Horse” McHorsney, who is a regular at Eiler’s Place in Pueblo, Colorado.   Horse is in both of the pictures you see here and to learn the story, click on the following link:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/  

The Benedictine Brewery

Followers of the blog know I have been involved with this unique project for the last three years as a volunteer and I am proud to report that since the Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom opened in September, 2018, it has been an impressive success.

Fr. Martin, the head brewer and general manager has now developed seven beers after the initial positive reception to Black Habit – our flagship beer and his brews have drawn rave reviews.

The Brewery is one of only three in the US where the monks own and operate the enterprise.  Plan on coming to the Taproom in Mt. Angel and visiting the beautiful Abbey Hilltop.

Beerchasing Event at the New Oakshire Beer Hall

In October, about thirty Beerchasing friends gathered at the Oakshire Beer Hall in NE Portland to try out the establishment which opened in July – a Portland addition to the popular Oakshire Brewery in Eugene.  One of the attendees was Oakshire Brewing Board member, Dr. Sam Holloway, a professor at the University of Portland, President of Crafting a Strategy and a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Br. Thomas, Sam Holloway and Fr. Martin at the Oakshire Beerchasing

Thanks to the followers of this blog for their support and if you have suggestions for bars or breweries to add to my travels in 2020, please let me know by a blog comment or send an e-mail to dwilliams2951@gmail.com.

Although some might think it redundant, I loved the piece by Edgar Allen Poe which I used to end 2018.  While he is not known for a positive outlook, Poe got this one right!

Happy New Year.

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

At least he was positive about ale!

The list of the bar’s outside Portland can be found at the links in the narrative above.   The list of Portland establishments is shown below:

2019 Portland Area Bars

  Name Location Type Date of Post
2019-1 The Gemini Bar and Grill Lake Oswego Neighborhood January
2019-2 Old Town Brewing NE Brewery and Pub February
2019-3 Xport Bar and Lounge SW Hotel Bar – Hotel Porter June
2019-4 Bantam Tavern NW Neighborhood April
2019-5 The Leaky Roof SW Neighborhood June
2018-6 Roots Lake Oswego Non-profit Neighborhood August
2019-7 Oakshire Beer Hall NE Brewpub October
2019-8 Mad Hanna NE Dive Bar October

Pueblo – Rich in History and Dive Bars

A classic beer sign hanging from the ceiling at Gus’s Tavern

In the first post on our nine-day road trip through the Southwest, I mentioned that one of our stops was Pueblo – two nights in this Colorado city on the Arkansas River.  After visits to both Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes National Parks,we arrived in this historic steel town founded in 1870 – a melting pot of many nationalities.

We dined that night at the Brues Alehouse Brewery on the Pueblo Riverwalk in a large memorable building – at one time, the police station and jail.  The Alehouse had a nice riverfront patio and an expansive one on the second level.

Brues gets good comments on social media on their food and Janet enjoyed a spinach salad loaded with grilled chicken and I had an outstanding teriyaki chicken bowl.  I downed a Leaderhead IPA – their flagship brew.  It was one of their nine on tap and since one of their seven guest taps was from Ecliptic Brewing in Oregon, Janet had the Vega IPA.

The Sengers (on the right) – Beerchasing regulars!

The next morning we met our good friends John and Barb Senger – prior Beerchaser companions from our time in Boulder, Colorado where they reside.

And their research skills, honed as teachers and administrators during their impressive careers in the Boulder School District, were still evident.  They had lined up a full-day’s itinerary with a diverse group of watering holes, but focused on those with robust historic roots.

Followers of Thebeerchaser blog know of my great affinity for dive bars and the two Pueblo “institutions” I describe below join the classics on Thebeerchaser’s eight-year travels.

Gus’s Tavern

There are some dive bars with more recent histories, but which still appropriately reflect the dive bar environment.   Don’t ask me for a definitive description – as former Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, opined regarding pornograpy, “I know it when I see it.” (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964).

And then there are those dives, which based on not just their ambiance, but their longevity, the founder’s roots and the stories which linger in their no longer smoke-filled crooks and crannies from years back, that earn that distinction.   Gus’s is one of the latter – and it’s obvious when one walks in the door.

The photos, old newspaper articles on the wall, the booths, the round-red bar stools, the general décor and the rich legacy of it’s original owner all create a lasting impression.  A 2013 story in the Pueblo Chieftain gives some insight:

“The building that is now Gus’s was built as a church in 1892.   Gus Masciotra bought the building in the 1920;s and ran a mercantile shop out of it.  When Prohibition ended in 1933, he turned it into a bar and it’s stayed relatively unchanged since.  Gus’s was the first establishment in Pueblo to receive a liquor license.”

The hallmarks at Gus’s Place are the cheap, ice-cold schooners of beer and the Dutch LunchAnd we discovered why…. 

As stated in this 6/10/2017 Yelp review:

“…..a plate of build it yourself lunch Sammy filled with onions, several kinds of lunch meat, and tomatoes with condiments of mustard, mayo, all laid upon really fresh white bread to build your own sandwiches.  This combo comes from the Bojon history of the area and the steel mill crews from the 40’s & 50’s and still is delicious today.”

There was a 2015 article in the Oklahoman that stated Gus’s was for sale. (The fact this situation made the news in an Oklahoma  City newspaper is evidence of the bar’s celebrated reputation):

“Current owner Evelyn Masciotra, 93, is in ill health and now resides in a nursing home, prompting her decision to sell, according to her son, Gino Mittino….In its heyday, it made Ripley’s Believe It or Not three different years for selling more beer per square foot than any other bar in the world.”

However, the bar was actually not sold until last year.  Although Gus and his son, Robert, who helped him at the bar for 28 years, are now both gone, you can still envision, them smoking cigars and greeting the steel workers stopping by at all hours for lunch or an after-shift mug.

In any event, the experience at Gus’s set the stage for memorable Beerchasing the rest of that day.   Just a block away from Gus’s (and unfortunately 1,445 mile from our house in Oregon…) we took another step back into history in this notable Bessemer neighborhood (annexed into Pueblo in 1894) with our visit to Gagliano’s Bessemer Mercantile Company.

As described by this Trip Advisor reviewer on 6/28/18:

Try to by pass this tray if you are hungry.

“This small store, now in its 97th year, is chock full or gourmet foods from A to Z. Pasta, select olive oils and vinegars, sweets, home-made sausage, old world cheeses and deli meats, frozen hand-made heat and serve pastas, European cooking gadgets and more line every inch of this immaculate and charming grocery store. If you want a deli sandwich, they will fix you up.”

And it was a good thing we had gorged ourselves on the Dutch Lunch a few minutes earlier, because the selection of meats, cheeses and bread was irresistible.  In fact, Gagliano’s supplies the “raw materials” for the spreads at Gus’s Tavern down the street.

Eiler’s Place

Only .3 mile from Gus’s Tavern is another bar whose founding also dates back to the end of Prohibition.  Eiler’s is in a neighborhood that’s “long been know as Old Bojon Town (Croatian, Serb, Slovian and Yugoslavisn), after the Eastern European immigrants who came to work at the mill (Colorado Fuel and Steel Mill).”  7/16/14 KRCC  Public Radio

Eilers is across the street from the big Catholic church and near the elementary school in a grand old building which was originally a grocery owned by the Glovich family – Matt and Josephine, who lived next door.  Matt died only two years after they opened:

“She was left with five kids to support.  The neighbors said, ‘You need to get a liquor license. It’ll help.’ She borrowed $20 to buy some glasses and turned the grocery counter into a bar.  She started with a keg of beer and a few bottles of whiskey.  ‘She had some backbone, I’ll tell you,’ said her great granddaughter, Sue Mikita, who has co-owned the bar for the last six years with her brother, Ray ‘Ray Dog’ Vertovic.”  (Pueblo Chieftain 2012 on plaque in the bar.)

Now Eiler’s is a larger bar and not as dark as Gus’s place, but still reeks of the ninety-year history.  The two big screen TVs over the bar detract just a little from the ambiance.

As we walked in, there were some older guys – obviously regulars – in a booth just to the right of the entrance.   (When I say “older”, it’s a relative term.   They were older than Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russel Wilson, but younger than I.)  We could hear them talking and one said, “Well, I’ve been in jail two times,” with a response, “That’s nothing – I’ve been in jail three times!”

Eiler’s Initiation including Schlevo

When we sat down, John Senger told us that we had to have the “Bojon initiation” on our first visit to the fabled bar.   That means you down a shot of Schlevo (Slovian plum liquor) followed by your PBR – perfectly appropriate for Thebeerchaser.

When the bartender found out about the blog, she brought out some old photos from the early 50’s.  They included the one below and she then said:
“See that guy over there?” pointing to one of the guys in the booth by the door.  “He’s the second baby from the end on his mom’s lap in the photo.”   The photo was consistent with this story from public radio:

“They’d bring in their kids and we’d take their picture of the new babies and we’d put them on the wall – we have books and books of these things.  Kids are always welcome and the kids love to come because the customers would buy them candy or Pepa (the original owner) would feed them.”

So I went over to the guy she pointed to and introduced myself and asked if he would be in a picture with me.  He stuck out his hand and said:

“I’m James “Horse” McHorsney.  But you should just call me ‘Horse.’  I live across the street and I’ve been coming here for at least forty years.”

Horse and Thebeerchaser

After one more stop as described below, we left Eilers and met the rest of our group including John and Barb’s daughter, Cassy Tavlor, her husband, Kirk, their granddaughter, Sarah and great granddaughter, Penelope, at the Shamrock Brewery and Pub.  Kirk Taylor is the Sheriff of Pueblo County and his job includes responsibility for Pueblo County Corrections.
I told the story about babies in the picture from Eiler’s and showed them the picture with the regular.  Sheriff Taylor, smiled and said, “Oh that’s Horse….I know Horse!”
Walter’s Brewery and Alehouse
Walter’s – another historic establishment – and perhaps I’m over-utilizing that word, but in Pueblo, that’s just part of the background.   This brewery, however, doesn’t just go back to the end of Prohibition, but to the 1800’s when Martin Walter purchased the Pueblo Brewery for $7,000 and the Walter’s brewery known in Wisconsin, began its long run in Pueblo.
It thrived until 1975 when it was sold and reopened in 2014 by a group of Pueblo entrepreneurs.  As with other Pueblo bars and breweries, its primary clientele for years were the steel workers.
The Alehouse had thirteen beers on tap – not your typical microbrews, but concoctions such as Pueblo Chile, Chile Clamato, Chile Red Lime – reflective of the region’s affection for the peppers they grow.
But we tried its trademark Pilsner:
“History in a glass!  The one that started it all for the Walter family.  The pre-prohibition, 1800’s German pilsner recipe is the beer that made the Walter family famous.”
Our Beerchasing day was not finished, however, so stay tuned for the visits to the Shamrock Brewery and Alehouse, Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern and the Star Bar – all part of the bountiful Beerchasing scene in the City of Pueblo.

Daphne’s and Desmond in Edmonds…

In my recent review of the Caroline Tavern, I mentioned that my Beerchasing exploits in the State of Washington, paled in comparison to those in Oregon and surrounding states.

Outside the Caroline Tavern with the Magnusson clan

Based on the great experience at Caroline’s, I decided to expand the journey into the Evergreen State by visiting a bar in Edmonds, Washington.

And I definitely would not have discovered Daphne’s or its legendary bartender, Desmond van Rensburg if it had not been for Pete Andrijeski – a blogger, whose adventures at bars since 2006, far exceeds my own count of about 375 since I started Thebeerchaser in August of 2011.

I came across Pete’s blog when I was researching the history of Caroline’s and was impressed with both his narratives and the extent of his travels on our mutual topic of interest.

So I contacted him by e-mail and we agreed to meet and exchange stories and raise a mug together the next time I was in Seattle.

That occurred in November and I asked Pete for a recommendation.  Without hesitation, he stated “Daphne’s in Edmonds – it’s my favorite bar.”  (More about Pete and his exploits below….)

http://www.seattlebars.org/2019/08/3128-daphnes-bar-edmonds-wa-12222016.html

After a very enjoyable 90 minutes downing some of Desmond, the bartender’s, craft cocktails, I understand his affection for this place – essentially a medium sized room (250 sq. feet) – a former barber shop – whose character and ambiance far exceeds its physical dimensions.

Desmond in the “Living Room” environment at Daphne’s

A 2007 review in the Seattle Times was entitled, “Where Taste Trumps Elbow Room.”  And one recent Yelp reviewer (6/8/19) stated:

“This bar is literally the size of our living room. It’s cozy, lively, and is a local favorite. The bar top can seat up to 9, the booths up to 3, and outdoor seating up to 8.”

Desmond!!

Now after visiting about 375 bars, breweries and pubs over the last eight years, I can say that a primary factor in defining the character of the establishment is the bartender.  And I have met some outstanding barkeeps who affirm the statement by internationally acclaimed Canadian economist, Harry Gordon Johnson who said:

The economist who opines on mixologists…..(on the right)

“The greatest accomplishment of a bartender lies in his ability to exactly suit his customer.”

(Why this quote is attributed to a noted economist, transcends the scope of this blog post.)

It so happens that two of the most memorable bar personalities I have met during my visits to watering holes in the US and Europe have been in the last two posts i.e. Ernie Bob from Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe and Desmond van Rensburg at Daphne’s.

Ernie Bob with Janet in September

It is noteworthy that the great majority of social media reviews on Daphne’s mention Desmond and the impact he had on their opinion of the bar.

An example is this 8/30/17 Yelp review:

“Desmond is the man, he takes the time to get new faces names and welcome them to his bar. He shows passion in every cocktail he makes.”  

Since I research each place I review before I visit, I wondered if the narratives about this personality might be overstated….

They weren’t!

Desmond knew Pete from his previous visits and welcomed me in the same animated manner as he did every Daphne’s newcomer.   And his exuberance had a positive impact on everyone else in the “living room.”

He is a native of Johannesburg, South Africa and is married with one son.  After a short sit-down conversation in a coffee shop near the bar, one of the co-owners, hired him in May, 2011 and he now practices his craft four nights per week.

In his new job, he quickly made an impression and was named in 2011 as one of KOMO Television’s Most Fascinating People in Edmonds:

“There are so many reasons why Desmond is one of Edmond KOMO’s most fascinating people, but OI think the main one is that he makes each and every person feel like they are the most fascinating person he’s ever met……He adds to the Main Street charm.  Desmond is always armed with a joke to tell and a smile to share.”

Daphne’s has a few beers on tap, but the specialty is cocktails and following Pete’s lead, I had two of the specials listed on the menu which range from the Moscow Mule at $10 (draws rave reviews) to a $12 Manhattan.

I tried the Sazerac – a rye whiskey concoction with New Orleans origin and also the Boulevardier – whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Campari.

Van Rensberg effort on these creations evidenced the same dexterity of Van Cliburn performing  Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 – well, at least almost…….

I can’t remember which he drank that night, but Pete’s favorite cocktails are Old Pal, Negroni, Corpse Reviver #2 and Sazerac

One doesn’t go to Daphne’s to eat other than munchies such as pretzels, nuts and popcorn although one review had a reference to Desmond’s meat and cheese platter.

Contributing to the favorably dark and somewhat raucous atmosphere are some old signs and mementos including a gold plated telephone.  The old (1923) Edmonds movie house next door on the City’s Main Street adds to the character.

 

 

A 2018 article in the Herald Business Journal of Everett  amplifies:

“The coup, however, is a story written by actress Anna Faris in Delta Sky Magazine that names Daphne’s as one of her favorite places on her favorite street in her hometown of Edmonds.”

Pete!!

A major contribution to my enjoyment of the bar that evening was meeting and chatting with the aforementioned Pete Andrijeski.  He is a burly guy, raised in Boise, attended the University of Washington and is a technology professional and now works for Expedia.  

If you check out his website    http://www.peterga.com/  you will find that he is a fascinating individual with diverse interests (besides bars…..) ranging from baseball to gardening to music and a voracious and impressive appetite for non-fiction.

Pete’s website cover photo

I identified with his zealous (some might say “compulsive”) tendency to keep lists such as this one which shows the breadth of his reading.

Time constraints limited our conversation that night to mainly sharing our favorite bars, but if you check out his website, you will also see that his sister, Julie is an acclaimed musician living in Pittsburgh

“….plays in several groups, as well as teaching classes and seminars……Julie has also played and recorded with several other orchestras (besides Chatham Baroque), operas, and early music groups, including the Cleveland baroque group Apollo’s Fire and the Celtic group Shanua.”

The section on his late wife of seven years, Cheryl LeRouix, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 1996 will bring tears to your eyes.

And as I mentioned in a previous post, my 375 + watering holes visited and reviewed since 2011, is dwarfed by his 3,906 bars of which 1,659 are in Seattle.  http://www.seattlebars.org/   (Some may be incredulous about these figures, but I definitely believe him and check out his blog.)

He downplays this feat and jokingly referenced “recognition” such as one person who recently became aware of his blog and stated, “You are the God of bars.”   (Maybe that would make Thebeerchaser a minor prophet equivalent.)

Pete made my blog procrastination less onerous when he lamented in an August post this year, “I’ve recently gone about 9 months without posting a blog entry, and I am now 1,154 bars behind.”

Off the beaten path in Shoup, Idaho…

His list of bars and other features are compelling including his favorite dive which will be on my list during the next trip to Idaho – the M.T. Saddle in Shoup, Idaho.

“I was not sure we’d actually reach this one, as it is 13 miles down a single lane dirt road along a river, and my car is the furthest thing from an off-road vehicle.”

My conversations and visits with Pete will continue in the future as he has an affinity for Tiki bars and wants to visit some of them in Portland.  His suggestion that we meet at Daphne’s was a gem and I will return there on one of our frequent trips to Seattle – the next time Desmond will not have to regard me as a first-timer.

The bar opened in 2006 and is co-owned by Brian Taylor and Louise Favier, who previously owned other establishments in Washington, but sold all of them except Daphne’s when they moved back to New York in 2013, where they also own two bars.

Taylor shared the sentiment of many when he stated:

“Daphne’s wouldn’t be the same without van Rensburg.  It was a great little bar before Desmond, but Desmond has taken it to a whole different level,” 

Desmond stopped bartending for a minute to pose with Pete.

As the Edmonds celebrity, himself, aptly stated in one of the many articles about him and the bar:

“It’s the press, you know, the place, the cocktails and the dysfunctional bartender.  It’s one great blend.  That’s what it comes down to.  When you mix it all together, it makes for a wonderful experience.”

Daphne’s Bar 415 1/2 Main St
Edmonds, Washington

Beerchasing in the Southwest – Part I (Oh, Ernie Bob….!)

The excellent ranger-guided tour at the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park. (see below)

In September, we flew to Albuquerque for an nine-day trip through the Southwest.   We hit twelve Beerchasing establishments in Santa Fe and Pueblo, Colorado besides Albuquerque and visited two National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes), the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, a number of impressive chapels and cathedrals, even stayed at an organic farm one night and attended a climate change demonstration on September 20 during the Global Week for the Future.

The Rio Grande Bridge over New Mexico’s Grand Canyon

From a Beerchasing standpoint, the most interesting and impressive part of the journey was the one and one-half days in Pueblo where there were three good breweries.  But the highlight was the collection of four historic dive bars – some of the most iconic watering holes visited in the eight years of Beerchasing.   Those bars deserve more pictures and narrative and will be the topic of two future posts of Thebeerchaser blog.

John and Barb Senger and Janet at Gus’ Tavern in Pueblo

Santa Fe – We flew into Alburquerque at night and drove to Santa Fe where the desk clerk at our hotel responded to our inquiry with a recommendation for Second Street Brewery – an enterprise that celebrated its 22nd anniversary this year and has expanded to three locations – all serving good food and with some excellent barrel-aged beer.

It turned out to be a stellar recommendation – we went to the original location on Second Street and met Ernie Bob – the most friendly and gregarious server we  encountered on the trip.

Ernie Bob and Janet at Second Street

Besides impressive beer, we had an excellent meal and enjoyed a long chat with Ernie Bob about his history – and the origination of his moniker.

One of the many “Friends of Ernie Bob”…

And you can see that Ernie Bob’s reputation as an outstanding representative of his brewery transcends our visit by the t-shirt the woman is wearing in the picture below (“Friend of Ernie Bob”).

When he introduced himself as Ernie Bob, I then asked him if he was from the South based on the “handle.”  The conversation went like this:

BC: “With that name, were you raised in the South?”

EB: “No, I was actually born in Michigan and have lived here since the ’80’s. My given name is Robert.”

BC: “So, tell us the story!”

EB: “It’s a long one….”.

BC: “We’re drinking beer and eating. We have time and if you do, we want to hear it.”

A few of the numerous beer awards

EB: “I started working at Second Street twenty-two years ago when it opened.   There were three Roberts who worked as servers then. There was a lot of confusion on whose orders were whose and in communicating so our manager said that we had to go by different labels.”

BC: “That’s understandable, but how did you get Ernie Bob?”

EB: “Well, I was the most junior guy and the first guy said I’m sticking with Bob. The next guy then said, well, I like Robert but will shorten it to Bert since that’s easier. I had always been a fan of Sesame Street, so I said, ‘If there’s going to be a Bert, there needs to be an Ernie.’   And it quickly became Ernie Bob.”

Ernie on the left has a legacy in Sanfa Fe!

Ernie Bob recommended the Second Street IPA – strong, malty and dry-hopped – which was one of the five beers on tap at Second Street.

We then had an excellent meal (Janet – Fish and Chips) and (Don – 1/3 pound Buffalo Patty Melt) and we left thinking,  “What a great start to our trip to the Southwest.”

Cathedrals and Chapels in Santa Fe

And we spent the next day visiting a beautiful chapel, a cathedral and an historic mission – all in the central part of Santa Fe.

The first was the beautiful Loretto Chapel – famous for The Miraculous Staircase – an impressive and memorable structure – “….has two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support.  The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair.”

It was built by an unknown carpenter who disappeared after he completed it and never asked for payment.  The chapel was built in 1873.

The Miraculous Staircase in the Loretto Chapel

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is also known as Saint Francis Cathedral and is a “working” Roman Catholic Church, built between 1869 and 1886.  Another example of beautiful carvings and stonework.

We started taking in these edifices in Europe and the three in Santa Fe rivaled some of those we saw on that trip.

And although it did not evidence the architectural grandeur of the two above, from an historical perspective the San Miguel Mission – a Spanish colonial mission church – is considered to be the oldest church in the continental US – built in the first quarter of the 17th century.

It has survived damage  incurred during revolts and warfare and  has been repaired and rebuilt, but the historic preservation is remarkable.  Its original adobe walls are still largely intact

The altar at the mission

Now I know that some of the followers of this blog, may ask, “What does this have to do with beer, bars and breweries?” It is healthy, however,monk to recognize and pay tribute to the divine inspiration that promoted early beer production and the legacy of the monks who were some of the early brewers dating back to the sixth century…..

Besides, one needs some culture and appreciation of the natural beauty of the US to fully enjoy your brewski at the end of a long day!  And there is a lot of material on actual Beerchasing in these posts to come.

One of the skyscrapers in the Georgia O’ Keeffe collection

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was also a highlight and the legacy and images of this remarkable artist in Santa Fe surprised me as I reluctantly, but fortunately tagged along with Janet.

This encounter with creative artistry, along with the impact of the architecture and décor of the religious structures, made Thebeerchaser forget – at least for awhile – the storied history of some of the Southwest’s dive bars awaiting us in the next few days…..

Well, since we were walking right by the Blue Corn Cafe after the museum tour, we stopped for one of their own five beers on tap and what were outstanding nachos.  They are known for great Southwestern food.

Janet had the Gatekeeper IPA and I downed a pint of the Atomic Blonde LagerBlue Corn Brewery opened in 1997 and asserts that it is “….one of the New Mexi o’s first breweries.”

Our friendly server made our day when we asked him to take our photo and he remarked, “What a cute couple!!??”

Cute??? How about “distinguished” or “urbane?”

Since this is a blog about bars and breweries, I won’t go into detail about our visits to Mesa Verde and Grand Sand Dunes , but the former is one of the most memorable of the many National Parks we have visited.

Mesa Verde is dynamic history (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) first hand – excellent ranger briefings and one can visualize the activity of the twelfth century Pueblo Indians constructing the still impressive structures and their daily lives. It’s the epitome historic preservation.

“With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.  The Cliff Palace (the one we visited) is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.”  Wikipedia 

By the way, the Mesa Verde Park Lodge where we stayed also had an outstanding gin martini.

Up with olives….

Now the panorama of the Dunes from the time they are visible on the horizon to right in front of them is magnificent.

We decided against hiking up them (or “boarding” down them – a rental option) because of the expansive dunes in Oregon’s Honeyman State Park – right in our own backyard…. – near Florence on the Oregon Coast.

On to Pueblo

Pueblo is an historic city in Colorado which has a fabled history dating back to 1842 including at one time being one of the largest steel producing cities in the US.   Thanks to John and Barb Senger (a friend of Janet’s going back to high school in McMinnville), who traveled from their home in Boulder, we were able to spend a great day with them.

Janet and the Sengers at the Sink in 2015

Since they have Beerchasing roots going back to 2015 when we hit several breweries and the remarkable and renowned  Sink Bar – right next to the campus of the University of Colorado, they had set up a mini-tour of breweries and dive bars – some with the most impressive histories I’ve witnessed in the eight years of this hobby.

John’s son-in-law is Kirk Taylor, the Sheriff of Pueblo County and he and his wife, Cassy – a teacher – and his impressive daughter Sarah – a US Naval Academy graduate, formal Navy officer and after obtaining another Bachelor degree is now an ER and ICU nurse – and her daughter Penelope, met us in the late afternoon for stops at a few establishments. (I will cover these bars and these wonderful people in a subsequent post.)

Beerchasing at the Shamrock Brewery Pub (l to r) John Senger, Sheriff Taylor, Cassy, Penelope, Sarah, Barb Senger, Janet

We completed our road trip in the Southwest returning to Albuquerque after a short side trip to see the  Rio Grande Bridge, and spending a night at the unique organic farm (Los Pablamos Historic inn and Organic Farm).

“Crashing a wedding at San Felipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our final day and one-half – the eighth and ninth of the trip, we spent the time hitting another chapel – this one at the San Felipe de Neri Church during a wedding ceremony we inadvertently crashed, hitting few more watering holes, attending a climate change demonstration in a City park and flying back to Portland in the evening.

The following shows the Beerchasing establishments we visited on this trip:

Oh – and did we tell you about Ernie Bob??

Santa Fe – Second Street Brewery and Blue Corn Café

Pueblo – Brues Ale House and Brewing, Gus’ Tavern, Eiler’s Place, Walters’ Brewery, Shamrock Brewing, Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern and Star Bar

Albuquerque – Boxing Bear Brewing, Bow and Arrow Brewing, Geckos Bar and Tapa

Sweet Caroline…..

The Magnusson crew and Thebeerchaser in front of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle

My Beerchasing exploits – visiting over 350 bars since starting this hobby in 2011, have taken me to only two previous Washington establishments – the Pour House in Port Townsend in 2012 and a recent review of Loowit Brewing in Vancouver, Washington.

The opportunity to have beers with three members of the wonderful Magnusson clan in Seattle, provided the motivation to add another.  My affection for Jon, Jamie and Rob Magnusson is well founded since Jamie (with the baseball cap below)  is one of my two son-in-laws – also because they are wonderful and interesting individuals.

Now married for twelve years, Jamie met my oldest daughter, Lisa, while both were students at the University of WashingtonAll three of the guys are Huskies – a long family tradition with football season tickets going back about sixty years.

Jon’s structural engineering firm – Magnusson Klemencic Associates did the engineering work on the revised Husky Stadium several years ago.  In fact MKA is recognized as one of the top five sports facility engineering firms in the US and their portfolio reflects NFL, NBA, MLS, MLB and collegiate projects.

Safeco Field in Seattle – home of the Mariners and site of innovative structural engineering

Some preliminary research on north Seattle dive bars to find one near Lake Forest Park  – where they all reside – yielded a compelling choice – The Caroline Tavern in nearby Lake City. It was listed in a Google search on “Ten Seattle dive bars “with a good reputation(although those two words may be a contradiction in terms).

“A bustling hangout place for a cross-section of ages, ethnic groups as well as subcultures..”  (We were probably part of the subculture category.)

On my second visit – in the morning – it was not a good cross section…..

How many dive bars look like this on the exterior?

And this historic bar was, in fact, a great choice which we all enjoyed (as was the case at the Lake City site of the Elliot Bay Brewery where we had dinner afterwards).  That said, since I claim some background on what constitutes a dive bar, I question whether the Caroline fits neatly into that description as discussed below.

The following excerpt about the Caroline is from a wonderful blog I discovered doing subsequent research.  I say “wonderful” because Seattlebar.org has the same mission as my own – Thebeerchaser – only my journey pales compared to blogger, Pete Andrejeski‘s,  exploits in the pursuit of this worthy goal..

Douglas – she makes her mark on the Parallel Bars versus Dives……

This Seattle resident has had a drink in 3,840 bars of which 1,6049 are Seattle watering holes. Now there are some that say Thebeerchaser’s 350+ visits and reviews over the last eight years is notable, but equating the two blogs is like comparing Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to a kid on the jungle gym at a local playground….

Pete stated in his post on the Caroline:

“There is no doubt that the Caroline is one of the 20 to 30 oldest bars in Seattle. The Caroline itself includes mentions of a start date in 1933.  (probably at another location until 1940) In the late 30s and early 40s the Caroline was owned by Mrs. Mary McNulty. “

Actually, the bar’s written history provided to me by Sarah, our friendly bartender, starts with the following historical narrative:

Sarah – a friendly bartender who knows the history of her bar

“There are references to the Caroline Tavern as early as 1926, with only four owners for the entire history, but city records indicate that Mary McNulty was the owner of record in 1933…….legend has it that she named it after her cat or her aunt, but there is a picture of Mary in the bar to this day and she is holding a cat.

The current building was constructed before Prohibition.   Mary eventually sold the bar to Jack Kelly for one dollar. Pictures of Jack in fifty year increments are featured at the bar as well. Mr. Kelly was a boxer, hence the bell from a boxing ring in the bar now, which is rung when the house buys a round……Legend has it that Will Rogers and Wiley Post ate and drank there after playing polo at the Olympic Riding and Driving Club.”

The Bell is still rung when the house buys a drink – in the upper right

As stated above, the Caroline was listed in Google as a dive bar and a number of the social media reviews also describe it as a dive.

That said, while there may not be a distinct dividing line, between what constitutes a dive versus a neighborhood watering hole, I offer this background on dives from one of my earlier blog posts: https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/09/18/analyzing-dive-bars-head-first/

Unlike the typical dive bars I have visited the Caroline is in a wonderful, large old house with an attractive front entry.

The Ship in Multnomah Village

Now compare this with two of Portland’s fabled dives – the Ship Tavern in Multnomah Village and the Yamhill Pub – right in downtown Portland and known for being one of the top sellers of PBR in the State of Oregon.

The Yamhill – Dive or Grunge Bar??

I would suggest that one would never see two life-size wooden nutcrakers “guarding” the entrance to a hard-core dive bar. Take a look at these two right inside the front door.

(No one at the bar when I was there could tell me the story of how these two festive “soldiers” became permanent fixtures at the Caroline, but I doubt you will see another dive with this type of décor).

Not to get too carried away with trying to pigeonhole this bar, but three other factors that argue for the “neighborhood” bar category:

1. Sitting on a shelf right below the large screen TV in corner were three VCR and one DVD movies as shown in the picture below. Now, I don’t know if the VCR even worked, but tell me a dive bar where one would have ever seen videos starring Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen or Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta.”

2. The Caroline was only the third bar in which I have seen a coin-operated breathalyzer.   Perhaps this is making an inferential leap, but I think this reflects a concern for patrons and the surrounding community verses a more laissez faire approach typical of dive bars.

3.  The Caroline keeps track of the birthdays of regulars and posts these. I didn’t have time to check to whether that meant that you should buy “Baby Ryan” a Budweiser when you are there in October or whether the bar provides a complimentary draft, but it’s a nice touch.

Now, whereas one should avoid generalizations, dive bar regulars, while generally not hostile to newcomers as is the stereotype, tend to stick to themselves, play pool or  ignore strangers. The Caroline seems to defy this image – in fact, according to Pete:

“(On the patio in back) we found two large, circular porch tables surrounded by outdoor, plastic chairs.  It was quite clear that these were communal tables.  Our addition to the deck, upon first appearance, seemed to bring the group count to 4.  4 groups, 2 tables…this is the kind of place where you grab a chair right next to a stranger and join in the conversation. 

Patio in back

It wasn’t long until we were ‘welcome[d] home’ by the regulars.  It seems that this is a traditional phrase at The Caroline.  “Welcome home”.  To say the very least, home was quite an experience.(emphasis supplied)

We chatted with a bricklayer who was drinking Busch Light, a carpenter who was sipping on Jagermeister and pounding bottles of Bud, a rapper and producer who, well I don’t know what the hell he was intoxicated with, and the list goes on…  We had entered a very diverse world of locals, who all seemed to know each other in some way or another.  Well, they knew each other as regulars at The Caroline, and it was quite a social experiment to enter the pack.

I still walked away with a fond feeling of family and community — something that is becoming more and more rare in the big city. “

I experienced this aspect to some extent myself on my second visit on a weekday morning at 10 AM when I found the bar stools all occupied by hard core regulars – a number of whom were chasing their beers with Bushmills or Jamesons.

After taking a few photos I was invited to join Ashley and Phil, who were sitting at a side bar and when I told them about my blog, started filling me on other stories from the Caroline.  They were nice people.

Ashley and Phil – personable regulars

And finally, to bring this issue to a close, one has to be careful to draw conclusions from social media review sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor, yet they can be edifying if one looks at trends identified and in the context of other research.

So take these two excerpts from Yelp reviews on 3/21/19 and 11/23/18 respectively:

“Came in to enjoy a drink and play pool with a buddy who comes here often. The people were friendly the drinks were very reasonably priced and someone even brought over some salty snacks (I think it was another customer but gives you a idea of the vibe here) the guys playing pool here we’re some of the best I ever seen extremely friendly giving me advice on how to better my game.

Had a great time if you want to have a good drink with friendly people that u can’t go wrong here.”

Sarah relating some of the history of the bar.

And

“We walked in and you can tell right away this is a locals kinda joint were there are a lot of regulars. They were doing a pot-luck style thanksgiving with the pool table transformed into a makeshift table….We were warmly greeted by the regulars there and overall this seems like a really cool place to grab some drinks….”

The pool table, a few old-fashioned pinball machines and open space with tables adjoining the bar, make it a comfortable atmosphere.

Perhaps it was because I enjoyed the companionship of the Magnussons at this bar, but the Caroline, regardless of whether one’s opinion of what type of bar it is, is a great place to stop, have one of inexpensive beers on tap, get a salty snack and enjoy the refreshing vibe and ambiance and be “Welcomed Home.”

Now I found the Caroline after some cursory internet research, unlike the questionable intellect of the Yelp reviewer below from 4/27/15 (and one who affirms my point about being careful about over-reliance on social media).

Perhaps this guy (he goes by the name “Kris Loudmouth T”) needs to just stay home and watch old reruns of “Full House,” rather than exploring the big world outside…..

“It’s almost like they don’t want new customers. It took me 20 years to find out the name of this place…” (emphasis added)

Since the selection of food at the Caroline is limited and we were hungry, we decided to hit the nearby Lake City Pub of Elliot Bay Brewing – a nice pub, but not with the same character is our previous stop.

That said, the special that night – “fully loaded chipotle carnitas nachos”  was memorable and we went home with appetites more than satisfied and cholesterol elevated.

(Jon Magnusson did some calculations to determine the static load of this Happy-Hour offering to determine if the plate would sustain the mass presented by the edibles it supported.  His conclusion was that it would – at least for the moment……)

The Caroline Tavern    13702 15th Ave NE #3102    Seattle

Elliot Bay Brewing      Lake City Public House 

12537 Lake City Way NE   Seattle