The Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak – Part II

Big Sky Country between Yaak and Eureka

Followers of this blog are aware of our fourteen-day June road trip through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming – the first six nights I drove solo before picking up Janet at the Billings Airport for the remaining eight days.  The two posts which provide an overview of this 3,700 trip can be seen by clicking on this link.

The first two night’s lodging were in the Moose Room of the Yaak River Lodge.  Yaak is near the NW border of Montana – 35 miles from the Canadian border – a community which about 250 people call home.  In the center of Yaak also sits the “World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon,” owned and managed since 2013 by John Runkle, who also owns the Lodge he bought in 2004.

I might add that even with its proximity, based on the beauty of the surrounding Kootenai National Forest, there’s no compelling reason to go to Canada unless you want to get Moosehead Lager Beer or visit the birthplace of native Canadian, Justin Bieber – a thought that would require a double shot of Canadian Club Whiskey rather than beer.  Hall of Fame hockey player, Wayne Gretzky was also born in Canada, although he never dated Selena Gomez But I digress……

The Yaak River Lodge which sits on 7.5 acres of beautiful property

Wildlife abounds in Yaak – and not necessarily just in the two bars in the “center of town.”  Besides a Sasquatch in a field (see photo below), I also saw elk, deer and feathered prey, but fortunately no grizzly bears.

And indeed, hunters are some of John’s main clients at the lodge and at the Dirty Shame Saloon in the fall.

Taken from the window of my car on Yaak River Road

Across the highway from the Shame is the Yaak River Tavern – owned by Gwen and which has a personality quite different from the historic and much written about Dirty Shame.  (There used to be a strip of four bars  in Yaak including the Golden Nugget and the Hell Roaring Saloon – these two are now gone but not forgotten.)

I spent quite a few hours in the Dirty Shame, interviewing John, talking to regulars and “drinking” in the ambiance of what became the most interesting of the 350 watering holes I’ve visited since starting Thebeerchaser blog in August, 2011.   These justify the title: “The World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon.”

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle – owner.

The first Beerchaser post on the bar chronicles John’s background – almost as interesting and varied as his bar and why he was named this blog’s most recent Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  Click on the link above to read the story.)

You will want to read the highlights of The Dirty Shame before John bought it out of foreclosure – the only bidder and paying cash in 2013.   In that narrative, I tried to put to rest the concern of author, Joan Melcher, who wrote two wonderful books on “Montana Watering Holes’ and her fear in the second book about the Shame’s future.

I described why she loved the Shame when she first visited in the 1970’s.  (I used both of Joan’s books extensively for research and planning on my road trip and you should check them out.)

Joan’s trepidation was that Gloria and Don Belcher – the husband and wife from the East Coast who purchased the bar in 2006 – tried to “civilize” the bar.  The book clubs and music they introduced while attempting to turn it into a “bistro“ were totally out of character with the saloon’s roots.   (There was even carpet on the floor at one point!)

Joan Melcher’s first book published in 1983.

My narratives will try to reassure this wonderful writer that John has rekindled the spark that made hunters, bikers and adventurers return to the Dirty Shame to drink beer with the regulars.   Also to enjoy one of the community events Yaak celebrates and in which the Dirty Shame revels.

(I sent my last blog post to Joan in an e-mail and told her that her sense of loss was no longer valid and tried to convince her that she should return to validate my claim.)  She responded, in part:

“I do love the Dirty Shame and I’m glad it’s on the rebound.”

Now the trappings of the Dirty Shame are not unique – they reflect the same character as most good dive bars with a more western flavor –  a large rifle, cowboy boots, an old wood stove, a pool table, and Fox News on the big screen TV over the bar.  (The bullet holes in the wall when John bought it, have been removed.)

Oh, and there’s the bottle of MD 20-20 wine prominently displayed on a shelf and which John says dates back to 1978.  The two bottles of Benedictine Brewery Black Habit Beer that I brought as a “bar-warming” gift will now be displayed next to the “fermented juicy, luscious fruit infused with tasty flavor” contents in the Mogen David bottles, which we learned in college made it the “Original – Ready to Drink” or more aptly labeled, “Wine of the Century.”

What distinguishes the Shame are the people – not only John and his crew who run the place, but the regulars who reside in Yaak and those – be they the bikers and hunters, who return year after year and the tourists who have heard about this watering hole.

They come not only for the Sasquatch Festival, the Crawdad Festival and the Adult Easter Egg Hunt, but to mingle with the unconventional, one-of-a-kind characters.  These personae, who based on the stories from years past and recently, seem drawn to the Dirty Shame like a moth to the light reflecting off a bottle of Budweiser on a moonlit Yaak evening….

In the Adult Easter Egg Hunt, about sixty women search (often in the snow still on the ground) for the “golden egg” among those scattered around the outside of the saloon.   The lucky finder is the recipient of a “$200 Sex Package,” – one on which John commented, “I didn’t know what most of that stuff was…..”

Howie Long – occasional visitor to Yaak

As John emphasized to me, “You never know who you are going to sit next to at the Dirty Shame.” I’m not talking about “celebrities” such as sports broadcaster and athlete, Howie Long (who owns a home near Flathead Lake), or Mark Furman of the OJ Trial fame.

No, I’m talking about some who are clearly bad dudes and misfits, but most who are salt-of-the-earth patriots one wants to write about – so I will.   And I’ll also tell you about the events in Yaak that you should plan your next road trip around……

The Kehoe GangChevie and Cheyne Kehoe were two of eight sons raised starting in Arkansas.  Chevie, who was named after his dad, Kirby’s, favorite car was born in 1973 – the oldest, and when they moved to Eastern Washington, he was an honor student (but evidently not most likely to succeed) at Colville Jr. High in Deep Lake, Washington.   His mom, Gloria, then homeschooled the boys during their high school years, which may have been when Chevie became enamored with white supremacist ideas.

Chevis at his trial

To summarize, he and Cheyne were involved in a number of frauds and property crimes in Arkansas, culminating with the murder of a family which owned a gun store in 1996. They disappeared and ended in Spokane.   In 1997, they had a shootout with two Ohio police officers who had stopped their car.

The supermax prison that houses Chevie

Along the way, Chevie married three times and had three children.   As was inevitable, the law finally caught up with him in Utah. After a trial in which his mother and Cheyne (who had turned himself in) served as star witnesses for the prosecution, he was convicted of murder and several other felonies.

Chevie is now serving three life sentences in Florence Prison – known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” – in Colorado.

My second afternoon at the Dirty Shame, I noticed two men who were talking to Darilyn, the bartender. One of them stated in a soft-spoken voice, “Dar, I think I owe you for the meal I had last week and didn’t want to let that slide by before I forget.”  She checked and said that another regular had already paid it.

John introduced me and they were both nice, personable guys.   He stated that they do some maintenance and electrical work for him at the bar.   After they left, John told me that the older one was Chevie Kehoe’s, brother Noah and the other was Axel his son – the one who wanted to make sure his bill was paid.  Noah lives in Yaak and Axel in Spokane.

The Sasquatch Festival

So let’s talk about a few of the periodic events that attract visitors to Yaak and John has used to enhance business and add to the bar’s cache’.   These also are great events which bring the residents of this small but rugged community together.

The Sasquatch Festival was first held three years ago and is now an annual Yaak event held in the early summer months.

John’s friend, Todd Berget, a retired teacher who taught at an alternative school in Libby for thirty-one years, came up with the idea and is now the coordinator of the event which is heartily celebrated at both the Dirty Shame and the Yaak River Tavern.

As stated previously, there is a competition between these two establishments.  Although both are great places to get a beer, there is a distinct difference in character.

John summarized this quite well: “During the Sasquatch Festival, they have an Ugly Sweater Contest.   The Dirty Shame has a Wet T-shirt Contest!”  Nevertheless, the two rivals cooperate during the event which draws about 200 people to Yaak and has robust participation from residents.

This includes the Big Foot Run, where a local athlete dons a Sasquatch costume and about twenty-five contestants try to catch him (or her) and win the prize of free beer. (Three people have accomplished this since the inception.)

During the Festival for which the proceeds go to charities, the Shame is also center of a number of other competitions which John orchestrates.

These include the Miss Sasquatch Pageant and the contest for the hairiest male back – the female version of this competition was discontinued for obvious reasons…….

You also wouldn’t want to miss the beard contest, the Sasquatch screeching contest and related events.  Last year they showed the 1987 Academy Award-winning movie (Best Make-up and Hairstyling) Harry and the Hendersons (“The Henderson family adopt a friendly Sasquatch but have a hard time trying to keep the legend of ‘Bigfoot’ a secret.”)

One of Todd and his students’ creations that cause a double-take while driving……

Todd is responsible for one factor that enhances the festival – and the area all year round for that matter.  Before he retired, he started a fundraiser for his school by having his kids make plywood Sasquatch replicas – about six feet high.

These show up in fields, not only in Yaak, but in the surrounding Montana countryside.  Before I knew this, I took this picture – after I did an abrupt double take driving by a field on the way to the Shame.

I sat down and had a beer with John and Todd and loved the stories they related and seeing their rich friendship – an interesting fact and one which made the conversation robust because of their divergent political philosophies – John Runkle is a staunch conservative and Trump supporter.  According to John, “Todd is a liberal whose ideology would be left of Stalin’s!”

Two good friends with divergent political leanings in a typical civil conversation

Todd Berget is an artist and talented craftsman as evidenced by the metal sculptures which are displayed at the Dirty Shame and one can see coming into Libby, Montana where a metal eagle with a forty-foot wing span greets drivers on the highway.  He produces these in his Libby business formed in 1997 – Custom Iron Eagles.

He also has gifted the Dirty Shame with his collection of metal motorcycles that he started collecting when he was a kid. They are intricate and reflect an artistic talent for capturing detail which is intriguing and the displays add to the spirit of the saloon.

In fact one of the great stories involves Todd’s friend, Jay Graham who is also a teacher and was the high school wrestling coach in Libby for eighteen years.   Two young women came into the bar and needed money to get to Portland, suggesting that they strip for cash.  John responded that the Dirty Shame was not a strip club, but the enthusiastic guys there urged them to go ahead.

Todd and Jay happened to be present and Jay had his head lowered and turned away.  Todd asked him what was wrong and Jay responded quietly, “I taught Halley in third grade.  I just can’t look!”

I mentioned that John is a Trump supporter and his own timeline and that of the Dirty Shame on Facebook are filled with pictures of John and friends and bar visitors with a life-size cutout of Trump (life-size except for the size of the hands….).  John’s wife, Dallas, bought it for him as a present two years ago.

John inevitably is in his thumbs up pose and there is often a handwritten poster with some right-leaning phrase displayed. The one below is an example and since this is a family blog (of sorts…..) I won’t include the others although very entertaining.

John and I have distinctly different political philosophies, but he is a guy with whom one can have constructive and civil conversations about ideology and one’s view of government – a practice which is becoming far to infrequent in today’s society.

During the Crawdad Festival on Labor Day, 2018, a stranger who had consumed a number of beers, walked to the back of the bar where Trump was displayed, picked him up and dashed for the exit.

A biker who observed tried to stop him and the “thief” did a face plant by the bar’s entrance. He recovered, rode away with Trump and notwithstanding the wanted poster, has never been seen since (although there was one sighting in Greenland…)

The new Trump – also bought on-line in case you’re interested – is not as sizeable, but still is displayed as can be seen by this picture with John.

The replacement President….

The Bar Crew

I mentioned in a previous post that John met his wife, Dallas, who lived nearby and was working on graduate studies in Applied Behavior and started working as a bartender.  They just welcomed their second daughter in mid-August.

Darilyn Street, is a very impressive woman who helps John manage the Dirty Shame.  Besides handling a major portion of the bar duties, she is also a great cook – both at the bar and at the Lodge where I had her wonderful cheese omelet for breakfast.

John and Darilyn

She and her family – all very nice people live in nearby Libby and come to Yaak for the summer.   Her husband, (Robert and son Robert Jr.) work on the machinery and also do maintenance work around both operations and Vicki, the daughter, who just turned 18, started bartending – that’s minimum age for the job in Montana.

In the picture below, you can also see Sandie – the blonde on the right.  She joined the crew in May this year under somewhat unusual circumstances (except for the Dirty Shame….).

A disheveled Sandie showed up at the bar one week night – distraught and in somewhat ragged condition. She told Darilyn that her boyfriend got drunk and they had a fight.

Sandie then exclaimed, “I’m not going back there.”   They put her up at the Lodge and she started doing some odd jobs for her room and board.

Then about two or three days later, they see a “Missing Persons” poster with none other than Sandie’s name and picture clearly shown.   John called the Sheriff and let him know that the missing person had been found.   When I rolled into the Lodge on a Friday evening in June, Sandie checked me in and told me, “They found me and now I’m here for good!”   She’s now one of his crew.

And so ends the second post on the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon.  Stay tuned for the final Beerchaser installment and then the details on the other forty-eight bars and breweries we visited on our June road trip.

The Dirty Shame Saloon      

29453 Yaak River Road,    Troy Montana

 

John Runkle: Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and the Dirty Shame Saloon – Part 1

Thebeerchaser with new friend, John Runkle after the ceremonial presentation of two bottles of Benedictine beer.

John Runkle is a burly, outgoing guy who radiates energy and charisma – one reason he has a loyal and diverse customer base in his Yaak Montana bar – the Dirty Shame Saloon.

A number of long-term customers, most notably hunters and bikers, also stay at his other business – the Yaak River Lodge – about a mile down the road from the “center” of this small unincorporated burg in the upper Northwest corner of Montana.

It sits on 7.5 acres of beautiful Montana land fronting the Yaak River with llamas and horses.

The Lodge – A favorite for hunters and bikers…

In fact, during hunting season and other busy months, he runs a shuttle between the bar and the lodge so his customers don’t jeopardize not only their own safety, but that of the other approximately 250 residents of Yaak.

Optional shuttle service to the Lodge….

While some think the community was named after the “yak” – a long-haired domesticated clove-footed mammal similar to the bison,  the village’s name was derived from the Native American term for “arrow.”

The yak in the photo below – in the dining room of the Lodge, was purchased at a yard sale for $350 according to John!

Blueberry pancakes under the watchful eyes of the yak…

And Yaak – only 61 miles from the nearest Canadian border crossing – is where I spent the first two nights of what was a combined fourteen-day 3,700-mile June road trip through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.  I was ensconced in the Moose Room – comfortable and spacious with rustic charm.

No locks on the Moose Room Door or for that matter on the outer doors of the Lodge itself…

The first six days of the trip,I drove our Prius solo, marveling at the Big Sky scenery and rocking out to various Sirius Satellite Radio channels – my favorite being channel 70 –  “Yacht Rock Radio.”

The psuedo falsetto and boring melodies and lyrics finally got to me.....I heard Christopher Cross sing “Ride Like the Wind” and “Sailing” one too many times on Yacht Rock.

So I switched to BB King’s “Bluesville” #74 and “Big Band Forties Junction” #73 spinning my favorite Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller classics.

I could listen to Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade any number of times…

Subsequent nights in Montana’s Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston before picking up my spouse at the Billings Airport, gave me the opportunity to explore thirty Montana watering holes – many of them historic dive bars.

These establishments supplemented the nineteen bars and breweries, Janet and I visited in the final eight days of the trip – a journey that was also highlighted by three National Parks, two National Monuments, the incredible Custer State Park and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Janet overlooking Teddy Roosevelt – one of three magnificant National Parks

For an overview of the entire trip, see the first two posts on Thebeerchaser with the links below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/07/05/big-sky-beerchasing-the-preface/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/07/11/big-sky-preface-part-ii/

I first talked John Runkle three years ago after Tara, a bartender at the Moose Saloon in Coeur d’Alene, told me that my blog hobby should definitely include a review of the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak where she used to bartend.

After reading about the infamous bar and an extended phone conversation with John, I told him that my bucket list now included a future visit to his bar.

Of course, John was not impressed when he learned that two other items on my bucket list were:

Cadillac Ranch – one of the Seven Wonders???

1. Visiting Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

Bucket list pipe dream……!

 

 

 

 

2. Sitting on the 50-yard line when the Oregon State Beavers win the College Football National Championship (while the Beavs are still in Division 1….)

Why the Dirty Shame?

The Dirty Shame has a long and fabled history.  Let’s get some insight on that from an acclaimed expert on Montana bars – Joan Melcher– she has authored two wonderful books on Montana Watering Holes.

In her first book (1983), Joan stated:

“….the same wood-planked front porch, the same deer rack used as a door handle, the battered pool table, the loose bathroom door, the grotesque graffiti inside, the loggers, ranchers receptionists, Forest Service people using the bar like a third leg….

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.”  (Page 88)

The DS in years past.

According to one local legend, the original Dirty Shame was built in 1951 by airmen in the United States Army Air Corps.

They erected it so that they would have their own place to dine and drink.   The original bar, with only a dirt floor, burned down and was rebuilt.

The author laments the “deterioration” of this historic and iconic bar in her second book written in 2009.  She was pessimistic about the perpetuation of the Dirty Shame’s tradition after a female – a former Wall Street stockbroker and her husband, moved from Maryland and bought the bar in 2006. 

I say “deterioration” because they tried to “clean it up.”  (Perhaps they should have recognized that as being counterintuitive – given the name of the bar!)

These bikers are not at the Dirty Shame to discuss Dostoevsky….

“What I learn is the that the Dirty Shame died a typically raucous death and has been reborn as a law-abiding establishment, that is really more coffeehouse then bar. Sacrilege!…..Besides a piano and set-up for musicians….she also has book readings and draws many people who aren’t close enough to Yaak to be miffed about what happened to its legendary bar.  

The Dirty Shame is dead.   Long live the Dirty Shame.”  (Pages 54-7,9)

Well, ironically, the stockbroker’s plans were permanently shelved in 2011 when her 82-year old husband, Glen, was taken out of the bar in handcuffs and extradited to Maryland after he pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of two female minors according to a story in the Montana newspaper The Ravelli Republic.

John Runkle who had purchased the Yaak River Lodge in 2004 and operated it since that time, knew he had to do something:

“It was a matter of self-preservation.  I started getting cancellations because hunters and bikers wanted to hit the Dirty Shame when they stayed in Yaak. 

I was the only one who showed up at the foreclosure sale.  I paid cash and was now the owner of another business that I didn’t know anything about how to operate.”   

He and his army buddy, Ray Falconer, purchased it out of foreclosure in 2013 and the rest is history.  (John’ partner, Ray, bailed about a year later after going through one Montana winter.  (“It was the coldest in 15 years at one point hitting 32 degrees below zero.”)

Purchased out of foreclosure in 2013

The rest is history and as you will read below and in the following posts, Dirty Shame regulars no longer have to worry about the original “ambiance” of their bar sliding up to book club decorum.   And that’s because this wonderful saloon reflects the magnetic personality of its owner.  No, neither the Dirty Shame or John Runkle is anywhere close to being deceased…….

Now before getting into the details, let me state that examining photos John has sent and those on Facebook, the most frequent shot is somebody posing with him – Runkle inevitably is in a two-thumbs up posture reflecting his outlook on life.

Two thumbs up on life….

Alternatively, the photo shows John and his visitors with the Donald Trump life-size cut-out – it’s now gone, but not forgotten after being “kidnapped” last year.   (Stories on the Trump escapade and John’s politics in the next post.)John Runkle’s background reflects  some of the same fascinating interludes as his bar.  He was born in Orange County and graduated from LaQuinta High School in Westminster, CA – that was only after a brief period where he even attended Rex Putnam HS in Portland (about seven miles from my current residence) when he “ran away” to Oregon with his then girlfriend!

He joined the Army in 1980 and was ordered to Jump School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“I was pretty big for a paratrooper, but I did what they told me… and that first jump is the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve had besides getting married…”

He became a Paratrooper with the 509th Airborne Combat Team, was shipped to Europe and graduated from the  French Commando School.  He also earned Spanish Jump Wings.  The big guy made a total of 53 jumps.

He was then stationed in Italy and a member of SETAF – an Army Service component command of United States Africa Command , which although based in Italy, primarily operates in Africa. 

In 1983, the Army surprised him with new orders – this time to be a jump school instructor at Fort Benning:

“Italy was great.  To be honest, I probably would have made the Army a career, but there is a lot of difference between Vincenza, Italy and Fort Benning.” 

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Upon leaving the Army, he used the GI Bill and ultimately graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BS in Business Administration – a degree he has used extensively along with his natural propensity for sales and marketing.

Pictures  of John from his days in the Army reveal why there have been some great reunions of his military buddies at the Dirty Shame Saloon in recent years.

Runkle is an entrepreneur and a natural leader.  His sales acumen led him into the real estate business and he formed his own company in 1988. In the twenty years he managed it, he successfully expanded the business to seven states with 300 realtors.

He became a well known force in the industry while garnering awards such as Realtor of the Year and Outstanding Performer.  (He still does some real estate work in and around Yaak.)

John also had successful stints in the mining equipment and banking areas including time in Queensland, Australia for several years after he bought Yaak River Lodge and before the Dirty Shame.

If one looks at his resume, one can see an emphasis on staff development and motivating a team – it was still evident even with the small group at the Dirty Shame.

According to John, after growing his real estate business, “I reached my limit one day in 1998 while on a vacation to Glacier National Park.   I threw my cell phone out the window and knew if I didn’t escape the grind, I was heading for a heart attack.”    He fell in love with Montana and when the Lodge came up for sale, “I bought it on the spot — although it was a mess….”

And it’s understandable why someone who wants to escape the tyranny of the urgent and appreciate nature’s wonder in the West would gravitate to Montana.

Yaak River Falls – only a little over 20 miles from the bar

If you look at one of his recent Facebook posts, one can see the ambivalence that owning a small business(es) sometime creates – very typical in the hospitality and lodging businesses where balancing the job and family becomes a major challenge:

“Ever since I was 21 years old, it seems like I have always been in charge no matter where I end up.  At my age I keep thinking of the movie ‘American Beauty’ where he quits his job as an executive and goes to work at Burger King. His exact words to the interviewer were ‘I want the job with the least amount of responsibility.’  Does anyone else ever feel like that too?”

Chief cook at Yaak River Lodge – not Burger King…

That said, I can’t see John being in a subservient role very long – partly because of his own personality and because those around him look up to him and seek inspiration from his leadership.  As the quote below shows, after some frustration, reality and the pursuit of excellence return for overachievers:

“As another summer approaches, I think of how much whining I do as it become overwhelming busy at the Dirty Shame.  I have to continuously remind myself that I own a hunting lodge and a wild west bar.  Life just doesn’t get any better – truthfully.”

Before we leave this part of the story, we need to talk about family.   He met Dallas Wilson when she applied for a bartender job three and one-half years ago.

She had studied at Arizona State and while working, she is completing work on her Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis.

A testament to her abilities as a teacher and tutor is this shown from this Facebook post from John.

 

 

 

They married and were blessed with their first child – an outrageously cute little girl who is now two and one-half.   And Dallas was about nine months pregnant when I was there in June so……..

Now there is plenty more to share about the Dirty Shame and the Yaak River Lodge, so stay tuned for the next post of Thebeerchaser.

You won’t want to miss the stories of this legendary bar and see how the Runkle marketing talents and creativity have continued to make the Dirty Shame Saloon a popular destination.

John is one of the most fascinating people I’ve met in 7 1/2 years of Beerchasing and joins a select group of authors, war heroes, athletes, academicians, lawyers and just plain interesting individuals and groups who have been named  the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  (Although none may have liked Halloween as well….)

 

The Dirty Shame Saloon  

29453 Yaak River Road, Troy Montana

The First Vancouver (WA) Beerchase – Loowit Brewery


Since Vancouver, WA is within twenty miles of my house and before I retired, I would make frequent trips to this city right across the border when I visited Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt’s branch office right downtown, I’m not sure why a Vancouver watering hole has never previously graced the pages of Thebeerchaser.com.

Perhaps, it was the hellish traffic between Portland and the Washington border – going both ways – that makes one want to get the heck out of there as soon as possible to avoid the interminable delays on I-5.

That ceases to be a factor when one is retired, however, and it had been too long since I had raised a mug with my long-term friend and former colleague, Larry Paulson, at the law firm, so we mutually agreed on a brewpub in the heart of Vancouver.

“The General” as we called him, because after serving as Lead Staff Judge Advocate and Chief of Staff for the Oregon Air National Guard, he was promoted to Brigadier General in the Air Force. While serving in the Reserves he had a long and distinguished legal and management career.

A typical day at the Port of Vancouver.

He served as the Managing Partner in Schwabe’s Vancouver office until 1997.

He then had a notable tenure as Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver, USA, before retiring in 2013. (He reminded me that even though he is slightly older, he worked 1.5 years longer than I did.)

The Port is a big operation – it contains five terminals, along with the largest mobile harbor cranes in North America which are typically used to unload wind energy equipment.

The General and Aaron, our bartender, at Sidecar 11 with the original Beerchaser logo

I realized that Larry and I had not been Beerchasing since his two previous expeditions – the first in 2012 at Interurban and then in 2013 at Sidecar 11 – both on Mississippi Avenue in North Portland.

Given the number of lawyer stories we both know and Larry’s tales from his many years in the military, the situation had to be remedied.

I checked out the options in Vancouver and was surprised that there were quite a few.  In fact, according to Brewcouver.com there are fourteen and a number of additional brewpubs.  Visiting all fourteen makes one eligible for some unidentified prizes and benefits.

The convenient location of Loowit Brewing – one block away from the Schwabe office which I knew how to get to and some reasonably good social media reviews made it an easy choice.

But perhaps the ultimate factor in making the decision was Willamette Week’s endorsement below from the Loowit web site.  WW has traditionally been a good resource for Thebeerchaser in researching Northwest watering holes:

“Loowit Brewing has been a mainstay of the burgeoning craft brew scene in Vancouver since opening in in 2012, and their ever-growing portfolio of dank IPAs, rich stouts and smooth lagers continues to keep them in the running as one of the area’s best.”

And in a 2017 review entitled, “Loowit is the Best Beer Hang in Vancouver,” the weekly was very positive about the ambiance and the beer.

General Paulson scoping out the menu.

Loowit – that’s the native American name for Mt. St. Helens meaning “Lady of Fire” –  like many of the independent micro-breweries, is a good story – two long-time friends – Devon Bray and Thomas Poffenroth – whose vision was initially fulfilled when they opened the brewery and taproom in 2012.

I was surprised that a small brewery had so many beers – 18 of its drafts in the taproom – and they have an impressive collection of awards on its resume.

An impressive number of awards for its beers.

Thirteen of the Loowit beers, starting in 2014, have been recipients of awards ranging from regional competitions such as the Washington Beer Awards and Bend’s Best of Craft Beer Awards to international competitions – a Silver Medal in the 2016 World Beer Cup for its Grimlock Rye Porter and a Bronze in 2018 at the Great American Beer Festival for its Shimmer Gloom Imperial Stout

The taproom has a nice, but not distinctive ambiance, from its open concept and appears to be smaller than it is because a separate game room (two traditional pinballs and two video games) and patio expand the capacity.  They also have a stage for music and a space for two dart boards.

They have live music a few times a month and show Portland Timber games and have good discounts whenever the soccer team to the south has a match.  A Happy Hour each weekday from 3:00 to 5:00 PM features $1 off beer and some food specials.

The brewpub has a limited, but typical pub menu with appetizers, salads, sandwiches and burgers.   The prices are a little steeper than in many establishments, but not unusual for one located in a downtown urban environment. (Sandwiches from $9 to $11 and burgers from $10 to $13.)

In the fair weather months, the open garage door, the large windows and the patio allow one to enjoy the downtown Vancouver bustle.

Larry and I each had a Cubano sandwich, which was good but not spectacular.   Typically, I make a return visit before doing a review, but I wanted to get this first Vancouver watering hole posted.   The next time I’ll have one of their burgers which get repeated praise on social media. Typical was this recent Yelp review from 6/8/19:

“We arrived – a party of four, all ordered burgers and agree these were some of the best burgers we’ve had.  And we’ve eaten many burger.  The sauces were very flavorful and the burgers were complemented by the challah buns.”

Similarly, when I return, I will have a flight of beers given their diverse and distinguished lineup.  After getting a very good and informed briefing from Andre, the bartender, I chose the Two-Sixteen Red Ale, since I like red ales and this one had understandably garnered awards in 2014, 16 and 19.

Larry downed a draft pint of one of their flagship beers – the Shadow Shinobi IPA – their best selling beer.

With continuing new releases – two in April (If You are to Bloom and Ms. Lazurus), numerous awards and their impressive equipment, Loowit Brewing is serious about beer and has established credibility as a player in the NW Micro-craft scene.

Of course, the experience was enhanced with a great companion like The General who is a wonderful human being, family man and whose broad experience provides endless conversations – interesting enough that the tales make one forget the traffic hell that awaited me after leaving……

“Don, did I tell you how the wind turbines being trucked to Eastern Oregon got stuck in an underpass.”

Loowit Brewing       507 Columbia St, Vancouver

Big Sky Preface – Part II

The 3,700 mile route of our fourteen-day trip through Oregon, Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho

As I mentioned on the previous blog post, we recently completed a 3,700 mile trip through six states besides Oregon.  On the first six says, I drove solo – spending nights in Yaak (2), Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston before meeting my bride who flew into Billings.

The lobby of the historic Murray Hotel on Main Street in Livingston

From that point, we spent eight more days together hitting three National Parks, two National Monuments, two Memorials and one incredible State Park (Custer in South Dakota.)

On a walk next to the State Game Lodge in Custer State Park

While on my own, I visited twenty-three bars and seven breweries and Janet and I subsequently stopped in ten bars and nine breweries for a total of forty-nine memorable establishments where we met wonderful people, had outstanding beer and good food.  The scenery was varied and stunning.  The complete list and some additional background information on the trip can be found at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/07/05/big-sky-beerchasing-the-preface/

In future blog posts, I will talk in detail about the watering holes and the people, however, I think it fitting to again preface those narratives with what constituted the highlights of our trip – one that we will remember as a memorable and cherished journey across a big slice of Western America.

Favorite National Park

Badlands National Park in South Dakota – The clear winner.  The carved landscape reflecting the incredible and unceasing power of nature was dramatic and humbling.

Favorite Breweries

We visited sixteen breweries or brewpubs during the trip and I’m compelled to name three which topped the list.

Bias Brewing in Kalispell – I spent an hour interviewing (before they opened for the day) Gabe Mariman the co-owner.   Bias was opened by Adam and Amanda Robertson in 2018 and Gabe joined them shorty after.  He and his family moved from Bend.

They have an amazing story and are true entrepreneurs and innovators, are environmentally progressive and actively support their community.

Bitter Root Brewing in Hamilton – Founded in 1998, it’s one of the oldest breweries in the State and a family-owned and operated business.   Sarah, the daughter of the owners who moved home from Arizona, spent time briefing me on the history and their operations while I had an excellent dinner.

Bitter Root has a wonderful and personable staff and it was obvious that they enjoyed their jobs and took pride in their company.   The manner in which Sarah interacted with customers and her staff was remarkable.

They are proud of their kitchen and “source local and organic whenever possible and love partnering with local providers.”

Rachael, Emile, Sarah and Miles – a personable staff

Smith Alley Brewing – Sheridan, Wyoming – It’s opening in January, 2019, made it the third brewery in Sheridan and after having some of their excellent beer we came back for dinner – another good decision.

The brewpub quarters have great ambiance – located in one of Sheridan’s historical buildings right on Main Street.   And we were particularly impressed with their new head brewer – Jason.

He stopped what he was doing in the brewery to talk with us, pour us a sample of a new beer which he was still in the process of refining the new brew so it was not yet available on tap – excellent taste and aroma.  Turns out, he recently moved from Oregon City, where I graduated from high school and plans to move his family to Sheridan in the next month.  

Favorite National Monument or Memorial 

While the Little Big Horn National Monument imbued a sense of being on hallowed ground, the visit to Mt. Rushmore National Memorial should be on every person’s bucket list.

Fortunately, due to the admonition of some good friends about crowds, we hit it early on a Monday morning.   There were few people at that time and being able to view this incredible sight from a distance and then walk up to see a close-up unobstructed perspective of these American icons left what will be a lasting and memorable impression.

And the background and story of sculptor, Gutzon Borglum and the 400 workers who worked on this fourteen-year project (1927-41) is fascinating.

Favorite Bars

This presents a dilemma because there were so many bars – many with rich histories, located in historic buildings and with wonderful bartenders.

The Dirty Shame Saloon – Yaak, Montana – Since meeting John Runkle and visiting the Dirty Shame was a primary motivation for the trip, and the time spent there exceeded my expectations, it is obviously first on the list.   Future posts will inform you why you should also visit this legendary bar.

John Runkle and the center of Yaak, Montana!

Montana Bar – Miles City – As Joan Melcher wrote in 1983 in her wonderful first book Watering Holes – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars:

“I wondered when I first walked into the Montana if I had not found a bar about as close to perfect as I was going to find….The Montana was built in 1902 by James Kenney and outside of a new coat of paint and new wallpaper, the bar has hardly changed.”

In 2019, this bar still exudes its rich and historic past and the effusive bartender, Blake, was friendly and helpful in telling us the story.

Blue Moon Saloon – Columbus Falls – Based on the aforementioned Joan Melchor’s book, I had to see the Blue Moon on my trip.  It’s in a rural area close to Kalispell and I stopped in mid-afternoon on the first Sunday of my trip.

A portion of what is purported to be the longest bar in Montana

It’s purported to have the longest bar in Montana and is know for its legendary taxidermy and the charisma of its owners, Dick and Charlotte Sapa, who bought the bar in 1973.   When I walked in, sat down in the middle of the bar and ordered a beer, I asked the bartender if the Sapas still owned it.

The amazing Sapas

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

Their son, Bill, after we talked awhile, offered to take me up to the fabled upper room – an honor – which is completely filled with additional trophies from the hunts all over the world.

Bill Sappa and part of the fabled “upper room.”

I am looking forward to telling a more complete story of this bar, but it was one of the highlights of my solo trip.

(You will love the true story of the guy who wanted to show off his new horse, shortly after they opened the bar.  Charlotte agreed and the entrance and exit of the rider and his steed is a perfect example of why I want to return to visit more Montana saloons.)

Favorite Bartenders

This is another category that given the warmth of the bartenders who greeted me and shared their own and their bar’s stories after I gave them my Beerchaser card, is a challenge to single out a few.  That said, here’s a valiant attempt and I will let you know about the others when I describe their bars in future posts:

Andre at the Little Missouri Saloon in Medora, North Dakota – We have found on three of our last major trips – Alaska, New England and this one, that a number of the bartenders and servers are natives of the Caucasus, Eastern, Southern or Central Europe.

They come over during the summers to work and return in the fall – often for continuing university study.  In general, they speak English quite well, are personable and enjoy sharing their story when you ask.

Such was the case with Andre’ from Macedonia, who had an infectious smile, a warm personality and joked with us notwithstanding a very busy bar.   We enjoyed him and wish Andre’  well.

Andre from Macedonia

Tom Davis – bartender and owner of the Wise River Club in Wise River, Montana – Wise River is really “in the sticks” (on the north edge of the Beaverhead National Forest and about 40 miles from the Antler Saloon in Wisdom so you will have some context…..)

I stopped in about noon and ordered a Miller High Life from Tom, who told me he and his wife are the owners of both the bar and the RV park behind it – they bought them eleven years ago – and his story. He emigrated from Scotland in 1964. “In those days if you had an accent and could sing, you could make some money.”

He formed a band and played lead guitar, and he and his group fronted and toured with Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and Papas and in the Northwest with Portland’s own Paul Revere and the Raiders.

I was sorry I didn’t hit Wise River on the weekends because Tom still plays and sings.  He was a great guy with a still wonderful accent and sparkling personality.

DarilynCook and bartendar at the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak – The story of the Dirty Shame and the background of its owner and staff will more than fill two future posts, but suffice to say that Darilyn – is a gem.

She and her family live in Troy and they come up to help John Runkle at various times of the year around the bar and at the Lodge.   She is soft spoken, but is an asset to John and probably manages him better than anyone except his wife!

John Runkle and Darilyn

Favorite Bar Regulars

There is no question on the two below although I met scores of great bar regulars.

Geoff at the Yaak River Tavern – There is some competition between the Dirty Shame and this bar right across the highway.  Also no question that the Dirty Shame has more character.  In John Runkle’s apt way of describing the distinction:

“Yaak River Tavern has an Ugly Sweater Contest.  The Dirty Shame has a Wet T-shirt Contest.”

Geoff – a character to remember

That said, I did go over there for about an hour on my first night in Yaak.   An affable old guy named Geoff was playing guitar and singing – right on a bar stool at the bar – nursing one of a number of beers he had that day/night and telling stories.

I told the owner that I was buying him a beer when he came in the next day to credit his account.   So he sang us his favorite song.  (When the lyrics have “palm trees,” “banana,” “beach” and “Montana” in the same verse, you know there’s creativity!)

(If you don’t see the arrow to play on the video below, tap on the photo and it will take you to the You Tube I posted on Geoff’s song.)

Fritz at the Antler Saloon in Wisdom, Montana –  The Antler is a picturesque and historic bar in Wisdom – also out in the Montana boonies – one which requires driving through some beautiful country.

“Bernie” was the bartender and also self-described herself as the “pizza maker” – the bar is known for that but I arrived there about 10:00 AM.  I had a very nice chat with her and one of the owners, Tom, who at one time worked at Oregon Steel in Portland and a good client of my former law firm.

That’s my Miller High Life on the bar at the bottom right.

A sign in the men’s john stated, ” Please spit chew in the garbage, not the urinal,” and another said, “This establishment serves no drinks with tiny umbrellas.”

But the biggest impact on me was Fritz – Bernie’s dog.  He epitomized a great bar regular and waved a paw from his bar stool as I left.

Fritz – a memorable regular

Favorite Lodging Options

We are loyal to the Marriott Hotel chain and like the different options presented with the mid-price options (or ability to use points) which always include a decent, if not enticing, breakfast option.   We stayed in a number – all after Janet joined the trip, because I tried to hit either historic or low budget, but interesting motels, when I drove solo.

From a price standpoint, at $55 per night, I might suggest Deffy’s Motel in Livingston, but it was borderline.   Although for that price, I got a couch, full kitchen, desk and even cable TV, Janet would have vetoed out of hand.

I noticed from both a sign and on-line that Deffy’s is for sale – price not disclosed – if anybody is interesting in relocating to Hamilton and taking over an “established” business.

The Murray Hotel in Hamilton –  I got in this historic hotel because of Janet’s checking after most of the lodging options when I checked, were unavailable because they were filming an episode of “Yellowstone” with Kevin Costner right outside the city.

A great bar

But this was a rustic gem, with a great bar and very comfortable room right on Main Street.  The clerk at the desk was Val – a former land-use planner who had worked for the City of Hillsboro and had some Oregon roots so we had a great conversation.

“Since its grand opening in 1904, the Murray Hotel’s guest registry has been more like a who’s who of history and Hollywood. Celebrities such as Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane have graced the threshold of what was once “the” elegant railroad hotel.”  (Murray Hotel website)

Will Rogers and his friend purportedly tried to use it to bring his favorite saddle horse to their  suite on the third floor at one time.

From the décor in the lobby, to the bar and overall ambiance, it was great.  I loved it and would strongly recommend.  And if you hit there at the right time, you might well run into a noted entertainer, artist or writer on vacation.

Marriott Element in Bozeman – A factor in this choice may be how much we liked Bozeman as a city and the hotel was about two blocks off the main street.  It had a great lobby, nice staff, a happy hour with complimentary beer and cheese and even tea at 8:00 as a nightcap besides a breakfast better than most Mariott options.

And because of our Mariott loyalty program, we got an upgrade to a suite, but the paramount element to making this list was the view from our room – just outstanding!  This was taken right from the window of our room.

Big Sky Country at its best..

Favorite Cities in Which I/We had an Overnight Stay

There was really only one city on the trip through seven states that I didn’t care for – Anaconda – and part of one afternoon and an hour the next morning, probably isn’t enough time to bond with a municipality.  That said, besides Yaak, there were no stays longer than one night.

I should also state, that while we really liked Teddy Roosevelt National Park and the bar and brewpub we went to, Medora, North Dakota had kind of a weird or unsettling vibe.

I might add that while the scenery, the people and the setting of many of the cities and towns we experienced, tempted one to say,  “I could definitely move here,” reality set in when we remembered the weather during the winter months.

Teddy Roosevelt National Park was great. Medora – not so much.

As stated in one website, “Winter sees some extremes in Montana weather.  During the winter, it is very common for the areas east of the Continental Divide to be in the deep-freeze of below zero temperatures.”

And besides 50 to 100 inches of snow, it is usually blowing snow.  This July night it is a pleasant 61 degrees, but if you plan to relocate, look at the full annual picture.

Hamilton, Montana – One thing that prompted me to check out Hamilton was an article in The Oregonian  the city on small western cities by David Lynch of The Washington Post.  Further research revealed this excerpt from The Oregonian in July 2014.

Hamilton, population 4,508,  is located near the center of the Bitterroot Valley, an 80-mile north-south valley tucked in on the east slope of the Bitterroot Mountains in far western Montana and about 50 miles south of Missoula. Blodgett Canyon, just five miles from the center of town, is nothing short of gorgeous.

Hamilton was a designed town, with planned street grids right from the beginning, unlike so many other Montana towns that grew up out of mining camps.”

Tree-lined streets..

Now I have to admit that driving in on State Highway 93, my first glimpse of Hamilton was very disappointing.  It was a commercial strip along the highway.  However, an evening walk and getting only a few blocks off the main drag revealed a charming town with the Bitter Root River flowing through the very impressive River Park.

The Park had a wonderful playground and river walk.  I then hit both of the breweries, which were great stories.

Higher Ground Brewing –  the story of “Two local boys (Jasper Miller and Fenn Nelson) who came home from college and launched a brewery (2011) that takes more than $1 million in annual sales.”  They became the youngest owner and head brewer in Montana. (Washington Post April 5, 2019.)

Part of River Park

Bitter Root Brewing – one of the oldest in the state (1998) and a family owned business as mentioned earlier in this post.

Right next to brewery, was an impressive baseball field and I watched several innings of American Legion Baseball and saw the first-place hometown Bitter Root Red Sox in the process of thrashing the Kalispell Lakers.

The Red Sox in their stadium next to Bitter Root Brewing

I was impressed by the Montana version of Big Green as the left-field fence.  On a Monday night, it was a well-attended family affair.

Unfortunately, my stay in Hamilton was limited to one night as I would have liked to take one of the hikes right outside town in the Bitter Root National Forest.

However, that would have meant another night in Deffy’s Motel….

The Bitter Root River right by River Park

Sheridan, Wyoming – This northern Wyoming city with a population of 17,500 and founded in 1882, is halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.

The view of Sheridan and its surrounding scenery

Named for the legendary General Phil Sheridan, my attachment to this berg, may have been, in part, based on some family roots. My dad’s father Floyd Williams, was a US Postal Service Inspector and while traveling by train which stopped in Sheridan in 1912, he spotted the young Clara Sarah Willey on the platform at the station.

Sarah’s family ranched cattle (the Diamond Bar T brand) there for three quarters of a century.  Kings Saddlery, one of the largest tack stores (equestrian outfitting) in the US, also had a museum (through the rope store in back of the main saddlery) in addition to countless saddles and western gear and there were historic pictures from the Willey spread.

Kings Saddlery – the main building

Sheridan has some sprawl along the highways, but a picturesque and historic and thriving main street with fascinating shops and one of our favorite breweries – Smith Alley Brewing (see above)

There are great walking paths through the city, nice parks and notable outdoor art sculptures on almost every corner.  It is a picturesque and charming village.

 

Stayed tuned for future posts on Thebeerchaser which will tell you the stories of the forty-nine bars and breweries we visited on our route.

Cheers!

 

In the park along the walking path by Goose Creek in downtown Sheridan

 

 

 

 

B

Big Sky Beerchasing – The Preface

Just above Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana

On a back road right outside Yaak, Montana

In June, we took a combined fourteen-day road trip through Montana with subsequent stops in North and South Dakota and Wyoming, before returning home through Montana, Idaho and Oregon’s Columbia Gorge.  The magnificence of the vistas we encountered each day is still ingrained in our minds.

I use the term “combined” because on the first six days of the trip, I soloed – driving slightly over 1,400 miles starting with two nights in Yaak, Montana (stay tuned to find out why I chose that destination) and with overnight stays in Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston, before picking Janet up at the airport in Billings.

The Grand Hotel in downtown Kalispell – which was both historic and grand!

(I should add that the idea for the solo part of my trip for which I am indebted to my wife of 39 years, originated in 2004, when for ten days of my law firm sabbatical, I traveled 2,600 miles through Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana enjoying our beautiful Western scenery.)

This time a Prius instead of a Subaru….

The pictures show the difference between the first trip and this one – I look a lot older now and I wised up and even though it looked cool to carry a bike on the back of the car, my plan on this trip was to rent a cycle if I had the opportunity to work that in.

In the 2004 trip, because of two flat tires, I ended riding a total of four blocks while lugging the bike the entire way!

 

The day I left in 2004 – this time in a Subaru Forrester with a mountain bike (for decoration…)

On the earlier trip, I was still working and had not started my idiosyncratic retirement hobby of Beerchasing although a visit to one of the few bars at which I made stops – The Stanley Idaho Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon – was a key factor in germinating the idea for my Beerchasing Tour – started in August 2011. (My wife and I returned to the Rod and Gun on another road trip in 2016 after I started the blog.)

From Billings, the two of us then tacked on another 2,300 miles, visiting three National Parks (Teddy Roosevelt, Badlands and Wind Cave), one National Monument (Jewel Cave), two Memorials (Mt. Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial) and what has to be one of the most impressive and expansive state parks in the US – Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Badlands National Park

Now since this is a blog about bars, saloons and breweries, and in order not to disappoint Beerchaser followers, I have to add that the combined total of establishments visited (meaning having a drink or meal and interacting with the bartender or customers and not just making an entrance) was 49, of which 30, I enjoyed on my first six days.

Trappers’ Saloon in Eureka Montana – the third day on the way to Kalispell

The remaining nineteen saw both of us participating.  The picture of Trapper’s Saloon above in Eureka, Montana is a sample of the rich environment that characterized the great majority of the bars and breweries.

A bar with a rich history in the metropolis of Wise River…

I  have to add that some may think the statistics above demonstrate an unhealthy obsession with establishments operated primarily for the sale of intoxicating spirits.  In defense, I would suggest that the usually brief visits we paid are one of the best methods to meet new and interesting people, find out what should be seen in a new city and in the case of older bars, educate oneself on rich and fascinating history.

The Dewey Tavern

In addition, it spurred us to visit smaller cities such as Eureka, Troy, Miles City and Wise River that we otherwise would have just passed by.

We hit establishments in twenty-seven different bergs on the trip.  Stay tuned for the posts on this journey and you will have a better appreciation.

Note:  Since I started Beerchasing, I realized that it was imperative that I drink responsibly in visiting the bars/breweries and never get behind the wheel without being absolutely sober,.

So to allay any concern about that issue, while alone, I would space my visits throughout the day and usually consumed a single bottle of Miller High Life (by the way, an excellent brew and deserving of the label, “The Champagne of Beers” rather than a pint of microbrew.  My visits to most of the bars would last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Sometimes I would just have a soda water and when Janet and I were Beerchasing, we inevitably shared a pint or would have two or three four-ounce samplers between us.

Since I worked in legal management for over thirty years and a considerable part of my job was being immersed in statistics, I should point out the overall total would compute to one watering hole, for every 75.5 miles traveled.

The chart at the end of this post gives a complete listing including the name and location.   In several subsequent posts, I will highlight or at least offer some brief comments on each one, but this post is intended to set the stage.

Why Start and Spend Two Nights in Yaak?

For three years, visiting the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak – up near the Canadian border in NW Montana was a personal, if not peculiar, goal of mine.

John Runkle – owner of the Dirty Shame

Since talking to a bartender in Idaho, who used to work there and subsequently calling the owner, former Army paratrooper, John Runkle and doing a short post on his revival of the Dirty Shame when he purchased it out of foreclosure in 2013, visiting it has been on my bucket list.

Blueberry Pancake Breakfast in the Lodge

And the two nights I spent in the Moose Room of the outstanding Yaak River Lodge – John is also the owner – and my time spent hanging at the bar and interviewing John, were a wonderful start to my trip – one which you will be reading about in future posts. 

I presented him with two bottles of Benedictine Beer from the monk-owned brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon which now occupy a shelf in the Dirty Shame Saloon.

The Dirty Shame had the most stories of any of the 300 watering holes I’ve reviewed in over seven years — and they are all true!!

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle with the ceremonial presentation of Benedictine Beer

Janet was willing to go on a road trip through Montana but agreed to my six-day solo venture because although she likes breweries, she has an aversion to the dive bars I cherish.   She also thought the opportunity for me to read, reflect and see some wonderful scenery on my own would be enriching.

Ubiquitous!!

I use this term meaning “found everywhere” to recognize my long-term and cherished friendship with Oregon State SAE fraternity brother and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Craig – The Dude – Hanneman, for his legendary athletic, mountaineering and notable professional accomplishments. 

Back in the last ’60’s at OSU – Thebeerchaser and The Dude

Kirby Neuman-Rhea, the Editor of the Hood River News is also part of the tale. The story behind our attachment to this word is too long to relate the background, but it’s funny. 

There were certain features or characteristics that one encountered everywhere in Montana and, for the most part, added to its charm and distinction.

Big Sky Scenery – One was the beautiful and varied scenery – it made the miles of road never boring.  The stunning vistas made it difficult not to stop and take photos.  It became obvious why Montana is commonly referred to as “Big Sky Country.”

Straight Roads – Speaking of miles of roads, those roads were often long and straight – not only the Interstate, but the State highways we traveled.  Janet was driving when I took this picture.

And miles to go before I sleep….

Taxidermy – virtually every bar and many of the breweries had mounted wildlife as part of the bar’s décor.  In some cases it was overwhelming, but in most, it accurately reflected the culture of the state.

A little research revealed that there are 205 taxidermists registered in the state and Helena even has the Montana School of Taxidermy and Tanning.   And this year’s annual convention of the Montana Taxidermists’ Association in Billings was the most well-attended ever according to the Billings Gazette.

Now one may disagree with the entire concept of hunting (I went hunting for deer one time in junior high and never had the desire to do it again…)  but it appears that taxidermists and most of hunters use the entire animal and don’t just kill for sport.   As evidence, the sign on this firm which I photographed in Anaconda.

Crosses Along the Highway – Montana has a very high rate of traffic fatalities.  It’s a combination of a high speed limit especially in rural areas, bad weather and road conditions in many months of the year and a high rate of alcohol consumption.  

In my first few days, I kept seeing crosses along the highways – even in very remote areas and wondered about the background. According to a  2004 article in the Billings Gazettethis program started in 1953 by the American Legion and is done solely by volunteers.

By 2015, there were more than 2,000 crosses erected.  Last year the 181 traffic fatalities was the third straight year the death toll dropped because of State programs to reduce car accidents.  And seeing those symbols is a sobering reminder to drive responsibly.

Casinos – Although many Oregon bars have video poker, the number of “casinos” in Montana and the signs advertising them is annoying – they are everywhere (or one might say, “ubiquitous…”).

The licenses for bars and restaurants are cheap and they can have up to 20 video games in the establishment although most bar “casinos” only had about five to ten.  There are also six tribal casinos.

Ubiquitous!

According to GamblingSites.com, there are “1.033 million people spread out across 147,000 square miles…. and Montana offers 292 different gambling establishments.”

Recreational Vehicles (RV’s) and Long-haul Truckers – I’m sure that the number on the road is similar to other states which have major Interstates.

I was amazed, however, at the quantity and diverse makes of RVs – usually with the male driving and the female in the co-pilot role.  I’m interested in how the economic analysis of RV travel verses lodging and eating in inexpensive or moderately priced motels and restaurants charts out…..

Class A RVs – the baby boomers’ luxury ride.

Long-haul trucks were an oft-repeated vehicle one passed on all of the Montana.  And I have the utmost respect for the long-haul owner/operators.  They have a tough job and are skilled drivers which make the highways safer for the rest of us.

They typically drive these 80,000 pound behemoths (a single rig) between 2,000 to 3,000 miles per week and are often away from family usually for two to three weeks at a time.

Sirius Satellite Radio –  I subscribe to Sirius Radio on our Prius.   And the low monthly price was well worth it during the days on the road when the AM and FM frequencies would be hard to receive.

Other than a very few remote locations, I got the Sirius signal clearly and besides two cable news channels which admittedly have a politically biased slant, I also listened to channels called Bluesville, Yacht Rock, Soul Town, Rockin’ Country BBQ and Forties Junction.

Sirius Satellite was good company….

My music tastes are eclectic and I roared down the road rocking to the TemptationsGeorge Benson, George Jones and Don Williams, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller and America and Phoebe Snow. (I must have heard “Sister Golden Hair” at least twenty times and loved it.)

It was only when Yacht Rock teed up “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille that I drew the line because I did not have a vomit bag.

Muskrat Love was not vomit proof….

 

Fox News – Without getting immersed in politics, I will state that I am not a fan of Fox News (although I admit to being a moderate Republican) and its political commentators.

While in most Oregon bars, one sees multiple screens with athletic events, it appeared to me that there were fewer big screen TVs, but they were almost always turned to Fox be it in bars, restaurants or hotels.

Montana Humor

Many native Montanans are not happy about the influx of people from other states – most notably Californians moving to the state and buying up land.

The sign below reminded me of Oregon during the Governor Tom McCall era when we wanted people to “visit but not stay.”

Although there are political divisions and critical economic and natural resources facing the state, I was still impressed with the good nature, welcoming conversation (especially the bartenders and bar regulars with whom we interacted) and indications of the positive outlook and sense of humor of Montanans.

Given all that Janet and I witnessed, it begs the question:  “Why would Montana Governor Steve Bullock ever want to win the Presidency and move to Washington DC?”

Subtle, but funny….

Stay tuned for the next several month’s post on Thebeerchaser where I will tell the rich story of not only The Dirty Shame Saloon, but convey the highlights of many of the other historic bars we hit in Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho.

Also the great breweries, especially in Montana that now rank it second per capita in the US on number of breweries according to Statistica.com – only Vermont exceeds it while Oregon comes in at #4, right behind Maine.

Another example of Montana humor – in a field by Yaak.

List of Bars and Breweries Visited on our Trip

(The first thirty were visited by Don and the remainder by Don and Janet)

Name of Establishment City State
Kootenai Brewing Bonners Ferry Idaho
Dirty Shame Saloon Yaak Montana
Yaak River Tavern Yaak Montana
Silver Spur Bar Troy Montana
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Libby Montana
Mint Bar Libby Montana
Trappers’ Saloon Eureka Montana
Bull Dog Saloon Whitefish Montana
Blue Moon Bar and Nite Club Columbia Falls Montana
VFW Bar Kalispell Montana
Moose Saloon Kalispell Montana
Bias Brewing Kalispell Montana
Del’s Bar Somers Montana
Higher Ground Brewing Hamilton Montana
Bitter Root Brewing Hamilton Montana
Sawmill Saloon Darby Montana
Antler Saloon Wisdom Montana
Wise River Club Wise River Montana
Dewey Dewey Montana
Club Moderne Anaconda Montana
Owl Bar Anaconda Montana
Katabatic Brewing Livingston Montana
Livingston Bar and Grille Livingston Montana
Neptune Brewing Livingston Montana
Murray Hotel Bar Livingston Montana
Mint Bar and Grill Livingston Montana
Stockman Bar Livingston Montana
Whiskey Creek Saloon Livingston Montana
Atlas Bar Columbus Montana
Caboose Saloon Laurel Montana
Angry Hanks Microbrewery Billings Montana
Montana Brewing Co. Billings Montana
Uberbrew Billings Montana
Montana Bar Miles City Montana
Tubbs Pub Miles City Montana
Little Missouri Saloon Medora North Dakota
Boots Bar and Grill Medora North Dakota
Wild Bill Bar Deadwood South Dakota
Zymurcracy Beer Co. Rapid City South Dakota
Firehouse Brewing Rapid City South Dakota
Tallie’s Silver Spoon Rapid City South Dakota
State Game Lodge Bar Custer South Dakota
Smith Alley Brewing Sheridan Wyoming
Black Tooth Brewing Sheridan Wyoming
Plonk Wine Bar Bozeman Montana
Outlaw Brewing Bozeman Montana
Bunkhouse Brewing Bozeman Montana
North Idaho Brewing Wallace Idaho

Bitter Root Brewing in Hamilton

 

Arizona Beerchasing – Part II

A sunset cocktail at the Four Seasons Resort – Scottsdale at Troon North

This post is the second narrative on our weeklong  trip to Phoenix in March – a period of baseball, breweries and hiking.  The link below will take you to reviews of the first two breweries and two bars we visited – the most notable being Arizona Wilderness Brewery in Gilbert.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/05/14/arizona-beerchasing-the-second-chase/

I mentioned in the first post that we encountered great beer and nice people, but were disappointed by the “strip mall ambiance” of the exteriors of the establishments.   That’s also the case with two of the four breweries in this post.

For example, San Tan Brewing is a remarkable success story – founded in 2007 in Chandler and has had phenomenal growth and success with its craft beer and craft food.   In 2011, it was selected as the best brewery in Arizona by the Phoenix New TimesIt was the first brewery in Arizona to can their seasonal beers and this 2013 press release illustrates their growth pattern:

“On the heels of a $4M brewery additon at the current location, SanTan Brewing has continued to invest in its community and has added 125 new jobs to Chandler over the last 3 years. SanTan projects similar levels of growth for 2013 and 2014.”

We went to their Uptown Phoenix Brewpub – one weeknight for just a beer after dinner.  They now have three locations and this one was in a strip mall.

That said, it was hopping and our server, Brad, was another outstanding young man who was enthusiastic about  his employer.  He explained the good selection of 14 beers on tap.

We had a pint of the Sunspot Gold Ale and one of the Moon Juice IPA.  The good beer and Brad’s interpersonal skills negated the exterior blandness.

Moon Juice IPA and Sunspot Gold Ale

The next morning we went for another hike to supplement our arduous trek up Pinnacle Peak the day before.   The Ringtail Trail was far less strenuous – mostly level terrain – and this 2.4 mile loop allowed us to venture through some nice desert landscape.

 

That evening we had another Spring Training game – this one to see our Seattle Mariners play the SF Giants.  We were a definite minority in the stands in the field at Peoria Park.   We decided to have a pre-game brew and meal at Pedal Haus Brewing which is located in Tempe adjacent to the Arizona State University campus.

A rather unusual entrance to Pedal Haus Brewing just off the ASU campus

Although it was a weeknight and during Spring Break at the university – we were seniors, in fact and not in the university class context, at the pub in comparison to the average age of the clientele.   It had a nice and unique exterior – welcomed in light of what we had grown accustomed to in Phoenix and Scottsdale.    The interior was spacious and their patio was immense although the weather that evening ruled against enjoying it.

Pedal Haus was named one of the twelve best Tempe bars for ASU students in 2017 by Travel Pulse  (It made me wonder just how many total bars there were near my OSU campus and how the Corvallis waterhole inventory paled in comparison – both when I was there and even now…)

We had a good beer and the two salads for dinner – the Thai Peanut Steak Salad and the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Salad were scrumptious but all their food and its presentation appeared to be excellent.   The following excerpt from Travel Pulse is descriptive:

“Mill Avenue’s hip brewery is ultra cyclist-friendly with ample bike racks. Pedal Haus went through a remodel and expansion in 2016, with bungalows and fire pits added to the spacious 6,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden. The patio surrounds the perimeter of the restaurant, with games like ping pong, cornhole and ladder ball. Look for more than 20 beers on tap, or try one of the signature cocktails.”

Conversely, this 3/7/19 Yelp reviewer was upset and probably why one should always regard Yelp reviews with healthy skepticism – especially when they are critical – usually for nitpicks:

“Only thing I don’t like about this place is the bathroom setup. The men and women’s restrooms are only for toileting. The handwashing station and vanity mirrors are communal and  located outside in the common area. Kind of a bummer when you have braces like me and need to pick at your teeth and swish/gargle in private – lol.”    (Perhaps his or her orthodontist should prescreen this misguided individual’s choice of bars……)

Although we wore multiple layers, with a brisk wind and temperature in the forties, we were definitely cold, but we got to see Ichiro in one of his last appearances at the plate.  He didn’t get on base but received standing ovations each time he came to bat and the Mariners beat the Giants soundly.

A young and somewhat intoxicated – although not obnoxiously drunk – Giants fan was aggressively trash talking the Mariners – our seats were close to the infield near first base and in about the fourth inning, he was unceremoniously removed by security.   It made me think how compared to the typical fan at Ebbets Field (Dodgers) or the Polo Grounds (Giants) in the old days, he was kicked out for a relatively tame dialogue.

The Polo Grounds in 1913 – Rowdier Fans???

The last day, we hit two breweries – one that was really average and not worth returning – the Phoenix Ale Brewery Central Kitchen – marketed as an innovative collaboration with a pizza entrepreneur which purports:

“……pairing them (the craft brews) with one-of-a-kind dishes that make guests wonder why they ever settled for traditional pub fare.” (emphasis added)

Orange Peel IPA and then dinner at the pasta restaurant next door!

Based on that description, we thought we would eat there, but I’m sorry – pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads don’t fit my characterization of “one of a kind dishes.”   If you don’t believe me, take a look at their menu with this link.

You can see below that they had an interesting mix of beers on tap – we were curious but didn’t order the Beer Research Institute’s Morning Sex Stout but had an Orange Peel IPA.

So after splitting a pint – the good news was that during Hoppy Hour, pints were only $4 – we had a great meal of pasta at the Italian bistro next door!

Our final night in Phoenix, we went to our favorite brewery in the two trips to the desert – Craft 64:

30 Beers on Tap

“Craft 64 is Scottsdale’s premier venue for local craft beer, great wine and artisan wood-fired pizza…..We use local organic ingredients and make our own mozzarella from scratch every day. 

All our produce is from local farmers.  Our 100% wood oven heats to over 900 degrees.  We have 30 Tap handles featuring Arizona beer, extensive wine list and 50+ bottles for table-side use or to go!”

They have two locations – Chandler and Scottsdale – we went to the latter.  We loved Craft 64 – one factor was the exterior – it was in a picturesque building – standing alone not in a mall – and it had a nice patio.   Walking in on a Friday evening, there was a positive and upbeat murmur with patrons and staff all appearing happy to be there.

There was also a nice beer garden in the back. Most of the single tables inside were filled and we sat at a long table in front of the bar (we always try to do this anyway) and we met some interesting people – most from out of town who were there for Spring Training.

And their pizza lived up to its billing – outstanding in appearance and taste.

It can always be a little frustrating, trying to select from so many beer options, but I opted for what turned out to be the best pint I had in Phoenix that trip – Wheat the People, which also had one of the coolest labels.

Interestingly enough, it does not come close to a top mark in the beer rating services, but I thought it had a great appearance and taste. “Clean, American White Wheat Ale w/ Falconers Flight West Coast Hops and hint of citrus.” – 5.0 ABV – 15 IBU – (Untapped.com)

Craft 64 Brew

Also of interest is the fact that Portland’s Coalition Brewing has a Wheat the People – American Pale Wheat Ale – 4.4 ABV – 13 IBU (Untapped.com) too.

From Coalition Brewing in PDX

I have heard that there have been some intellectual property trademark battles because brewers are running out of names for their craft brews, but perhaps these have agreed to a peaceful coexistence……

Janet, who was a little burned out on IPA’s decided to have a glass of Reserve Pinot Noir – 2015 Santa Rita.

After dinner, we decided to hit Old Town – Scottsdale, but it was a real disappointment.  Besides having to look for a parking place for at least fifteen minutes, it was essentially touristy-type shops and had no character – unlike what one finds in San Diego’s Old Town.

We did see one bar that looked interesting and we ambled into the Rusty Spur Saloon.  It was totally jammed and reminded me of some of the much advertised watering holes “one just has to experience” such as the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau or the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Wyoming.

As with these two, we walked into the Rusty Spur, but did not stay for a brew – not the kind of ambiance suitable to Thebeerchaser’s taste…..:maybe because Jennifer wasn’t at the bar.  I also assume that she, like me, has an aversion to drinking beer in a plastic cup!

The Rusty Spur Saloon is a Scottsdale destination. Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Vince Vaughn, and Jennifer Anniston have walked through its swinging doors to take in the Old West décor and Scottsdale live country music. It’s located right on Main Street in Old Town Scottsdale. Look for the cowpoke in the red shirt with his lasso.”

Beer in plastic cups and no Jennifer….

 

 

 

 

 

So we stopped one night and I had an In-N-Out hamburger for $2.10 plus tax.

The chain was founded the same year I was born and although I waited almost 71 years to experience it, I was somewhat underwhelmed.

An Oregon corporation

In Oregon, I can have a much better Burgerville Original Cheeseburger for $1.75 without paying any sales tax.  I also know that I am patronizing a business founded in Oregon (1961) that has sustainability as a core value and partners with other great Oregon businesses. 

Another Burgerville fan..

It should also be noted that I am not the only one who came to this conclusion.  As reported by Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune in an interview with Klay Thompson, who spent some of his youth in Lake Oswego before becoming an NBA star with the Golden State Warriors: 

“Whenever Thompson visits the Portland area, ‘I try to hit Burgerville…’   Is Burgerville better than In-N-Out?  ‘Yeah, I like it better,’ Klay nods.”

Thunder Dan

Finally, those who have watched the NBA as long as I have will remember Phoenix Suns guard Dan Majerle.  He was a shooting guard who played 14 years in the NBA.

Majerle was on the US Olympic Gold Medal Team and was known as “Thunder Dan” and made one NBA All-Star Team (1992).  Upon retiring, he was an assistant coach for Phoenix, a broadcaster for TNT and ESPN and also a college head-coach for Grand Canyon University’s NCAA Division I Antelopes.

He is also an entrepreneur.  When only 27 and playing basketball, he started his own line of clothing including underwear – he modeled his own product.  In retirement he founded his own small chain of sports bars. 

Majerle’s Sports Grill has four locations, one of which was in the Desert Ridge Mall close to our hotelSo while we did not eat there, I had to go in and take a look.

The sports bar appeared to be an attractive venue and is evidently popular.  I used to enjoy watching Thunder Dan play hoop and am glad to see that he has moved from underwear to the bar scene! 

It’s also nice to know that he is one former pro athlete who did not squander his substantial earnings after his athletic prime.

Arizona Beerchasing – The Second Chase


In early March, 2019, Janet and I spent a week in Phoenix with three primary objectives – baseball, hikes and breweries.

What’s this drizzle stuff??

And while we encountered atypical Arizona weather – we were cold even with multiple layers at one of the night Spring Training games and had to wear rain gear at the other – it was a chance for a few great sunny days and an opportunity to escape the daily NW spring drizzle and clouds.

Spring Training is always a wonderful experience allowing close encounters with the players,  inexpensive tickets and a chance to meet great fans from all over the United States.

A drizzly night at Sloan Park (described as Wrigley Field West) to see the Cubs and the Reds.

That said, Phoenix is probably my least favorite major urban center in the US.  Admittedly, I’m not a great fan of the desert climate or environment, but the sprawl in the metro area is unappealing (to be extremely restrained).  Suffice to say, it always makes me feel blessed to return to the Rose City.

Our last trip to Phoenix was in January 2018 so we did not have Spring Training options, but enjoyed visiting ten breweries and one taphouse.  In the first of two posts on this prior adventure, however, I summed it up as follows:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2018/02/19/beerchasing-in-the-desert-part-i/

“However, the overall ambiance of this ‘disaster in urban planning’ made us immediately homesick for the concepts we take for granted – like trees, urban growth boundaries, good public transit, intersections which don’t require a ten-minute wait if you hit a red light, trails in Forest Park and, of course, the Oregon Coast.”

The typical Phoenix intersection

Our Beer-chasing ex-perience this year visiting two bars and six breweries or brewpubs was also very positive in most respects – excellent beer, nice people and cordial and helpful staff. 

That said, as in 2018, the exteriors of the establishments we visited were largely a reflection of the strip-mall ambiance of this SW desert metropolis.  With the exception of one (maybe two to be liberal in interpretation), they were all in shopping mall settings and the entrances were not inviting and for the most part dull and repetitious.

The first stop – Helio Basin Brewing Company

As evidence, compare the entrance of our first brewery above – Helio Basin Brewing – with the exteriors (shown below) of the last two Oregon watering holes reviewed by ThebeerchaserBantam Tavern in NW Portland and Beachcrest Brewing – a new venture on the Central Oregon Coast.

The Deck at Beachcrest Brewing

In a Portland urban setting, but with an inviting exterior

Helio Basin did have a good selection of beers – most notably, the award-winning Fayuca Rizing Xtra Pale Ale (we split a pint) and a great burger.  The brewery has been a successful fulfillment of the dreams of the young co-founders fifteen years ago.

 

 

 

 

On a warm Sunday after-noon, we hit our only day game of the three Spring Training contests we attended.  We decided to hit the ‘cheap seats” – on the grass terrace in left field at Salt River Fields where we saw the Colorado Rockies beat the LA Dodgers.

The lawn terrace seats are a good experience although it is difficult to really feel (and see) the pulse of the game given the distance from the action.

Watching the LA Dodgers play the Colorado Rockies at Peoria Field on the terrace.

After the game, we hit the only two bars on the trip which were in the Desert Ridge Mall near our hotel the Marriott Resort at Desert Ridge north of Phoenix.

The Whining Pig was an interesting bar – essentially underground with 125 beers and a slew of wines on tap. 

And as a “secret sister” to the Pig, we found – Pigtails – after looking for the entrance for a bit, a speakeasy of sorts – a craft cocktail bar with an amazing selection of hard alcohol and mixologists that know their stuff and the most interesting egress I’ve seen of all the bars visited while Beerchasing – one that would make James Bond proud.  It was through a large bookcase on hinges….!

As described in this 3/7/19 Yelp review:

“Dim lights, vibey music, a great cocktail menu, and a backbar that blew me away. ….It is a little hard to find, but I personally enjoy the speakeasy aspect to keep the vodka (and) red bull drinkers of Scottsdale away.”

The “Living Wall” and a back-bar which blows the mind….

The bartenders get uniform outstanding reviews on social media and the high ceiling, “living wall” and the ambiance is in stark contrast to most of what you see in Phoenix watering holes.

The next day, we hit the trail driving about twenty-five miles farther north to Pinnacle Peak a little over 3.5 miles of strictly up and then the reverse but some great views.   I will have to say from both our past trip and this one, that there are some very good hiking options available in the desert landscape outside the City.

Pinnacle Peak – A great hike north of Phoenix

Located in a strip mall, but Arizona Wilderness Brewing at least has some exterior ambiance….

And before our game that night to see the Chicago Cubs play “my” Cincinnati Reds at Sloan Park,  we stopped at one of the two best breweries on the trip.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing (AWB) has two locations – a Downtown Phoenix Beer Garden and the Gilbert Brewpub which is south of town.

(I say “my Reds” because I lived in Cincy from my fourth birthday – I remember because I got to sit on the lap of the stewardess as we landed because I was the birthday boy…. until we moved to Oregon when I was twelve.  That stewardess would now be over ninety if she were still living……)

They were renamed the Redlegs in 1952 during that period because it was during the Cold War and nobody was supposed to be cheering any Reds on….!

Ted Kluszewski, Frank Robinson, Rocky Bridges, Johnny Temple, Gus Bell, Smokey Burgess and youngster pitcher Joe Nuxhall – who came to the Majors when he was 15 and Manager Birdie Tebbetts, gave us a number of thrilling seasons.

The Reds didn’t disappoint that night and although it was a bit rainy, they prevailed.

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Facebook Profile Picture

But I digress….anyway the interesting story of AWB is related in a 2014 Esquire article entitled “The World’s Best New Brewery is Located in a Strip Mall in Phoenix.”

It conveys the story of how after being founded in 2013, the owners were struggling and about to go down.  According to Jonathan Buford, one of three bearded partners, who sold his window washing business to start the venture:

“Foreclosure and all that stuff looming. We were just taking money wherever we could get it, same for Brett and Patrick. We were all in—100 percent. If we’d been delayed another month, I would’ve been bankrupt. My wife and I would have filed bankruptcy, and she would have kicked my ass…..

In 2014 RateBeer.com, the authoritative and exhaustively comprehensi e craft-beer site, named the ten best new breweries in the world (out of 2,600 that opened in 2013)  The Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. was ranked number 1.”

Stephen was a great young man

The award changed the picture and today they are thriving – before the award 17 employees and now 39 with two locations.   One of these was our server – a wonderful young man named Stephen.

There was a waiting line that weekend afternoon and the place was bustling and notwithstanding his shift having just ended, he patiently went through the incredibly interesting selection of brews – Buford and his partners go up into the wilderness and write beer recipes and the original idea for the brewery was developed while they were backpacking.

There were so many good options that we ordered a flight of five – from left to right below:

March for Orange, La Ciudad IPA, Suit n Tie IPA, Tranquility Tree Blonde and Aravaipa Abbey Dubbel (“This beer was spontaneously fermented and laid to rest for over 2 years in French oak before being conditioned in bottles for an additional 7 months.”)

They had a good pub menu and we were also impressed with their efforts to be sustainable:

“In our efforts to become a more cognizant and sustainable business, we’ve partnered with Recycled City, whose vision of ‘Farmland for the Future’ is something we passionately support!  100% of the food waste collected by Recycled City goes towards building local-fertile farmland.

So ended our first weekend in Phoenix.  Stay tuned for the next post for the remaining breweries and Spring Training game we hit during our week in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

Ride a Wave to Beachcrest Brewing

A great logo – created on a crowd sourcing site called “Design Crowd.” The designer was from Bulgaria!

In seven years of Beerchasing, I have been impressed with the number of brewery owners who started homebrewing as a hobby and ultimately became micro-craft entrepreneurs after diverting from their original career paths.  They have ranged from lawyers, teachers, accountants, contractors and public servants to former bartenders.

Our recent visit to the new (December, 2018) Beachcrest Brewery and Pub was the first time that I’ve met two college music majors and former musicians who decided to partner with another couple and embark on a suds-oriented business venture.

And based on a number of factors such as the quality of their beer, the location and both the internal and external ambiance of their facility, they have great potential for this new endeavor on the Central Oregon Coast just south of Lincoln City.

I might add that some of my favorite Beerchasing exploits have been on the Oregon Coast – first in the fall of 2014 for a three-day jaunt from Pacific City to Newport including Lincoln City and Depoe Bay.

A classic dive – the Old Oregon Saloon

This jaunt with my brother-in-law, Dave Booher and friend, Steve Larson covered such wonderful bars as the Old Oregon Saloon in Lincoln City.

Then on to the unforgettable Tide Pool in Depoe Bay and Newport’s historic Bay Haven Inn in addition to two breweries – Pelican and Rusty Truckhttps://thebeerchaser.com/2014/09/23/thebeerchaser-does-the-central-oregon-coast-part-i/

A trip on the southern part of the coast down into California in 2018 with my wife, reconfirmed our love of the Pacific Coast scenery.  It again demonstrated the number of options for good beer on a multi-day jaunt as far south as the beautiful Redwoods.

Mugs were raised in Oregon breweries from Yachats Brewing to Defeat River Brewing in Reedsport down to Chetco Brewing in Brookings and also one of our favorite bars – the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill in Bandon. https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/13/beerchasing-on-the-south-oregon-coast-and-through-the-redwoods-part-i/

Now while it is obvious that there is a lot of choice for brewpubs and taprooms on the Oregon Coast, Beachcrest is in a great location – just across from the newly revitalized Salishan Resort

After its opening in 1965 by Oregon icon, John Gray, Salishan became one of Oregon’s premier destination lodges known for its superb architecture and artwork.  After the Grays sold it in 1996, it failed to be viable under multiple owners.

It was purchased in November 2017, at a foreclosure auction by a private equity investment company…..and is now managed by Alpha Wave Investors hospitality company, Soul Community Planet.  CEO Ken Cruse believes they can return what is arguably one of the state’s most treasured lodges to its old glory.   (Oregon Live – January 31, 2019) 

The Brewery

Amy White and her husband Matt, are both graduates of the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver.   Amy plays the piano and is a vocalist and her husband is a sax player in addition to other woodwinds.   They lived in Denver and two years ago decided to move to Oregon.

The four talented and adventurous entrepreneurs

“Beachcrest Brewing Co. started as the dream of lifelong musicians Matt and Amy White who spent many summers visiting the enchanting Oregon Coast.  After years of dreaming of living on the coast the duo made the plunge and relocated to the central coast to follow their passion of combining beach life, craft beer and great music.”  

They partnered with Megan Leesley – a CPA who does the Brewery’s accounting and Sean Sissel, a contractor, who spent five months in 2018 building out the brewery.  Both still live in Colorado and will be working in the brewery periodically.

Amy, who was our bartender that Saturday afternoon, exuded enthusiasm for their project and I was impressed with the couple’s initial efforts to interact and become part of the micro-brewing community since they started planning and after opening.

They have visited the Benedictine Brewery in Mt. Angel – I’m biased about that one.  They know and expressed support for their competitors up and down the coast ranging from Rusty Truck to Wolf Tree Brewing, which now has a taphouse in Newport, among others.

For a small brewery (3.5 barrel), they have an impressive line-up with eleven craft beers, wine (cans) and draft hard cider and draft Kombucha.

————-

Only $3 for this delight……

They also have eleven marvelous – from the appearance and the way several kids were delightfully “attacking” them – Italian cream sodas for $3 (I was sorely tempted….)

She offered a good explanation of their tap list and let us sample a number before we ordered a flight – they allow the patron to “build your own” flight with each 4-ounce sampler costing only $2.  You can “take off” with anywhere from two to eleven beers in your flight.

We opted for a tray of four consisting of their best seller – the Siletz Bay Hazy IPA – 6.1% ABV (also our favorite) two other IPAs – the Backbeat Brut 6.0% and the South Pacific 7.4% – plus the Common Time Kolsch 4.2%.  The IPA’s all had nice hoppy taste and good aroma, but the Kolsch seemed somewhat bland – maybe because we liked the others so well.

Build your own flight…..

Sean did a great job in his build out of what used to be a coffee shop.  The space has great internal and external lighting and long community-type tables.  While we were there, a number of families with kids drinking Italian cream sodas, dogs and just tourists doing the coast were enjoying the pub.
But wait until a sunny day later in the spring and this summer, not to mention Oregon’s wonderful fall weather.  The deck area is going to fill up with people “drinking” in the coast air, the trees, the manicured golf course and the adjacent creek which bubbles.   I can’t think of a comparable scenic vista from a brewery deck that combines all of these elements.

Beachcrest, besides Bavarian pretzels, pita chips and hummus and marinated olives, has no food at the brewpub; however, the Mangia Italian Deli right next door has pasta, cheeses and sandwiches and their food can be brought in.  Food carts will probably also be part of the plan.

And while Beachcrest will be a draw on its own, a factor in their success will be the result of efforts to revitalize the Salishan Marketplace.

We remember taking our family there years ago for the good restaurant and the diverse shops which included a bookstore, specialty grocery, an impressive gallery, toy store, a candy shop (with outstanding caramel corn) and other interesting boutiques.

Unfortunately, that changed given both Salishan Resort’s troubles and the economy.   The contrast is conveyed well by this Facebook post last year by JB Hunter before revitalization efforts

“After an absence of 12 years, my wife and I stopped in there in August 2017. The once-dynamic and bustling place was a ghost town with all the former wonderful shop tenants booted and brown packing paper plastered all over the storefront windows. Saying we were stunned was an understatement although we understood after checking into the downward spiral that Salishan had undergone.”

However, the impetus is already present and the groundwork laid to change that imag.  Besides the Deli and the Brewery, the Marketplace now has a fitness center, an upscale gallery and an appointment-only barber shop.

The interesting and quality wares from Java Depot…

And we were delighted that long-time Lincoln City small business the Java Depot and Culinary Corner – a wonderful specialty coffee and kitchen and gourmet food shop is moving from the strip mall by Safeway to the Marketplace.

In fact, that’s how we learned about the Brewery.  The owner of Java excitedly told us about their forthcoming move and to check out Beachcrest.  As stated on their Facebook page:

“As most of you know we’re moving to Salishan Marketplace. Expanding our meats & Cheese selection and adding food items and hand dipped Tillamook Ice Cream.”

Matt and Amy are also trying to attract people and build a community with events including the “Geeks Who Drink Trivia” broadcast every Wednesday night, live music and an innovative idea named “Pints and Poses.”

“Enjoy a rejuvenating yoga flow at the new Salishan Yoga Studio followed by a refreshing brew at Beachcrest.  Class is $15 and includes your first post class beverage of choice.  Meet 15 minutes before class to register in the Salishan hotel lobby.   Next classes will meet on April 14 & 28.” 

Note: I don’t know what a yoga flow is, but if there is a free brewski and tap flow afterwards, I am willing to assume the position…”

Lincoln City and the surrounding coastal communities are Oregon treasures.   They rely heavily on the support of tourism for their economic livelihood.

So when you are passing through Lincoln City on the way to Newport or just hitting Lincoln City itself, make a point of stopping at Beachcrest Brewery to have a beer, sit on the deck and say hello to Amy and Matt. Then get an expresso to-go at Java Depot.

Take the words of this Yelp review as recently as April 5th to see what awaits:

“Gem on the Coast!   Wonderful selection of unique craft beers, friendly atmosphere, Beachcrest Brewing is truly a splendid destination for Ale aficionados and casual beer drinkers alike.  Do yourself a favor, try a soft pretzel with the stone ground mustard…. Magnifique.”

Beachcrest Brewing     7755 N Highway 101
Gleneden Beach

 

Beerchasing in Maine (continued), Boston and then Home….

The Penobsot Narrows Bridge – the tallest bridge observatory in the world!

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this on your phone, click  on the caption at the top to access the blog.)

After our three and one-half days in New York City, two days on the lake in Bridgton, Maine and then another two at Acadia National Park (click on the links to see the blog posts), we took a day and one-half driving down the beautiful coastline of Maine before spending an afternoon and evening in Portland. And the final night was in Boston.

(See the end of the post for some interesting info. on Samuel Adams Beer and a fascinating legal issue involving both coasts of the USA.)

It would have been nice to have more time in the “right-coast” Portland, but we had to drive to Boston for our flight home to the “left-coast” PDX.

On the morning drive we visited the Marshall Wharf Brewery in quaint Belfast.  The town of a little less than 7,000 was founded in 1770 and like our Portland, the name (derived from the Northern Ireland city) was determined by a coin toss.

A shipbuilding seaport

It’s a charming shipbuilding community built on commerce. In the early ’90’s:

“USA Today named Belfast as one of America’s culturally cool communities. Today, Belfast is that rare combination of quiet small town with an active social and cultural life that is attractive to residents and visitors alike.”  Belfast website.

The eleven-year old brewery that specializes in German beer was in a shack, of sorts, but had eight of their seventeen own beers on tap.  Kathryn, the bartender was very helpful and personable.

Janet had a Tug Pale Ale (5.0%), but I couldn’t resist and had my first German Rauchbier – a smoked malt beer – Marshall’s Deep Purple Rauchbier (6.0%). 

Beer Advocate described it as:

“Smoke on the water!  This Bamberg (Germany) inspired smoked ale is Bacon in a Glass (emphasis added).  Very polarizing beer – you either like the style and taste or you never want to drink it again…..”   

Kathryn – one of our favorite bartenders on the trip.

I loved it, but what bacon-stuff wouldn’t I savor – especially in the morning!

Lunch was in Camden, also on Penobscot Bay settled in the 1790’s and with a  population of about 5,000:

“more than triples during the summer months, due to tourists and summer residents (and) ……….is well known for its summer community of wealthy Northeasterners, mostly from Boston, New York and Philadelphia.”  Wikipedia

Another of the Sea Dog Brewpubs, offered a beautiful view from the patio.

The Ledges by the Bay – on Highway1 just outside of Rockland, Maine and right on Penobscot Bay was reminiscent of summer vacation lodging as youngsters.  Although around for a long time, it was very clean, cheap – about $115 including taxes – and had a beautiful view from the balcony of our room.

A long rock-top walk, but worth it…

Before heading into Rockland, we took a hike at the Rockland Harbor Breakwater Light House – the long rock breakwater is slightly over a mile to this still active navigation aid which was established in 1902. (It’s worth the walk to see up close.)

And we met two very interesting and friendly people on the small dock immediately below the lighthouse.

One was Amelia Magjik, who serves on the Rockland City Council:

“She came from a small coastal town in Washington state to be closer to her family in New York. Amelia comes from a professional background in community mental health….. Amelia’s personal interests include art, yoga, running, hiking, gardening, and anything involving the ocean.”

Amelia introduced her male friend to us as “John Jenkins – the next Governor of Maine.” And John, who was born in 1952, is a very interesting and charismatic individual, besides being a notable athlete:  (Wikipedia)   

Motivational Speaker….

“(he) is an American community organizer and politician who served as the first African American Mayor of Lewiston, Maine from 1994 to 1998, a Member of the Maine Senate from 1996 to 1998 and the Mayor of Auburn, Maine from 2007 to 2009.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Jenkins graduated from Bates College in 1974. While at college, he excelled in martial arts and upon graduating toured Japan competing in the Karate World Championships.  He won the 1977 Championships in karate and won three other mixed martial arts championships in karate and ju-jitsu.”

Elected official and small businessman

Besides his political career, he is a small businessman and motivational speaker who declared as an Independent write-in candidate for Governor in 2018.   Check out his website.  It’s very interesting.  http://peptalk.com/about-the-honorable-john-jenkins/

And I intend to take him up on his offer for a reserved seat in the gallery at his first State-of-the-State address!  Meeting interesting people like Amelia and John is one of our motivations for traveling and visiting breweries!

Before dinner, the Rock Harbor Brewery and Pub, right on Main Street of this city of 7,300 beckoned.

The Pub had sixteen beers on tap and about half are brewed in-house.  We split an outstanding pint of their Copperhouse ESB (6.0%) and we could understand why it is their flagship beer:

“…. roasted malt notes and middle-of-the-road, balanced flavor.  Easy transition from Red Ales, Brown ales and some darker lagers.”  It had great color and taste.  

A few blocks away, an excellent dinner awaited us at Cafe Miranda  (“funky, edgy and eclectic – this is not your white table cloth sort of place.  We want you to laugh out loud, enjoy, engage and leave with a belly full of food that has comforted your soul.”)

And after an absolutely superb breakfast (I realize I’m using that type of adjective to describe most of our meals on the trip) at Home Kitchen Cafe (“Remember, when you’re hungry…come HOME.”) we spent two fascinating hours in the Farnsworth Art Museum.

It houses a nationally recognized collection of over 15,000 works from America’s noted artists in an expansive and beautiful space of more than 20,000 square feet.

I will be the first to admit that I am much more at home in a brewery than an art museum, but this one was captivating.

The most outstanding aspect of this attraction was the Wyeth Center located in a beautiful church across the street.

“Exhibits focusing primarily on James Wyeth and N. C. Wyeth are presented at the ‘church’ building on Union Street, an example of adaptive re-use of the United Methodist Church, one of Rockland’s most prominent and venerable structures dating from the last quarter of the 19th century.”

The Wyeth Center of the Farnsworth Museum of Art

We then drove the three-hours to Portland and what a change in this city from the last time we visited about seven years ago – or maybe it was just because we had great weather this time and it was a Friday night. We stayed on the harbor, which had an eclectic assortment of restaurants, galleries, bars and pubs, and nautical-related attractions.

Although we had only an afternoon and the next morning in Portland, thanks to the blog National Parks USA – a tour of Public Lands and National Parks with T – we knew we wanted to see the Portland Observatory.

On our walk to the Portland Observatory, we stopped at Rising Tide Brewery and Tasting Room.  This is a family-owned business founded in 2010 by co-owners Nathan and Heather Sanborn.

This bottling machine is a good gig!

I loved the fact that Heather is a lawyer and also serves in the Maine Legislature and is Past President of the Maine Brewers’ Guild.

Perhaps it was the Friday ambiance, but the patio and tasting room were rocking and the employees including those who were operating the bottling machine all appeared to be delighted to work there.

And they have a robust selection of very good unpasteurized and unfiltered beers using local ingredients. Their Ishmael Copper Ale (4.9%) with both Mt. Hood and Cascade hops reminded us that we would be back in the Northwest in 48 hours….

The Portland Observatory

Erected in 1807 it’s located at the highest elevation in Portland, thereby presenting incredible views.   The formidable structure is the only remaining historic maritime signal station in the United States. 

While we listened to our guide’s fascinating briefing on both the history and the structural aspects, we climbed to the top for a magnificent 360 degree view.

 

On the walk back to the hotel, we passed another brew pub – Sebago Brewing – which had an attractive brewpub, but the fact that it was in the ground floor of an Embassy Suites Hotel shot the ambiance.

Ambiance was missing….

This locally-owned brewery is twenty years old and crafts about eleven beers which are served in its four brewpubs and tasting room at the brewery in Gorham, Maine.

Since the last Rising Tide beer we had was only 4.9 ABV and we were walking, we each had a pint with Janet downing a Frye’s Leap IPA (6.0%) – “golden color and unique and intense aroma dry-hopped of pine and grapefruit.”

Bright interior was far better..

The beer was named for the cliff which legend has Captain Joseph Frye jumped off in an 1785 effort to escape Native Americans chasing him.  He swam across the channel to what became known as Frye Island.

I wanted to try a red ale so I had a pint of Runabout Red (4.4%).  It was good and perhaps the hops did “glide on my palate with every sip!”

The next morning we drove to Cape Elizabeth on the southern tip of Portland to visit the stunning Portland Head Light – one of three lighthouses in Portland. It was foggy, but a breathtaking sight.

Our final stop before leaving Portland was just to check out Shipyard Brewing, also a family owned brewery in Portland – and another of the tasting rooms or brewpubs within a few blocks of our hotel.  

Shipyard brews over twenty different craft beers and their facility was classy.

After the two-hour drive to our hotel near Boston’s Logan Airport, we took an afternoon T (Massachusetts Bay Transportation System) into the North Side to our favorite Boston restaurant – Giacomo’s Ristorante – which is only a block away from the historic Old North Church.

Historic and still iconic…

We got there before it opened at 5:00 – no reservations and already a waiting line – but the wait was only 45 minutes rather than the 60 to 90 which is customary.  The hostess was still like the drill sergeant as we remembered

Giacomos – a waiting line before it opens…

It’s a cracker-box but we lucked out (as we did the last time a few years ago) and got to sit at the two places at the corner of the serving bar so we could see the kitchen and get a better view of the enthused customers feasting on Italian food.

And I might add, there is nothing better when in Boston than downing a Sam Adams Octoberfest (5.3%) – even if it is bottled – especially when you are having Linguini with Scallops. 

The trek back to the T took us by the bustling  Haymarket Public Market  and a stop for one last brewski on our trip before we headed back.

Like just about any institution in Boston, the Market has historic roots:

 ” Although sellers of fresh produce have clustered in the current-day Haymarket location since around 1830, merchants of various sorts started congregating in the general vicinity as early as the 1600’s.”

And what better way to toast what had been a wonderful trip than having another Samuel Adams – draft this time – at Durty Nelly’s. 

This notable watering hole, right next to the Market and which asserts it was established about 1850 also claims to be “Boston’s friendliest dive bar.” (It may well be.)

Not a micro-brew, but still great beer.

Now you purists who might scoff at quaffing two beers produced by Boston Beer Co. after we spent the prior ten days drinking local Maine micro-brews.

According to Craft Beer.com, Boston Beer Co. is the second largest craft brewery in the US and Samuel Adams Beer is distributed in all 50 states.  At least it was a start-up in 1984, still makes efforts to assist small businesses and they make great beer…..

How about an “Old North Church Lager” or “Midnight Ride IPA” ?

Besides, drinking Samuel Adams in Boston seems patriotic to me.  If there were a macro-brewery named Paul Revere, I would be drinking their beer too.

Interestingly enough, one of Boston Beer’s controversies involved Portland, Oregon Radio Station KEX and my friend and former Mayor Sam Adams in a 2007 dispute that the Wall Street Journal labeled “Sam Adams v Sam Adams.” 

https://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/10/25/trademark-dispute-of-the-day-sam-adams-v-sam-adams/

Sam Adams outside the now-closed Tugboat Brewery

Note: Sam, the former Mayor has a Beerchasing history.  First, in 2013 we visited Portland’s Tug Boat Brewery (Unfortunately after operating for twenty-eight years, Tugboat was forced to close in 2017 because of incidents related to a fire in the hotel above the brewery.)

Then in 2014, we hit Beer Mongers.  (See reviews by clicking on the links)

Sam and Jim, the bartender at Beer Mongers, with Thebeerchaser logo

The lawsuit evidently settled and although it did not set new precedents in Intellectual Property case law, it is interesting to look back:

“……the Boston Beer Company demanded that control of the domain names “samadamsformayor.com” and “mayorsamadams.com” be turned over to the company.

The domains had been purchased by an employee of the Portland, Oregon radio station NewsRadio 1190 KEX for the campaign of Portland mayoral candidate, Sam Adams.  In a cease-and-desist letter, the company (Boston Beer) expressed concern that consumers might confuse the mayoral candidate with their beer.

In an interview with the Associated Press the company said it was willing to discuss Adams’ use of his name on his Web sites, “probably for the length of the time the election is being held.”

Brouhaha Involving Two Elected Officials!

Sam Adams v Samuel Adams 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam, the then mayoral candidate, is now Director of US Climate Initiatives at the World Resources Institute .

According to a 10/23/2007 Oregonian article entitled “A Battle Brews,” reported: “Commissioner Sam Adams is bemused. ‘They say they’ve been using this trademark since 1984. I’ve been using it since 1963.”‘ (Sam is 55 years old….)

One wonders how the 18th century statesman and Founding Father would view this frivolous legal maneuver by his namesake Brewery given his concern over more weighty issues such as the Boston Massacre, the Stamp Act and drafting the Articles of Confederation.

And so our eleven-day trip to the East Coast ended.  We reflected back on the great people we met, the marvelous scenery, the phenomenal food and, of course, the splendid beer in diverse bars and breweries with character and spirit.

Now it’s back to Portland, Oregon’s abundant Beerchasing (and Oregon micro-brews) establishments which need to be explored…..

New York City and On to Beerchasing in Maine


We started our ten-day trip to the East Coast with three-days in New York City.  (See the last post of Thebeerchaser for the initial glimpse of our time in NYC).

My only regret is I didn’t get a sausage too…

The last of three and one-half in the City was filled.   After starting with an excellent Apple Fritter at one of the many street carts, we boarded the subway for the ride to the 911 Memorial and Museum.

Words are not adequate to describe the emotions one experiences when walking through the museum after entering through the magnificent rebuilt One World Trade Center.

I remember that morning listening to NBC News seventeen years ago as I was getting ready for work, but to view the pictures and videos, hear the 911 calls, see material such as stationery and calendars pulled from the wreckage and witness the former foundational structure conveys new meaning.  

 

That afternoon, we walked around Midtown and before our Broadway play that Friday evening, stopped and had a pint at the excellent District Tap House – it’s actually two bars.

In the heart of the Garment District on Friday night

The smaller rear bar at the back.

They have an extensive tap list with over fifty beers.

Over 50 Draft Beers to selec

Given our initial encounter at our hotel the day before, we split another Brooklyn Brewing Defender IPA.

It was a friendly place with a Friday vibe as you can see from this picture of Janet and the “bouncer” at the entrance.

We then walked up Broadway to our theater to see the highly recommended play – “Once on This Island.”

“Revised and Ravishing…! Winner of 2018 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical

Part of our interest was the lead – a young woman, Haily Kilgore, who attended Clackamas High School in Oregon for two years and was a star in the Portland theater scene before furthering her education in New York and being cast as Ti Moune  in this Broadway revival. She was nominated for a 2018 Tony Award.

An Oregon transplant..

The theater-in-the-round experience was delightful, and Kilgore and the cast outstanding as evidenced by this excerpt from the 12/17/17 New York Times review entitled “Revived and Ravishing:”

“….and Mr. Arden’s (Director) staging serves his top-to-bottom terrific cast of black, and Hispanic and Asian actors beautifully.”  

On the morning of our fourth day, we took the morning Amtrak to Boston.  Although we had some great food in the City, my favorite meal was the lox and cream-cheese bagel I ate on my lap in the Penn Station waiting area.

Nice train ride….

The view from the window of our coach as we departed on d the four-hour trip to Boston was outstanding.  The coach-bus for the additional hour ride to Portland, Maine and the Amtrak ride were both clean and pleasant.

We picked up our rental car for the next week at the Portland Airport – a trusty Volkswagen Beetle This one was an automatic not like the stick shift on my college-era Beetle that had no gas gauge and a one-gallon reserve tank you switched on manually.   (This one may be the last time in a Beetle since VW is discontinuing the line.)

We stayed at a nearby hotel after dinner at the Sea Dog Brewery by the airport – one of nine locations in Maine, New Hampshire and Florida for this brewery founded in 1993.

Not much ambiance in this brewpub – kind of reminded me of the Portland (or Denver or Chicago or …..) version of the Rock Bottom Brewery franchise. 

That said, the staff was courteous and they had sixteen beers on tap.   I really enjoyed Sea Dog’s award-winning Windjammer Blonde Ale (4.8%) and Janet’s Deep Stowage IPA (6.14%) a dry-hopped cask ale, which is not itemized on their website, also got a good rating. 

We drove through rural areas about forty miles north to Bridgton, Maine, where our Oregon friends, Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell – frequent Beerchasers in Oregon, have a picturesque home named “Pinehaven” on one of Maine’s many beautiful lakes.

Our two-day stay with them was filled with hikes, kayaking on the lake and hitting some great nearby pubs.  They have both been very active in the Lakes Environmental Association – an important initiative to preserve the pristine nature of this natural resource throughout Maine.

Two of the interesting pubs we visited were Ebenezer’s in the historical town of Lovell, settled during the Revolutionary War and incorporated in 1800.  Ebenezer’s adjoins a golf course and is in an old house which includes a wonderful screened porch where we ate and also has a beautiful inside bar.

Picturesque lighted screened porch

The pub has won a number of awards and asserts it’s the “17-Time # 1 Best Beer Destination in the World.”   I didn’t inquire the source of this rating, but their incredible selection of beers is notable as described in this excerpt from a review on Thrillist:

“With more than 700 bottles available and a huge tap selction of Belgian rarities and favorites, Ebenezers has about 1.5 different beers stocked for each of its tiny hometown’s residents.”

That’s where I had my first of many Alagash White Ales (5.0%) on the trip – one of the most popular beers in Maine.  It’s cloudy and white with coriander and orange and was outstanding.

Outstanding Belgian White

Alagash Brewing, founded in Portland, Maine in 1995 now distributes its Belgian-inspired brews to seventeen states.

Ebeneezer’s also had outstanding food including our Reubens and Quesadillas.  This Trip Advisor (7/9/18) review describes it aptly:

Fantastic Food and Beer. This eclectic restaurant is a hidden gem. There is an amazing selection of beer and the menu was vast and most delicious.”

It was definitely one of the best establishments of the many we visited on the trip.

1.5 kinds of beer for every resident….

The next day we took a healthy jaunt on a 2.3 mile trail through Pondicherry Park – a 68 acre gem in the heart of downtown Bridgton  -population 5,384!

Roy and Mary have contributed time and money to improve and maintain it and there are streams, woodlands and abundant wildlife in this family-oriented park..

There are a number of small but innovative obstacles courses along the Pinehaven Trail – gifts of the Lambert-Maxwell family. One of the entrances is through a memorial covered bridge.

The next day after touring rural Maine, we hit an idiosyncratic but cool pub for dinner – the Standard Gastropub right on Main Street in Bridgton. 

This former gas station and mini-market was converted into a gas station and pub which is know for good comfort food and a large selection of beers – both bottled and on tap. 

That’s where we first tried the Kresge Kolsch (4.8%) from Cushnoc Brewing in Augusta, Maine and Bissel Brothers’ Brewing of Portland Maine flagship beer – Substance Ale (6.6%).

We love trying “local” beers and supporting small breweries – a good choice on both beers that night.  Bissel Brothers was founded in 2013 and has already expanded while Cushnoc was founded in 2017.

Nothing fancy – but good food and a LOT of beer options!

Early on Monday, we set out and drove north to Bar Habor and Acadia National Park“Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast.” 

We checked into our quaint bed-and-breakfast – the Harbor Cottage Inn in SW Harbor and took Oli’s Trolley for a 2.5 hour tour of the Acadia Park Loop Road – the best way to get an overview of the park and avoid traffic problems. 

The weather was a bit stormy and windy which made the view along the coastline that much better.

The next post will narrate what we saw in the Park and some of the watering holes in both SW Harbor and Bar Harbor – two wonderful Maine Villages.