Bar Culture – Part II

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

In the last post on this blog, I captured one of the five questions posed by Cassie Ruud, Editor of the Portland online newsletter Bridgeliner in a 4/23 article on bar culture

Check out the link below to see Thebeerchaser post on which it was based, which includes a lot of great pictures illustrating the eclectic elements of bar culture I’ve witnessed in reviewing almost 400 bars and breweries in the last ten years:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/05/03/a-petri-dish-bar-culture-part-i/

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This post will address the second question posed by Cassie in the Bridgeliner article entitled “The Foamy Culture of Portland Pubs with Beerchaser Don Williams.”

My major premise, based on personal experience, is that Portland bar culture doesn’t differ significantly from that of bars in Eastern Oregon, on the Oregon Coast, New England, Savannah or Charleston in the Southeastern US, or for that matter, Amsterdam or Venice.   

The pictures below illustrate my premise that while each bar has different and interesting external trappings, the overall culture of bars throughout the world – the abstract meld of all the elements ranging from furnishings to music to the unique blend of personalities of the staff and regulars – is shared in these establishments 

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Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine in 2018 where we entered Beer Heaven.

In the ten years I have been Beerchasing, I have been to almost 400 bars and breweries from my home in Portland, Oregon to watering holes throughout the state – the Eastern Oregon desert to the beautiful coast. 

I visited bars like Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, to those in the southeastern US from Charleston to Atlanta to Savannah, where at The Original Pinkie Masters bar shown in the picture below, the 3/4/13 edition of the Savannah Morning News reported:

“As the oldest running watering hole downtown and one made famous when President Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy while standing on the bar…..” 

I was welcomed in each and they all felt like home!

There is the dark ambiance of historic Durty Nelly’s in Boston, or the spacious charm of  the Horner Pub – surrounded by majestic peaks in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland – where tourists like us rubbed shoulders with the amazing “cliff divers” or the farmers, foresters or innkeepers who live in the village of  2,300 at the foot of 9,744 Mt. Schilthorn, where there is also a Taverne right near the summit.

But I can also experience the vibe by just driving twenty-five minutes to downtown Portland – only about seven blocks from the high-rise office building where I worked for twenty-five years – to the Yamhill Pub – one step below a dive, but a grunge bar that at one time sold more PBR than any watering hole in Oregon.

Staying in Oregon, I can drive across the beautiful Cascade Mountains through the Central Oregon desert and visit one of the cowboy bars in Eastern Oregon such as the Long Branch in LaGrande – “well known for its home style cooking and the most reasonably priced food and drinks in town.”

Cassie’s second question in the Bridgeliner article was:

Has the culture gone through any observable changes from your perspective? If so, what kind?

It goes without saying, we have to separate pre and post pandemic.  I’ll base this on the nine years I’ve been Beerchasing prior to the pandemic.  During that time, I’ve witnessed minimal change in what we are describing as culture. 

That said, if one goes back further, there were some monumental changes affecting the character, operation and economics of bars and taverns. 

I’ll defer to my friend, author Matt Love, who for thirty years, studied and wrote about bars on the Oregon Coast. I originally met Matt through his blog – Let it Pour – (Thebeerchaser is modeled after it) where he wrote about his experiences and love for the dive bars up and down the coast.  

Matt is the owner of the Nestucca Spit Press – a small publishing house he formed in 2002, and you should check out its offerings.  In 2009, Love won the Oregon Literary Arts’ Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon history and literature.

He conveys the contrast between contemporary bars and those in the ’60’s – 70’s in the Introduction of his marvelous book-within-a magazine entitled, “Oregon Tavern Age”:

“It was the halcyon days of Oregon tavern life; no liquor, no craft beers, no meth, no video poker or slots, smoke-filled, and the classic cheap Pacific Northwest lagers brewed in the Pacific Northwest by union men reigned supreme….Customers watched Perry Mason on low volume and read mildewed Louis L’Amour titles from the lending libraries tucked away in dark corners.”

In a three and one-half day tour of bars and breweries on the Central Oregon Coast in 2014, I found that many of the dives Matt reviewed still maintained the atmosphere and character which captivated both of us in these “institutions.” 

The pictures below show some of the favorites: The Sportsman Pub and Grub in Pacific City, where Matt was the “Writer in Residence,” the Old Oregon Saloon (“The Old O”) and the Cruise Inn – right in the heart of Lincoln City.

Don’t forget the Bay Haven Inn that goes back to 1908 along the docks in Newport, or the Mad Dog Country Tavern up the Bay about a mile, where you could get some hardboiled eggs or Hot Mama pickled sausages both of which had been “fermenting” in large jars probably since the second FDR Administration….P1020651

And the unforgettable Tide Pool Pub in Depoe Bay, where Vicki, the owner, claimed (with some credibility) she made the best pizza on the Oregon Coast.  She also told us about how her dad took her to one of the first “Take Your Kids to Work Days” when she was in grade school in Chicago and her dad worked in a slaughter house!

One final note on the Tide Pool which will give you an idea of why Matt Love is such a good writer, is his description of the bar’s Tank of Death – a fascinating and bizarre “aquarium” which captures the attention of anyone entering the bar:

“……..a salt-water glass coffin called the Tank of Death.  It is packed with all manner of marine creatures caught by local fishermen who bucket in their curious finds and dump them in.  Eels, crabs, sea bass, perch, Dick Cheney, octipi and urchins all end up in the mix……….

According to the bartender, aquatic creatures regularly stage a battle royal to the death and the tank serves as a Roman arena of savagery and merciless predation  – with bets slapped down and accelerated drinking when the water turns a creamy, cloudy red.”   

Matt alludes to two monumental shifts altering bar culture – the advent of video poker – in the late 80’s and the end of smoking inside Oregon bars in 1984.   Why? Because much of the dialogue and story-telling disappeared. 

Instead of thick plumes of nicotine laden smoke from Camels, Winstons or Marlboros circling above the heads of those at the bar or at individual tables where they told tales, the smokers escaped frequently to the front or rear exits – maybe a small patio – where they puffed in solitude.

In fact, one wag stated that he was concerned about the end of smoking at Portland’s legendary Horse Brass Pub, not because of losing the clientele, but “we assumed its billowing, milkshake-thick clouds of cigarette smoke were load-bearing structural elements of the building without which the sprawling pub would collapse.” 

The ubiquitous video slots with their Siren Song began beckoning those who rationalize that they are helping to fund a playground or civic center with this “sin tax” on Oregon gamblers. (Twice, I have witnessed patrons frantically go through several hundred dollars while I was having a pint.)

While these two developments forever changed certain elements of bar culture not only in Oregon, but throughout the US and Europe, I am not as pessimistic as Matt Love appeared to be in the final entry to his blog in 2004.

Institutions adapt and while the advent of video poker altered the physical trappings and interpersonal interactions, watering holes acclimated and most survived – just as most will emerge from the pandemic as the familiar gathering place of regulars.

I’m looking forward to discussing this with Matt when we have a beer this summer!

Appendix by Matt Love from his blog – Let it Pour”

“I love these taverns, so much in fact, that six years ago I began writing about the ones on the Oregon Coast where I live.…(in his excellent blog Letitpour.net)  After all this exploration, doubtless I am an expert on Oregon taverns. Thus, it is with sadness that I declare the unique cultural institution of the independent Oregon tavern is dead.

The state of Oregon seriously wounded it with video poker, and more recently with the introduction of line games (slots), killed it altogether.….In 1991 when the Oregon Legislature directed the Oregon Lottery to allow video poker in taverns and bars…..it was a frenzy.

Then in 2005, line games were introduced into Oregon’s taverns and bars…..Sure, the pool and darts continue, but these taverns are not the same, and I know because I drank beer in them before they were enlisted by the state to raise revenue from the pockets of vulnerable, occasionally inebriated people.   What is especially sad is to have witnessed how video poker slowly transformed taverns from gritty bastions of independence into de-facto tax collectors for the state….Rest in peace Oregon tavern.”

A Petri Dish — Bar Culture Part I

 

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

Books, articles and watering hole patrons often talk about “Bar Culture.”  But how does one define this abstract concept and how does one find it?  Recently, Bridgelinera Portland, Oregon online newsletter edited by Cassie Ruud (I’m proud to say – an Oregon State University grad) featured two interviews with yours truly – The Beerchaser.  

The link below will take you to the first interview – how the Beerchaser started and how it has changed during the pandemic.   https://bridgeliner.com/%f0%9f%8d%bb-portlander-don-williams-takes-us-beer-chasing/

And the following narrative is an expanded version of the second article entitled “The Foamy Culture.” The narrative below is my response to the first question Cassie asked with a lot of photos added from bars I’ve been to over the last ten years to illustrate the elements of bar culture.   

Most are from Portland watering holes and It saddens me to add that a number of bars are from some of my favorites which are no longer open. Future posts will address the other four questions on bar culture because it is a complex topic and needs a lot of photos to convey.

I’m saddened that the photos below are from a number including Club 21, Zarz, Crackerjacks, Mad Son’s, The Tanker all permanently closed – a loss to not only their patrons but Portland’s bar culture. And those are just ones represented in some of the photos in this blog post.  There are many more on the list.

Regardless of where you live, when it is again safe, get back out and support these small business people whose livelihoods have been decimated in the last eighteen months.  Try Kelly’s Olympian or……….

What are some key elements of pub and tavern culture (particularly in Portland) you’ve observed in your years of beerchasing?

That begs the question, “What is culture?” Let’s assume it’s a set of intangible aspects of social life – in this case in an individual bar or tavern – as contrasted to a brewpub or taproom – because there are some real differences.  One way I describe this is a watering hole’s “character.”  It’s really no different in Portland than elsewhere.

It can include more global items such as its location and the exterior, the regulars, the personality of the bartender and staff such as Phoebe, the charismatic bartender at the Brooklyn Park Pub – the first bar I hit in 2011.

Consider the style of the furniture (tables and/or booths) and how they’re set up. Take, for example, the unique Captains’ chairs at Claudia’s Sports Pub.

But it’s also a conglomeration of more mundane factors ranging from the lighting, the art (often nicotine-stained murals) or knickknacks such as old beer cans, bottles of MD 20-20, hats and mugs, and  team pictures and trophies from bar-sponsored teams,. 

Don’t forget the signs/posters with trite sayings such as “The consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy. ”

The music (jukebox or live-streamed or live music) is also a factor and the number and types of beer on tap and the prices.  

The atmosphere is influenced by whether there are games such as pool and shuffleboard or pinball and Skee-ball   Don’t forget a favorite – Big Buck Hunter.  Are there TV’s and if so, how many and how big?  Is video poker pervasive?  Is there a smoking patio? 

Do they have weekly events or gatherings and are these karaoke or Naughty Bingo Nights?

Are there animals present.  Not just service animals that are required under Oregon law, but are pets (and kids) welcome in the bar and on the patio.

Are the critters alive or dead?! Consider the skilled work of taxidermists with their product hung on the walls with glassy stares?  And are these mounted trophies, deer and elk or more exotic critters such as the albino goat at the New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana or the ferocious stuffed alligator hanging over the bar at the Blue Moon Saloon near Kalispell.

It’s important not to overlook the bathrooms or heads.  Are they unisex and are there locks on the door (or doors at all)? Do the sanitary conditions (for example vomit-stained toilet seats) motivate you to drink your beer slowly so you can wait until you get home?

And where but in Whitefish, Montana, can you see a life-size image of former NBA star Kevin McHale say farewell as you exit the men’s head at the Bull Dog Saloon?

Is there food and what type (usually plentiful) and whether it’s cooked on site or prepackaged?    Some of the cooks at dives and neighborhood bars are really quite accomplished at their profession. 

I guess, however, it does not take a trained chef to prepare the fried ravioli – available for $5 at The Standard or the Chicken Gizards (only $2.75 when they are the special-of-the-day) at the Yukon Tavern.  And oh the Burgers!!!

Are the trappings dive bar vinyl booths and card tables or more refined dark wood with fire places (often in dive bars too)  with volumes of books (real not decorative).

Two more factors that are important are the bar counter and back bar.  Is your beer served on a Formica stand or a dark, classy wood counter with an attractive backbar filled with a multitude of attractive liquor bottles or knickknacks which evoke stories? 

The Gold Pan Saloon , an historic dive bar we visited on a road trip to Colorado that dates back to 1879, had an impressive long, rich mahogany bar in Breckenridge.

In talking to the bartender, she told us that the bar and the beautiful backbar were shipped around Cape Horn to its’ destination in Colorado during gold mining days. I couldn’t verify the story, but it would not surprise me.

You throw all these elements – abstract, tangible and then add the people and the staff together and the result is a “Community” – and each bar or tavern is its own unique community or cultural institution.

Stay tuned to Thebeerchaser.com for future posts with the remaining four questions in the Bridgeliner interview about Bar culture.

Cheers

Beerchasing Miscellany – Emerging!!

Cheers!

While the global pandemic still hangs over our collective heads, with the numbers vaccinated in the first several months, there is at least some emergence from the darkness.

However, in many localities case numbers are not getting better with the vaccines; they’re going up. With cases rising for seven straight weeks, the World Health Organization said Covid-19 is still spreading exponentially around the world.

One reason may be that, although the experts reminded all of us that the vaccines would not mean life would get back to normal right away, many people are still behaving as if they didn’t hear or believe a word of that warning. We still need to be mindful of social distancing and wear masks.

There are still lockdowns and restrictions in many locations – varied and nuanced from country-to-country, state-to-state in the US and even county-to-county based on examples in Oregon.

But at least headlines and broadcast media narratives are not ubiquitous reports of doom and gloom in which we have been immersed for the last year. And by using common sense and moderation, we can go forth – carefully……

Thebeerchaser Story – From the Beginning

I started this blog in 2011 when I retired from the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm where I worked for twenty-five years – the last twelve as the COO.   The story of this blog – Thebeerchaser.com was related – quite well recently – by Cassie Ruud, the talented Editor of Bridgeliner – an online newsletter in Portland, Oregon. delivered to your in-box from Tuesdays through Fridays.

See the article at this link: https://bridgeliner.com/%f0%9f%8d%bb-portlander-don-williams-takes-us-beer-chasing/

There was also a lesson for me.  I initially disagreed with an issue in the newsletter and was ready to rant and send a sarcastic response, but instead sent a diplomatic missive to Cassie.  To my surprise, she responded with a very cogent response which made me realize that I was incorrect, and also see that she has a great online source of information. 

We also found that we had something in common – a fondness for the Old Oregon Saloon in Lincoln City.  Cassie had been a reporter earlier in her career in this city on the Oregon Coast and had seen my review of the Old O posted in 2014.

Take a look at Bridgeliner Even if you are not a Portlander, it has some good features and articles and provides another great opportunity to support local journalism.

Beerchasing Resumes – One Year Later

My wife and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary with our first real venture away from the Portland area in almost a year with a day road-trip up the Columbia River Gorge and returned by the Mt. Hood Loop Road (Highway 35).   Not one of the long journeys we love through Montana and the West, New England or the Southwest, but a full day in our own beautiful state. 

The Columbia River Gorge

Heading east just out of Portland we marveled at the continuing distinctive panorama.  On our left – the varied barge traffic along the River with Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and even Mt. Rainer in the distant background. 

On the right – jagged cliffs, many with majestic cascading waterfalls and views of the mile-long freight trains starting or finishing their cross-country journeys.

We stopped for beers and lunch (see below) and walked the path along the Columbia through the picturesque village of Hood River.  On the return route we took in the orchards outside of the City, were captivated by the rugged Northeast side of 11,250 foot Mt. Hood *** and appreciated the lush old-growth timber that surrounds the highway. 

We’d made this trip before, but never after a year like 2020.  We were seeing the wonder anew!

It gave new meaning to the assertion of my favorite philosopher/writer/theologian –              G. K. Chesterton

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” (public domain)

Excuse the Digression…

You might wonder about the asterisks above – it was after the initial comments about marveling at the NE side of Oregon’s Mount Hood on the trip back home.   Well, that’s because I have a fondness for the Cooper Spur Trail which starts at timberline and proceeds along the impressive Eliot Glacier

The trail ascends – about 2,500 feet in elevation gain from the trailhead up the northeast route to the 8,500-foot level.

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In the summer of 1990, when my oldest daughter was just seven, I wanted to expose her to the joys of backpacking.  So her Uncle Dick (a frequent hiking companion of mine) and I decided to take her on about a three-mile jaunt and camp for the night.  I had done the entire 36-mile Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood twice and thought a short section of the Trail would be perfect.

I looked in a NW backpacking book and remarkably failed to notice the elevation gain on the Cooper Spur hike.  We navigated the eleven-mile gravel road in and started the hike on a beautiful day. 

We soon rose above timberline and I realized from viewing the switchbacks ahead that it was going to be a challenge – not a level jaunt through the forest  – I would also have to carry Lisa’s backpack if she was going to make it.

But after several very strenuous hours, we reached the top of the trail as you can see from the picture of our green back-pack tent. 

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We camped right below Tie-in Rock – that’s where climbers rope up for the final ascent to the summit on this more rigorous route than the south-side – the most climbed.  The sunset was spectacular and the sunrise the next morning was glorious and capped an adventure young Lisa would never forget – nor would her dad and uncle.   

That said, when her mom asked her how she enjoyed hiking through the forest, Lisa responded, “Oh Mom, we were way above the trees almost the entire time.”  And when Janet saw the pictures, she admonished me, “If you ever take my baby on a hike like that again, &%$#!”

Lisa persevered that day in spite of her fatigue.  Today, she lives in Seattle with her husband, Jamie and two wonderful daughters.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing at the University of Washington and is an oncology nurse.  And I’m thrilled that she and her family love to hike.

Beerchasing Resumes – In part!

At our stop in Hood River, while we didn’t go inside either Ferment Brewing or Pfriem Family Brewers, we had a great experience, especially at Ferment – founded in 2018.  It receives high praise in social media for its nice grounds and beautiful tasting room with large dark wooden tables on the second floor.  

Ferment Brewing Company

The expansive views of both the Columbia River and the brewery hardware on the ground floor through floor-to-ceiling windows make it an outstanding environment.  It’s a twenty-barrel craft brewery that self-distributes bottles and cans throughout NW Oregon and recently into Washington. 

We’ll look forward to taking in the tasting room when conditions are more “normal” – probably in the fall when on a brisk and windy Gorge afternoon, we can order one of their kombucha cocktails or their mint hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps topped with whipped cream.

An 8/29/2019 Oregonian article referenced plans for a “Portland public house and tasting room to open in 2019 on close-in East Burnside,” but that has not happened at this point.

It has a large deck on the second floor with plenty of large tables which enable social distancing without any problem.  The large open area with a nice lawn in back of the brewery with some picnic tables provides additional space in addition to area for dogs (and kids) to roam, play frisbee, etc.

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Ferment specializes in farmhouse and “traditional English style” ales.   You know you are going to get a quality beer.  The Brewery won a Bronze Medal at the 2020 Oregon Beer Awards for its Bier de Garde and more impressively, a Gold Medal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival for their Pale Ale in the English-style category.  

The accolades for the Pale Ale continued in 2020 with a Silver Medal at the US Beer Open Championships (also one for the Pils Czech-Style Lager).  I had a Kolsch which was a very refreshing brew.   And we both had one of their cheeseburgers with fries – reasonably priced and delicious.

Dan Peterson, the head brewer who has degrees in microbiology and genetics at the University of Vermont was also head brewer at Pfriem down the street.  The owner’s interest in kombucha motivated him to explore and they offer three versions for those who prefer it to a pint of their good beer.

Pfriem Family Brewing

We visited Pfriem in 2016 and had lunch and beers on their great patio which has attractive and effective fire pits.  The views and the ambiance at Ferment are more noteworthy although Pfriem has a very nice taproom where you are surrounded by their impressive brewing equipment.

The menu at Pfriem is more expansive including roasted pork, quinoa and a couple of good salads besides the traditional pub faire avialable at Ferment.

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Pfriem in 2015

Pfriem has been making its award-winning beer since 2012 when it was created by three friends who became business partners with the motto “Proudly Crafted – Humbly Offered.”  

Their awards and featured articles are too numerous to mention from both regional and national publications (Draft Magazine, Forbes and Men’s Journal, etc.) including Brewery-of-the-Year, Best of Craft Beer and Best Brew Pub Experience.  And it’s a good place to work as evidenced by inclusion in the Portland Business Journal’s Most Admired Companies.

Both of these enterprises are sterling examples of Oregon’s independent craft breweries and make significant contributions to the region’s economy and the culture of their own community.  You can’t go wrong to take in some of Oregon’s finest scenery along with Oregon’s finest beers.

Cheers and Stay Safe!

Reflections on Western Towns and Cities – Part 1

I’ve mentioned in prior posts, our September 2019, fifteen-day 3,700-mile road trip through six western states.

And those who follow Thebeerchaser know that besides touring a number of fantastic National Parks and Monuments as well as the impressive Custer State Park, we visited wonderful bars and breweries – 29 of which I hit on my first six days (23 bars and 6 breweries).   After my first two nights in the village of Yaak, I stayed in scenic Montana cities of Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston.

A field at the city limits of Hamilton

The idea for this road journey emanated from the ten-day solo road trip I took through Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 2004 during part of a law firm sabbatical.  In that 2,600-mile journey in which I carried my Trek bicycle on our Subaru Forester and essentially had no planned itinerary except to explore and discover – also to escape my Blackberry….

Oh, to be 56 again — my 2004 Road Trip

A number of those miles were on gravel Forest Service roads – including the challenging Trail Creek Road out of Ketchum, Idaho shown in the photo with the cattle I saw along the way.

After staying at Oregon’s beautiful Wallowa Lake, and lodging for two nights nights in Stanley, Idaho,I stayed in Salmon, Idaho – right on the west border of Montana – and joined  a lot of folk rocking out to a country-western group at the Lantern Bar on Saturday night.

There was no room except one seat at the bar and I started talking to a construction worker about where I should head.   He was very helpful and I asked him if I could buy him a drink.  He responded “No.  But you can dance with my girlfriend.”  (Sitting next to him.)  She then made a valiant effort to teach me how to do the Cowboy Two Step.  (I was about the only guy in the bar without cowboy boots…)

The next morning I attended church at Salmon’s United Methodist Church where I enjoyed the sermon and talking with friendly members of the congregation at the coffee-hour afterwards. 

I then headed for Butte and marveled at the Big Sky Country and camped near Wisdom before staying my last night in Missoula.

Historical sites such as the Big Hole National Battlefield and the Historic Montana State Prison and Auto Museum at Deer Lodge took an entire day to adequately appreciate.

Of course, I also hit several of the “ghost towns” – all of which were fascinating, especially Bannack, Bonanza – home of the now restored Yankee Fork Dredge and nearby Custer, which has many of the historic structures preserved – founded in 1879 by a Harvard Law School graduate who gave up his law career to become a prospector.

Looking down from Boot Hill in Bannack

The seeds of Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars and Taverns which commenced upon retirement seven years later, were sown on that 2004 trip based on my initial visit to the legendary Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Stanley, Idaho and the the Dewey Bar in Wise River, Montana..

The Dewey Bar in Wise River, Montana

The narrative on those two bars can be viewed at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/09/08/beerchasing-in-idaho-part-ii-stanley-and-the-sawtooths/

and

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/08/19/pondering-during-the-pandemic-1/

Downtown Stanley

The Rod and Gun was operated from 1971 until his death in 1990, by the singer and songwriter Cassanova Jack.  It’s located just east of the corner of Ace of Diamonds and Wall Streets in Stanley.

Located in Custer County, the town has a population of a little less than 100 and winter temperatures that made it once, the coldest place in North America. It’s in the heart of the wonderous Sawtooth Mountains and the gateway to the Idaho backcountry.

I returned – this time with my wife in 2016, and Cassanova Jack’s brother and fellow musician, Jonny Ray, was an engaging host and full of stories on their days touring and captivating bar stories.

Jack’s band was named the Stardusters and Jonny Ray (who still is known as the “Singing Bartender“) subsequent band was named JR & Cheap-N-Easy

Johnny Ray at the Rod and Gun in 2016

The Dewey Bar, is really in a remote area – in Wise River, Montana, along the Big Hole River.  I camped that night in a Forest Service Campground.   I naively walked into what came close to being the first bar fight I witnessed.

Due to the mediating skill of a retired attorney from Seattle, the fracas was avoided when he admonished the two guys on the brink of fisticuffs in a commanding voice, “If you two will sit down and shut up, I’ll buy everybody in the house a drink.” 

This was followed by rousing cheers and a fairly hefty bar bill which he gladly dispatched.  I then spent the next hour sharing lawyer stories and a few drinks with this former counselor, which was the last time I’ve ever seen him. (I checked with the regulars to see if he was still around when I went back in 2019.)

Telling law firm stories in 2004

Just as in the fall 2019 trip, in my earlier road journey, besides the magnificent scenery, I was captivated by the rich history and most notably, the character and heritage of some of the smaller cities such as Stanley and Salmon, Idaho; Darby and Missoula, Montana; and Joseph and Baker Oregon. 

American Historian

This journey reaffirmed Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”:

“….the American character was decisively shaped by conditions on the frontier, in particular the abundance of free land, the settling of which engendered such traits as self-reliance, individualism, inventiveness, restless energy, mobility, materialism, and optimism.” (Britannica.com)

The Sawtooth Range from the outskirts of Stanley

On the 2019 trip, I also discovered that Turner’s premise shapes the political philosophy of Montana residents but more about that in Part II.

My trip in 2004 was ten unforgettable days of adventure and gaining an appreciation for the rustic western countryside.

Janet – “Don’t Even Think About It!”

Runkle – An invitation for a bucket list item….

When we discussed the 2019 proposed route for our trip, my wonderful spouse of 40 years, informed me in unequivocal terms that she was not going to take a several hundred mile side trip to the far NW corner of Montana so I could visit the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak.

This storied bar had been a bucket list item since shortly after I started this blog in 2011 and had talked to the owner, John Runkle.  He  extended an invitation to visit him and stay in Yaak.  I was therefore downcast with the ultimatum….

But through the negotiating process, refined over those four decades, she then generously agreed to my spending the first six days sans companion and picking her up when she flew into Billings, Montana to complete the rest of our trek.  Now you know why I honored Janet with Thebeerchaser-of-the-Year title in 2015.

In South Dakota’s Badlands National Park

So like a little kid on Christmas Eve, I drove the 520 miles from our residence in West Linn – a burb of Portland – to Yaak where I stayed for two nights in the Wolf Room of the Yaak River Lodge – it’s also owned by John Runkle – and about a mile down the highway from his saloon.

Yaak, with a year-round population of about 250 is an unincorporated community with minimal commercial operations and on which the “Welcome To” and “Come Again” signs could theoretically be placed on the same telephone pole.  It’s thirty miles west of Route 2 in the heart of the Kootenai National Forest on the Yaak River Road.

The Yaak River

But it was a wonderful start to the trip.  John was an outstanding host and I loved the people I met those two days on which I will expand in my next blog post.

On the remaining four days before I picked up Janet, I drove our Prius (sans gun rack) while being enthralled with the sights from Flathead Lake to the 585 foot Anaconda Smelter Stack.   My companion, of sorts, was Sirius Satellite Radio and I rotated through the channels from Jazz, to classical to Big Band, while always returning to Classic Country.

A plethora of styles on Sirius

That’s because these tunes helped capture the mood while visiting bars such as the historic Montana Bar in Miles City – serving folk since 1908 – shown below.  Each watering hole was filled with friendly bartenders and regulars, wild animal trophies, spittoons (a few) and juke boxes.

And they didn’t play the new pseudo country rock tunes – but the old-time vocalists I love, most notably, George Jones, Don Williams, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and more recent crooners like Alan Jackson and Dan Seals.

Unfortunately, I never heard the tune I longed for “She Was a Bootlegger’s Daughter and I Loved Her Still.” 

(Maybe that one was a figment of my imagination and I made up the title while downing a Miller High Life at the Antlers Saloon in Wisdom.

The Champagne of Bottled Beers

Now with the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, I’ve had a lot more time to reflect – rather than visit new bars.  And what brought back the best memories were some of the towns and smaller cities which just seemed like great communities to live, work and raise a family.

I’ll talk about that in my next post, but since I mentioned Dan Seals, it’s fitting – at least in my view – to end with some of the lyrics of his song, “God Must be a Cowboy at Heart” which perfectly captures the sentiment engrained on that trip.

Sleepin’ in the moonlight
A blanket for my bed
Leaves a peaceful feelin’ in my mind…
Wakin’ up in the mornin’
With an eagle overhead
Makes me want to fly away before my time

And I think God must be a cowboy at heart
He made wide open spaces from the start…
He made grass and trees and mountains
And a horse to be a friend
And trails to lead old cowboys home a-gain…

Along Montana Highway 43 near Wisdom

A Plea for Common “Cents” …..$

A  number of recent Beerchaser posts have chronicled the challenges faced by Oregon bars and breweries over the last year because of the pandemic.  Demonstrations/riots in the City of Portland, which have made national news and wildfires which ravaged the State, exacerbated the virus-caused lockdowns – all economically adverse.

Another unfortunate victim – closed indefinitely

Then most recently, a once-in-a-lifetime ice storm caused widespread power outages and again shut down business just as many had gotten the green-light to reopen.

For example, the innovative Oregon Public House closed its doors in November and the excerpt from its website is typical:

“This choice, made by our Board of Directors, reflects the reality of where we are after many months of reduced sales and related challenges….In this moment of ‘freezing’ restaurants and other businesses, we hope that you choose to support small and local businesses in whatever way that you can, because many of them have been struggling in the same way that the pub has.”

Well, I’m amazed and appalled to report that a new – avoidable specter – now rears its ugly head.  It’s one that could throw another wrench into the efforts of the beverage and hospitality industry to survive.  This one was originated by some sorely misguided, myopic and, quite frankly, apparently mindless individuals – mindless at least given the economic context.

Just as the virus has invaded our daily existence, it seems like common sense has often concurrently evaporated.  A number of times during the pandemic, I have uttered the phrase, “What were they thinking?” – the most recent involving a Cancun getaway, but there have been many others and not just those which make us laugh when we read the annual Darwin Awards.

Even those with a net worth of $87 billion sometimes make crazy financial decisions….

Like Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Pederson’s decision to give a third-string quarterback playing time in a game with playoff implications for other teams.  Then there was Vice President, Mike Pence visiting the Mayo Clinic without a mask in May 2020 and Mayo Clinic officials not challenging this action.

A leading stock market newsletter even questioned the legendary investment guru recently with an article entitled, “Berkshire Hathaway: Respectfully, Mr. Warren Buffett, What Were You Thinking? “(BRK.A) | Seeking Alpha

This time – and in one of the most egregious – it’s several Oregon Legislators (Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) and Rep. Rachel Prusak ( D-West Linn) and an Oregon non-profit – Oregon Recovers – led by its Executive Director, Mike Marshall – who are proposing an extreme increase in alcohol taxes.

“Marshall said businesses could pass the increase in cost to consumers, arguing that the tax hike is the only way to curb harmful consumption and binge drinking.”  (emphasis added)  (KOIN.com 3/2/21)

As reported in this Fortune.com article article excerpt, they are proposing to raise $293 million over the next two years by this tax increase.

“Oregon brewers and vintners could see a dramatic rise in the cost of doing business if a new bill making its way through the state legislature passes. Oregon House Bill 3296 seeks to increase the state’s beer tax by 2,800% and wine tax by 1,700%.

Officials in Oregon’s wine industry say the bill would result in a $2 or more price increase on every bottle of wine sold in the state. Beer and cider could see even bigger jumps.”

Beer tax – from $2.60 per barrel to $72.60 in one fell swoop

Currently the Oregon tax on each barrel of beer is $2.60.  House Bill 3296 would increase that tax by $70 to an astounding $72.60 a barrel.  For beer, this would amount to about thirty-one cents per pint.

Michaeal LaLonde, the President and CEO of Bend’s Deschutes Brewery, stated;

“Unfortunately, a recent economic report from the Beer Institute and Brewers Association estimates 25% of those Oregon beer jobs will be lost by the end of 2020 because of the COVID-19 recession.” 

His 10/12/20 guest editorial in the Bend Bulletin responding to the proposal also asserted:

“Oregon is proposing to kick you when you’re down. COVID-19 has hit the restaurant, food, and beverage industry hard. In order to shore up state coffers, the Oregon Health Authority has released a proposal to raise $293 million by increasing the tax on beer, wine, and cider by 800%.  Not staggered, not stepped, but an instant 800% increase. The consequences would be simply devastating.” *

* Evidently the original Oregon Health Authority proposal in Gov. Kate Brown’s budget last October was for the 800% proposal and the more draconian increase followed in February by the Legislators in HB 3296.

Portland’s renowned Oregon Brewers’ Festival

As an example of the hardships, it was announced just this week that for the second year in a row, the Oregon Brewers’ Festival – Oregon’s largest and one of the longest-running in the nation – according to Willamette Week  is canceled this summer – again!

“Recovers” is a relative term…..

It is ironic when small business owners are wondering if they will survive and how they are going to recover after what they’ve faced in last year, that the Co-chair of Oregon Recovers stated:

“As we recover from the pandemic, it’s critical that we adopt strategies to protect our families and increase prosperity.” (emphasis added)

To ensure that those promoting the idea get the point, one more recent statistic – this one from Guy Tauer, an economist in the Oregon State Employment Division:

“Leisure and hospitality had 211,000 jobs in December of 2019 and by December 2020 employment fell to 129,400, essentially erasing the industry’s previous 25 years of job gains,” Tauer writes. “Of the 178,200 payroll jobs Oregon lost during that time, 81,600 of those, or 46.9%, were in the leisure and hospitality sector.”

There have been debates over the years about sin taxes – on alcohol, tobacco, gambling and more recently, sugary drinks, and there are pros and cons. There’s essentially a consensus, however, that sin taxes are regressive and the heaviest burden is on lower income individuals.

Will it accomplish its purpose in reducing addiction and underage drinking or just reduce consumption generally and hurt small businesses?  And how effective have Oregon’s addiction and recovery programs been to this point without adding substantial millions – especially since there is no infrastructure to handle the increased funding.

From the Oregon Recovers web page:

“Build A New System of Intervention:  ACRA will shift the burden of engagement and/or intervention in an individual’s substance use from the criminal justice system to the healthcare system by providing healthcare, social service, education and criminal justice professionals with the education and tools needed to engage patients earlier in their addiction.” (emphasis added)

It’s true that Oregon businesses have a stake in reducing alcohol addiction which is a drain on productivity and increases the cost of operations. I notice, however, that with one exception (Andrew Rowe) no one on the Oregon Recovers Steering Committee (Board) indicates having worked in the private sector or having a business background – nor does its Executive Director.

And the people of Oregon have been very generous in approving taxes for social causes – most notably in Portland where in May – during the height of the pandemic – a nationally innovative homeless service tax measure was approved.

It will raise $250 million annually for ten years towards funding behavioral health services, job training and other services for homeless people.

While it is true that the current tax on beer in Oregon is one of the lowest in the country and has not been raised since 1977, the approach in this legislation (HB 3296) is clearly not the way to accomplish it.  Oregonians are empathetic and will endorse reasonable ideas to address alcohol addiction and underage drinking.

The Oregon Beverage Alliance has started a petition drive entitled “Don’t Tax My Drink” to ask local Oregon lawmakers to oppose tax increases on Oregon breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, restaurants, bars and their customers.

To this observer, the tax proposal is brazen and arrogant.  Remember the pandemic slogan, “We’re all in this together?”  So I hope people will write to Mike Marshall and Reps Sanchez and Prusak.   You might start your communication by asking, “What were you thinking?”  And let’s hope that at least a modicum of common “cents” will prevail.

And Cheers to the Oregon Brewers’ Guild!

Destiny of the Dives!

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My beloved City is a MESS!

Portland, Oregon – the Rose City – again made national news last week because of continuing riots.   The city has served as an unfortunate national example of the most contentious and continuous riots/demonstrations since March.

A riot in August and still going on….

Many of those participating are exercising their First Amendment rights and feel strongly about the causes eliciting their participation.

That said, many just revel in  looting, indiscriminate violence and attacking law enforcement officers and demonstrators opposed to their views – if they even have them.

The question is how long does this continue especially given the impact on downtown businesses, many of which are small family-owned enterprises.   A 1/24 headline in  Oregonian entitled, “Pedestrians Vanish from Downtown” stated that foot traffic is down 80% from 2019.

Economist, Bill Conerly

Well known Oregon economist, Bill Conerly, describes the current situation and the implications in an excellent article in Forbes Magazine entitled “Death Of A City – The Portland Story.”

The impressive high-rise building in which I worked for twenty five years now has a fence around it to prevent vandalism and Starbucks and other vendors have disappeared from its lobby. (They were possibly going to remove it after the Inauguration.)

PacWest Center –Now fenced off and mostly vacant lobby.

This led the Oregonian in a January 22, story to ask, “What are we Marching for?  On inauguration days in Portland, protestors and observers wonder alike.”

“An on-the-ground view of Wednesday’s protest shows the lack of cohesion, the divergent ideas of what constitutes free speech in Portland and the turbulence of the crowd…..’I don’t know where the %*#% I’m going, but I don’t give a *&^%,’ yelled Princess Warner (20)……’This is the worst *&^% march I’ve ever attended,’ another one yelled.”

Other than hoping that someone shows Princess the *&^%$ way to Disneyland, I won’t make any other comments except to say, the riots are a primary factor contributing to the demise of my beloved dive bars (and other businesses.)

A grunge bar with character…

Just a few blocks away from where this unlawful assembly occurred and my former office, is the diminutive Yamhill Pub – not a dive, but a noted grunge bar that I featured in 2015 – home of $1.50 PBR Happy Hours.

In my last post I wrote about the GoFundMe campaign to save the Yamhill – struggling to survive based on pandemic considerations and restrictions.  Although the pub had a Facebook post on January 5th, nobody answered the phone tonight (Friday) – not a good sign.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/01/07/leaving-2020-in-good-taste/

The grunge bar interior at the Yamhill

The Concern….

I have written about dive bars before in Thebeerchaser – first trying to define them in 2011 – “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First” but also periodically citing the concern about their continuing existence.  A Portland Mercury article in 2016 featuring the Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society stated:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.”

This 2016 piece listed twelve classic Portland dives that might be endangered:

Reel’ M Inn, Billy Rays, Kenton Social Club, Georges, the Trap, Ship Ahoy, Blue Diamond, Tavern on Denver, Checkered Flag, My Father’s Place, Slims, Water Trough Saloon and the Lariat Lounge

Billy Ray’s – Still a Neighborhood Institution

The good news is that of these, only two have closed permanently – Tavern on Denver and the Water Trough Saloon although the legendary Reel ‘M Inn – known for its fried chicken and jojos since 1994 – is closed indefinitely.  Fortunately, the others are still pouring cheap Budweiser to regulars.

West Coast Dave Hicks at the Reel M Inn

That said, every week one can read about other bars or breweries that have not weathered the pandemic lockdowns or the depressed economy.  The following January article from Portland Eater gives a fairly extensive list of the bars and eateries (about eighty) that have closed since the Pandemic.

I would add to that list the following three bars:  the Old Gold, Paydirt and the Oregon Public House (closed indefinitely.)

Since the Oregon Public House was an innovative community experiment, we hope that later this year they will reopen and not only serve good beer, but also continue their support of deserving non-profit organizations in accordance with their motto – “Have a Pint – Change the World.”

“Have a Pint – Change the World!”

For memories sake, I will just mention a few closures of the almost 400 bars and breweries visited and reviewed by Thebeerchaser since 2011 and the links will take you to the reviews if your are interested. There are two on the list of closures that I will highlight, because they break my heart and if you read the reviews I wrote, you will understand why (Links over the name)

Crackerjacks Pubthis wonderful pub – “a beloved dive bar and pizzeria for more than 30 years” – I visited twice in 2014 and was the closest to a Cheers ambiance of any in the ten years I’ve been on this exploration of watering holes.   

Thebeerchaser outside one of his favorite stops on the Tour

Sam and Jimmy – two gems met on Thebeerchaser’s Tour

The first visit was with my good friend, “West Coast Dave Hicks” and not only was the food great – as it was on the second visit – but the Manager – Sam and the cook, Jimmy were wonderful and friendly people.

The Tanker Bar – this beloved dive bar at the east end of Portland’s Barmuda Triangle “spent the last decade serving cheap well drinks and airing Blazer games.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my most frequent Beerchasing companions – Portland lawyer, Jim Westwood and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter – whose mom was my high school Latin teacher for two years, accompanied me in 2013 and also translated the motto – in Latin on the bar’s logo – for me “In heaven there is no beer, so that’s why we drink it here.”

The regulars will miss the Naughty Bingo Nights each Tuesday which had a signature cocktail list featuring The Naughty Bingo Martini.  Jesse, the bartender, was a class act and helped make this early stop on my tour of bars a memorable one.

Jesse and Jim Westwood share stories at the corner of the bar

Sidecar 11 – this upscale “hole in the wall” bar visited in 2013, was not one of the most memorable, but distinguished itself with signature cocktails and an  impressive wine list.  The bar also featured great art by local artists.

One of the many good bars on Portland’s Mississippi Ave, Sidecar 11 closed “after years selling barrel-aged cocktails and whiskey flights.”  It also had a beautiful backbar displaying an incredible array of whiskeys.

The General and Aaron

As usual, the bartender, Aaron, was friendly and I also enjoyed my companion, retired lawyer and Air Force National Guard General, Larry Paulson, who after he left our law firm became the Executive Director of the Port of Vancouver until his retirement.

Portland Brewing – This one is also based on sentiment because my former law firm (Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt) represented them for many years.  Our partner, John Guinasso, who provided excellent legal counsel to the Brewery for many years, would periodically bring a case of their flagship beer – MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale – to the office on Friday afternoons and we would toast the end of the week.

The brewery was founded in 1986 and has flourished with a great taproom and restaurant:

“(In 2008,) it was sold to Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing and then this entity was acquired by North American Breweries in 2010 and based in Rochester, New York. Two years later in 2012 this conglomerate of breweries was purchased by Florida Ice & Farm Co., based in Costa Rica.”) 

And that, my Beerchaser friends, illustrates why we should be concerned with the future of independent breweries as well as the neighborhood dive bar.

A Hint of Optimism

I’ll close with at least some good news.  A number of existing bars and breweries – those with a combination of sufficient space, adequate capital and management creativity and just plain grit – have either expanded or innovated to stay open and in some cases, grow and prosper.  Below are some captions for the stories on these enterprises:

Buoy Tap Room – Expansion Planned

Astoria’s Buoy Beer and Pilot House Distilling Are Preparing for Growth Along the Columbia River – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

http://Migration Brewing Is Opening Its Fourth Location in the Former Hopworks Space on North Williams Avenue – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Produce Row Cafe Has Reopened Its Patio for Service After a Two-Month Closure – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

The great patio at the reopened Produce Row

The Owners of Roscoe’s Have Turned an Old-School Chinese Restaurant Into the Craft Cocktail Bar North Portland Has Long Needed – Willamette Week (wweek.com)

Beerchaser Regular Westwood at pre-pandemic Beerchase at Mad Hanna

https://www.wweek.com/bars/2020/12/16/one-northeast-portland-dive-bars-plan-for-surviving-the-pandemic-transitioning-into-a-general-store/

The owners of Mad Hanna have come up with one of the most innovative ideas by integrating a new General Store adjacent to the bar and I would bet that it will continue to thrive after the pandemic is over.

If you have not checked out this wonderful neighborhood-dive bar, you should definitely put it on your list and try their $4.50 Happy Hour peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I am grateful to my friend Hillary Barbour, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville. who introduced it to me and I returned with Beerchaser regular, Jim Westwood. (And Northwesterners, if you have not tried Burgerville take-out during the pandemic, you are missing out.)

And you can see others examples.  For instance, last weekend Church Bar – whose motto is “Eat Drink and Repent” – did a live, virtual concert entitled, “Save Church Bar.”

Mansfield toasting 95 patents at Church

I certainly hope this innovative bar with great ambiance survives so my former Schwabe colleague, Intellectual Property attorney, Jon Mansfield, can again post his 95 Patents in commemoration of Martin Luther’s 1517 masterpiece “Ninety-five Theses” on the entrance.

16th Century Theologian Martin Luther

As you can see by the example from the photo above while Jon was drinking a cocktail at the bar, he and the great theologian have a striking resemblance!

Onward and Upward

But all of us – whether in Portland, Boston or Amsterdam – can help these establishments to survive until they reopen and normal Beerchasing can occur.

Get a gift card, or order takeout – food and/or a growler (tip well!)  (The Oregon Legislature passed a bill this month in Special Session in which bars can now sell cocktails-to-go provided some food is purchased with the highball.)  Or just call the owner or manager, offer encouragement and tell them you will return when you can.

Because the alternative, if many of these independent entrepreneurs go out of business, is their locations to be absorbed by Applebee’s or a bar such as the Yard House – a sterile chain of bars owned by the same corporate entity as the Olive Garden and in my 2016 review I concluded that it did not “measure up.”  (Are you prepared for unlimited garlic bread with your pint of beer?)

Portland’s Yard House – Is this the kind of entrance you want to see on your neighborhood bar?

Wear Your Mask, Stay Safe and Blessings in the New Year.

Leaving 2020 in “Good Taste”?

Image courtesy of Pam Williams

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The Taste of Beer – Follow-up

In my last post, I did a rant, of sorts, about beer reviews – where some of the descriptions of my favorite beverage, in the reviewers’ attempt to be creative, are ridiculous.   I had saved examples clear back to 2014 to illustrate my point.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/12/23/holiday-cheer-and-the-taste-of-beer/

The Von Ebert Boarmobile

The reaction was positive and I wanted to follow with one more current example – from Willamette Week’s 2019 Beer Guide.

It’s an excerpt from the eighth-ranking in their Beers-of-the-Year the Pilsner (4%) from Von Ebert Brewing – a small and good brewer right in Portland’s Pearl District

 I’ll follow with what I regard as some common sense advice on tasting beer from two experts.  I might add, that of all of them, this description was one of the most ludicrous although the brewery’s Pils is a great beer:

“When the first sip of Von Ebert’s Pilsner crosses your lips, it tastes as if you were reading a 19th-century love letter painstakingly translated from German.

Three different Pilsner malts, each with its own crackery nuance, join like the tiny gears inside an imported continental timepiece, ticking beneath a flowery blend of Perle, Saphir and Tettnanger hops lifted into your nose by spritzy natural carbonation. And after weeks of cold-temp lagering, you can actually read a letter through it.”

“Crackery nuance?”

Wie hat Ihnen diese Beschreibung gefallen?

Oh sorry, I meant “How did you like that description?”  I got so carried away with German that I forgot some of you may not be enlightened enough to know the nuances of German to English translation (much less the “crackery nuance” he mentions). The reviewer’s tirade of wacky similes made me laugh.

For some more practical advice, and because he is a smart and gifted entrepreneur with common sense and a great knowledge of beer, I asked Adam Milne, the owner of Old Town Brewing for his take. (His brewery also produces one of my five favorite beers – Shanghai’d English Style IPA – a 2018 Gold Medalist at the World Beer Cup.)  His e-mail stated:

“I always like one of two approaches. One is to use common terms that are known to beer drinkers, so the readers have a universal understanding. This can be words like bitter, hoppy, fruity, malty, IBU’s and many others. 

The second approach is to go outside the beer world for terms that apply to food and drinks that everyone is familiar with. This can be describing sodas, cakes, fruits or vegetables. Basically compare to any ingredient in a grocery store or made in a restaurant. This allows for people who are not as familiar with beer to easily relate.”

Goethe – did not mix German beer and love letters

Notice Adam did not use Shakespearean metaphors or an example from Wolfgang Von Goethe although the WW reviewer might have taken the advice from this 18th century German poet, playwright, novelist and scientist who opined:  “A person ‘hears’ only what they understand.” 

I thought another good source might be an article in Draft Magazine entitled “What a psycholinguist can tell us about how we describe beer flavors,” but unfortunately, Draft Magazine was discontinued in 2017 and the pieces is no longer available.

There was, however, a practical article entitled “How to Describe Beer Like a Pro,” that seems reasonable.  https://www.finedininglovers.com/article/how-describe-beer-pro

Finally, before I leave the subject, I have to give Parker Hall, the reviewer from Willamette Week at least some credit.  Although I think his beer reviews are pretentious, I respect his education and background.  He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music – a very respected institution, where he studied jazz percussion on a scholarship.

Oberlin – respected educational institution

“He remains a professional musician in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and is an award-winning homebrewer besides being a contributor to Portland’s alt-weekly Willamette Week.”

And While I’m Ranting About Reviews…

I guess before I depart from the subject of reviews, I’ll also talk a bit about book reviews.  Obviously, my exploits to new bars was stymied this year by the virus, so I read a lot more – mainly fiction, but also some good non-fiction works as well.

2020 warranted escapism so a much of my literary menu was thrillers by popular authors such as Lee Child, David Baldacci, Harlen Coban, etc.  But I found that relying on well known authors to rate their contemporaries is not very helpful in selecting a good read.  Usually, they are one or two sentence comments on the front or back covers and thrillers typically have phrases such as “fast-paced, a real page turner, superb plotting, absorbing nail-biter, an all-night read, etc.”

James Patterson writes of Lee Child, “I’m a fan.”   Best selling author, Lisa Gardiner writes of David Baldacci, “…one of the all-time best thriller authors,” and New York Times best-selling author Lisa Scottoline states, “Baldacci delivers, every time!”   One has to ask, with their writing demands and appearances, how thoroughly are these best-selling authors going to read and digest another writer’s book?

Perhaps others have arrived at the same conclusion as stated in a 2012 Los Angeles Times article,Why is Amazon deleting writers’ reviews of other authors’ books?”   The author quotes Amazon in a response to a reviewer inquiry:

Amazon Book Store

“We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.”  (emphasis supplied)

And, of course, this raises all kinds of questions such as, “How does one define ‘directly competing?'”  The article quoted one writer opining “….author-on-author reviews comprise so little of Amazon’s overall site content as to be nothing more than a “sparrow’s fart.”  Evidently, Amazon amended its position because the policy now allows authors to submit reviews of others’ books:

“….unless the author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process.”

A Solution?

Now since in the last blog post and this one, I railed against the over-the-top creative license by beer reviewers and now I’m slamming book reviews for being boring gibberish, one might ask, “Okay Don, what’s your solution?”

My answer – after giving it about the same amount of contemplation that Lisa Gardiner demonstrated in her review of David Baldacci’s book above – is in two parts:

First, since one of the purposes of book reviews and comments is to help readers avoid wasting their time on bad books and other literary works, reviews should be limited to those of lousy writers, poets and other artists.  To illustrate, I will use the example of English poet William Topaz McGonagal (1825-1902).

I became aware of him from a calendar of events in the Oregonian which noted the date of the death of the man “who is affectionately considered Britain’s worst ever poet.”  Upon researching, I learned that others “celebrate” him in more exalted terms – “The world’s worst poet.”

An excellent 2011 article in the British newspaper The Independent entitled, “The Story of William McGonagal” stated:

“In his lifetime, he was a music hall joke….He was paid five shillings for a public recital so that his mostly working-class audiences could jeer at his bad poetry or pelt him with rotten vegetables…..

….Yesterday, the writer and comedian Barry Cryer went on the Today programme to pay tribute to the Dundee bard, and recite the only poem McGonagall was ever paid to write, which was an advertisement for Sunlight soap:

Requires minimal elbow grease….

‘You can use it with great pleasure and ease — without wasting any elbow grease.'”

In concluding this section and without trying to overdo the topic –  albeit extremely fascinating –  I leave you with a poem he wrote after visiting New York City.  It gives credence to the Wikipedia summary:

“He won notoriety as an extremely bad poet who exhibited no recognition of, or concern for, his peers’ opinions of his work….. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme.

McGonagall’s fame stems from the humorous effects these shortcomings are considered to generate in his work. Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language.”

Empire State Building – Tall,  but more than thirteen “storeys”

“Jottings of New York” by William Topaz McGonagal

Oh mighty City of New York!  you are wonderful to behold,
Your buildings are magnificent, the truth be it told,
They were the only things that seemed to arrest my eye,
Because many of them are thirteen storeys high.

McCongagal died in Edinburgh in 1902 in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave  leaving behind a vast quantity of work and a reputation that endures more than a century after his death.

To reinforce my point – reviews of bad literary work are much easier to write, there is more consensus on the degree of unworthiness, it helps readers avoid wasting their time and it may actually help the author’s awareness.  (I just need to be hopeful that reviews of this blog and the manner in which I play the oboe since retirement will be only mildly disparaging when included under this standard.)

“Bard” Reviews

Furthering my argument to essentially limit critiques to lousy literature or maybe even substandard beer, I would submit that the model in the following article could be used to promote creativity and more inventive descriptions.    Book Bub published a captivating piece, “Twelve of the Funniest Shakespearean Insults” – replete with affronts which would be fit for describing either a shoddy literary work or hideous malted beverage.

For example, let’s assume you’re about 120 pages into a novel that is boring, puts you to sleep and has no redeeming literary value.  You could aptly describe it as, A fusty nut with no kernel,” (from Troilus and Cressida Act 2, Scene 1).

Now since my nickname is “Dirt” as you will see from the blog header above, I might take issue with the following.  It could describe an author who should be pursuing a career using his or her hands to produce a product other than the written word – O Gull! O Dolt! As ignorant as dirt!” (Othello Act 5, Scene 2)

Or let’s suppose you hit a new brewery and after sampling their flagship beer, you have to force yourself to swallow the loathsome malted concoction.  It would lead you to describe the brewer as, “Thou cream-faced loon,” (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 3) while describing his brew as “(A) mouthful of foul deformity.”  (Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2).

This scheme could be expanded to other classical philosophers such as Machiavelli who might have been describing a writer when he wrote  – “……fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.”

Socrates (left) with buddy, Aristotle

Or perhaps, Aristotle, advising a scribe to pursue another occupation – “To avoid criticism – say nothing, do nothing, be nothing!”

Upon reflection, it’s unfortunate that some of these utterances were not employed during the election cycle this last year.   So ends my rant and I guess, if reading annoying and trite reviews is my biggest annoyance, I’m pretty fortunate.

So Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser.  We are thrilled and encouraged that our two nurse daughters both recently received their COVID vaccinations and let us hope that the vaccines end up in arms around the world in a rapid, safe and responsible manner.

That said, since I’m a healthy, retired guy under 75, my older daughter when I asked her when she thought I would get my shot, responded with the following photo and said, “Drink up, Dad!”

So, until then, I will be a faithful mask wearer as I hope you will be.

The Coast is Clear……..Reflections

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

 

Well Beerchaser followers, I’ve told you since March that I’ve not been to any new watering hole because of the lockdown and pandemic.  

To be safe, we have just stayed away and confined our consumption of my favorite beverage to Happy Hours on our back deck with the exception of one visit to the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon. (see below)

We added to that one exception on October 15th however, when we went to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  On a beautiful fall Friday, my spouse convinced me to break away from the Siren Call of “Breaking News” on cable television and drive down the Oregon Coast from our base in Lincoln City on the Central Oregon Coast.  

A beautiful sunset the night before helped me to fully grasp the natural treasure that we have in our own backyard.  

We drove about 50 miles south along Oregon’s amazing scenic coastline momentarily escaping thoughts of COVID and focusing on breaking waves, seals and gulls populating dramatic rocky cliffs and the surrounding lush forest which complements the ocean views. 

And all the while, we remembered the legacy of Governor Tom McCall, whose actions in 1967 preserved public access to the beaches in the Oregon Beach Bill.

On our 2017 road trip

Yachats Brewing was not a new establishment for us – we had stopped here during a road trip in 2017 which I highlighted in a November blog post – it was a wonderful place to have lunch.  Still being cautious about COVID, we ate on the patio which is right on Highway 101.

We split a tasty pint named “Bestest Mensch” which is a hoppy and delicious collaboration with the innovative Wolf Tree Brewery a few miles up the road. Our server was friendly and helpful.

I had a delicious brisket sandwich while Janet’s chicken-salad sandwich was also a winner.  Yachats did a great job observing preventive and cautionary COVID measures so we were buoyed, so to speak, by the fact that this coastal brewery appeared to be thriving during these challenging times.

It was a wonderful day and we realized how fortunate we are to be able to have a day like this and will continue our prayers and support for those who are struggling with the pandemic.

A Quick Watering Hole Update

Bars, breweries and restaurants are some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic and I was saddened to see that Bailey’s Tap Room and it’s upstairs annex, the Upper Lip – reviewed in the early days of Thebeerchaser – closed permanently.  

Bailey’s featured twenty-four rotating taps of great microbrews and was a repeat recipient of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America.

I won’t go into all of the closures in Portland but to give you an idea of the breadth of this economic downtown for the hospitality industry, other shut-downs include Back Pedal Brewing  on NW Flanders, Grixen Brewery – a SE Portland brewery established in 2013 which was:

 “….one of the area’s most striking brewpubs with open-beam high ceilings and old-growth timber repurposed into table tops and other accents.  Modern-industrial custom metalworks graced the space, with rolling bar-table frames and a 600-pound lighting trust above the length of the bar.” (Oregonian, 8/19/20) 

We visited Grixen early this year as my neighbor was one of the three owners, but I didn’t have the chance to write a Beerchaser review.)

Another innovative brewery – Base Camp – which is owned by Justin Fay, a graduate of the Oregon State University Fermentation Science Program and opened in 2012 by some Klamath Falls friends, shut down its Buckman Neighborhood brewery:

“The taproom with its spacious outdoor areas, fire-pit and food-cart pod, was a popular spot for years, attracting neighborhood regulars and drawing from Portland’s beer tourism as the scene exploded around it, all while spreading the outdoor life mantra.” (Oregonian 8/19/20)

Even some of the stalwarts of the Oregon Craft Industry are having to revamp their operations to cut operating costs because of reduced patronage.  For example, Rogue Brewing shut its public house in the Pearl District in September after 20 years (Willamette Week) although its two other Portland locations will remain open.

The BeerMongers

With the closures above, I was heartened to see that another early destination when I started Beerchasing – The BeerMongers – celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. 

I went to this eastside bottle shop and taproom with former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, in 2014 right after he assumed the Executive Director position of the City Club of Portland.cxcvx

The BeerMongers  is “known for its artfully curated selection of beers, being named the Best Beer Bar in Oregon by Craftbeer.com in 2018.”  (Oregonian 8/30/19)  The owner of Porto Bello, the pizzeria – a vegan trattoria in the same building as the bar in between BeerMongers and a tattoo parlor next door – came over to our table and said:

“Sam Adams, we really miss you.  I want to buy you guys a pizza!” 

Sam Adams and Porto Bello owner

She came back ten minutes later with a delicious complimentary pizza which meshed perfectly with the pints we drank. 

Unfortunately, it appears that Porto Bello wasn’t still around to celebrate with its neighbor in 2019.

The Monks’ Legacy Continues

Some of you know that I was involved as a volunteer in the planning of the Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom, which opened in the fall of 2018 on land owned by the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary in the rural area east of Salem. 

The community effort in erecting the structure in late 2017 is a wonderful story (check out the videos in the post below) and it’s one of only three breweries in the US owned and operated by Benedictine Monks.   https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

A skilled brewer – Father Martin Grassel

And former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Fr. Martin Grassel, the Manager and Head Brewer reported that the first year of operations was a great success.  He brewed 118 barrels with sales that greatly exceed expectations that year.

When the pandemic hit in March and with the lockdown, only take-out sales were allowed for ten weeks in 2020, but since reopening,  the Brewery continues to thrive with August being the highest month of sales since opening in 2018.

My wife and I can confirm that the Taproom was very cognizant of COVID measures and has an expansive patio area which allows social distancing.   The Taproom will soon have a permanent heated pavilion tent above it during winter months.  

And the best part of was taking the short hike up to the Abbey Hilltop and strolling around the  campus with outstanding views.  The beautiful chapel has also reopened.

While the ambiance and the scenery is a real draw, the key is Fr. Martin’s growing skill as a brewer.

With over ten beers now on tap, this former software engineer has drawn rave reviews for the quality and taste of his brews with the St. Michael’s Helles being the most popular although the flagship Black Habit is also a favorite.

And take a look at the charcuterie plate that you can enjoy while drinking one of Fr. Martin’s beers.

Survival of the Fittest?

Speaking of the pandemic, there’s nothing remotely funny about this global tragedy, but maybe it helps a little to try to look on the light side when one can – for example, this post from one of my favorite dive bars.

Darwin’s Theory is in downtown Anchorage and owned by a fellow Oregon State University alumnus.  This “story” was in it’s latest newsletter.

Darwin wrote: “We were in the 11th day of self quarantine.  As I saw my wife quietly standing in front of the living room window staring off into space with tears running down her face, it was breaking my heart.  I was trying to think of some way to cheer her up.  In fact, I almost considered letting her inside, but rules are rules!”

Maybe he named his bar Darwin’s Theory because of his adherence to the concept “Survival of the Fittest”.

“Dough nut” Follow This Example!

In a previous Beerchaser post where I cover the legal profession and how I enjoyed working with lawyers for over thirty-five years, I mentioned some bizarre cases.  Some of the most recently appreciated essential workers have been emergency responders although this 2001 incident reported by MyPlainview.com addresses an incident some years ago. 

The incident precipitating the lawsuit was bizarre:

“An ambulance driver was fired after being accused of stopping for doughnuts while taking a patient to the hospital….The incident occurred while (he) was taking a boy to the hospital with a leg injury.  The injury was not life threatening.  The boy’s mother filed a complaint.”

“Eat one whenever you want”…Not!”

But perhaps more bizarre was the fact that the driver then filed suit against the City of Houston for intentional infliction of emotional distress and racial discrimination. 

While initially a judge rejected the City’s effort to have the case dismissed and ordered the plaintiff to amend his lawsuit, all of the claims were ultimately dismissed in July 2002. (I’ve been saving that one up for a long time….)

Cheers and Stay Safe!

 

Pondering the Pandemic – No. 2

The historic New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana – notice the albino mule deer

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

As I’ve mentioned in my last few posts – probably self-evident – visits to new watering holes whether bars or breweries are temporarily on hold for Thebeerchaser.  That said, I have a lot of old memories and thoughts about my favorite topic which can still provide grist to loyal followers – at least for awhile.

That was true reminiscing about our road trip through Montana last year in the recent post (see link below)  and that narrative was about just five of the 49 new establishments we visited on that 3,700 mile trip — like the historic New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana.

Joan Melcher, who wrote two books on Montana bars described the New Atlas  – one of her favorites below – and the second paragraph is a little curious.  The New Atlas, indeed, was one of the most curious of the forty-nine bars we hit on the trip:

“Hulking throughout the room are bald eagles, an albino mule deer fawn, a coyote howling to the moon, young bobcats fighting an Audak (African mountain sheep), a Canadian lynx, raccoon or two, a fox, a snow owl. moose heads, elk heads – buffalo, antelope, mountain sheep – all kinds of heads…

Amused acceptance?!  What’s the other option??

…..There’s a queer sensation that goes with drinking sur-rounded by dead, stuffed animals.  The first reaction is one of nonchalance – ah some nice stuffed animals. 

After a few drinks, you feel countless pairs of eyes bearing down.  You have another beer to relax under their scrutiny, look around again, and you’re among friends, the animals’ glares having softened to amused acceptance.”

The last post with the five other Montana bar descriptions (Trapper’s Saloon in Eureka, the Saw Mill Saloon in Darby – a town with a legendary Town Marshal, the Wise River Club in Wise River, the Antler Saloon in Wisdom and the Dewey Tavern also in Wise River – all Montana classics is at the link below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/08/19/pondering-during-the-pandemic-1/

A Return to the Central Oregon Coast

Right now, however, I’m coming back to Oregon – some of my favorite spots – dive bars on the Oregon Coast. These institutions are in jeopardy especially since the pandemic and be protected as should any endangered species such as the Washington golden mantel ground squirrel…..

The Sportsman in Pacific City

One of the great resources in the earlier days of this blog (2011-14) was a similar blog I came upon in doing research for my posts.  Matt Love, a prolific and talented author and now owner of a small Astoria publishing house he founded in 2003 – The Nestucca Spit Press

His blog, “Let it Pour”, originated as a popular column in Hipfish Monthly, an alternative magazine in Astoria. He no longer maintains the site and unfortunately a number of the watering holes are no longer in business..

Matt in his younger days sans beard…

Matt is a keen observer of both the ambiance of dive bars and the interactions that take place among the patrons – and is an expert in describing those in entertaining style.  Take this one from LetItPour.net that made me check out the Old Oregon as one of my first Coast dives.

“(It’s) a damn fine gritty place to drink beer – a lot of beer….The regulars call it The Old O and after spending time there over the years, I feel it is not too outrageous to suggest the nickname stands not only for The Old Oregon Tavern in Lincoln City — which it does — but really some of the patrons’ last long ago orgasm.  Maybe in the Johnson Administration.”

The interior of the Old O reflects the taste of the owners and its rich history as a tavern.  According to one patron who smoked cigarettes (Matt wrote this before the 2009 law banning smoking) and drank beer while attached to a portable oxygen tank, the joint dates to World War II, but maybe earlier.”

So with some curiosity, but no expectations, I hunkered into the Old O – right on Highway 101 in the heart of Lincoln City with my brother-in-law, Dave Booher and our friend, Steve Larson for a few beers and to observe. 

As per my usual Beerchaser process, I was sitting at the bar drinking draft PBR’s, asking the bartender questions and taking photos around the quaint place.  As per Matt’s observation about the family character of Coast dives, we noted  there was going to be a wake for a recently deceased regular – “Rod.”  We did not take the sign literally and assumed that when it stated, “Have a drink on Rod,” that his casket was not going to be in the Old O for the celebration.

A wake – but no casket….

Then, in walks a very stocky middle-aged guy in a motorcycle jacket and hat and purposefully strides towards a seat at the back of the bar where he could observe everything going on.   The bartender said softly, “That’s Irish Mike – our local ambassador.”   I took a few more pictures and rejoined my companions at the bar.

At that point Irish Mike pointed and motioned me to come to his chair.  With some trepidation, but also curiosity, I headed back to him and as I approached, he reached into his wallet and pulled out two one-dollar bills.  He stared at me and said:

“It’s your turn to plug the juke box. Don’t screw it up!”

Irish Mike and Thebeerchaser

Fortunately, he liked my selections of Van Morrison and the Eagles.  We had a great chat and I found out that he is a retired exec from San Francisco and rides his Harley up to Oregon a few times a year and the Old O is always one of his stops.

That stop after three years of Beerchasing, affirmed that there were many more yarns in the future. My stories, however, pale to Matt’s Love’s.  So take a look at his newspaper-tabloid publication Oregon Tavern Age – a bargain at $10 or three copies for $20 at his Nestucca Spit Press website where you will also find other wonderful books on Oregon he has written.

Before we get to OTA, the picture above gives me reason to momentarily digress.   I asked Matt what spurred his fascination with beavers – pervasive and tactically placed throughout the almost eighty different bar tails… (sorry – I couldn’t resist) tales throughout the 58-page OTA publication.

I thought it might be because he, like I, was an OSU grad but he got his degrees at Portland State and Lewis and Clark.  His captivation with the flat-tailed, semi-aquatic rodent was a product of observing them in the woods during his walks on the Oregon coast and his collection of beaver wood – an obsession, of sorts, for the last ten years – and an amazing sight adjacent to his RV.

Beaverwood – ten years worth…

The topic of Beavers then provides a convenient segue to my next topic – Oregon State Football and whether the Beavs under Coach Jonathan Smith will exceed expectations this fall.

However, not only will the Beaver quarterbacks, lineman and defensive backs, etc. be occupied otherwise on Saturday afternoons, but so will the midfielders on the soccer team and the setter and outside hitter on the volleyball team.

The Pac 12, as did some of the other NCAA conferences made the wise decision to protect athletes and fans by either suspending or delaying fall and winter sports.

So instead of being on the gridiron, the Beaver football players will have a chance to spend time in the library until at least next spring and help bolster the academic standing of OSU – possibly to a scholastic peak that the football team can be proud of. Thus, any current discussion of football would be strictly academic……

Oregon Tavern Age

Don’t bother Googling Oregon Tavern Preservation Society. That’s Matt’s imagination…

Matt describes how the phrase was coined based on an experience thirty-four years ago when he and some friends were sitting in Seaside’s The Beach Club, drinking 50-cent drafts:

“A man blasted through the door and obliterated the tavern’s somnolent mood.  His hair was feathered….and perfect.  He appeared anywhere from 40 to 70 years old.  Many years later, I coined the phrase ‘Oregon Tavern Age’ or ‘OTA’ to describe the condition….*1

The man’s name was Larry or Wayne, both solid OTA names.  He sat down with us at the bar.  He was loud.  I struck up a conversation with him and learned he had $10,000 in cash stuffed into his pants pocket…..*2

He had cashed a check the previous afternoon – a settlement from an injury suffered in an automobile accident and was ready to party down – hard.  He bought the house a round, screamed an encouraging profanity, and then bolted out the door.”

*1 I am appalled now that I’m 72, Matt doesn’t consider me part of OTA.  Through my lawyer, I will consider notifying federal and state agencies (such as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission) and WCTU (?) on possible sanctions for age discrimination.

*2  Wayne or Larry probably only had about 70% of that amount of cash on him as his lawyer would have taken the other 30% as his or her contingency fee.

This was clearly not the last or even a tiny slice of the stories and observations Love makes in this treatise that was so interesting and enjoyable to me that I used a yellow highlighter so I could come back and savor parts of it again later.

Matt published OTA in 2019, but these stories go back years to:

“…the halcyon days of Oregon tavern life:  no liquor, no craft beers, no meth, no video poker or  slots, smoke-filled and the classic cheap Pacific Northwest lagers brewing in the Pacific Northwest by union men reigned supreme.”

Now based on the 375 watering holes I have visited, I have a lot of stories, but Matt is a master of observation not only of the human interaction, but the trappings and character of these dives.  He converts the notes he took “jotting down observations with a pencil on a golf score card” and his conversations with the regulars into a captivating collection of stories and anecdotes with great graphic illustrations – courtesy of his ex-wife.

It will make you want to drive down to Pacific City and have a draft Budweiser at the Sportsman Pub and Grub where for years, Matt served as the bar’s Writer in Residence (Thebeerchaser reviewed this great dive in October 2014.)

“I like Old!”

For example, his observation upon getting a recommendation to check out the Crow’s Nest Lounge in Gold Beach – although being warned it’s regulars were an older crowd:

“’Good,’ I thought. I like old.”   That’s where the real OTA action unfolds like so much frozen molasses locked inside a glacier.  I hate fast bars with loud, dumb kids throwing down jello shots while fiddiling on their fancy phones.  They need a little Black Velvet to calm then down…..We all do.”

And I can just visualize Matt, sitting at a dark red booth with cracked vinyl, enveloped in second-hand smoke and nursing a cheap Hamm’s – this as he observed a guy drinking white wine:

“The white wine hailed from a black box.  The man sat next to another OTA man drinking Budweiser from a tall can.  In the wings, a female bartender fiddled on her phone.  The Stanley Cup Final highlights played quietly on a flatscreen.

At a nearby table, an OTA woman drank coffee and ate clam chowder and dunked a peanut butter bar, in both, while reading a firearms magazine.  She hacked an ex-smoker’s hack between dunks and turning the pages.”

Now there have been about eight dives on the coast that have either closed permanently or indefinitely suspended operations   It’s not possible for someone to open a new dive bar – it’s somewhat of a contradiction of terms. And Matt is the cerebral vault in which many of the stories are maintained and only unlocked on special occasions.  For example:

“One day, many years ago, a woman sat in Pitch’s Tavern in Port Orford.   She saw a horse drinking beer from a saucer on the counter.  On another visit, she saw a live boxer crab holding an unlit cigarette in one claw and a glass of beer in the other.”

The author is sometimes maudlin and philosophical in his musings and I will leave you with his rhetorical question and the recommendation that you order the Oregon Tavern Age and join Thebeerchaser in reveling at the stories of a gifted writer:

“Could all the bartenders in OTA country be replaced by Alexa-like robot devices?  Can you imagine Alexa responding to a question like: “Alexa, can I have the bear tacos and Hamm’s special?’ 

There will never be an algorithm for that.  There will never be an algorithm for OTA country. Everything is utterly random, except for the consistency of the regulars and their stories and the utter unpredictability of the bartenders.  If I want an algorithm, I’ll go to a brewpub.”

Savor the story of the Deep Fried Miller High Life at the Mad Dog Country Tavern just out of Newport (that and The Triangle Tavern under the Megler Bridge in Astoria are two of his favorites )

Or check out the one on the blue parrot playing video poker (and winning) at the historic Bay Haven Inn in the heart of Newport, by ordering Matt’s OTA.  And take a look at some of the other great offerings at the Nestucca Spit Press while you’re at it.

And Finally…

Courtesy of Molly Larson Cook

With two daughters who are both nurses, I’ve stated before, my plea for everyone to wear masks.   And here’s a great place to get one plus a bonus from Patty Voldbaeck – a former excellent legal secretary at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm. 

Patty’s masks are made of 100%cotton fabric with ultralight fusible interfacing (if requested) and a pocket insert protector of your personal preference.  She also has a piece of N-95 fabric available with instructions for care.

Designer Masks

The bonus is that one of Patty’s Famous Molasses Cookies comes with each mask order or if you would like more (based on my experience, you will….) they are available at $12 a dozen. 
 
GP   Grandma Patty’s Famous Creations
Masks, Molasses Cookies & Scrubbys
Notary-Oregon
503-476-2216

Pondering During the Pandemic – 1

Vortex 1 – Protesting in 1970…No tear gas, projectiles and violence – just sunburn!

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

Thebeerchaser’s exploration of new establishments during the pandemic has been limited (or basically non-existent) so on recent posts I’ve covered some miscellaneous topics such as reminiscing about Vortex 1  – the only state-sponsored rock concert in US history held near Estacada, Oregon in 1970.  It’s a fascinating story: https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/07/16/beerchasing-miscellany-lockdown-version-ii/

In a number of posts, I’m also “revisiting,” in a manner of speaking, some of my favorite bars and breweries visited during the nine years I’ve pursued my idiosyncratic retirement hobby with the tally now at 375 establishments reviewed since August, 2011.  This time I will focus on the Big Sky State.

Oh Montana!!

No gun rack, but Starbucks and Sirius satellite radio

In June 2019, my wife and I had a marvelous combined road trip of fourteen days from Oregon to the Dakotas and back.

I say “combined” because the first six days, I drove our 2015 Prius (without any gun rack) through Montana  – solo before picking my wife up at the Billings, Montana Airport for the remainder of that trip.

If it weren’t for the weather from October to March, Montana, with its outstanding scenery, would be an ideal place to live.

Lake Koocanusa near Eureka, Montana

We love road trips and miss them greatly. In the last six months, about the only road trip I’ve taken is into the next county to a store that was one of the few places that had Chlorox Wipes available.  That 49 mile round-trip had none of the benefits I experienced in Montana other than picking up an all-beef Seven-Eleven Big Bite Hot Dog for only $1 on National Hot Dog Day on the way (unbeknownst to my wife…..).

Only $1 on National Hot Dog Day

My first two nights were in Yaak, in the far NW corner of Montana where I spent much of that time in the Dirty Shame Saloon with owner, John Runkle.  The Shame was the most interesting and my favorite watering hole of the 375 in the nine years of Beerchasing and John, one of the most interesting personalities.

(Click on the links in the para above or below to see one of the four posts I did on this legendary saloon and put it on your bucket list — I mean Right Now!!   https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/10/16/thebeerchasers-final-thoughts-on-the-dirty-shame-saloon/

John Runkle in front of the bar that reflects his personality

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle with the gift of Benedictine Beer from the monks at Mt. Angel, Oregon

Subsequent nights in Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston increased my bar tally by 29 establishments.   After I picked up Janet, we hit the road, visiting six National Parks and Monuments in addition to museums and, of course, bars and breweries in North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho before returning home.

The total of 3,700 miles on the combined trip saw us visit a total of forty-nine new establishments for my Beerchasing reviews.

Visiting Badlands Natl. Park in South Dakota

One can go for for miles and miles without seeing anybody or even having to turn your steering wheel!  Montana is known is the Big Sky State although it could easily be captioned as the long, straight road state as well. For road trippers, it’s superb.

If you want to see, the composite list of bars for that trip, check out the end of the following post: https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/07/05/big-sky-beerchasing-the-preface/

On those six days solo in Montana, I hit some of the most memorable bars and met the most colorful characters since I began Beerchasing and a sample is shown below.   One common theme is taxidermy and Miller High Life. (I had the Time and the bars had the beer……..)

This picture of the Trappers’ Saloon on Highway 93 near Eureka, Montana is a great example and also very typical.  Their slogan is “Where the West is Still Wild!” and they try to prove that in the horseshoe pit by the side of the bar each day.

The Trapper – an exquisite example Where the West is Still Wild…

And the 205 taxidermists in Montana are ubiquitous.   All parts of the animal are used as can be seen from the lower left of this photo: 

And it’s not just in the bars where you will see mounted wildlife – birds, snakes, fish, beaver, deer and elk, bison and even an alligator and a polar bear (Blue Moon Saloon outside Kalispell) decorating the walls as evidenced by this picture of the lobby in the historic Murray Hotel on Main Street in Livingston.

Speaking of Taxidermy….

In going through old files from the law firm that I have kept for almost ten years since retirement, I came across this one from one of the Schwabe lawyers coincidentally related to this topic…..

For those uncomfortable with the end result of taxidermy, at least this actual case involved the more cuddly substitute. One of Schwabe’s female appellate lawyers sent this e-mail to the firm in April 2001:

“I need a small to medium sized stuffed squirrel for an oral argument at the Court of Appeals next Wednesday.  No taxidermy please.  I promise to return said squirrel safely after the argument.”     

Cute and protected…..

Well, she told me a few days ago in response to an e-mail that the case involved the golden mantle ground squirrel – a protected species in Oregon, but not Washington where it is a native species, but curiously not protected.

Unfortunately for our client – an Oregon rancher – one of the pesky critters had hopped a log raft and took a leisurely cruise across the Columbia River and “invaded” his Oregon property.  The State wanted to shut his operation down. Schwabe was trying to get the case reversed after an unfavorable verdict in the lower court:

“The State had cutesy pictures of the little critters in its brief so I needed the stuffed squirrels for “live action” pictures.”

Did she get a stuffed squirrel for her court appearance?

Just kidding – Counsel would have dressed her’s up in male outfits because it was an all-male panel in the Court of Appeals.

“I ended up with ten stuffed squirrels from various firm members, I lined them up on counsel table.  One of them fell off the table during my argument…I heard from a law clerk several years later that the three judges never stopped talking about it…and, I lost.” 

But I Digress – Back to Montana

After two nights in Yaak, I spent a night in Kalispell and then Hamilton – a nice berg on the western border of Montana.  Then I took a “rural” and roundabout route to my next stay in Anaconda, but only after stopping at four great bars in the boonies.

The Sawmill Saloon in Darby

Having graduated from an aggie school –  Oregon State University (in Corvallis, Oregon not Montana – see below) with a great forestry program – and given the history of the Oregon Timber Industry, I was very interested in another bar – the Saw Mill Saloon.

Darby is right on Highway 93 and has a population of only 720 (it gained 10 between the 2000 and 2010 census) and this watering hole was understandably not hopping on a weekday morning.  Located in the historic State Bank of Darby building, the bartender showed me the two big vaults, one of which is now used to store kegs and cases of beer.

Darby was once a bustling timber, mining and transportation hub, but since the ’70’s has relied mostly on tourism.  Town Marshall, Larry Rose (who is also a taxidermist… ) has been marshal for 36 years as chronicled in a fascinating 2014 article in the Billings Gazette:

“…..(Rose) once punched the town judge during a city council meeting before handcuffing him. (That made the late Paul Harvey’s news broadcast) In a town that celebrates Old West individualism, Rose has more law enforcement surveillance cameras monitoring his citizens than any other city in Montana.

Obey the speed limit and watch for Larry’s surveillance cameras

…..Rose’s station house looks like a memorial to the town’s Old West heyday. It features an iron-barred jail cell in the corner, a gun rack full of lever-action Winchester rifles and mountain lion skins on the wall. The 71-year-old Rose flicks a button on his computer. A checkerboard of 16 little screens pops up.

They’re the surveillance cameras Rose has strategically positioned around town, on light poles and balconies, and even in flower planter barrels. The software spots vehicle license plates and automatically records the numbers.”

I wish Rose had been at the Saw Mill Saloon that morning since he was born only 22 miles up Highway 93 in Corvallis, Montana – only 675 miles from the OSU campus.  We we could have regaled each other with Corvallis stories while raising a mug.  Based on a call to Darby yesterday, they confirmed that Rose – now 76 – still holds the office.

Don’t you go speedin through my town, Mr. Letterman!

For example there was the time in 1998 when he came into contact with the former host of the Late Night Show“Town Marshal Lassoes Letterman”)

“David Letterman can’t escape traffic tickets even in a state noted for its high-speed highways.  While Montana has no posted daytime speed limit on its highways, Letterman found out the same can’t be said of city speed limits.

He was stopped Saturday for driving 38 mph in a 25 mph zone and was pleasant as he paid a $50 fine, said Larry Rose, town marshal of Darby, population 800.”

If you look on Google, Rose’s tenure has been filled with internal political turmoil, he’s been in the middle of a town polarized on the issues and even involved in a 2005 incident, when Rose killed a man who tried to take away his firearm during a domestic disturbance. (He was exonerated after an inquest although the family of the victim was unsatisfied with the decision – so his Corvallis stories would probably be more interesting than mine…….)

Not used for cash and bonds any more – just kegs and cases!

And you would not believe the number of old chain saws and lumber mill saw blades hanging from the ceiling, which gives the Sawmill Saloon a great Montana ambiance.

Take a look at one perspective from a very recent (June, 2020) Yelp reviewer – also named Don, who I gleaned from his website, like Thebeerchaser, also a native New Yorker. This interesting fella wrote:

Stihl in good operating condition…

“one of the main reasons i love it is that liberals really hate sawmills, mining, coal, gas and everything that keeps our country moving forward. so i love the decor. hopefully this is not just some shallow statement from people who really oppose sawmills and blue collar workers who keep our country great.”

As an aside, Don on his website also stated that his wife is his “latest crush,” the last great book he read was “Books not written by liberals or wacko leftists”  and his latest discovery is that “liberalism is a mental disorder.”

The bartender was a jovial, rather rotund guy, and I guess I missed a nice bartender – also named, Dawn, who a guy named Jonathan on Restaurant.com just this March, wrote:

Great bartender, really cute, going to be a great mother,”

Of course, this raises many questions and unfortunately, Jonathan didn’t elaborate on his criteria for “great” parental skills…..

The Antler Saloon in Wisdom

In a little less than an hour I got to Wisdom, Montana, where I met Bernie, the “head bartender and pizza maker” – their specialty which draws rave reviews – at the Antler Saloon.  As you can see below, the taxidermy was not disappointing nor was my  Miller High Life and I contemplated the beer’s 117 year history.

Bernie at the Antler

Fritz – soft spoken but friendly

I sat at the bar next to a warm-blooded character, although not the best conversationalist.  As I left, however, my new, but tight-lipped buddy, Fritz, waved a paw and I look forward to going back for heightened Wisdom.  I’m confident that my canine friend will be sitting on the same bar stool.

Bernie did not tell me if Fritz was the enforcer for those who violated the admonition in the  men’s (and possibly slightly modified in the women’s) restroom:

“Spit chew in the garbage not the urinal.”

Joan Melcher, in her outstanding book, Montana Watering Holes does point out that the Antler Saloon was previously named the Wisdom Inn which, in itself, had a fabled history.

 

The Wise River Club

Only 38 miles from Wisdom, through some stunningly exquisite scenery, I stopped in Wise River and had a Miller High Life and a great chat with Tom Davis at the Wise River Club.

Tom is the 75-year old owner and head bartender (also singer and guitarist for weekend live music based on his experience leading opening acts for Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and Papas and Paul Revere and the Raiders in the ‘60’s).

Tom Davis – bartender, storyteller, singer and guitarist

The cordial Scotchman also related the story about the guy who was murdered in the men’s room at the Club a number of years ago in this watering hole and hotel on the north edge of the Beaverhead National Forest.  (Marshall Larry Rose was not involved….)

One other distinguishing characteristic of this historic bar – it had the only working pay-phone of any of the 49 watering holes on the trip.  I guess you could call 911 in the event of a murder if you had a quarter or maybe it was just a dime…..

And the picture below may raise some questions which are answered, at least in theory, by author, Joan Melcher.  You are looking at elk antlers:

“Nineteen sets – attached to the ceiling and extending from the front of the bar to the end and around a corner.  They were all from one elk that was kept across the street, he says, in some sort of game farm.  The elk lived for twenty three years.” (Page 31)

Better than a draft – after all, it is the Champagne of Bottled Beers!

Perhaps it was the two bottles of Miller High Life – after all, it is the “Champagne of Bottled Beers” or perhaps it was the great bartenders and the history of the establishments, but after I left Wise River and then Wisdom, I just felt a bit more intelligent…..

The Dewey Bar in Wise River

Now, the Dewey Bar is only seven miles east of the Wise River Social Club on Highway 43 along the Big Hole River and you won’t find it in Joan Melcher’s book of classic Montana bars.  Nor will you find a website for it and their Facebook page went mostly inactive since 2015.  It’s just that it was a reunion stop for me.

Road trip sixteen years ago….

In 2004, I was on a two-month firm sabbatical and for part of that time, Janet let me take a ten-day road trip through Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

I had no set itinerary (except to stop in Stanley, Idaho to visit the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon) and carried my mountain bike on the back of my Forester.  I had not even thought of Beerchasing at that time because I was still a number of years from retirement.

But on about the sixth day out, I ended up at the Dewey Bar, in the late afternoon.  It was the one night I was car camping in a nearby National Forest Campground and I saw the Budweiser signs on the exterior near the front entrance in a one-room building with wood plank siding and it was Happy Hour!

I sat down at the bar next to a somewhat grizzled guy drinking a Bourbon and Coke and found out he was a retired lawyer from Seattle who had settled nearby.   About that time, there was some shouting at the other end of the bar – then occupied by about fifteen patrons – and two guys looked like they were going to square off.

Retired from Seattle

The lawyer suddenly shouted, “If you guys sit down and shut up, I’ll buy everybody in the house a round!”  They did – he did – and everyone toasted him.  The bartender took our picture above and that was the last time I laid eyes on him. But I always vowed to go back.

Lori, Shawn and Steve

(Fortunately I was not there in 2010 when the bar was fined $794 by the Montana Department of Environment Quality for failing to monitor the coliform bacteria in the bar’s water supply.)

But the bar looked exactly the same and I talked to the friendly bartender, Lori and had a beer with two great guys named Shawn and Steve who were on their day off from the Montana State Highway Division – also on their second round of  Bloody Mary’s (and listening to CNN – one of the few times a bar didn’t have Fox News on in Montana).

Jake Tapper rather than Sean Hannity – a refreshing change…….

They told the story about the day the bar opened fifteen years ago and some guy with a rifle shot off 64 rounds in the back area by the kitchen. A dog got wounded and went berserk and a Forest Service guy tackled the offender and told him he better switch from Budweiser to Gatorade.  As a result of the damage done by the rifle fire, they had to totally remodel the kitchen and the back area.

Well, after that I rolled into a rough old mining town – Anaconda – with one of the rougher bars I’ve been to in my Beerchasing journey.

But the story on The Owl in Anaconda will have to wait for another post.

Cheers!

The Owl Bar in Anaconda