Turn to The Vern!

The Vern in Southeast Portland (in the area sometimes referred to as ‘The Barmuda Triangle” because of the prevalence of bars and taverns in the area) epitomizes the debate Willamette Week aptly labeled, “(Portland’s) endless war between condos and character.”

You will see below that while a number of people in their social media reviews bemoan the fact that their beloved Hannigan’s Bar – the Vern’s predecessor which opened in 1986 – and the old Vern are now history – the bar was remodeled, the interior refurbished and the menu revamped, into what is now a cozy neighborhood watering hole that still has many aspects of dive bar ambiance.

Remodeled and refurbished

Now some take issue with what WW calls the transition from “haute-scumbag chic to fresh new spaces” of the rebooted Vern. I would suggest, however, that Portland is fortunate to have entrepreneurs, Warren Boothby and Marcus Archambeault to save these establishments from development into structures such as urban storage units or commercial office space.

In the good old days…..

Alternatively, some old bars with great character have permanently disappeared and supposedly suave cocktail and beer bars – many in strip malls – have sprung up.

The Club 21 was one owned by this duo which didn’t survive and what was a wonderful bar in an iconic building that at one time served as a Greek Orthodox Church is now gone.  Fortunately, as you will see below, some of the old signs and memorabilia from the Club 21 have a new home in The Vern.

What happens when a fine establishment like the Club 21 closes…..

An example of the urbane-type establishment  is the Yard House in downtown Portland – a bar although boasting “the world’s largest selection of draft beers featuring over 100 imported and local beers bars on tap,” has all the ambiance of an Olive Garden.

That’s quite possibly because the chain of Yard House bars across the US is owned by the same corporation as the above-mentioned pseudo Italian eatery which those who love boffo buffet flock to for “Never Ending Stuffed Pastas – Pick your pasta sauce and topping plus all the soup or salad and breadsticks you want – over and over….”

Urbane or sterile??

When I reviewed the Yard House on this blog in 2016, I asked rhetorically if it “measured up.”  (It didn’t…!)

Indeed, we can thank this duo for their commitment to save and invest in such great bars as the Sandy Hut, the Double Barrel, Gold Dust Meridian and the Elvis Room, which are still thriving.

(To see Thebeerchaser’s reviews, click on the links above.)

To further the case on why The Vern’s transition in late 2018, potentially saved it, take this excerpt from WW’s 4/9/19 review after it reopened, “(The Vern) weathered multiple waves of change with one foot planted firmly in the grave. It’s teetered on the precipice of extinction for decades.”

The Vern garnered its moniker purportedly by what the Portland Mercury described in its 12/19/18 review as “a long-neglected neon sign that once flashed ‘Vern’ after a decades-old auto accident 86’d the ‘TA’ in ‘TAVERN.’”

In fact, the story reminded me of another great east-side bar that had a similar signage story – Mad Son’s Pub – which changed its name from “Madison’s” after the “i” in the neon sign burned out.   To further my assertion regarding the precarious nature of old bars, Mad Son’s, which I reviewed in 2016 and had great ambiance, permanently closed in 2017.

The Vern was suggested by my friend, Hillary Barbour, who hit a home run when she previously recommended Mad Hanna’s as a dive bar that should be visited by Thebeerchaser. (Click on the link to see the review).

National Power List!

Hillary, a Reed College grad, is now the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Burgerville and was recently honored by The Nation’s Restaurant News on their 2020 Power List in an article captioned Burgerville’s Hillary Barbour Develops a Burger that is Better for the Planet.”

It should be noted that inclusion on any kind of establishment Power List may be viewed with reproach by her fellow Reed alums.

Hillary Barbour at The Vern

The space is expansive with two large rooms and features which make The Vern a good place to raise a mug or just hang out.  These include a great backbar with cool barstools, large booths with red felt cushions, several old-fashioned pinball machines as well as Big Buck Hunter (and a big buck head taxidermy mounted on the wall), a great fire-pit and a number of typical dive bar signs – many from the Club 21 – including my favorite Schlitz globe.

Don’t forget the iconic “STEAKS” sign from the aforementioned Club 21 as well as some posters from live music events at the former bar.

Maureen and Jelly Bean

There is also a great patio where we had a nice chat with Maureen, a Vern regular who lives nearby and was out on the patio with her friendly Newfoundland breed dog, “Jelly Bean.”

The Vern could improve a few minor things such as creating a website and improving its Facebook page which leaves a lot to be desired.  However, the history of the “institution” and the stories, which go back over thirty years, remain intact notwithstanding the spruced up interior fixings.

For example, many Portlanders will remember an August 2019 Oregonian story entitled “Man in MAGA hat clashed with crowd before his alleged assault at different bar, witnesses say.”

The Vern was where this saga began when at about 10:30 on a Saturday night, a guy and his wife, who told police that she “….wanted to see how people would treat her husband if he wore a Make America Great Again hat into some bars.”

(Not related to the Oregon Live story)

The female bartender at the Vern – she asked the man to leave – not because of his headgear, but based on his demeanor and actions.

And patrons said he began “Scanning the room and staring down anyone who would happen to look at him…..(and) began to accuse people inside the bar as being cowards and draft dodgers.” This in spite of the fact that he had no military service and the US discontinued the draft in 1973.

Usually a pretty staid environment..

Really??  Only one head where these belong!

Now the hat guy, who was subsequently assaulted by another woman and man outside the Growler Taproom – about ten blocks down Belmont Street -alleged that somebody at the Vern “placed a toilet seat cover on his head and that another patron threw something at him.”  That claim was questionable, but the two were later arrested by Portland Police for third degree assault.

The entire incident is somewhat humorous since nobody was seriously hurt, but the statement of a guy who filmed the debacle at The Vern before the couple left has to be one of the most misguided and ridiculous statements I’ve seen since starting this blog:

“I would equate wearing a MAGA hat while in hyper-liberal Portland to wearing Klan robes in a black community.”

Now while I may personally question the hat person’s  policy leanings, God help us when the expression of political preference – be it in speech or on apparel – is perceived in accordance with this intellectually challenged observer’s judgement.

How about pinball rather than politics……!

So what about the beer and the food at the Vern.   They have Rainier and two ciders on tap in addition to four micro-brews for which pints are a reasonable $6.

The food offerings are pretty typical of the other establishments of these two bar owners and the menu has a lot of options.  Take this WW review:

“…..customary spread of fried food snacks served with salty dipping sauces including honey-coated sweet potato jojos and cream fraiche ($7) and a plate of ‘golden nuggets’ which meld cheese curds and chicken into a singular deep-fried, bite size chunks ($8).”

While Hillary and I did not eat at The Vern, I had the above referenced golden nuggets when I visited the Double Barrel a few years ago and they were scrumptious.   (Given that Hillary is responsible for Burgerville’s locally-sourced and organic menu featuring regenerative agriculture, I wisely decided not to suggest anything on the Vern menu as she would have gotten up and left…..)

That said, the weekend brunch is one that might well motivate me to return even if it required a trip in from the burbs.

And this Yelp review from 8/13/19 certainly liked the burger.  That’s a tradition at the bars owned by this pair.  (8/13/19 Yelp)

“Everything about the burger was awesome, from the bun to the patty to the ingredients. However, my favorite topping was the crispy onion- it really pushed it up to the ‘wow- I love it, delicious’ burger list.”

Side Note – Different Bar(s) at Another Portland Vern(e)

I often convey related stories when writing this blog.   The latest occurred when I tried to call to check on the number of beers on tap.  I googled “The Vern” and hit the “Call” button on my i-Phone whereupon a very formal male voice answered “Control Room.”

Realizing no bar that I’ve ever been to had a control room, I quickly hung up and rechecked the link and the phone number and then realized that I had called The Vern(e) – but this one was a male prison in England. “The Verne is a men’s prison, located within the historic Verne Citadel on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England….operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.”  (Well at least it was in Portland……)

The Other Portland Vern(e)

And to end this review by again pointing out the dichotomy in views on bars that receive the Boothby/Archambeault treatment, I present a quote from Warren Boothby on their intent in their resurrection of the Vern:

“We used to hang out there a lot 20 years ago, and we want it to feel like home again for those who remember it as a place where you could be super comfortable and that wasn’t pretentious.” (Portland Mercury 12/19/18)

Comfortable and non-pretentious….

Reinforcing this sentiment is the realistic statement of this August 2019 Yelp reviewer who stated:

“What kind of bars serve $3.75 wells in 2019? Bars that close.

Granted I never went to the old Vern, but from the sound of it, not many other people went there, either. Checking out the remodel, I’m happy that somebody stepped in and saved this space, even if it’s not really what it used to be.

Again as a reminder, what it used to be was a bar that was going to close. At least this place was taken over by people who have genuine care for the space and the history and for operating great spaces. I’ll be back, and I’ll bring my crew in tow.”

They are also trying to create a community at The Vern with 50-cent wings during Blazer games, an interesting “daily six-shooter” featuring a shot of whiskey and a pint of Rainier  for $6, trivia nights, occasional DJ’s and their excellent brunches to encourage neighbors and groups to patronize.

The Daily Six-Shooter

Thebeerchaser will definitely return to The Vern.

And a tip of the hat (with no logo or slogan) to Warren Boothby and Marcus Achambeault for their continuing stewardship in preserving Portland’s watering hole tradition, notwithstanding a contrary view.

I regard the guy below as one who perhaps should make an effort to allow pragmatism to transcend his naive nostalgia when he wrote on Yelp on 4/23/19:

“Not a dive bar anymore. Sadly the Vern lost its charm in the remodel and we are left with yet another basic-yuppie bar. Well drinks went for $3.75 and now it’s $6. No more pool tables, no more bathtub in the smoking area, and ultimately no more personality.

This place that once felt like a quirky safe space feels awkward and uncomfortable. Trying way too hard to be something else, and it’ll never be the same.  I’m going to be switching my favorite dive bar to Bare Bones just up the street.”

The Charm still remains – it’s just different.

I guess I’ll have to visit and review the Bare Bones Cafe and Bar, but it appears to me to be more of a café than a bar. The Vern will continue the tradition of its predecessors. Go there and don’t be reluctant to wear your t-shirts or hats with slogans regardless of whether they are political or show a college sports theme such as “Go Beavs!!” 

The Vern         2622 SE Belmont Street   Portland

YUR’s. Truly!!

“Yur’s is a Dark Dive Perfect for Day Drinking.”
I could end this review right here and that caption above would be enough motivation for many of Thebeerchaser’s followers to put their jobs temporarily on hold and make a weekday junket to this watering hole in Slabtown, but there’s a lot more to the story of this wonderful bar than the caption of this 2018 Willamette Week review .
Last year I did a blog post devoted to my favorite Portland-area dive bars – visited after pursuing this tour of bars, breweries and pubs for seven and one half years.   You can see that post at the link below, but I will at least give you the four dives that made my all-star list:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/02/09/thebeerchasers-best-portland-dive-bars/

My favorite was The Standard – you can read the post and see why and lament with me that the only major change is that the renowned “Hamm’s for a Buck” – special on Wednesday is gone but not forgotten.

And while The Standard is still thriving, an alarming number of the great bars and breweries which have disappeared from the scene in the last few years including the legendary Slabtown – which poured its last PBR in 2017 and was right down the street from Yur’s.

(In the Standard’s case, it was their insurance coverage which mandated the change in the Hamm’s special.  And it is probable it was due to an  overly cautious insurance company lawyer – one I would suggest may not have bothered to review the Standard’s history and lack of problems with this arrangement for many years.)

The other three on my list – not in any order are below.  Click on the names to see the full Beerchaser review:

The Ship Tavern (Multnomah Village)        Gil’s Speakeasy

  Mockcrest Tavern

John Mansfield (on the left) with the owner of Church bar in Portland

And it wasn’t The Ship’s memorable exterior, the fact that Gil’s owner asserts that “We’re the nicest assholes in town,” or remembering my visit to the historic Mock Crest with one of my favorite Intellectual Property lawyers (and musicians) John Mansfield.

In each case, as with Yur’s, it’s the overall character of the bar, the people and the side stories.

Now had I visited Yurs’ in Northwest Portland (Slabtown), it would have been added to the list of favorites above.  And while Yur’s has some true dive bar characteristics, it was clean, did not smell of stale beer, has a wide variety of good food and even some interesting and worthy art.

About fifteen of my friends including  former colleagues from the Schwabe Williamson law firm gathered on a late Tuesday afternoon at this bar and our group was not disappointed for a variety of reasons.

Part of the group that afternoon from l to r: Steve Oltman, Mike Mitchell, Skip Greenwood, Jim Westwood, Jack Faust and Jim Larpenteur

These ranged from the cheerful hospitality shown by Bartender Eric Zoeller, to the regulars who populated the bar, to the distinctive art (see below) to the nooks and crannies in the expansive space, the signs, the free popcorn, the old-fashioned pinball machines, the free pool tables, the unique alleyway with street art and the general ambiance that made us unanimously concur with WW’s assertion.

A distinct group of regulars..

The Slabtown area of Portland is a working class neighborhood and the bar in the space Yur’s now occupies has served the cabbies, longshoreman and neighbors in that area for at least sixty years – since 1968 – it was called the 16th Street Tavern before Yur’s.  One characteristic of urban dive bars – they are rarely in strip malls and many such as the outstanding historic dives I wrote about in Pueblo, Colorado are in interesting old buildings which have served other purposes through the years.

Unfortunately, these usually expansive spaces are also prime fodder for developers for condos or commercial purposes which is one reason so many have disappeared. Yur’s is housed in a structure built in 1884 – it was originally was a cellar and stables. (For an interesting side story on the building, see *1 below)

The bar has been owned for about the last twenty-five years by former NFL lineman, Terry Hermeling – an offensive tackle (weighed in at 255 and is 6’5” tall) for the Washington Redskins during the 1970’s after starring at the University of Nevada at Reno).   According to Wikipedia, “He helped the Redskins win the 1972 NFC Championship and (the team) lead the NFC in yards passing in 1975.”   He played under Hall of Fame Coach, George Allen.

Terry Hermeling in his playing days

The Redskins meeting with Pres. Nixon in 1971 after winning the NFC Championship

Although he was undrafted in 1970, Terry Hermeling had an impressive NFL career, playing 120 games – starting in 103 and being listed on the Redskins official website as one of the  “80 Greatest Redskins”

Joe Theismann – 1983 NFL MVP, 2-tme Pro Bowler (1982-3) and Super Bowl XVII Champion

And joining him on the list above are some NFL Hall of Famers such as Sonny Jurgensen (QB), Sam Huff (LB), Charley Taylor (WR) and other guys with notable gridiron fame such as Chris Hanberger (LB), John Riggins (RB), Art Monk (WR) and quarterbacks Sammy Baugh, Mark Rypien and Joe Theismann.

In fact, a guy who has a website called “Hogs Heaven” and evidently travels the country to find Redskin fans wrote in 2014 about plans to meet at Yur’s:

“With that in mind, it is my pleasure to announce that Hogs Haven is traveling to Portland! I happen to know that there is a very solid representation of Redskins fans out there and I am hoping to meet as many of them as I can.”

Terry Hermeling – present day.

Terry’s son, Cody, is now the co-owner and his father trained him in the business aspects of the bar as he grew up.  The elder Hermeling evidently now resides in Palm Springs and Bend.

As an aside, former NFL players going into the bar business in Oregon is not unique to Hermerling. Former Oregon Duck quarterback, Joey Harrington, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2002 and played seven years in the pros tried it.  His partner was Ryan Magarian – the cofounder of Aviation Gin, an internationally known hospitality industry consultant and entrepreneur – in 2016 with his Portland establishment the Pearl Tavern which closed after only three years and is now the Portland brewpub of Backwoods Brewing in Carson, Washington.

Drew Bledsoe -Life after the NFL….

Another former NFL star – Boston Patriot starting quarterback, Drew Bledsoe has owned a successful winery – first in Walla Walla.  The Bledsoe Family Winery expanded into Bend, Oregon where Bledsoe and his wife reside with vineyards and a tasting room in 2019 as reported in the Oregon Wine Press.

(Interestingly enough, there appears to be no explanation on why the Pearl Tavern closed.  Media reviews in 2017 were positive and the Backwoods Brewpub appears to be doing very well in the same location.)

But I digress….Yur’s bartender/assistant kitchen manager is now Eric Zoeller, who was a great and helpful resource in giving me background information and reflects the warm personality of the bar itself.   He is a Kentucky native who moved to Portland from California and has worked there for four and one-half years.

Eric – friendly bar manager

Eric wrote in an e-mail to me:

“What makes us different is that we are more than just a bar to our customers. As one of the last old school bars of old Portland, we provide a haven for those who remember what this neighborhood used top be and those who are just now learning about the area. We have customers who have been coming here for 50 years and those who’ve found out about us.”

We strive to provide a safe place where friends and family gather to meet, where everyone can be themselves. If it’s a holiday, a sporting event or just a normal day, our customers always feel at home here at Yur’s and we feel very much at home in our neighborhood.”

Classic pinball machines

And our group was welcomed by the regulars sitting at the bar who chatted with us and Eric and he tended bar.   Six of us were sitting in one of their big booths drinking beer and chatting and one got up to hit the restroom.   A middle-aged guy promptly and without hesitation sits down in the booth next to me and started looking at the beers on tap.

I didn’t recognize the guy (and I was the one who invited everyone to Beerchase) so I casually stuck out my hand and asked if he was a regular at Yur’s.   He said, “No,” aren’t you guys part of the motorcycle club that meets here?”   (We felt complimented that he would think a bunch of old guys looked like Harley people.)   I told him we weren’t and he got up and when I saw him an hour later, he said that he never found the group, but liked the bar and decided to have a few beers and skip his meeting.

There is a cool room around the corner from the kitchen with couches and a table which houses about twenty people that is used to watch sporting events or just for groups (such as motorcycle clubs….).  They call it the “Front Room” or “The Alcove.”

A Dive Bar with Distinctive Art!!

One of the distinguishing factors at Yur’s was the art work – displayed over the booths which are located along a narrow hall, of sorts, in front of the long bar.   It is distinctive and attractive and I noted the artist’s name and website on one of her paintings. And as I have found with the individuals involved with a lot of watering holes visited, the side stories are fascinating.   And Anna Duvall, is no exception.

Beerchasers Jim Westwood and Alana Finn eat popcorn under Anna Duvall’s art…

I traded a few phone calls with her and eventually had a wonderful and interesting phone chat with this talented Berlin native whose mother is German and who moved with her parents to Maui when she was two. After graduation from high school, she went to the California College of Arts and Crafts.  

A move to Eugene in 2001 gave her the chance to pursue her passion at the U of O and she studied multi-media design, while working part time at a Dairy Queen.   After moving to Portland, she started showing her art while working as a server at Jake’s Grill.

Mo Mo Bar is next to Jakes in downtown Portland (see Thebeerchaser review) and she would sketch while having a brew after work.   In 2006, Thomas McLouglin, the owner, gave her the opportunity to display some of her paintings (they’ve never been taken down) which were then also displayed at the Low Brow Lounge. She also has a mural inside Sizzle Pie on the east side.   Yur’s then provided another venue where she could show her talent.

She was “discovered” by Tony Lawrence – the owner of Boneyard Brewing, who asked her to design a tap handle with his image on it for one of his beers Pabo Pilsner in 2016.   (Her college friend, Dana, who also worked at the Dairy Queen, was working at Boneyard in Bend and when Lawrence had a tap handle designed, she said, “My friend, Anna, could do a much better job than that.)

Lawrence evidently agreed and she has also done designs for Boneyard’s Incredible Pulp and Brewjeria American Lager.   When Boneyard celebrates its tenth anniversary in Bend next year, you will see Anna Duvall’s painting displayed in the Brewpub.

You can find this cheerful and talented artist working as a full-time server  at Jake’s Grill and view her creations at Mo Mo’s, Yur’s or on her Facebook page under “Killallartists” or on her Instagram account (@annadeeznutz).   Yur’s is the first dive bar I know to have an “art curator” but Patrick Zahn, the owner at Steel Door Gallery has been recently tasked with this function according to Anna.

Beerchasers Darien Loisell and Don Russo in the alley – but not smoking….

Anna’s art isn’t the only creative attraction at Yur’s.   If you take the exit by the pinball machines into what is used as a smokers’ lounge, of sorts, you will enter an alleyway that has some distinctive murals along the walls of this narrow passage-way which has to be about at least 100 feet long.

The only similar type of passage I have seen in my travels was adjacent to Renners’ Bar – another classic dive in Multnomah Village which I reviewed in 2017 before the disastrous fire which put it out of operation since – although they are trying to reopen.

Food and Beer

Yur’s transcends the typical dive with a reasonable tap list with the standards – Coors Light and a number of microbrews and two ciders. I loved their creative approach to PBR

The social media reviews emphasize the cheap prices and the stiff drinks – a good combination. I liked this one from an October, 2017 Yelp review:

“Great neighborhood bar with affordable drinks and free popcorn…. I’m still not sure why extra shots kept being poured into my drink (by friends not bartenders) and be prepared that the ladies’ room stalls have shower curtains rather than doors.”

I could not verify the shower curtain assertion, but possibly empathize with one of  the only other really negative Yelp reviews. – (Yelp 11/25/18):

“This bar allows soccer fans from out of the city to come in and take over there (sic) restaurant. For that reason, and for only that reason, they get one star.”

Yur’s gets great reviews for the quality and price of their food menu.  And they have specials every day. We didn’t have a chance to partake other than the popcorn, but I’m going back for either the Prime Rib Thursday (Prime Rib served with Seasonal Vegetable, Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Au Jus $12.95) or Taco Tuesday (3 for $4).  And where else on Saturday morning can you get a two-egg breakfast and PBR Tall Boy for $6!

This comment from Yelp on 7/25/19 from a guy who had just moved from San Francisco:

Prime Rib on Thursdays….

“Had their prime rib steak. The prime rib is less than $11. It’s a nice portion size. It’s tender and juicy. The steak is served with mashed potatoes and asparagus. The potatoes were good; cooked to perfection and had a nice seasoning of salt and pepper. The steak is also served with horseradish…..A wonderful compliment to the prime rib steak. Enjoyable experience at this dive bar in my first day in Portland.”

And the burgers…….

“We went in for the $5 Burger-Week burger.  Friendly bartender, clean table, fantastic hamburger.  It is, without a doubt, the best burger I have ever had.” (Yelp – 8/10/19)

A burger with four strips of bacon…!

Now to be objective, one reviewer stated that the bratwurst was “simply shameful.  It was quite possibly the teeniest tiniest bratwurst I’ve ever seen, the texture was pretty gross, and it tasted nothing like a bratwurst.  
The fries were pretty good though.”  (Yelp 2/19/16)

Our group would have liked Yur’s even if the guy hadn’t asked us if we were motorcycle club members.   The environment is one that is all too rare and not found in almost any of the newer and more polished quarters which house brewpubs and cocktail bars.

These suave, sleek establishments have great and varied beer, but not the authentic ambiance (or distinctive art work…..) which, at Yur’s is a magnet for Slabtown neighborhood.  (And try getting free popcorn at one of these brewpubs….)

Former Beerchaser of the Quarter, Jim Westwood, pontificating on politics, philosophy and the statute of ultimate repose….

If you want to gain that experience and drink beer in a friendly and comfortable enviorment try Yur’s.

Truly!!!

Yur’s     717 NW 16th        Portland

Amy Faust – now a non-profit auctioneer among other avocations..

*1 One more interesting sidelight on Yur’s and historic buildings.  My talented and interesting friend and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Amy Faust, brought this issue to light because she was traveling and could not be at the Yur’s Beerchasing event.

Amy did a search on-line for Yur’s and came across the picture below.   She asked if I knew what the “U” on the building meant to which I responded in the negative.

Since she is blessed with a significant amount of intellectual curiosity, she had previously researched the symbol after seeing it on another Portland building and sent me the following link to an article in Oregon Live entitled “Fire Warning Signs Mark 21 Buildings in Portland Metro.”

Notice the upper left-hand corner of the photo

The good news is that the article was first written in 2010, but updated in 2019 and the pictures I took of Yur’s and those on current social media show no “U” remains on the building.  In addition, the article, which shows the addresses of all twenty-one of the current structures, does not list any with Yur’s address.

I concluded that this means they have addressed the deficiencies (although based on how well I like the bar, that designation wouldn’t have stopped me – just made me more cautious about where I was drinking my beer in the large space…..).

Quoting the article:

“The signs aren’t meant for the public; they’re for firefighters…..The signs, placed on at least 21 Portland buildings since the bureau introduced its Unsafe Building Alerts Program in December 2009, tell firefighters that if a fire were to break out in the building, it would be unsafe to battle from inside. Firefighters will still enter to rescue people, though.”

Thanks Amy, for the interesting sidelight.

Thebeerchaser’s Final Thoughts on the Dirty Shame Saloon

In three prior posts on Thebeerchaser, I have written about the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana – its fabled history, the Shame’s character, the staff,  the regulars, the events that capture the imagination of the community and its erstwhile owner, John Runkle – the most recent recipient of the Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter “honor.” (Click on the links to see these posts.)

Since I stated in a previous narrative that it is the most interesting of the 350 establishments I’ve visited and reviewed in the eight years of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Breweries, the Dirty Shame and John Runkle collectively deserve one final narrative.

The most recent Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter

Now many bars can be defined as “a place where lonely desperate people go to get hammered enough to find other lonely, desperate people suddenly irresistible.” *1 The Dirty Shame Saloon is the antithesis of this description.

*1 The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm – A Lexicon for Those of Us Who Are Brighter and Smarter Than the Rest of You (Page 34)

The book is by James Napoli and a brilliant tome you should definitely read – one rivaling in wit and intellect, the legendary On Bullshit by Princeton Professor Emeritus, Harry Frankfurt – another Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. (January 2012)

The Shame is a community treasure and one which Yaak residents regard with affection.  I previously tried to convey the stories which John related to me ranging from the AR-15 incident last summer as well as the  the “crack pillow.”

And don’t forget the double shots of whiskey downed in a quick and unfriendly visit to the bar by a now convicted murderess and her boyfriend after they dispatched her husband at Milepost 48 on the Yaak River Road – the Shame is at Milepost 29.

There’s also the tale about the kidnapping of the life-size Trump poster, the young women who “bartered” for their fare to Portland, Oregon, the Missing Person chronicle or the personable and courteous nature of the direct relatives of the leader of the Kehoe Gang related in the second post:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/09/11/the-dirty-shame-saloon-in-yaak-part-ii/

You will find out if you stay tuned to this blog for rundowns of the other 48 bars and breweries on our June road trip through Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, that there are many other historic dive bars and excellent breweries in nearby Kalispell and surrounding Montana villages not far from the Dirty Shame. You can then hit these on your road trip as listed in an earlier blog post on Beerchasing in Big Sky Country.

Thus, it is my strong recommendation that you add a visit to the Dirty Shame Saloon and raising a mug with John Runkle to your bucket list.   As such, you will need lodging, so l want to provide a little more info on the Yaak River Lodge – about 1.5 miles down the road from the Saloon – also owned by John since 2004.

Drop in on Sunday to hear Pastor Clayton..

The Lodge sits on a beautiful 7.5 acre site on the Yaak River and across from the wonderful Yaak Community Church.  I attended their Sunday service on my last morning in Yaak and Pastor Clayton gave an inspiring sermon.   I also sat next to a memorable career Naval officer who retired in Yaak.

The church was built in the tradition of community barn-raising by members of the congregation and with no debt incurred.  You should view this impressive YouTube video to visually comprehend

At  the Lodge, you will see llamas and a horse grazing in the pasture in back.   There are no locks on the doors to the Lodge or its rooms, but whether you stay in the Moose Room or the Wolf Room, you will be secure.   In the event of inclement weather, just read a book in the living room by the roaring fire.

Folgers, cheese omelet and bacon….It doesn’t get any better.

And the $115 nightly charge (that’s during the busy season) also includes breakfast – one morning it was memorable blueberry pancakes cooked by John and the second it was an outstanding omelet cooked by Darilyn, who is also the lead bartender at the Shame.  There was plenty of bacon with it……

Or you can sit in the back and tell stories with friends…… as you can see by the photo, this fire pit is a great place to have a nightcap.

During the summer months the average high temperature is in the 70’s to low 80’s lowering to the low 40’s at night.   September is also usually pretty moderate.

Or take a walk down to the beautiful Yaak River flowing through the property….

The Yaak River at the back of the Lodge.

The coffee was also notable – not Starbucks but Mountain-grown Folgers which lent credence to their slogan, “The best part of wakin’ up is Folgers in your cup.”  (I might add that Folgers (black) goes extremely well with either the blueberry pancakes or cheese omelets.)

Although there are a number of gun stories related to the Dirty Shame, John told me he did not hunt so I asked him why he had a package of shot gun shells on the kitchen counter. “Oh those. My mom who lives near by has a recurring bear problem at her house which is nearby……”

Bear issues….

As I mentioned previously, John is an Orange County, California native, served as a paratrooper and instructor in the Army and returned to earn his degree at Cal State Fullerton.

 

 

 

Starting in 1988, he then built a successful real estate company.  In the twenty years he managed it, he successfully expanded the business to seven states with 300 realtors.

Runkle realized one day after being inundated with business calls while vacationing in Glacier National Park that his ambition was nature’s way of preparing him for heart medication. (* 1 Page 22)   So he threw his cell phone out the window and ended up buying first the Lodge in 2004 and then the Saloon in 2013. He and his wife, Dallas, welcomed their second daughter in August.

In the entry way to the Lodge was a framed advertisement for the Lodge and the Saloon.  I asked him (with some element of concern) about this.

That said, I certainly hope to visit Yaak again in ten years and see John still at the helm of these two great businesses in NW Montana.

John told me, “At 57, I’m no spring chicken and I don’t have much of a bucket list left. I’m usually at the bar until 2:30 AM on Friday nights and then Saturday morning, I’m up cooking breakfast at 5:30. On Monday morning, it’s tough to get going.”

Up at 5:30 cooking breakfast – but still with a smile….

 And he realizes that each Monday is one of 52 opportunities we are given each year to question what the hell we are doing with the rest of our lives……That said, the following Facebook post also demonstrates why John continues his legacy as a leader, a hard worker at whatever he does and why those who work with him admire his character.

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

John, helping to unload food for the Crawfish Festival

I think John would be the guy who in an office setting, would fix the copy machine after a paper jam.  You know the situation – the copier sits there non-functional for several hours with everyone just ignoring it.   After he fixed it, he would then photocopy his rear end and leave it for the next user as the Runkle “signature”…….

Unjamming and leaving a signature….

So I was not surprised to see another recent Facebook post by John asking for feedback on whether Yaak – with the Dirty Shame as the focal point – should become the new site of the legendary Testicle Festival.

The Testy Festy was an annual event held for years in Clinton, Montana although discontinued in 2018. It attracted people from all over the West for a chance to sample the culinary delicacy Rocky Mountain Oysters.

Testicle Festival Canceled Following Deaths – Attendance Decline:  After 35 years of drinking, nudity, debauchery and tens of thousands of Rocky Mountain oysters, the Testicle Festival is over…….”  (The Missoulian  4/23/2018)

Considered a delicacy by some……

Whether Yaak has the infrastructure to support the resurrection of this “carnival” remains to be seen, but it shows that John is still ready to promote and his entrepreneurial spirit still courses through his bloodstream.

And if you don’t know what Rocky Mountain Oysters are, you should look it up.  You might be surprised…..  (The Beerchaser’s personal recommendation is to keep the current Yaak celebrations and not try to resurrect this jubilee, ball or whatever you want to call it.)

Because with the Adult Easter Egg Hunt, the Sasquatch Festival, the Crawfish Festival and spontaneous celebrations, John and his crew keep the residents of Yaak entertained and offer the chance to celebrate their community.

Some regulars told me that John should use his real estate skill and negotiate either the purchase or merger with the Yaak River Tavern (a nice bar with a personality that could use some spark) across the road – possibly even construct Yaak’s first skybridge between them…….

That way Geoff, the amiable, slightly inebriated singer I met at the Tavern, could entertain at either location.  Those at the Tavern that night got to hear Geoff’s original creation celebrating the joys of beer, bananas and Montana beaches…!

Don’t wait too long to plan your visit.   Now if you are looking for the Dirty Shame on the internet, don’t get confused with the Dirty Shame Saloon in Garden Valley, Idaho.

Besides a probable violation of John Runkle’s federal trademark on his bar (he is not interested in a lawsuit – “The lawyers would get all the money…” ) it is a poor and unsatisfactory imitation of the “World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon” as evidenced, in part, by the fact that the Idaho establishment on Yelp gets 2.5 stars (out of 5) while the Yaak authentic garners a rating of 4.5.

And if you want to talk to John and find out more about the Lodge i.e. seasonal rates and availability, give him a call at (406) 295-5463.  You will enjoy the conversation and tell him that Thebeerchaser suggested it.

The World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon  

29453 Yaak River Road   Troy Montana 59935       (406) 295-5100

The Yaak River Lodge

27744 Yaak River Rd     Troy, MT 59935      406-295-5463

yaakriverlodge@aol.com

The Dirty Shame Saloon – Continued Stories…..

In the last two Beerchaser posts, I have provided background on the “World Famous” Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana and tried to convey the incredible background and character of its owner, John Runkle, (he also owns the Yaak River Lodge about a mile and one-half down the road.)

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle

While I could easily fill several more posts on the most interesting of the 350 bars and breweries I have visited and reviewed during the last eight years, I will conclude with this and one final shorter post to wrap up my observations.   If you want more, you will have to make the trip to NW Montana on your own – a journey strongly recommended by Thebeerchaser.

Now don’t get the wrong idea from the previous and following stories, the Shame is not exactly a family-oriented establishment and may at times be raucous.

The “Dirty” in the name of the watering hole, however, describes some of the old slats in the floor or the occasional martini ordered by a more cosmopolitan customer who wants some olive juice added to his gin……..It is not a strip club or a place where debauchery pervades the atmosphere – at least most of the time………

Joan Melcher’s first book published in 1983.

As described by Joan Melcher in her first book Watering Hole –  A User’s Guide to Montana Bars written in 1983.

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

A number of stories of the Dirty Shame are centered on guns.   This is not unusual in rural Montana.  In fact, in a subsequent post on my Montana road trip I will relate the story told to me by Tom Davis, the eighty-three year old owner of the Wise River Club, about the murder that took place in the rest room of his establishment.

Part of the Montana culture…..

Author Melcher also relates the story told to her on her first visit about a Dirty Shame neighbor, named Jimmie, who some years back lived in a trailer adjacent to the saloon.

Based on the disruption to his property from a number of the free-grazing herd of cattle, he told people in the Shame, “I’m getting damned tired of those cows rubbing on my trailer and walking home drunk every night through all that shit.”  

Stay away from Jimmies trailer…..

After warning the cattle’s owner to keep them out of his yard, he finally “lost it” when he was playing pool at the Shame one night and a regular told him the cattle were in his yard again.

The intrepid Jimmie without hesitation handed the guy his pool stick and promptly shot seven cows in front of the bar – the carcasses ended up laying in the middle of the Yaak River Road.

He then, “walked back into the bar and shot the four ball into the corner pocket.”   Jimmie was arrested, jailed and purportedly later released after paying a $250 fine after protests from residents of Yaak about his incarceration. (Page 89 – Watering Hole)

The AR-15 Incident at the Dirty Shame

And John Runkle in our first conversation three years ago, talked about digging bullets out of the walls after he bought the bar – from the days when it was a hard-core biker bar.   When I told him in May that I was planning to come to Yaak the next month, he also sent me the following link to a story in the Daily Missoulian entitled:   “Troy Man Charged Following Saturday Night Incident at Yaak’s Dirty Shame Saloon.

As John stated – in part – in his e-mail:

“Don, you will see an article where a guy went nuts in the Dirty Shame with an AR-15 and you will also see the video of me bear spraying him and his brother trying to fight their way back into the bar and another video embedded in that article showing him running around the parking lot trying to shoot me through the window and then almost shooting his brother in the head.  

It was a crazy night. The Dirty Shame is truly still the Wild Wild West.”

The response to bear spray in the face….

I showed some friends that article and they advised me to install a gun rack on my Prius for the Montana road trip.

While I was in Yaak and asking him some additional questions about that incident, he told me that the bar was locked down while the shooter was outside in the back of the bar in his trench and the deputies were looking for him.

The Good Old Days

One very elderly man who was 95 years old was there with his son who was in his sixties.  The son told his dad that they had to stay in the bar because there was a guy outside trying to kill someone.

The father got a big grin on his face and stated, “This is the same old shit that made this a great bar in the old days.”  His son agreed that only at the Dirty Shame would such an incident be considered good publicity.

The Yaak River Road Murder

In the 2017 incident above, no one involved was killed or injured; however, that was not the case with a young couple – strangers – who walked into the Shame on Martin Luther King Day two years ago.  John said, “Both the woman and the man seemed pretty nervous and were not friendly.   They just shrugged when a regular asked them what they were doing in Yaak.”

On television, the next day was a story about a murder committed at Milepost 48 of the Yaak River Road (The Dirty Shame is at Milepost 29).   A woman and her boy friend allegedly shot and killed the woman’s husband and after dumping his body by the Yaak River, escaped in his car.   They were considered fugitives and law enforcement throughout the state was looking for them.

Yaak River Falls

John remarked to his bartender, “Doesn’t that look like the couple who ordered the double shots here yesterday?

The staff agreed so the next day he called the sheriff which brought a slew of deputies to investigate. The couple were later apprehended and the woman, Sarah Carpenter, was convicted of murder.

The call to the sheriff from John Runkle and the video of the couple at the Shame helped in the prosecution.    John was quoted in this article from the Bonners Ferry Herald as saying:

“They acted really unfriendly. I still remembered what they ordered. She ordered a double shot of Jack Daniels. He ordered a double shot of Sailor Jerry’s and they toasted each other, which I didn’t think was weird until two days later,”

This article entitled, “Guilty Verdict in Yaak Murder Trial” from the Western News tells the story including the result of the trial and the sordid details.

The Crawfish Festival

You missed 2019, but start planning for next Labor Day

Before regaling you with some more Dirty Shame stories, let’s review another one of the events in Yaak for which the Shame is the center of attraction.   In the last post, you read about the Sasquatch Festival and the Adult Easter Egg Hunt.

John’s truck in the Lodge driveway a few years ago.

The Crawfish Festival takes place on Labor Day weekend as a last fling since John states, “There’s pretty much nothing to do in Yaak during the winter.” 

(This year there were four feet of snow on the first weekend of the fall in parts of Northern Montana with kids even getting a rare snow day off at school.) The Daily Interlake  

John’ Facebook page announced the 2019 Festival in a typical promotional manner:

“Ok everybody. The Hollywood Knockouts will be returning to the Dirty Shame Saloon on Friday afternoon, August 30th to kick off the Crawfish Festival. For those who missed the show last year, these girls are professional cream wrestlers and they put on one hell of a show!!

That means you gotta be here Friday afternoon and evening to see it. You won’t be disappointed. FEMALE CREAM WRESTLING at it’s finest, only at the Dirty Shame Saloon!!!”

Besides outstanding and plentiful food, this year there was a mechanical bull, a gigantic inflatable gorilla (some maintain that it was actually a Sasquatch…) and some good music by multiple bands.

And don’t forget the ceremonial leg shaving.   I might add that I had not heard about symbolic leg shaving since I read Oregon’s Olympic Gold Medalist, Don Shollander’s autobiography years ago.   He talked about how competitive swimmers would shave their legs to mentally psyche them up for the meet.

Now I’m not positive that the leg shaving in the picture below was in preparation for the Big Foot Run at the Sasquatch Festival or for an event at the Crawfish Festival, but as you can see, it’s part of the culture at the Dirty Shame.

And of course, John had another great story about a past Crawfish Festival where some young women in the spirit of the event were having the guys in the Dirty Shame autograph their breasts with a sharpie.   Someone had called the sheriff and reported that their were some underage drinkers at the bar.

According to John, the Sheriff and one of his deputies – a big 6 foot 6 guy – walked in to check ID’s. The deputy took a few steps into the bar and one of the girls came up to him with the writing instrument.  John stated, “He turned beet red, did an about face and walked out to his patrol car.”

The Crack Pillow

Displayed prominently in a framed display behind the bar is what John calls “the crack pillow,” which you can see in the picture below and, of course, brought to mind another story.

Two hunting seasons ago (that’s how one keeps track in Yaak…) a young woman who looked like she had been through the wringer (and was obviously high on some substance) came into the bar wearing camouflage gear.

“You never know when you’re going to need firewood…..”

She was carrying a hatchet and she locked eyes with the bartender and laid the instrument on the bar stating, “You never know when you are going to need firewood…”

She then repaired to the ladies room at the bar and was there for an extended period. Since Yaak is at an elevation of 2,986, they figured she was not trying to gain solo membership to the “Mile High Club.”   She eventally came back out front soaking wet – she’d taken a “shower.”

She ordered a Mike’s Lemonade, but didn’t have any money and offered the pillow if John would give her the drink.   The “lady” then talked a young man into playing pool for unspecified benefits – he won and she got her coat on and proceeded to leave while asking the young man, “Are you coming?”  

The “Crack Pillow”

He drained his beer and walked out with her and like the couple indicted for murder, “They were never seen at the Dirty Shame again,” although the “crack pillow” occupies a permanent and prominent place of honor at the center of the back bar.

Well, I had intended this to be the last of three posts on the Dirty Shame, but it is already too long and there is a bit more to relate before I close out the story of this incredible watering hole. Stay tuned to find out why this saloon and its crew and regulars are a treasure to the legacy of historic watering holes.

The Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak – Part II

Big Sky Country between Yaak and Eureka

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taken from the window of my car on Yaak River Road

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

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

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle – owner.

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

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

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

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

Joan Melcher’s first book published in 1983.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Howie Long – occasional visitor to Yaak

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

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

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

Chevis at his trial

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

The supermax prison that houses Chevie

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

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

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

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

The Sasquatch Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The replacement President….

The Bar Crew

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

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

John and Darilyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dirty Shame Saloon      

29453 Yaak River Road,    Troy Montana

 

The Standard – It Redefines the Meaning of the Term


You last read about one of Portland’s fabled bars in the most recent post of Thebeerchaser – that being The Dockside Saloon and Restaurant.   Located in an historic building, this classic bar has been owned by the same family since 1986.  Well, the following narrative will tell you about another legendary bar you should visit – this one a dive bar in Northeast Portland.

Now when you see the term The Standard, (I’m choosing to capitalize both words throughout the post) you might automatically assume it references the Portland-based life insurance company.  Indeed, “The Standard” is a marketing name for Portland’s own Standard Insurance Company, which was chartered in Oregon in 1906, now employs about 2,500 individuals and owns several high-rise buildings in downtown Portland.

Not a sparkling exterior

But The Standard you will read about below is a bar which, even with a great reputation, has been below the radar in an inconspicuous location on NE 22nd Avenue – just off Burnside.  And some might assert that with the dark wooden fence with a dumpster in the middle, fronting the bar, it looks like a recycling center.

Opened in 2007, it doesn’t have the long history of some other classic bars, but demands recognition.   Why would you travel here and struggle for parking rather than hit one of the city’s many sparkling breweries or taprooms – some relatively close by including Upright, Laurelwood, Alameda and Culmination?

A spacious interior

The 2018 Edition of “The Bar Guide.”

Well, one of Thebeerchaser’s trusted resources during the seven years of this tour of bars, taverns and breweries is Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide.   The 2018 Edition) “Portland Bars and Happy Hours – the 101 Best Bars in Portland,” sums it up succinctly in a wonderful review written by the weekly’s former Project Editor, Matthew Korfhage:

“But the thing that made me treat this bar as an extension of my living room for seven years, what makes it different from every other bar with cheap drinks and a pool table and a covered patio in winter, is the simple decency of the place.  

The Standard is one of Portland’s last true neighborhood bars, a ramshackle version of Penny Lane decorated in shattered CDs and corrugated metal……More than any other bar I know in Portland, it is a sodden vision of an ideal society.”

And, in fact, going back and reviewing past issues of the Bar Guide, The Standard, unlike most Portland bars, has made the list of top bars – usually around 100 establishments – each of the last five years.   Now this may be in large part due to Korfhage’s long tenure at the weekly paper.

*Note:  Since he wrote a majority of the reviews in the Bar Guide, he is an expert and has written the piece on The Standard each year.   And you can see below that his favorable opinion has not changed.  Whether The Standard will hit a sixth consecutive year in 2019, may be in doubt since Korfhage wrote his last column for WW in April.

Korfhage – writing will be missed.

This reporter, who in 2017, was awarded first place for his columns on food writing by the American Association of Alternative Newspapers, has lived in St. Louis, Chicago, Munich and Bordeaux.

He just moved to Hampton Roads on the East coast to become the Food Editor for the Virginian Pilot. It’s Virginia’s largest daily newspaper.  His excellent writing will be missed in Portland. 

As can be seen by viewing his first two months of columns in Virginia, he continues his interesting and creative, if not somewhat unhealthy lifestyle, writing about bars and restaurants on the East coast. For example, his May 26th column was entitled and ends the first paragraph with this sentence.  “I sacrificed my own health to try hot wings at 22 spots all over Hampton Roads and picked the best.”

But you can see below, his praise of The Standard was unwavering through the years:

Bartender Tyler checks the reflection…

2014: “The Standard is what it says it is, ‘A neighborhood standard.’”

2015: “But The Standard is pure of heart, from its owner through its bar staff through the longtime patrons who took up a collection to buy a scooter for the retiring cook and bartender…” 

Friendly staff appreciated by the regulars.

2016: “It’s the best little bar in Portland, and I won’t hear otherwise.”

2017: “The bar is cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

The Standard has a wide variety of games and was even recognized in the website “Four Square Lists” as one of “The Best Fifteen Places for Bar Games in Portland.”   And it has a bunch ranging from Big Buck Hunter to the traditional Pac Man to pool tables to classic pinball games including Terminator 3.

Classic pin-ball machines to Big Buck Hunter

Last Call – Not in the Top 50 but…..

It even has a video puzzle arcade game named “Last Call.”  While not on the list of the Top 50 which includes classics such as Trash Panic, Tetris Attack and Super Scribblenauts, it will probably keep you interested and occupied??!!

Or you can pick one of the many “treasures” in a vending machine that has everything from old Playboy Magazines to heart-shaped sunglasses to Nutter Butter candy bars to a mystery package which says “Porn Pin – Probably.”  

(The only similar machine I’ve seen in eight years and visiting 120 Portland bars, was at Slab Town – a NW PDX dive bar with a once stellar reputation as an old-school rock and roll venue visited by Thebeerchaser in 2013).

Unfortunately, it became one of the classic Portland bars which poured its last PBR and hosted its last concert in 2017.  In the Slab Town vending machine, you could even buy guitar strings and drum sticks – not the kind you eat……!

On the left “Porn Pin – Probably”

You can also have your picture taken in one of those old-fashioned photo booths.

 

 

 

Visiting The Standard that day with me were Beerchasing regulars, Jack Faust and Jim Westwood, both former Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter based on their compelling stories. They did outstanding appellate work during their careers at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Stoel Rives respectively.

From left – Shannon, Charlie, Chuck Jack and Jim

In addition, three other friends added to the late afternoon gathering – Charlie Faust, a mortgage loan consultant and Jack’s son; Chuck Mitchell, another retired attorney and a trial lawyer who showed skill in the courtroom and Shannon Asato, who works in the Accounting Department at the Oregon Food Bank.

Shannon was the only Beerchasing neophyte and her good humor and competence when she worked with me for a number of years at the Schwabe law firm, made her a welcome addition to our crew.

“Standard” would not be an apt description for the exterior of the bar, and you might drive or walk right past it if you weren’t deliberately seeking it – in fact, Jack Faust was focused on joining us and drove past anyway.  He then called his son to find out where we were and took static for his lack of punctuality when he got there.  (Of course, he parked, before dialing his cell….)

A great covered patio for all seasons….

You walk in through the covered patio, which is vaguely reminiscent of the days before Oregon’s smoke-free legislation passed in 2008 and the interior of every dive bar had a hazy, smoke filled environment, which would be hazardous for anyone without pristine lungs. (The smoke was pretty minimal, however.)

Individuals and groups sit at the picnic tables chatting or working on computers – often accompanied by their dogs and drink cheap beers or stiff well drinks.

“Abbreviated” shuffleboard

The inside of the bar is also spacious and filled with the type of stuff which endears us to this type of venue.  Besides the old-style pinball machines and games, a pool table and a curiously-short shuffleboard, there are old beer signs, tacky art, an idiosyncratic (or bizarre) cracked mirror the full length of the bar behind it and, well, just a lot of stuff that makes you feel at home….

Careful – they sneak up on you….

There are too many features at The Standard to name them all including Jello Shots for $1, alcoholic Slushies, Sunday craft beers for $3, and a Crappy Book Club – “Bring your crappy books, and trade them for other crappy books!” 

And like a number of storied watering holes, the bar is a community unto itself.  For example, there’s traditional Christmas decorations in season (also Santa Claus horror movies), an annual Chili Cooking Contest – the proceeds in 2018 went to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge – a Kentucky Derby Party and occasional golf tournaments – the proceeds last year went to the Oregon Food Bank.

Call for schedule of Santa horror movies

Another distinguishing characteristic is a noticeable affinity for Hamm’s Beer.  This is manifested in its Wednesday all-day $1 Hamm’s pints, numerous logos and a notable stuffed “Hamms’ Bear” over the bar wearing a Portland Trailblazer jersey.

Trailblazer fan from Wisconsin

An affinity for Hamms

Don’t forget the sign on the two unisex bathrooms stating, “One at a Time,” possibly a concern that those imbibing in the $1 brews or jello shots may think they can join the “Mile High Club” without leaving terra firma. 

And I don’t think you will ever see The Standard take the appalling route of one of Portland’s other bars – Saraveza.  In 2015, perhaps to be trendy as quoted in New School Beer on 11/5/15:

“‘For seven years we have honored the world of domestic beer by always pouring a pint of Hamm’s alongside some of the best craft beers in the world.

It was important to me to acknowledge the industry that created a springboard for our recent craft beer revolution,’ said Sarah Pederson, owner of Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern. ‘Breakside’s Wisco Tavern Beer does the same thing for us, but with a new twist that we are proud to stand behind.’” (emphasis supplied)

Really???  (Maybe you want to change, Sarah, but don’t suggest that Breakside can replace Hamms!)

Founded in 1865 as compared to 2010….

The last time, I had a draft Hamm’s on tap was at a wonderful bar – The Coyote Road House, in Door County, Wisconsin.  That’s right next to the “Land of Sky-Blue Water” which is home to the Hamm Brewery, founded in 1865 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Another place to get Hamms on Tap

Now, when Faust and Westwood first got to The Standard, the practice ingrained in them for so many years — each worked in  different high-rises owned by Standard Insurance — got the best of them.  Both took out legal pads and started billing time as they drank their $1 Hamm’s.

The Standard Insurance Center – home for Westwood at Stoel Rives

Since Chuck Mitchell worked in a small plaintiff’s firm in Clackamas County, he took a more relaxed approach and talked the other two into just considering this a pro-bono engagement.

Mitchell on the left advocates pro-bono

And Jack always gets a kick each time the famous French opera bearing his name comes to Portland.  This time it was Portland Opera’s three and one-half hour rendition of French composer, Charles Gounod’s, “Faust,” in June.

In a deal with Mephistophele’s – the Devil, (a baritone in the opera), the protagonist, Faust, trades his soul for a chance at a second youth and the prospect of seducing a beautiful young maiden,

Mephistopheles is a baritone…

Charlie Faust became worried when he heard his father, quoting some lines from the opera, to wit:

“When will death free me from this burden?  I curse happiness and knowledge, prayer and faith.“ 

We had to convince the younger Faust that his dad was not depressed, but just showing his erudition and cultural refinement in addition to his tendency to share his philosophy on the human condition, temptation, redemption, Goethe and the Oregon Supreme Court’s latest opinion on the Gun Control Initiative.

But we digress….The Standard is not going to be your go-to place for quality pub food.  It’s line-up is limited and confined to items such as chips and salsa, a few sandwiches, mini-corndogs and fried ravioli(?)

Limited but cheap selections

They also have a drink special every day which includes the aforementioned Hamms’ special on Wednesdays.

Daily Drink Specials

The Standard was a great addition to the bars I have visited and all of us gave it a thumbs- up.

And you have to look hard for a social media review which is critical.  Almost all reviewers love the character, sense of humor and charitable heart of this saloon.  The few critical ones seem to be malcontents who didn’t like the service – kind of an anomaly when it is a self-service bar or maybe a bartender wasn’t as friendly as they would have liked.  Or take this one going back to 2012.  (I guess that’s not too bad…..):

“I have a hard time with this review. The location is really good and the people seem really cool. On the other hand their well rum was by far the worst rum that I have been in near proximity with.”  (Yelp – 4/9/12)

Now Portland has over 700 bars, breweries and taverns, but if you haven’t been to The Standard, you should remedy that.  And it does redefine the meaning of the word “standard” as there is nothing ordinary or typical about it.

While they have some good craft beer on tap, in the interest of history and honoring the character of this bar, belly up to the bar and ask Tyler for a draft Hamms’.   If it’s Wednesday, it will only set you back $2 – a buck for the beer and a buck for Tyler. 

The Standard         14 NE 22nd Ave.     Portland

Jello Shots – Even better with pop rocks on top…

 

Tie Up at the Dockside……

The Dockside – a Portland Classic

The number of new breweries and pubs making the scene in Portland is remarkable.  Although it probably lags the proliferation of cannabis shops, each week Willamette Week or The Mercury will feature either a totally new brewery or another brewpub for an existing establishment.

Just a few examples from a January, 2018 posting of Newschoolbeer.com are Great Notion Brewing (NW), Migration Brewing (Gresham), Modern Times Brewing (SE), Ruse (SE) and Stormbreaker Brewing (St. Johns).  My wife and I did like the sign below in front of the Thirsty Monk Pub and Brewery when we visited Asheville, North Carolina – it’s home base.  It conveys a certain wisdom!

Speaking of monks, don’t forget the much-anticipated Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey which should brew its first batch on site in the next three weeks with Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom on September 22nd.

While the Thirsty Monk Brewery is an Asheville, North Carolina corporation, the ownership and brewing at the Benedictine will be by actual monks including General Manager Fr. Martin Grassel and Head Brewer, Fr. Jacob.  It will be one of only three such brotherly enterprises in the United States.

Installing brewery equipment at The Benedictine Brewery earlier this month.

But to experience one of Portland’s classic establishments, you should follow my lead and by the end of the summer, travel north on Naito Parkway (fighting backed up traffic to accommodate the ill-advised “Better Naito” Bikeway) then on to NW Front Avenue to the Dockside Salon and Restaurant.

And make a point of personally thanking the owners Terry and Kathy Peterson for their initial entrepreneurial spirit in 1986 and the perseverance and courage to maintain this great saloon in the face of surrounding  development.

In the good old days…

Like many of the classic bars in Portland, The Dockside and its domain have historic roots as well-stated on their website:

“The Dockside Saloon & Restaurant opened its doors on September 15, 1986. Prior to that, the restaurant, What’s Up Doc occupied the building and before that it was home to Dot’s Sternwheeler.   It has always been some sort of restaurant and in the early years served as a commissary for the train workers. By our best guess, the building was built around 1925.” 

When construction was beginning..

The Dockside doesn’t have the most robust tap list – seven draft beers including three rotating seasonal on tap, but it carries about fifteen different bottled beers plus a good selection of wines and a full cocktail menu.

Happy Hour is from 4:30 to 7:30 Monday-Friday and rotating craft beers – normally $4.50 are $1.00 off as is the case with LagunitasCoors Light is also $1 off from the regular $3.75 but you can get a PBR for $2.75 instead of the regular $3.50.

And well drinks – normally $4 are $3.25 with wine reduced by $1 from the regular price of $6.25.

They also have an outstanding Sunset Menu with six options including a burger, bowl of clam chowder, chicken quesadilla, Caesar salad, beef tostada or three sliders – each for an astounding price of $3.95.  That means you can have a burger, chips and a pint of PBR for $6.70!

Entering The Dockside is like stepping into an old neighborhood diner – others in Portland visited previously by Thebeerchaser are Sloan’s Tavern and Crackerjack’s Pub.

Historic pictures, old beer signs and memorabilia adorn the walls.  You immediately feel welcome and the staff greet you like you are family.  And they are family themselves. For example, Karen, the lead server has worked there for 27 years and Angel, the chief cook, for 22.

So why is the ambiance so good and the employees so hospitable?  Perhaps other hospitality owners should take a lesson in management perspective from Kathy Peterson who wrote me:

“I am very proud of my staff.  Angel and Karen have been with us for many years and I am thankful for their dedication and devotion to making the Dockside what it is today.  In addition the entire staff works hard at making us successful.”

Of course, it helps when you accompany a regular – on all my visits of the last several years, I have joined Dennis B. Ferguson for breakfast.  And breakfast is one of many reasons you should visit The Dockside.  Denny, who initially retired after a very successful career as an insurance executive, is now the Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation.

Besides knowing everyone in Portland, he is the most optimistic and cheerful person I have ever known.  (He has such a positive viewpoint that each time he makes a withdrawal from the ATM, when the cash is delivered,  he shouts, “I won!  I won!”).

On my most recent visit, I got there a little earlier than Denny – parking is somewhat of a challenge – and told Karen, when she came with coffee, I was meeting “Fergy.”  She immediately responded, “He’s coming in today.  That’s like winning the lottery.”  (Karen is one of the most personable servers I’ve met in the seven years of Thebeerchaser Tour.) 

Angel, Karen and Denny

The sixteen primary breakfast options are all named after Portland-area bridges and the prices are very reasonable and the food plentiful and delicious. 

The choices range from the Burnside Bridge (2 eggs, hashbrowns and toast for $8.25) to the robust St. John’s (7 oz. ribeye steak, 2 eggs with hashbrowns and toast for $14.75). 

Legendary breakfasts – especially the hashbrowns..

Or try my favorite – the West Linn Bridge (2 small cakes, 2 eggs & 2 sausage links or 2 pieces of (superb) bacon for only $7.75)

And the hashbrowns are legendary as evidenced in this quote from Oregon Live’s 2018 “Ultimate Guide to Portland’s 50 Best Inexpensive Restuarants,”

“….making some of the city’s best hashbrowns….Those hashbrowns are a wonder with preposterously ideal crispness.  $3 on their own or a bit more with eggs or other things in one of the Dockside’s bridge-themed breakfasts.”

Coffee and a side order of hashbrowns

Or a 12/4/ 2017 Yelp review – just one of the many mentioning this dish:  “They’re buttery crispy, golden brown and cooked all the way through.   They’ve ruined me for hash browns at any other place.”

For lunch and dinner, they also have a multitude of sandwiches, soups and salads.  Oh yes!  If you hit The Dockside on Tuesdays between 4:00 and 7:30, you can get three tacos for 1.50!

Any review or article on the Dockside will inevitably mention the connection with Portland’s infamous “celebrity,” former Olympic ice-skater Tonya Harding.  Although she had not been to the Dockside, her then husband, Jeff Gillooly, purportedly got rid of a bunch of trash including papers in the Dockside dumpster in 1994.  Notes in an envelope appeared to provide evidence of her complicity in the ill-fated attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Tonya – Added new meaning to the term “Dumpster ‘fire'”

The Dockside’s website and the back page of their menu tell the story – Kathy Peterson found the documents and called the FBI.  She and The Dockside were interviewed by broadcast and print media from all over the world.  A good summary of the story is on this YouTube of the KOIN newscast of the story.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuD2kDC-Szw

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune also wrote a good story on Harding’s recent emergence in the movie and on Dancing with the Stars.  (Notice in the article that she said about her TV appearance, “My knees were shaking,” rather than “knocking.”   Go figure!)

Server, Ashley; Denny and co-owner, Kathy Peterson

Karen confirmed the accuracy of a Willamette Week article on February 10, 2016, where you can find out about the commercial project which surrounds the eatery.  The original developer tried twice to buy out The Dockside, but Terry and Kathy gave them the thumbs down.

The project named “Field Office” – a six-story two-building $100 million sustainable office and retail complex, which literally envelops the saloon, was then acquired by Portland developer Project^, working with Hacker Architects.  They were cooperative:

“The development will horseshoe around the 90-year-old building housing longshoreman’s hang-out Dockside Saloon as if the Dockside had a forcefield around it.  ‘The Dockside will stay exactly how they are,’ says lead architect Stefee Knudsen.  ‘We’re not touching it, we’re staying away from it to the best of our ability, to accommodate this historic pub.’ 

‘The Dockside was not on the table,’  says Jonathan Ledsma a developer for Project^. ‘I wasn’t interested in purchasing it.  Ledesma says they carved out extra space along the lot line to give the bar some breathing room, and have been in constant contact with Kathy and Terry Peterson, Dockside’s owners.

‘It reminds me a little of the skyscrapers built around the little house in (the movie) Up,’ Knudsen says. ‘But I hope we’re accommodating it better with the design.‘”

Reminiscent of “Up.:

Now if you want to go to an establishment named The Dockside, you can also choose very upscale options in Wilmington, N. Carolina; in North Tonawanda, New York – along the Erie Canal; on the shore of Lake Michigan in Oconto, Wisconsin, on York Harbor in Maine or for delicious ribs and lobsters, in Hyannis Harbor on Cape Cod.

However, Thebeerchaser will lay odds that the best option is Portland’s own Dockside Saloon and Restaurant – and ours is not even actually on the water…..On weekdays they are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.  And when you enter, say hello to Karen, Angel, Ashley and owners Kathy and Terry.

I will conclude with the words of one of the many positive reviews on social media which sums it up quite well – Trip Advisor: 11/16/17:

“OK, this is SO Portland…this little gem of a restaurant is hidden in a sea of condos, apartments and commercial buildings along Front Avenue.  It has been a restaurant since the 1930’s and must NOT be overlooked.  Owned and operated by a local Portland family for over 30 years (who can say that?). 

The food is down home.  Scratch biscuits, home made hollandaise sauce, daily soup, eggs cooked to perfection and THE BEST hashbrowns and bacon anywhere!  All at very reasonable prices…..

They have the friendliest wait staff anywhere and they quickly learn what your favorites are…..Hands down, its just the best in casual dining.”  

Of course, if you really want to make it a winning day, call Fergy and invite him to come with you.  Then go out and buy a Megabucks ticket!

Fergy – Like winning the lottery!

The Dockside     2047 NW Front Avenue

You’re Overdue! (For a Visit to the Multnomah Whiskey Library)

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Followers of this blog know that the title – Thebeerchaser – is a misnomer of sorts.  While it mentions good lagers we taste at various watering holes, the focus is on the bars as an institution – the history, the character, the regulars and the staff.   That said, of the eighty-three Portland bars, taverns and breweries visited and reviewed since August, 2011, only one – the Pope Bourbon House – has focused on hard liquor or distilled spirits.

That is until the first Beerchasing event in 2017 – the Multnomah Whiskey Library (hereafter MWL), which Beerchasing regulars, Dan Eller, Michael Jones and I visited on January 4th (more about those two fellows below).

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Eller and Jones

In the three + years since opened by owners, Greg Goodman and Alan Davis, this unique gathering place has taken Portland by a storm and received national attention.  For example, Thrilllist includes it in its 2014 list of the “Twenty-one Best Whiskey Bars in America.”  (“MWL ia about as close as you can get feeling like part of the 1% without going broke.”)

The MWL on its website lists forty-five links to newspaper and magazine articles ranging from the New York Times to the United Airlines Hemisphere to Travel and Leisure to Portland Monthly.  (Click on the links to see the articles)  An article in Paste Magazine was entitled “This May Be the Greatest Whiskey Bar in the World “ https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/this-might-be-the-greatest-whiskey-bar-in-the-worl.html

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Inconspicuous entrance

And while the reviews (including this one) have been overwhelmingly positive, there are some who feel it is not consistent with Portland values and culture:  “…..The pretentious vibe, however, was a bit much…” (Yelp 12/3/16).   Most of the negative comments relate to the doorman and staff at the vestibule – they check-in every person entering the bar – it’s in an old building (formerly a piano warehouse) on SW Alder Street.  You’ll have to look for a small sign above the door, overshadowed by the sign for Chizu – a sushi bar for cheese in the space next door.

There is a sound rationale for the check-in staff and procedure set forth below based on the MWL business model.  Those who simply drop in can expect to wait from forty-five minutes to two hours or more (on weekends) in the Green Room – the smaller bar on the ground floor, before being ushered up to the spacious and ornate lounge above.

The Green Room downstairs

The Green Room downstairs

Because many don’t want to hear the hostesses’ message or resent having to wait, the recipients of their ire are the ones who convey the message.  For example:

“The hostess at the front repeats an automated, pretentious, stone-cold response to stomp the hopes out of every potential patron…..”  (Yelp 11/7/16)

“The waitress (in the Green Room) was standing behind the bar ignoring us. She was rude and hostile the entire time.” (Yelp 9/28/16)

“My guest and I were greeted by a pretentious lackey masquerading as a        maître d’…with the ferociousness of an angry kitty, this bow-tied fella who I suspect was the victim of bullying as a child has embraced his role as a table Nazi by taking tremendous pleasure in turning people away…..”  (Yelp 5/6/15)

photo-jan-04-6-46-30-pm-2You see, the MWL is primarily a member-based bar with 600 of Portland’s power-crowd paying the $600 annual fee which allows them unfettered access during normal  operating hours and preferred reservations to special and educational events – and don’t forget a “Set of the Library’s custom tasting glassware”!?!.   Although that same amount could buy you 400 Happy-hour draft PBRs at the Yamhill Pub, there are more than 600 people on the waiting list. 

So maybe it was appropriate that my companions were Eller and Jones, since Dan is a tax and estate-planning lawyer at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Jones is an investment counselor/financial adviser with Merrill-Lynch.   Given the increased scrutiny the IRS gives to meals and entertainment expenses, Eller would be able to advise to ensure maximum deductibility and Jones could develop a financial strategy so you could experience at least most of the 1,500 different labels (a total inventory of 1,900 bottles) well into retirement.

Eller on Cycle Oregon trip

Eller on Cycle Oregon ride

These two gents have accompanied me on two other Beerchasing events – the Oregon Public House, the Pope Bourbon House.  Both fit the profile of successful young, civically- involved Portlanders the MWL would want on its roster.  Eller, besides his Masters in Finance at Portland State and law degree, has an LLM (Masters in Taxation) from the University of Washington.  He’s is on the board of Cycle Oregon and past chair of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society besides being an adjunct professor at both Northwestern Law School at Lewis and Clark and Portland State in his spare time….                                  

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones after his undergraduate degree at Marylhurst University earned his MBA, is a US Army veteran, and worked in management positions in Japan before returning to the states.   He has been on the City Club of Portland Board and chairs the annual Alzheimer Walk for the Oregon Alzheimer Association.  Mike is a skilled woodworker as well as an avid hunter and outdoorsman as you might deduce from this picture.  Both of these gents are also great family men.

Dan made sure that our group had a “Hall Pass,” so we did not have to wait to get in.  This entry fee for non-members at the MWL costs $25 per person.  The fee seemed inordinate since my only other experience with a hall pass was in grade school.  Then you could secure one at no cost by just raising your hand and looking at the teacher with an imploring and strained look on your face.  But in both instances, it’s a great way to avoid a wait.

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Antibiotic and janitorial resistant……

Upon entering, I was struck by the stark contrast with the one “grunge bar” visited on my Beerchasing journey (three times…) – the Yamhill Pub where one almost expected an inspection by the Oregon Health Division in order to get out of this bar – the toilets may be a breeding ground for hostile invasive species in all likelihood immune to antibiotics.

The stairs at the Whiskey Library lead up to a spacious dimly-lit room with what was described by one Trip Advisor reviewer as “an absolutely dazzling selection” (8/16) and the MWL website proudly asserts is “…an exhaustive collection representing all major and lesser styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world.”  

There are a number of twelve-foot ladders which the staff use to retrieve many of the bottles – “organized categorically by region, ingredient and distilleries’ production practices. In short, this is a whiskey lover’s paradise.”  (PDX Eater  6/4/14)

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Fear of heights might be a problem when dusting the bottles

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Indeed, the collection is so extensive that the new employees each take part in the ongoing cycle of “dusting” the bottles.  Our server, Jason, confirmed this informing us that the dusting shifts for new employees also help them learn the names of the brands served.

The ornate framed portraits lining the walls stand out.  These are “the most important people in whiskey, all done by local artists. They include Jack Daniels, Mary the Jewess (‘the first true alchemist of the Western world’), George Washington, and Shinjiro Torii (the founder of Suntory whiskey).  (Munchies Magazine 5/7/15)  

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

And one’s initial exposure to the stained-glass skylights, the dark wood tables and long wrap-around bar, leather chairs and over-stuffed couches, exposed brick, twenty-foot ceilings, chandeliers and the hushed efficiency of the vested and tie-wearing servers, may be responsible for multiple ethereal references:

“I feel that this is what man heaven must be like.” (Yelp 5/4/16)

“(I thought) I died and went to whiskey heaven.” (Yelp 8/24/16)

“The host checking people in…pretends to be the gatekeeper to heaven.” (  5/29/16)

The scope of this review doesn’t provide space to amplify on the Green Room, but it also reeks of class and evidently has a nice selection of spirits.  Similarly, I will not address the food served at the MWL which has been described as good and reasonably priced.

And lest you think that the sophisticated ambiance and upscale trappings mean a stuffy or staid group of patrons, there was a nice energy in both bars and the crowd was diverse in demographics as one reviewer described it:

“(The crowd was) also classy, buzzing with conversation.  It feels like people here are talking about culture and worldly experiences vs. whose sports team is better or the Kardashians.”  (Yelp 12/23/16)  (not that the latter should be a standard…..)

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our bartender/server, as reflected in most of the reviews on the staff, was knowledgeable, very helpful and a nice person.  Having worked there for eighteen months, he loves his job and answered our ongoing stream of questions about the bar and the selection of whiskeys as he prepared our cocktails at his rolling cart by our table.

Notwithstanding some stories about the extravagant tabs run up by some high-rollers (one rumored at $15,000 over two nights), the prices are pretty reasonable and we sampled a broad range of libations without requiring bank financing.  For example, I had an Old Fashioned, their “go to” drink,  while Eller had a Manhattan and Jones a Cadet (40 creek barrel select, fundador, nocino, house spirits coffee) and the round cost under $30 without tip.  They also have three beers on tap as well as a number of bottled beers for those with a myopic perspective.

The Room

The Private Tasting Room

I had a friend who went there on business who told me that he shared the most expensive bottle of scotch he’d ever drunk costing $350 (bought by the other party…) and MWL’s most expensive offering is a single-malt Macallan Royal Marriage, with a price tag of $1,785 a shot. according to Munchies Magazine.  You have to shell out $1,250 to procure your own “spirit locker.”

Our visit was a great experience and I don’t expect to visit another bar where the head bartender has the title of “Librarian” or “Curator” and where “Membership cards are personalized with your name laser etched into cherry wood…. making them, quite possibly, the coolest library card in the word.” (Montecristo Mag 9/30/14).  My only comparable experience was in my junior year at Oregon State when NROTC midshipmen Mulvey, Riley and I sneaked a pint of Wild Turkey into the William Jasper Kerr Library to help us study for a final exam in our navigation course.

While one can sympathize to a certain extent with those who encounter an unexpected and very long wait, it’s only requires a modicum of common sense to do a little research before going to a high-profile bar of this type rather than just dropping in.  A hall pass can eliminate the wait and is well worth the price.  The Multnomah Whiskey Library fills a good niche in the Portland food and beverage sector.

The Multnomah Whiskey Library         1124 SW Alder Street

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Two high rollers and Thebeerchaser…..

 

Sloan’s (Tavern) – It’s a Lot Like Home

Sloans - Like walking into a living room.......

Sloans – Like walking into a living room…….

Having visited seventy watering holes in Portland during the last fifty-four months, Thebeerchaser can assert that there are really no bad establishments in this group of bars, taverns and pubs.  While some may be a little bit drab, the service may be less than stellar or the atmosphere has little charm or ambiance, all can be equated to a bull market – “When it is good, it is fantastic and even when it is bad, it is still pretty good!”

P1040012It can also be stated, however, that a few of the saloons I’ve visited have a charisma or charm that  registers as soon as one enters.   Those gems which I’ve reviewed and come to mind are Crackerjacks Pub in NW Portland, the Old Oregon Saloon in Lincoln City, Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, Alaska and The Sink in Boulder, Colorado.

Thebeerchaser outside Sloan's

Thebeerchaser outside Sloan’s

Well, I am adding another Portland bar to that group – Sloan’s Tavern in NE Portland – right near Legacy Emmanuel Hospital.  In an era where many new bars have sleek corporate-type environments with more taps than you could sample in a lifetime, it is refreshing to discover a family-run operation that epitomizes a charming old-fashioned gathering place.

The bar was opened by Bob Sloan and his wife, Shirley in 1979.  The Sloans owned and operated a custom auto body and paint shop next door – started in 1954 and still operating – they specialized in Freightliner trucks.  As evidenced by the amazing pictures in the bar, Bob Sloan also did skilled body and restorative work on classic autos.  When a café next door to the body shop run by an elderly lady closed, they bought the property and opened the bar. (The entire property was originally a creamery that opened in 1926.)

Evidence of the Freightliner legacy on the west wall of Sloans

Evidence of the Freightliner legacy on the west wall of Sloans

A charming aspect of Sloans is the décor, and Shirley, a beautiful and personable lady of 80, who graciously answered all my questions, pointed out that none of the furnishings were purchased new.

The bar stools – described affectionately by one reviewer as “adult high-chairs” – acquired from a diner, are classic as is the supplemental horseshoe bar near the west end of the establishment.  Bob Sloan died in 2013, and Shirley still is owner, manager and does the cooking – and she is an excellent cook.  P1040025

I might add, that one of the factors in making the evening one to remember was being accompanied by two friends:

Beerchaser Regular, West Coast Dave Hicks, a San Francisco-based legal consultant who has been on more Beerchasing expeditions than anyone except yours truly.

First-time Beerchaser, John Horvick, with West Coast Dave Hicks and Thebeerchaser logo

First-time Beerchaser, John Horvick, with West Coast Dave Hicks and Thebeerchaser logo

Portlander, John Horvick, Vice President and Political Director at DHM Research – Oregon’s premier survey research and polling firm, also joined us.  Unless you have been living in a cave or alternatively blocked all broadcast and print media to escape the 2016 political races,  you have undoubtedly heard John speak or seen one of his quotes in the papers or media.

Young Portland leader, Horvick. Still throws a mean strike...

Young Portland leader, Horvick. Still throws a mean strike…

He is a young leader in Portland as evidenced by his recent term as President of the City Club of Portland.  John was born in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Minnesota after first spending most of his college years at University of Nebraska on a bowling scholarship…..! 

In fact, his dad was a professional bowler and even though John wore loafers rather than bowling shoes while we drank, he was animated when discussing bowling hall-of-famers such as Don Carter, Dick Weber and Earl Anthony (1938 – 2001) who he reminded us was from Cornelius, Oregon.

Hall of Fame Bowler, Earl Anthony - he would love Sloans!

Hall of Fame Bowler, Earl Anthony – he would love Sloans!

When asked about his time in the fast lane(s) – so to speak – John replied, My bowling days were at Nebraska. I bowled for three years, and also taught the University bowling class. My students included NFL players and a first round pick pick in the WNBA.  I had a great run bowling in college, but ……as my coach would remind us, no one ever retired on their bowling winnings.”

John hung up his bowling shoes in his senior year and graduated at Minnesota where he got in-state tuition and funding for a research project.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Sloan’s

The Food – Consistent with the family-owned orientation, the bar closes at 10:00 PM each night and is not open on weekends.  When Shirley stops cooking in the afternoon, there is only a minimal menu of nachos, burgers, etc. available.  But this former North Dakota girl stated, “Lunch is our prize!”  She makes all the sauces and soups and puts together a great sandwich and lunch specials such as fish and chips with slaw ($6.25)  In fact, try the Emanuel Special (ham, turkey and jack and cheddar cheese on a French roll – $6.25) named for the regular lunch customers from nearby Legacy-Emanuel Hospital.              

Reg, the night bartender talking to some patrons

Reg, the night bartender talking to some patrons

And the prices are very reasonable, for example, a great Reuben and fries for $8.25 or a 1/3 pound burger with fries for $7.25.  Although they only have seven beers on tap and a slew of bottled beers, the environment to consume it is certainly far superior to some of the “beer shops” with 50 to 100 taps and the ambiance of a dental reception area.   Besides, you can get a $1.50 draft PBR – all the time!

P1040021The Décor – The individual lamps and bar lighting, wall hangings, carpet, booths and bar stools, the mirror on the ceiling by the bar along with an old time rotating Schlitz beer globe all give a very comfortable neighborhood bar vibe as do the photos of classic cars on the wall.

Shirley describes it as “My living room,” and based on the amount of time she spends at the bar, the description is apt.  While the Freightliner truck cab jutting out the side of the building is notable, the truck grill built into the bar itself, is also pretty cool.

A grill in the bar separate from that in the kitchen.....

A grill in the bar separate from that in the kitchen…..

And in what was described in 2012 by Willamette Week as “the best juke box in Portland”, you can watch a Chicago Coin’s Animatronic Big Band Box go into action while one of your favorite oldies is played.  It’s one of about ten still working in the US and was manufactured in the 1950’s.  As described in the “WW 2008 Bar Guide”:

“The true gem of the place is the jukebox—an ancient machine, it’s capped with a glass dome containing a miniature (eight-piece) plastic band (and singer) that moves in time to the music (mostly oldies).” 

P1040015

A classic and outstanding juke box

P1040022

———–

There were some comments on social media that referenced Sloans as a dive bar.  From one who has great affection for such establishments (see Thebeerchaser post “Analyzing Dive Bars Head First” – September, 2011), these reviewers don’t have a clue as to what constitutes this category and the mislabel is the equivalent in this wacked-out 2016 political scene of  describing Donald Trump as an intellectual….

I’ll close by quoting excerpts from two authoritative sources – Portland Barfly and Willamette Weeks Annual Bar Guide for an apt picture of what you will encounter at Sloan’s Tavern and why you should visit it:

Portland Barfly:   The absolute cutest bar in North Portland, by far!  A retro-lover’s paradise – everything is vintage, down to the 50s diner coffee-maker.  A former greasy spoon, this spot cleaned up into a perfect date destination with its deep booths, and fantastic mirrored ceiling.  Command the bar in the really fun swiveling captain’s chairs! Beautiful wall hangings, combined with kitschy relics of bars past – it’s like the ultimate estate sale you hope desperately to stumble upon (though, sadly, everything is NFS).                          P1040024

Willamette Week 2013 Bar GuideThroughout a vibrant but never cluttered ’70s interior, the high art of low culture has been lovingly assembled to breathtaking effect utterly shorn of irony or, strange as this may sound, excess….The blend of fashion-forward cocktails with time-swept food (our visit, the food special was beef stroganoff; the drink special, house-infused cucumber gin) reflects a clientele with both neighborhood holdovers and gay and lesbian transplants.

It’s the sort of hard-earned integration of clientele easily spoiled by nightlife tourists, but Sloan’s schedule and locale just far enough from several beaten paths have thus far prevented the wholesale invasion. There’s no better way to avoid weekenders than to avoid weekends.

Sloan’s Tavern             36 North Russell Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lompoc Tavern – A Long and Continuing Tradition

Lompoc Tavern - The Tradition Continues

Lompoc Tavern – The Tradition Continues

Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars,Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – initially including only watering holes in Portland, but based on the positive results, the concept was expanded to include establishments in Europe, Alaska, Washington, Montana, Colorado, the Southeastern US, central and eastern Oregon and the Oregon coast.  After four years, over 150 have been visited and reviewed with about 45% of those in Portland.

The Lutz - one of Portland's classics

The Lutz – one of Portland’s classics

Many of the Portland venues such as the Horse Brass Pub, the Lutz Tavern and the Mock Crest Tavern have rich histories.

The bartenders in these venues tell stories about the tunnels below the downtown bars used by smugglers (Kelly’s Olympian) or the brothel and law office that concurrently shared the space (Buffalo Gap Saloon) or the ghost that purportedly still inhabits the upstairs space at the White Eagle Saloonwhite eagle

 

I have visited bars that once housed an ice cream parlor, dry cleaner’s, grocery store, auto-body shop, thrift store, trolley station, Greek Orthodox church and petting zoo to name just a few.

Unfortunately, I never frequented the original Old Lompoc Tavern before it closed or when it was initially resurrected as the New Old Lompoc Tavern.   To remedy that, in part, I met my old friend Denny Ferguson and his colleague, Tygue Howland (both employed by another resurrected organization – the Portland State University Athletic Department) on a sunny October afternoon at the NW 23rd Street patio fronting the current Lompoc Tavern.

Fergy on the patio of the Lompoc

Fergy on the patio of the Lompoc

My friendship with Fergy goes back to 1979 when he was President of JBL & K Insurance and I worked at the Oregon State Bar.   He tried to teach me about employee benefits. Denny maintains, however, that rather than insurance concepts he tried to educate a young and naïve manager about business practices and life.

I have to admit that Dennis B. Ferguson is one of the most positive people I have ever known.   As I reported when we went Beerchasing at the Cheerful Tortoise in 2012, he is so optimistic that he will again, commence his new diet on the day before Thanksgiving – probably because he runs most of it off in the traditional Ferguson/Murphy Run at 6:15 A.M. Christmas Eve morning.  (Sign-up using the  link.)

Denny at the Cheerful Tortoise in 2013

Denny at the Cheerful Tortoise in 2012

And Tygue is Associate Athletic Director for External Operations at PSU – more about Tygue below. Our visit to the Lompac was greatly enhanced by Rosie, the Manager who also served us and has worked at the bar for the last eight years after moving from Michigan.

Rosie told us that the building structure is over 100 years old and the original Old Lompoc Tavern was opened in 1993.  In 1996, they started brewing and then in 2000, the current owner, Jerry Fechter, bought it with his silent partner – legendary beer entrepreneur, Don Younger, best known for his Horse Brass Pub – it then became the  New Old Lompoc.

Tygue, Rosie and Fergy

Tygue, Rosie and Fergy

All the buildings on that block on NW 23rd were demolished and the bar closed in 2012, but then reopened in May, 2013. Based on the number of previous monikers and potential confusion, the new name was simply the Lompoc Tavern and it joins the four other Portland bars under the Lompoc Brewing umbrella – the Fifth Quadrant, the Oaks Bottom, the Hedge House and Sidebar.

For history buffs, the Lompoc name emanated from the WC Field’s film The Bank Dick with the setting in Lompoc California.

The patio in the rear of the original Lompoc, a favorite of regulars, had to be abandoned and was replaced by the tables which now extend beyond the sidewalk in front of the bar.  But as you can see, the new patio is a great setting for beer and food and when I returned after 5:00 PM, it was filled and lively.  P1030838

What distinguishes the Lompoc? Rosie enthusiastically stated that it was the beer – 14 on tap in addition to one cider and quality seasonals from the Lompoc Brewery in Portland.  (It’s brewed at the Fifth Quadrant.)

The Lompac space is nicely laid out with some widescreen televisions to watch games, a spacious horsehoe bar and a nook with some historical mementoes from the original bar.  A recent Yelp review summed it up nicely:

A lot of cool *#@+ hanging on the wall....

A lot of cool *#@+ hanging on the wall….

“The atmosphere is cozy and dark. There is lots of crazy *%#@ hanging on the walls. A beer paddle, trophies, used malt cans, and concert posters decorate the interior. This is a brewery but the feel is a cross between a roadhouse and a yuppified neighborhood meeting place.

It’s cool, familiar, and comfortable.  The clientele seems to be older neighborhood-dwellers, outdoorsy 30-somethings, and long-bearded regulars. This is not a quiet place to nurse a pint. This is a bustling place to swap loud stories and share the weekend’s exploits with buzzed friends around tall pints of tasty beer.” (Yelp 2/16/15 by Jacob M)

P1030834The Willamette Week newspaper office has is only a few blocks from the Lompoc and in an effort to be humorous – which Lompac Management did not appreciate –  ran a “tongue-in-cheek” piece when the bar reopened in 2013 entitled, “A Complete Catalog of Everything Wrong with New New Old Lompoc”:

“So, yeah, while the New New Old Lompoc (they call it the “Lompoc Tavern”) is pretty great, it lacks the mildewed charm of the old bar which, apropos of nothing, was the closest watering hole to Willamette Week’s office.  Here’s two of the complaints they enumerated:

It’s rainy today — It sure would have been nice if they’d opened the pub last week, when it was nice and sunny.

The entrance may be about five feet farther north. — That’s five feet farther from the WW office. Given the journey involved, you guys aren’t going to catch us here any sooner than 6 pm today…”      P1030833

On a more serious note, the weekly in its 2014 Annual Bar Guide endorsed the Lompoc by stating:

“(It’s) a poor substitute for the delightfully shabby original – well aside from the food, which is better now.   And the beer is better and more adventurous……— (It’s) a neat little nook on the ground floor of a tony condo complex……..”

And since one of the joys of Beerchasing is meeting new friends, a little more about Tygue Howland.   He is smart, personable and understands athletics.  Besides his place in Washington sports lore as the only all-state high school athlete in three sports (football, basketball and baseball at Sedro Woolley High School), he knows and believes in the organization he now represents.   His job description includes fundraising, ticket sales and marketing for the Athletic Department.

All-State in baseball, football and basketball at Sedro Wooley Tygue on left)

All-State in baseball, football and basketball at Sedro Wooley

2015-11-05 13.57.36

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, having just finished the book, I suggested that  inviting author, Jon Krakauer, to a book-signing to autograph his most recent book, Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town at PSU’s away game in Missoula that weekend with the University of Montana.   It could  be a creative way to generate publicity although it might not be enthusiastically received by the Montana Grizzlies or for that matter the University of Montana Administration.

Missoula - a college town with a football history and culture

Missoula – a college town with a football history and culture?

For those who have not read it, Krakauer’s  387-page non-fiction best seller is the account of the sad legacy including University of Montana football players’ involvement in a series of sexual assaults on campus, which were so numerous that it ended with an investigation and report by the US Department of Justice.   The feds criticized the University, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula  County Attorney’s Office for their roles in tacitly permitting the perpetuation of this environment.

The University of Montana campus

The University of Montana campus

Tygue and Fergy rejected the suggestion and Portland State beat the Grizzlies 59 to 41 improving their record to five wins and one loss in what has been a remarkably successful season, which now stands at 8 and 2.

Tygue has a history at PSU, having played quarterback starting in 2005 under Coach Mike Walsh. Because of a severe injury (two torn ACLs) his football career took place over six years at PSU and he also played for Coaches Jerry Granville and Nigel Burton.   Keep your eyes open for this guy who in addition to his work at PSU, had a short stint at the Oregon State Athletic Department adding to his resume.

PSU Quarterback Howland before the injuries

PSU Quarterback Howland

And give the Lompoc a try – The patio is a terrific place to raise a mug and watch people.   And we found the Lompoc, while understandably not a duplicate of the original, a welcome addition to some of the sterile offerings on NW 23rd.

It has a nice ambiance, diverse and ample selections of beer, reasonably priced and tasty menu selections and a friendly staff (Say hello to Rosie!!!)

And maybe Willamette Week staffers will return and focus their criticism on more serious issues — like the ongoing and precipitous decline of The Oregonian……

The Lompoc - not the original, but a nice ambiance...

The Lompoc – not the original, but a nice ambiance…

The Lompoc Tavern 1620 NW 23rd Avenue