Beerchaser Miscellany – Fall of 2017

The Brooklyn Park Pub – Revisiting the First Stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs and One of My Favorite Bartenders

Seven years ago, when I decided to implement my crazy idea as a retirement hobby, I was concerned about how it would be perceived by the bartenders I would interview.  For it to be successful, I needed them to answer my questions about what makes their bar different, comment on the tavern’s regulars and offer info on their own background.

Would they dismiss these inquiries as some old guy with idiosyncratic tendencies or support the idea that highlighting the history and distinguishing factors of Portland’s many watering holes was a cool idea?

Phoebe in August 2011

Well, my trepidation was unnecessary when the first bartender I interviewed became one of the most memorable.  Phoebe Newcomb was behind the bar at the Brooklyn, a great little Southeast neighborhood pub – and still one of my favorites after seven years.

She told me about the Whiskey Club, talked about the tradition of serving their draft beers in Mason jars and to check out the woodchuck posters…..

Phoebe’s gift at my first stop on the Tour….

When I told her that the Brooklyn was my first of what I hoped would be many bars on the tour, she gave me a Brooklyn Park Pub cap and signed it.   I still remembered her charming and distinctive laugh that echoed through the bar as she was interacting with her customers.

In July, I was reviewing Willamette Week’s Best of Portland issue and discovered that third place for Best Portland Bartender was none other than Phoebe, who now works at the Landmark Saloon besides the Brooklyn.

This motivated me to return to the first of what has become 85 Portland bars and another 125 in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, a slew of places in the continental US and all over Oregon on Thebeerchaser’s tour of Bars, Tavern and Pubs.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/08/07/the-first-establisment-on-the-chase/

A reunion six years later. And the beer is still served in Mason jars

I was not disappointed in Phoebe’s reaction when I again told her my story and that I had returned to thank her for the positive kickstart to Thebeerchaser’s Tour.  I donned the treasured BPP hat and one of the regulars took our picture.

Brian Doyle – His Legacy Lives On – As followers of Thebeerchaser blog and those who appreciate good literature know, we lost a great human being in May with the passing of Brian Doyle who succumbed to brain cancer.   Brian was prolific, authoring about thirty books including novels, collections of short stories and penetrating essays, was the editor of the award-winning Portland magazine published by the University of Portland and a gifted speaker.

Having a brewski in the St. Johns Pub with University of Portland colleague, Dr. Sam Holloway

I met Brian in 2013 when I informed him by letter that I had named him my eleventh Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and all it required for him to receive the “award” (a pint of beer) was to meet me for an interview at the saloon of his choice.  He chose the Fulton Pub.

We had drinks after that on a number of occasions and corresponded by e-mail in which he never failed to demonstrate his positive view of humanity, his religious faith and his imaginative and fanciful sense of humor.

I was therefore pleased when in July I received an e-mail  request from the Design Editor of Melbourne Catholic Magazine in Australia requesting permission to use one of the pictures posted in a tribute to Brian in the blog shortly after his passing.    I laughed when I found out that they selected the one I took at the Fulton Pub the first time we raised a mug.

In the Fulton Pub

The article entitled, “Minor Prophets – A Tribute to a Favourite Author” will be published in September.  Ann Rennie, the author, states in part:

“(Minor prophets) remind us of the universal and eternal.  They remind us of God and of good, and the everyday revelation of the glory in life in all its weariness and work and woe; in its humdrum, ordinary decency and its scintillating, soul stirring wonder.   One such profit (was) the American writer, Brian Doyle, whose beautiful words, written with candour and joy and lyricism, help us to find again the simple and larger truths.””

The picture of the main character on the cover has a strong resemblance to ……

I recently finished Chicago the second to the last novel which Brian wrote in 2016 and it’s my favorite – it’s a perfect example of his keen observations of nature, people and events, some of which many would view as trite or inconsequential.   I’m sure that Brian could have ridden the #33 Tri-Met bus (McLoughlin Blvd…..) from Oregon City into Portland and have written a lengthy and entertaining essay (with very long sentences…..) on what he observed that would have been a good read.

As with another one of my favorite Doyle novels, Martin Marten, I fold back pages as I read so I can go back and write down phrases or paragraphs I want to ponder and remember.  (The book ends up having more pages with folds than those that are not.)

Author, poet and hero of Edward

You should read Brian’s account of Chicago – his descriptions of Chicago White Sox games and players and the Chicago Bulls, gyros, meeting former NBA great Artis Gilmore on a walk, street basketball, Lake Michigan and dribbling his “worn and shiny basketball” through miles and miles of the urban landscape.   And as in Martin Marten, one of his main characters is an intriguing, erudite and marvelously resourceful animal – this one, a talking dog named Edward who had a strong and enduring admiration for both Abe Lincoln and Walt Whitman.  

“But to say of Edward merely that he was a dog and leave the description at that, would be a grave disservice not only to him but to you, for he was one of the most subtle and gracious beings I ever met, and the litany of his adventures alone would fill a shelf of books, before getting to his influence on other beings, for example, which was both considerable and renowned, so much so that creatures of various species would come to Edward for consultation and counsel, from birds to people of all manners and modes of life.”  (Chicago page 2)

The following is a description of his main character’s daily walks in Chicago as he ambled (dribbled…) through countless blocks of the urban landscape.  I offer this as one of many examples why Ann Rennie ended her article with the words, “Thank you Brian, for words that warmed our hearts, enlarged our minds and touched our souls.”  

“….So I walked; and there were days when I thought it likely that I had walked farther and deeper in Chicago that day than anyone else in the whole city, and this was a city of three million souls…

..I met a roan horse….I met buskers by the score, a hundred street basketball players, dozens of people fishing the lake.  I met librarians and bookshop owners and probably every gyro vendor north and west of the Loop.  I met train conductors and bus drivers and taxi drivers….I met teachers and policemen (curiously, never a police woman) and many mayoral candidates – it seemed like every other person in the city that year was running for mayor – and bartenders. (Chicago – page 188)

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/06/09/brian-doyle-beerchaser-eternal/

Pondering Those that Come and Go – I am saddened to report that one of Portland’s  most iconic breweries has “chugged” into the sunset.  The Tugboat Brewery, which I visited with former Portland Mayor, Sam Adams in March 2013 and was downtown Portland’s oldest craft brewery,  was severely water-damaged when the ceiling of the apartment above it in the Stewart Hotel collapsed.  While initially, the plan was to open after repairs, the damage was evidently too extensive.

They posted a sign which stated, “The flea bag hotel above us had an arson fire…..that caused water damage to our pub.”  https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/03/08/say-tug-boat-brewery-ten-times-really-fast/

Sam Adams at the Tugboat in 2013

Similarly, MadSon’s Pub closed in August although no reason was supplied other than rumors of electrical and HVAC issues which would have required extensive repairs.  MadSon’s was a cool and spacious neighborhood-type bar on the near Eastside which had a nice ambiance and a superb brunch.  My first visit was with Portland lawyer, Jack Faust and his clan.  

Add the Hop & Vine on North Killingsworth to the list of closures after eight years of serving beer and wine to its loyal customers.   And, of course, the historic and famous Lotus Cardroom, in downtown Portland is also gone in the name of development.

Fortunately, some other rumored closings did not occur including Tony’s Tavern, a noted dive bar for twenty-one years on West Burnside.   Like Joe’s Cellar, Tony’s reportedly closed because of lease issues, but reopened and is back in business.   This is fortunate.  As one of Tony’s bartenders stated in the Willamette Week clip “It’s where people are friendly.  Some of our customers are assholes, but they’re friendly.”

Other rumors of closings which fortunately did not become a reality were the Laurelthirst Public House and the Dockside, which will see a multi-story office building built immediately adjacent to it.  The Dockside is “best known locally as the place Tonya Harding’s then husband, Jeff Gillooly, tried to dispose of evidence in the kneecapping of (Olympic figure skater) Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.”  (Willamette Week)

And Some That Thrive….! – I am happy to report that on a recent and one of many return visits to what has become one of my favorite brewpubs – FlyBoy Brewing in Tigard, Mark Becker and Michelle Faubion report that their expectations have been exceeded since the opening earlier this year. The City of Tigard has been very helpful in the permit process and they will be opening a new patio in front of the pub in several weeks.

The Flyboy Management Team

The newest of the Flyboy Brews Pilot’s Peach Ale (ABV: 5.50%) has been well received (It had sold out on my visit) and Michelle stated that some patrons are mixing it with Flyboy’s White Cloud Imperial IPA (5.80% ABV).  My first pint of the Peach Ale is one – not the only reason – I keep returning.  https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/flyboy-brewing/

A remarkable beer

Drop by and try some of the thirty beers on tap and the great food on their menu.  Happy Hour is from 3:00 to 6:00 each weekday.

Thebeerchaser Goes Civic –  I was pleased to be able to make a repeat performance relating the story of Thebeerchaser blog and why it has become a wonderful retirement hobby – this time in August at the Lincoln City Rotary Club.   I made the same presentation to the West Linn Rotary Club in 2016.

They appeared to enjoy the stories on the dive bars, especially since one of my favorites is Lincoln City’s venerable Old Oregon Saloon.   And it was gratifying when the principal of one of the local schools came up afterwards and said, “I loved the dive bar stories and descriptions.  I grew up in one.  My parents owned a dive bar in Washington.”

Farewell to a Portland Legend – Born in Hot Springs, South Dakota, Jack Stutzman died in Portland last week at the age of 77.  He graduated from Oregon’s West Linn High School and found his niche in the bar and restaurant business after Army service.  His first tavern, the Green Spot was followed by The Local Gentry, Gassy Jack’s and he then purchased the Hoot Owl in John’s Landing in 1973.

It became the legendary Buffalo Gap Saloon & Eatery, named after one of his favorite towns in South Dakota:

“The Gap grew from a seating capacity of 25 to 250……Became a neighborhood tavern, a home away from home.  It sheltered a diverse crowd from all walks of life, the neighbors, the  young and old party goers, the students from Lewis and Clark, the medical community from OHSU, the commuters between PDX and Lake Oswego, the occasional celebrity and everyone in between.”  From obituary in Oregon Live 

Holly Eldridge, our server, and Jack Faust at the Buffalo Gap in 2011

The Gap was one of Thebeerchaser’s first watering holes visited when this blog started in 2011 with Beerchaser regular, Jack Faust.  Drop by this great saloon which still thrives on SW Macadam and toastJack Stutzman’s  memory.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/12/14/the-buffalo-gap-saloon/

Advertisements

Renners – “Generous Cocktails, Cold Beer and Good Food Since 1939”

Multnomah Village is a small community with a bustling, albeit small business district about five and one-half miles south of downtown Portland.   It was annexed by the City of Portland in the 1950’s.  “The community developed in the 1910’s around a depot of the Oregon Electric Railway.” (Wikipedia)  For many years, it’s been relatively off-the-radar except for those who like to visit the Annie Bloom’s Books or O’Connor’s Restaurant – a nice little bistro owned by Montana natives who have been serving good food for the last twenty years.

The Ship – just around the corner in the Village….

It is also home to one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite dive bars – The Ship Tavern – reviewed in 2012. https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/12/10/all-hands-on-deck-at-the-ship-tavern/.

Based on my two recent visits, I have added another memorable dive bar to my list of favorites – Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room, a well-known watering hole that’s been around since 1939.

Don’t be misled by the title and most notably the words “Suburban Room”  – the “Room” is a small, dark chamber in the back of the bar to which many of the regulars gravitate.

The Inner Sanctum..

And Renner’s for years had a reputation for being a tough place with stiff drinks and regulars who don’t welcome strangers.  In fact, one person told me that it was the hangout for those who were too tough or unrefined for The Ship.

Photo courtesy of Keith Watkins, Religious Historian *1

The Village has changed, however.  It’s becoming gentrified and a great location given its proximity to Portland yet largely retaining its small-town ambiance.  Property values have soared, there are new stores and restaurants e.g. a Lucky Labs Pub, in an old building that used to be a Masonic Temple. It’s now a challenge to find a parking place even on a weekday evening.

Renner’s has also changed, as you will see below, however, it has definitely retained it’s character and ambiance.  This excerpt from a May 23, 2017 Willamette Week review describes it well:

“…..This little hole-in-the-wall tucked among the century-old buildings of Multnomah Village is the epitome of a dive bar, minus any of the pretension about being a dive bar you’d get closer to the center of the city.

It’s dark, it’s a little gritty, it takes forever to get a drink, Fleetwood Mac is somehow always playing and the food is greasy in the best way possible……The wells are a dollar instead of the drafts, and as every night, they’re the strongest you’ll get west of the river.”

The  Multnomah Villager blog quoting the Portland Tribune in October 2005 stated, in part,:

“Renner’s is built into the side of a hill. It feels like the dining car on a Depression-era train, and it’s about that big. A lunch counter and a few raised booths fill the front.

….. Art deco lamps hang from the uneven  …….The back wall is lined with photos, like the signed celebrity photos in many historic dining rooms. But here they are all pictures of loyal customers.”

Renners regulars from years past

Even the sometimes cynical  Portland Barfly opines:   ”With some sixty-odd years under its belt, Renner’s vintage charms beckon a surprisingly diverse array of regulars. It’s a shining example of the endangered neighborhood bar.”

A distinctive and historic sign

As one approaches Renner’s, the sign, which looks similar to an old Rexall Drug Store sign, beckons you into what is a very tight and intimate space – very different than some of the spacious classic dive bars reviewed previously on Thebeerchaser such as Gil’s Speakeasy or Bar of the Gods.

But Emmie, the cordial bartender, who is a McMinnville girl like Thebeerchaser’s spouse of 37 years, gives a friendly “hello” and expertly goes through the list of eight drafts and six bottled beers available in addition to three Tall Boys – Ranier, PBR and Rolling Rock.

A good selection of beers

There are about eight or nine seats at the semi-circular bar and three booths with black vinyl seats in the front part of the bar with historic photos or newspaper articles on the walls of each.  The first time there, I was accompanied by Beerchaser regular Walt Duddington

Walt is a veteran of such bars such as the Lutz Tavern and more recently, Ancestry Brewing.  Walt had a draft Total Domination IPA from Ninkasi Brewing and I couldn’t resist a PBR Tall Boy.

Walt Duddington on the first Renner’s visit

We talked to a nice guy named Steve Potter, an insurance adjuster and also chatted with two personable chaps who were in their coveralls and had just finished the day installing and maintaining HVAC systems.  Their customer base includes a number of bars in Southeast Portland – nice fellows and typical of dive bar regulars.

On one of the two big screen TV’s, we watched part of the first round of the NBA draft wondering if General Manager, Neil Olshey, would pull off some kind of miracle to allow the Blazers to exceed the fifty-win threshold in 2018 and garner another trip to the playoffs.

Or alternatively, draft a tall, skinny kid from the WCC who wasn’t a starter the entire year before he turned pro…. maybe he should have opted for a Migration Brewing’s Terry’s Porter for his first draft choice (ABV: 6.7% IBU:42: Roasted chocolate malts with hints of herbs and coffee)

A draft while watching the Draft – NBA style…

The next trip to Renner’s was for both beer and dinner with another veteran Beerchaser, my brother-in-law, Dave Booher.  He has also accompanied me on two three-and one-half day Beerchasing fieldtrips  through Central and Eastern Oregon in 2013 and the Central Oregon Coast in 2014.

Dave, the Tapman on the Oregon Coast

Dave and I started with a beer at the bar and  then moved into the Suburban Room for dinner which I was anticipating with additional salivary gland adrenalin after talking for twenty minutes on my first trip with Josh, the co-owner, who also bears the moniker, “Uncle Stumpy.”

Emmie and Josh make you feel at home…..

 

Josh, has been the co-owner for  2.5 years although he has worked at the bar since 2010.  He is also a partner in another bar with great atmosphere in the Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland – the Hawthorne Hideaway which Thebeerchaser reviewed in the first full year of the journey. 

https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/03/26/the-hawthorne-hideaway-amiable-alliteration/

Now one of the characteristics of many dive bars is cheap but not succulent food.  One doesn’t expect a Steak Diane with your $2.00 PBR.  For example, given the cost, I was happy with my Friday Special of Sloppy Joes and Chips for $1.50 at Gil’s Speakeasy, but it didn’t rank up there with the faire at some of Portland’s fine restaurants.

Gils Speakeasy Sloppy Joe is typical of dive bar grub

However, Uncle Stumpy has aggressively worked to make Renner’s menu attractive and the food one orders from that extensive document is superior and something that makes his clientele want to return.  (I have not used the word “clientele” previously in a blog post about dive bars…..).  Josh speaks with pride about his bar and stated

“Renner’s is 5.5 miles from downtown Portland, but it might as well be 100,” Josh asserts. 

His goal is to “maintain the dive bar experience, but offer superior food from scratch and a neighborhood bar charm.”  So far, he is succeeding.  As evidence I offer our dinner experience and these recent reviews from social media:

Cozy bar with INCREDIBLE food. Seriously, Renners has managed to elevate pub food to a whole new level. Their buffalo chicken thighs are so good (yes thighs not wings). I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like!”  Yelp 5/7/17

They even have started a quality breakfast which is worth a trip:

This historical bar serves a whoppin’ size breakfast that’s really good! Old menus and photos adorn the walls and good old village folks like the happy hour too!”  Trip Advisor 8/12/15

This is just the specials……

Take a look at the five entree’s available during BBQ Month the night we were there, a number of which rotated during the week.   These are supplemented on the regular menu by thirteen burgers including an elk burger and a peanut butter bacon burger which should probably be avoided unless your nickname is “Skippy.” 

Outstanding onion rings

There’s also seven hot dogs and eight sammies from which to choose including “Connor’s Cardiac Arrest” which should come with its own defibrillator given the ingredients including brisket, pulled pork, bacon and barbecue sauce on a ciabatta bun.  And if you’re not up for dinner, there are seven Happy-Hour items ranging from fries to tacos, cheeseburgers and sliders.

The Taman pleased with his Hangar Steak dinner

The Tapman opted for the Hangar Steak with corn-on-the-cob, fries and cole slaw ($15.75) and I honed in on the Bison Meatloaf Sandwich ($14.75) and upgraded to some wonderful onion rings.  Dave said it was the best hangar steak he had eaten in Portland and my sandwich was excellent and large enough that it made a good follow-up lunch.

There were a few scattered and minor complaints about the bar on social media including the music being too loud and the pace of service:  “….the music is way too loud. It’s excessively annoying. I can’t have a conversation with the people I’m with. If I wanted to listen to music, I’d put some headphones on at home. It’s terrible. Everyone around us is yelling because the music is so loud. Bad ambiance.“ Yelp 4/15/17

However, both of us and a number of others at the bar who were over sixty, can’t hear most conversation anyway and don’t try when any kind of music is playing.

Looking out from the Suburban Room

Renner’s was filled the night we were there and Emmie did a wonderful job with our drink and dinner orders.  No complaints on what was excellent and friendly service on both visits when the bar was very busy.

This alley is grandfathered in the zoning ordinance

Overall, it was a great experience and Josh appreciates the historic ambiance provided by the turn of the 1900’s building including the small alley-walkway in between the bar and the next building.

He’s also being creative with specials and events.  Up until July, 2017, you could get a draft OR a well-drink for a buck from 9:00 PM to close.  Based on insurance issues, that was changed to $2 – still a good deal.  Or you can visit on Wednesday, which is Bingo Night and gets great comments.

And on August 21st – during the celestial event:  “All you can eat and drink during the eclipse.$25.00.”  (I didn’t check to see whether this was during the two minutes and forty seconds of totality or for the two hours and thirty-five from start to finish in which case, it could be a good deal…..)   

Start drinking and eating…..(Courtesy of R.W. Hap Ziegler)

You should take the succinct but accurate advice of this couple and hit Renner’s:

“Quaint little neighborhood dive bar.  The place looks well worn, but loved by the regulars.  Stopped in for breakfast at 7:30 AM, there were about a dozen or so other patrons scattered around.  Most were drinking and seemed to know everyone else.  So a friendly place to meet and plan your day or your mischief.“ Yelp /23/17

And perhaps your “mischief’ should include a walk around the corner with a stop at The Ship for a beer chaser after your tasty breakfast at Renner’s.

Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room

7819 SW Capitol Hwy

Multnomah Village

The bar in the Suburban Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

*1 Keith Watkins blog:  https://keithwatkinshistorian.wordpress.com/tag/james-david-duncan/  3/4/14

 

Father Martin Grassel Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter

Father Martin Grassel, O.S.B., is a monk who lives at Mount Angel Abbey, his residence for the last eighteen years.   He is the Abbey’s Procurator – the equivalent of the Chief Financial Officer and has responsibilities for technology, human resources, food services, facilities and financial management of the monastery and seminary located on a beautiful hilltop setting about twelve miles from Salem, Oregon.

But this man of faith with a quiet charisma has additional responsibilities which occupy his day – he is the lead brewer for the Benedictine Brewery, a small five-barrel operation starting up at the Abbey and for which there are exciting plans In the near future (see below).

The monks at  Mount Angel start their day with a 5:20 A.M. prayer service – one of six they attend throughout the day.  But Father Martin typically awakens between 2:00 and 3:00 A.M.

The monastery was founded in 1882 and its seminary in 1889.   Mount Angel is the oldest and largest seminary west of the Mississippi and the only such institution to have both a college and graduate school with a 2017 graduating class of 62. 

On this day, Father Martin is checking on his latest batch of English Pale Ale.  He checks the fermentation temperature and carbonation level to ensure the quality he demands and measures the specific gravity of the wort (or finished beer) with a hydrometer, while also making sure the fittings and hoses of the brewing equipment in one of the Abbey buildings are in good order. 

The attention to detail that yields a consistent and high quality beer and his appreciation for math and science are the same attributes that made this 1985 Computer Science graduate from the University of North Dakota, a skilled software developer for Honeywell Corporation in Phoenix when he was in his twenties.  Instead of technical brewery metrics, he was then working with flow charts, data modeling, embedded systems programming and gap analysis.

Father Martin is this blog’s second 2017 Beerchaser-of-the Quarter and the “honor” is richly deserved.  He joins the “elite”  list started on this blog five years ago which now includes writers, military heroes, academicians and even the crew of the USS Constitution for their “legendary” war cruise in 1798.

Although this is a blog about bars and beer, a number of these individuals have nothing to do with my favorite beverage – they are just interesting individuals who have made worthwhile contributions to society and have a good story which should be told.  Father Martin fits both categories.

The late Brian Doyle at the Fulton Pub

Past recipients include authors such as Portland’s own Brian Doyle (Mink River and The Plover), Princeton Professor Emeritus, Dr. Harry Frankfurt (On Bullshit), athletes such as former All-coast and then NFL tackle, Craig “The Dude” Hanneman and Viet Nam veterans and heroes, Jud Blakely, Doug Bomarito and Steve Lawrence.

(To see the narratives for this distinguished group, go up to the blog header and click on the tab entitled “Beerchaser-of -the-Month or Quarter.”)

The Chapel at the Abbey

Father Martin comes from a North Dakota family of four-children that was not a church-attending group.  He became involved in his parish in Phoenix after college graduation.   Although he tried to ignore the inclination, the divine pull to the ministry persisted – he considers Psalm Sunday in 1992 as his “faith anniversary,” and he enrolled at the Mt. Angel Seminary in 1995.

His intent was to return to Phoenix once he completed his formation for the priesthood.  That plan changed, however.  During his time in the seminary he felt attracted to the monastery.  “Once I stepped across the threshold at Mount Angel, I knew I was home,” says the mild mannered and friendly monk who made his final vows in 2003 and was ordained as a priest the next year.

Home……looking out over the beautiful countryside from the Abbey grounds

So what piqued his interest in beer and what’s in store for the Benedictine Brewery in the future?

“I was not a fan of beer in college or afterwards,” says Father Martin.  He did not drink soda or wine either.  

The monks occasionally have refreshments and appetizers before the main meal) and at a 2006 Haustus gathering of the monks (Haustus comes from the Latin verb meaning “to draw up” or “drink.” ) he tried Deschutes Black Butte Porter.  He liked it and later acquired a taste for other Deschutes Brewery beers.

He took an interest in the chemistry and production of beer.   “Beer stuck in my mind.  I’m an engineer.  What goes into making good beer and do I have the skills to accomplish that?” 

After all, brewing is a tradition with monks that goes back to eighth century in Europe:

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

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

There was no thought of “home” brewing, or I guess we should say “Abbey brewing.”  Then about five years ago, a friend of the Abbey offered to donate some beer equipment to the monks to which the initial answer was “No thanks.”

Father Martin adjusting the hoses

But after some reconsideration, the donated beer equipment became Father Martin’s experiment.   He read the book, How to Brew:  Everything You Need to Know to Brew Beer Right the First Time, and made his first batch in the kitchen of a friend’s house.

He started brewing at the Abbey and there were many mistakes – “Once the hoses blew off the chiller and there was beer spraying all over the room.”  However, he persevered and made a batch of Pale Ale and “The monks liked it!”

In his role as Procurator, Father Martin and the leaders of the Abbey had been contemplating additional revenue sources to supplement the Abbey’s income.  A tree farm, press and saw mill which had been part of the Abbey’s revenue stream were all declining or gone.  And there had been some, albeit not unanimous prior interest by the monks in furthering the monastic tradition of brewing.

After all, hops have been grown on the  Abbey owned acreage adjacent to the monastery since the 1880s.   A long list of potential revenue sources was developed to present during a community meeting.  Father Martin’s new hobby was last on the list.  “That was one thing I was sure would not fly,” Father Martin said.  (Catholic Sentinel – 2/21/2014)

Soon afterward, a stainless steel ten-barrel system was donated to the Abbey and the Benedictine Brewery became a reality with Father Martin as the lead brewer.  Initially, much of the brewing was done through contracts with Seven Brides and Upright Breweries with assistance from the Oregon State University Fermentation Science Program.   Father Martin was impressed and pleased with the collegiality of the brewing community.

Contract brewing at Seven Brides

Consistent with his education and training, Father Martin employs the scientific approach to brewing which is necessary to have the consistency for producing quality beer.

He remembers his early days at seminary when the students critiqued their colleagues’ sermons and he stated, “Beer is like learning to preach.  You either like a homily or you don’t.   What about the beer do you like and why?  Make that determination and then pay attention to what you like.”

Two bottled beers (Black Habit – dark and St. Benedict – light) were developed and tested and have become popular and garnered good reviews from sales in the Mount Angel book store. The Mt. Angel Octoberfest requested Black Habit, where it has sold out the last two years.

The Benedictine Brewery and Taproom seating about fifty will open in early 2018.  It will be located adjacent to the Abbey next to the hop fields and be the site of regular events involving the Mt. Angel community and those who travel to the Abbey to visit the beautiful grounds on which the seminary is located.

The Brewery’s motto is appropriate – “Taste and Believe.”  Father Martin reflects, “This started as a revenue project, but it has become an evangelization project……..(It) has been inspired by God.”  (Catholic Sentinel)

Don’t be surprised to see some home-grown artwork displayed in the taproom.  This man of many talents has another avocation — mosaic work.  He was inspired by the mosaics he found in Italian churches when he studied in Rome, and now he enjoys the detailed work required.

Thirty mosaics have been produced by the Procurator and a number have been sold in the Abbey book store and they also decorate Father Martin’s office.  Those you see here are two of his favorites.

Cecelia – a companion of fourteen years

And if you see Father Martin walking the Abbey grounds, you might also notice his companion of fourteen years – his cat, Cecelia:

“There are a lot of feral cats in Rome and I took comfort feeding some of them.  I was the only one they would approach.  Feral or abandoned cats roam our grounds, too, one of which was Cecelia.  I started feeding her and she adopted me.”  

I was privileged recently, to hear Father Martin make a presentation on Benedictine Spirituality – essentially analyzing the concepts of prayer and asceticism – a disciplined effort to live for God.   The purpose of humanity is to seek God and what sets the monk apart is seeking the vision of God in this life rather than waiting until heaven.

The training and lifestyle of monks is to promote sanctification – reading and meditation inspires a personal dialogue with God and then contemplation, which helps one discern a lot about himself and who God is.  Ascetic practices include celibacy, work, personal poverty and moderation in speech, eating and sleep.

His lecture evidenced his great dry sense of humor.  “Some observing the Liturgy of the Hours may conclude, ‘This is just a bunch of guys in funny robes with mediocre voices trying to be a choir,’ but it’s truly the body of Christ glorifying God.”

I am pleased and honored to be a member of the Benedictine Brewery Advisory Committee and look forward to the opening of the Brewery and tap room.   (The other committee members, besides Father Martin and me, are Stephen Zimmer – chair, John Limb, Les Fahey, and Chris Brown and Jodi Kilcup of the Abbey staff as ex-officio members).

As our newest Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter so aptly states, “The Brewery has inspired us.  God wants us to use the gifts he has given.”  

A tapestry at the Abbey

Stay tuned for updates on this project and if you want to try Black Habit (or buy a great looking t-shirt) contact the Mount Angel Abbey bookstore.  Or come and visit the Abbey, which has a marvelous museum and library besides being located in a beautiful and idyllic setting.

Mount Angel Abbey Bookstore and Coffee Shop  

503-845-3345

 

 

 

Stir Things Up at the Labrewatory

Tucked away on NE Russell Street is a small, relatively young brewery and taproom.  It’s in the same area as some favorite past watering holes on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – the historic White Eagle Saloon, Prost and The Rambler are just a few. (Click on the links to see the reviews)

Although the Labrewatory is typical of many small breweries – a large garage door that can be opened in good weather – the venue is more than a cool, fifty-seat taproom.  t’s actually a brewing experiment – an idea generated in late 2015 by its head brewer, Charlie Johnson.  And it gets some good reviews including being selected by Travel Portland as one of “Portland’s Best New Breweries in 2015:”

“A new project by Portland Kettle Works (a company that crafts equipment for many local breweries), this cutting-edge brew lab is the first of its kind in the city. Rather than employing its own brewers, The Labrewatory serves as a testing ground for sudsy new experiments from creative minds all over the country.”

Laura, Ryan and friend Kenzie Larson at 2014 Stamtisch Beerchasing

The idea to visit The Labrewatory (hereafter LB) was my son-in-law’s, Ryan Keene.  He and wife, Laura, are veteran Beerchasers, having been on several expeditions before their recent September marriage last year.  These included Stamtisch, Quimby’s and MadSon’s Pub.  (To see Thebeerchaser reviews of these watering holes, click on the link over their names.)

Ryan and Laura debating on the LB beer choice

 

 

 

It was a nice Father’s Day gift to me and Ryan’s dad, Ron, who along with Janet Williams, my wonderful Beerchasing spouse joined our group.  The five of us enjoyed both the beer and the venue.

This was the first Beerchasing expedition for Ron who grew up in Spokane and has been in Portland close to 35 years.  He works for XPO Logistics as a business analyst in IT working on pricing projects. Ryan, who is a an expert runner and excellent athlete, inherited much of his athletic talent from his dad although Ron asserts that “I owned Ryan on the Ping Pong table until he was 12.”

Charlie Johnson, the aforementioned head brewer, has both a masters degree in microbiology and a doctorate in chemical engineering and perhaps considerably more vision in his high school chemistry class than I did.

Dmitri wore a funny hat and drank vodka rather than beer……

Most of us just tried to understand the logic as to why Iron was abbreviated Fe (Atomic # 26) while Iridium was Ir (Atomic #77) on the Periodic Table of Elements and what Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was trying to prove when he created it.

The LB has a very upscale and attractive interior:

“The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom.”  Willamette Week Bar Review (12/30/15)

The LB is a great place to taste beers from smaller breweries with the four guest taps hosting Freemont, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Lakes breweries when we were there.  But you can also experiment with BL’s own innovative beers with ten on tap.

Ryan and Ron try a $12 sampler with six different beers.

We tried two of their samplers and were able, with the six beers on each tray, to try most of the options.

And the samplers are reasonably priced at $12 for six four-ounce pours.  Our two favorites were the BL Falcon IPA and the Cascade Lakes Brewing’s Salted Caramel Porter.   BL’s Yuzu Mimosa (Kettle Soured Golden Ale) and Gose in Your Mouth both had plenty of pucker power!

Given their business model, it’s understandable while LB chose not to provide food service – at least not right away – but that does not seem to be a problem.  Multiple parties were ordering food from Tamale Boy, right next door and the offerings (which they will deliver to the Labrewatory when ready) looked very good i.e. reasonable prices and expansive menu – while also getting stellar review in social media.  For example, this 6/21/17 review on Yelp.  

Tamale Boy provides great food options

The quality of tamale goes beyond just authentic. A single tamale is $5 but is almost double the size of tamales I’ve eaten in the past. It is plump and avoids being dry. Wrapped in a freshly steamed leaf, you can tell care went into its production…..The salsa that accompanied the had a great tang, on the spicy side with fresh chunks of cilantro and tomato- excellent!

Delicious, made to order, fresh and full of flavor! Qué fantastico. Super fun eating experience. You can sit (if w/kids), in between the store and the brewery, and they will serve you on your wine barrel.   (Yelp 1/8/17)

Where the innovative brewing takes place….

And the LB deserves credit for their enteprenaurial spirit and innovativeness.  For example, in January of 2016, they released a crowd-sourced beer brew – the @PDXBottleshare IPA...

What’s that?  Well read the description from their website:

“The beer was brewed during the December 2015 @PDXBottleShare event held in our taproom. Participants brought in a bottle of beer to share…and a bag of hops to contribute to the brew.

Nearly 40 people showed up to the event at Labrewatory, bringing in 50 bottles of beer and 23 different hops for the event brew!… For the IPA, Charlie used all of the hop additions in the mash and during fermentation- none in in the boil. He used a very low mash temperature and used traditional German mashing schedule to keep the beer dry, and then the beer was fermented with our house yeast strain from Imperial Organic.”

And the creativity is also reflected in their activities.  In six years of Beerchasing, I have not seen another combination of yoga and beer similar to what goes on once each month:

Monday nights are Yoga + Beer nights in Portland! The last Monday of each month is our class at Labrewatory…..After class we roll up our mats, spread out the tables and enjoy pints of their most recent (and tasty!) concoctions. This detox + retox class, led by Yoga + Beer instructor, Jana Bedard, is an all-levels flow yoga class. After class, yogis are invited to stay to enjoy a delicious beer!  

Yoga and Beer on the last Monday night of each month.

The cost is $20 for the yoga class and a pint or $15 just for the yoga.  (They didn’t offer a beer-only option for somebody who wanted to come and observe the class and just drink while they were inspired by those more motivated to stay in shape.)

There are other interesting stories and perhaps Charlie’s imagination got a little overzealous for one of his first creations.

Loligo vulgaris = squid. Supplied the ink for one of Charlie’s first beers

“…..It’s not too often that a brewer gets so much creative freedom to make beer. Then you get to ask yourself, ‘how far can you push the limits’?”   A cherry Gose brined with squid ink. Yes, squid ink. The ink will act as the salty agent in the beer and give an enticing dark color.”   11 November http://labrewatory.com/meet-our-first-brewer/  

Then there was another one based on an idea by a fellow brewer as documented in New School Beer.com: http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2015/12/the-labrewatory-is-now-brewing-up-strange-brews.html

“This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.”

No need to follow the steps of Pierre and Marie Curie when brewing….

Perhaps those experiments go beyond the cutting edge and maybe it’s a good thing Charlie got his PhD in chemical and not nuclear engineering.  (He might decide to do some brewing with Radium – that’s Ra and atomic number 88 in the Periodic Table.)  While I have no problem with brewing creativity, I don’t want to have to use a Geiger counter when having a brewski…..

Check out the Labrewatory.  You will enjoy it and there are a lot of other good bars nearby if you want to make it an evening.

Labrewatory        

670 N. Russell Street

 

 

 

Roll Out the Barrel at the House of Sour..

Cascade Barrel House is kind of an unassuming structure on SE Belmont Street  – a plain rectangular building with a large row of windows on the front and an awning over a patio accommodating a number of picnic tables in front.

It has essentially no ambiance, but that was offset because I was having another lunch with my favorite group of tax lawyers – not a group which you would expect to demand a rich environment – just one which allows a break from interpreting provisions of the Internal Revenue Code

The interior is also kind of stark – a few round wooden tables with steel stools and a bar which faces a bunch of taps ingrained in six barrel-type housings.  Two big screen TVs are available for watching sporting events.

A bit of a stark interior

To be clear, this is not a review of the Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub, which is the primary Cascade Brewing facility – located in SW Portland.  http://raclodge.com/

While we had no expectation of an intriguing interior – typical of most dive bars (like the recently reviewed and nearby Gil’s Speakeasy) and many breweries, at least the beer at Cascade does have interesting and unusual characteristics.

Gils Speakeasy – no sour beer, but dive bar ambiance!

As one enters, a large barrel-end  displayed on the wall with the words “House of Sour” in large black letters greets the customer.  A majority (about 12 or 13 of the 18 beers on tap) are considered sour beer. 

According to their website: “A sour beer is one that has been deliberately brewed to achieve high levels of acidity. This elevated acidity delivers a predominantly sour flavor to the beer as opposed to the bitter or sweet flavors found in standard ales and lagers.”  (But there’s a lot more to sour beers – see below)

Cascade Brewing was founded in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception.  In fact, Cascade has a long-term reputation – even nationally,  for its sour beer.  “Cascade Brewing makes a variety of ales, but has made a name for themselves as pioneers of very distinct sour beers……distributed in eight states across the country.”  (Cascade web sight)

“After tasting twenty different sour, wild and farmhouse beers from all over the country ……..Cascade’s 2014 Kriek, a (barrel-aged) sour cherry beer brewed in the Belgian style …… was the best sour beer of them all……in a national survey conducted by New York Times on sour beer.”   Willamette Week 9/9/16

How was our lunch at Cascade Barrel House? (hereafter CBH)  Well, there’s a limited menu – a few decent sharable appetizers, four sandwiches – kind of expensive with most at $10.50 and $11.00 not including a side dish – three were available ala-carte for $1.50 to $2 extra – and four salad options.

Reuben sandwiches not a strength although at least they weren’t sour!

Coincidentally (and maybe because of the lack of choice), all five of us had a pork pastrami-Reuben sandwich ($10.50), which I thought was somewhat mediocre especially for the price, and would not order again.

Goose Hollow’s Claim

For example, compare the Reuben at former Portland Mayor Bud Clark’s Goose Hollow Inn, which advertises it’s sandwich as “The best Reuben on the Planet.”   Based on Thebeerchaser’s experience several times, this may not be an exaggeration and it is available with sides for $9.95 and $10.95.

Small glass of Oblique Coffee House Blonde

Three of the five of us had beers – all Cascade’s own – Oblique Coffee Blonde Stout – 6.5% ABV  (This blonde coffee stout features 1-1/4 lbs per barrel of single origin coffee beans from Colombia called El Corazon, roasted locally by Oblique coffee roasters.

Aromas of sweet, bright, fruity coffee with hints of caramel percolate from the glass. Smooth caramel, cream and coffee notes dance on the palate and lead to a soft, creamy caramel finish.”  (Rate Beer.com)  

And the dark Sang Noir – a whopping 9.5% ABV (“This deep, dark double red was aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels, then blended with a barrel of Bing cherries.” – Beer Advocate.com)  Reaction to both was very good – they were unusual and not available at most pubs.

The Sang Noir

And when I asked retired Schwabe Williamson lawyer, Pete Osborne how he liked his Cascade IPA – 5.7% ABV, he replied, “It was okay, but I’m not a good judge.  The only bad beer, in my opinion, is an empty glass!”

Prices for the beer are on the high side – eight ounce sour mugs run from $6-8 with pints of non-sour about $5 or $6.   I had one of the small glasses for $2.50  – this is one place, given the characteristics of the beer, where the small glasses of beers may be a good idea to hone in on one that comports with your taste in sour beer – provided you have one.   If not, you can always try the Cascade IPA, which also gets good reviews.

And the staff was very efficient and helpful – both our server and bartender, who answered some questions about the history of Cascade.

Friendly, helpful staff

Now before you lose your pucker, let’s talk a little more about the concept of sour beer.  I tried to gain a rudimentary knowledge after visiting CBH and admit, there’s more involved in brewing this type of beer than meets the palate – like a bunch of chemistry, microbiology and technical brewing stuff.  But remember, notwithstanding the name, this blog is primarily about bars – not the beverage served……

According to an article in the March 19, 2015 edition of Paste Magazineentitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Sour Beer”: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/03/beginners-guide-to-sour-beer.html

A Yeast Cell

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts – Lactobacillis, Acetobacter, Brettanyomyces and other critters that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. 

Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma…..For some of the sour styles, the wild bacteria and yeast come into the beer during an open or spontaneous fermentation (something that sounds like a college date…..) with open vats of wort exposed to natural air. 

As the barrels get older, the more sour the beer gets, which leads to the common practice of blending beer from several different barrels, young and old to get a consistent beer.”

And its tricky and uncertain because evidently rather than the sterile environment of modern brewing, wild yeast and bacteria are introduced rather than pure yeast cultures and because the beer can take months to ferment and years to mature.”  (Wikipedia

Our bartender emphasized how long it takes to age the sours and this may be one reason that while the tasting room at CBH is very small, according to their website, they have another 5,000 square feet where sour beers are aging in barrels.

And boy do they have a wide range of bottled fruit beer selections – enough for your quota of fruit for the month and possibly tempting you to plant the bottles in your yard to see if they might grow at your home i.e. tangerine, apricot, strawberry (3 different years), blackcap-raspberry, raspberry, blueberry (3), cranberry (3) and elderberry (2).

If you just want a good pub or bar experience, the Cascade Barrel House isn’t necessarily a great option.  And if you decide to try it, you might want to check them out on “Tap It Tuesday” nights at 6:00 when they tap a new creation which gets good reviews.  Happy Hour is Monday-Friday from 4:00 to 6:00.

But if you want to explore sour beers or if you are a real fan of the concept, the CBH is a good bet.

Gils – after your sour beer and to quench thirst for a PBR

And maybe another option is to have a good (albeit expensive) sour beer and then walk just five blocks to Gil’s Speakeasy for a great environment and a $1.50 happy hour PBR nightcap. You can.even listen to Dion and the Belmonts sing “Teenager in Love” on the classic juke box!

Cascade Barrel House      939 SE Belmont Street

 

 

Brian Doyle – Beerchaser Eternal

Brian at the Fulton Pub (drinking his favorite pinot gris.)

“Many of my friends are people I’ve never met; I counted Brian Doyle in that group.”

The above quote – from a piece by the editor of the Georgia Review the University of Georgia’s journal of arts and letters, was one of hundreds of laudatory comments from all over the world paying tribute to this literary icon and remarkable human being.   The breadth of Brian Doyle’s literary talent and speaking ability are evident based on the diversity of the novels, essays, short stories and presentations cited in these accolades..

And those reading his work could not avoid feeling the personal bond referenced by the literary expert above.  Just by reading several chaoters in Mink River, The Plover or Marten Martin, the reader quickly discovers Brian’s love of nature, his imagination and his fascination with the mundane details in life most of us take for granted.  He spoke to his readers in the true sense of the word.   

I was profoundly saddened by the passing of this author, award-winning magazine editor, family man and unforgettable personality, on May 27th.  Brian was diagnosed with brain cancer last November and his solid faith sustained him through the surgery and post-operative time with his wonderful family.

He had an expansive group of friends who marveled at his creativity, wit, compassion and charisma.  As Father Mark Porman, the President of University of Portland, where Brian worked for twenty-six years, stated:

“He was a man filled with a sense of humanity and wonder, who was interested in everyone’s story and who saw everyone’s potential. His warmth, humor, and passion of life will be deeply missed and his loss will be acutely felt here and beyond.”

Artistic talent demonstrated with this self portrait

I only knew Brian for three and one-half years and we first met after I wrote him a letter about the Brian Doyle Humor Scholarship awarded annually at UP.  I thought it was creative, inspirational  and a credit to both him and his university.

Having recently started this blog, I told Brian that I wanted to “honor” him by naming him my next Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter – an accolade he could put on his resume right below Notary Public.   All it required, was to meet me for a beer and an interview.

To my surprise, he agreed and our meeting at Fulton’s Pub on Macadam – one of his favorites – was the first of a number of mug-raising sessions, although he usually drank white wine (and an occasional Hammerhead Ale on very hot days).   I inevitably left those sessions feeling better about the human condition.   My wife, Janet and I  had the pleasure of meeting his wife, Mary, at one of those get-togethers at Maher’s Pub in Lake Oswego.

Favorite watering hole…..

The chorus of those paying tribute to Brian Doyle is loud and prolonged and the inventory of his attributes cited reads like one of Brian’s lists in Martin Marten.  I enjoyed all of his novels – I’m half way through Chicago now and the manner in which his characters convey the essence of that great city make it my favorite so far.  (I have to admit that I even kept notes while reading each of his previous books so I could remember some of the many memorable phrases or metaphors.)

I could also talk about his love of nature; his poignant essays (e.g. his 2009 work, “The Terrible Brilliance,” based on the art therapy work Mary does for young children with serious illnesses at Doernbecher) or the quality of his conversations ranging from the ocean or the village of Zig Zag, to basketball, faith, Edmund Burke and younger days – we found out that we were both born in Merrick, Long Island, New York.

But I want to focus this narrative and my best memories of Brian, on his imaginative, idiosyncratic, dry and incomparable humor.  The following are examples of why I will always smile when I think of the bearded Notre Dame graduate.

“On Being Brian”

In 2002, he wrote letters to 215 other Brian Doyles he found in a national directory to learn more about them:

“Tell me a little bit about yourself, I wrote us recently. How did you get your name? What do you do for work? What are your favorite pursuits? Hobbies? Avocations? Have any of us named our sons Brian? What Irish county were your forebears from? Where were you born? Where did you go to college? What’s your wife’s name?

He spoke to or corresponded with 111 and his essay, “Being Brian,” was published in Harper’s Magazine“Oddly, we were all neurotic about getting to airports early (at least two hours) and all had terrible handwriting.”   (I have a feeling Brian would have undertaken this endeavor even if his name had been Jim Johnson or maybe even Alexi Fronkiwiecz……..)

He said that he was often mistaken for the Brian Doyle, who is well-regarded Canadian children’s author and I kidded him because in doing the research for my blog, I noticed that Portland’s Brian Doyle’s bearded countenance is shown in the summary caption of the Wikipedia article on the Canadian Brian Doyle!  Check it out – that’s still the case. https://www.bing.com/search?q=brian%20doyle%20author&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp

“On the Misuse of Adverbs”

Since we were both New Yorkers, I loved his essay about an altercation in which he and his five brothers “engaged” a male patron in a one of the city’s pubs. This piece demonstrates Brian’s love of the language and his imagination (he maintained this spat really happened, but some of the details could be storyteller’s license).

The Doyle brothers got kicked out of this New York City bar while defending a young woman and the proper use of the English language – from an aggressive suitor:

“Finally there was a moment when the young man leaned toward the young woman and gently covered her exquisite digits with his offensive paws and said:

‘Hopefully, you and I… ‘ at which point my brother Thomas stood up suddenly, launched himself over the balcony rail, landed with a stupendous crash on their table, and said to the young man, ‘Never, and I mean never, begin a sentence with an adverb.”‘

“In the Rain by the River”

Brian spoke at a dinner of the Lang Syne Association in Portland in 2015.  And as one Goodreads reviewer wrote in 2010, “He’s an insanely intense and achingly vulnerable speaker who laughs and cries at his own stories.”

His short and well-received address that night  focused on his five favorite Oregon writers with this eloquent preamble:

“……we rarely celebrate stories enough in public, but I will do so here, because after thirty years of writing I am convinced that stories are food, holy, nutritious, crucial, the muscle of citizenship, maybe even the subtle ways by which we can imagine and achieve a world where war is a memory and violence is a joke in poor taste and children are not afraid and humor and creativity are the common coins of our civic lives.”

He then provided one of his characteristic lists on these literary all-stars and a few other authors enumerating what they (and he) appreciated about Oregon.  Halfway through the list was this item:

“A thorough patience and even appreciation for rain and mist and mud.” (emphasis supplied)

The next time we had a beer (which was on a stormy, yucky day), I chided him about paying tribute to our never-ending precipitation.   I subsequently got a very short e-mail with only the words “Heh, Heh…”, and the above referenced essay attached – one that had been published in The American Scholar and included this excerpt:

“It has been raining so hard and thoroughly that the moss has moss on it. It has rained since last year, which is a remarkable sentence. Even the rain has had enough of the rain and it appears to be pale and weary when it shuffles to the lobby to punch in and out every day…….

Slugs — a new religion???

Slugs have congregated in the basement and established a new religion complete with tithing expectations and plans for expansion into Latin American markets. Mold is now listed in the stock exchange.”    

 

“Four Boston Basketball Stories”

I’ll conclude with the example below which was published in the Kenyon Review in the summer of 2012.  Brian loved basketball and this passion was reflected in his writing – just read the first few chapters of Chicago and you’ll get a flavor: 

Page 1:  ”I lived there for five seasons, leaving my street only to play basketball at a playground a couple of blocks away, or to run to the lake dribbling my worn shining basketball……..”

Page 20:  “I found a pitted basketball court three blocks north, in a school playground which turned out to be exactly on the borderline between the territories of the Latin Kings and the Latin Eagles……I tried to play there every afternoon, if I could before the sun went down…..I got in hundreds of games with the Kings and the Eagles, many of whom fancied themselves terrific ballplayers, and some of whom were.”

In his imitable style, he describes players named Monster, Bucket, Nemo and Not My Fault who:

“….despite being short and round, dearly loved to fly down the middle of the court with the ball, try a wild ridiculous shot in dense traffic, fail to make the slightest effort to claim the inevitable rebound, and then either claim he was making a visionary creative pass, or denigrate a teammate for note being in position to receive the supposed miracle pass.”

Brian was named to a city league all-star team in Boston in 1983 and had the jersey framed in his office.   How tough was the league in which he played???

“…. (it) was so tough that when guys drove to the hole, they lost fingers.  One time a guy….got hit so hard his right arm fell off, but he was a lefty and hit both free throws before going to the bench….

I heard that his team later had a funeral for the arm with everyone carrying the casket with only one arm as a gaffe, but they all got so howling drunk that they lost the arm and had to bury the casket empty and then they spent the rest of the night trying to remember every lefty guy in the history of sports……”

Award-winning magazine with only one editor for twenty-one years

At one of our last Beerchasing expeditions, Brian and his University of Portland colleague, Dr. Sam Holloway and I met near their digs in the historic St. John’s Pub – one of the McMenamin’s establishments. I arrived early and began downing a pint of their good Ruby Red Ale.  When the other two arrived, I was not surprised that Brian ordered his typical pino gris, but Sam, who is a well-known consultant on the business of micro-breweries and head of UP’s Master Strategist:- Craft Beer Business program,  also ordered wine – a temporary gluten issue…

At the St. John’s Pub – good conversation but failure to solve global issues…

We then had a deep discussion about the merits of each beverage which ended with me quoting one sage who asserted:

“Beer – because one doesn’t solve the world’s problems over white wine…..”

Brian is no longer with us, but his legacy will long prevail.  And I can just imagine one of Brian’s first orders of business in the heavenly realm:

After retrieving two spare halos, he converts them into basketball hoops upon convincing God to let him be the player-coach of a team – we’ll call them the Divine Disciples who will ultimately play for the league championship.

In the huddle Brian uses his knowledge of scripture and cites Mathew 20:16 (English Revised Version preferred) “So the last shall be first, and the first last,” to describe a weak-side pick and roll play which will take advantage of the opposing team’s lackluster defense.  (The guy who lost his arm in the Boston game has a new and perfected body as promised in the New Testament and scores the winning layup with his restored limb and “Not My Fault” even admits culpability for several critical turnovers.)

I’m confident that Brian would never subscribe to the premise that “everyone gets a trophy” – even in heaven, and he and his team will toast their victory and raise both the championship trophy and mugs/glass in an ethereal pub.

We will miss you, Brian, and thanks for enriching our lives.

Original Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter post from February 2014

https://thebeerchaser.com/2014/02/24/beerchaser-of-the-quarter-author-and-wine-drinker-brian-doyle/

Navigate a Course to Flyboy Brewing

Michelle and Mark – at the controls of the new venue

Mark Becker, the founder and owner of Flyboy Brewing and Michelle Faubion, his Operations Manager, are wonderful people and typical of those one meets in the Oregon microbrew business.  Flyboy Brewing’s “takeoff” is another one of the entrepreneurial successes.

Thebeerchaser blog has chronicled the path of similar microbreweries in Oregon including Caldera in Ashland, Ancestry in Tualatin, Sasquatch in SW Portland and Wolf Tree on the Oregon coast to name just a few.  All have helped to make the $4.49 billion direct and indirect contribution to the Oregon economy according to Oregon Brewers’ Guild.

And like a number of other venues featured in past posts, one may not be captivated when viewing the enterprise from the outside.  But stepping into Flyboy (at least as evidenced by my six visits to the new brewpub in Tigard), one is hit with the vitality and energy which emanate from patrons, staff and even from the beer itself!

Flyboy is a dream of Becker, whose story is below.

And the selection of beers and hard ciders is robust and changes often to allow new adventures.  Michelle is a Level II Certified Cicerone which means she’s a beer expert.  After passing the Level I exam, she mastered the second exam which requires detailed knowledge on the following:

Janet Williams with Cicerone Michelle who explained all the beer options

“…retail beer storage and service issues, excellent knowledge of modern beers and styles, beer history and historical styles, competence in identifying flawed beers and recognizing appropriate and inappropriate flavors in modern beer styles, beer ingredients, the brewing process plus knowledge of beer pairing principles”

And Mark and Michelle’s passion about beer and service is echoed by their staff.  Our parties were always impressed that they urged us to sample new beers and took the time to explain the nuances of each.  http://www.flyboybeer.com/whats-on-tap/

Thirty beers and ciders on tap from a diverse group of breweries….

This encouraged us to try a slew of different options from the thirty beers and hard ciders they have on tap including four of Flyboy’s own (Fighting Red Tails IPA, Tri-Wing Double Fokker Red Ale and a Kolsch.)

Among those we tried were SunRiver Brewing’s Vicious Mosquito and Vermont Vacation, Light Me Up Lager by Springfield’s Hop Valley Brewery  and Three Headed Hop Monster (a collaboration by Boneyard, Melvin and Barley Brown Breweries – a very limited release which went fast…), one of my old standby favorites – Vortex from Astoria’s Fort George plus all of Flyboy brews and a beer with a kicker, Breakside’s Safe Word Triple IPA with an ABV of 11.1%!

And a good way to enjoy a number of the beers and not have to rely on Uber for a ride home, is their Beer Flights – five for $10.  You might want to include the Wizard of Koz in that group, which Michelle recommended – blueberry, chocolate, vanilla aged in a bourbon barrel – new from Founder’s Brewing in Michigan – a venue Michelle discovered when she was in medical sales after nursing school at the University of Washington.

Happy-hour is 3 to 6 PM each weekday and all day Sunday.  That means Flyboy brews are only $4 per pint, $1 off wine and good appetizers ranging from $5 to $8.

On my last visit, Mark had just returned from Seven Brides Brewery in Silverton which is assisting Flyboy until their equipment is fully operational (within the month).  He was working on his Pilot’s Peach Ale, one of Flyboy’s flagship beers to be released on May 26th and told me, “This one is going to win some awards!”

This ones going to win some awards!

A graduate of Vancouver’s Hudson Bay High School and Clark College, he started brewing in his parents’ house while still in high school.  He was not deterred by some minor explosions in the basement brewery and when in 1986, his parents admonished him that beer was not going to be big in the NW, Mark told them, “It’s too good to be a passing fad.  I’m going to make my living doing this someday!”

The original Flyboy in Lake Grove

Well it took awhile – like twenty years in the automotive industry at Leif’s, Les Schwab and Beaverton Honda and then tile work.  He and his wife had been prudent and after working in the corporate world, wanted to be their own bosses.

The original brewpub in Lake Grove

The launch of the small Flyboy taproom in Lake Oswego in 2014 was an all-in proposition – no partners and capitalized with their own savings in what Mark described as “anything but a smooth takeoff…..”.  (I remember going there shorty after it opened and they had run out of their own beers because they could only brew two kegs at a time.)

The name of the brewery is a tribute to his grandfather, a B-29 pilot in World War II and who also trained pilots in P-51’s.  His other grandfather from the Great Generation helped build the battleship, USS Missouri.

The flag and the dummy bomb (from training exercises at the Big Spring Army Air Corps Base in Texas) were his grandfather’s and complement the art and the other aviation memorabilia.

Mark’s research determined that the name “Flyboy” was available and after securing the legal rights, he wrote to the American Aviation Historical Society for permission to use their artwork – it was in the public domain and they sent out templates for him to convert into signs and interior art which are a highlight of the pub in Tigard.

As is often the case with start-up breweries, the active and passive resistance of bureaucrats can discourage or even crush the plans of entrepreneurs.  Mark persisted after his plan to expand in 2014, and which initially looked promising as a venue in a hangar at the Aurora Airport, was batted down by the FAA and Marion County

Then while going to the Tigard Home Depot, he saw vacant space and contrary to his prior experience, PAC Trust Realty and the City of Tigard were “awesome” in the manner they responded and expedited the lease and permits to start their Sequoia Parkway location.  The grand opening at Tigard was April 17th – three years to the day of the original location in Lake Grove.

A great team – Michelle and Mark

Mark originally met Michelle Faubion at a beer conference, and as is the case with most people, remembered her.  She accepted his offer to become his Operations Manager.

Michelle is a remarkable woman and besides having an impressive background, is one of the most charismatic people I have met in the five and one-half years of Thebeerchaser.   She was originally featured in this blog as the co-owner of the Hop N Cork in Lake Oswego.

The Classic Burger – a bargain at $10

The Hells Angel Chicken Sandwich ($12)

The food is also a plus at Flyboy.  Great burgers,   sandwiches, salads and pizza (rectangular! at $10-14).  The prices are very reasonable.

Becker franchised a Vancouver brewpub and the Tigard location has growth potential with 160 parking spaces available and ample brewing and kitchen capacity (he purchased his brewery equipment including nine fermenters and a seven barrel system from Brett Joyce, now President of Rogue Ales).

He will start brewing 300-325 kegs per month with limited distribution and a patio in front of the restaurant will be ready this summer.

Waiting in anticipation for the patio this summer…

Since the Flyboy opening was only three months ago, there aren’t a lot of social media comments, but this excerpt from a Yelp review on 5/11/17 is a good summary and from a Californian, no less:

We need places like this in SoCal! The beer is top shelf, the food is amazing made with fresh ingredients, and the staff is amazing…… Some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Michelle’s personality is infectious, the nicest most genuine person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

My wife and I have been amazed with the enthusiastic crowds each time we have returned – and a lot of them appear to be regulars already.  Mark’s story and perseverance is absolutely inspiring.   Navigate a flight path to Flyboy and say hello to Mark and Michelle – don’t worry, Michelle will beat you to the punch with the greeting!

Flyboy Brewery and Restaurant     15230 SW Sequoia Pkwy   Tigard

Flyboy Taproom      15630 Boones Ferry Road, Suite 1A
Lake Oswego, OR 97035