The Woodsman Tavern Strikes a Chord

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs has resulted in visits and reviews of over 200 establishments since its inception in 2011 – not only in Portland, but all over Oregon, the US and even a few in Europe.   Therefore, its logical that the Woodsman Tavern – a Portland icon, of sorts, would make the list.

That said, I try to avoid venues that are primarily restaurants with a bar as kind of an ancillary feature.  It’s not that these establishments don’t have good beer or cocktails or attractive bars.  They just don’t have the character and ambiance of a stand-alone watering hole, especially that evidenced in dive bars!

The McMenamin’s bistros generally fall into the former category although I have made a few exceptions.  Beerchaser visits to The Fulton Pub, the White Eagle Saloon and the St. John’s Pub were splendid.  These all, however, had historical significance or distinguishing features.

For example, The Fulton was the site at which Hammerhead Ale was originated (and I consumed my first beer with the late NW author and Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Brian Doyle) and the White Eagle is on the National Historic Register – its history is replete with tales such as a prostitute being murdered and it being haunted by ghost-like apparitions on the second floor.

Notwithstanding its title, the Woodsman Tavern is an example of the former category i.e. more restaurant than bar.   While our two visits were well rewarded, it had the look and feel of a high-end restaurant.  That said, let’s look at why it is getting great reviews – it has a new chef, an expansive menu of cocktails and whiskeys and the food – most notably, the fried chicken is superb.   (Note also that most taverns do not have a “chef” per se’.)

The Woodsman is also one of the few places that I’ve visited where the Oregonian’s food critic, Michael Russell has authored a detailed review.  (He’s probably never been in the Reel M’ Inn – twenty blocks down Division Street and also known throughout the Northwest for its fried chicken. According to one article, it fried up an estimated 52,000 pounds of chicken in 2016.  But it’s a completely different ambiance….)

The Woodsman is in an old building in Southeast Portland and has a bright and attractive entrance with classy dark wood interior.  When opened in 2011, it was evidently a hot spot in the Portland food culture – known for its high-end dishes such as roasted trout.

Eateries run in cycles.  Social media reviews until recently started trending negative on the food and service.   That appeared to change late last year evidently because one of Portland’s noted chefs, Doug Adams, temporarily took command of the kitchen and menu:

“Suddenly, the Woodsman Tavern is once-again among the hottest restuarants in town.”   (1/1/18 Review by Martin Cizmar of Willamette Week.) Adams made his mark at Paley’s Place among other restaurants and is waiting for a new restaurant in downtown Portland to open.

The Bar Itself

The dining room is separated into two large rooms with booths and tables.  The bar is a long L-shaped counter with about twelve stools at the back of the east section.

It has an impressive display of hard liquors and twelve cocktail options ($12) with names such as “Dog Will Hunt” and “Married in a Fever,” and includes their trademark “Old Fashioned.”

For the bourbon and whiskey connoisseurs, I counted 120 options on the menu ranging from a pour of Jim Beam for $7 to Wild Turkey Tribute 15-Year Bourbon that will set you back $180.  (Perhaps this is economic validation of the distillery’s 2011 ad campaign entitled, “Give’em The Bird.”)

They have a nice selection of wines and fifteen beers on tap including five by one of my favorite breweries – Block 15 in Corvallis.  On our first trip to the Woodsman when we had dinner, I had a pint of Block 15 Double IPA and on the second trip, where we just sat at the bar for drinks during Happy Hour, I could not resist a cold Rainier for $2.

The east side of the restuarant

Let’s get back to the food, which should be the guiding rationale for a visit.  I will talk more about the food critics’ reviews below, but The Oregonian stated, “For food fans, this might be Portland’s best sports bar.”

Since there are only two televisions over the bar – both with sporting events when we were there, I guess this is his subtle way of promoting the Woodsman’s Double Cheeseburger and implying that the food in most Portland sports bars, sucks! 

An outstanding starter

The side dishes are ala-carte and either $3 or $5 and the bucket of chicken was $19, so we started by splitting what is a boring option in most places – a wedge salad.  And while a little spendy at $11, it was wonderful (bacon, big croutons and superb blue cheese dressing!)

I love fried chicken – that’s how I persuaded my wife, Janet, to go with me to the Woodsman.  It was a late birthday present.   There was no question what I was going to order. And it’s a fantasy – your own metallic bucket filled with five large pieces.  I am appalled that I was so enthralled that I forgot to take a picture!

Now let’s look at how some experts describe this one of six entr’ees.  Martin Cizmar, who for the last seven years has been the Arts and Culture Editor at Willamette Week, is succinct, but on point.  (I am sad to see him leave the weekly this month.  He wrote great reviews of not only restaurants, but every kind of bar, tavern or brewery in Portland and always creatively captured the character of the place.  (He’s moving to Washington D.C. to write for an on-line publication.)

You should read his entire review of The Woodsman:

Martin Cizmar – will be missed….but will still drink PBR (Photo courtesy of Willamette Week

He is a an outstanding writer and seems a lot less pretentious than his counterpart at The Oregonian:

“….the best fried chicken in town….(Adams’) ultra crispy recipe in which the honey is drizzled onto just out-of-the-fryer batter.”  (WW 1/1/18)

Now compare that to the more ostentatious description by Michael Russell:

“…..Adams’ fussed over bird , each crunchy piece wearing a shaggy brown coat reminiscent of a teddy bear’s fur, drizzled in honey and served with a clear glass bottle of hot sauce on the side.” (Emphasis supplied !??)

And not to get overly compulsive, but this one from a Thrillist ranking of the top 15 fried chicken places in Portland by Andy Cryza (9/2/15 – before Adams arrived…)  Woodsman was the top-rated option.  (Reel M Inn was #3.)

“…..Perfectly fried, with the juices locked into the premium bird, which is cut up into five generous pieces…..And the breading – occupying the zone between crisp and light – is kissed with a smack of honey which, when mixed with the salt, takes it into a danger zone hovering near meat-candy perfection.”

But if you don’t like chicken there are other worthy choices. I was able to persuade Janet, if I gave her a little bit of my chicken, to get the Double Cheeseburger ($16).  It was immense and the Canby, Oregon, Laney Family Farm’s beef scrumptious.  The fries were a perfect complement.

I described Michael Russell’s writing above as somewhat pretentious e.g. he started his review with the following: “…the restaurant has languished of late (last year) behind food that seemed to have lost its sense of place.” 

I changed my opinion – a little.  He was a little more down-to-earth when he wrote this about one of the Woodsman’s twelve starter options:

“Take the bologna sandwich.  It’s impressively thick cut of pink meat seared gently, surrounded by melted American cheese like fondant on a wedding cake and topped with sweet pickle on a sesame-seeded bun.  It’s a borderline obscene take on the classic….I’ve ordered it on every visit.” 

Fried chicken – “each piece wore a shaggy brown coat….”

At least he shied away from the toy creature analogy he made above with the fried chicken and didn’t compare the bologna to the Porky Pig stuffed animal he got at Disneyland……

And to affirm that this menu option may be worth the seemingly steep price ($12), let’s look at a non-foodie’s view – just your typical Yelp comment on 1/17/18:

“Now I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is in Bologna anyway, but this (sandwich) was freaking delicious.  I don’t know what’s in Bolgna, I probably don’t want to know.  But I’m on board.” 

Finally, while the bistro is also known for its chilled seafood and a seafood tower for $95 along with “Oyster Hours” all day Monday and from 5:00 to 6:00 on other weekdays, I loved our meal there because the food was good but also plentiful.  The picture below shows the box that we took home with our leftovers (It was filled and some of which survived to lunch the next day…) 

As another Yelp review who shares similar views succinctly stated:

“The food big.  Big food.  Platters….Reminds me of a place when I was a kid.  Logger means, man.”  (Yelp 1/15/18)

Most of the recent social media reviews are very positive although some question the prices especially since it is an ala-carte menus.  Another complaint which rang somewhat true with us on our first visit was the physical spacing:

“I don’t mind sitting at tables or booths, but why does anyone think that being 6 inches from a stranger is comfortable.”  (Yelp 1/14/18)

However, if someone is going to do a hatchet job on the Woodsman Tavern, they will have to come up with something of more substance than tables being a little too close.  Besides, you should check out their fried chicken……….

The Woodsman Tavern

4537 SE Division Street


Beerchasing in the Desert — Part I

The Oregon Coast in Road’s End at Lincoln City

How does one reinforce his or her appreciation for living in Oregon?  I started wondering this when I was only twelve after we moved here from Ohio – a courageous decision by my parents in 1960, since they were building a new house in Cincinnati and my dad had no job out here.

“FDW” on back road near John Day

He moved to Oregon City while my mom stayed back and sold the house and then she transported the four kids (ages 8 to 14) on a cross-country road trip.  They raised us to always look for the “Spirit of High Adventure” and we did repeatedly on his carpet sales territory in Eastern Oregon.

Janet is a native Oregonian, having been born and raised in McMinnville, where her dad, Joe Dancer, was the first City Manager and held the position for twenty-six years. (Joe Dancer Park in McMinnville is named in his honor.)

City of McMinnville Website

The opportunity, however, for  us to escape for a week in Arizona  in late January when it was dreary and KGW’s weather guru Matt Zafino was predicting “Significant precipitation for the next week,” sealed the deal along with a Companion Fare on Alaska Airlines.

“Let’s go to Phoenix/Scottsdale and sit in the sun, read, hike and Beerchase.” (not necessarily in that order) at a number of breweries and pubs.  We’d be there too early in the year to see Spring Training, a favorite pastime, but it would be a great respite.

Well the weather that week ended up being pretty reasonable although on the night we flew in, the server at our roadhouse (a very good Chelsea’s Kitchen) admonished us to “Stay warm!” as we left with strong desert winds whipping and temperatures in the mid-30’s.

The visits to the ten breweries and one taphouse/bottle shop were outstanding – superb beer, friendly and helpful bartenders and nice patrons who enjoyed chatting while sitting at the bars, in addition to one of the best pizzas we’ve consumed in years…..(See below)

A typical Phoenix intersection but less occupied because it was Saturday

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

While Portland breweries surpass every city on the globe, Phoenix and Scottsdale have made great progress and have a thriving beer culture with about thirty venues. We passed two brewpubs packed to capacity on the way to the baggage claim at Sky Harbor Airport O.H.S.O. Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing.  The acronym of the former stands for Outrageous Homebrewer’s Social Outpost.  

O.H.S.O. in the airport – great BLT sandwich!

We also visited O.H.S.O.’s Scottsdale brewery and stopped for a quick albeit delicious BLT sandwich at their airport pub while we were waiting for our return flight..

The fact that Four Peaks had been acquired by Anheuser Busch in late 2015 dampened our enthusiasm for visiting what is now a corporate extension although both Ten Barrel and Elysian in the Northwest have gone the same route.

The first night we started with what became our favorite and was also the most interesting – Goldwater Brewing Company.  It was named after the late Arizona icon, Barry Goldwater, a retired US Air Force pilot and Major General who served five terms in the US Senate and ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1964 against Nelson Rockefeller.

His campaign slogan was, “In your heart, you know he’s right.”  He was portrayed as a militant conservative who, if elected, would lead the US into a nuclear war with Russia.

Now there were no B-52 models hanging from the ceiling at the great family-owned brewery, but their flagship beer, which won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival, was “Machine Gun Teddy. While this might seem clever in Arizona, in light of recent events, it makes one wonder if they will still advertise it as “cuddly,” or in the interest of discretion, rename it.

Is this an appropriate name for a beer?

A warm and inviting bar at Goldwater

And besides the festive, warm taproom, which has twenty-four of their own beers, delicious free popcorn popped with Jalapeno peppers, Goldwater has a second space to drink beer sixteen feet below – in the space which used to be Mandall’s Basement Shooting Range.  They serve Goldwater’s specialty brews and it holds about twenty people – it’s opened limited hours on the weekend:

“Three 10-foot fermentation tanks fill three of the shooting tunnels.  One of the tunnels has been restored to what it likely looked like while in  operation; pulleys on the wall and top of the range, let the shooters move their targets down the tunnel.”

(This may be a good idea for conversion of shooting ranges around the country…..)

Next to Goldwater was an interesting place although it was closed when we went by – Sip Coffee and Beer House:

Sip Coffee and Beer House

“Sip’s coffee beans will be provided by Cartel Coffee Lab, a local roaster.  We will feature 19 rotating craft beers on draft and over 100 bottled beers.  We will also feature some very wild and unique liquor infused espresso/coffee drinks.”  

(This seems like a better idea than Starbuck’s mostly failed experiment of having one beer tap and trying to turn their stores into your neighborhood bar.)

Two Brothers Brewery and Taphouse – After Goldwater, this one was a disappointment although at least they were located in a renovated historic building and had a good line-up of beers although just five of their own. Two Brothers is a Midwest brewery based out of Chicago that opened a brewpub in Scottsdale (probably so the brothers could deduct their winter vacations……).

It’s like going into a Rock Bottom Pub – more restaurant than pub with some young and effusive woman out front who are eager to seat you and a bartender who would rather be watching one of the games on their many wide-screened TV’s than serving beer.

Although now that former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (October 2012) Coach Mike Riley is back at Oregon State as an assistant football coach, we wonder why anyone would bother, but Two Brothers is now an official University of Nebraska bar “where Husker fans can enjoy every game throughout the football season!”  (I didn’t ask what a venue has to do to become “official”...

Shaw Butte – an essentially urban hike

The next day, we hiked up Shaw Butte, which tops out at 1,380 feet and gives a nice view of the desert to the north and Phoenix to the South.

It was much better than our attempted hike the next morning in South Mountain Park – purported to be the third largest municipal park in the world with “miles of hiking trails.”    Now maybe we hit the wrong entrance, but all we saw on our abbreviated walk in the park was freeways that ran directly by high-rise buildings.

After the walk up Shaw Butte, we hit North Mountain Brewing, a microbrewery and gastropub where we talked to Bernie, the affable bartender, who had worked their five years and was spot on with his recommendation of the Sessions IPA.

Bernie at North Mountain

The brewery is in a strip mall and doesn’t have great ambiance but gets rave social media reviews for their food, which transcends just pub faire.

A few common themes emerged from the watering holes we visited.  First, the bartenders, almost without exception were great people.  They each let us sample their different beers – and even encouraged us to do so.  (Some misguided Portland brewpubs even charge for this courtesy, which is pretty short sighted.)  They were knowledgeable about beer.

Secondly, when we told them that were from Portland and about TheBeerchaser blog, almost all suggested competitors that we should visit to see the best Phoenix/Scottsdale breweries.   In fact, Bernie recommended our next stop – SunUp Brewing – as did just about every other bartender.

Phoenix parking

Another trend, albeit, negative, is that almost all the breweries and pubs (and just about every other commercial enterprise) was located in a strip mall surrounded by parking lots that are usually full.

The historic ambiance of Portland gems such as the White Eagle Cafe, Gil’s Speakeasy, The Rambler (all of which I have reviewed and could go on) not only have warm interiors, but very interesting or idiosyncratic exteriors which makes Beerchasing a lot more enjoyable.

The Historic White Eagle

Metropolitan Phoenix (The Valley of the Sun) has a population of 4.3 million and the City itself a density of 2,797 people per square mile.  That compares to Portland’s 4,537 and Portland is near the bottom in density for West coast cities.

The Valley of the Sun seems to be the epitome of urban sprawl.  While the road system is pretty good (I assume the Mexicans paid for it..) it takes a long, boring drive to get almost anyplace.

“Density” must be a pejorative term as evidenced by even one of their athletic teams “The Phoenix Sprawl” Okay, it’s an Ultimate Frisbee Team, and I guess that’s better than the San Diego Wild Fire in the same league, but don’t embrace the concept!

Janet enters SunUp

Sarah, our bartender, at SunUp Brewing, (she  was a gem) told us that it was the oldest brewery in Phoenix although their website states they opened in 2001 which made the claim a little dubious.  It was a great place, however, from the logo to the expansive patio to the cool historic building and their lineup of beers, which has gained popularity.  (Another source stated that the oldest brewery in Arizona, is Gentle Ben’s in Tuscon which opened in 1971.)

George Hamilton stories and more…..

One of the more interesting chaps we met that week was sitting at the bar at SunUp – an old guy with a considerable white beard who was friendly but full of baloney – to be polite – and talked loudly.

While drinking a porter, he went on for about forty-five minutes with stories on his exploits around the world including the one where he served as a doorman in an exclusive Park Avenue apartment in New York City in which B-list star and artificially tanned raconteur, George Hamilton lived.  (He told this story because he asked where I was born and I told him Long Island, New York.)

Perhaps he got sloshed remembering his start on Rin Tin Tin and the Donna Reed Show

The bearded one told us how Hamilton came in early one morning sloppy drunk and he aided the actor to his room and into bed.  He was purportedly awarded with a generous tip at the end of the month.   We left when he started the story about trekking in the Khumbu region on the way to climb Annapurna in Nepal……Oh well, we agreed that this encounter is one of the reasons that sitting at the bar is fun and interesting.

SunUp, like a number of the breweries we visited, has expanded as the beer culture in the desert has intensified.  For example in 2014, they produced 800 barrels, but after expansion, rolled out 3,000 the next year.

An example of mead – A Polish mead using two units of water for each unit of honey.

We demurred this time, but will have to try mead at another venue.  SunUP had twelve different meads.  Their flyer described mead as,

“A beverage as old as the hills and as new as a shiny penny….a delicious honey wine enjoyed for centuries with evidence of mead dating back to 700 BC.”  

They ranged in price from $10 to $16 for a 5 ounce glass – not only expensive but the ABV averaged 13.5% which explains the small glass size.

McFate Brewing

That night, again based on recommendations, we had beers and dinner at McFate Brewing.   Ryan was our favorite bartender in Arizona. 

He was outgoing, generous with samples and we ended up with a flight of three 4 oz. pours for $6 (No-Nelson Pale Ale, False Promises IPA and Fateful IPA were super.)

But the real prize that night was McFate’s pizza.   We had a Truff Diver and Janet asked and they honored her request for extra arugula on her half.  This review from Trip Advisor (3/24) summed it up well 

“The real star of the evening was the Truff Diver pizza. It was topped with olive oil, mozzarella, parmesan, mushrooms, truffle oil and an egg, and finished off with fresh arugula before serving. Hands down one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had – it even tasted good 2 days later as a leftover!”  

It’s the first pizza I’ve had with an egg (over easy) on the top.  Notwithstanding its good size, we did not take any back to the hotel like the reviewer above.

Ryan – an outstanding bartender

McFate’s, opened by a former financial exec in 2010, could not meet the demand for their beer and expanded in 2015 with another location in South Scottsdale and now has a 15 barrel capacity.

We were at the original brewpub which is not a large space, but it has a good vibe, friendly staff, robust selection of good beer and great food.  – What more can you ask for??

Stay tuned for the reviews of the other Phoenix and Scottsdale breweries in Part II of Beerchasing in the Desert.” 


Thebeerchaser goes to Market – John’s Marketplace

My first step inside John’s Marketplace – a Multnomah Village institution took me back to youthful days and the old hobby shops.   One would step inside and see Lionel Trains, baseball cards, model airplanes and every conceivable diversion a young kid could imagine.  Or perhaps a better analogy by one reviewer on Facebook: “This place makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.”

One-half of a delicious Killer Turkey

And this deli/market/bar/beer shop and seller of wines is similar.  At the Deli, try an excellent “Killer Turkey” sandwich or their $2.99 Single Deluxe Burger (yeah, that price is correct and the Double Deluxe with Bacon is only $5.39).  Kids can also get a grilled-cheese sandwich.

Or you can go a few aisles over and get a frozen pizza or a dozen eggs or candy bars, a broom and dust pan or a Portland Timber’s extra-large sweatshirt.





Of course, Thebeerchaser was primarily attracted by the beer.  While there is no irrefutable statistic, there were multiple comments on social media – many by beer geeks – that John’s is the bottle shop in Oregon with the largest inventory of bottled and canned beer and cider — an estimated combined total of approximately 6,000.

Reviewing the inventory of beer labels reminded me of the Saturday Night Live skit where a guy would go into a hardware store and ask for a “left-handed flange adherence tool.”  The clerk would  immediately state, “That’s aisle 2D on the third shelf on the right.”  

At John’s, the equivalent might be asking manager, Paul Petros where you can get a six-pack of Bavarian Weizen Bock beer?  He might respond:

“Take the first aisle and then go left where the shark with the beer bottle in his mouth sticking his head through the inner tube is hanging down.

Turn right by the inflatable Samuel Adams mug.

Then continue until you see the Schneider Weisse banner.   It’s on the lower right shelf.  If you hit the Budweiser poster with the girl in the bikini, you’ve gone too far…..” 

Some people might think this kind of dive-bar brick-a-brick is tacky.  Paul states, “We try to assault your senses.  Be cool and everything will be okay.”



From Wolves and Farmhouse Brewing in Newberg

For example, while walking up the beer aisles – arranged geographically – you could pull the Instinctive Travels – a straw-hued saison, from nearby Wolves and People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg.

Or take a global perspective and pick up a six-pack of Skull Splitter from England’s Orkney Brewing.  (This one almost begs for more research as the name and logo seem a little incongruent with the description.

Skull Splitter – satiny smooth with light character??

Skull Splitter is one of their strongest beers named after a Viking, but described as:  “A (beer with a) rich fruity wine-like complexity on the palate…….warm exotic spice…. Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character.”  (Emphasis supplied).

That right – 9.5 ABV!

Then again, you might just want to go long but stay within the confines of the US, which might make Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing’s Golden Monkey a good option to take home and luxuriate while drinking a bottle of this beer (“Banana, clove, isoamyl”).   I said “take home” because it has an ABV of 9.5%.

I could go on about the beer, but before I tell you about the deli and the wine, a little about Paul Petros and his brother, Rob.  (Rob was on a trip to Mexico, so I didn’t get to meet him.)  They started managing for owner, Dave Percival with eventual plans to become co-owners.

Paul is a charismatic guy with a history and interest in beer.  He went to high school in Medford where he was an “aggressive” offensive lineman on the St. Mary’s of Medford Single A football team.

St. Mary’s is a 153 year-old independent, co-ed, college prep school, now with slightly over 400 students and 70% of them participate in athletics.   (The 2017 football team – now 3A) had a good record, but missed the State playoffs when they were thrashed 70 to 14 by eventual State Champion and Medford cross-town rival Cascade Christian.

He graduated from the University of Portland and worked in landscaping and then the grocery business – Zupan’s on Burnside and Fred Meyer.  Beer came into the picture in the early ’90’s  when he started work at Columbia Distributing.

He spent fourteen years at Columbia, the last half of which was with their Specialty Beer Team and John’s Marketplace was his primary account.

Paul, on the left with friends from the beer community – Keenan Delehanty and Michelle Faubion

“I’m a beer nerd.  Beer is personal to me,” stated Paul who is a Certified Cicerone – solid evidence.  It requires paying the fee and passing a four-hour exam including written, tasting, and demonstration portions.

John’s has a very popular and reasonably priced Kegs-2-Go program, where you can order on-line from an extensive list (400 beers on 21 pages ) but don’t do crowlers or growlers because Paul feels that every time you change the environment or beer container, it degrades the product.

Winston at the lower right, draws an admiring crowd

It’s easy to see why Paul says of his job, “I love being here.”  On my two visits, he received ongoing inquires from his eleven employees about merchandise, but spent a lot of his time mingling with customers – primarily in the Deli area.

The picture shows Winston, one of the regular canine visitors to John’s.  “There are a number of dogs we call by name, but haven’t learned the name of the owners yet,” he stated half jokingly. 

And observing the deli and small beer bar, is like viewing a community meeting place.  There were high-school kids eating burgers at a table next to a road crew scarfing down Killer Turkeys and the $6.00 Dirty Cheesesteak Sandwich.

A couple of people were seated at the adjacent bar downing one of the eight $5 drafts which to my delight, included Pliny the Elder and Corvallis brewer, Block 15’s Cosmic Cold Brew Maple Cream.

A hard to find Pliny the Elder from Russian River

And I was kind of curious about one guy who sat at the bar eating lunch and then lingering over his beer .  He was in work clothes and absorbed in a book that had an interesting cover.

I got curious and edged over so I could see the title.  It was Sir Harry Hotspur of Humblethwaite by Anthony Trollope. Subsequent research (usually required by any visit to one of my bars or breweries…) revealed that Trollope was an English novelist of the Victorian Era.

Author Anthony Trollope

The book according to one literature website is an Incisive, unconventional psychological study of a conflict between a wealthy baronet, his idealistic daughter and their scapegrace cousin. A compelling story that discloses how an individual destiny is as unpredictable as life itself.”  

And more fascinating is its main character, the indomitable Sir Harry, who according to my trusty Wikipedia reference is based on Sir Harry Percy a fourteenth century “……English nobleman. He was a significant captain during the Anglo-Scottish Wars. He later led successive rebellions against Henry the IV of England

Engrossed in his novel and Total Domination

Not to dwell, but my research gave some insight on why the guy was so engrossed in the book. You see Percy was slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403:

“When rumors circulated that Percy was still alive, the king ‘had the corpse exhumed and displayed it’……That done, the king dispatched Percy’s head to York, where it was impaled on Micklegate Bar, whereas his four quarters were sent to…his widow. (She buried him and he was posthumously declared a traitor and his lands forfeited to the crown.)”

Neither Hemingway’s protagonist, Jake Barnes or Steinbeck’s, Tom Joad, had such an ignominious end and it may explain why the guy was drinking a bottle of Ninkasi Total Domination

The deli at noon

Now even though this blog is more about the character of the bar than focusing on beer, we digress.   John’s also has an excellent selection of ciders, but also about 1,300 wine labels, managed by Dave Kaplan.

Beer guy – Paul and Wine guy – Dave

Dave has been in the wine business for just shy of forty years as a sommelier, bartender and in retail and wholesale.  He has a great philosophy on wine which my wife, Janet, found out talking to him for twenty minutes before she bought two bottles of wine.

Dave states, “No matter how many wine publications people read, nothing is better than tasting it yourself.  Let your taste buds do the talking.  Don’t think you won’t like a wine because of its label or words you don’t understand.  My goal is to find a wine you don’t think you like and you’re surprised how good it is.”  

Dave educating Janet on a bottle of ______ – she bought it!

And you have your chance to find this out every Friday from 5:00 until 7:00 and most Saturdays when they have two wine tastings from 2:00 to 5:00 for a $5 fee.  The one this week was on Friday and featured six different labels.  They also have beer tastings on most Fridays, the next one featuring Old Town Brewing and Boulevard Brewing.

Dont think you won’t like a bottle of wine because of its labe….

How does he manage an inventory of that magnitude?  Paul stated that it’s mostly by instinct although they are installing a computerized system.

Extensive inventory

Each beer has a different pull-date depending on the hop profile and other factors, and I tell my staff, “Turn the bottle on the shelf and look at the date.”  He also works closely with his distributors to arrive at a fair arrangement when inventory gets overstocked.

Most of the comments on social media were very positive.  The only negative one I saw was reviewer complained about the dust when he picked up the bottle.  Paul stated that when they first took over, the main complaint on social media was that there was old beer.  “We have remedied that by taking a lot of old product off the shelves and cleaning ductwork and shelves.  We took about 40 pounds of dust and dirt out of here.”

And like two of the other iconic Multnomah Village bars reviewed previously, the Ship Tavern and Renners, the building and site of John’s has an interesting history. 

The site was a substation on the old Union Pacific Electric rail line and the original owner, John Feuz (the John of John’s Marketplace) had a butcher shop and meat market (You can still see meat hooks and rails for sliding meat in their cooler.)

Dave Percival, who took over the store in the mid-90’s was fascinated by what used to be the beer and wine selection at the old Burlingame Grocery (before it was destroyed in what investigators thought was an arson fire) and saw the trend coming with the growing Oregon micro-brew industry.

He started the deli when there was roadwork through Multnomah Village and began selling the construction workers burgers.  Now, I have reviewed several excellent bottle shops previously including Beer Goddess Lisa Morrison’s wonderful Belmont Station (2013), 1856 (2012) and Bottles (2012), Beer Mongers (2014) and most recently Bandon’s Beverage Barn.

Beer Mongers – okay, but no comparison….

There is a good chance you can find the beer you want in any of them.  But none compares with the idiosyncratic charm, the friendly and knowledgeable staff and the rich history of John’s Marketplace.   I will finish with two recent Yelp reviews which are typical and also explain why Thebeerchaser will return to what they self-describe as “Portland’s Beer Mecca” – and justifiably.

“If there’s a better beer selection anywhere, I haven’t seen it. And believe me, I’ve looked all over the country. The amount and variety of beer on the shelves here is simply breathtaking.

Tons of Oregon beer, sure, but also plenty of other regions and even rare stuff. They also have a handful of rotating beers in tap and serve food. The people here are extremely friendly and helpful as well. If you can’t find some beer here that you love, you don’t really love beer. “ 3/23/17

“I love this place! Such a gem, totally unassuming. Just good food and great selection of beer and wine. I always grab a killer turkey sandwich if I’m in the area.  For $5.50 it’s a steal  I’ve had all their sandwiches- which are all tasty and great, but a classic turkey sandwich done well is my go to order.”  9/21/17

John’s Marketplace   –  3535 SW Multnomah Blvd.    Portland









How does he manage an inventory of beer and wine of that magnitude.




Thebeerchaser’s 2017 Annual Report

Cheers from Thebeerchaser

I would suggest that 2017 was a year of good cheer – but isn’t that what you would expect from the author of a blog entitled “Thebeerchaser.”  While there were national and international events which make me shudder, the following speaks strictly to my idiosyncratic retirement hobby i.e. visiting bars, taverns and pubs and then blogging about them.  The following is my rationale for asserting, “It was a very good year.”

Buffalo Bill’s Saloon in rural Beavercreek

Blog Statistics – while I would still pursue this hobby even if the only people reading my posts were family members (out of a sense of obligation), it is gratifying to see that the number visiting the blog has increased – a lot – each year from my first full year in 2012. 

The chart below shows the total number of views with the darker blue being the number of visitors each year.  

The unique Multnomah Whiskey Bar

For example in 2017, I had 24,577 views from 18,623 visitors – meaning each visitor looked at an average of 1.32 different posts.

This compares to 2013 when the views rang in at 15,223 by 10,031 people – a 60% increase in views over that four year period. My first full year, only 6,704 ventured in, so the increase has been gratifying.

Thebeerchaser’s Statistics from 2012 – 2017

Since its inception in August, 2011, I have published 189 posts – each one averaging about 1,500 words.  In 2017, followers of the blog saw twenty-nine posts, which is pretty close to the annual average over the six full years I have been on this “Tour.”   But in 2017, since we were on the road more, we visited more different public houses than in any prior year.

Wonderful scenery (and breweries) along the S. Oregon Coast

When we travel, I describe multiple bars and breweries in each post.  For example, in September we headed down the Southern Oregon Coast through Redwood National Park to Eureka.

In three different posts, I described eleven breweries, one bar and one bottle shop that we visited on that trip including our favorite, Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake California.

Drinking with the friendly staff of Mad River Brewing

And I am always amazed to see the locations at which the visitors to Thebeerchaser are doing their Google searches which bring them to my domain.

For example, in 2017, 85% of the views were from the US, but 3% were from India, followed by 1.8% from Canada and even ten views from Saudi Arabia.

Known to roam both New Guinea and Khazakstan

Perhaps that’s some people getting vicarious thrills from reading about watering holes because Saudi Arabia has a complete ban on alcohol – it is illegal to produce it, import it, or consume it.

In fact, in 2017 I even had two visitors from New Guinea and one from Khazakstan.  Perhaps they got to my blog by mistake and they meant to do a search for The boar chaser……

Thebeerchasing Itinerary

At the wonderful dive bar AC Tap outside Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin

My practice when Beerchasing in the Portland area is to generally visit an establishment at least twice – that gives me a better feel for the place and more opportunity to meet patrons and talk to the bartenders or staff about the bar or brewery’s history and distinguishing characteristics.

Now 2017 set a record for the most venues visited.   Although the Portland area total was lower than most years at fifteen bars and breweries, this number was supplemented by twenty-seven outside Portland including multiple entries in Wisconsin, California and the Oregon Coast.

Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee

You can see the list for both categories at the end of this post.  And one brewery is in a special category – the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel which will be discussed below.

Friendly owner Tom O’Leary


For Portland establishments, I devote the entire post to one venue.  For example, my favorite bar in 2017 of the nine Portland area watering holes, was TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub where I got to know the owner, Tom, a former star from Ireland’s most popular soap opera.

And the brewery which captured my imagination of the five Portland area enterprises reviewed was Tigard’s Flyboy Brewing.  The outstanding people in these establishments gave them the nod plus you haven’t lived until you have tasted their Pilot’s Peach Pale Ale.

Michelle Faubion and Mark Becker of Flyboy Brewing


Each quarter I also write about an individual or group for which I bestow the “honor” Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (BOTQ).  In the past, these have included authors, athletes, war heroes, media personalities and even my graduate school Professor of Public Finance, Portland State’s Dr. John Walker.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year was named in 2016 – my wife of thirty-eight years, Janet, who has shown the patience and given her support for the time I spend checking out these colorful and many times historic, public houses.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year

Fortunately, she has grown to have a fondness for IPAs (Buoy Brewing’s of Astoria is her favorite) – a change from generally consuming an Oregon Pinot when we dined out in prior years.

Amy Faust of 99.5 – The Wolf




I was somewhat remiss this year and only named three BOTQ – Portland radio personality, Amy Faust, of the Mike and Amy Show and then a  tribute to the late author and my friend (as a result of this blog) Brian Doyle.

And then there’s Father Martin Grassel, who is the head brewer at the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey (in addition to being the Procurator for the Abbey – a very big responsibility.) He is a wonderful man with a fascinating background.

Father Martin of the Benedictine Brewery

Stay tuned for a catch-up effort in 2018, when my first BOTQ will be Portland developer and civic leader, Mark Edlen.

For a list of past recipients of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, see the tab so designated on the header at the top of this post.  These people are interesting and have compelling stories and you probably know some of them.

Looking Back and Reflecting……

Dave Booher and Steve Larson at the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns

Since my visit to the Brooklyn Park Pub in August, 2011, my first bar on what has been a six and one-half year journey, I have visited and reviewed a total of 257 different watering holes.

While my initial intent was to restrict these visits to Portland locations, our retirement travel was conducive to telling you about bars in Europe and Alaska, Hawaii,  Montana and a bunch of other states in addition to saloons all over the state of Oregon – from the coast to John Day and Baker.

The personable Phoebe of the Brooklyn Park Pub

By the way, I was very happy that I returned to the Brooklyn this summer and had a visit with their wonderful bartender Phoebe Newcombe, one of my favorite of many dynamic personalities (also third place in Willamette Week’s Best- of-Portland Bartenders) I have had the pleasure of interviewing since 2011.

Darwin’s Theory – An OSU Beaver in Anchorage

So of that total (257) 114 have been in Portland and 143 in the aforementioned other geographical locales.  (Sometime if we have a beer, I will tell you about our visit to the bar right below the summit of  top of Mt. Schilthorn in Switzerland – at an altitude of 9,744 feet.)

Or there was my favorite dive bar of all time – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, Alaska – owned by an Oregon State University alum.

The Schilthorn Taverne in Switzerland







You’ve got to be kidding? Beer at 9,500 feet!

The List of 2017 Venues

The charts below show the name, location type of establishment and date of the post for each place reviewed in 2017 – separated by those in the Portland metropolitan area and those outside the Rose City.

Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Multnomah Whiskey Library Downtown Whiskey Bar January
Nineteen 33 Taproom West Linn Neighborhood February
Buffalo Bill’s Saloon Beavercreek Neighborhood February
Ancestry Brewing Tualatin Brewery February
The Independent Downtown Sports Bar March
NEPO 42 Northeast Neighborhood April
Burnside Brewing East Brewery April
Gil’s Speakeasy Southeast Dive Bar May
Flyboy Brewing Tigard Brewery May
Cascade Brewing Barrel House Southeast Brewpub June
Labrewatory North Brewery June
Renners Multnomah Village Dive Bar August
Slow Bar Southeast Neighborhood October
TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub Northeast Neighborhood October
ZARZ Downtown Whiskey Bar December

Wisconsin Beerchasing

On the Oregon Coast


Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Nauti Mermaid Beach Club Lincoln City, OR Neighborhood July
Scooters Pub Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood July
Dukes on the Water Milwaukee, Wisc. Dive July
Water Street Brewery Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery July
Badger State Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Hinterland Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Door County Brewing Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Brewery August
AC Tap Sister Bay, Wisc Dive August
Coyote Road House Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Cornerstone Pub Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Pourman’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Lake Front Brewing Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery September
McGillycuddy’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Bar None Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
The Aly Asylum Riverhouse Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewpub September
Yachats Brewing Yachats, OR Brewery November
Defeat River Brewing Reedsport, OR Brewery November
Seven Devils Brewing Coos Bay, OR Brewery November
Bandon Brewery Bandon, OR Brewery November
Broken Anchor Bar and Grill Bandon, OR Neighborhood November
The Beverage Barn Bandon, OR Bottle Shop November
Arch Rock Brewing Gold Beach, OR Brewery November
Chetco Brewing Brookings, OR Brewery November
Six Rivers Brewing McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Humboldt Regeneration McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Lost Coast Brewery Eureka, CA Brewery December
Mad River Brewery Blue Lake, CA Brewery December
Benedictine Brewery Mount Angel, OR Brewery November

The Benedictine Brewery

Sign designed and created by Brother Andre’ Love

Fans of great beer and the rich history of brewing can look forward to the opening of the Benedictine Brewery and Taproom in mid-2018.   After an incredible community timber raising on November 11th, the Brewery is now framed and its flagship beer, Black Habit got a wonderful review at this link in Willamette Week.  

I have been working as a volunteer on this project for the last fifteen months – it’s a vision of Father Martin Grassel.  When completed, it will be the only brewery west of the Mississippi in which the ownership and brewing is by monks – in this case those at the Mount Angel Abbey, established in 1882.

To see some videos which will amaze you and give you an idea of the energy and spirit shown at the timber raising at which about 100 monks, seminarians and friends from the Mt. Angel community worked as a team all day,  check out the following link from my post on 11/21.


Updated picture from 1/4/18



Happy New Year!

For Downtown Bars – Choose ZARZ

Janet, Kate and David ready for Happy Hour

With so many new bars east of the Willamette River in Portland, both in NE and SE, it is easy to ignore downtown Portland – or the Central Business District (CBD) as it was called during the 25 years I worked in its heart – on the 17th floor of the PacWest Center.

The venerable PacWest Center, home of the Schwabe Williamson law firm

A suggestion by my friend and Beerchaser regular, David Dickson, that we (his spouse, Kate and mine, Janet) take a jaunt by the river along the Promenade and then hit Happy Hour at Zarz on First, a relatively new bar (September, 2016).  It describes itself as a “neighborhood bar” and the “Best Happy Hour in Portland.”  


A brisk walk along the East Bank Promenade

David’s suggestion was a good one and after a brisk and delightful three-mile jaunt, we had a great dinner and good drinks at excellent Happy Hour prices.

Bernie Stea at lunch with our server, Erin

The experience was enjoyable enough that it motivated me to return for lunch a few days later with another veteran Beerchaser – Bernie Stea, co-managing broker with his wife, Debb Janes, at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm in Camas.   (It should be noted that Beerchaser standard due diligence is to visit a bar at least twice before offering a review.)

Both my daughter, Laura and her husband, Ryan, graduated from the University of Portland and one of my favorite authorities on beer, Dr. Sam Holloway is a tenured professor at the school (and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, so I was happy to see that Zarz is the product of another successful UP graduate.

Zaryab “Zar” Sheikh graduated and earned his MBA from UP in 1979 and went on to earn his CPA, worked internationally and ultimately became President and owner of Gorge Hotels, a Washington corporation that owns several hotels besides the restaurant.

I had read about the bar’s extensive whiskey selection which their website describes as “inspired by Zar’s favorite signature cocktails and regional wines…..comprised of standout, premium cocktails made with quality liquor from top international and local distillers” and seeing the classy setting with a beautiful bar, I was reminded of two of my prior Beerchaser venues focusing on hard liquor rather than beer – Barlow Artisanal Bar (visited in 2016) and the Portland Whiskey Library (2017).

Multnomah Whiskey Library – a $600 membership fee

Although both of these bars were good experiences, I would return to Zarz again before either of the former.   Barlow’s menu is significantly more limited, the drinks and food are more expensive and the setting and décor do not compare.

While the ambiance of the Whiskey Library is outstanding, one has to either purchase an annual membership for $600 or buy a $25 “Hall Pass” and stand in line for what can be hours to drink in what admittedly is an exclusive, award-winning setting.  Fortunately, I had a benevolent host during my visit who picked up our tab…….

So why would Zarz get the nod over these other classy venues?  Well, the food is very good starting with the burger, which for Happy Hour is a very reasonable $8 for a large and delicious burger with fries – on the regular menu for $12.  All of use chose this option on the first visit.

Didn’t take long to go with the burger…

Almost without exception, the social media reviews are very positive on the food.

The Cuban sandwich, which Bernie thought was excellent draws raves: “Husband had the Cuban, which was one of the best he’s ever had. I went with the local Oregon raise fried chicken with grits and greens. I have to say it was the best I’ve have West of the Mississippi and North if the Mason Dixon.”  (Yelp 9/15/17)

The fish tacos get good comments:

“What really surprised me were the fish tacos. These were unbe-lievable and so good that we had to place another order of them. You will definitely want more than one order as these fish tacos are addictive.”  (Yelp 2/1/17)

Three small sliders for $8 – a good deal! Bernie’s Cuban is in the background.

Multiple compliments were also offered on the deviled eggs,  steak, hummus, bacon sampler and especially the fried chicken – available as an entrée or as one of  three slider options – three sliders for $8 or a buck cheaper at Happy Hour.  I had the fried chicken option for lunch and was very pleased with my choice.

The beer selection is good – nine on tap ($6 and $1 off at HH) along with two ciders and a reasonable choice of red and white wine.  My Kiwanda Cream Ale by Pelican Brewery that evening was good, but not very cold although this was remedied the next day when my excellent Suicide Squeeze from Fort George came and was cold as was Bernie’s Oakshire Amber.

But the flagship beverages at Zarz are their fifteen cocktails ($10 and $2 less at HH) -people seemed to like the margarita – and about 150 types of hard liquor on the shelf.  Now while this does not compare with Multnomah Whiskey Library’s purported 1,500 labels.

150 + options available

The selections range from old standbys such as Jack Daniels ($7 per shot) to about fifty labels of Scotch ranging from my favorite – the Balvenie 17-year Double Wood  for $45 to their most expensive which appeared to be a Cragganmore 25-year which would increase your tab by $152 for a shot

Erin, our wonderful server, asked the bartender, friendly Eric, who acceded to my request and climbed the ladder to retrieve the bottle of Cragganmore and pose in a picture. (Note: the bottle was about 2/3 full so somebody has tried it!)

Eric, gingerly holds the Cragganmore

I did some quick calculations and figured there are about 757 milliliters in a fifth and assuming a shot is 44 milliliters, that would mean the bottle would generate $2,615, so I told Eric to be very careful when handling the bottle.   Some internet research revealed that the retail cost of a fifth of Cragganmore is about $425.  It was evidently distilled in 1988 and aged in oak casks.

One on-line whiskey rating site stated in part:

Nose: sweet with lots of vanilla, heather honey and hints of honeydew melons. Nice bits of dried mango. The fruitiness is balanced (or muted if you like) by green, spicy oak and liquorice…………Mouth: creamy, still rather sweet with some honey and orchard fruits. Nice hints of pineapple and coconut….”  

In the village of Ballindalloch in Banffshire, Scotland.

They concluded: “The oaky notes, ginger, pepper and plenty of vanilla make this one typically American oak, but they also make it seem younger than it is. A lot of distilleries have this profile at half the age and a fraction of the price.”

And remember, the $152 taste of fruit as it sails down your gullet lasts for about three seconds. (Perhaps chewing a Bit O Honey candy bar while swilling a glass of good oaky Maysara Pinot Noir (McMinnville) would save you about $140 dollars and last a lot longer.)  The New York Times described as “In your face aromatically, with a blast of sweet red fruit.” (10/19/16)

Well, we digress – now back to Zarz.  Besides the food and drink and the friendly and helpful staff, the other attribute that speaks well of this bar is the ambiance created by the interior.   It is housed in one of Portland’s historic buildings (purported to be the 9th oldest) and the longish space besides having a great bar, has spacious booths besides a number of tables.

Adorning the walls are a number of retro pictures including those of Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Ray Charles and the Rat Pack.  (I took Bernie’s picture by this one because of our days working at the Oregon State Bar (He served as Director of Continuing Legal Education and I was the Business Manager).

He presented his budget on a laptop Osborne computer using VisiCalc software and would quietly sing Frank Sinatra’s classic “I Did It My Way, as he tried to justify a plan filled with what we budget people called “fluff.”  (He may not have gotten all of his funding approved, but he got high marks for creativity.)

The only negative about Zarz was the challenge of parking in that area of town although there are some Smart Parks in the area which is probably the best bet.

Oh, and if you like live music, check them out on a Friday or Saturday night.  Erin said that one of the most popular groups is Portland’s Toledo Kesch – a blues-based rock and roll group which was appearing that Friday.

Zarz has had some challenges which is not unusual in the restaurant and hospitality business.  After their September, 2016 opening, they evidently closed for a period earlier this year.  However, the bar and bistro has come back strong.  It deserves a visit, so check them out.



Zarz on First          814 SW First  

The Benedictine Brewery – “Beam” Me Up

The slab at the start of the day

On Saturday morning, November 11th, the future Benedictine Brewery and Taproom started as a concrete slab adjacent to the Mount Angel Abbey Hilltop, which is also the home of the Mount Angel Seminary.

By the end of the day, there was a structural frame with six bents ( two-dimensional transverse rigid frames and the building blocks that define the overall shape and character of a structure) using 14,000 board feet of Douglas Fir timber harvested from the Abbey tree farm.  And the next monumental step for this project – in the planning stages since 2012 – was taken.

Project Manager and Director of Enterprises, Chris Jones

Chris Jones, on the Abbey staff and a key player in the planning and construction, arrived at the site before the sun rose at 5:00 A.M. to contemplate what lay ahead for the almost one hundred volunteers.  They worked under the direction of the professionals from New Energy Works and participated in the modern-day equivalent of an old-fashioned barn raising. As Chris stated that day:

“This raising is a ton of right in a wrong-way world. Yeah, it fits right in with the mission of the brewery (support the Abbey, local charities and local economics), but it’s a lot more than that. It feels like making a change for good and right – one community step at a time.”  

A little over one-half mile away, the monks were participating in their first of five prayer services that day, before many of them would join the seminarians and residents of the City of Mt. Angel when the work started at 9:00 AM.  (The monks have “divine office” five times per day plus the Eucharist).

The beautiful chapel on the Abbey Hilltop




As inspiration, workers could see the impressive spire of the beautiful St. Mary’s Catholic Church visible through the Abbey’s adjacent hop fields.  (And Fr. Philip Waibel, OSB, pastor of the church was among those at the Timber Raising that day.)  The 350 acres of hops owned by the Abbey will be a source of the ingredients used in brewing Benedictine beer.

The steeple at St. Marys Catholic Church


The timber was milled through Hull-Oakes Lumber Company from Monroe – a family business founded in 1937 that specializes in cutting big timbers.

Another important firm which made the structure possible is Withers Lumber from Brooks – a family owned full service local lumber company with ties to Woodburn, Silverton and Mount Angel among other Oregon communities.

John Gooley, represented Withers (he’s worked there for forty-two years) that day and was a wealth of information.

A team effort by volunteers

To see the first bent raised by the group, check out the video I took below.  Remarkable!

John told me that there were 305 pieces of wood that were joined for the structure.  Besides the 14,000 for the structural components, another 11,000 board feet of lumber was used for the siding  and the tongue and grove boards for the top of the structure.  It will also be used for the actual bar in the Taproom.  It took seven truckloads of logs for the Brewery and Taproom and additional load that went in exchange to the plywood mill.  

Besides the source of the wood, there was another unusual aspect of the construction process:

“The timber was harvested, cut, dried, milled using mortise and tenon joinery, which is secured with wooden pegs — an age-old traditional craft — and prepared for a seamless, no-hammer, no-saw construction.”

Mallets rather than hammers and nails….

The volunteers that day know that there labor will be “captured” in the structure for its duration based on the fact that all were encouraged by John Gooley to sign the pegs that secured the bents before they were put in place.  Thebeerchaser eagerly participated.

Thebeerchaser signing a peg

When completed in the spring of 2018, the 3,000 square foot Brewery and Taproom will house a five-barrel brewing system including boil kettles, burners, a heat exchanger, fermenters, chillers, bottle conditioners and related equipment such as siphons, pumps and hoses.

The building’s architect is Henry Fitzgibbon of Soderstrom, a leading Portland firm founded in 1984 and which has done work for many faith-based communities and educational institutions.  Henry donated many hours on the Brewery project and is one of the many skilled professionals without whose contributions this venture would not have been possible.

Henry Fitizgibbon

Conceptual drawing of finished Brewery and Taproom

In fact, Fitzgibbon’s most recent project has been designing a basilica for the tiny village of Kibeho, in southern Rwanda, after being approached by author Immaculee Ilibagiza; who saw work he had performed in Mount Angel at the Abbey.

This blog has previously featured the remarkable story of Father Martin Grassel, O.S.B., the Head Brewer at Benedictine and under whose vision this project has come to fruition.  Father Martin, who is also Procurator (essentially the Chief Financial Officer) at the Abbey was featured as the most recent Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Father Martin with his current on-site brewing equipment at the historic Abbey “fort.”

He is a remarkable man with a unique story and background as a software engineer before his journey of faith and service brought him to the Mount Angel Abbey

Notwithstanding the almost continuous showers during the previous week the sun shone brightly in the morning as the work started.  And the video below shows the remarkable process for raising each bent.  (It may also be one of the few times you see monks wearing hard hats and jeans rather than their traditional black habits,) 

New Energy Works, which has offices or shops in McMinnville, Portland and two locations in New York, conducts these public raisings all over the country – from private residences to barns to larger commercial buildings and they usually draw a crowd. And what a dynamic and environmentally conscious company it is.

They co-designed the building and designed the first layout and timber frame.

Father Martin – right – with the Jonathan Orpin from New Energy

As you will see from the video below in which the largest timber section – 80 feet in length, requiring forty workers  was raised, Jonathan Orpin, the President of New Energy was the equivalent of land-based coxswain for his “crew” team.  His enthusiasm and energy was inspiring to all present.


New Energy even supplied a drone to memorialize the action that day.  You should check out the video below for a “start-to-finish aerial view.

Cab Construction of Mt. Angel was the general contractor and Chris Bischoff, the owner, was at the raising all day working both on the ground and in the rafters…..

Cab Construction – the general contractor

That day was also the occasion of the first prayer in the Benedictine Brewery and Taproom – held at noon before we ate and in lieu of the standard noon-day prayer in the wonderful Abbey chapel.  Fr. Vincent Trujillo, O.S.B., the Prior of the Abbey,  led the service which was “uplifting” – very consistent with the theme that day!   The monks sang and were joined by the other participants.  See the video below:


At noon, in the tradition of historic barn raisings, there was a feast for the workers and attendees, prepared under the direction of the Abbey’s Chef Paul Lieggi.  His spread of delicious barbecued chicken, baked beans, potato salad and green salad boosted the energy and spirits of the workers.

Chef Paul prepares…but not pig stomach…..

Research on the menu for historic barn raisings revealed that the traditional menu was often slightly different than ours that day, most notably for the main course.  In Amish and Mennonite communities Pig Stomach was often the main course at these events.  In case you want to try this yourself: 

“Remove the inner lining of the stomach and discard. Wash stomach well and than soak in salt water several hours. Drain and fill stomach with stuffing. Sew securely.

Use recipe for filling……Place stuffed stomach in a large roasting pan and bake at 350 for 3 hours. Serve with gravy made by adding flour and water to drippings in roasting pan.”

Although there are goats and sheep raised on Abbey property, fortunately pigs are not part of the livestock……

Beer expert and volunteer, Jeff Alworth

There were a number of print and social media reps and there covering the event.  One of them is a well-known Northwest beer expert and writer, Portland’s Jeff Alworth, who first wrote about plans for the Benedictine Brewery back in 2014 in his excellent blog – Beervana.  Jeff was there for the entire day with a hard hat on and actively participating.

His books include The Secret of Master Brewers and his award-winning comprehensive guide to beer, The Beer Bible. Jeff also writes a weekly column for All About Beer Magazine and co-hosts the Beervana Podcast, where he and Oregon State University economics professor Patrick Emerson discuss beer and the economics of beer.

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

The legacy of Benedictine beer goes back to the Middle Ages:

““….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)

The Benedictine Brewery at Mount Angel will be the first monastery west of the Mississippi, and one of only two or three in the US, that does its development, major production, and taproom service on-site, with monks doing the brewing and running their own operation.

And the vision for this venture transcends the goal of making quality beer.  As Father Martin eloquently wrote in a recent missive:

” To say it should be a place of hospitality and welcome and family-friendliness would be too shallow.  I want it to be a place where people are more than just welcome:  I want a place where they will feel blessed, where they will feel the peace of the Abbey, where they will encounter faith in an inviting and non-threatening way, where they will want to come back because of the spiritual atmosphere.” 

Although the on-site brewery will not be completed until March, the Benedictine Brewery already has a record of producing great beer although much of it is done on a contract basis through nearby Seven Brides Brewery in Silverton.  (Some of us chuckle at the irony of monks brewing at Seven Brides)!

The flagship beer is appropriately named “Black Habit”, and has sold out multiple times at the Mount Angel Octoberfest.  Another of the beers garnering good reviews is the St. Benedictine Farmhouse Ale.  Black Habit was first brewed with the help of the Oregon State University Fermentation Program.  (Go Beavs!)

It is hoped that people traveling to the Taproom to taste the Benedictine Beer will also visit the Abbey Hilltop – a place of beauty and hospitality founded in 1882 and with a noted museum, expansive library and great bookstore.  

And for a memorial experience, attend Vespers – almost every day of the year at 5:15 where you will be inspired by hearing the monks sing.  Thebeerchaser is not of the Catholic faith, but has valued each time I sit in the beautiful chapel for this service.

And until the Taproom opens next spring, don’t hesitate to stop by the Bookstore and pick up a case of Black Habit or one of the other Benedictine beers on sale.  It will bring new meaning to the Brewery’s slogan –  “Taste and Believe.”

Thebeerchaser’s Note:   As followers of this blog know, I started Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in August 2011, (with the blessing of my spouse of 38 years, Janet) after retiring as the Chief Operating Officer at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm where I worked for twenty-five years of my career.





I became involved with the Benedictine Brewery about eighteen months ago as a member of the Brewery Advisory Committee at the invitation of its chair, Stephen Zimmer.

After getting to know the people in the Abbey and its Foundation and given the unique story and mission of the Brewery, I decided to take a more active volunteer role in helping to set up the business operations until a general manager is hired in four to six months.   This project is the epitome of a collaborative effort of individuals, companies and the Mt. Angel community.I chuckle at some of the similarities between the law firm and the monastery.   Both are wonderful organizations, filled with intelligent, passionate individuals devoted to their profession and both organizations are consensus-based in making decisions.   The primary difference is that lawyers do not wear habits and don’t get up at 5:00 AM and pray in church six times each day!


The Doctor is in at T.C. O’Leary’s

In the six years of Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars Taverns and Pubs, I have found that while there are some bars which leave a bit to be desired (such as my last visit to Portland’s Slow Bar), there are none for which I regret my visit(s).  Most of the bars or breweries are admirable small businesses, which radiate warmth, character and are replete with stories of the owners, regulars or the trappings of the watering hole itself.

Such is the case with Northeast Portland’s “T.C. O’Leary’s – A Little Irish Pub.”  Located on 29th and NE Alberta, the pub has interesting space, an excellent patio, innovative music and activities, and the background of Thomas Christopher O’Leary, the owner/manager, including the story of how he got to Portland and his PDX connections, could fill a small book. 

Some people will remember this space as the former Branch Whiskey, which was also managed by Tom and was a favorite neighborhood spot known for its classy selection of hard liquor which Tom has retained.  As one Yelp reviewer opined in May, 2016, “Branch is an amazing spot for sophisticated food and cocktails in a casual atmosphere.”  

Tom has a strong background in managing bars and hospitality based on years working in bars in Ireland, New York City and Los Angeles.  When the opportunity arose in 2016, he with the advice and financial help of family connections who had confidence in the investment potential, became the owner and changed the name and theme to that of an Irish Pub.  The bar would be a family-friendly neighborhood gathering place and would not serve pub or bistro grub, but authentic Irish food.

Tom Kelly

And those “family connections” are some of Portland’s finest citizens ranging from his wife, Siobhan’s, mom and dad – Anne Kelly Feeney and Dick Feeney to uncles Tom and John Kelly and aunt Susan Kelly – all individuals celebrated for their sustained community and public service and entrepreneurship.

Neil Kelly Co. logo

(Tom is the President of the Neil Kelly Co. started in 1947 by his father with a $100 investment and which is now nationally recognized for its award-winning design and innovative practices in home remodeling).

Dick and Anne from article in the “Catholic Sentinel” magazine

Anne was the Multnomah County Auditor for two terms and later served as CEO of Loaves and Fishes.  I remember Dick when he was the Public Affairs Director for Tri-Met and a skilled and effective lobbyist for the agency in the 1970’s and I worked for the Clackamas County Commissioners.

Besides being an investor, Dick has stopped by the bar almost every day since its opening.  He stuck his head into the Snug that day to say “hello” to our group. The couple now devotes much of their time to charitable work.

In the short time since the bar’s “soft opening” – the day after Thanksgiving in 2016 – Tom and Siobhan O’Leary have taken big steps in achieving their goals for the bar.  Let’s look at two other Yelp reviews which reflect the overall sentiments of those commenting on the social media site: 

“This establishment is pretty fantastic….Ever changing specials, Guinness on tap and entertaining live music including a fiddler! You’ll find it here. The fish and chips are delicious. Their Shepard’s Pie is delectable and the service is outstanding. It is nice to know that you aren’t just a customer here, this is your friends and family. ”  (7/10/17) 

“Sweet addition to the Alberta neighborhood! Really nice genuine people own the place and their actually Irish- full accent and all! I have never eaten Irish food before. I really enjoyed the Vegetarian Blaa beet sandwich on soda bread and the fresh garlic and herb fries were pretty damn tasty!”  (6/30/17)

Chuck enjoying his fish and chips

And on my first visit with retired Portland lawyer, Chuck Mitchell, who had not been Beerchasing since our 2012 visit to 1856 – a NE Bottle Shop.   We both concurred that the fish and chips – one of T.C. O’Leary’s specialties – was superb.  Just looking at the menu with items such as Guinness Braised Beef, Bacon and Cabbage, Shepherds Pie and Haddock Chowder made my mouth water and made me come close to addressing Chuck as “Paddy…”

Besides those mentioned above, Tom talked about the compliments they receive on their bread roll and baked beans.  Their Saturday and Sunday brunch (Irish breakfast) is a neighborhood favorite with pork sausage and black pudding (pig) as favorite menu items.  They also have a good Happy Hour menu from 4:00 to 6:00  and all food items are $5, including a new offering of a half order of fish and chips and the “new O’Leary’s hot dog.”

A smiling Trinity coed

Adding to the Irish authenticity on my second visit was our server, a wonderful young woman named Caoiimhe (that’s the Gaelic spelling for Quiva) who is a third-year Trinity College student visiting and working in the US for three months before her final year in college.  Trinity is the oldest (1592) and most prestigious university in Ireland.

Besides Guinness, the bar has nine other beers on tap, (I tried my first Feckin Bewing beer – a tasty “Top of the Feckin Mornin”) several wines, a cider and numerous specialty and classic cocktails plus an amazing selection of liquor – try a shot of Whistle Pig Farm’s 2012 Boss Hog Rye for $48, which will allow you to see if you want to invest in an entire bottle which runs between $100 and $200…..

Kevin – Amys better half..

Our group on the second visit, besides my wife, Janet, comprised a number of Beerchasing regulars including the Faust clan (Jack and Alice, daughter Amy and her husband, Kevin) Jim and Janet Westwood (the combination of Faust and Westwood meant that we had two of the most respected appellate lawyers in Oregon on our side in the event of post-visit litigation….) and intellectual property lawyer, John Mansfield.

Mansfield, preoccupied with establishing his new practice at Harris Bricken, had not accompanied me to a watering hole for some time although he had made his mark at three noted dive bars – The Ship in Multnomah Village, the Slammer in SE Portland and Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar.  (click on the names for a link to the posts)

He also Beerchased at  the classic Mock Crest Tavern and finally at Church – a great SE bar where he tried to emulate Martin Luther by posting 95 patents on the entrance to commemorate the renowned theologian’s 95 Theses at Wittenburg.

A clowning Westwood with Mansfield – the Ivy Leagues finest..??

Westwood and Mansfield, both Ivy League law graduates (Columbia and Cornell respectively), obviously did not talk about their law schools’ undergraduate sports teams, but we all harkened back to Mansfield’s more creative undergraduate days at the University of Oregon where he played in a rock band and majored in music composition and theory. He is a talented musician.

The picture below (I think taken by one of his clients) shows he is not a traditional, staid member of the Bar.

Kiss My Patent…

It also is evidence that Amy Faust, who is a co-host on the Mike and Amy Show on 99.5 The Wolf, will not be spinning any of the tunes on his Pandora playlist on her stint at the crack of dawn each weekday morning.  (She and Mike just received the 2017 Country Music Association 2017 Broadcast Personality of the Year for a Major Market.) Interestingly enough, Amy and John played together in a band for their respective daughters’ school event where Amy dusted off her mandolin and they both sang.

It should also be noted that both Jack and Amy Faust and Westwood have been prior Beechaser-of-the-Quarter “honorees.”  To see their stories, click on the licks here.

Call ahead to reserve….

Tom had kindly reserved one of the distinctive features of his bar for us – The Snug – a comfortable and fabulously quirky little alcove at the front of the bar which is a tradition in Irish pubs.  It  accommodates about twelve people and provides a wonderful small-group nook that allows a modicum of privacy while still facilitating enjoyment of the T.C. O’Leary ambiance. (Call ahead to reserve it)

The Snug observed from the street.





A great patio


Although the bar with its fifteen authentic whiskey-barrel tables, historic family pictures and memorabilia is a cool place to sit, another good place to congregate is on the patio at the back, which T.C.’s essentially shares with the adjoining bistros on either side.

Family pictures add to the character of the bar






Speaking of décor, I noted the red athletic tool that looked a little like a hockey stick hanging above the bar.  Tom said it was a “hurling stick”  and I didn’t hear him, so naively asked if he said it was a Curling broom,” to which he replied, “God no!”  Probably the reason for the vehemence of the response was that the pace and action of the sports are total contradictions.  Hurling is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin and is the fastest field sport in the world. It is administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. The game has prehistoric origins, and has been played for 3,000 years.”  Wikipedia     

The antithesis of curling…

Of course, the theme of this bar begs the question, “What is it like on St. Paddy’s Day?”  Tom said they had about seven times the number of patrons on the first celebration of this “sacred” event since their opening, and it was kind of a three-day celebration.   They also moved a separate bar out to the patio and there was a line down Alberta Street.

And Tom, like many of the owners or bartenders I have met so far on this six-year journey, has a great story.  Of course, the most unusual aspect of it was the notoriety he accrued in his six years starring as Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City. 

Dr. Brendan Daly…..

Tom grew up in Killeny.  “During years working as an actor in Dublin – from small theatres to six years playing Dr. Brendan Daly on Ireland’s most popular soap opera, Fair City, Tom and fellow performers communed at local pubs, drinking pints like they would never age.

For his wedding reception, a magical pub in the West of Ireland suited him and his new wife better than any hotel.”  (T.C. O’Leary’s website)

Fair City is the most watched drama in Ireland, with average viewing figures of 550,000….. tackling many controversial and taboo issues previously unseen on Irish television, such as rape.”  Wikipedia 

Siobhan, his wife of ten years, first met Tom in Ireland when she spent nine months at Trinity College.  Tom knew her sister, Catie, and agreed to show Siobhan around Dublin.  Tom had a girlfriend at the time, but he and Siobhan had an “instant connection.”   Tom lived in a big house with extra rooms and offered (partly as a gesture to her sister) to let Siobhan be a boarder.  Her sister told Siobhan somewhat jokingly, “You will fall in love with Tom.”

Catie was correct .  Tom broke up with his current girlfriend.  Siobhan in the subsequent term, got her lowest grades at Trinity.  They decided to pull a practical joke and Siobhan told Catie that she detested her landlord (Tom) and couldn’t wait to leave.  For the next month, the fiction gained momentum until her mom, Anne, insisted that she was going to fly over to Dublin to rescue her “baby.”  As with many practical jokes, after Siobhan  revealed the truth, the family was not amused although fortunately, they approved of the relationship.

Tom came to New York and he and his future wife drove across America while camping along the way.  Fast forward and Siobhan moved to Ireland for a year where they were married on December 29, 2007

They moved to New York City where Tom had some acting gigs and worked in bars on the Lower East Side.  That’s where the dream of owning an Irish pub first crept into his consciousness.

With family on the west coast, they moved to LA for three years, where Tom worked in high-end bars, working two jobs six nights per week with the goal of building collateral to own his own Irish Pub.  And now they had a little girl in the family……

Moving to Portland in the summer of 2014, Siobhan labored at an office job while Tom worked construction.  (Contrary to the popular belief, good bartending jobs are not that easy to get in the Rose City.)

Anne Feeney knew the manager of Branch Whiskey, and with his extensive experience in bars, he hired Tom immediately which began a two-year stint until the owner announced he was closing.

Tom got good advice from his investors and negotiated successfully.  After only a three-week interim closure, they were back in business with some new trappings thanks to a great work by their general contractor Megan Beaver of Eight Penny Nail, and T.C. O’Leary’s “Little Irish Pub,” has become a neighborhood fixture ever since.

I was somewhat critical of the last bar visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs i.e. Slow Bar on Grand Avenue.  While it is known for its great hamburger, I questioned whether the bar lived up to its potential by simply relying on its notorious burger and a juke box known for its collection of Heavy Metal selections.

Let’s examine some of the activity Tom has orchestrated at TC’s compared with Slow Bar’s “hot” juke box as a comparison:

The James Joyce book club – a bunch of serious dudes…..

On Tuesday nights, TC’s hosts a James Joyce book club in the Snug and they plow through about fifteen pages reading Joyce’s classic Ulysses with each participant reading his or her selection until the egg-timer rings for the next reader to start.  (Maybe it takes longer because James Joyce, according to one recent article I read, is an “exclamation point fanatic.”)

Of the ten authors with the most prolific use of exclamation points ranging from Elmore Leonard – 10th place to Virginia Wolf – sixth place to F. Scott Fitzgerald – 4th place, Joyce came in first with 1,105 exclamation points per 100,000 words in his three novels!!!  — What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt, published March, 2017.  (Read the book and you will also learn stuff like Nabokov’s favorite word was “mauve.”)

Every second Monday night, they have Irish music with a fiddler with the other Mondays devoted to other local musicians.  On Thursday evenings patrons see a specialty act – Michael Sheridan, a unique and nationally recognized singer-songwriter who has packed them in according to Tom.           

If my two visits are typical, you should definitely drop by TC O’Leary’s where Tom will greet you as he does every patron at the door.   This personable Irishman, entrepreneur and former actor can give you advice on which draft beer or one of their specialty cocktails will enhance your visit.

But if he approaches you with a scalpel in his hand, you can be assured, it’s to carve some of the high-quality beef they use and he is not reenacting  his days as Dr. Brendan Daly.


T.C. O’Leary’s     2926 NE Alberta