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!


Beerchasing on the South Oregon Coast and through the Redwoods – Part I

The fall is a great time to see Oregon and Janet and I decided to hit the road for a few days driving down the coast through Redwood National Park as far as Eureka.   Along the way, we enjoyed a few superb hikes and marveled at the coastal scenery.  And, of course, in furtherance of Thebeerchasers Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, we visited twelve breweries, one bar and one bottle shop along the way – all of which were either on Highway 101 or close by. 

And we were thankful for the efforts of the late Governor Tom McCall and his foresight in preserving the Oregon Coast and the numerous outstanding Oregon State Parks along the way he championed.

The breweries we visited included Yachats Brewing, Defeat River Brewing in Reedsport, Seven Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, and Bandon Brewing, the Beverage Barn (bottle shop) and the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill in Bandon, Arch Rock Brewing and in North Bend Chetco Brewing in Brookings.

Into California, we hit  Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake, Six Rivers Brewing and Humboldt Regeneration in McKinleyville, Redwood Curtain Brewing in Arcata and finally, Lost Coast Brewing Co. in Eureka.  (See the links over the names for more info.)

We tasted some good beer and by always sitting at the bars, met great people.  While it is hard to compare, our favorite brewery was Mad River Brewing closely followed by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore as will be explained below.  And we loved the one bar visited – the Broken Anchor in Bandon.

We started on a positive note with the first stop being Yachats Brewing.  The quaint building right on Highway 101 with a great view, uses historic building materials in this reconditioned bank and at Tuesday lunch it was bustling.   A number of people were enjoying the patio, while choosing one of the thirty beers on tap. 

Jeremiah, our bartender and server, was a great guy, explaining the roots of this young enterprise going back to 2013.  Janet liked her Camp One IPA (an American IPA) while I downed a Thor’s Well India Pale Ale as we listened to Crosby Stills and Nash on their play list.  The food was great with a combo of quinoa soup and the barbecued chicken sandwich rating an A+.

My choice of beers was appropriate, because we then stopped to see the Thors Well sink hole, the Spouting Horn and the Devils Churn at Cape Perpetua on the highway, which was worth the stop.     

The Spouting Horn


We had read an article by Oregonian reporter, Jamie Hale on hikes along the southern Oregon Coast which was a great reference.  We stopped to see the beautiful Cape Blanco Lighthouse and then pushed on to Harris Beach and Cape Sebastian State Parks.



At Defeat River Brewing near Reedsport, our bartender, Jared, poured us  The Bravest, a pilsner inspired IPA, and we learned about another home-brewing effort by two partners which culminated in Reedsport’s first commercial brewery in 2016 in another reconditioned historic building.

Jared, a friendly and informative bartender






 A few more miles to a short stop at Arch Rock Brewing in Gold Beach – this time to a four-year old partnership after the co-owners converted their cabinet shop into a brewery. 

The brewer formerly worked at one of our favorite out-of-state breweries at which we tasted great beer – Grand Teton Brewing, which is actually in Idaho.  Arch River currently brews only three beers, is not fancy and has no real taproom, but the owner was very friendly and helpful.


The best hike of the trip – even better than the beautiful several mile stroll through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove in Redwoods National Park was our three-mile loop along the cliffs at Cape Sebastian – the highest point on the southern Oregon Coast.

Stunning views both north and south thrilled us as we walked through the waist high grass .  Make this an absolute must if you hit this part of the coast on a nice day. 

Coos Bay, is an interesting city that shows signs of having weathered some tough times in the new economy.   lt was interesting to see the full-size posters of Steve Prefontaine, the City’s most famous individual decorate the sides of two adjacent buildings harkening back to his high school days at Marshfield High School before he set records at the U of O.

Seven Devils Brewing in Coos Bay

Another Oregon grad who has helped the community is Annie Pollard, who did both undergrad and graduate work there before eventually partnering with Carmen Mathews to open the Seven Devils Brewing Co. in 2013.  They are now an important part of the community.

Only a block or two off 101, they have a very nice open patio and a quality taproom with a nice menu featuring locally-sourced food.  It is a family-friendly venue and they have free live music concerts every week featuring local and touring artists. 

A glass door reveals the sparkling brewing equipment, which is a nice touch.  The ambiance is also heightened by the hand-made furniture and fixtures and the paintings, which make the barrel room and tap house quaint and comfortable. 

An overnight stay in Bandon, – at first disappointing because the Bandon Brewery’s grand opening was delayed until the next day, but as a result, we met a wonderful person, Jessica, the young entrepreneur, who opened the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill almost next door, a little over a year ago.  

The place was packed on a weekday evening and she and her staff including a friendly waitress named Loofa, showed great customer service and their unique sauerkraut pizza was one of the hits of the trip.  They have an expansive menu including both pub food and seafood.  Their live music on weekends draws good crowds.

Friendly enterprenauer, Jessica


In spite of the full house, Jessica found time to chat while she was tending bar (and doing management stuff) and I found that she had worked at both Cracker Jack’s Pub and the Dixie Tavern in Portland -both prior stops on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bar, Taverns and Pubs. 

 Her bar’s social media reviews are very good on food, drinks and service.  Typical is this one from Yelp from July 18, 2017:

“Great place in Bandon. The fish tacos are breaded, plentiful and the aioli is perfect. If you like hot their jalapeños are fresh and hit the spot. My husband’s burger was great. Waitress was awesome and they have a great selection of local beers”

Crackerjack’s is one of the favorite neighborhood bars I’ve been to in the six years of this journey and Jessica even called the former manager, a charismatic lady named, Sam, while we were there and told her Thebeerchaser was in the house. 

Jessica, a Minnesotan, who after college and getting her teaching certification, started working in restaurants and bars (and according to the reviews, she knows how to make an outstanding cocktail) and is typical of the personable and enterprising people I have met since starting this hobby in 2011.

Another interesting stop in Bandon was the Beverage Barn, essentially a bottle shop and tobacco family business opened in 2015.  You can find forty beers on tap and four ciders as explained by Amy who helped us.  

Bandon Brewing – open for business!


Coming back through Bandon (this time on the return trip), we hit the Bandon Brewery on its second day of operation – for lunch.   Their wood-fired pizza was solid as was their grilled cheese sandwich and the friendly staff was ready for their first weekend.   

With a stay at the Bandon Inn, a nice motel with a great view of the town and the harbor, ended our first day on the road on this trip – a great combination of brews, bistros, beaches and …! 

Stay tuned for the rest of the Oregon and California part of this journey.  



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


Take a Fast Trip to Slow Bar

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars,Taverns and Pubs focuses on the bars themselves – the beer and the grub is incidental.  The grist of these reviews is the bar’s history, the regulars, the bartenders and the ambiance.  What distinguishes this saloon or brewery from others?

In the case of Slow Bar, however, the emphasis will be on the food – to wit: it’s notable “Slow Burger,” which makes numerous lists as one of the best or in the case of Willamette Week’s 2017 Best Burger competition, the best in Portland.

And the focus here is on the food, because otherwise the bar at the corner of Grand Ave and SE Washington is not particularly noteworthy.  The exterior has several small picnic tables with umbrellas.  The entrance is unremarkable with a glass door over which is a dark green awning with scarlet letters bearing the bar’s name. Two beer barrels with flowers are placed on the sidewalk.

And the interior is essentially a large rectangular space with five large red booths – described by one Portland Barfly reviewer as “private bedroom style booths.”

Secluded and/or horizontal dining possible….

There is a long twelve-seat bar with hanging red lights and elk antlers over the selection of whiskeys and drafts — also one large poster on the far wall.   The high ceilings and exposed brick for the south wall are appealing.

There is none of the historical ambiance, idiosyncratic cubbyholes or illustrious symbols or tokens which characterize a good neighborhood or dive bar.  But maybe that’s intentional because the bar is evidently named after the “Slow Club” in the 1986 cult classic movie “Blue Velvet” starring Isabella Rosellini and Dennis Hopper.  Based on its homage to Pabst, the movie was described by the Portland Mercury as “one of the great beer movies.”  

The current bar was opened in 2003 by Michael Barnash and Rob Hemmerling, two veteran Portland bartenders.  It was previously a bar named Caswell’s and in my conversation with Hemmerling, he said that it was once owned by Frank Peters of Portland Maverick fame.  It evidently was also the site of one of the only known “failed” Starbucks locations.

Note: Notwithstanding considerable research effort, I could find no reference to Frank Peters owning Caswell’s.  He is well known for his other bars – the Grand Cafe (on the same street), Peters’ Habit and Satan’s Disco.  However, one reference in Portland Barfly to the bar having a “very attractive all-chick staff….” and Peters’ affinities seemed to warrant additional investigation, so I contacted the source.

Frank Peters – Known for his memorable and spirited bars

Frank stated that “………during Grand Cafe days we had Caswells for about 2 years. my gal partners got married so we sold it to Slow Bar people. We did ok and they took it to another level.”  He also confirmed that the space had been a Starbucks so “it had great air conditioning.”

To see the 2013 review of Thebeerchaser’s visit to the Grand Cafe and some more about Frank Peters see:

The Notable Slowburger

The famous Slow Burger. Notice that the top part of the bun is off to the left side and that’s the two onion rings at the top.

So let’s talk about the food.   Virtually all of the social media reviews ranging from Trip Advisor to Yelp are very positive. The Southern Fry, pastrami sandwich and the steak frites all rate favorably; however, the Slow Burger, as their flagship menu item, draws close to universal raves (except for one factor which concerned a few of the experts as will be seen below)

“This is a solid burger.  Satisfying, juicy, and extremely filling.” Yelp 9/7/17

“HOLY COW!  This is an amazing burger.  Place looks like a hole in the wall, but don’t let that fool you.   This place has AMAZING food and drinks.”   Yelp 9/6/17

Even back in February and April of 2006, the burger drew plaudits as evidenced by these reviewers in Portland Barfly: Additionally, Slow Bar has the best burger in Portland and serves the best Manhattan”  and “….the food is always excellent. One of the 3 best burgers in town.”

And the papers and food review websites echo the compliments:

Willamette Week in its 2017 “16 Best Bar Burgers:”  “No other burger is more deserving of the top seed in our rankings.  It is the unholy monster of Portland bar burgers, the behemoth that made even fancy-restaurant burger-makers take note.”  The paper in a May 23, 2017 follow-up article even went on to assert, “Haven’t Had the Slow Burger at Slow Bar? Then You Don’t Really Even Live Here.” in a March, 2012 article entitled “The Towering Triumph of Slow Bar’s Slowburger,” describes it this way:

“The beef is quite tender, arriving with a lovely crust on the top and bottom and a semi-loose grind that keeps most of the juice inside the meat and off your plate (or hands). The thick slice of nutty Gruyère melting on top of the patty is a good match for the simple beef.”

However, notwithstanding these laudatory comments, it goes on to add a caveat:

“The mighty Slowburger is simply to heavy for bread this dainty and the pickle relish alone, eats through the bottom bun halfway before you finish……As it stands, expect to get a lot of that relish all over your hands.”

And Thrillist in its 2016 expose on the “Eleven Best Burgers Ranked by our National Burger Critic,” after rating the Slowburger Number 8 finished its review by stating:

“For me, the thick patty was flavorful but a giant meaty mouthful, and the even temperature throughout gave it a little bit of a meatloaf flavor. On top of that, the lead lettuce and onion ring slid off as you’d try and bite down, causing most of the toppings to drop out of the back, like a cargo plane opening up its bay door.”

Tiny hands interfere with eating the Slow Burger and governing…..

Willamette Week chided the Thrillist critic for his trifling gripe and petty whining stating, “Thrillist’s national burger critic, Kevin Alexander, declared it too unwieldy for his presumably tiny hands. But Portland is not a welcome place for short-fingered vulgarians.”  (We can therefore assume that the paper would also not approve of a visit by the current President……)

I returned to Slow Bar on a Wednesday evening with my wife and we split a Slowburger and a green salad.  (The salad with goat cheese and an assortment of nuts was very good.) We had no beer and were both stuffed after we finished and our tab was a very reasonable $20 plus tip.

But we ended up eating a lot of the burger with forks because the bottom bun had soaked through.  (Not an overwhelming conundrum given a lot of society’s contemporary problems.)

Okay, enough on the burger routine with one more aside.  These articles on great Portland burgers made me realize that I need to expand my horizons.  Although I have visited 85+ bars in Portland, aside from the one at MadSon’s Pub (RIP) and Stanich’s, I have not been to any of the venues where the great burgers listed by the experts come off the grill.

The Thrillist comment about their #1 pick – Stanich’s Nick’s Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions – is worth repeating:  “This burger is a national treasure that I’d like to keep discovering over and over again.”

The jukebox is located close to the bathrooms for those who get overly excited about Heavy Metal

So what else distinguishes this bar from others?   The juke box get repeated mention for its excellent selection of heavy metal selections.  “A jukebox that will make you piss yourself with joy.”  (Portland Mercury 7/15/04)

The night we were there, selections included Metallica,  Portland’s Poison Idea and Red Fang (their single “Blood Like Cream” while eating the burger seemed a little bit out of harmony…..) and Acid Wash.  The juke played loudly and aggressively which seemed somewhat incongruent with the dimly crimson-lighted environment.

With ten draft beers, their tap list is not expansive but adequate with micros from $5 to $7 and includes a traditional Rainier at $3.    They have a decent selection of wines with about ten interesting cocktails including their popular Manhattan – “our own Slow Bar single barrel Woodford Reserve Bourbon.”

Given the non-descript interior, perhaps one of the draws to Slow Bar is the diverse and interesting crowd that frequents the bar. The following gives an idea of the eclectic group:

Portland Barfly“….a steady stream of Portland’s most beautiful trickle through the narrow corridor between the stainless-steel bar and large custom booths….”

Willamette Week (8/3/2004) “….a bizarre Southeast Grand Avenue homage to ‘seedy bliss,’ where business suits, Burnside skate punks and Milwaukie suburbanites all collide.  In Portland, were every club boasts its own culture and devotees, Slow Bar is a prime candidate for the swing voters of the nightlife world.”

I was also a little bit amused and surprised by co-owner Barnash’s reactions on Yelp to two critical reviews, especially since the overwhelming majority of the comments were very positive.  Before responding, one should also remember that some people on social media have the judgement and discretion of former Secretary of Health and Human Service, Thomas Price…..

Yelp   4/23/17 – “I’m amazed you could give us such a horrible review when the food critics and writers and other Yelpers all disagree with you.”

Yelp 2/27/17 – “I know all my servers well as they have all worked with me for years (because it’s a rad place to work and they kick ass) so if you have had bad service both times you have been to my establishment, then I firmly believe that it’s you not them.  I see you left the review at 2:30 A,M.”

On my first visit, I intended to have lunch with my former Oregon State Bar colleague in the early ’80’s, Bernie Stea.

After many years, we had recently reconnected at a great lunch in Camas, where he and his wife, former Portland radio personality, Deb Jaynes, are managing brokers at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm.  We subsequently had a memorable lunch experience at Northeast Portland establishment NEPO 42.  

A good bar in NE Portland

Bernie had a meeting in downtown Portland and our plan was to meet at 12:15 at Slow Bar.  He called me at 12:30 to tell me that he was stuck in a traffic jam on the Fremont Bridge.  I wondered why he chose that route rather than just coming across the Hawthorne which is more direct.

However, from our years working together, I learned not to question a guy who graduated from the University of Maryland Law School as a member of the prestigious Order of the Coif honorary and who also did budgetary manipulations on his Osborne computer that were both esoteric and somewhat terrifying……

Bernie and NEPO 42 burger – the Slowburger will have to wait

Bernie called again at 12:45 asking where I was, to which I replied, “Slow Bar.”  He then somewhat sheepishly informed me that he was sitting in Low Bar in downtown Vancouver.  In order to salvage his pride, I did not remind him that I sent him a link to Slow Bar the day before confirming our lunch appointment.  

We agreed that we would try Low Bar next time which looks interesting and consistent with venues visited on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

You should check out Slow Bar.  While it may not have the distinctiveness of some other SE watering holes – most notably in the Barmuda Triangle, it has some features warranting a visit.   And as Frank Peters said, “They have done a really, really ‘Tip of the Cap’ job in a very difficult business during a very competitive time in a marginal area. ‘Many are called—–Few are chosen.'” FJP

The “Flake” at Thebeerchaser visit to the Grand Cafe in 2013

Although Frank’s bars are not operating any longer, they were always colorful and oozed character.  Perhaps Michael Barnash and Rob Hemmerling should hire the former OSU Beav and Maverick as a consultant…….


Slow Bar         533 SE Grand Avenue, PDX


Beerchasing in Wisconsin Part III – Water Street Bars and Lakefront Brewery

Impressive Milwaukee skyline along the shores of Lake Michigan

After a week of diverse natural sights, good restaurants, great beer at cool bars and breweries, our week in Wisconsin was drawing to a close.  We left Sister Bay in Door County on Lake Michigan and headed back for a final day in Milwaukee before catching a flight back to Portland out of O’Hare Airport.

A 90-minute boat tour on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan was touristy, but a good way to see the some of the city and the shoreline.  The River is bordered by old industrial buildings which have either been converted or torn down to make way for toney condominiums in a city which is a great place for millennials.

A view overlooking the river for a cool $300 million….!

Our tour guide on the boat was a young graduate student from the University of Wisconsin campus near the city who read a script.  Janet asked her the average market price of a condo in one of the buildings lining the river.  Without hesitation, she responded, “$300 million,” which resulted in no additional questions and her sticking to the prepared script.  (I checked and one of units in a  newer condo building ranged from $175,000 to $1.1 million for the penthouse!)

The Milwaukee Brewers were in town that weekend and the city was just rocking.   We “Sought Asylum” for dinner with a good view of the river at the Ale Asylum River House, where we each enjoyed a great burger and one of their own beers – the Velveteen Habit-India Pale Ale, (7.5% ABV) and the Demento-Session Pale Ale (4.7% ABV).

Since we were on foot, we dropped into several nearby bars all on the same block of N. Water Street that were jammed with people enjoying the weekend.

BarNone is a very small bar which advertises, “Slip into the tightest hole in Milwaukee.” According to its website, “It opened  for business October 30, 2009. With an entirely remodeled interior and soon to be exterior, BarNone attracts an attractive young college crowd. Located on the corner of Water Street and Juneau Avenue, we are close to campus and the beat of everything that is happening nearby.”   It was so crowded and with two other options next door, we passed on having a beer.

The second bar in which we did have a beer was Pourman’s which is in a 125-year-old building and opened in 2012.  It has great old photos and impressive woodwork for the bar and tables and the top of the bar is filled with pennies.  Evidently they don’t have an equivalent to Oregon’s OLCC (Liquor Control) because at Pourman’s you could also pour your own beer if you sat in one of the booths.  Janet said that she would not tip me so we sat at the bar and our friendly bartender, John, poured the draft we split:

PourMans – Be your own bartender…..

“……..there are four tappers on each of three tables. Customers give the bartender an ID in exchange for a glass – one customer per group must provide a credit card – and can tap up to 32 ounces of beer per person right from their table.

If he or she wants to drink more after the 32 ounces, they check in with the bartender who assesses the patron’s sobriety and, if they’re not drunk, will program the tappers to dispense more beer.”

Janet in front of McGillycuddys

Right next door was McGillycuddy’s Bar & Grill.  It is spacious and impressive and according to Thrill List “is an East Town watering hole that’s popular with Milwaukians for its cheap brews, generous pours, and low-key, locals-only attitude. The space features a long, oak bar and outdoor beer garden.”

More impressive than the interior of this bar was the patio or beer garden which was overflowing with suds and Saturday night revelers and had a long line waiting to get in.

The Beer Garden line at McGillycuddy’s

Lakefront Brewery “Thirty Years of Blood, Sweat and Beers!”

On Sunday morning, we had time for one more brewery tour before the flight and rather than try the big ones such as the historic Pabst or Miller-Coors, we headed to the Lakefront Brewery, which receives great social media reviews on brewery tours.  It’s  nationally recognized.

According to a 2015 ThrillList post, it’s:

“The tour by which all other tours are measured. Guides are informative and genuinely funny — though anyone talking about bungholes probably would be, especially after a few beers.” 

A brewery with history and personality….

We joined about twenty other people from all over the country who paid their $10 for the tour – it also includes tickets for four six-ounce pours and a Lakefront Brewery glass – the price for the tour is great even without the ancillary items.

Lakefront is another of the many stories of entrepreneurs who enjoy beer and are willing to devote their capital and time to building an organization.   Like a number of similar enterprises in Milwaukee, Portland, Denver and other major cities, the brewery is housed in historic trappings:

Justin, our erstwhile tour guide in historic setting

“……..the City of Milwaukee had a building to sell. In 1908, Lakefront Brewery’s current building housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant.

It was later sold to the City to house Milwaukee’s Forestry Department. But in 1998, the City was considering tearing down the old power plant to uphold a contract with a nearby apartment complex unless a local business was interested in the location.”

Justin was our tour guide – he could have been a stand-up comic given the humorous one-liners he worked into a nice educational briefing on the history of the brewery and some of its operations.   Justin would appreciate the stand-up comic comparison although he would assert that he wouldn’t qualify based on the amount of time he spends in a prone position after drinking free beer.

He did a great job covering the history of the brewery and briefly got into the mechanics of making beer and Lakefront’s approach to brewing and being an important member of the community.

We stopped strategically to see different brewery equipment which, of course, also provided the opportunity to sample another one of Lakefront’s good beers.  Of course, with his comedic wit, Justin placed special emphasis on the kegging function and exactly what was meant by the term “Bunghole.” 

The final part of the tour was viewing the bottling machine, which was an opportunity for Justin to work in a bit about Laverne and Shirley, the situation comedy legends from Happy Days (aired from 1976 to 1983) who lived and worked in Milwaukee.   He asked for two volunteers and Janet raised her hand.

“Laverne and Shirley” at the bottling machine

What followed was an old rendition of the “Happy Days” theme played on Justin’s cassette player while Janet and the other volunteer went through the bottling routine.

The brewery also offers a weekly 90-minute technical tour geared toward any home brewer or beer drinking aficionado led by one of their experts.  It concludes with a 90 minute food pairing featuring specific Lakefront beers which complement their chef’s selection of local and national cheese, meat, fruit, chocolate and coffee. (Although participants would miss Justin’s act…)

Lakefront is known for its innovative beers which  includes Organkica: “From the country’s first organic beer to the country’s first Gluten Free beer to be granted label approval by the U.S. Government, we have the perfect brew to fit your lifestyle.” 

After the tour we went into the spacious brew-pub and had the beers although I should have known better than to experiment by ordering a tea beer (Don’t remember the name….but I didn’t finish it).  That said, I really enjoyed their Imperial IPA/Red Ale which won an honorable mention at the United States Beer Tasting Championship and Janet loved the Riverwest Stein an excellent American Amber Ale.

I was disappointed that as with the case with the bars in Door County, we missed their traditional Friday Fish Fry, which at Lakefront includes a live polka-band and dancing…

The spacious tap room

We had a wonderful time during our eight days in Wisconsin and the Beerchasing stops which included those listed below were enjoyable and let us  enjoy new microbrews and a $1.00 Miller Genuine Draft (on tap)……We also liked the Goose Island beer:

Milwaukie:  Water Street Brewing, Scooters PubBar, Dukes on the Water, Pourman’s Bar, McGillycuddy’s and Bar None

Green Bay: Hinterland Brewing and Badger State Brewery

Door CountyDoor County Brewing, the Cornerstone Pub, AC Tap, Coyote Road House

You can see the reviews of these at the other two posts on Beerchasing in Wisconsin at the links below:






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.

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)

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.”

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.

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.