2021 Summer Beerchasing Miscellany – Part I

Now That Really is a Dirty Shame!

While I’m happy for my friend, John Runkle, the owner of the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana, I lament for the rich history of legendary dive bars, that John has sold the bar – the new owners take over in late August.  Originally there was talk that they would change the name, but that appears to be a false rumor.

After reading about the history of the bar in Joan Melchers’ two books “Montana Watering Holes,” I called John and arranged a visit and stay in 2019 at the Yaak River Lodge, which John also owns – located on 7.5 acres along the beautiful Yaak River.

I stayed for two nights in the Moose Room (the Wolf Room was already occupied) – waking to John’s home-cooked breakfasts of bacon, hashbrowns and blueberry pancakes.  In the near term, He will continue to operate the Lodge – a rustic retreat shown below which is about one mile from the Saloon.

My enthusiasm for the Bar, John and his staff as well as the entire Yaak community of about 250 people, is evidenced by the four blog posts I wrote – necessary to adequately convey John’s and the “Shame’s” amazing stories. 

The last one entitled “Thebeerchaser’s Final Thoughts on the Dirty Shame Saloon,” published in October 2019, contains only some of the tales I heard there.  Check it out and the others to understand some of the reasons why this remains my favorite bar in ten years of Beerchasing.

So what’s in store for this soon to be father of three kids under six after his wife Dallas Runkle’s projected delivery date in September.  They live much of the time in the Tri-City area in Washington where Dallas is completing her graduate studies in education and counseling.

A conversation this week with John went like this:

Beerchaser: “Are you going to sell the Lodge at some point?”

Runkle: “Yes, we’ve temporarily taken it off the market, but when Dallas finishes her educational requirements in about a year, we’ll probably move to Texas.”

Beerchaser:  “What are you going to do, John – Run another saloon, run for office, run a marathon…” (John is a staunch conservative and we had some great debates about politics and life during my two days in Yaak while we drank beer.)

Runkle:  “Since Dallas will be working and at sixty, I’ll be the oldest dad in the world with three kids under six, I’ll probably be taking care of my offspring.  (Laughing) Joe Biden’s child-care credits will help me do that!”

John hasn’t met the new owners of the Dirty Shame yet, but they are a group of radiologists from San Luis Obispo, California, who also bought the Yaak River Tavern across the street from the Dirty Shame and evidently acquired the nearby  Overdale Lodge as well.  Does this seem a little like the premise of the series “Yellowstone?”

Regardless of the name change, the bar will not have the same character as when John was the owner and what he has made of this legendary watering hole since he bought it out of foreclosure in 2013. 

John’s humor, great heart and sense of community, have made this a focal point for the community and miles around for events such as the Sasquatch Festival, the Crawfish Festival, the Adult Easter Egg Hunt or the “Yaak Attack.”  After the two previous owners failed, John’s business acumen prevailed and the saloon has increased revenue every year except in 2020 with COVID.  It has never been more profitable.

He ended our phone call by saying, “Don, don’t forget that on July 31st, we will have the last staging of Female Cream Wrestling (last year it was canceled because of COVID) and the farewell party with live music will be on August 28th.”  

Let’s see – it’s 520 miles or 8 hours and 29 minutes from my house to Yaak.  And, if I hurry, I might be able to get a reservation in the Moose Room again…..(See the end of this post for another photo album of my visit to the Dirty Shame.)

Back to Beerchasing but Farewell to Some Favorite Haunts

With vaccination rates at a good level and restrictions lifted in Oregon, Thebeerchaser is back in business – visiting new bars and breweries to add to the total – now approaching 400 – since starting this retirement hobby in August 2011.  My most recent post related my four great visits to Corner 14 – a wonderful community watering hole in Oregon City which opened in February of 2020.  Stay tuned…..

That said, the pandemic and lockdown were brutal to hospitality establishments and some of my favorite bars and a few breweries didn’t make it.  And while we lost a number during the pandemic, it exacerbated an already tough economic environment.   An 4/4/21 Oregon Live article entitled, “Brewers Were Soaked by the Pandemic” stated in part:

“Oregon breweries were already undergoing a generational transition in the months before the pandemic hit.  In 2018 and 2019, Lompoc, Bridgeport, Portland Brewing and Widmer Brewing all closed restaurants and/or bars.  Alameda Brewhouse, Columbia River Brewing and Burnside Brewing shut their doors too.”  (Click on the links to see Thebeerchaser reviews.)

“Oregon breweries shed 1,000 jobs between the summer of 2019 and the pandemic, nearly 12% of the sector’s employment.  Then 3,500 jobs vanished in the spring of 2020.

Employment….tumbled 43% in the first months of the pandemic.   While many of those jobs bounced back over the summer as the state gradually reopened, brewery jobs remained down nearly 29% — a greater fall than at restaurants and bars, overall.”

Ironically, liquor sales jumped 20%, last April, during the first month of the pandemic to a record high. But there is good news on the brewery front. 

A number are expanding their locations including Pelican Brewing in Lincoln City, Lake Oswego’s Stickman Brewing and Baerlic Brewing in NE Portland.  Chuckanut Brewing of Bellingham, known for its lagers, has filed to open a SE Portland beer hall.

I’m very excited to check out a new Portland brewery.  Steeplejack Brewing is scheduled to open in an historic church building (112 years old) in July.  (Soft opening on 7/16 and grand opening on 7/31.) .  Two University of California – Santa Cruz college buddies – Brody Day and Dustin Harder are partnering to restore this wonderful NE Portland landmark  (Willamette Week 2/20/21)

Demolition and rebuilding is underway as crews are digging up a section of the main hall of worship for a sunken brewery, but Steeplejack plans to keep many of the most iconic and timeless elements of the building intact.

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, actually laid the cornerstone of the church at a ceremony in front of thousands of onlookers back in the day. But the primary feature is the 65’ ft. high steeple and bell tower from which the brewery gets it’s name.”  (“Steeplejack Brewing drafts All-Star Team for upcoming Portland brewpub in restored church.”  (The New School 4/20/21)

I  had a good telephone conversation with co-owner Brody Day and challenged him on the headline of the second article above asking, “What makes your team of the All-Star caliber?”  His response was good.

Steeplejack’s Head Brewer and Lead Brewer, Anna Buxton and Anne Aviles both have extensive experience in the brewing industry.    Anna at the  innovative Modern Times Brewing and Anne in the Experimental Brewing aspect at both DeGarde Brewing on the Oregon coast and Portland’s award-winning Breakside Brewing.  

The pent up desire to socialize with friends and family over a good beer portends a robust summer and fall for Northwest watering holes – that is if they can find adequate help.  The new Pelican pub in Lincoln City advertised a $2,500 signing bonus for cooking staff.

A late June visit one of our favorites on the Central Oregon coast – Depoe Bay’s Horn Public House and Brewery – had a big crowd, but the upstairs section of the pub was closed because they didn’t have enough kitchen help to accommodate the demand.

I’m also pleased to see the ill-conceived recent plan of a few Oregon Legislators in House Bill 3296 to raise the Oregon beer and wine tax by 2,600% and 1,400% respectively according to Willamette Week, died a well-deserved death before it even got out of Committee during the 2021 Session.

That said, I was saddened to see in a visit to Lincoln City that a favorite community dive bar for decades – the Cruise Inn, which I reviewed in 2014, appears to have closed its doors. Although I haven’t found any formal notice, the furniture, equipment and “library,” including the complete set of American Jurisprudence Legal Forms are gone and the phone disconnected.  

Check out a few photos from my posts on the Dirty Shame Saloon.

Photo Credits 

*1. Pelican Brewing Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/PelicanBrewingCompany/photos/10158384649633435

*2. Stickman Brewing Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/stickmenbeer/photos/a.254878121231579/

*3.  Baerlic Brewing Facebook Page  https://www.facebook.com/baerlicbrewing/photos/1360228664170193

*4.  Steeplejack Brewing Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/SteeplejackBeer/photos/106659551525747)

*5.  Steeplejack Brewing Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/SteeplejackBeer/photos/a.107641808094188/

*6. The Horn Public House and Brewery Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/thehornpublichouse/photos/878078125931167

*7.  The Horn Public House and Brewery Facebook Page   https://www.facebook.com/thehornpublichouse/photos/a.221404098265243/

Standing on the Corner…..Corner 14 That Is!

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

Corner 14 is a great “new” family-oriented venue in Oregon City where one can get “great food, spirits and brew,” in both an expansive outdoor environment, or now that restrictions are lifted, in a nice indoor space as well. 

I’ve been there four times in the last two months and all visits were enjoyable with good beer and delicious food – each time from a different choice in the eclectic food carts on the premises.  And I’m delighted that an entrepreneurial family was willing to take a risk in the town in which I spent a good part of my youth. 

Find out below, why you should put this on your list of establishments to visit this summer.  But first a little context.  Why should you want to visit Oregon City?

My family moved to Oregon City, Oregon from Ohio in 1960 when I was twelve. Oregon City is a wonderful community – now with about 38,000 people – about twelve miles south of Portland on the Willamette River.   The Oregon City Arch Bridge built in 1922 is an historical landmark.

2016-08-15 16.26.06

History abounds – the city was founded in 1829 by the Hudson Bay Company and in 1844 became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains.  The original plat of San Francisco was filed there. (See end of post for photo attribution *).

Willamette_Falls_(Clackamas_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clacD0069)

For many years, it was a mill town with Publishers Paper at the south end of Main Street and Crown Zellerbach right across the River on Willamette Falls in West Linn. *1  That’s the site of the first multi-level navigational locks in the US.

The Willamette Falls Legacy Project is a public (four government entities) and is owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grande Rhonde who own the site. 

It’s also the only city with an outdoor municipal elevator in the US. The Oregon City Municipal Elevator (130-foot vertical lift) was originally constructed in 1915 and was water-powered. (It required riders to navigate a wooden catwalk between the exit and the Promenade at the top.) The current elevator replaced it in 1955.

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The Elevator took me from the second level and the top of the basalt cliff to downtown where I delivered the The Oregon Journal in junior high.

Our home was on Center Street on the second level – across the street from the historic John McLoughlin House – I also mowed and took care of the McLoughlin House lawn during the summer for $20 per week.*5

250px-john_mcloughlin_house_oregon_city.jpg_3534603314

Living in OC was like taking a continuous class in Oregon History.  Our first house at 720 Center Street was built in 1908 and owned and occupied by Captain M.D. Phillips

“He served during the Spanish American War as a member of Company I of the Second Oregon Regiment of Oregon Volunteers. He replaced Captain Pickens while in the Philippines.

Captain Phillips was co-owner of the Riverbank Skating Rink in Downtown Oregon City with G. Olds and later was employed as foreman by Crown Willamette Company.” (City of Oregon City Planning Department)” 

Main Street is filled with historic buildings and the Carnegie Library – only about four blocks from our house – was built in 1913.  The City’s infrastructure such as the Oregon City-West Linn Bridge and the Elevator are on the National Register of Historic Places.

After Oregon City High School in 1966 and graduation from Oregon State University and Naval Service, I returned to Oregon City.   My first “real” job was working for Clackamas County for seven years – first in the Elections Department and then for the County Commissioners – right on Main Street where I used to deliver the paper.

Oregon City also means a lot to me because that’s where I met my wife of forty-one years, Janet.  I ultimately served on the Oregon City Planning Commission for almost eight years and was Chair.  Janet was hired as the City’s first Citizen Involvement Coordinator – important because we spent over a year developing the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan

The first time I laid eyes on her was at a 1979 evening Planning Commission meeting and since the process and decisions could often be controversial with the various constituencies, no one knew we were dating until we got engaged that September.  Janet went on to become the Assistant City Manager for both Oregon City and West Linn.

In the late ’70’s, we were concerned that downtown Oregon City was slowly withering away with shops, professional offices and restaurants moving away or going out of business and the distinct possibility that the Courthouse and many County buildings would move to the Red Soils area which is about five miles from downtown.

Fortunately, in the last several years, downtown Oregon City has had a revival, of sorts.  Although not helped by the pandemic, there are new shops, restaurants and bars and the Courthouse stayed in its original location and expanded to a building across Main Street. Now, it’s difficult to find a parking place and downtown is thriving. 

I’m therefore pleased to say that on a busy corner – only two blocks east of the north end of Main Street – at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets – there’s now what I’ll label as a “new community watering hole” named Corner 14.  And it’s right across from the Oregon City Brewing Company – also a nice establishment.

Corner 14 is the brainchild of Cherisse Reilly and her father, Dan Fowler, who opened their new venture in February, 2021.  Both are long-time Oregon City people, she a 1997 grad of OCHS and her dad from cross-river rival, West Linn HS in 1971, but then moving back to OC where he eventually became Mayor

Cherise and Dan – daughter and father and fellow entrepreneurs *10

His parents also graduated from OCHS (grandfather Dale Fowler in 1949, grandmother Norma (Schubert) Fowler) in 1950.  Both Dan and Cherisse have been involved in businesses and historic restoration in Oregon City for many years. They describe Corner 14 as:

“Founded and operated by a father and daughter with a deep love for the community of Oregon City.”

Corner 14 is not a bar per se’ but a large lot that houses twelve esoteric food carts, an expansive area with numerous picnic tables – many of which are undercover and have small propane burners to keep patrons warm.  Oh yes, there’s also an ax throwing cube – more on that later.

There’s an indoor area housing a bar in the structure that for many years was “Spicer Brothers’ Produce Market.”  When the Spicers sold it, Dan and Cherisse leased it from the new owner to bring to life a concept they had been thinking about for some time.

In the indoor bar area, they have 24 taps (twenty beer, two cider and two wine taps).  It includes gluten-free selections. Their most popular beers are two of my favorites – Boneyard RPM IPA and Pfriem Pillsner.   If you want a cocktail, they also have a good selection and skilled bartenders.

In the last six weeks, I’ve been to Corner 14 four times and loved it.  It had the advantage of being a great place to eat and drink in a covered (also uncovered if desired) outside area before pandemic restrictions were lifted to allow indoor dining.  They also have live music several nights each week.

They took a risk in bringing to life a community concept with the same “outdoor vibe” as Bend in such establishments as the Crux Fermentation Project.  Bringing it to fruition took patience and perseverance since the City Zoning Code at the time did not provide for food carts. 

Clackamas County had no similar concept and, of course, there were the usual hoops to jump through to secure licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and food permits, etc.

The pandemic-caused lockdowns, which occurred shortly after they opened, undoubtedly caused them to pause, wonder about timing and move forward cautiously; however, they have not altered the original concept.  

And upon reflection, since outdoor venues were the only ones that could serve food and beverages for quite some time, there were some advantages because Corner 14 was the venue with the most outdoor seating in the area.   (We found that out the first time my wife and I visited it while indoor options were still not available. (They were also good with mask protocols so one could feel safe.)

Ten excellent Food Cart selections

I had food from three different food carts (Shawarma Express, Adelina’s Mexican Food and Maw Maws Cajun Kitchen).  The pricing was very reasonable, the food excellent and portions plentiful.  Cherisse said that when they were considering the concept, the food cart vendors came to them and they selected the mix based on having food diversity, but more importantly, “owners that were a good fit and great people.”

My favorite was Mediterranean vendor Shawma Express where I had a scrumptious lamb sandwich on saj bread which was big enough for dinner that night and lunch the next day.  The complete list of food carts and their menus are on the Corner 14 website.

The “Celtic Ax Throwers” booth is from a company that originated at the now-closed Feckin Brewery just south of Oregon City and one of the first ax vendors in the area.  The owners decided to market the concept and now have them in five bars and breweries in the US and even have private parties for this type of competition which is obviously more aggressive than darts! 

Cherisse said the activity is very popular and since I worked in a law firm for many years, she responded well when I asked questions about insurance and liability issues, especially since it’s in an area where people are drinking alcoholic beverages.

These two articles from the Daily Nebraskan in 2019 are Point – Counterpoint pieces on the wisdom of this concept with the debate “Do Ax Throwing Bars Provide a Fun, Different Escape from Reality?” or “Are They a Reckless New Fad.”   Evidently the State of Nebraska prohibits ax throwers from having more than two beers!

So what’s ahead?   Cherisse Reilly when I asked her what has been the biggest surprise since they started, didn’t hesitate and said, “The amount of support we have received from the Community.”  As evidence, each time I’ve been there, the place has been bustling with enthusiastic individuals and families.

The aforementioned Oregon City Brewing is expanding across the street and plans food carts, but rather than view it as competition. Cherisse stated positively, “Activity breeds activity.”

I have to mention before ending that my last visit two weeks ago was with a frequent Beerchasing companion and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jim Westwood – a fellow OCHS graduate.  His mom, Catherine, was my (and his, a few years earlier) Latin teacher for two years in high school.  (That is some indication of how old we are….).

Jim Westwood with a Boneyard RPM

This retired appellate lawyer and I were reminiscing about life in Oregon City including the 1964 Christmas Flood that affected the Northwest and Northern California.  It was a          100-year flood caused by unique weather conditions that Jim explained – he has a long-time interest in meteorology – even appearing as a weekend weatherman on Portland television in past years.

Also at the corner of 14th and Washington – across the street from Corner 14 is my high school classmate Tony Petrich family’s fish market – founded by his dad, Tony Sr. in 1936.  You can see from the two of the pictures, the impact of the 1964 weather event.  The Willamette River is over two long blocks from Tony’s Fish Market – also worth a visit and including delicious fish and chips.

*12

Photo Attribution for Photos not taken by Don Williams

*1  Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Author: Angelus Commercial Studio, Portland, Oregon  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_–_at_Oregon_City,_Oregon_(75494).jpg

*2  Willamette Falls – Wikimedia Commons – Author: Garry Halvorson, Oregon State Archives 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_(Clackamas_County,_Oregon_scenic_images)_(clacD0069).jpg)

*3 Willamette Falls Locks – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Willamette_Falls_Locks_1915.jpg)

*4 Original Oregon City Elevator Mural – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: EncMstr – 16 Dec 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Municipal_Elevator_mural_original_elevator_P1331.jpeg)

*5 Captain Phillips House – 720 Center Street (https://www.orcity.org/planning/720-center-street-captain-md-phillips-house)

*6 The Dr. John McLoughlin House on Center Street – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA – 28 June 2006 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_McLoughlin_House,_Oregon_City.JPG_(3534603314).jpg)

*7 Carnegie Library Oregon City – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Srandjlsims 29 May 2012 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OREGON_CITY_OREGON_CARNEGIE_LIBRARY_copy.jpg)

*8 Main Street Oregon City circa 1920 – Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – Source: Carey, Charles Henry. (1922). History of Oregon. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City_Main_Street_1920.jpg)

*9  Clackamas County Courthouse – Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Another Believer 22 April 2018 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oregon_City,_Oregon_(2018)_-_008.jpg)

*10 Cherisse Reilly and Dan Fowler – Courtesy of Cherisse Reilly.

*11 Corner 14 Barroom – (https://www.corner14oc.com/)

*12 Washington Street during 1964 Christmas Food – Photo Courtesy of Clackamas County Archives.

Bar Culture – Part III

The topic of bar culture is one close to my heart – reinforced by my Beerchasing hobby started shortly after retirement ten years ago. This is the third post about the elements of “bar culture” excerpted and expanded from my article for Bridgeliner – a wonderful on-line newsletter in Portland, Oregon.

Cassie Rudd, the Editor, asked me five related questions. The first was addressed in the post entitled “A Petri Dish – Bar Culture Part I” and the second in a less elegantly titled post – “Bar Culture – Part II.”

In the narrative below, you will see responses to the final three questions including the last which describes the three Portland watering holes which I think best embody the elements of bar culture described in the article.

Now get out there with your friends and help those bars and breweries to continue their important role in the economy and community!

Support Your Local Watering Hole *1

What direction do you see Portland’s pub and tavern culture heading and what are some of the pros and cons?

I’m very optimistic that Portlanders will again head to bars and restaurants to mingle with friends now that vaccination rates make such gatherings safe. The same  is true for watering holes throughout the US and globally for that matter. 

And the character or culture will quickly be restored if operational constraints aren’t too strict – like not allowing seating at the bar – an important part of the ambiance in every bar. 

It’s important to support these establishments after the severe economic constraints they have faced in the last eighteen months.  And the financial hardship is not new.

Even twelve years ago, author Mike Seely in his book, Seattle’s Best Dive Bars, stated his concern that the dive bars in his city were swiftly disappearing and might be an endangered species.  

Photo Jun 14, 12 33 02 PM

A wonderful book

The Portland Mercury also did an article on March 9, 2016, entitled “The Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society,” stating, in part:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change.

A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.” 

The pandemic and lockdowns have not been kind to some of my favorite bars reviewed since I started my blog.  Gone but not forgotten are Sidecar 11, Bailey’s Taproom Crackerjacks Pub, The Tanker and the Tugboat Brewery.  (Click on the links to see the reviews.)

With the forced closures and the riots in Portland, the concern now transcends just dive bars.  Any small, independent watering hole faces economic challenges. 

It’s up to Portlanders to support these establishments unless they want to see more sterile, boring and insipid establishments devoid of personality such as the Yard House (see my 2016 review entitled “The Yard House – Does it Measure Up?”) in downtown Portland.   It’s owned by the same corporation that owns the Olive Gardens

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The Yard House – where you are met by a hostess who seats you in the bar and they contract with a commissioned artist who does all of their artwork nationally – does not measure up in my opinion.

What do you think will always stay consistent with Portland’s pub and tavern culture?

This answer may alienate those who think Portland’s own culture is unique, but I will respond with the same answer whether describing a bar in Portland, the Oregon Coast, Montana, New England or Amsterdam.

Besides my own experience, the evidence is derived from resources I’ve used in my blog from Matt Love’s “Oregon Tavern Age,” to author Joan Melcher’s two books, “Montana Watering Holes”, to Dr. Tom Noel’s wonderful and appropriately titled book, “Colorado – A Liquid History and Tavern Guide to the Highest State.”

I’ve talked by phone with each of these writers and in the last month even started an e-mail dialogue with a fellow blogger – Rich Carbonara – who lives in Munich, Germany and publishes a blog entitled “The Beer Wanderers.” (Rumor has it that we have at least one interest in common – validated when I purchased his excellent book  Beer Hiking in Bavaria.)

Photo Jun 15, 1 01 16 PM

As long as we don’t capitulate to the corporate chains who want to open their aseptic, suave drinking venues, the ancient tradition of a gathering place where one can raise a mug with friends will continue without much evolution.  That’s a good thing!

All the authors above, I’m sure agree, as I do, with English poet and essayist, Samuel Johnson’s assertion:

There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.”  *2

Obviously, I can’t speak for him, but I also concur with the twelfth century poet who stated:

“When the hour is nigh me,

Let me in a tavern die

With a tankard by me!”  *3

What is one of Portland’s quintessential pubs you feel is emblematic of that culture?

This is a hard question to answer because there are so many good bars.   When a bar is good, it’s fantastic.  And even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good!  However, I will suggest three rather than one – all on the Portland’s east side. 

Gil’s Speakeasy whose owners self-describe as “The nicest assholes in town,” have a wonderful dark, spacious bar with no sign on the exterior and great cheap daily specials ranging from $3 chili dogs to $1 sloppy Joes. 

They even have a coin-operated breathalyzer – an option if you’re not sure.  It states, “Blow before you go.  Profits to local charities.”

It is the epitome of a good neighborhood dive bar from the exterior, to the ambiance once you walk in. The owners are, in fact, “nice” but definitely not assholes! The food, music, games, barstools, backbar and furnishings demonstrate the bar culture I’ve described.

Don’t overlook Mad Hanna – a wonderful bar community – has transformed itself during the pandemic into a general store (“part indie boutique, craft fair and whimsically curated market”). 

Besides, there aren’t too many saloons where you can chow down a $4.50 peanut butter and jelly sandwich while guzzling your $2 Happy Hour PBR.

But the bar or pub that epitomizes the culture discussed above is The Standard.  This dive opened in 2007 at NE 22nd and Broadway and was perfectly described by Mathew Korfhage in the “Willamette Week 2018 Bar Guide”:

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

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

While I’ve named three of my favorite bars in Portland with great character, one can do the same, to a greater or lesser extent, in every community in the US and every other nation. 

Perhaps if we had friendly discussion and debate over a cheap Happy Hour brew, we could iron out the polarization characterizing such dialogue during the pandemic.

Cheers and Amen!

And thanks again to Cassie and Bridgeliner for making it possible for me to contribute the articles.

Photo Credits

*1.  Public Domain – File:Dollar.PNG – Wikimedia Commons

2.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds – Samuel Johnson – Wikipedia) National Gallery

*3.  Image courtesy of Pam Williams

Lawyers Continued: Summer Associates – Part II

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

In Part I of this series, I wrote about the talented Summer Associates (clerks) that my law firm (Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt) and other large law firms hire as clerks during the first and second summers they are in law school. https://thebeerchaser.com/2021/05/27/lawyers-continued-summer-associates-part-i/

StudentLounge

(*1  Attribution for the photos not taken by Don Williams is at the end of this post.)

They are smart and motivated and the competition is intense – both among the firms who compete for the best students and among those applying.  They know this opportunity is a stepping stone for a good job in their chosen field after they graduate and pass the Bar Exam.

In the last post, readers saw a compendium of the languages in which three of the classes of Summer Associates (2005 and 2006-7) were proficient, as well as prior jobs and/or occupations on their resumes before they started law school.   A number had interesting work histories and waited until they had some real-world experience before they began their graduate education.  

I compiled these lists in addition to the categories below as part of the full-day orientation they received in June before they started their legal work.  Rather than boring them with information about law firm management which they would forget, I used the data we collected from their questionnaires.  I tried to convey why they should get to know their fellow clerks and why they should feel proud about being in that group.

Hobbies and Interests

While they were top students, they also were well-rounded and had eclectic pursuits when not working or studying:

Backpacking, rock band; playing the violin, cello, hand-bells, piano, harmonica, oboe (second-chair in community orchestra) drums, guitar, African drums (these were not all the same clerk!), country line dancing, karaoke, country music and Latin poetry (these were from the same person) and gardening.

Ballet (ten years), horror movies, British literature, reading non-fiction and collecting classic comic books.  Gourmet cooking and eating!

Since there were some lawyer-league sports, we also asked them about their athletic talent and experience:

Golf (“Law school made my game go dormant.”), Notre Dame Football (This may have been watching rather than playing.), basketball, softball, tennis, cross country (University of Portland Cross County Team and ran in the Venice Marathon), skiing, snowboarding, yoga, weightlifting.

Juggling (balls and juggling sticks but not pins – we also found out if she could juggle legal assignments), Karate (all-Japan and All-American – five time Karate champion.  He was also the bodyguard when they went to bars after work.). Surfing, skiing, rollerblading and mountain climbing.  Cycling (rode from Spokane to Denver — Why??!)  

Higher Education Besides Law School

As I stated above, these people were motivated and a number had graduate degrees in addition to law school:

Masters Degrees in Engineering, Sociology, Education, Business Administration, Biomedical Engineering.  Graduate Study at the United Nations in Geneva. Ph D in Material Sciences and Engineering (had studied at Oxford) (See narrative below on Intellectual Property candidates)

In 2002, Schwabe merged with a small Oregon Intellectual Property Firm – Columbia IP – founded by Al AuYeung, who built and managed a thriving IP Practice Group (patent, trademark, copyright, trade secrets and IP litigation) in the Schwabe Portland and Seattle offices, until his retirement this year. 

Most of the other lawyers had been liberal arts majors such as Political Science or Economics with a few Business majors, etc.  But these IP lawyers not only had attended law school and passed the State Bar, but were also members of the Federal Patent Bar, which required another challenging exam

.

In addition, besides their undergraduate degrees, most of them also had Masters and even a few PhD’s in physics, computer science, engineering mathematics or chemistry, etc.  For example, Al besides graduating from Santa Clara Law School, also had an MS in Engineering from Stanford and an MBA in Finance from U Cal Berkley.

I helped interview one young IP associate prospect who had actually worked as a rocket scientist before law school.  At the end of the interview, I couldn’t help myself and asserted with a smile, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you would be a good fit at this firm.”  Notwithstanding this embarrassing attempt at humor, he still came to work for us.

Each year at the all-attorney retreat in the fall, the lawyers and management staff from all offices would gather at some nice resort for an entire weekend with great food and drink, continuing legal education, a firm business meeting, golf, hiking and general revelry. Did I mention – also plentiful food and drink…..

After the dinner on Friday night before a band and dancing, the new associates would make their traditional introductory appearance and sing their undergraduate school fight song and relate what their most challenging college course had been.

Now the liberal arts majors would come up with something like “The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida,” or there was an Economics Major who impressed us at one retreat with  “Understanding International Finance Through Game Theory and Evolutionary Stability.” 

With the advent of IP associates, these science and math geeks rolled off such offerings as “Formulae for Calculating Motion in One and Two Dimensions or “Non-Equilibrium Applications of Statistical Thermodynamics.”  If I remember correctly, after two years we decided to forego this tradition, because it made a lot of us feel intellectually deficient.

I might add that one might think that men and women who were so erudite and left-brained would tend to be socially awkward.  For example, one of the Summer Associates headed for the IP Group had even “developed a method to manufacture micro-electric mechanical systems using stereo lithography.”   

Rather than being interpersonally inept, however, the exact opposite was almost always the case.  This is another plaudit for Al AuYueng, who had the wisdom to hire people who were not only cerebral, but also personable.

So, it was always enjoyable to have a beer with these lawyers who would be talking about concepts such as the radius of gyration, angular momentum or foreign trademark registration with their clients at their desks in the afternoon, but then were great conversationalists while raising a mug after work.

Volunteer and Civic Activities

These young people were getting into a profession where advocacy for others is a key part of the job and in which pro-bono work is a tradition – and they came well prepared.  They had done work in the following positions or organizations:

Advocate for immigrant families, Meals on Wheels driver, domestic violence counselor, Habit for Humanity, homeless advocacy, classroom tutor, Peace Corps, Vista, AmeriCorps, Young Life, UNICEF, Legal Aid, volunteer for early childhood development, political campaign for city council candidate, pediatric medical clinic, men’s shelter, animal shelter, Boys and Girls Club, soup kitchen.

Wining and Dining Opportunities While Clerking

Part of the recruitment process was interacting with the summer associates over food or drinks at local bistros and watering holes.  We had asked on the questionnaires for their food preferences and also what they wanted to avoid.   The responses for preferences included breakfast food at all times of the day, anything with chocolate, anything with beef and seafood.

Conversely, one clerk emphasized that he could not eat shell fish and detested anything with beef.   One was also emphatic about what everyone should avoid based on his 45-page paper for bio-ethics class entitled, “Cloned Animal Products in the Human Food Chain.”

We tried to make a good impression with these kids and it was natural for the lawyers to take them to the more elite restaurants.  Besides, the firm was picking up the check (one reason that many lawyers went out to more lunches and dinners during the summer than any other time during the year….).

Now Portland has a wealth of great bistros downtown, but to our Director of Recruiting’s chagrin, I decided for a change of pace (and style) when I took the clerks out.  Rather than a popular spot like Jake’s Famous Crawfish or lunch in one of the high-rise office building grilles, we’d walk two blocks to a little hole-in-the-wall (below ground) Middle Eastern restaurant named Mummy’s

It’s owned by two fascinating Egyptian brothers, Phillip and Ghobvial Moumir who had operated for many years in the same location.

For the full review, check out my 2016 post-retirement blog post entitled “Mummy’s – a (Buried) Portland Treasure.”  in which I Beerchased with two of my favorite and now retired Schwabe partners, Brian (Brain) King and Margaret Hoffmann, who shared my affinity for this eatery.

There were usually no more than a handful of patrons and the brothers always directed the students and me to the same table for some of their reasonably priced and really delicious cuisine..

And I had a smile on my face when the Recruiting exec came to my office after the first visit and said, “Don, they raved about Mummy’s and how they want to return again before they leave this summer!”  Word spread and I always had requests from a number of clerks each summer to include them on the list for Mummy’s.

A Final Summer Associate Success Story

It was early in 2002 and some of the Summer Associate candidates had come to the Portland office for interviews.  I walked down to our Recruiting Director’s office.  She was on the phone and a male candidate (Jeff Hern from Willamette University Law School) was standing by her desk waiting for her to finish a telephone conversation. 

He was holding his resume, so I asked if I could glance at it.  Our conversation went like this after I had reviewed it:

Williams:  I see that you graduated from Madeira High School (a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio) and were inducted into its Athletic Hall of Fame.  I lived in Madeira from the time I was four until we moved to Oregon when I was eleven.  Did you know the Nelson Kennedy family?

Hern: Yes, as a matter of fact, his son was a teammate on the MHS Basketball Team.

Williams:  Nelson was my best friend in grade school which was the last time I saw him.  I’ve talked to him once or twice since because he was two classes ahead of my younger brother, Garry,  at West Point.  Nelson was one of the reasons Garry ended up at the Military Academy and they see each other quite often.

I gave him my card, wished him luck and told him to stay in touch.  A few days later, I received a nice letter acknowledging our visit and stating that he was impressed with Schwabe.  I then talked to our Recruiter and told her that I hoped we made an offer to him.

From that point on, I continued to lobby for him as the competition was stiff for clerk slots. (I also reminded her that besides having good grades and recommendations, our Lawyer League Basketball Team could use Jeff’s experience as a good power forward.)

When I got his letter, I talked to my wife, Janet, that night at dinner and our conversation went like this:

Williams:  Remember the guy from Willamette Law School I told you about who lived in Madeira and knew the son of my best friend.  Well, he sent a great letter, which I think reflects well on him.

Janet: (laughing) Yeah, he’s smart!  I can see him going back to Willamette and saying to his classmates.  “Have I got an inroad at Schwabe.  I met this old guy who is the COO. I’m writing a letter to get him on my side.  I think his generation likes that kind of thing.”

Jeff was hired in 2004 and flash forward seventeen years and he’s now an Equity Partner at Schwabe.  He has a robust practice and represents manufacturing, energy, healthcare, and food and beverage companies in litigation, federal, and state court proceedings from early alternative dispute resolution through trial. 

He has considerable experience defending in product liability, tort actions, commercial disputes and water rights adjudications.

The young counselor also has developed a specialty in licensing issues for food and beverage companies and was very helpful with pro-bono advice when I was assisting with the licensing of the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel.  (I told Jeff, he owed me for lobbying on his behalf and pointed out that his athletic ability was the deciding factor in his selection.)

Jeff and his wife, Lindsay, (Janet and I went to their wedding.) now have three beautiful daughters and he didn’t disappoint us with his elbow jumper during the competition in the other court in which he showed his skill.  His batting average in softball was also quite high.

The Hern Family

I’ll end this story by adding another highlight of my friendship with Jeff.  Of course, when Jeff got hired, I called Nelson (mentioned above) – who at Miami Hills Elementary, I nicknamed “Moose” because of his size. 

We agreed that it was time to reunite after forty-six years and he flew out to Oregon for several days.  He, Jeff and I skied at Mt. Hood and I followed up with a visit to Cincinnati five years later when I was there for a Legal Management conference.

# Photo Attribution

  1. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StudentLounge.JPG)   Author: Cstpierre 9/15/07
  2. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fantastic_Comics_1.jpg) Grand Comic Book Database (http://www.comics.org/details.lasso?id=574)  Original uploader was Konczewski at English Wikipedia.   1/9/2007
  3. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:16-hole_chrom_10-hole_diatonic.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: George Leung
  4. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:5_ball_juggling.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: James Hellman, MD.
  5. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zen_Do_Kai_karate.jpg   Author: Pxhere 7/7/2015
  6. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hydrogen_Density_Plots.png)  Released into the public domain by its author, PoorLeno at English Wikipedia.  8/17/2008
  7. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Jyntohttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemistry#/media/File:Benzene-2D-full.svg)  Author: Jynto  8/25/2010
  8. Public Doman – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Torque_animation.gif)  Author: Yawe 2/211/2008
  9. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US-PeaceCorps-Logo-alt.svg)  Author: Grondle 8/10
  10. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_100830-N-5647H-054_Airman_Bryan_Pickett_serves_bread_to_the_community_of_the_Daily_Bread_Soup_Kitchen_as_part_of_Baltimore_Navy_Week.jpg)  
  11. Facebook page Jakes Famous Crawfish (https://www.facebook.com/JakesFamousCrawfish/photos/a.350687678313545/1936162349766062)

Lawyers Continued: Summer Associates – Part I

In an August 2020 blog post I did an initial tribute to attorneys naming them Beerchaser-of-the – Quarter – Part I.   This was based on my forty years working with them – not as a lawyer, but as a legal manager.  After working with lawyers at both Clackamas County and the Oregon State Bar, the last twenty-five years of my career were spent at the Northwest Regional law firm, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.

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While first serving as Business Manager, I retired after twelve years as the Chief Operating Officer of this 150 lawyer firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon which then had four branch offices, the primary one being in Seattle. (Oh yes, for awhile, we also had a lobbyist in Washington, DC. as well.) My beerchasing hobby started in August 2011, eight months after I retired.

Herding

Herding Cats – A retirement present – Look at the label on the bottles!

While most people really like their own lawyer, the group as a whole, seldom receives accolades and is often subject to stereo-typical and often pejorative labels.  

As is true in any profession, I know that a number of attorneys are egotistical jerks, flaunt the ethics of the profession and would not be good drinking companions.  That said, my 40+ years working with lawyers in three different organizations were rewarding and an opportunity to interact with ethical, smart, dedicated advocates who have amazing work ethics and elevated senses of humor.  Many cherished friendships resulted.

Wikipedia - Public Domain

“It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing and talk by the hour.” *1

(*1  Attribution for the photos not taken by Don Williams is at the end of this post.)

Below, you will glean some information about the amazing backgrounds, and without exaggeration, the incredible talents and abilities of the law students who would seek employment at Schwabe and other firms during the summers of their first two years at law school.  While we also hired both new lawyers and lateral attorneys who hadn’t gone through the summer associate program, it was the best source of new lawyers.

If they performed well during those summers and had positive personal interactions with attorneys and staff, they would be offered a job at the firm when they graduated contingent on their passage of the State Bar in their jurisdiction.

Competition among law firms was intense for the best students as these were the future of the firm.   And the law students also went into overdrive to get a cherished clerkship. A small number would eventually make it to partner – usually after about seven years – and others would enhance the economics of the firm and be esteemed colleagues until they moved on.  And while everyone worked hard, Schwabe was a very collegial firm with a great culture.

During the 1970’s and until economics and the changing practice of law dictated otherwise, we recruited by sending two of our lawyers to the top law schools to interview prospects on campus.  Most, besides Stanford, were on the east coast including the Ivy League Schools, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan (shown in the photo above).

If they were selected and chose our firm, the law students would spend the next one or two summers in Portland or Seattle demonstrating that they could explain the nuances of such stimulating topics as the Rule of Perpetuities or the five factors considered under the Daubert Standard, work well with others and that they had the personality and drive to ultimately bring in new clients.

For the most part, we ended this expensive east coast recruiting  practice in the first decade of the new millennium, realizing that most of the top students at these schools would take clerkships at the Wall Street firms or the mega-firms on the east coast where beginning associates who essentially had very limited experience would be making well over $100,000 per year (+ bonuses) even then!

Concurrently, we realized that those who excelled at good law schools in the Northwest might not have the sterling academic pedigree, but were just as smart and motivated as Ivy League stock.  Besides, they often had relationships with people on the West Coast that could become good clients.

These “kids” had a good situation.  Once they got to the firm, they were wined and dined at lunch and dinner, participated in lawyer-league athletics, got a lot of hands-on mentoring and attended professional sporting events and concerts where they had great tickets.   They were also paid extremely well for their efforts which did not require inordinate working hours.  (They would encounter these if they became associates……)

Before they arrived, we had them complete detailed questionnaires on their interests, experience, talents, etc. – information which probably didn’t arise in the personal interviews on campus where they were selected.  This was so the people at the firm would be able to get acquainted more quickly.  When they arrived in early June, we also gave them an all-day orientation about what to expect and tips on how to be successful.

Based on assertion in the memorable epigraph by eighteenth century English essayist and poet, Charles Lamb, at the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird, I decided that for my thirty minute orientation spiel, rather than bore them talking about firm Management, I’d tell them a little about their summer associate colleagues – their lives and activities outside of law school and before they decided on that academic route.

 

Charles Lamb

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. *8

Who were these elite students sitting beside them (or on video link from Seattle) and what made them interesting and worth joining at a bar after work for a pint of IPA?  For many years during the heyday of legal economics, we would hire about fifteen clerks each summer.

Most of these wiz-kids did very well and unlike at some big firms where they would cull substantially, Schwabe made associate offers to about 85% of its summer clerks and our acceptance rate was very high.  (It should be added that law would be a second career for a number of these individuals or they had worked for a period between college and law school.)

(Note:  With the pandemic, most of the summer associate programs were temporarily discontinued and before that, law firm economics significantly reduced the number of summer clerks in many firms to single digits.)

Below, I have combined the data on the summer associate classes at Schwabe for a three-year span (2005 and 2007-8.  I either lost the file for 2006 or they were a boring class.)  I think this will demonstrate the exceptional nature of these young students. 

I have to add, that based on their accomplishments, while one might expect them to be very confident and brash, they as a group, were almost without exception, well-rounded, modest and very personable.

Languages besides English

Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Persian (just learning….), Basque and Pig Latin (we loved this guy!).

Previous summer jobs or occupations

Waiter/waitress, receptionist, paralegal, English teacher, reporter (once interviewed Toni Braxton and Santana), AV technician, college admission counselor, life insurance sales (80-hour weeks for twelve weeks with top sales awards), risk analyst, consultant, co-director of Victoria Secret store.

Manager, engineer, barista, quality assurance analyst (in a waste treatment plant?!), UPS worker, chauffer, church youth director, customs broker, computer network engineer, manager of a wilderness backpacking firm, semi-pro football player, survey researcher (tracked Wisconsin vendors who sold tobacco to minors), Russian interpreter (dealt with international trade and environmental matters), high school vice principal of discipline and supervision, business manager at Party City.

High school chemistry teacher, credit risk analyst, personal banker, grass seed farmer, jewelry salesperson, drugstore clerk, general manager of Fun-time Fireworks, fire prevention specialist (coordinated Smokey the Bear appearances).  Fortunately, there were no sparks and we did not have to mediate any disputes between the fire prevention specialist and the manager of the fireworks operation.  

This post is getting too long and the other categories for which I have data were also very interesting and I’ll cover these in my next post.  So stay tune.  They include sports in which they participated, hobbies and interests, past volunteer or civic activities, education besides law school and foods they liked – or wanted to avoid.  Remember, they got to dine out just about every day because it was a good chance for our lawyers to meet them and see how they acted in an informal setting.  

I want to conclude this post, however, with a letter from one law school student – not from the summer associate program but who applied for a job upon his future graduation from law school.   

He was from a very good law school in the Midwest and his letter was unforgettable – at least to me – which is why I’ve kept it in my archives for thirty years.  The internet is a marvelous research tool and I have to admit that I did a successful search for the author of this missive.

I’ve decided to black out his name and most of the details although my instinct is that this guy just had a dry sense of humor and was trying to remedy an embarrassing error with jocularity.  Unfortunately, he did not get hired.   

That said, he’s done well during the ensuing years.  After graduating from law school and passing the state and federal bars, he’s had an impressive career in legal education, legal professional associations and a stint as consultant for an international mega-firm.  He currently works at a university on the east coast.

After consulting with some of my attorney friends, I may actually call the guy, introduce myself and just ask him how this happened and his thoughts about this long-ago missive.   If he’s like most of the lawyers I know, he would laugh about it and we might ultimately end up having a beer together at some point.

Law clerk letter 1

Bad judgement or a dry sense of humor?

Photo Attributions

*1.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Lady Justice 

*2.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – University of Michigan Law School

*3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – PacWest Center 

*4. Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.- US Bank Centre Seattle – Author: Cumulus Cloud – 8/1/2008

*5.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Willamette University College of Law

*6.  Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Lewis and Clark Law School – Author: lbcstud – 6/3/2014

*7.  Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0University of Washington Law School – Author: Joe Mabel – 8/11/2009

*8.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – English Essayist and Poet Charles Lamb

*9.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Smokey the Bear

*10.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Fireworks show

Bar Culture – Part II

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_tube#/media/File:Two_small_test_tubes_held_in_spring_clamps.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cassie’s second question in the Bridgeliner article was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Petri Dish — Bar Culture Part I

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers

Beerchasing Miscellany – Emerging!!

Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

Thebeerchaser Story – From the Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

Beerchasing Resumes – One Year Later

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

The Columbia River Gorge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excuse the Digression…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beerchasing Resumes – In part!

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

Ferment Brewing Company

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

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

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

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

Photo Mar 31, 1 59 26 PM

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

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

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

Pfriem Family Brewing

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

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

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Pfriem in 2015

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

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

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

Cheers and Stay Safe!

Reflections on Western Towns and Cities – Part II

In the last post, I talked about both my 2,700 mile solo road trip for ten days through Oregon, Idaho and Montana in 2004 and also the fifteen-day journey through six western states in the fall of 2019 – this one 3,700 miles.

The treasured time on the road, brings to mind a superb quote on the topic from novelist, Lee Child, in his book, Never Go Back:

There were cities and there was countryside. There were mountains and there were valleys.  There were rivers.  There were museums and music and motels and clubs and diners and bars and buses.  There were battlefields and birthplaces and legends and roads.  There was company if I wanted it and there was solitude if I didn’t.”

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And most notably in Montana, one can see a heck of a lot of scenery rolling along on the good roads – usually at the 80 mph speed limit although that can have some disadvantages from a highway safety perspective as shown in the photo below. 

Montana has a very high rate of traffic fatalities.  It’s a combination of a high speed limit especially in rural areas, bad weather and road conditions in many months of the year – that and a high rate of alcohol consumption.  

In my first few days in 2019, I kept seeing white crosses along the highways – both single and in some cases, groups of them – even in very remote areas and wondered about the background. 

According to a  2004 article in the Billings Gazettethis program started in 1953 by the American Legion and is done solely by volunteers. By 2015, there were more than 2,000 crosses erected. Each signifies a death from an auto accident.

Let’s examine some of the items mentioned in Lee Child’s quote above. Idaho, Montana and Wyoming exemplified these and as you can see from the above photo, each day offered additional perfect panoramas. 

As he stated and as exemplified in the gallery below, there were “Cities, countryside. valleys and rivers.”

And continuing: “There were museums and music and motels and clubs and diners and bars.”  Yes, we saw all of these on the trip both on my six-day solo portion and when Janet joined me in Billings.

I even stayed at Deffy’s Motel in Hamilton, Montana for which $45 got a suite of sorts with a king bed, refrigerator, microwave, couch, desk and a shower that most people would not want to try unless they were dirtier than the tiled shower wall….(I wouldn’t have asked Janet to stay there, but it did have a certain type of character!)

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It did, however, rate four out of five stars on Trip Advisor and as one reviewer stated “If you want Hilton finishes and amenities this is NOT your place.”  But I guess it depends on your benchmark because the next review asserted:

Yes, it was clean but in need of some attention. There was a hole in the wall where the door knob hit it, plastered over in spackle, neither primed nor painted. The throw rug in front of the futon and the carpet in the bedroom were spotted with who-knows-what and in need of a good shampooing.

The vinyl on both kitchen chairs was torn and there was a huge gap under the front door, letting in all the exhaust from the construction crew’s pick-ups warming up at 6:30 a.m. The soap holder in the shower was rusted and loose.”

By the way, for anyone interested in relocating to Montana, Deffy’s is for sale….

Now I don’t envision myself as a Jack Reacher type – Lee Child’s inimitable character of grit and integrity – after all, instead of hitchhiking and taking Greyhound buses, I cruised along in my Prius – but Child goes on with his itemization in the road-trip description which does a superb job of describing the variety:

“There were battlefields….and legends and roads.” 

And he finishes with the truism which I experienced.  That’s because I did part of this trip alone and enjoyed the solitude of the Big Sky open road, but then realized that I was missing something. 

So when my sweetheart of 41 years joined me after flying into Billings for the remaining nine days. “There was company if I wanted it and there was solitude if I didn’t.”

I mentioned in an earlier Beerchaser post, that there were some favorite cities and towns in those six western states. Those that captivated me and then us for the latter part of the trip with their charm, scenic beauty and character – oh yes, don’t forget the notable bars and breweries. Bozeman, Livingston and Hamilton, Montana; and Sheridan, Wyoming are highlighted below.

Bozeman Montana

This beautiful city in the southwest corner of the state with a population of just under 50,000 is the fourth largest city in Montana  Now admittedly, the paragraph below is from the Montana Visitors’ Bureau, but I think it is an accurate depiction:

“Bozeman is called ‘the most livable place’ for good reason. Enjoy world-renowned fly fishing, dramatic mountains for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, hunting, and backcountry exploring, Yellowstone National Park and impressive wildlife.

When you are ready for a more city experience, dive into Bozeman’s thriving arts and culture communities, ranging from main street festivals, farmers markets, cultural centers and museums to symphonies, theaters, and art galleries.”

It’s also a university city – the home of Montana State University.  Now admittedly, visiting a city is different than living there and a reporter for the High Country News enumerated the Top Ten Reasons Not to Move to Bozeman in a 2013 article, but they are somewhat lame.   

For example, he asserts that the name of the town sucks, you’re isolated, the weather during much of the year is bad and there’s a nearby inactive super-volcano which “underlies Yellowstone National Park, generating the heat for all the geysers and hotpots, and….could erupt at any time and some experts say this is ‘overdue’ – it will obliterate Bozeman, along with ruining the whole planet’s atmosphere.”  

Of course, I’m a Pacific Northwest resident with an active volcano (St. Helens) in our “backyard” which killed fifty-seven people and thousands of animals when it erupted in 1980.  And in Oregon, we live on a major earthquake fault which is overdue for seismic pandemonium.

Don’t forget the wildfires this summer and our rainy season which lasts about eight months of the year.  We’re also named Portland rather than Boston because one of the two guys deciding, lost a coinflip in 1845.   And yet, I would not move anyplace else.

Livingston Montana

Livingston is a quaint and historical town sometimes known as the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park. As stated in a blog on Yellowstone:

The quaint town of Livingston, Mont., has attracted cowboys, ranchers, the rich and famous and artists enamored by the scenery for more than 100 years. It’s also been featured in ‘A River Runs Through It,’ ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and Marlboro advertisements.”

And I was almost not able to get a hotel reservation because they were filming an episode in Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone series. I absolutely loved staying at the Murray Hotel which not only has a great bar but as the photo below shows, one could just sit in the lobby for hours and drink up the ambiance.   

Given the size of the town, the bars and breweries are plentiful ranging from the historic Mint and Stockman (built in 1895 and recently sold for $595,000) bars to the Katabatic and Neptune Breweries.   The Livingston Bar and Grille offered what was one of the best dinners I had during the entire trip.

It also enhanced the mood of adventure remembering a fact from at least some reliable sources 

“Singer Jimmy Buffett also wrote the hit song ‘Livingston Saturday Night’ about this town’s raucous night-life. And judging by the number of bars, saloons, and casinos within a 3-block radius – more than a dozen in all – you can see why.  You could do your own kind of pub crawl, moving from the old timer’s cowboy clique at the Stockman, to the rowdy biker sanctum of the Hyatt House or to the sound of blues at the Murray.”
(Source: “Yellowstone and Grand Teton” by Brian Hurlbut) Google Books

And just walking through the neighborhoods, one block off the main drag, shows that Livingston has the feel of a town that would be nice to call home.

Hamilton Montana

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People from throughout the country are becoming aware of this small city on the eastern side of Montana.  For example, an article in The Oregonian in July 2014 “  aptly entitled, “Hamilton in Montana right up there among best small American mountain towns, with brewery, ballpark,” states:

“Hamilton, population 4,508,  is located near the center of the Bitterroot Valley, an 80-mile north-south valley tucked in on the east slope of the Bitterroot Mountains in far western Montana and about 50 miles south of Missoula. Blodgett Canyon, just five miles from the center of town, is nothing short of gorgeous.

Hamilton was a designed town, with planned street grids right from the beginning, unlike so many other Montana towns that grew up out of mining camps.”

My curiosity was also piqued by another April, 2019 article I read in the Washington Post entitled, Small towns are dying everywhere but here.”  Included in the article was a sentence about two local boys coming home from college and launching a microbrewery which now generates more than $1 million in annual sales.   (How could Thebeerchaser resist that lead….”)

While I wasn’t there long enough to interview co-owners, Fenn Nelson and Jasper Miller, I had one of their thirst quenching IPAs. The two, who after graduating from the University of Montana, returned to their hometown and took a big risk. Employing used equipment – including some scavenged from an aircraft carrier – they leased a former natural foods emporium and converted it into Higherground Brewing,” 

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The good beer was consumed while I had a great conversation with a teacher on summer vacation who was bartending and told me the story of the enterprise, before I went to dinner at the town’s other memorable brewery – Bitterroot Brewing – another impressive watering hole. 

Right next to Bitterroot was a baseball diamond in which I watched several innings of American Legion Baseball and saw the first-place hometown Bitter Root Red Sox in the process of thrashing the Kalispell Lakers.

I finished with the evening with a delightful, long walk along the Bitterroot River, through a beautiful park and the neighborhoods before returning to Deffy’s Motel – for a restful night’s sleep – I woke up before the exhaust fumes were noticeable.

Sheridan Wyoming

This northern Wyoming city with a population of 17,500 and founded in 1882, is halfway between Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park.  Named for the legendary General Phil Sheridan, my attachment to this berg, may have been, in part, based on some family roots.

My dad’s father Floyd Williams, was a US Postal Service Inspector and while traveling by train which stopped in Sheridan in 1912, he spotted young Clara Sarah Willey on the platform at the station.

Clara’s family ranched cattle (the Diamond Bar T brand) there for three quarters of a century.  Kings Saddlery, (see photo below) one of the largest tack stores (equestrian outfitting) in the US, also had a museum (through the rope store in back of the main saddlery) in addition to countless saddles and western gear and there were historic pictures from the Willey spread.

Sheridan has some sprawl along the highways, but a picturesque and historic and thriving main street with fascinating shops and one of our favorite breweries – Smith Alley Brewing.  There are numerous and scenic walking paths through the city, nice parks and notable outdoor art sculptures on almost every corner.  It is a picturesque and charming village.

Well, as you can tell by this and previous posts (and a few more to come) I’m enamored with the western frontier states – especially Montana and could continue writing about them. That said, since this is a blog primarily about bars and breweries, some of you may be impatient with the digression although for the last year, it was due to a global pandemic.

So I am pleased to report that on Wednesday, March 31st for our 41st wedding anniversary, we traveled from Portland up the Columbia River Gorge to another outstanding western city – Hood River, Oregon and had our first beer (sitting outside) at a brewery or bar in over one year.

We had been to the Pfriem Brewery once before, but this was our first encounter with Ferment Brewing where we had first-rate cheeseburgers and beer worth making a return trip. Stay tuned!

Cheers and Be Safe!

Reflections on Western Towns and Cities – Part 1

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

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

A field at the city limits of Hamilton

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

Oh, to be 56 again — my 2004 Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking down from Boot Hill in Bannack

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

The Dewey Bar in Wise River, Montana

The narrative on those two bars can be viewed at:

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

and

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

Downtown Stanley

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

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

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

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

Johnny Ray at the Rod and Gun in 2016

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

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

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

Telling law firm stories in 2004

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

American Historian

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

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

The Sawtooth Range from the outskirts of Stanley

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

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

Janet – “Don’t Even Think About It!”

Runkle – An invitation for a bucket list item….

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

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

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

In South Dakota’s Badlands National Park

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

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

The Yaak River

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

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

A plethora of styles on Sirius

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

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

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

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

The Champagne of Bottled Beers

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

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

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

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

Along Montana Highway 43 near Wisdom