Belmont Station – 1,000 Bottles of Beer on the Wall – You Take One Down and Pass it Around…..

Thebeerchaser at the entrance to Belmont Station

Thebeerchaser at the entrance to Belmont Station

Thebeerchaser teetered on the brink of Beer Tour malpractice when initially confusing The Belmont Inn (see Beerchaser review on March 18, 2013) with the Belmont Station. Since the latter was recently named by Draft Magazine as one of the top one hundred beer bars in the US for 2012, I reasoned that any Tour of Portland Bars and Taverns mandated a visit. It joined five other Portland pubs in sharing that ranking.

Of course, any rational person could have made the same mistake since Belmont Station has been on Stark Street since about 2007. Lease issues which arose in its original home (1997), forced the move from Belmont Street, and they retained the original name.

Princeton graduate, accomplished singer and beer drinker, Dave Hicks
Princeton graduate, accomplished singer and beer drinker, Dave Hicks

My companion that night when we hit both the Horse Brass Pub (review to be forthcoming and also one of Drafts 100 best) and Belmont Station was Dave Hicks, a San Francisco consultant, with whom Thebeerchaser worked while a law firm COO before retiring to tour bars and taverns in 2011.

Hicks remains a good friend and is both a cum laude 1986 Princeton University undergraduate and a lawyer who graduated from University of San Diego Law School including a semester studying law in Paris.

There are Ivy League grads with whom you wouldn’t even want to have a water-cooler conversation; however, Hicks is a guy that even President Nixon, with his aversion to Ivy League elitists, would have enjoyed having a beer, wiretapping his conversation or having as a traveling companion on his historic trip to China.

Hicks on the lookout for new pubs and taverns

Hicks on the lookout for new pubs and taverns

Besides being a good drinking companion, Dave (and his twin brother) are both accomplished singers and were members of the Princeton’s oldest and foremost a cappella singing group – the Princeton Nassoons where he sang bass.

He still sings at some alumni functions and birthday parties, etc., with a spin-off group, the NassauHallics, named for one of the main buildings on campus.  He has the good judgment not to participate in karaoke based on the premise that it was Japan’s retaliation for Hiroshima and Nagasaki….

Belmont Station is accurately described in the Willamette Week 2009 Drink Guide as follows: “This misleadingly named establishment which moved four blocks north from its original home on SE Belmont Street two years ago, is deservedly famous for its stock of 1,000-odd beers, plus sundry wines, ciders and meads. But the Station, which is owned, in part, by legendary Horse Brass publican, Don Younger, doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its attached bar. It’s a cheerful, narrow space dominated by the long wooden bar and dozen rotating, mostly local taps.”

While the Belmont Station Biercafe’ is a very nice neighborhood bar and the attached bottle shop is very impressive based on the breadth of its inventory, it does raise the question: “What makes it one of the top 100 bars in the United States? 

Wall decorations are a nice touch in the bar.

Beer signs as wall decorations are a nice touch in the bar.

Having reviewed several other bar/bottle shops on this blog including “Bottles” (July 2012) and “1856,” (December 2012), I would rate Belmont Station as comparable although probably having a slightly more varieties of alcoholic brew. It also advertises itself as the first beer bottle store in the Northwest.”

It can be assumed that other bottle shops have similar practices, but Belmont Station also differentiates itself because its bottles have “been thoughtfully selected, meticulously rotated, and
properly stored under UV-filtered light.”  
Of course a selection of 1,200 different brews  raises the question as to how many different brands of beer is adequate – 50 or 175 or 650, or …..? 

In college, for example, when it was not available in Oregon because of pasteurization issues, we considered the student who brought back one case of Coors to be a hero.  Personally, I would be satisfied with at least 25 options as long as PBR is a choice…….but then I am an aficionado of bars, taverns and pubs and not of beer itself.

A possible validation of the claim, "Portland's Premier Beer Bottle Shop!"

Can you find me a Coors???

Perhaps the following January 2011 review from Yelp provides some insight:

“If you opened up a beer store in L.A., it probably wouldn’t last a month, but folks in Portland love their beer. In the PNW, drinking beer is more than just pouring a 12 pack of fizzy yellow swill down your throat until you puke.

People appreciate a fine crafted brew and will spend good money for a unique beer drinking experience….(Belmont Station) is one of the best bottle shops I’ve visited.”

Besides the inordinate variety of bottled beers and ciders, sixteen excellent beers on tap.

Besides the inordinate variety of bottled beers and ciders, sixteen excellent beers on tap.

The Biercafe, adjacent to the bottle shop, has sixteen very good and mostly local beers on tap. I chose the $7 “Flight of the Day,” featuring samples of four different beers, which that night included:

Agrarian Ale’s “Chronic D’ Aphotic“, Natian’s “Elephante India Red Ale“, Bear Republic Brewery’s “Cafe’ Racer 15“, all of which were very good, and Lagunitas Brewery’s “Gnarlywine,” which had a “potent toffee and caramel flavor” and was a little rich for my taste.  The Agrarian was my favorite and I enjoyed the combination of “five of the farm’s most resinous hop varieties with organic oats and roasted malt – a full bodied hoppy delight.”

Pliny the Elder - great Roman intellect.  (He probably drank wine but at least had a beer named after him.

Pliny the Elder – great Roman intellect. (He probably drank wine but at least had a beer named after him.


Dave Hicks chose the creatively titled Pliny the Elder Pale Ale by the Russian River Brewery, named after Pliny the Elder, the Roman author, naturalist and philosopher in addition to being a naval and army commander.  His death near Pompei, was a result of the eruption of Vesuvius.  This excellent Double India Pale Ale also inspired Dave to hum a very melodic Secular Ode of Horace while he was drinking it.

Belmont Station has a nice menu of pub-type food available from 3:00 until 10:00 PM, including snacks such as chips and salsa, hummus and cheese plates in addition to large deli-sandwiches, soups and pizzas.  Since we had already eaten, I didn’t get to try a curried potato “pie” that looked very interesting.

Our friendly bartender and Thebeerchaser logo

Our friendly Belmont Station bartender and Thebeerchaser logo

Thebeerchaser will visit the other five bars in Portland that made Draft Magazine’s top 100; however, having reviewed over fifty establishments on the Beer Tour since 2011, a bar or pub may be analogous to a steak dinner – “Even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good” – especially when you have a good drinking buddy along for the ride.

1856 – It’s Not Just a Date…

Inauspicious and low-key entrance to 1856

Inauspicious and low-key entrance to 1856

I asked my friend, Chuck Mitchell, a semi-retired plaintiff’s attorney, to join me for a foray into NE Portland where Chuck and his wife now live.  I knew that this former Eagle Scout and lawyer would not only be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, etc. but he would also ensure that we would not end up on the wrong side of lawsuit in case of a car wreck or personal injury ranging from a fist fight to slander or libel.  In fact Chuck is so proactive and aggressive that he once called 911 for rescue efforts when the escalator in Nordstrom’s broke down while he was in between floors.

Retired lawyer, Chuck Mitchell with Beerchaser logo

Portland lawyer, Chuck Mitchell with Beerchaser logo


Tiga – No functioning taps on the kegs that night – we will return, however!

Although our initial spot was a quiet bar named Tiga in Prescott Village, the tap to their kegs went blotto – meaning no draft beer – and the bartender suggested we try “1856” next door.

As evident from the first picture above, we might not have seen this bar and bottle shop otherwise, but it was a great recommendation.  We walked into a large room – a former barber shop which had been gutted and remodeled –  it had a small bar and hundreds of sparkling bottles of different beer, wine and ciders arranged on shelves.  Matt, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender/partner in the venture told us they had just opened in September of 2012. One of the other partners is, Yetta Vorobik, who also owns The Hop and Vine another bottle shop and bar on N Killingsworth.

Besides 6 rotating draft beers, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer
Besides 6 rotating draft beers and a cider tap, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer


Our first question to Matt, was the rationale for the numeric moniker of the bar.  He related that 1856 was the year that Louis Pasteur did landmark work on fermentation – obviously important to people in Matt’s line of work – and a lot of us who are beer and wine drinkers too.

Some research challenged that assumption, however, since at least one published timeline of Pasteur’s life did not list 1856 as a critical period – it focused instead on his later invention of the chicken chorea vaccine in 1878, and then in 1884, the rabies vaccine for dogs and used on humans the year afterwards.

1856 - although it was only beet alcohol, the year of his first paper on fermantation

1856 – although it was only beet root alcohol, the year of Louis Pasteur’s first paper on fermentation

It can be said that in 1856, a French industrialist did finance Pasteur’s research concerning the production of beet root alcohol. It was the beginning of his work on yeast, but since the scientist’s more important fermentation studies occurred in 1857, I tried to persuade Matt, that the bar should either be renamed or  commemorate one of the other historic events in 1856 such as:

The founding of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in Alabama;

The discovery of borax in Tuscan Springs, California;

The skirmish between Indians and settlers in the Battle of Seattle or

February 1856, when the American
(Know-Nothing) Party abolished secrecy.

Just some of the 200 varieties of wine (including cooking wine) at 1856

Just some of the 200 varieties of wine (including dessert wines) at 1856

Matt vetoed the name change and appropriately ended the debate by asking rhetorically why it was even necessary to abolish secrecy if they were, in fact, the Know Nothing party.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The Libation Selection – As stated in one recent Yelp review, This one’s a no brainer!  1856 has an incredible selection of beer and wine, both local and imports.  The draft list is always changing and interesting. Great music, knowledgeable and friendly staff. …everything a bottle shop should be.”

And its not limited to beer and wine.  As stated on the BrewPublic Blog in October, “It’s a new bottle shop/bar with an eclectic and diverse selection of libations…..over 50 ciders, and a variety of bitters, vermouth, and sake.” 

Even more shelves of wine, cider and sake...

Even more shelves of beer, wine, cider and sake…

Eco-Friendly – Matt was extremely friendly and the owners of 1856 set out to be amicable to the Earth in their facility and operations as well.  One of the partners is an owner in JRA Green Building and all materials were sourced locally and using green-friendly products such as concrete, shelving and floor treatments. 

All lighting is LED and the water heater is energy-efficient.  The bench in front is hand-made of reclaimed old fir timbers.

Matt and Chuck toast to each other's health and that of the Earth.

Matt and Chuck at the hand-made concrete bar, discuss the six rotating beer and one cider taps.

We sampled two beers from the six available on tap that night – they also have one cider tap.  Chuck had an Old Silenius from the Migration Brewery and Thebeerchaser enjoyed an Enkel from Portland’s Commons Brewery.  Both were outstanding and we debated buying a growler or jug of each, which 1856 sells or fills if you have your own.  Matt stated that in December they are featuring some great Belgian and German winter ales.

Rotating tap selection on "The Bier Board."

Rotating tap selection on “The Bier Board.”

1856 is a great addition to Portland.  The beer, the music and the ambiance were a treat.  We had dinner afterwards at their neighbor Grain & Gristle. Pok Pok Noi is also right next door.  1856 is still working on their web-site but we expect good things in the future from this new venture.

Hoisting an Old Silenius

Hoisting an Old Silenius

1856              1465 NE Prescott Street

Merry Christmas from Thebeerchaser!

Beerchaser Miscellany III

It’s Time for Pumpkin Ale….!

When the Suds are on the Pumpkin and……

Ben Franklin once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,”  however, seeing ads for such malty concoctions as Chili Ale and Coffee Beer, make Thebeerchaser yearn for the good old days when Blitz, Rainer, Schlitz, Oly and PBR were the standard.  That said, I was intrigued by the idea of Pumpkin Ale and decided it would not only be worth tasting, but could also decorate our porch during Halloween and into Thanksgiving.

I checked my favorite pub for esoteric brews – “Bottles” – on NE Fremont (see thebeerchaser review in July 2012) and the bartender said they had eight types.  (I might add that a new wine and beer bottle shop “1856” opened only two months ago on North East Prescott Street and rivals the selection available at Bottles.  It’s worth checking out.)  I chose the four pumpkin ale options from Bottles as shown below:

Wasatch BrewerySalt Lake CityPumpkin Seasonal” (brewed with natural pumpkin and spices)

Unita Brewing Co. – Salt Lake City Utah – “Harvest Punk’N Ale”(brewed with pumpkin and spices)

Elysian Brewing CompanySeattle Washington“Blight Pumpkin Ale(brewed with pumpkin and cinnamon)

Midnight Sun Brewery – Anchorage Alaska “Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter”  (brewed with pumpkin, cocoa nuts, cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg)   See photo below:

Midnight Sun’s Pumpkin – Like Drinking Licorice Cough Syrup…….

My favorite was the seasonal from Wasatch although all were good to me except the Midnight Sun “Chocolate Pumpkin Porter.”  Elysian Brewery has a bunch of other pumpkin ale options too.

But a Willamette Week review of their – “Dark o’ the Moon Stout,” drew this criticism and essentially echoed my opinion of the Midnight Sun Brewery pumpkin brew, “…is far too thick and meaty for whatever decorative baby gourds found their way into the mash.  Deeply roasty with chocolate and a little bitterness, it’s a great beer for a chilly night, but three tasters agreed that pumpkin flesh and seeds don’t come through at all.”

Finally, if you want some additional information on pumpkin and fall seasonal ales, you can check out the October 31st Willamette Week article “Fall’in for Brew” with this link.  It rates ten local ales with most of them not really cutting it in the taste category.

Fluoridation in Portland??

While most people agree that the Portland City Council totally blundered in the process, they voted unanimously in September to add flouride to Portland water by mid-2014.  Of course, one concern is by some opponents who “bristle” at the potential impact on Portland’s micro-brewing industry.

Fluorite Crystals – A Taste Test to Determine the Impact on Portland Microbrews??

It was reported that Portland’s Upright Brewing strongly supports the move based on the premise, “Good teeth are more important than Beer.” Other brewery owners, however, are not so sure.  It does set up what could be an intriguing blind taste-test in the future.

And speaking of blind taste tests, check out Willamette Week’s “President of Beers” contest (not a taste-test between President O’Bama and Mitt Romney…….), in which the weekly paper, “….Bootlegged Beer from All 50 States for the Ultimate American Taste-off.”  The October 5th edition of the paper chronicles the process in which Beaverbear Barleywine from North Dakota was the ultimate winner.  Oregon had only one brew in the top 50 – Deschutes Black Butte Porter (#7).

Elections and the Weather

Well, the wonderful dry fall we had is now gone and besides bad weather, we have been inundated with endless campaign ads bringing to mind the quote from Alexander Pope on what may be the most pragmatic attitude for election results:

Cynical or Pragmatic?

“Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  

And although I will admit to a bundle of references to Willamette Week in this post, this quote from the cynically humorous “Dr. Know”  in his column comparing the weather between the United Kingdom and the United States, is a good quote and perhaps the underlying rationale for a blog focused on a tour of bars, pubs and taverns:

“The weather is never so bad that you can’t make it to the pub, but never so good that you can do anything else.  This leads to a city and/or nation of sad, damp, doughy people drinking to kill their pain……”

Pioneer Pete and Political Correctness The efforts in both Oregon and Washington to end Native American mascots, nicknames and logos reminds me of how political correctness can go too far.  Washington is taking a more moderate approach and passed a resolution urging high schools to replace the mascots, while the Oregon Board of Education passed a ban in May.  Eight targeted (so to speak) schools have five years to comply, although I think that term connotes violence and aggression…

It brought to mind the graduation gift my Class of 1966 at Oregon City High School presented to the school for the Pioneer Gym –  a massive poster of our mascot, Pioneer Pete – a rugged type shown below:

Even though he carries weapons, he is still smiling….

Well, the mascot initiatives above reminded me of a 2001 story reported by The Oregonian to purportedly modify the Oregon City logo, as stated in this excerpt from the December 12, 2001 story:

” A burly guy with a coonskin cap, Pioneer Pete stands like a sentinel throughout Oregon City High School. He stares from hallway murals, the backs of varsity jackets and walls in the gymnasium and football stadium.

A musket in his grip and a knife slung off his hip, Pioneer Pete is catching some flak these days. Some students and administrators say his weapon-toting ways break rules that apply to students. He’s even been booted off the cover of a brochure advertising the search for a new superintendent.”

I’m pleased to report that the current Pioneer Pete doesn’t have a flag pole replacing his musket (the option proposed by the School Board) or a hair dryer (suggested by some pundits) and he still carries his bowie-knife.  It was interesting to review the comments in response to the article including this one by a staff person from the District to clarify and perhaps resolve the issue:

“Please note that this was not about Pioneer Pete , the OCHS mascot. It was a clip art picture that was to decorate a brochure to advertise our superintendent position nationally. Our preference, with the covered wagon on the cover, was a couple of pioneers, not a mountain man with a gun.

The story in the newspaper was inaccurate. There is no conversation about changing Pete at the high school. The Oregonian reporter has certainly heard from us today about the misleading story and we have asked for her to clarify that this was not a discussion about Pete. On a slow news day, this story has taken off. We have been barraged with angry people over our decision to change a clip art picture on a brochure……….”


In my recent Beerchaser-of-the-Month post honoring – so to speak – OSU Football Coach, Mike Riley, I cited my friend, attorney, Brien Flanagan, a Notre Dame grad and one who is reveling in the Fighting Irish’s undefeated season.  I stated the Brian had received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.  I was wrong – he went to law school at Georgetown University – an impressive academic background for a good lawyer.

Two Prestigious Alma Maters