The Benedictine Brewery
After over five years of planning and months of construction, the monks at the Benedictine Brewery are close to fulfilling the vision at the Mount Angel Abbey. I’ve worked as a volunteer on this wonderful project for the last two years. It will be one of only two breweries west of the Mississippi in which the monks are the owners and operators – the other being that located near Albuquerque, at the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery.
Father Martin Grassel, will be the General Manager and Fr. Jacob Stronach, the Head Brewer. The Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom will occur on September 22nd, shortly after the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest and you should plan to visit and raise a mug of their flagship beer – Black Habit. Or if you are not a fan of dark beer, try the superb Benedictine Farmhouse Pale Ale. Fr. Martin was Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in July, 2017.
The picture above shows the facility as it draws closer to completion. It has evolved from the remarkable Community Timber Raising ceremony in November at which over 100 monks, seminarians and community members helped erect the frame of the building from what started out as only the concrete foundation. Some amazing videos of the event are included in the post below:
The Dynamic World of Bars and Breweries.
The world of bars and breweries is ever changing. Fortunately, when we hear about bars closing, one will concurrently learn about new establishments – usually breweries, opening either in the former location as was the case with former Oregon Duck football star Joey Harrington’s Pearl Tavern (see below).
Successful enterpreneurs, Steve and Tom Waters, the owners and operators of the Backwoods Brewery and Taproom in Carson, Washington since 2012, will launch their new Pearl District pub in the vacated quarters at NW Everett and 11th. The Waters are both University of Portland grads and great people. Check out the new operation.
A loss to Portland is one of the first three bars I visited when I started Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in August 2011 – the Ash Street Saloon. A Willamette Week article entitled, “From Ashes to Ash Street,” describes the unique place this bar played in the Portland music scene before its December 2017 closing:
“When tales are told of the downtown ‘rock blocks’ that once cultivated a burgeoning music scene, the Ash Street Saloon often doesn’t take center stage…..But soldiering on for decades with genre’ spanning live acts 365 days a year served a function just as vital – and one we suspect, far harder to replace.”
Other closures in the last eighteen months or so include the Lompoc Hedge House, BTU Brasserie, the Commons and the historic Copper Penny in Lents – now a high rise surrounded by new development.
But new locations of existing breweries such as Sasquatch, Migration, Storm Breaker, Baerlic and Great Notion ensure that Portlanders will never lack for great locations to drink good beer.
And there are creative bars such as Fido’s, which according to Willamette Week purports to be the “world’s first dog tap house.” It opened last February in Tigard and “is part 40-tap beer bar and part dog rescue shelter with a playroom filled with six adoptable dogs…”
This brings back memories of Thebeerchaser’s 2014 visit to Sniff Cafe in NW Portland in which I reported:
If you stop in for a glass of beer or wine during Happy Hour….you get a $1 discount on beer and wine plus your pooch gets a free romp in the pet indoor play area – even getting occasional personal attention by one of their attendants. You also get to view not only your pooch, but the other dogs cavorting in this puppy plan pen.”
And while I am not generally a fan of retail establishments such as sports shop and especially Starbucks, ill-fated effort to substitute for the traditional neighborhood watering hole, I think two Portland establishments with this model deserve a visit.
One is Portland icon, Music Millennium – the oldest record store in the Pacific NW, operating since 1969 and after having some challenges with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, added beer and wine in 2015 to its amazing collection of recordings sold in all formats in their Burnside store.
And after a quick call, I was pleased to talk to an amiable chap on a Sunday evening, who told me that they currently had three beers on tap – all of them excellent from three outstanding Oregon breweries – Barley Brown’s, Boneyard and Pfriem.
So if you want to pick up (or sell) an historic or fabled music item such as the two in my collection of ’78’s and ’33 RPM albums (see pictures) check them out and have a micro-brew while you’re there.
The second retail establishment that looks interesting is also music-related – Strum. This is not the brewery in Ontario, California, but the vintage guitar shop and wine/beer bar on SE Stark Str.
As a Willamette Week article stated shortly after their opening earlier this summer, “If a guitar is the vehicle for rock music, then beer is the fuel.” (It has four micro-brew taps.)
Now these niche-type establishments have a place and deserve support, but Thebeerchaser harkens back to the neighborhood pub or dive bar for true ambiance. (Recent Beerchaser examples include The Standard, Mock Crest Tavern, or T.C. O’Leary’s or Gil’s Speakeasy just to name a few in Portland.
Of course, then you have the Old Oregon Saloon or The Sportsman Pub and Grub on the coast or Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee. But don’t forget … I could go on and on….!! (Click on the name of the establishment above to see Thebeerchaser’s review.)
An April, 2018 Willamette Week article entitled, “Bubble Bobble – After a Record Year of Closures, Craft Breweries are Rethinking Some Things” sums up the trend well:
“…beer geeks (are) wondering if the craft bubble has finally burst…..The answer might be to freshen up your direct-to-consumer roots, like all the local beer bars that have recently remodeled…..
One of such establishments that has done it right is Old Town Brewing – in its brewery and pub on NE Martin Luther King Blvd.
“Rather than expanding distribution, younger breweries…..are opening new locations to meet customers in person and compete as local watering holes…..Why shouldn’t breweries be more like coffee shops and local taverns instead of cold manufacturing spaces?”
The Portland BrewBarge
Thebeerchaser’s first experience on a mobile bar (as contrasted to the similar sensation in college described as the “Blind Whirley’s”…) was in 2014 on the Portland Pedalounge. Lloyd, the owner and “driver” took us on a great trip through the streets of SE Portland, stopping for brewskis at several bars and breweries along the way.
My friends and I really enjoyed this trip – and Lloyd was a kick. All of us would recommend it.
The second “bar in motion” experience was last week on the Portland BrewBarge. Unlike the Pedalounge or this company’s equivalent BrewCycle where you drink at stops along the way, you can enjoy a beer while “pedaling” the boat or just relaxing on your leisurely 90-minute cruise up and then back down the Willamette River – either with your own beer or what you purchase from them.
My son-in-law, Ryan Keene and I joined two of my favorite lawyers – Brien Flanagan and Carson Bowler – Environmental Law partners at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, where I worked for twenty-five years before retiring.
The BrewBarge was an outing for Summer Associates (law school students who clerk at the firm) and a few graduates who had finished the Oregon Bar Exam that afternoon and were understandably ready to slake their thirst.
Note: It was nice to be floating on the surface of the beautiful Willamette and Brien, Carson and I did not talk about the DEQ, the EPA or the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services. I also took comfort in a recent article I read in an OPB post (6/17/18) which based on their research with the aforementioned agencies asserted:
“A person would have to spend a very long time in the river – like hundreds of years – or be exposed to much high concentrations of heavy metals, industrial compounds, flame retardants, agriculture chemicals and pharmaceuticals to reach the level of exposure health officials worry about.”
(Carson opined that the likelihood of me having an adverse reaction was more probable based on drinking PBR than exposure to the aforementioned toxins…)
Captain Eric, a Wilson High School alum, and Eric Johnson, who was the deckhand, after advising us on safety procedures (given the number of lawyers on board, I assume this was more extensive than their standard spiel.) headed north and the young guys and gals peddled while downing beer which was mostly bottled IPA’s.
I sat on the far aft bench with my two friends and downed two canned PBRs – it doesn’t get any better, especially since Brien – who got his law degree at prestigious Georgetown Law after graduating from Notre Dame – reminded me in light of Oregon State’s recent ignominious football record, how the Beavs cleaned the Irish’s clock 41 to 9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.
Captain Eric had worked there since the inception three years ago and business has been good for the owners who started the Portland venture after a successful run of the concept in Savannah Georgia.
It’s quite reasonable and the cost is only $35 per person unless you take the 90-minute sail on Friday or Saturday when its $40. Bring your own beer to save on expense and enjoy the great views of the Willamette.
A Trusted Resource Goes Wrong at least for Thebeerchaser…
Speaking of local watering holes that feel like home (NOT!) my usually trusted resource Willamette Week hit it wrong on a recent recommendation.
The Happy Fortune on Barbur Blvd. had shifted its focus from dining to drinking and I checked it out with a friend. WW asserted that:
“….Happy Fortune juggles an oddly congenial hotpot of upscale transients, Lewis & Clark undergrads, amiable suburbanites drinking through the commute, and an enviable corps of die-hard regulars.”
Well perhaps that’s true and to be fair, we only made one, rather than the customary two or more visits, but I will not return.
The selection of beers was not great, (I had a bottled Tsingtao) but the weekday afternoon, we were there, had no ambiance – either in the environment, staff or regulars and just did not hit the mark in my opinion. It seemed like an old and worn restaurant turned bar. My fortune that day was not a happy one!