Bazi Bierbrasserie – More Than Just a Walk in the Park!

Another one of Draft Magazine's 100 Best Beer Bars

Another one of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars

Bazi Bierbrasserie (Bazi) is another one of the select five Portland taverns which made Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the USA for 2014.  And Thebeerchaser has done reviews of two of the others in this list – Bailey’s Taproom (reviewed 4/13 – somewhat of a disappointment) and Saraveza (reviewed 3/14).      P1020153

Bazi was a definite favorite with our group, which included Roy Lambert, Mary Maxwell, David and Kate Dickson and Janet, Thebeerchaser’s spouse.  We typically take a walk before eating and drinking – a great way to get exercise and mitigate the guilt from partaking in pub faire.

And Mary, who prior to retirement in 2009 was the Director of Aviation for the Port of Portland, demonstrated her superior planning skills by charting a superb 2.5 mile walk through the Lone Fir Cemetery and Laurelhurst Park on a rare, beautiful spring day.

Perhaps this should be labeled "The Beer Walk"....

Perhaps this should be labeled “The Beer Walk”….

Strolling through the Lone Fir was very interesting and we learned about the ties with Portland’s Russian community – as evidenced by many of the family plots with pictures engraved in the stone monuments.

” ….Russian immigrant graves  which are distinguished by colorful plantings of genuine, live flowers, creating a patchwork of color among the somber greens. The Russians are particularly fond of a kind of black granite which they have laser-etched with their likeness and, usually, a highly romantic scene. (Flickr – “Dead Man Talking”

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Laser-etched likeness….

For those interested in Portland history, Lone Fir Cemetery “….reads like a good book, telling the story of the many eras of settlement and development that have transformed the Portland area since the cemetery was founded in 1855. This 30-acre property is the resting place for more than 25,000 people, including famous Portlanders with names like Lovejoy and Hawthorne. Visitors will also find notable trees and shrubs, giving Lone Fir the feel of an arboretum.” (Metro website)  P1020142

 

We then walked through Laurelhurst Park, which on one of the first nice days in many moons, teemed with people and activity.  The 27 acre park was purchased by the City of Portland in 2011, and in 1919, the Pacific Coast Parks Association named it the “most beautiful park” on the West Coast. It was also the first city park ever to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Portland Gem!
A Portland Gem!

Although the walk was great, the biggest treat was still to come – drinks and great food at Bazi.  And it was evident by the total experience why this bar made Draft’s Top 100 list.

The beer selection is extensive, the staff is knowledgeable and the food really good.  “Bazi is a Dutch word for lovable crook or scoundrel….Bierbrasserie is a noun used in Flemish Belgian to describe establishments that have great food and a killer beer and beverage selection.” (Bazi website)

The Portland Barfly summary is apt:

A great place to watch Timber (or Blazer games.
A great place to watch Timber (or Blazer games.

“Suds snobs rejoice! This friendly Hawthorne neighborhood hang has more than 15 Belgian-style brews on tap, including locals like Double Mountain, Pfriem, and Commons. It’s a dandy spot to watch Portland Timbers games on the 119″ big screen, and the food is surprisingly awesome….”       

 

An extensive selection of Belgian beers.

An extensive selection of Belgian beers.

 

One of the distinguishing features for Bazi is its management –  Hilda Stevens is the owner.  I was surprised to find while researching before my visit that she responded to many comments from sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor – most notably, the critical ones – which often times are really trite and unwarranted.

Hilda, the owner, (holding the logo) with our group.

Hilda, the owner, (holding the logo) with our group.

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An example was a complaint on Yelp, by a customer who thought the food service was too slow:

“Thanks for taking the time to write. Can you let me know when you visited recently that you experienced slow service?….

I’ve also been monitoring our food tickets and they’ve been in the 5-25 minute range. Considering we make everything from scratch that’s within industry standards. The more information you can send me as to your recent visit the more valuable it will as I investigate the situation. Thank you again for being a return customer. I value everyone’s feedback, but specially those who continue to support us.” Hilda

I have to admit, given the ongoing success of the bar, which opened in May, 2011, and was an immediate hit and the moniker, “Hilda,”  I was expecting the proprietor to be a much older person.  When we chatted with her, however, we met a delightful, young entrepreneur, who was raised and went to college in Texas.   She traveled extensively in Europe and did a bunch of research – most notably on Belgian beers.  She completed her Masters’ Degree at Oregon’s George Fox University and developed a smart business plan – to specialize in Belgian beers – and capitalize on service and quality – this was evident.

The bar at Bazi

The bar at Bazi 1906 reclaimed wood from the Jim Beam distillery in Lexington, Kentucky!

Our server, Sydney, was also very knowledgeable and offered specific and detailed comments on several of the seventeen beers on tap, which helped in our selection – we tried a few including Oakshire Frederic’s Lost Arm Farmhouse Ale and the Bavik Premium Pilsner – all very good.

In retrospect, given the superb selection, we should have done a flight of four 5oz. pours ($10 Domestic and $15 Imported.)

Given the outstanding line-up of handcrafted cocktails, Thebeerchaser also tried the $5 Happy Hour Cocktail which that day was “Sleepless in Oostende” (Jim Beam, lemon and orange juice and orange bitters.)  The cocktails are named after Belgian cities.

Oostende is a Belgian city located in the Flemish province of West Flanders.  The “sleepless” reference might result from worry that the series of the dikes that keep the North Sea from flooding this town would fail.  Or perhaps it is in recognition of the City’s guards during The Siege of Oostende (1601 -1604) of which it was said that “the Spanish assailed the unassailable and the Dutch defended the indefensible”  (Wikipedia).  The siege resulted in 80,000 combined casualties – the single bloodiest battle of the Eighty Years’ War.

Bazi also has an extensive list of bottled beers and ciders, a nice wine selection, a bunch of hard liquor selections you can get by the shot, and you can also fill your growler.

Impressive Happy Hour menu.

Impressive Happy Hour menu.

You can see from the picture that they have a robust Happy Hour menu.  The Baon burger, fried chick peas, brussels sprouts, veggie burger and most notably, the Stoemp (Yukon mashed-potatoes and veggies) were all scrumptious.

Great food - made from scratch....
Great food – made from scratch….

The patio was full that day and it was obvious that it was both dog and family friendly.

The Patio

The Patio

As stated in the most recent Beerchaser post, I have conceptual difficulties with rankings; however, having visited five of the eight Portland bars making the Draft Magazine Top 100 Beer Bars in the last five years, Bazi is my favorite so far.  (The Horse Brass Pub (reviewed in 5/13), Concordia Ale House, the Green Dragon and Imperial Bottle Shop have also made the list in prior years.)

And when you visit Bazi, try a walk in the park and a stroll through the burial grounds – it’s a hike with a plot!

P1020148

Bazi Bierbrasserie           1522 SE 32nd Ave Phone (503) 234-8888

Old-growth timber in Laurelhurst Park

Old-growth timber in Laruelhurst Park

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(To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)

Beerchaser Miscellany – April 2014

Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses at Church Bar
Beerchaser regular, John Mansfield in a margarita toast to the 95 Theses at Church Bar

 Thebeerchaser.com 

Views of this blog have now exceeded 26,000 since its commencement in August 2011.  Average views per month during the last year are about 1,200 and there are now 53 Followers – folks who get an e-mail automatically every time there’s a new post.  If you want to be in this esteemed group, click on the little black box in the bottom right of the screen and put in your e-mail address.

And one reason for getting more views – amazingly from all over the world (today there were hits from Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands and Greece)  – is the “tagging” in each post.  For example, I tagged “Portland lawyer John Mansfield,” in my last post and several persons searching for him on Google came across his name and clicked on Thebeerchaser.com – something I’m sure that John appreciates as a marketing opportunity for his intellectual property law practice!

And since the blog’s statistics page showed that someone had searched on “Don Williams Drinks Beer,” I tried it myself and the screen came back with 3,260,000 potential hits – and “Don Williams Thebeerchaser” was first on the list.   A lot of them were links to the country-western singer by the same name, who is also referred to as “The Gentle Giant.” 

Not the Beerchaser, but The Gentle Giant probably also likes beer....

Not the Beerchaser, but The Gentle Giant probably also likes beer….

Some of these links were kind of interesting – like the one on page 10:  “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy.”  It was about hazing at Dartmouth and Williams College.   (To clarify, I was an Ag College Frat Boy.)   Another hit was entitled, “Hops in Beer and Estrogen Level…..”

 Lists…..Who cares!!???

I’ve always wondered about awards naming “the best” or lists with rankings – they are very questionable.  Part of the skepticism is Thebeerchaser’s own example – named as “Wittiest” in 9th grade and “Most Likely to Succeed in High School” – no further evidence needed to affirm this theory….

The Bar at North Portland's Saraveza

The Bar at North Portland’s Saraveza

For example, this blog, while making very positive comments about Saraveza (reviewed in March 2014) – one of the five Portland bars again making Draft Magazine’s Top 100 Beer Bars in the USA, questioned the criteria and the same issue was raised by another repeat 100 Best Bar – Portland’s Bailey’s Taproom.  

My recent visit impressed me with Bailey’s outstanding selection of beer and the expertise of the staff; however, the only food available had to be ordered from the restaurant across the street.   

Bailey's Taproom - another one of the five Portland beer bars in Draft Magazine's Top 100

Bailey’s Taproom – another one of the five Portland beer bars in Draft Magazine’s Top 100

That same day, I went back to Crackerjack’s Pub, a quaint neighborhood dive bar in NW Portland, which is one of my all-time favorites since Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced.  

Could it ever be a Top 100 venue?  Stay tuned for reviews of both of these establishments.

Not in the Top 100, but an outstanding bar (review coming soon)

Not in the Top 100, but an outstanding bar (review coming soon)

 While lists may not be valid for some purposes, they are interesting.  For example, as reported in an October, 2013 edition of The Week magazine, residents of North Dakota consume more beer than any other state – an average of 46 gallons last year, which is an increase of 9.5% and exceeding the 44 gallons of New Hampshire residents – No. 2 on the list.

West Linn – One of America’s Safest Cities

Not to belabor the point, but The City of West Linn, where I reside, was recently voted the 31st safest city in the US and according to Neighborhood Scout – a real estate service (which obviously is a credible source….) the safest city in Oregon. 

Again, it raised question as to how this ranking was determined.  Any doubt was laid to rest, however, when I read a few  actual excerpts from past West Linn Police Reports in the West Linn Tidings.   See below and you may also agree that “safest” may be synonymous with “boring” or perhaps in a few cases “crazy:”         

City of West Linn logo

City of West Linn logo

1/10 – Someone wrote “vulgar” in the dirt on a vehicle in the 1700 Block of Willamette Drive.

11/29 – A caller was frightened by a “round, bright, white light shining through the trees.”  It was the moon.

11/29 – A suspicious man with a gas can asking for gas in the 4600 block of Elmran Drive really was out of gas.

8/26 – A man eating a bowl of cereal while driving ran a stop sign in 22900 block of Willamette Drive

8/26 Two suspicious men with a basketball were seen entering Midhill Park.  Officers found them playing basketball.

10/26 – What appeared to be a severed leg in a driveway in the 19200 block of View Drive was really a Halloween decoration.

12/31 – A man walking  out of tall grass near northbound I-205 at 10th Street seemed “odd.”  In reality, he had run out of gas and was retrieving some.

At least one word of advice – “Keep a full tank of gas when you are in Oregon’s safest city!”

 And for the curious, the safest city was Franklin, Massachusetts and the most dangerous, East St. LouisLake Oswego ranked number 84.

And speaking of weird headlines, I found the following in my collection:

“West Linn Man Cited for Hanging Dead Squirrel” The Oregonian

“Death of 105-year old Milwaukie Man Investigated as Suspicious” The Oregonian

 

Resourcefulness and Beer

A liquid with multiple vocations....
A liquid with multiple vocations….

The off-duty Houston firefighter was returning with his wife from a car trip when they spotted a large truck on fire – not a big fire but one that could spread. The truck was hauling beer.

The small fire extinguisher on the truck was not enough so they started “shaking and spraying cans of beer on the blaze and the fire went out.”  This refutes the quote by the 19th century German who opined, “Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation.”

 

The Plover by Brian Doyle

The recent Beerchaser of the Quarter, Portland author, Brian Doylealso the editor of the wonderful University of Portland’s Portland Magazine, with whom I recently had the pleasure of raising a mug at his favorite pub – The Fulsom Brew Pub, just had his most recent novel published.           

Brian Doyle at The Fulsom Brew Pub

Brian Doyle at The Fulsom Brew Pub

The Plover, is a nautical tale and the following reviews indicate that those who enjoyed Mink River or his wonderful short stories and essays, will be in for a good read:

“A rare and unusual book and a brilliant, mystical exploration of the human spirit.” Kirkus Reviews

“Doyle has written a novel in the adventurous style of Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson but with a gentle mocking of their valorization of the individual as absolute. Readers will enjoy this bracing and euphoric ode to the vastness of the ocean and the unexpectedness of life.” Library Journal

Saraveza – Breaking the Top 100 – Again…

A beacon in Northeast Portland - Sareveza

Saraveza – A beacon in North Portland

Saraveza in North Portland is a great bar and for the fourth year in a row, it is on the list of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the country – along with four other Portland establishments in 2014 – Bailey’s Tap Room, Bazi Bierbrasserie, Belmont Station (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in April 2013) and Imperial Bottle Shop.  Missing for the firm time in three years are The Horse Brass Pub (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in May 2013) and Apex.  It should be noted that there are only 31 bars in the entire Western region of the US which garnered this honor.

Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station in 2013
Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station  – another in the Top 100

Without making any inference about these venues, it raises a few questions about how Draft Magazine determines its annual listing of the best beer bars in the country. For context, the publication prefaces its 2014 awards with the statement:

 “After six years of making this annual list, we had to rethink the definition of a top-notch beer bar. New ones are opening every second, and “good beer bar” no longer equals a zillion taps; there’s just more to it now. We needed to walk out of these places saying, ‘Now there’s a bar that really, really cares about your experience with beer.’”

So what does that mean? Having well-cared for, thoughtfully selected beer with an eye toward variety, trends and tradition, in the kind of place you’d want to stay awhile, delivered by someone who knows their stuff. We don’t want to send you to a place where the server doesn’t look up from her texting when you ask questions….”

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

To support its premise, the publication even uses the example of Bailey’s in Portland which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. 

This statement raises the question, however, about how sophisticated or picky a beer drinker has to be to truly enjoy his brewski – harkening back to college days when a luke-warm Blitz in a can (even if it had already been opened for several days) was synonymous with Nirvana on a hot day in Corvallis.

Year and temperature unknown, but eminently drinkable -- still

Year and temperature unknown, but still eminently drinkable — (Thanks to Olyguy and Olygal for the photo)

One reader who questioned the criteria stated, “Interesting that a bar from one year can be left off the list the next year, even though nothing has changed about it to warrant not making the list.”

And the list does make one wonder if Draft personnel personally visit all these bars – and more importantly, about the thousands of other watering holes which didn’t make the list but serve a mean micro-brew and have great ambiance.

Okay!  So I worked around lawyers for almost forty years – process is important – but rather than castigate Draft Magazine, I will put forth Thebeerchaser’s Theorem on Bars based on my experience visiting 52 bars since August 2011 when Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced:

“Bars are like  Bull Markets or ______, (fill in your own option) when they are good, they are fantastic and even when they are bad, they are still very good.”

The bar at Saraveza

The bar at Saraveza

But I digress – Saraveza is a really neat bar.  It has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Drink Guide or best bar list every year since it opened. The 2010 description is representative:

“With illuminated PBR signs posing as art, a bottle-cap mosaic tabletop and a misguided allegiance to the *#+*% Green Bay Packers, Saraveza is like the coolest Midwestern dorm room ever. The only problem is that Portland lacks a soul-crushing winter freeze to justify the heft Saraveza will donate to your midsection.”

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers - but don't publicize it in this bar

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers – but don’t publicize it in this bar

       

 “There’s the beer, of course—in bottles big and small, drafts bitter and sour and strong—but the pasties will do some damage, too. Bring a date and split one of those flaky meat pies and a mountainous Caesar salad.”

One important factor which makes a superb bar is the staff.  And from Sarah Pederson, the owner and founder of the bar in 2008, (the name of the bar is derived from a combination of her name and the Spanish word for “beer.”) to Tyler “The Elder” Vickers – the original bartender, who is still there, they have a great team.  I heard Sarah speak to a civic group a few years ago and she truly has a passion for her craft and is another Oregon example of a young entrepreneur who successfully pursued her dream.

In fact, our waiter, Brian – who had only worked at Saraveza for about six months – was one of the best waiters encountered on Thebeerchaser tour to date.  He was friendly, knowledgeable and the epitome of a great server.

Brian - an example of the great Saraveza team

Brian (on the left) – an example of the great Saraveza team –  Roy holding Thebeerchaser logo, Mary and Janet

Thebeerchaser and his wife, Janet, were pleased to be accompanied by Roy Lambert, a retired tax lawyer from Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt.

Roy who could be considered an Ivy League guy having graduated from Cornell before going on to Columbia University Law School and then hitting the books again where he earned his LLM – a Masters Degree in tax at NYU – is also an avid swimmer. In college, he swam for Cornell and now swims every morning at 6:00 AM.  His background prompted me to find my favorite quotes to promote some erudite conversation that night about taxes:

Will Rogers - "I can't figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation."

Will Rogers – “I can’t figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation.”

As a starting premise: “The Internal Revenue Code should provide some evidence that it was written on purpose.” He was also reluctant to agree with Will Rogers, who stated, “The reason death is not as bad as taxes is because death does not get worse each time Congress meets.” 

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Nine beers on tap and then there's the bottles....

Nine beers on tap and then there’s the bottles….

Brian did a great job of walking us through the nine beers on tap and encouraged us to sample those that were not familiar.

Interestingly, three of the four of us immediately chose the Occidental Brewery’s Dopplebock – a great choice.

Roy’s companion was Mary Maxwell, who is a very interesting lady and had a demanding and important job as Director of Aviation for the Port of Portland for four years before she retired in 2009.  Prior to that she was the Port’s General Manager of Business and Properties for seventeen years.  I’m sure that she has stories which would make novelist Arthur Hailey’s Airport Manager, Mel Bakersfield glad that his fictitious job was prior to the TSA.  The tales would also be much more interesting than Roy’s yarns about the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code.

Wikimedia Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portlandinternationalairportfromtheair.jpg)  Photo by Mike Teague, September 2005
PDX – An operation exceeding $150 million annually

Mary had a bottle of Red Nectar Ale from Humboldt Brewery in California. “….. a floral aroma, distinctive accents of toasted malt, caramel, spice and a sweetness to appease those demanding taste buds.”

Red Nectar Ale - an excellent bottled beer

Red Nectar Ale – an excellent bottled beer

And those who love Saraveza for the food, have a reason.  Our group had macaroni and cheese, bratwurst and the fabled Caesar salad – it was mountainous!  We reluctantly passed on the free bacon (if  you buy a beer) because we were there on Bacon Night the second Monday of each month.

The pasties also receive rave reviews.  I was not familiar with this traditional British pastry filled with meat or mushrooms or vegetables or combinations thereof – a specialty at Saraveza and one which they have mastered.  The rest of the menu is also varied and extensive.

The pasty - Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

The pasty – Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

We took home what was a first-rate  quart off Portland’s Upright Brewing ” Five” (“Five blends three hop varieties with pale caramel malt to create full flavors. Subtle pale fruit aromas produced during the fermentation brighten the profile and provide contrast to its bitterness.”)

Upright Brewing's  Five -  Beer-to-Go...
Beer-to-go: Upright Brewing’s “Five” 

It’s  one of the 250 different kinds of beers they have in attractive display cases.  In fact, Brian stated that a sizeable portion of their clientele is patrons who come in on beer tours and one can understand why such a tour would choose Saraveza.

Beer in Surround - sound.....

More Beer Stuff….

And one last thought about Draft Magazine – perhaps after Thebeerchaser hits the remaining 700 Portland watering holes, the Tour should start visiting the top 100 and those that did not make the cut too!

Saraveza Bottle and Pasty Shop

   1004 N. Killingsworth