The Coast is Clear……..Reflections

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

 

Well Beerchaser followers, I’ve told you since March that I’ve not been to any new watering hole because of the lockdown and pandemic.  

To be safe, we have just stayed away and confined our consumption of my favorite beverage to Happy Hours on our back deck with the exception of one visit to the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon. (see below)

We added to that one exception on October 15th however, when we went to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  On a beautiful fall Friday, my spouse convinced me to break away from the Siren Call of “Breaking News” on cable television and drive down the Oregon Coast from our base in Lincoln City on the Central Oregon Coast.  

A beautiful sunset the night before helped me to fully grasp the natural treasure that we have in our own backyard.  

We drove about 50 miles south along Oregon’s amazing scenic coastline momentarily escaping thoughts of COVID and focusing on breaking waves, seals and gulls populating dramatic rocky cliffs and the surrounding lush forest which complements the ocean views. 

And all the while, we remembered the legacy of Governor Tom McCall, whose actions in 1967 preserved public access to the beaches in the Oregon Beach Bill.

On our 2017 road trip

Yachats Brewing was not a new establishment for us – we had stopped here during a road trip in 2017 which I highlighted in a November blog post – it was a wonderful place to have lunch.  Still being cautious about COVID, we ate on the patio which is right on Highway 101.

We split a tasty pint named “Bestest Mensch” which is a hoppy and delicious collaboration with the innovative Wolf Tree Brewery a few miles up the road. Our server was friendly and helpful.

I had a delicious brisket sandwich while Janet’s chicken-salad sandwich was also a winner.  Yachats did a great job observing preventive and cautionary COVID measures so we were buoyed, so to speak, by the fact that this coastal brewery appeared to be thriving during these challenging times.

It was a wonderful day and we realized how fortunate we are to be able to have a day like this and will continue our prayers and support for those who are struggling with the pandemic.

A Quick Watering Hole Update

Bars, breweries and restaurants are some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic and I was saddened to see that Bailey’s Tap Room and it’s upstairs annex, the Upper Lip – reviewed in the early days of Thebeerchaser – closed permanently.  

Bailey’s featured twenty-four rotating taps of great microbrews and was a repeat recipient of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America.

I won’t go into all of the closures in Portland but to give you an idea of the breadth of this economic downtown for the hospitality industry, other shut-downs include Back Pedal Brewing  on NW Flanders, Grixen Brewery – a SE Portland brewery established in 2013 which was:

 “….one of the area’s most striking brewpubs with open-beam high ceilings and old-growth timber repurposed into table tops and other accents.  Modern-industrial custom metalworks graced the space, with rolling bar-table frames and a 600-pound lighting trust above the length of the bar.” (Oregonian, 8/19/20) 

We visited Grixen early this year as my neighbor was one of the three owners, but I didn’t have the chance to write a Beerchaser review.)

Another innovative brewery – Base Camp – which is owned by Justin Fay, a graduate of the Oregon State University Fermentation Science Program and opened in 2012 by some Klamath Falls friends, shut down its Buckman Neighborhood brewery:

“The taproom with its spacious outdoor areas, fire-pit and food-cart pod, was a popular spot for years, attracting neighborhood regulars and drawing from Portland’s beer tourism as the scene exploded around it, all while spreading the outdoor life mantra.” (Oregonian 8/19/20)

Even some of the stalwarts of the Oregon Craft Industry are having to revamp their operations to cut operating costs because of reduced patronage.  For example, Rogue Brewing shut its public house in the Pearl District in September after 20 years (Willamette Week) although its two other Portland locations will remain open.

The BeerMongers

With the closures above, I was heartened to see that another early destination when I started Beerchasing – The BeerMongers – celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. 

I went to this eastside bottle shop and taproom with former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, in 2014 right after he assumed the Executive Director position of the City Club of Portland.cxcvx

The BeerMongers  is “known for its artfully curated selection of beers, being named the Best Beer Bar in Oregon by Craftbeer.com in 2018.”  (Oregonian 8/30/19)  The owner of Porto Bello, the pizzeria – a vegan trattoria in the same building as the bar in between BeerMongers and a tattoo parlor next door – came over to our table and said:

“Sam Adams, we really miss you.  I want to buy you guys a pizza!” 

Sam Adams and Porto Bello owner

She came back ten minutes later with a delicious complimentary pizza which meshed perfectly with the pints we drank. 

Unfortunately, it appears that Porto Bello wasn’t still around to celebrate with its neighbor in 2019.

The Monks’ Legacy Continues

Some of you know that I was involved as a volunteer in the planning of the Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom, which opened in the fall of 2018 on land owned by the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary in the rural area east of Salem. 

The community effort in erecting the structure in late 2017 is a wonderful story (check out the videos in the post below) and it’s one of only three breweries in the US owned and operated by Benedictine Monks.   https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

A skilled brewer – Father Martin Grassel

And former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Fr. Martin Grassel, the Manager and Head Brewer reported that the first year of operations was a great success.  He brewed 118 barrels with sales that greatly exceed expectations that year.

When the pandemic hit in March and with the lockdown, only take-out sales were allowed for ten weeks in 2020, but since reopening,  the Brewery continues to thrive with August being the highest month of sales since opening in 2018.

My wife and I can confirm that the Taproom was very cognizant of COVID measures and has an expansive patio area which allows social distancing.   The Taproom will soon have a permanent heated pavilion tent above it during winter months.  

And the best part of was taking the short hike up to the Abbey Hilltop and strolling around the  campus with outstanding views.  The beautiful chapel has also reopened.

While the ambiance and the scenery is a real draw, the key is Fr. Martin’s growing skill as a brewer.

With over ten beers now on tap, this former software engineer has drawn rave reviews for the quality and taste of his brews with the St. Michael’s Helles being the most popular although the flagship Black Habit is also a favorite.

And take a look at the charcuterie plate that you can enjoy while drinking one of Fr. Martin’s beers.

Survival of the Fittest?

Speaking of the pandemic, there’s nothing remotely funny about this global tragedy, but maybe it helps a little to try to look on the light side when one can – for example, this post from one of my favorite dive bars.

Darwin’s Theory is in downtown Anchorage and owned by a fellow Oregon State University alumnus.  This “story” was in it’s latest newsletter.

Darwin wrote: “We were in the 11th day of self quarantine.  As I saw my wife quietly standing in front of the living room window staring off into space with tears running down her face, it was breaking my heart.  I was trying to think of some way to cheer her up.  In fact, I almost considered letting her inside, but rules are rules!”

Maybe he named his bar Darwin’s Theory because of his adherence to the concept “Survival of the Fittest”.

“Dough nut” Follow This Example!

In a previous Beerchaser post where I cover the legal profession and how I enjoyed working with lawyers for over thirty-five years, I mentioned some bizarre cases.  Some of the most recently appreciated essential workers have been emergency responders although this 2001 incident reported by MyPlainview.com addresses an incident some years ago. 

The incident precipitating the lawsuit was bizarre:

“An ambulance driver was fired after being accused of stopping for doughnuts while taking a patient to the hospital….The incident occurred while (he) was taking a boy to the hospital with a leg injury.  The injury was not life threatening.  The boy’s mother filed a complaint.”

“Eat one whenever you want”…Not!”

But perhaps more bizarre was the fact that the driver then filed suit against the City of Houston for intentional infliction of emotional distress and racial discrimination. 

While initially a judge rejected the City’s effort to have the case dismissed and ordered the plaintiff to amend his lawsuit, all of the claims were ultimately dismissed in July 2002. (I’ve been saving that one up for a long time….)

Cheers and Stay Safe!

 

Bailey’s Tap Room – Keep a Stiff “Upper Lip”

Bailey's - Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

Bailey’s – Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

As was the case with The Tugboat Brewery, (reviewed in March, 2013), Thebeerchaser was embarrassed that he worked downtown – right on the Portland Transit Mall for many years and had never visited – or even known about Bailey’s Tap Room.  For five straight years, it has made Draft Magazine’s Top 100 USA Beer Bars.  It even got special recognition in the preface to the list with the following quote:

“We want you to go to Bailey’s Taproom in Portland, Ore., which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. We want you to go to all 100 of these places, because they really are a cut above the rest.” (Actually, part of this statement is incorrect – the digital display shows how much of the keg is left, but does not give the date it was tapped, although it does have the designation, “Just Tapped” for a few selections. )

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Accompanying me were Oregon appellate lawyer, Jack Faust, – who before retiring, made it on a number of list for many years – that of Oregon’s and America’s best lawyers.  Jack, who was also the award-winning moderator of KATU’s Town Hall program, was joined by his son, Charlie.

Bailey’s has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide, featuring the paper’s favorite Portland bars every year since its opening in 2007, but let’s examine the rationale for Bailey’s –  BEER!!! (not that there’s anything wrong with that….)

Scott - one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

Scott – one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

"Beer-me-up, Scotty!"  The space-age display

“Beer-me-up, Scotty!” The space-age display

The twenty-four rotating taps of West-coast beers – according to Scott, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender – they tap about five new ones each day – are an eclectic and impressive list supplemented by spotless showcases featuring over fifty bottled beers from all over the USA.

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

But the title of 100 Best Beer Bars begs the question, “How come?”   The Beerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs is not primarily about the beer.  It’s about the ambiance and distinguishing characteristics that make you want to return to an establishment with your friend(s).

And that’s lacking at Bailey’s as evidenced by the following excerpts from the Willamette Week guide:

2009“What it lacks in atmosphere (white walls, bright lights and sparse decorations give off the vibe of an operating room) Bailey’s makes up in suds.”

2012“Simplicity is the name of the game at this busy downtown beer bar.  No liquor, no wine, no food, no games – just 20 taps of craft beers and a dozen tables filled with mostly male computer programmers, loan officers and other assorted cubicle drones.”

2014 –  “Really, the people are the only problem at Baileys.  First, there are always far too many of them crammed into the SW Broadway space, bird-dogging tables even when somebody just gets up to go the restroom.”

P1020110
Now it’s certainly true, that we had an excellent sampling of esoteric beers – and it helps that  they have both large and small glasses (4 ounces) for a number of brews, so you can get a good sampling and maintain your equilibrium and your wallet.

And Scott and Janelle, the bartenders, were extremely helpful and patient in explaining each one – but the overall atmosphere was more like that of a cafeteria (without the food…) than a bar or pub.

Between the four ounce glasses and sharing some pints, we tasted the following beers:

Green Flash White IPA (Belgian)         Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout

Ninkasi Critical Hit      Kermit the Hop IPA        Stillwater French Farm Ale

Heater Allen Pilsner (McMinnville)      Ballast Point Navigator Doppelbock

New Belgian Gruitt (horehound, bog myrtlle, yarrow, wormwood and elderflower)

All of them were great except the Espresso Stout, which would have been better at Starbucks.

No food except what comes in externally - thanks Charlie!

No food except what comes in externally – thanks Charlie!

Fortunately, Charlie Faust had the foresight to bring some pretzels we could munch on and a number of reviews talk favorably about Santeria, the Mexican restaurant across the street that will deliver orders to go to the bar, and evidently has great food.

The lack of atmosphere and food means you focus the conversation on the beer and your compatriots – that’s not a bad thing given the background of the Fausts:

For example, I learned that Charlie, after graduation from U of O, traveled for a year in Europe and SE Asia, then worked as a staffer for Senator Bob Packwood.  That prepared him to weather the storms when he worked for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and had the experience of being on the crew in a NOAA hurricane research plane during Gloria in 1985 – peak winds of 155 mph.

Charlie's plane was in there someplace....
Charlie’s plane was in there someplace….

 

Jack Faust - Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff....
Jack Faust – Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff….

And drinking beer with Jack Faust, means chatting with a very interesting and intelligent guy – after all, for years he had a hobby of brewing beer in his garage.  (once brewed a raspberry ale that was the color of sweat…)

He graduated first in his class at U of O Law School, was editor of the Law Review and still stimulates conversation with queries such as, “When will all the rhetorical questions end…?”

I shifted the conversation to past cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court after he told me that he would have to kill me if I asked any more questions about his service as a Special Agent in the Far East Command of the Army Counterintelligence Corps during the Korean War.

I will have to admit, however, that Charlie and I were both fascinated by his recounting the details of his arguments in the 1986 Oregon Supreme case Oregon Republican Party v. State of Oregon.  Did the Party violate the Oregon Corrupt Practices Act provision that “[n]o person * * * shall directly or indirectly subject any person to undue influence?”

And  finally,Thebeerchaser’s standard practice of visiting each bar reviewed twice, paid off because Scott the bartender, casually mentioned that I should visit “Bailey’s Upper Lip.”  My response was to ask whether I needed a secret code word or a note from the bartender, but that wasn’t the case.

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

And walking part way down Ankeny Street to an inauspicious doorway with only a bottle on the door, and then up a dark, narrow stairway heightened the anticipation of what awaited.

Willamette Week’s 2014 Bar Guide sums it up well:  “There, you’ll find six well-chosen taps and a massive case of bottles ranging from Belgians to small-batch bourbon stouts.   P1020166

There’s a short bar, a long table for groups, a digital tap list, a bartender, a few high-top tables set on barrels…..”

There were less than ten people, while the Taproom below was very crowded and Luke, the bartender, told me that the group was typical – evidently a lot of people are just not aware of the speakeasy-type addition to the main floor bar.   I decided to be bold and had a small glass of Nebraska Brewing’s Sexy Betty Imperial Stout.  (Betty was, in fact, hot….)

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

If you want a to sample a wide variety of draft or bottled beers from all over the world and receive expert guidance and advice from the staff, Bailey’s is your place. 

Bottled beers from all over -- to say the least

Bottled beers from all over — to say the least

If you want the ambiance of a neighborhood bar with good food and interesting regulars, Thebeerchaser suggests going Off Broadway…..    

Long tables upstairs

Long tables upstairs

 

 

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If you want to view all a map with all the establishments previously reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click the link which states, “View Larger Map” below.

Bailey’s Tap Room and The Upper Lip                  231 SW Broadway