Find Your Way to Wayfinder….

Since I started my Beerchasing exploits in 2011, I’ve reviewed slightly over 400 bars and breweries of which 119 were in Portland, Oregon.  This blog is not a technical journal on beer or the science of brewing itself, but primarily about the history and character of the watering holes themselves.

Other than a few such as Bridgeport (closed in 2018), Blitz Weinhard (closed in 1999), Widmer Brothers and McMenamins, most Portland breweries don’t have the history or character of a bar – the focus, understandably, is more on the beer itself.  (# External photo attribution at the end of the post. (#1)

They are typically more expansive than the stereotyped hole-in-the-wall dive bar such as the Mock Crest Tavern in the St. John’s area or the Yamhill Pub – a landmark right in Portland’s Central Business District.

The Yamhill, as I explained in my 2015 review, is actually one step below a dive – I classified it as a “grunge bar.” As described in a Portland Mercury review, “The Yamhill Pub is a glorious sh*t crater. It’s a hole, a mess, a f*ing dive.”

The breweries are often in former industrial or warehouse-type buildings with large garage doors that can open during summer months and accommodate crowds on adjourning patios – crowds that are often much younger than the typical demographic of a dive or a neighborhood watering hole.

That said, I’ve rarely “met” a brewery or brew pub that I didn’t enjoy.   One such example is Wayfinder Brewery – one block off the Willamette River on SE Second near the Morrison Bridge.  

Our experience in mid-November was the second time I had good beer and great food there while enjoying the ambiance, the friendly staff and impressive layout. 

My first visit was about five years ago – shortly after it opened – with friends Charlie Rose and David Dickson. I was pleased that nothing much had changed.  After our dinner, we caught an impressive jazz show at the Doug Fir Lounge (see below).

In November, 2022, on a Monday afternoon, I hit the brewery with four other retired friends (David and Kate Dickson, Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell and my wife, Janet).   We had a brisk walk along the River and then lunch. That’s right – David Dickson was on both visits – he’s a Beerchasing regular….)

Three of our group of seven participants in our walking group were gone, but our routine is to do about a 45-minute to an hour walk and finish with a beer and lunch/dinner at a brewery or bar. (There’s less guilt after some exercise.)

Most in the group have been participated since 2014 and we have hoisted mugs at great watering holes including Saraveza, Crackerjacks Pub, Hair of the Dog Brewery, Produce Row and many others.  (Click on the links above to see the reviews.)

Entrepreneurial Endeavor

A very positive element in the Wayfinder story is the complementary skills and experience of the three partners – brewing, food and business.  This was probably a primary factor in the Brewery’s success even during a global pandemic:

Way finder found its roots in Charlie Devereux’s search for his next beer project after departing Double Mountain Brewing in Hood River. He quickly teamed up with Sizzle Pie’s Matt Jacobson, who he describes as a ‘serial entrepreneur.’ The third partner is Podnah’s Pit’s Rodney Muirhead. Yes, the menu calls for amazingly prepared meats, including house-ground sausage”  (#2-3)

The Space

Besides the wonderful expansive heated wood-slat patio (with firepit) which can seat about 120, the 10-barrel brewery and pub occupy about 9,000 square feet.  The brick walls are very attractive and skylights provide plenty of light. 

Walking in, you face a very long and attractive bar with some booths on the opposing wall.  A separate room houses numerous tables of different sizes and large glass panels show the brewing hardware – a nice touch.

While having no expertise (and according to others, no taste in art), I loved the posters and paintings displayed throughout and their classy merchandise is displayed in an attractive case. 

Wayfinder was also named on the 2021 Oregon Beer Awards as having the best beer labels.) You can see Charlie and David arguing about various Euclidian principles in the photo below. (#4)

And the manner in which they differentiated the restrooms was also creative and funny and could generate more debate on usage……

The Food!

Often breweries will focus on brewing quality – food is an ancillary concern – patrons will choose from a limited pub menu or use nearby food carts. 

Not only has Wayfinder been recognized with numerous awards for its beers (see below), but it distinguishes itself with the variety of its culinary offerings – many cooked on its wood-fired grill.  The quality, as the following reviews attest, is quite good.

These excerpts are from one of my most reliable sources for objective assessments during the last eleven years – Willamette Week in its ongoing reviews and annual guides to Portland’s best bars, beers and food.  Since the pandemic, these have either been pretty much discontinued, but see the consistency of comments from 2017-2020.

2017 Review by Martin Czimar – In this review shortly after Wayfinder opened, Cizmar advised patrons to avoid the fish, mashed potatoes and beer nuts (this was the only negative media review I could find on the food.)  But he praised the nachos, sausage and burgers – “The dinner burger with blue cheese, might be the best brewpub burger in town..”

Since I had the mashed potatoes in my dinner in the 2018 visit and thought they were delicious, perhaps he just needed some menu items to criticize.

2018 Beer Guide – “The wonderful menu ranges from a delicious prime rib sandwich to a mountainous niçoise salad but the thing I find myself ordering most often is the brewery’s nachos….”

2019 – 20 Guide to Food and Drink – Whenever asked which brewery in town also has good food – not just passable-for-a-pub food, but an honest-to-goodness recommendable menu, I almost always steer that person to Wayfinder.”

Our group on both visits concurred with the positive reviews.  Most of us in 2022 had the burger special which runs all day Monday and on Tues – Thurs. from 8:00 PM to closing.  

Where else can you can a burger with chips and a pint of beer for $14 ($1 extra to substitute fries)? The Chicken Schnitzel and the entre’ salads were delicious and nicely presented.

The Service

As was the case five years ago, our server, Jessica, was friendly, helpful and competent.  She also gave a comprehensive and knowledgeable rundown of their draft beers which helped us make our selection.

Award Winning Beer

The number of medals received are too numerous to cite, but take a look at the listing of some of the accolades as listed on their website: 

  • “Best New Brewers in the World” – Rate Beer, 2018
  • “Best Brewery”, “Best Brewer”, “Best Oregon Brewpub” – New School Awards, 2018
  • “Top 11 Best Beers in America” (Terrifico) – Bloomberg News, 2018
  • “Oregon Beer of the Year” (Hell Lagerbier) – New School Awards 2019
  • “Best Brewpub Experience” – Oregon Beer Awards, 2018-2019

You won’t find a lot of IPA’s at Wayfinder – a mainstay of a lot of contemporary craft breweries.  Wayfinder’s specialty is lagers:

“(We are) a lager-centric brewery that combines old and new school lager techniques to push the envelope of what lager can be. The founders of Wayfinder, lager fanatics themselves and proselytizers of cool fermentation, installed a dedicated decoction vessel to achieve malt complexities otherwise unattainable.

The beers are a mix of tradition and science, a blending of ancient brewing tactics, newer Narziß-style German precision, and the swagger of American Craft. Although we are rewriting the definition of lager for the next generation of craft beer enthusiasts, we are bringing with it the traditions of Europe and America’s favorite beer.”

And let’s just take a quick look at one excerpt from the Willamette Week Guide to Portland Bars and Happy Hours:

“…….Wayfinder Helles is one of the few in America to ever match that deep bready malt and balancing light sulfur aroma that characterizes a freshly cracked bottle of Augustiner in Munich.  It’s a portal to Bavaria where they drink beer-flavored beer.”

And the excellence in brewing has continued.  In the 2021 Oregon Beer Awards, Wafinder garnered one gold, two silvers and two bronze medals for their brews in addition to being named as the Oregon brewery with the best beer labels.  You can see why below: (#5-10)

Before finishing my comments on the Brewery, I want to mention our (David, Charlie and I) post dinner outing in 2018.   It was to the Doug Fir Lounge – only eight blocks away in the Jupiter Hotel

We were fortunate to see one of the Portland shows of acclaimed jazz saxophonist,  Hailey Niswanger

Hailey attended West Linn High School with our three daughters, but then went on to the prestigious Berklee College of Music on a full scholarship.  The Berklee publication on distinguished alums states, in part:

Hailey Niswanger’s trajectory as a jazz saxophonist resembles that of a shooting star. The young musician graduated in 2011 after studying jazz performance on a full scholarship. But by that time, she had already released the album, Confeddie, that prompted jazz critic Nat Hentoff to proclaim the 19 year old as part of the future of jazz.

She has appeared with Demi Lovato on Saturday Night Live and on other late-night TV shows. Niswanger was also the alto saxophonist in the Either/Orchestra, touring with Ethiopian stars and playing African, Latin, and jazz music in Europe and the United States. DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll cited her as a rising alto and soprano saxophonist for 2013–2016.

A versatile artist, she also played flute on Terri Lyne Carrington’s The Mosiac Project, which won a Grammy.”

Now living in Brooklyn, New York, Niswanger is active teaching at seminars as well as continuing to tour with musicians such as pianist Mike Wolff and drummer Mike Clark in the Woolf and Clark Expedition. She also started a new band of her own, MAE.SUN, a contemporary, mixed-genre project.” (#11-16)

It was a marvelous performance and her range was incredible – she also vocalized.   Before the show we had a chance to say “hello” to this musical prodigy, we’re proud to say, had her roots in our community.  She is personable and humble.

2018-08-06 20.38.39

Surprisingly, there are numerous Portland breweries that have sprung up during the pandemic that Thebeerchaser has not visited at this point.  That said, since both times I’ve been to Wayfinder, I ate inside and given the overall experience, I will be going back this Spring.

I’ll sit on the fabulous deck, drink a Hell – Lagerbier Helles (“Crisp, light, refreshing, brilliantly effervescent with a floral, noble hop aroma – ABV 4.7%”) or one of the other ten beers on tap. Did I also mention that they are known for their creative cocktails, for example the Midnight Trilogy?  

Blended Scotch, Laird’s apple brandy, Averna, Allspice Dram, Orange Bitters, Demerara.”

I have a feeling that it would pair very well with one of the large Bavarian pretzels with mustard which are only $6. (#17)

Perfektion!

Cheers!

External Photo Attribution

#1. Wikimedia Commons (File:Blitzweinhard brewery.jpg – Wikipedia)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: 
w:User:Ajbenj
  6 January 2002.

#2 -10.  Wayfinder Beer Facebook Pages (Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/wayfinderbeer/photos/pb.100063601343176.-2207520000./2816).

#11 – 16 Hailey Niswanger Facebook Pages ( Hailey Niswanger | Facebook).

#17.  Wayfinder Beer Facebook Page (Wayfinder Beer | Portland OR | Facebook)

Autumn Oscillations

*1

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post 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.  An * designates external photo – attribution is at the end of the post.)

Oscillation is defined as the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value or between two or more different states.  Familiar examples of oscillation besides the old-fashioned fan above, include a swinging pendulum and alternating current. Wikipedia

And at least for Thebeerchaser that seems to describe events over the last ten months  after we survived 2020 – a year we all want to forget.   The swings in COVID statistics at one point in 2021 appeared to be more optimistic only to repeatedly regress.  

Even my Oregon State Beavers and the Portland Trailblazers seem to vary from strong and compelling performances one week to lackluster and somewhat uninspired play the next.  (The Beavs were on a roll after a great victory over Utah, but then shot themselves in their digitized front paws in Berkley on Saturday in a bad loss to California.)

My heart goes out to the small business owners – most notably in the hospitality industry, who have optimistically reopened only to be repeatedly shut down again or living with restrictions that affect profitability while they try to hire enough help to stay open and cope with diminished supply chains.

Regardless of whether its politics, the weather, educational or public health policy or my inclination to exercise on a regular basis and have a reasonable diet, it seems that issues have swung from one pole to the other. 

A period of swings….*3

The exception may be the stock market and my desire to Beerchase at new watering holes once again.

But at least for this blog post, I’m going to shift back and forth – oscillate if you will, from bars and breweries to corporate myopia, etc.  I will start with some positives such as the suggestion by author Colson Whitehead in his novel, The Noble Hustle that we “drink hormone-free, humanely slaughtered beer. Eat micro chicken.  Compare sadnesses. Things of that sort.”

The Evolution of Darwin’s…

And I was pleased to see that in spite of the pandemic, adverse weather (It’s been raining since the 4th of July…”) and other challenges, one of my favorite dive bars is back in operation and thriving.  Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska that we visited in 2014 is a watering hole with tradition and class:

“(Darwin’s celebrated its 40th year of existence.   It was exactly forty years since the doors opened on Thursday, September 10, 1981.  Darwin (an Oregon State grad) was 37 years old at the time and has been the only male Bartender since.”

Farewell Henry…!

Contrasting the good news from Alaska, is the bad news from Oregon:  “Legendary Weinhard’s Beer to be Discontinued.”   

“Henry’s Private Reserve, once the pride of Northwest beer drinkers and hailed by many as Oregon’s first craft beer is being discontinued by current owner Molson Coors.”  

How Molson Coors rather than the Blitz Weinhard Brewery came to be the decision maker is another sad story and trend in beer production.

A Northwest Tradition Now Gone *5

Blitz Weinhard was one of our favorite college beers in the late sixties and early seventies and then the Wessinger Brothers, great-great grandsons of the founder of the Portland brewery, sold it to Pabst in 1979.  It subsequently was sold to Strohs before being acquired by Molson Coors.  (This paragraph provides a story in itself of a sad trend in independent brewing.)

According to one beer expert and author:

“….after production was moved elsewhere, (Henry’s) had not been what it was at one time.  The quality rally deteriorated.  It’s a common story when these popular brands get bought; they find a way to cut corners.  We still see it when craft beers today get bought by big beer.”

Moda Health – “Be Better” – Maybe Next Year?

Earlier this year in a March blog post, I expressed my chagrin at the frothy rhetoric of Portland Trailblazers and Moda Health for their ongoing campaign called “Moda Assist”.  The Blazers and the health-care corporate giant (in the case of Moda, a “non-profit” corporate giant….)” magnanimously” each contribute $10 for every assist the Trailblazers make in the regular season.

In 2019, the Blazers finished last in the NBA with this statistic and in 2020, 29th of the thirty NBA teams, averaging 20.4 and 21.4 per game respectively.  For you math wizards, that  means the two corporations combined shelled out about $32,000 for a regular eighty-game season (although the last 2020-1 season was shortened because of COVID).

I reminded readers that the arena naming rights for the former Portland Rose Garden,   according to a 2012 Lund Report, “Moda expects to pay out $40 million for those naming rights.  Moda paid the Blazers approximately $40 million over a ten-year period for the naming rights.  The story was covered locally in Oregon LIve.

$40 Million for Naming Rights to the Blazers *6

Well, with the economy chugging away again, I was not surprised to see a recent headline entitled, Moda Health Signals Its Financial Woes Are Behind It.”   The Oregonian article states: 

“Thanks, in part, to the proceeds of Moda’s $250 million US Supreme Court victory (in 2020) over the federal government, the company closed a deal to buy back the equity stake it had sold to a California dental company.”     

So being naïve, I suspected with inflationary trends, Moda and the Blazers would up the ante for the 2021-2 NBA season to at least $15 or $20 each per assist.  No way!   Evidently Moda’s slogan of “Be Better,” doesn’t spill over to its charitable endeavors.  

“Be better” – as long as it does not affect profitability….. *7

Perhaps restating some of the info from Gametime.com. a supplier which advises communities on playgrounds, may reinforce my feeling of righteous indignation about this program:

“You should budget around $1,000 per child. That makes the average cost of playground equipment between $15,000 and $50,000. If you are looking for a larger play structure with inclusive (accessible) features or a custom design, set a budget closer to $150,000.”  (Emphasis provided – Mar 12, 2020).

Accolades to Oregon City Brewing

Since Oregon City was my home for almost twenty years and I still live right across the Willamette River, I was pleased to see that Oregon City Brewing Company in September ranked seventh among the nation’s top ten breweries at the 2021 US Open Beer Championship.

According to a September 6) press release: “

“Breweries from Antioquia, Columbia to Columbia, South Carolina sent more than 8000 beers representing over 140 different styles to the 2021 U.S. Open Beer Championship. Today, the U.S. Open Beer Championship announces the medal winners and Grand National Champion.”

It has been a few years since I’ve been at OC Brewing although in the last year, I’ve made four visits to a great new bar with food courts right across the street – Corner 14, which I reviewed a few months ago.

Last time I was there, OC Brewing, which opened in 2014, did not have it’s own food – it was a cooperative arrangement for a few items from Olympic Provisions, there was minimal space inside and the outside patio was not impressive.  That said, we loved the Elevator IPA which was then their flagship beer.

The Elevator goes up AND down. Let it push your buttons. *12

This family-owned brewery with a great story has since made impressive strides, however, and has improved their outside seating, developed a good menu and has a very robust tap list.  According to Willamette Week:

“….their new beer garden and food cart pod should begin operating in late November (2021). Earlier this year, the business began converting three 7,000-square-foot gravel parking lots surrounding the taproom.”  

They now have about forty beers on tap including their five medal winners from the US Open Beer Championship – Desideratum (gold) – Beast of Burton (gold) – Very A Gris able (silver) – Coming to Fruition Marionberry (silver) and Coming to Fruition Cherry (bronze).

Creative expansion is also planned for a location in Canby – about nine miles south according to a a September 9th New School Beer post.  Following the example of Steeplejack Brewing in Portland which restored an historic church, OC Brewing will

“…be officially taking over the former Canby Public Library, vacant since 2016, renaming it The Canby Beer Library, and expanding its brand with a taproom serving 40+ beers, a space for a barrel-aging program, a cidery, as well as spaces for other tenants, including restaurants, to fill the huge space.”

Now the top-ten ranking in the Beer Championship is evidently focused strictly on beer quality rather than the overall ambiance of the establishment because the Brewery still has a way to go including making some improvements in its website.  That said, it’s a great sucess story to this point for its founder, Bryce Morrow and their skilled Brewmaster, David Vohden.

I will be looking forward to visiting and will report…….

Leaving on a Positive Swing of the Pendulum

Since I took a shot at two corporations above (Trailblazers and Moda Health), I will wind down with a shout out to an Oregon corporation which brings good cheer to countless travelers along Oregon Highway 18 each fall.  From a blog “Unusual Places“:

“In 2011, two Hampton Lumber employees decided to create an arboreal design that would evoke joy in every person who saw it. Dennis Creel and David Hampton designed a smiley face similar to an emoji that would greet motorists as they drove through rural Oregon.

Creel and Hampton created the smiley face by planting a mixture of larch—which is a type of fir tree that turns yellow in the fall—and evergreen Douglas fir trees. Larch trees form a circular face, and Douglas fir trees form wide, happy eyes and a smiling mouth.

Raise a mug to Hampton Lumber.  We love seeing the pumpkin when we drive to the beach in Lincoln City.

Cheers

External Photo Attribution

*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Electric_Oscillating_Table_Fan_by_Emer) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1926.

*2  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaver#/media/File:Picture_Natural_History_-_No_40_41_42_-_Beaver_feet_and_tail.png)  This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1926. Author:  Mary E. C. Boutell  1869.

*3  (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Oscillating_pendulum.gif) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Ruryk 19 April 2011.

*4  Wikimedia Commons: (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2e/Brewing_process_chart_%28no_text%29.svg)  Lhttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en. Author:  Amitchell125    21 July 2019.

*5  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Weinhard%27s_Brewery_(Clohessy_and_Strengele,_1890).jpg)  This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17.  Author: Clohessy & Strengele  1890.

*6 Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Moda_Center_at_night.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Parker Knight from Portland, Oregon, USA   11 November 2016.

*7  Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basketball_02.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author:  https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:James_Moore200  3 February 2021.

*8  Wikimedia Commons:  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Playground_Square_Albert_Thomas_-_Talence_France_-_22_August_2020.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Such0012  22 August 2020.

*9  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Childrens_Game_Park_01621.jpg) Lhttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en.  Author: Nevit 2008.

*10 – 12 Oregon City Brewing Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/oregoncitybrewing/photos/4192492017466267) Oregon City Brewing Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/oregoncitybrewing/photos/a.721502207898616/1328526310529533)

*13 -14 Unusual Places: (https://unusualplaces.org/smiley-face-forest-oregon/