The Burnside Brewing Company – Try the East Side

2017 has seen Thebeerchaser’ Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs move slightly away (although never too far in physical proximity and thought) from classic dive bars to breweries and brewpubs.  Recent visits to the relatively new Portland brewpubs of Ten Barrel and Breakside in the Pearl District were interesting (the reviews are forthcoming) but the east side of the Rose City cried out for attention.

While not in the legendary Barmuda Triangle southeast of the Willamette River and not a new establishment, having been opened in 2010, Burnside Brewing Company has a nice atmosphere, some good beer and a reputation for being a progressive and innovative force in the Oregon beer community.

Not only experts on the Code, but great people!

As has been the case at two prior Beerchasing events (Life of Riley Tavern (3/16/16) and Brannon’s in Beaverton (3/3/15) – a venue which had great potential, but unfortunately a rather short lifespan, I joined a distinguished and erudite group (if you will…..) – eight individuals who all are either current or former members (or have a direct connection) to the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm Tax and Estate Planning Group.

For the brewery’s grain storage

Burnside Brewing, like many of its competitors, is housed in a building with roots other than malt and hops – in this case an industrial laundry built in 1927, according to Mary, the manager.  The exterior is pretty Spartan and aside from the massive and distinctive silo (used to store the grain for brewing) and the patio in front, Burnside looks like a plain industrial facility.

The availability of parking in its lot and spaces available on the street is a plus, however,  and one which makes parking in the Pearl District frustrating.

The interior is spacious and pleasant with high ceilings, an exposed kitchen, a long walnut bar with walnut tables and a Pacific Northwest décor that is tasteful and interesting.  Compared to a similar nearby (5 minutes or 2.3 miles) venue previously visited by Thebeerchaser – that being Ecliptic Brewing (5/6/15) – it has much better ambiance.

The lunchtime crowd had a nice energy – and it wasn’t just because of the outgoing natures of our cadre of tax lawyers who not only earned law degrees, but supplemented those three years with Master of Tax (LLM) degrees.  This graduate degree required an additional year of focus on such stimulating topics as conduit entities, the assignment of income doctrine and constructive receipt.  

The brewery prides itself on innovation and their “think-outside-the-box approach to brewing reminded me of the nearby Hair-of-the-Dog Brewery reviewed on this blog in February23, 2016 –  https://thebeerchaser.com/2016/02/23/hair-of-the-dog-brewery                  

  For example Burnside’s website states:

“The people of Burnside Brewing Co. make it what it is. They are risk takers, lovers of food to be enjoyed with easy to drink beers……takes an alchemist approach to enhance the craft beer and culinary experience……is widely recognized as a visionary leader in the Northwest brewing industry—bold enough to take risks and smart enough to leave a creative impression on your palate. The finished product is an outstanding combination of original cuisine and beer, both deeply rooted in innovation and quality.”

And the press and media reviews are very positive about this seven-year old venture of co-founders Jay Gilbert and Jason McAdam and echo plaudits for their creative approach to brewing, which the Portland Mercury described in a 4/28/2011 article, the year after the brewery opened, as “Beer-ed Science – Burnside Brewing’s Futuristic Fermentation.”

Beer-ed Science

Another example is this excerpt from the 2016 Willamette Week Bar Guide:

“Between its extensive, off-the-wall lineup of seasonals and decor guaranteed to appease the expectations of tourists visiting a Real Portland Brewpub™, Burnside has maintained its status as a must-visit for nearly six years…….. To complement its enduringly popular IPA and throwback Couch Select Lager, Burnside has concoctions infused with everything from Earl Grey tea to galangal, pumpkin puree and pepitas.”

We had various sandwiches on the lunch menu ranging from the chicken and the schnitzel sandwiches to the cubano and the burger.  All were good and had a generous helping of fries although the prices were a little bit high at $14 and $12 for the burger.  And one of the more pleasant parts of our lunch was the demeanor and competence of our server, Amethist, (she changed the y to an “i” but she is still a real gem!)

Amethist – a real gem!

Burnside takes pride in its food prep (“a menu offering cured meats, charcuterie, pickling, and culinary artistry all done in-house”) and gets good marks especially on the dinner menu for such entrées as Maple Cured Pork Loin ($15), Grilled Octopus ($16) or the old standard – Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($16.

There are also some good bargains during the Fermentation Hour menu and beer is only $3.75 for a pint on Wednesdays – $4.75 on other days)  Check out their brunch menu – Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00, where you might want to try the Pork Belly Eggs Benedict.

A Jambalaya special with chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage.

Since a majority of our group was still working, partaking of beer was minimal, but I returned a few weeks later and had a sample of the Isomer IPA and a pint of the Burnside IPA, two of their flagship beers – I understand why.  The Isomer had a nice fruit taste and the IPA was just the right hoppiness for me.

Grace, the bartender also talked about the cherry wheat beer they were introducing later that day which would have been a good bet.  And the pints were only $4.25.

National and State recognition for its beers

Burnside has been recognized for its beers, winning its first gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver in 2012 for Sweet Heat Ale (The chutney inspired wheat beer made with apricots and Scotch bonnet peppers won the gold medal in the Herb and Spice Beer category.”

Sweet Heat Ale –  Gold Medal Winner

More recent awards were at the 2017 Oregon Beer Awards including a silver medal for their Juin in the Belgian category and a gold in the dark and hoppy category for their Keg Nog.

One way to explore the broad selection of beers at Burnside and which draws rave reviews, is to try the sampler.  As Grace explained, one can either sample the nine seasonal beers or seven perennials for $12 each or try the entire menu (usually 18 beers on their tap list) for a very reasonable $20.  Typical reaction to the deal is this 12/5/16 review on Yelp:

“The fact that they offer a sampler of everything on tap for $20 is amazing.  We split that sucker 3 ways and left feeling good.   The vibe here is a cool and definitely different from the typical hipster brewery feel.  It’s more classed up and full of adults on dates and stuff.  That and 3 wet dudes at the bar drinking 17 beers (it’s now 18) for $20.”

Sample either the Perennials or the Seasonals or all 18 for $20

The following complaint about the sampler was a little bit unusual – it’s from 2014 so the sampler had only 12 beers for $16:

“……the sampler tray (made of wooden blocks) was filled with beer that the bar tender over poured so the sampler tray was seeping beer onto the table and the cups were dripping a lot when picked up.”  Yelp 10/14

Most of my Beerchasing companions would not look at this as a negative and would just ask for a sponge and then slurp up the seepage, but then we are not a genteel crowd.

Now some who have read the past posts in which the Beerchasers attending are tax lawyers have questioned the quality of the conversation with such a learned professional group.  They have asked rhetorically, “Who wants to ponder the advantages of an S versus a C corp while swilling the seepage on a beer sampler or downing a pint of the Burnside porter named ‘Guts and Black Stuff?’” 

A great law firm with an outstanding Tax and Estate Planning group

But as I have stated before, this team is a well-rounded and quality group of individuals involved in broad civic, athletic and intellectual adventures.  As evidence, take Pete Osborne – now partially retired and of counsel at Schwabe, but recognized by his peers as one of the brightest tax lawyers in Portland.

Pete Osborne

Pete and his wife Terry, now retired from the legal department at Standard Insurance, are reading the Modern Library list of the 100 best 20th century novels.  Pete has checked forty-seven off his list although he admits that a number of them were read in his twenties ((on top of his law school reading….) including A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises both of Ernest Hemingway’s works on the list .  He also stated:

The biggest surprise author for me on the list was Carson McCullers’ ‘The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’. The weirdest book so far is ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess.”

Note:  I can identify with Pete’s earnest ambition although from a slightly different focus.  Pete is reading 100 of the greatest novels and after five years of Thebeerchaser, I have now visited and/or written on 208 bars, taverns and pubs in Oregon, Europe and throughout the US.  Having a “worthwhile” educational goal in retirement is very important!

Obornes rendering of The Three Sisters

In the prior posts, I also included some of Pete’s art, which is impressive and asked him to send me his latest piece which is untitled –  a collagraph (a print made from a collage of various materials glued onto a board.)

Untitled caligrograph

As additional evidence that Pete is a Renaissance Man besides understanding the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code  he is a skilled poker player.   He travels to Las Vegas each year for the World Series of Poker and reported that in 2016 while playing in the Super Seniors (over 65) No Limit Hold Em event last June, he placed 36th out of 1,476 entries –  “This was in the money.”

Finished “In the Money”

One final note on Burnside Brewery.  Some patrons prefer a venue where they can raise a mug without having to watch or listen to youngsters as part of the equation.   Burnside is one of a number of breweries and pubs where kids are welcomed  – until 10:00 PM when accompanied by an adult.  However, sometimes this creates dissonance with the patron who craves a more sedate experience as evidenced by this 2/28/16 complaint on Yelp:

“Special note for Parents who bring in their precious spoiled children:  DON’T!!  Can’t you monitor your brood and keep them from tearing up the crayons so OTHER children may play with them???? Is it really that hard?? JUST STOP IT.” 

At least the dispute wasn’t about the President.

Or perhaps the complainant was irate because his or her kid didn’t get to use the crayons.  This was not a problem with the tax group because they unequivocally deferred to Pete’s use of the crayons given his artistic talents.

By the way, another interesting feature of the décor is the local art they feature.  Most recently, one of the prominent pieces is the one of the “hairless cat” which changes colors and one unnamed source opined that the regulars would probably not be sorry to see it go.  (While having no artistic judgement, it did appear to be inconsistent with the rest of the décor and was a distraction.)

In summary, Burnside Brewing Company earns good marks for ambiance, beer, food, parking, the staff and its entrepreneurial spirit.  While there are some good options on the Westside, try this near Eastside venue and you will want to return.

Amethist and Grace at work with local art in the background (notice that the cat is now green…)

Be sure to say “hello” to both Amethist and Grace, and if it is a nice day, stretch out with a pint of Burnside’s Immaculate Decoction Belgian Strong Golden Ale and dig into W. Somerset Maugham’s novel Of Human Bondage.

British novelist and playwright

Then return and have their Too Sticky to Roll IRA and start your second work on the Modern Library 100 list – let’s say, Oregon’s own, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.  Maybe Pete Osborne will be willing to start a book club with meetings at breweries – “Book and Brew” might be a good moniker!

Note:  I see that Book & a Brew is also the label for a “……one stop monthly subscription (£12.99) service for book lovers and people who appreciate a nice brew,” but it should be noted that the brew, in this case, is tea rather than beer. 

A good place for a book and a brew on a sunny day…

Burnside Brewing Company           701 East Burnside

Life of Riley Tavern – Visit this Bar in the Pearl

P1040096

Those of you who have lived as many decades as Thebeerchaser probably remember watching William Bendix, the loveable wing-riveter at a California aircraft assembly plant, who was the star of the television show, Life of Riley, which ran for five seasons in the late 1950’s.

William Bendix and his son "Junior"

William Bendix and his son “Junior”

Only a few of the group who had a great lunch at this Portland bar recently were even born at that time.  But the majority were tax lawyers from Schwabe Williamson &  Wyatt and probably didn’t watch TV when they were kids anyway.

They were drawing images of the IRS logo with crayons, which served them well as five of the six lawyers present that day, in addition to having their law degrees and passing the Oregon State Bar went on to get an LLM – essentially a masters degree in tax law.

While Thebeerchaser’s only other experience with a dive bar in the Pearl District was less than memorable (the Low Brow Lounge), Life of Riley Tavern (hereafter LoR) was a very good venue – not only for the lunch we enjoyed, but when I returned for a beer several afternoons later.  An apt description is this one from Yelp on 3/26/2015

The upstairs bar

The upstairs bar

Amazing bar, exemplary staff. I don’t usually find myself in The Pearl but I do make it down here at least once a week because of the great service, free billiards, shuffleboard, and darts in the basement nightly.

The upstairs is nice as well, but the basement feels more homey. Both the upstairs and downstairs have great TVs for sports viewing…..the music in the basement is top-notch…..Oh yeah, they’re happy hour is ridiculously awesome.”

Good lunch-time specials

Good lunch-time specials

So let’s start with the upstairs portion of the bar – one reviewer compared it to a ‘50’s diner, which is not too far off.  There’s only a small bar and some small, round bar tables with the rest of the seating as tables for the restaurant.   In fact, I didn’t even realize that they had a great bar space downstairs until I read some of the reviews after my first visit.

Scrumptious mac & cheese

Scrumptious mac & cheese

The food is a strength.   I had a scrumptious and plentiful serving of Cajun Mac & Cheese (which required a long workout after lunch out of guilt….) and the remainder of our party of eight all were very positive about their lunches ranging from the Riley Burger to the Pulled Pork Sandwich. 

Great sandwiches too

Great sandwiches too

As Megan, our friendly server explained, “You should try our barbecue – its’ awesome,” and the traeger, right outside of the bar is well employed.   She also was justifiably proud of the fresh sauces and dressings – their own recipes and made fresh each day.  The prices are typical of Portland and a bit lower than you would expect in the Pearl.

But it’s the lower level that really defines LoR.  Down the steps into an intriguing, dark basement space with just a few small windows – it reminded me of the fallout shelters the government promoted when I was a kid.  (They also told us with sincerity during drills that we should assume a position under our desks in order to avoid the impact of a nuclear warhead…..)

Get under your desk, cover your head and kiss your *#@ goodbye."

“Get under your desk, cover your head and kiss your *#@ goodbye.”

Down to the "Fallout Shelter" bar

Down to the “Fallout Shelter” bar

And I had a great conversation with Dave, the bartender, who has been there for ten years –  a former carpenter who  helped build the bar and with construction after the current owner purchased the building …….

Dave draws rave reviews from customers and he told me about the 22 beers on tap and let me sample a few – free, which was nice after our experience at Hair of the Dog Brewpub where you had to pay from $1.25 to $3.50 for a 2 ounce sample.

He stated that his clientele includes a bunch of regulars who work in the Pearl to neighbors who show up in hordes especially when there are Blazer or Timber games or when March Madness is running.   Dave also stated that one thing that distinguishes the bar is that all the games including pool, darts and a great shuffleboard game are free.    P1040158

Almost all of the comments about LoR on social media were positive although speaking of the Timbers, a rant is in order.  It demonstrates the reason why a number of Portlanders who think soccer is boring and should be confined to Europe, also get upset at the pretentiousness of some Timber fans.

Free shuffleboard

Free shuffleboard

While this comment goes back to August 2011, here’s the remarks by a guy who trashed what he admitted was a great bar simply because of one objection – and he signed the review “Anonymous.

“What a shame. Great beer, lovely TV projection screen, decent food but totally cynical staff with the ‘no sound during a Timbers game’ attitude. Come-on owners! This is Portland, Home of the Timbers.

My friends and I were amongst the 15 people watching the game vs the 4 that were at the bar with no interest and the staff insisted that there was not enough people in the joint to put the sound of the game on. I am very disappointed with the patriotism of Life of Riley. You disappoint your patrons and you disappoint Portland. Shame on you!”

Dave, the friendly downstairs bartender.

Dave, the friendly downstairs bartender and a guy with good judgment!

No, you misfit!  Shame on you for not having the guts to even identify yourself and for your myopic perspective.

A little due diligence revealed that the Timbers played 34 games in 2011 in which they scored a total of 42 goals.  Games are 90-minutes and assuming no overtime matches (which may not be totally factual, but this is a bar blog….) that means one goal scored by the Timbers every 72.86 minutes.

This begs the question, “What would the narration have added in a game that probably ended either in a scoreless tie or one with fewer than two goals scored?” (That’s a rhetorical question….)  I think this rant is justified especially in light of one other comment on Yelp“……… music in the basement is top-notch and suited for whatever crowd may be in at the time.”

Cheers to the 2009 Oregon Legislature.

Cheers to the 2009 Oregon Legislature.

One other very dated and interesting complaint from Portland Barfly dating clear back to 2008, again demonstrates the wisdom in the Oregon Legislature’s 2009 expansion of the Oregon “Smoke-free Workplace” Law which provided that bars and taverns could no longer permit smoking on or within ten feet of the premises.

“I visited Life of Riley for the first time this friday night, my friend and I hung out downstairs because I love smoky dens. It was a pretty cool place – the servers were quick and friendly and stayed on top of things even though it was packed. The drinks were good and strong. We managed to meet some cool people……

Now I hate it when people bitch about how smoky bars are and… I am a smoker and I love smoky dives, but holy shit!! This was by far the smokiest space I have ever been! Our eyes were burning! And this feeling lingered the next day. My advice to the owner: crack a few windows when it gets that busy….. You gotta have a little more circulation in there.”

Thebeerchaser appreciates this law because having reviewed about 175 bars since late 2011 – many of which I visited multiple times, my health and possibly my lifespan would have been adversely impacted by the second-hand smoke, especially given my preoccupation with dive bars.  The tobacco lobby at the time, taking lessons from the NRA in opposing reasonable legislation, maintained:

“Cigarettes don’t kill people.  It’s the tars, and toxins in the smoke.”  

Upstairs bar area

Upstairs bar area

Look back at the comments from a prior post in this blog (check the link below) to see what the pre-2009 bar environment was like:

The Horse Brass Pub: “We worried that (the new law) would spell the end of …(the) venerable Brit Pub…Not because the 33-year old bar…wouldn’t retain its loyal patrons, but because we assumed its billowing, milkshake-thick clouds of cigarette smoke were load bearing structural elements of the building without which the sprawling pub would collapse.”  (“2009 Willamette Week Drink Guide”)

And finally, a couple of comments about my companions at LoR. Now one might think that tax lawyers, especially those who have over-achieved and gotten their LMM, might be boring company,  but they are a great and interesting group.

Interesting companions...

Interesting companions…Woodhouse, Reuter, Van Zanten and Eller

Roy Lambert, now retired, is an active masters competitive swimmer with some regional records.  In retirement, he audits courses in medieval and Renaissance history at Portland State.

Marc Sellers, besides majoring in chemistry as an undergrad, he was the first attorney in the U.S. to obtain an award of attorney fees against the Internal Revenue Service under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. 

This courtroom mentality may have been derived from his dedication to martial arts for many years where he competed at regional and national championship levels.  He was also an accomplished mountaineer and volunteer in mountain rescueand for years was a member of Mt. Hood Mountain Rescue.

Sellers - skilled litigator with a dry sense of humor

Sellers – skilled litigator with a dry sense of humor

Besides that, Marc has a remarkable sense of humor which he regularly demonstrates on firm e-mails such as the following:

“This week’s Tax Department Employee of the Week is Peter Osborne. Peter was recently recognized by Firm Management as the ‘Lawyer Most Likely to Get the Correct Answer’ with respect to issues arising under Internal Revenue Code Sections starting with the number three.”

Haystack Rock by Pete Osborne.

Haystack Rock by Pete Osborne.

Pete Osborne, who was accompanied by his spouse,Terri, is described by his colleagues as one of the smartest, if not the smartest, tax lawyer in Portland.  On occasion, he has been known to return to Portland with both a big smile and winnings from the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas – Senior Division….   He’s also a talented artist.  (See another of his works in the post about Brannons’ in Beaverton.)

Osbornes etching of the Three Sisters

Osborne’s etching of the Three Sisters

Jennifer Woodhouse, besides being fluent in Spanish, is a mentor at Lewis & Clark Law School where she graduated cum laude and leads Schwabe’s Women in Business group

Dan Eller received the prestigious Joyce Ann Harpole Scholarship and other law school honors at Lewis and Clark.  He is an skilled outdoorsman and cyclist and frequently cycles around the base of Mt. Bachelor – active in numerous civic boards and a scout leader for his kids.

Even the Tax Group endorses Thebeerchaser logo

Even the Tax Group endorses Thebeerchaser logo

Katherine Van Zanten is an avid skier and a girl scout leader for her kids.  Also active in the Oregon State Bar Tax Section.

And don’t forget one of Portland’s best legal secretaries, Gretchen Reuter, who has the technical expertise, interpersonal skills and patience to manage the workload of several of these people concurrently.

Having lunch with the Tax Group was enjoyable.  And Life of Riley is a really good bar with good food, a friendly and knowledgeable staff (with enough common sense to mute the sound during a sporting event to play great music) and an awesome cellar that you won’t find too many places in Portland.

Life of Riley Tavern 300 NW 10th Ave