The Cheerful Bullpen

The Cheerful Bullpen - across from JeldWen Fiedl

The Cheerful Bullpen – across from Jeld-Wen Field

One of the earlier bars reviewed on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Pubs and Taverns was the historic Cheerful Tortoise in 2012.  This noted sports bar adjacent to the campus at Portland State University is owned by Amy Nichols also the proprietor of the Cheerful Bullpen – located right across from Jeld-Wen Field (news flash – now Providence Park.)  The Bull Pen reportedly has had five previous owners and been around for 66 years.

Amy, Denny and our waitress, ___ with Thebeerchaser log
Amy, Denny and our waitress, Ashley with Thebeerchaser log

I was accompanied by Denny Ferguson, who also Beerchased with me at the Tortoise, and persuaded Amy to join us – a good decision.  Amy is a great story, herself, and has owned both bars since 2008.

An airbrushed version....

An airbrushed version….

Denny, who served as President of JBL&K Risk Services, before becoming Director of Business Development at Portland State University, is a Portland “institution.”

He is a formidable golfer and tennis player and a great human being – so positive that he sings along with the music in elevators. His initial months in college at Santa Clara University were a little traumatic because it was the first time he had been away from home —-other than serving in the Marine Corps…..

The name of this bar evokes memories of what once was in Portland – The Portland Beavers, established in 1903 and playing in Vaughn Street Stadium, then Multnomah Stadium and ultimately Civic Stadium before it became a soccer venue.  That’s when there was actually a bullpen at the stadium across from the Cheerful Bullpen!

The Beavers, although only a Triple A farm club for the Cleveland Indians in the 1960’s, had a rich history.   Future major leaguers such as pitchers “Sudden” Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and left-fielder and then Major League manager, Lou Pinella, thrilled Portland fans and the antics of player/manager Frank “The Flake” Peters (now proprietor of the Grand Café) are legendary.

Pitcher and manager, Walt McCredie, part of the Portland Beavers heritage.

Owner, pPitcher and manager, Walt McCredie, part of the Portland Beavers heritage.

I have fond memories of taking my daughters to Beaver games.  Some consider the fact that one now has to travel to Hillsboro for minor league baseball to be a tragedy.  Given the preponderance of current Cheerful Bullpen patrons who are soccer fans, there are probably those who would advocate a name to something like the Yellow Card Inn or changing to an Irish name such as Kitty O’ Shea’s.  Don’t do it, Amy!!

But we digress – now back to The Cheerful Bullpen…Amy, grew up in Long Beach, Washington and earned her stripes serving as the “only girl deckhand” on an Alaskan fishing boat when she was thirteen, was a beer-cart girl at Heron Lakes Golf Course and then eventually waitressed at both Harvey’s Comedy Club and then the Cheerful Tortoise, where she worked her way up to manager. 

Amy and her staff - not afraid of working hard...

Ashley and Amy – not afraid of working hard…

Former owner, Pat Lockhart, was a mentor and sold the The Tortoise and The Bullpen to her in 2008.

She remembers scrubbing walls at The Bullpen to rid it of built up grease and cigarette smoke stains and investing to make it a quality sports bar experience – and that it is.


If it's a broadcast sporting event, you are probably going to see it on one of the 21 TVs.

If it’s a broadcast sporting event, you are probably going to see it on one of the 21 TVs.

There are 21 TV’s, two pool tables, Big Buck Hunter video, two fireplaces and a very big patio which holds 50 -60 people – it’s especially popular after Timbers’ games or other athletic events at Jeld-Wen.

The twelve beers on tap that night were:

Bud Light  – Budweiser Laurelwood – Widmer Hef
Alameda Rotator
Bridgeport IPA
10 Barrel Rotator
Deschutes Rotator
Ninkasi Rotator
OakShire Rotator

Two Bullpen Bartender Choice Rotators

They also have a brisk “Beer-to-Go” trade with twenty-two different beers from all over the world in bottles, cans and available for growlers.


You may have one of the twelve draft beers drawn by The Cheerful Mascot.

You may have one of the twelve draft beers drawn by The Cheerful Mascot.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The Food – As with the Tortoise, the Bullpen offers its legendary $2 breakfast (2 pancakes and 2 eggs) all day.  But their most notable menu item is the wings.

You can get 17 to 20 different flavors and on Tuesdays nights (Tightwad Tuesdays) six wings for $2 in addition to $1 beers.  One patron who heard us talking about the wings called them “really amazing.”                    P1010940

As evidence, here’s an October 2013 Yelp review excerpt:Every Tues starting at 8pm is Wing Night – wings of all flavors for $2…You want to get there before 8 to avoid a $3 cover, and to grab a table especially if there is a big game on. The list if flavors ranges from mild to “burn your face off.”

"Really Amazing" Wings

“Really Amazing” Wings

And on Saturdays – there’s all you can eat pasta dishes from $6.95 (noon until midnight). Otherwise you’ encounter a full menu with burgers, fish and chips, pizza, etc.

Buffalo!!??  If you go to the Bullpen on Sundays during football season, you will encounter scads (as many as 150 – 200) Buffalo Bills fans rooting for their team – an arrangement Amy brokered in 2009. 

Every time the Bills score, the group breaks into song. (In 2013 – 339 points scored (21.2 / game) or 22nd of 32 in the NFL) – so the songs are infrequent enough not to be disruptive!!)

The Buffalo Sabres hockey team also has a fan group as does the American Outlaws soccer team.

Now evidently this doesn’t square with one guy who wrote a Yelp 2012 review and was irate because, “….I found myself here on a Sunday, so everyone else was here to watch football. Yuck. I don’t think the baseball games were on any screen and I’m pretty sure there would have been a brawl if I had requested a channel change on even just one TV.(He could have just gone to The Cheerful Tortoise)

Reviews of the Bullpen were good although some complained about delays after Timber games or summer events at Jeld-Wen when the 60-seat patio and the bar are both filled – to a certain extent, something one would expect. Based on the staff we saw, they are good people who work hard.                    P1010946

Amy Nichols is an entrepreneur, a good marketer and a Portland success story.  She keeps her establishments hopping with events such as Wednesday nights Pub Trivia through the “Geeks Who Drink” organization,  monthly VIP Blazer Packages and sponsors periodic charity events such as golf tournaments.

And when you visit the Bullpen, you just might get to say hello to Denny Ferguson – although he will probably greet you first!

cheerful logo

The Cheerful Bullpen

Denny Ferguson - a man with no closing time and who is comfortable with a Budweiser

Denny Ferguson – a man with no finish line, no closing time and who is comfortable with a Budweiser although he could drink Dos Equis if he chose it

Some More Miscellany and 2012 in review

Looking Back and Moving Forward
Looking Back to Prost (November 2011 post) and Moving Forward


So far in 2013, Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Taverns has been in low gear with only The Grand Café (which was a grand stop) and the Davis Street Tavern reviewed.  Three additional establishments will be visited next week including one brewery and posts will follow.

So during the interim and after contemplating some historic treasures below, I present the 2012 Annual Report compiled by WordPress.  For those of  you who are considering blogging, WordPress is a great option for your software.   There are some interesting statistics in the report, and although it is a bit tardy, take a quick glance below and click on the link:

Besides 6 rotating draft beers, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer at 1856 in NE Portland.

Besides 6 rotating draft beers, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer at 1856 in NE Portland.


Wisdom in Words

Those of  you who follow this blog know that Thebeerchaser loves wisdom imparted through quotations – many by statesmen and notable philosophers on beer-related topics.  Consider the following:


G. K. Chesterton                                                     

A brilliant essayist and philosopher who also appreciated a brewski at times.

A brilliant essayist and philosopher who also appreciated a brewski at times.

This brilliant British essayist, philosopher, newspaper columnist and novelist lived from 1874 to 1936 in London and was often known as GKC.  He defended Christians although he would not hesitate to take jabs at any institution.

“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”

His dry wit and erudition is remarkable. An internet search of his many remarkable  quotes will entertain and impress you including two of my favorites below:

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Winston Churchill

The Prime Minister showed remarkable courage, foresight and political savvy during the War years.  He was also the master of a dry wit  – which might require moisturizer lotion even on a rainy Portland afternoon. (courtesy David Dickson):      

V for Victory and Cigars and a Good Whiskey...

V for Victory and Cigars and a Good Whiskey…

“Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.”


The Pilgrims

And yes, even the Puritans who were stern and unyielding in their moral hygiene, understood the importance of ale when considering their course of action as evidenced from the following excerpt from the log of The Mayflower:

“For we could not now take time for further search (to land our ship), our victuals being much spent, especially our beer .”                                     

Some of the Ballast had Malt, Barley and Hops....

Some of the Ballast was Malt, Barley and Hops….


2012 Annual Report

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Cheerful Tortoise – Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Aesop Was Correct!!

Since the Greek story-teller Aesop, was purportedly a slave, it is doubtful that he conveyed his fable about the tortoise and the hare to Aristotle or Herodotus while hoisting a mug in a fifth century Greek pub.

Aesop’s Legacy

The Cheerful Tortoise Pub (CT) by the Portland State campus, however, has an eclectic mix of PSU students, professors, athletes and OHSU medical students so drinking yarns and tales of  yore are prevalent.  With its 42 television sets, gobs of sports momentos and historic sponsorship of PSU athletics, the CT was voted the top sports bar by Portland City Search two years in a row.  However, it’s far more than just a sports bar as one patron stated:

“One must remember that this place is a college bar that is a sports bar that is a karaoke bar that is a neighborhood dive bar. Most of the time it is chock-full of regulars, but at other times is a raucous mess of barely 21 college student who get stupid after 2 beers.”

Scholarship Support for the Viks….

I was fortunate to be joined by my good friend, former insurance company president and now Director of New Business Development for the PSU Athletic Dept. Dennis Ferguson.   All the bartenders know Denny, who is an extrovert and so optimistic that he once started a diet on Thanksgiving Day.  He commented on the generosity of owner Amy Nichol and Pat Lockhart (former) whose contributions generate PSU scholarships.

A TV Spreadsheet to Keep Track

Thursday night is $1 beer and $2 wing night so the probability of seeing out-of-control college kids escalates.  Trivia Nights on Mondays are for those who desire a more mundane experience.     

Denny, Allison and thebeerchaser logo

While a few of the reviews commented on unfriendly and slow service, our experience was great.  Our bartender, Allison, helped educate us about the bar which opened in 1940, and she and fellow bartenders Lana and Brooke were all intelligent, friendly and great looking!

Sports Memorobilia Abounds

The TC has 18 beers on tap — I had a Hamms which is always $2.75 except on $1 beer night.   Karoke is on Wednesday – Friday and Saturday.

Distinguishing Characteristics

The History – Although fellow PSU Grads, historian John Terry and former GE College Bowl PSU Captain, Jim Westwood, wax eloquently about the tradition of PSU-area pubs such as Lydia’s, the Chocolate Moose and Birdies, andthebeerchaser remembers some good draft beer after class at Sam’s Hoffbrau (now a McDonalds), none of these survived – and the Cheerful Tortoise is still going strong after 72 years!

It evokes Park Blocks memories for many  – whether it is WW II vets taking courses at Vanport Extension Center, Ben Padrow coaching his 1965 College Bowl Team or the outstanding dialogue when masses of students gathered to hear and debate decorated Marine Corps officers and Viet Nam veterans, Lt. Ancer Haggerty (Silver Star and Purple Hearts – now a federal judge) and Cpt. Jud Blakely (Bronze Star and Purple Hearts)  when they recruited on campus during the late ’60’s.      

Promoted Dialogue in a “Charged” Environment


Denny and the Building — Both Historic…..

The Character –  There are essentially no windows and the 42 TVs provide the light so it’s very dark yet the big fireplace roaring all year makes it warm and hospitable.  One night, you may see a bunch of international students in front of one of the TVs cheering on their favorite soccer team. It’s quirky trademarks such as $1 Beer nights and the $1.99 Breakfast available every day, have a wide following.  As Willamette Week’s 2009 Drink Guide, listing their 100 favorite bars, aptly stated:

“The CT packs the benefits of a college sports bar without the vomiting sorority girls and Dave Mathews fans….But on the Bar’s legendary $1 beer nights…there is no escape.  Come ready to get drunk– and relive the glory days.”

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the Cheerful Tortoise – give it a try.

The Cheerful Tortoise                         1939 SW Sixth Avenue