Thebeerchaser’s 8th Annual Report – 2019

240 blog posts totaling 370,188 words since 2011

A little over eight years ago, I hesitantly walked into my first bar as Thebeerchaser.  Having recently retired as COO of the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, I became convinced after visiting Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee, Oregon and the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Idaho, that visiting and writing about bars, breweries and pubs would be an interesting hobby.

The Rod and Gun in Stanley

Thanks to the warm greeting I got at the Brooklyn Park Pub when I told Phoebe, the bartender, in August 2011, that her bar was the first of what I hoped would be many on this somewhat curious project, I was motivated to go forth!

She gave me a BPP cap and autographed it, gave me great info on the bar and posed for a picture.

 

Phoebe – where it all started….

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of 2019

The count of watering holes I had visited and reviewed (Unless on the road, I virtually always hit a watering hole twice to get a more accurate picture.)  was 287 establishments of which 111 were in the Portland metro area and the other 176 in locations ranging from Europe to most regions of the US and all over Oregon – from the coast to the desert in Eastern Oregon.

For the complete list, check out the link below which categorizes them by year and in or out of Portland.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/01/17/hey-have-you-seen-thebeerchaser-during-the-last-seven-years/

2019 Was a Very Good Year

The Gemini – a classic in Lake Oswego

Now the good news is I visited more bars this year than in any since the blog’s inception – 80.  I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that only 8 of those were in the Portland area – another 1 on the Oregon Coast and 3 in Washington.

The Caroline Tavern in Seattle

All of the remaining 68 were on three trips – Phoenix for Spring Training in March (8) and two wonderful road trips – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas in June (48) and the Southwest (New Mexico and Colorado) in September (12).

To see the list for each trip, click on the links above.  The picture below from the Trappers’ Bar in Eureka, Montana was one of my favorites.

The chart below will give you the history by year of “Thebeerchasers 366”

Year Portland Outside Portland Yearly Total Composite Total
2019 8 72 80 366
2018 12 30 42 286
2017 15 27 42 244
2016 14 39 53 202
2015 11 36 47 149
2014 17 17 34 102
2013 13 21 34 68
2012 20 5 25 34
2011 9 0 9 9
  119 247 366

Blog Statistics

I’m pleased to state that Thebeerchaser.com for the fourth year in a row, had over 20,000 “visits” or internet hits – with 20,030 in 2019 by 14,800 individuals – that means each person who reached the blog looked at  an average of 1.35 different posts.

The Flag of Ukraine –

Persons from 111 different countries found Thebeerchaser with 17,621 from the US with India in second place at  601 hits.

And even the Ukraine registered 9 although I can’t tell if any were from the Embassy staff.   As was the case in 2018, one bold individual from Iraq took at least a momentary glimpse.  That’s where internet sites featuring bars and alcohol are probably discouraged…..

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

First Quarter 2020 – B-O-Q

While the number of bars I hit was a new high in 2019, I was remiss in “honoring” Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, naming only two last year.

I have already got three good candidates for 2020, so that performance issue will be SOLVed.  (That’s a hint for the first quarter as is the untitled picture here.)

Retired Colonel Terry “Spike” McKinsey

Terry McKinsey became a friend when we were shipmates on our first midshipman cruise on a WW II destroyer – the USS John R. Craig – DD 885 – he from the US Naval Academy and me from Oregon State NROTC.   We discovered that we attended rival high schools in Oregon – he West Linn and me Oregon City. 

Two other middies on that cruise were Larry Walters also USNA and Ken Guest from University of Kansas NROTCThe four of us spent the summer learning about how a ship operates, trying to meet young debutantes at Navy sponsored dances and making fools of ourselves on liberty in Honolulu and San Francisco.

Larry and Terry on 1/c Midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean

Terry and Larry took their commissions in the United States Marine Corps.    Terry married Anna, his college sweetheart and they had two children during their forty-nine year marriage.

Spike distinguished himself as an aviator and had a remarkable career after the USMC including Base Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard and as the Assistant Chief Pilot for Horizon Airlines.

After a lapse in contact, we reconnected in the mid-1980’s through a humorous business incident when Spike had moved back to Oregon and I was Business Manager at the Schwabe firm.

Terry died last January after a short illness. My reason for trying to honor Terry with his story including the legendary “steamroller escapade” at West Linn High School when he was on summer leave from the Academy is summarized well by this quote from Larry, his classmate and best friend since Academy days:

I met Terry ‘Spike’ McKinsey in 1966.  The country was chaotic and would get worse.  But for Terry, the choices were always clear.  He was guided by his love of God, family, good friends, and country.   He didn’t have to tell you about it, he lived it!”

To read the story and remarkable service of this amazing patriot, athlete and family-man, click on the link above on his name.

John Runkle

After visiting 366 bars, I can say without equivocation, my favorite and the most interesting was the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana.   And John Runkle, the owner of both the bar and the nearby Yaak River Lodge where I stayed for two nights in the Moose Room during my two nights in Yaak was a clear choice for Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

This former paratrooper and California real estate entrepreneur is a prime reason why the Shame  got three separate Beerchaser posts and more print in this blog than any of the waterholes during the past eight years.

He bought the Lodge in 2004 and the Saloon at auction in 2013 after the ignominious departure of the former owner left it in foreclosure (after being extradited back to Maryland).   John was the driving force to bring this fabled dive back to the status which had made it a destination for bikers, hunters and Beerchasers as well as a community gathering place.

John is a charismatic guy, who is a great story teller, born salesman and shepherds community events such as the Crawfish Festival, Yaak Attack and the Sasquatch Festival.

 

 

 

 

When we had a discussion in the bar with, Todd Berget – who died later last year – John described his friend as a guy “having a political philosophy slightly left of Stalin…” 

Todd and I tried to tell him without result that his politics were somewhat misguided and John needed to shift back and reflect some of his California upbringing, but at least we all ended laughing, shaking our heads and toasting  rather than cursing each other. (Rest in Peace, Todd!)

Todd and John – Still smiling after discussing national politics…

John puts in a work week at the Lodge and Saloon that would “shame” most people. his age.

He is also a devoted family man.   His beautiful wife, Dallas, just delivered their second daughter in August, shortly after I was in Yaak.

 

 

 

 

 

As author, Joan Melcher, wrote in her second book Watering Holes  – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars (Page 88):

“The Dirty Shame is the fresh, sharp smell of pine, and the dank odor of dirt-laden, beer-splashed floors, wild nights of revelry and mornings of shared pain.” 

The Dirty Shame was on my bucket list before my trip and now is the only item on that dwindling slate that returned to the list after getting there. If John Runkle stays in Yaak, you should add it to yours’ as well.

And 2019 Final Highlights

Beerchasing has been a wonderful hobby for a guy whose friends and family wondered how he was going to “survive” retirement.   As I’ve stated before, “I really like beer – especially a $2.50 Happy Hour PBR – but I could go to the bars and drink soda water rather than alchohol and continue this hobby indefinitely.”

My wife, Janet, has been a wonderful Beerchasing companion on our trips and even flew into Billings to join me so I could spend the first six nights solo – driving through Montana (in a Prius with no gun rack and a Starbucks mug) meeting bartenders and regulars at thirty historic bars before we continued to Wyoming and the Dakotas.

One of the highlights was hitting my 300th bar in June at the Leaky Roof in Portland, which was more memorable because I was joined by my friend of forty years, Denny Ferguson.

And for those of you who followed Thebeerchaser from the beginning and have continued through this post in January, 2020, you have read 241 posts which filled you with 372,173 words about bars, breweries and interesting people.  Thanks for sharing your time on this pursuit with me.

An always cheerful and youthful looking, Fergy..

The people I met this year continue to be unforgettable and supportive ranging from Ernie Bob at Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe to Edmonds Wash. Daphne’s Bar, legendary mixologist, Demond van Rensberg.

Ernie Bob and Janet in Santa Fe

Then there was Pete Pete Andrijeski of Seattlebars.org  King of the Beerchasers with 3,906 bars reviewed since he started his journey in 2006.  (1,659 of the bars in Seattle)

I met Pete at Daphne’s after coming across one of his posts when I was researching the history of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle.

Pete and Desmond on our night drinking cocktails at Daphne’s

And I can’t forget James “Horse” McHorsney, who is a regular at Eiler’s Place in Pueblo, Colorado.   Horse is in both of the pictures you see here and to learn the story, click on the following link:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/  

The Benedictine Brewery

Followers of the blog know I have been involved with this unique project for the last three years as a volunteer and I am proud to report that since the Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom opened in September, 2018, it has been an impressive success.

Fr. Martin, the head brewer and general manager has now developed seven beers after the initial positive reception to Black Habit – our flagship beer and his brews have drawn rave reviews.

The Brewery is one of only three in the US where the monks own and operate the enterprise.  Plan on coming to the Taproom in Mt. Angel and visiting the beautiful Abbey Hilltop.

Beerchasing Event at the New Oakshire Beer Hall

In October, about thirty Beerchasing friends gathered at the Oakshire Beer Hall in NE Portland to try out the establishment which opened in July – a Portland addition to the popular Oakshire Brewery in Eugene.  One of the attendees was Oakshire Brewing Board member, Dr. Sam Holloway, a professor at the University of Portland, President of Crafting a Strategy and a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Br. Thomas, Sam Holloway and Fr. Martin at the Oakshire Beerchasing

Thanks to the followers of this blog for their support and if you have suggestions for bars or breweries to add to my travels in 2020, please let me know by a blog comment or send an e-mail to dwilliams2951@gmail.com.

Although some might think it redundant, I loved the piece by Edgar Allen Poe which I used to end 2018.  While he is not known for a positive outlook, Poe got this one right!

Happy New Year.

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

At least he was positive about ale!

The list of the bar’s outside Portland can be found at the links in the narrative above.   The list of Portland establishments is shown below:

2019 Portland Area Bars

  Name Location Type Date of Post
2018-1 The Gemini Bar and Grill Lake Oswego Neighborhood January
2018-2 Old Town Brewing NE Brewery and Pub February
2018-3 Xport Bar and Lounge SW Hotel Bar – Hotel Porter June
2018-4 Bantam Tavern NW Neighborhood April
2018-5 The Leaky Roof SW Neighborhood June
2018-6 Roots Lake Oswego Non-profit Neighborhood August
2018-7 Oakshire Beer Hall NE Brewpub October
2018-8 Mad Hanna NE Dive Bar October

The Yamhill Pub – A Dive Bar with Character or Grunge?

the Yamhill Pub - Dive or Grunge - or is there a difference?

The Yamhill Pub – Dive or Grunge – or is there a difference?

One of the wide-ranging debates in contemporary society – rivaling that of climate change, the future of Congress as a viable institution and gun control is that of the definition of dive bars i.e. how does one determine if the PBR he is drinking is consumed in a true dive bar or a trendy hole-in-the-wall that tries to masquerade as one (or is there even a level below “dive bar”?)

Justice Stewart - probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Justice Stewart – probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Some will reference the late Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart’s threshold test for obscenity when he wrote in his legendary opinion about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” 

Others try to identify specific dive bar characteristics,as exemplified by reference sources used by Thebeerchaser in his journey to visit bars, taverns and pubs in Portland – and subsequently, other locales including Europe, Alaska, Colorado, the South and Oregon regions east of the Cascades, and on the Oregon Coast.

seattle-dive-bars

An invaluable Beerchaser reference source

For example, my favorite from pages 9-10 of Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely:

“Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom.  Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then……..But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term “dive’”is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.    

The Yukon Tavern - one of Portland's other dive bars

The Yukon Tavern – one of Portland’s other dive bars

Dive bars is one of the subsets of venues reviewed on the home page of this blog and of the approximately 115+ bars reviewed since August 2011, about fifteen have been so categorized including Portland’ dives the Ship Tavern, Bar of the GodsJoe’s Cellar, the Yukon Tavern and Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska to name a few.

And up North - Darwin's Theory in Anchorage

And up North – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage

 —————

The Yamhill Pub in downtown Portland is the latest addition to the class, although I would submit that this historic bar may be submerged one additional step below “dive” to “grunge,” as discussed below.  In this scholarly discussion, I will first quote in full, the summary paragraph from Portland Barfly, because it so eloquently captures the “aura.”

“A genuine dive-bar lurking midst the downtown shopping arcade, the Yamhill Pub maintains an unreconstructed seediness through blaring juke, food…

Toilet No. 1

Bathroom No. 1

(and, for that matter, toilets) best avoided, actively-encouraged graffiti upon the smoke-stained walls, pennies-a-serving pitchers, and a fiercely-protective cadre of underemployed regulars (seniors, rockers, bike messengers) willing to throw themselves in front of Hummers to prevent the forces of gentrification. Intimidating for the first-time visitor, but that’s sort of the point.”

The bar at the Yamhill

The bar at the Yamhill

 And this excerpt from one of the Bar Fly reviewers in 2011 is edifying albeit puzzling,  “Yamhill IS the  bar in all of Portland, if not the world. I love it and will never stop drinking there.” 

You will not find the Yamhill Pub in the annual Willamette Week Bar Guide nor will it ever be one of the five Portland watering holes in Draft Magazine’s exclusive list of Best 100 Beer Bars in the United States

I visited the Yamhill three times – once with the Portland State University Athletic Department’s erstwhile, Denny Ferguson.  He also accompanied me at prior visits to the Cheerful Tortoise and The Cheerful Bullpen.  I also had an afternoon beer on my second visit with Merrill Lynch financial wizard, Mike Jones (also a Beerchaser at the Oregon Public House).

Beerchaser Regular - Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy)

Beerchaser Regular – Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy) with Thebeerchaser logo and PBR!

 

P1030195

Beerchaser and financial wizard, Mike Jones

 

 

 

——-

What “distinguishes” the Yamhill?

The Bathrooms – the bathrooms are most often characterized with adjectives similar to this description in 2010: “Bathrooms are disgusting,” and brought current by this Yelp reviewer in 2015: “The restrooms (were) just sick,” – both patrons evidently not disturbed by the fact that one of the heads has no lock on the door.

———–

Bathroom No. 2 - also no paradise!

Bathroom No. 2 – also no paradise!

These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent...

These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent…

The Graffitias you can see from the picture, every conceivable space in the one-room bar is covered with words and phrases accumulated through the years since it’s opening in 1939, and the same is true on the bathroom walls.

While some neat classic beers signs and one for Camel Cigarettes were displayed, there was a real paucity of the good memorabilia – okay junk – that typifies many dive bars and adds to the character because there are usually stories behind them.  Unfortunately, the graffiti, rather than offering the usual range of intellectual expressions and philosophical albeit trite drivel, was either indecipherable scribbling or obscenities ranging from one or two words to more graphic short phrases.  P1030321 P1030324

The only exception I found, notwithstanding a zealous search, was this truism which might be a suitable campaign slogan for Hillary Clinton:

“To be one with your weaknesses, is your greatest strength.”

And immediately below this phrase to add context –  if not a verifiable scientific hypothesis:  “You smell better when you are asleep.”

The Clientele – unlike a number of social media comments suggested, we did not find a group of hostile regulars who resent any new patron as an interloper. The approximately fifteen-seat bar was filled on each visit with a diverse group (male and female and a broad age demographic) ranging from tattooed punkers, a jovial drunk, some blue-collar serious beer drinkers to a few office workers – presumably downtown employees.

P1030325

On my third and final visit over the lunch hour, I sat at the bar next to a guy who was on his second Rainier Tall Boy when I sat down.  After spilling a good part of the second can on the bar which went on to his t-shirt, he told me that he was “getting ready” for his 1:30 court appearance for second degree trespassing.  (I did not suggest to him that the judge was probably not going to be impressed with his pre-function.)

The bartender on each visit was friendly and his conversation with those at the bar was ongoing. Unfortunately, it was difficult to the point of unattainable to carry on a conversation because the rock music pumping out of the juke-box was so loud.

The Food and Beer – Most of the dive bars reviewed at least have decent grub which helps one appreciate the usual lack of selection of quality beers; however, at the Yamhill, there is a microwave for popcorn or for a limited menu of frozen “treats” such as wings, corn dogs, chicken strips or lasagna and mac & cheese (the latter two obviously to be avoided).

Kevin, the owner and bartender, told me that you can also bring your own food in although besides a Subway and the YUMM Chinese restaurant, there’s not much near by.   (Warning – you might get beaten up if you bought food in a YUMM container.)

And by the way, don’t look for a website with their menu, the beers on tap or anything for that matter.  They do have a surprisingly decent selection of beer with ten on tap, including Blue Moon, Widmer Hefeweizen, Georgetown Porter, Oakshire Amber, Sam Adams Nitro Stout and Alameda’s Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA.  (Mike and I downed draft Blue Moons – as expected, the standard orange slice on our class was missing!)

The Standard at Yamhill!

No. 18 in North America in 2012!

Denny and I had PBR’s – $1.50 during Happy Hour and the bartender affirmed the astounding claim that the Yamhill is the top seller of PBR in Oregon (“We have four kegs of it on tap daily“).

Not only that, but at one time in the ’90’s they were #5 in North America!!  Before I could scoff, he pointed out this PBR sign from 2012 – Number 18 in North America in PBR sales.  Perhaps it’s the special they advertise “$3 for a pint of PBR and a shot of Old Taylor Whiskey.”

Thebeerchaser has used more quotes than typical in this post; however, they are so rich that they are worth sharing and it is fitting to close with the following two:

“The Yamhill Pub is a glorious sh*t crater. It’s a hole, a mess, a f*ing dive. The walls and floors and sundry surfaces are more graffiti-ed than not, and the pub certainly came by every squiggle honestly. Plastic cups do for the dirt-cheap well drinks, and the very idea of ordering any kind of cocktail seems vastly inappropriate.

The only thing that clashes with the Yamhill’s perfect image of a dive is the surprisingly decent collection of taps. Even in the midst of punk squalor, Portlanders still demand a decent IPA. The Yamhill Pub is amazing. It’s perfect. Never go there. You’ll ruin it.”  (Joe Streckert – Portland Mercury)        

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

And this one from a regular I chatted with briefly about Thebeerchaser blog. He ended our conversation with the lament, “Mark my words, this place will be gone in five years and that will be a tragedy.”

Although the Yamhill Pub is a grunge pit – He’s correct.

The Yamhill Pub

223 SW Yamhill