“Bottoms Up”at The Oaks Bottom Public House

Many Oregon breweries have become high-profile operations with significant advertising budgets and sleek new brewpubs with roof-top patios attracting crowds of millennials from downtown high-tech firms that have become an important part of Portland’s new economy. The bravado is sometimes more for the underlying events and image of the venue than the beer.

Thebeerchaser is not suggesting this is a negative.  In fact, the micro-craft industry, from its roots in the mid-1980’s by some pioneers including Don Younger, the Widmers and the McMenamins has become a multi-billion dollar industry providing family-wage jobs, attracting tourists to all parts of the state and even becoming an integral part of the higher-ed curriculum at Oregon State, University of Portland and Portland State University

Logo for the OSU Food and Fermentation Science Club

According to the Oregon Craft Beer website, by the end of 2016, “…the state had 230 brewing companies operating 261 brewing facilities in 73 cities across the state….employing roughly 31,000 Oregonians directly and indirectly and contributing $4.49 billion to the state’s economy.”  4/017 (The 2017 ending brewery count had grown to 245.)

However, today’s post of Thebeerchaser focuses on one of the more understated and yet highly regarded members of the brewing community which has great beer.  Lompoc Brewing has four locations in Portland – down one when the Hedge House on SE Division closed last year.  “Sadly, it seems to be a victim of increased competition, rising rents and bad weather combined with the lease being up for renewal.”  New School Bar, 11/19/17)

Lompoc’s website is almost too basic and not typical of a brewery with their profile and history. I featured the original pub (the New Old Lompoc) on NW 23rd in an 11/18/15 post on the blog, when I visited it with one of my favorite individuals, Dennis Ferguson, Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation.

Ty, Denny and Rosie, the Manager of the New Old Lompoc in 2015

Accompanying us was Tygue Howland, a superb athlete in his high school and college days and now Associate Athletic Director at Portland State. We loved the ambiance of this small pub which “rose like the Phoenix” when the area around it was redeveloped.

I had the same reaction, as did my fellow Beerchasers, on two visits to one of the other Lompoc locations – the appropriately named Oaks Bottom Public House – in the heart of Sellwood and adjacent to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

Former Willamette Week Arts and Culture Editor, Martin Czimar, an expert on the Portland restaurant and brewing scene – in this excerpt from one of his last columns written before he left for a new job in Washington D.C. – wrote about Lompoc Brewing (although describing the NW 23rd pub, it fits Oaks Bottom as well):

“It’s just one story that illustrates why so many Portlanders are fiercely loyal to this friendly mini-chain, which was founded by Don Younger of Horse Brass fame before the ever-affable Jerry Fechter took over.  Lompoc is perhaps the city’s archetypal brewpub of its generation—homey, friendly and totally lacking in all pretension.” (Willamette Week 3/4/18)

Now most Portlanders in the Baby Boomer era (including Thebeerchaser) know the late Don Younger as the legendary founder of the Horse Brass Pub – one of the older and more revered Portland pubs and Younger’s legacy based on his contributions to the fledgling craft industry.

If you have never been to the Horse Brass, you should visit it next time you are in East Portland.  In fact, in Willamette Week’s  “2016 Best of Portland,” the Horse Brass Pub was recognized for the best pub food in Portland:  “….One of the most important pubs in the history of Portland’s brew culture.  It also has some killer meat pies and fish and chips.”  (In 2017, the weekly also recognized Horse Brass for the City’s best Fish and Chips.)

My own experience is described in this post I wrote in May, 2013: https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/05/23/the-horse-brass-pub-pinnacle-of-perfection/

However, we digress as is my tendency when talking about brews and breweries…..Back to the Lompoc Brewery…..In an Oregon Live article written in April 2017, Nathan Freeburg interviews the Lompoc Founder, Jerry Fechter, who the columnist describes as a “fun, friendly and gregarious guy,” about the origin of the Brewery:

“Fechter was working at ‘The Old Lompoc House’ on NW 23rd in the early ‘90’s.  It was a small bar that got its name because it reminded the owner of an old bar from the ‘50’s.  When craft beer started getting big in Oregon, Fechter figured out how to brew beer, went to beer school in Chicago and began building the brewery.  They brewed their first batch in early 1996.

In 1999, the owners weren’t ‘into the whole craft beer thing,’ so he bought them out. ‘We were playing golf and I said, ’hey, can I buy the brewery?’  By the end of the round, we had agreed upon a price’ and the rest is history”

Accompanying Janet and me to the Oaks Bottom Pub were Beerchasing regulars Roy Lambert and Mary Maxwell – they also accompanied us on our first trip to the pub several years ago – both times after a good walk to enjoy the scenery described below.

Newcomer to our walking group and new to Oregon as well, Chris Hamm, who moved here recently from New Hampshire, joined us on the walk and Kate Dickson, met us at the pub afterwards for dinner and beer.

While Oaks Bottom had a nice feel in the past, the expanded space (they acquired the former dry cleaning shop next door) enhances the experience.  It provides additional booths and tables to accommodate what can be robust crowds especially for the good Happy Hour values available.  It also has a nice décor and a big fireplace for winter visits.

Nice job on expansion space…

One trend in micro-brewing lately is to incorporate all kinds of weird ingredients when making beer in an ill-advised effort to be innovative.

According to an article in Paste Magazine, the list includes dill, horseradish, peppercorns, celery seed, maple syrup, molasses, margherita pizza, bourbon vanilla beans, Vietnamese cinnamon and peanut puree to name a few.

Fortunately, there was no indication that Lompoc decided to try leftover dry-cleaning solvents, from their expanded space, in a new beer release which could include turpentine spirits, benzene, carbon tetrachloride or liquid carbon dioxide in furtherance of this trend.  Sorry, I just have no desire for a “Cleaned and Pressed IPA!”

The bar, itself, is a nice setup although most people use the tables and booths.  It’s in a passageway that leads to the patio in the back – a much better option than the few tables on the sidewalk in front of the pub – right on busy SE Bybee Blvd..

While the menu can be described as pub food, it offers a lot of options and based on our experience, the food is pretty good and reasonably priced.  On the first trip, one of us tried the fish and chips and a delicious cobb salad and rated them highly.

On this trip, we stuck to burgers and sandwiches – the Oaks Bottom Burger (1/2 lb. for $12) or a smaller one at Happy Hour and the chicken sandwich.   While the HH hamburger  is a good deal at $6, it does not compare favorably with some of the bars and pubs at which burger lovers rave.  Examples include the Slow Bar and Wilder.  (See prior Beerchaser reviews.)

But the tap list of  Lompoc beers is the highlight – particularly the Proletariat Red, a former winner (2015) of a silver medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival.  Craft Beer.com describes it as, “Deep chestnut in color…..features a toasted malt profile with biscuit undertones leading to notes of caramelized pear and cinnamon. It strikes an ideal balance between malt and hops.”

Native Portlander, journalist and Communist party figure

And the proximity to Reed College with its sometimes controversial reputation and the history of Portlander, John (Jack) Reed, (not the founder of Reed College as is often thought) but a key figure in the early Communist Party raises the question, why isn’t Reed’s picture on the back of the Proletariat Red bottle?

Reading about John Reed and Reed College is worth placing yourself in an easy chair at the Pub while having one of the Lompoc Beers. (For example, their Kick Axe Pale Ale – according to RateBeer.com: “The unofficial beer of the Timbers’ Army.  Kick Axe is a crisp and nicely hopped pale ale that has been dry-hopped in the fermenter with whole leaf Cascades for a huge hop aroma.”)

One fascinating article describes John Reed’s interactions in Russia with Lenin and Trotsky in an article entitled, “Oregon lad became a founding father’s of Russian Communism.”  He was buried with full military honors and is the only American to be buried in the Kremlin Wall!

https://offbeatoregon.com/1602d.john-reed-communism-380.html

Another example is  this excerpt from a 2009 piece written by a Reed grad and activist – Ty Marbet, who interestingly enough, tried to get rid of gun free zones on Oregon college campuses including Reed:

“Depending on who you ask (Princeton Review, etc.), Reed is between 2nd and 8th ‘most politically and socially liberal’ college in the country, comparable to UC Berkely.  Our school’s unofficial seal proudly sports the hallowed trinity: ‘Communism, Atheism, Free Love.'”  

Elliot Hall at Reed College

Finally, an extremely interesting and detailed article on John Reed is from the Marxist Internet Archive with intriguing references to the Arlington Club, Waverly Country Club, Dunthorpe and Portland society – part of John Reeds, young life in Portland – written by prolific Portland author, Michael Munk, another Reed College grad and university professor.

Those considering a trip to the Oaks Bottom Pub, should definitely work in a hike given the proximity of some attractive options.

For example, on the first visit, we walked the trail along the Oaks Bottom Wild Life Refuge for which the pub is named.  It’s an urban wetland popular with bird watchers and full of other critters including beavers, otters and cranes which sometimes pose for photographers.

Photo taken during our walk along Oaks Bottom

It also provides some great views of the southern parts of Portland along the Willamette River – a great contrast to the wild and primitive nature of the area surrounding the trail.

This was a description from a 10/10/17 Willamette Week article on haunted hikes in Portland

“You’ll wind around Wapato Marsh, passing by the wildlife mural on the Portland Memorial mausoleum, which became the first crematory west of the Mississippi when it opened in 1901.

Eventually, you’ll turn left onto the Springwater Corridor and head toward Oaks Amusement Park. The amusement park is allegedly haunted by a young man and a little girl who died there long ago, according to Ghosthunting Oregon by Donna Stewart.”

 

And if you want a more urban, although highly scenic option, try meeting at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens adjacent to Eastmoreland Golf Course and across the street from Reed College and only 1.2 miles away from the pub.

While you’ll have to pay $5 per person for admission to the Gardens, the flowers and surrounding ponds are well worth the price.

And then we walked through the interesting trails on the Reed College campus which also includes more wooded landscape, streams and ponds.   It’s also great to see the students lounging on the greens scattered through the campus which also has some interesting and historical buildings.

Even if you don’t supplement your trip with a hike, check out the Oaks Bottom Pub.  This excerpt from a Yelp review last August sums up the situation pretty well and is typical of those you will see on social media.

“…….now it’s one of my favorite spots for dinner and/or drinks in the Sellwood neighborhood! I love that they expanded the place, so it’s definitely faster getting a table now. But I do tend to try to go before or after their busiest times.

The food is great (I actually love their salads!) and the drinks are strong in just the right way. Service is almost always awesome. And I love sitting by the fire on cold, rainy nights.”

Oaks Bottom Public House           1621 SW Bybee Blvd.

Beerchasing in Colorado Part II – The Boulder Area

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder - note the orange contingent on the right

The Beavs beat the Buffaloes in Boulder – note the orange contingent on the right

Our trip to Colorado both started and ended in Boulder – a delightful college town in which we visited five interesting establishments and also saw the Oregon State Beavers capture one of their few football wins in 2014 – and what an impressive stadium!

  As the University of Colorado’s Dr. Thomas Noel wrote in his book, A Liquid History of the Highest State:

Boulder has insulated itself from the rest of Colorado with miles of open space and some peculiar laws.  These have ranged from a ban on alchohol to a pacifist foreign policy that bans nuclear weapons within the city limits. (Probably not a bad idea for any college town….)

Among Boulder’s quirks was a Prohibition ordinance not repealed until 1967.  Initially, this was a wet town. ‘I have never seen a city of this size, with so many saloons and so few drunks,’ (marveled one reporter in 1880.)

Near Beer -  The beer drinker's equivalent to Mitt Romney (public domain)

Near Beer – The beer drinker’s equivalent to Mitt Romney (public domain)

 And beware if you buy beer in any retail outlet in Colorado.   All they can sell is 3.2  or “Near Beer” – a questionable euphemism.   According to a recent article in 5280 Denver Magazine, …..3.2 beer still made sense when 18 year-olds could buy it (repealed in 1987), and when it was the only beer you could buy on Sundays (forgone in 2008). So, why has the 3.2 portion of remained unchanged?”

While many Oregonians think the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) is an unnecessary bureaucracy, we have found on recent trips to Utah and Colorado that their beer codes are worse.  3.2 beer is tantamount to being a Republican and having Mitt Romney as the Presidential nominee.  It’s like being told you are going to the Tofu Trattoria for Thanksgiving Dinner.  It’s like……(well, you get the idea!)

Crystal Springs Brewing Co. – Our hosts, the Sengers, are personal friends of Tom and Kristy Horst, the co-owners of this brewery.  Tom is a gifted high-school music teacher who turned his love for home brewing – he and his son started in 1988 – into a thriving business – initially in their garage in 2010 as a home occupation until they expanded in 2013 to a site that could have a taproom in the small municipality of Louisville about ten miles southeast of Boulder.   P1020873

The Sengers with co-owner, Kristy Holtz and ___ in the back

The Sengers with co-owner, Kristy Holtz and staff member, Marilyn Marineeli  in the back

Their mantra is “We only serve beer on special occasions – when it’s snowing and when it’s not snowing….”    

The name has historical ties with the original Crystal Springs founded in 1875 – transitioning to Boulder City Brewery in 1889, which became Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company in 1898.  A friend who is an historical buff suggested the current name which was available. They registered the name and obtained the domain rights for Crystal Springs Brewing Co. when they moved in 2013.

An outstanding family brewery with historic ties

An outstanding family brewery with historic ties

They brew in small batches and are thus creative in their offerings –  now about 30 with 13 always available on tap and their website explains the names behind each one.   One of my favorite beers during the entire Colorado trip was their Solano Chili Beer.

They started canning in 2013 and in March, six of their beers will be available by the aluminum route.  Their growth is evidenced by their plan to increase from the current 30 bbls per month to 100 by the end of 2013.  (A barrel is 31 gallons and a standard keg holds one-half of a barrel – a statistic that will give you a more accurate understanding/appreciation of your college consumption…)

The Crystal Springs Taproom

The Crystal Springs Taproom

 

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The SinkThis historic bar – founded in 1923 on the hill near the UC campus, has outstanding character and internal idiosyncrasies that make it a must visit.  It boasts that Robert Redford worked there as a janitor in the ’60’s, which led patrons to inquire, “Who is that guy, anyway??”

As Dr. Noel describes it: P1020891

During the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was at CU, students sat around here in puddles of beer, smoked pot, and watched Batman and Star Trek…..Mobs of students consumed oceans of beer by the quart.  After a 1995 restoration, the reincarnated Sink still lives in this two-story house with a tacked-on storefront.

The Sink's version of the Recreation of Man.  The Pope would probably not be impressed....

The Sink’s ceiling version of the Creation of Man. The Pope would probably not be impressed….

 Among gobs of graffiti, the place’s crowning achievement is a re-creation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Man, with God holding down a Sinkburger to Sink Rats in the “Sink-stine Chapel.”  

Some of the tons of graffiti-art created by San Francisco beatnik artist, Lloyd Kavich

Some of the tons of graffiti-art created by San Francisco beatnik artist, Lloyd Kavich

The bar is a maze-like configuration with many rooms – all with distinctive wall-art and thousands of autographs from students.  Each room has tables crammed with people eating and drinking – it kind of reminded me of an old fraternity house.

P1020889And speaking of The Sinkburger, which was outstanding at $8.50, we laughed at the menu option to upgrade to “Natural Grass-fed Beef” for an additional $2.50.  Given Colorado’s legalization of pot, we wondered how laid-back and happy cattle would taste.  Would their hunger transfer to us?

The onion rings were outstanding too and they also have an expansive menu of sandwiches and pizzas besides eighteen draft beers.

The unannounced visit to The Sink by President Obama on a 2012 campaign trip resulted in a new pizza – The POTUS Pie (pepperoni, Italian sausage, green pepper, black olive, red onion, and mozzarella.)  Evidently, Michelle was not on that trip…..

Waiting for Sink Burgers, onion rings and Rocky Mountain Red Ale from Grand Lake Brewing

Waiting for Sink Burgers, onion rings and Rocky Mountain Red Ale from Grand Lake Brewing

Avery Brewing Company This brewery was recommended by our good West Linn friend, Nancy Martin, and it is an impressive success story.  It was started in 1993 – another father-son home operation – this one by Adam Avery – the first President and Brewmaster and brewed just three flagship beers.

50,000 barrel capacity will double with the new brewery

50,000 barrel capacity will double with the new brewery

The pictures will show they now have a thriving operating, one that has shown continued expansion in facilities to capacity of 50,000 barrels or 1.5 million gallons annually and a national reputation for quality craft beer. It demonstrates the vitality of the craft brewing industry – seen in both Oregon and Colorado.   P1020894

They broke ground in January last year on what the Boulder Daily Camera reports will be “a nearly 96,000-square-foot brewery and restaurant…. a more than $27 million project,” which will double its capacity when it opened a few days ago.  Avery is also known for its sustainability programs and even has a cooperative arrangement with the University of Colorado labeled the Yeast Genome Program.  This is genetic sequencing of yeast strains for quality control in brewing – something that the folks at Anheuser Busch probably don’t worry too much about when producing Bud Light.

Matt - Certified Cicerone and nice guy with the Sengers and Thebeerchaser logo

Matt – Certified Cicerone and nice guy with the Sengers and Thebeerchaser logo

 We visited their Tap Room – now in a new location serving 30 beers on tap  – and their staff was very friendly – most notably, Matt Lambuth, their Certified Cicerone – the second of three levels of certification requiring passing a written exam and “a deep and well-rounded knowledge of beer and beer service as well as competence in assessing beer quality and identity by taste.”  

P1020893Matt gave us a history and a thorough explanation of beer options including multiple tastes to help hone our preferences (Karma BelgianJoe’s Pilsner, Gored – a great pumpkin seasonal and White Rascal Belgium).

Eighteen different Avery beers at their Tap Room
Eighteen different Avery beers at their Tap Room

 

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Gravity Brewing –  While this small brewery and pub started in the fall of 2012 – the first in the Louisville suburb of Boulder does not have the gravitas and ambiance of the first two in this post, it definitely has the coolest logo.

An outstanding logo!

An outstanding logo!

They only produce about 20 barrels per week of their twenty different brews – most with high 8% to 10% ABV or alcohol content – and distribute growlers, kegs and bottled beers.  Both the founder and managing partner are UC engineers and the brewer graduated with a degree in chemistry from Portland’s own Lewis and Clark College.

Facilities in the brew pub

Facilities in the Gravity brew pub

Their brew pub is somewhat sparsely furnished and in a drab commercial building. (The location isn’t pretty.  Swing around the back of Mountain High Appliance, cross a rutty parking lot fronting the American Legion Post III, and walk through an unremarkable front door. Boulder Daily Camera – 8/22/.)

 Interestingly, their kitchen is shared with the local American Legion Post and you can simply walk through a door into another cool bar run by the Legion.  Gravity has live jazz several times each month on Thursday nights.

A shared kitchen....
A shared kitchen….

 

The Taproom - sparsely furnished except for the beers on tap

The Gravity Taproom – sparsely furnished except for the beers on tap

 

 

 

 

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Post Brewing Company – We had an excellent dinner at this brewery-restaurant in Lafayette – also near Boulder. Opened in the summer of 2012 in a former VFW hall and as described on their web-site: “A chicken and beer joint where hot chicken loves cold beer, all day long and twice on Sundays.” 

A chicken and beer joint...
A chicken and beer joint…

 

The Post patio
The Post’s expansive beer garden

 

 

They  brew eighteen beers and have a great comfort-food menu including good pizza, but go for the fried or rotisserie chicken. “We’ll have fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, a bunch of appetizers with chicken, drumsticks, a lot of stuff with eggs.”  

And by the way their Howdy Beer – a pilsner – won a Gold Medal at Denver’s 2014 Great American Beer Festival and goes really well with dark meat…..

Is this a Post Growler?

Is this a Post Brewery  Growler?

P1020921

And to close this post, Thebeerchaser can’t resist posting the video below from the Colorado University Stadium during the OSU vs. CU football game.  This provides new insight into the term “Beast Mode” and if Pete Carrol had this running back to carry the ball for the final plays in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks would definitely have won.