Autumn Musings – Motivation, Incentives and Nails?!

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For Wont of a Nail…..

The proverb “For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.  And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” was included in Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1758, and came to my mind last weekend in a different context.

Followers of this blog know that I got involved in the planning and development of the Benedictine Brewery on the grounds of the beautiful Mount Angel Abbey in 2016 and have been thrilled at its success since it opened in the fall of 2018.

The Brewery – one of only three in the US which are owned and operated by Benedictine Monks – under the leadership of Head Brewer, Fr. Martin Grassel, has expanded its brewing capacity and the seating in the St. Michael Taproom’s adjacent patio.  Fr. Martin now has ten excellent beers on tap and they have garnered rave reviews and a regional following.

I always keep a few bottles around to give to friends, relatives and periodically, as a nice gesture and that opportunity occurred last week at our beach house in Lincoln City.   The foreman for our contractor who is remediating a dry-rot issue on the house which is twenty-three years old was working late on a Friday afternoon.   

I took an unopened bottle of Haustus (the most popular of the line-up according to Fr. Martin) out to him and expressed our appreciation.  About twenty minutes later he knocked on the door and the conversation went like this:

Foreman:  Hi Don, I just wanted to let you know that I’m taking off now.  And by the way, your were right.  That is really an excellent beer.

Don:   Thanks Rich.  I’m sorry I didn’t bring it out opened.

Foreman:  Don, I’m a carpenter.  I learned early on in my career that there are multiple functions for a nail! 

Good point and I guess it makes a lot more sense than trying to use one’s teeth as we did in college…..

Motivations and Incentives in the COVID Era

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In order to increase the COVID vaccination rate, there have been a plethora of incentives offered to get people to roll up their sleeves.   My initial thought was:

“Why do they have to give people something to do what could save their (and their loved ones) lives and has been approved by the FDA?  What happened to the good old days, when you took action because it was the right thing to do?”

Of course, the response to that rhetorical question would be:

“Beerchaser, when you were in grade school, they still taught cursive writing.  When you were in junior high (not middle school..) you were a member of the slide rule club and when you went to Oregon City High School, you could take your date to Dick’s Club 19 and get two burgers and cokes for ninety-nine cents!”

Incentives for vaccines have ranged from lottery tickets (an Oregon State University Student won $1 million in July); doughnuts from Krispy Creme; marijuana joints; 100 free target rounds for trap, skeet, or sporting clay shooting (in Southern Illinois) and dinner with the New Jersey Governor at his beach home on the Governor’s mansion. (The Intelligencer – updated May 27, 2021 – “Lotteries, Doughnuts, Joints – The Weird Incentives to Get People Vaccinated”)

Now speaking of New Jersey Governors, the incentive below (was it the “blubber”?) also made me think of Chris Christie:

“In New York American Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life offers 1,000 shots per day to eligible residents. While they’re getting inoculated, vaccine hopefuls can take in the ocean life exhibits beneath the institution’s iconic 94-foot-long model of a blue whale, which now has a bandage on its side.”

And finally, Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club in Las Vegas gave customers who get jabbed at the local strip club, a special platinum membership card, a free bottle on the house, dances from a “vaccinated entertainer,” and other perks.  (There was no reporting on how they accomplished that and maintained social distancing.)

I was glad to see some of Portland’s bars and breweries were opting into this trend.  For example, one classic dive bar in downtown Portland that I reviewed in 2015 – Kelly’s Olympian – hosted a Portland cardiologist, Dr. Maureen Mays, who administered the shots which generated a free beer at the bar last May. Dr. Mays did not get compensated.  She described it as “a labor of love.”

Dr. Mays, who has practiced for 23 years offered the same program the day before at Portland’s Ecliptic Brewing as reported in the story entitled, “A Shot for a Beer – Doctor Administers Vaccine Doses at Portland Bars.”   It stated that “the line was out the door.”

While we should be encouraged and impressed with gains in medical technology, we can also ponder how much more progress can still be made in immunity efforts as echoed by Eno L. Camino, the main character in the great comic strip “The Duplex” . 

He remarks to his best friend – dog Fang – as shown by this dialogue from a recent strip as they are watching a television talk show:

Host: So Doctor, the vaccine for the virus must be injected?

Physician: That’s correct.  A shot in the arm is the most common method.

Enos:  We have the smartest scientists in the world and they can’t figure out a way to put vaccine into a can of beer?

No needle, no syringe, just pop-a-top!

The implications of the pandemic have generated additional incentive-related programs – most notably in the area of employment where the shortage of labor has resulted in needed increases in hourly salaries as well as recruiting bonuses.

The hospitality industry has been one of the sectors experiencing the greatest adverse impact of the dearth of available help.   Restaurants and bars have struggled to recruit and retain servers, dishwashers and cooks.   

For example, Pelican Brewing, with several locations on the Oregon Coast, still has hiring notices on its website offering $2,500  bonuses for new cooks, housekeepers and even dishwashers at its Pacific City location.

A View of the Ocean and a Hiring Bonus

And the Trend has Evolved to Sports Too

But perhaps my favorite recent incentive was that originated by Portland State University’s Football Coach, Bruce Barnum.  Portland State is a wonderful school, where both my wife and I received a superb graduate education. 

That said, as an urban university with a significant number, if not a majority, of its students commuting or attending night school while working, it has struggled to build a robust athletic program – especially in football.

And there’s some validity in the position that with OSU and Oregon and leading smaller college programs, PSU should not have a football team because of the practical realities of funding, recruiting, facilities, etc.  The University has never had its own football field, but at least was able to play until early 2019 in nearby Providence Park

Scheduling issues with the Portland Timbers and Thorns Soccer Teams forced a relocation to a field in Hillsboro.  It’s a nice facility, but thirteen miles away from campus and between a one-half hour to forty-five minute trip by car.

The remote stadium and the composition of the student body has meant getting spectators in seats for home games has been problematic – a morale issue for the team and added ammunition for those who think PSU should abandon football.

However, Barnum, is a fighter, besides being a good football coach and motivator of young men.  This former middle linebacker at Eastern Washington University became Head Coach at PSU in 2015 and after guiding his team to a 9-3 record, was named Big Sky Coach of the Year.   The team has been resilient during some bad seasons and the players do well academically.

Coach Bruce Barnum – a Strong Motivator *10

So Barnum, in an effort to get more butts in seats for the critical Western Washington game in Hillsboro, made an offer while appearing on a Portland sports talk-radio show the week of the game.  For every person attending the game of legal age, he would buy a beer.  As reported in Oregon Live:

Asked how many beers he would buy, Barnum told (the host) ‘All of them.’ (not just those who were vaccinated……) 

…..Three days after PSU topped the Division II Wolves 21-7 (their first victory of the season after two losses) in front of 3,124 fans, Barnum tweeted a photo representing the final tab he paid for fans’ beers: $14,448.  (The Barney’s Beer Garden receipt showed 786 Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPAs and 1,260 Coors Lights)”

A public employee for the State of Oregon – Barnum’s yearly base salary is $205,000 not including bonuses and incentives.  He said afterwards that the school’s Administration thought it was a great promotion and there was a rumor that the PSU Foundation might pick up half of tab. 

I personally think this was a classy move and give him a “Cheers!”  Undoubtedly there are those, who think it was foolish and I’m sure the University’s lawyers were shaking their heads, but sometimes one has to just “go for it.”

And at least, Barnum followed through – unlike a Miami bar as reported in The Week.  The American Social Bar, in 2019, offered free shots for every goal scored by the US Women’s World Cup Soccer Team’s match with Thailand. The bar cut off the program midway through the match, which ended with a 13 to 0 thrashing by the US:

“Our free shots’ program is not meant to be taken literally,” explained a bar spokesman. (I’m sure that their lawyers were relieved!)

I’ll have thirteen pours of Jose Cuervo…Hold the salt and the lime….*11

External Photo Attribution

*1  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clou_127.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  Author: Rolf Dietrich Brecher from Germany.  18 February, 2018

*2 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Syringe2.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.  21 June 2006.

*3  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Looped_cursive_alphabet.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author:  Thincat.  24 January, 2015

*4  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skala_slide_rule.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Adrian Tync.  15 August, 2018.

*5  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chris_Christie_by_Gage_Skidmore_3.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author:  Gage Skidmore.  31 October, 2015.

*6  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Model_of_a_blue_whale_in_the_Museum_of_Natural_History,_New_York_2010.JPG)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: Roland Arhelger.  13 July 2010

*7  Kelly’s Olympian website (https://kellysolympian.com/show/a-shot-for-a-shot/

*8  Dr. Maureen Mays website (https://www.maureenmays.com/)

*9  City of Hillsboro website (https://www.hillsboro-oregon.gov/departments/parks-recreation/our-facilities/gordon-faber-recreation-complex)

*10  Portland State University website (https://goviks.com/sports/football/roster/coaches/bruce-barnum/821)

*11   Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shot_glass#/media/File:Three_shotglasses.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.  Author: Kelly Martin 16 November 2006

Ecliptic Brewing – Shoot for the stars but settle for an earth orbit….

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This brew pub on the southern edge of N. Mississippi Avenue opened in October 2013 – a creation of John Harris, who has extensive (three decades) experience in the craft brewing industry starting with McMenamin’s (the first brewer to make Hammerhead), then Deschutes and Full Sail Breweries as brewmaster before opening his own venture.

AxialTiltObliquity

Would you rather discuss the obliquity of the axial tilt or just raise a mug?

The beers are named after stars and their website explains, “The name Ecliptic Brewing unites John’s two passions: brewing and astronomy and is the yearly path around the sun on planet Earth.” 

For the science geeks who want to get more serious, however, a more thorough definition is,The plane defined by the earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere, along which the sun appears to move as viewed from the earth.” 

“Appears” is emphasized above because technically it is an illusion – to fully understand involves grasping the “obliquity of the ecliptic axial tilt” – a concept which would motivate most people to reach for several mugs of their excellent beer.

According to Willamette Week’s Art and Culture Editor, Martin Cizmar, in his 2/14 review,“It’s his (Harris’s) goal for Ecliptic to be considered among the top 100 restaurants in town, winning inclusion in either WW’s glossy Restaurant Guide or The Oregonian’s Diner.”  (The critic was not overly impressed with his food on his three visits and felt the ranking would be in the top 250 restaurants although most of the recent comments about the food in social media are positive.)

Our group sampling the food and beer after the walk around the neighborhood

Our group sampling the food and beer after the walk around the neighborhood

While they have celestial goals, the experience for us did not break into orbit.   The menu and the food were pretty good, and as expected, they brew some excellent beer.  However, after visiting over 100 bars, taverns and brewpubs on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland, Bars, Taverns and Pubs in the last three years, I would suggest that decent food and good beer do not make up for a sterile environment – which lacks any ambiance – at least at this point.

Ecliptic is a former auto body shop, with picnic tables massed in an uncovered large concrete parking lot which slopes downhill.  As one Yelp reviewer recently opined, “I think the main thing holding this place back is the rather sterilized/antiseptic feeling the location gives. It’s a big space, but there doesn’t seem to be much character.”   (March 22, 2015)P1030302

The interior is also pretty barren – the kitchen is essentially integrated with the dining space – spacious, but the walls are stark and lights bright conveying a cafeteria-type feel.

That said, they have great sandwiches and salads.  The 1/2 pound Ecliptic Burger was delicious as was their grilled salmon sandwich and Caesar Salad.  The fries are plentiful and cheap.

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As would be expected, the beer is their strength and they have ten beers on tap at a very reasonable price ($4.75 for a 16 oz. pint).  Five of their beers were nominated for Willamette Week’s 2015 Beer Awards:

White Astroid Imperial Wit IPA – Best Hoppy Beer

Stellanova India Session Ale – Best Session Beer

Spica Hefepils – Best Lager

Perihelion Crimson Saison – Best of the Island of Misfit Beers

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A Galaxy of Good Beers

Oregon Live in an April, 2015 post, stated:  The newest addition to Ecliptic’s line of beers is named after the Helix Nebula, a large planetary nebula and sun-like star (also known as “The Eye of God”) located in the constellation Aquarius. Helix is a crisp and refreshing golden lager, dry hopped with Citra and Jarrylo hops for extra citrus, spice flavor and aroma. 

The servers were responsive and knowledgeable and Ecliptic is attempting to be creative and flexible – again quoting from their website:

“…..beer and food menus (will be) in constant change and rotation throughout the year. Our seasonal menu will rotate every 6 weeks on the old world calendar. Changes at Samhian, Winter Solstice, Bridgid, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas and the Autumnal Equinox.”

Prost - good bier and a superior setting...

Prost – good bier and a superior setting…

So while Ecliptic does some things very well and is still a young establishment, Thebeerchaser’s inclination is to move several blocks up N. Mississippi Avenue and return to Prost – where one can also drink some excellent German beer and have comparable food, but raise your mug in a much superior setting – either in their interior which radiates warmth and character or on their attractive and covered wooden deck.

Or alternatively, pick up a bottle of one of the four Ecliptic offerings at the Belmont Station bottle shop and take it into the Belmont Bier Café and raise a mug with Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison – both options more earthy and mundane than the stellar ambitions of Ecliptic.  Of course, one can also head out to Multnomah Village for the a nautical choice and dive bar ambiance at the Ship Tavern.

PBR rather than beers named after celestial bodies, but a down-to-earth clientele....

PBR rather than beers named after celestial bodies, but a down-to-earth clientele….

 

Ecliptic Brewing        825 North Cook Street