The Double Barrel Tavern – Take a Shot!

Have a Shot!!

Take a Shot!!

Marcus Archambeault and Warren Boothby are no strangers to the Portland bar scene….or Beerchaser followers.  They are the owners of two previously reviewed watering holes – Gold Dust Meridian (GDM 10/2012) and Club 21 (9/2014)  And for that matter, the prior count should be raised to three since they are “remaking” the classic dive bar Sandy Hut – more affectionately known to regulars of this historic bar as “The Handy Slut” – reviewed by Thebeerchaser in February of 2014.

And the Double Barrel, like their other establishments, has its own character and ambiance, differentiating it and making one want to return.

The Double Barrel - has its own identity

The Double Barrel – has its own identity – and so does Dave Hicks….

Joining me for my visit was Beerchaser Regular, “West Coast” Dave Hicks, Princeton undergrad, who went on to get his law degree and is now a San Francisco-based consultant in the legal industry.

The Double Barrel opened in February of 2014 in the historic building which previously housed the Seven Corners Bar and Grill and before that K.J’s, Wynner’s  and Dilly’s.  This excerpt from Portland Bar Fly.com describes the change well:

Formerly, Seven Corners, the GDM/Club 21 boys got themselves a new toy and man, are you gonna want to play with it!  An extensive remodel of the long malingering premises reveals the hundred year-old store front’s charming old bones, and dresses them up with a clever neo-vintage take on a Wild West saloon. Horseshoe bar with whiskey kegs holding up the booze and a rustic lodge-style fireplace add to the ambience. 

Named for Whiskey Barrels not the shot gun...
Named for Whiskey Barrels not the shot gun…

 And the two entrepreneurs also take into consideration the neighborhoods of their venues when making changes:

Consideration of both the interior and exterior of the bar

A great fireplace and mantle in the remade interior

“(One neighbor) was pleased with what the two had done with the Double Barrel bar at 21st and Division, and how they reverted the property back to some of its original luster. ‘We got a lot of inspiration from the old-schoolers in that neighborhood,’ says Archambeault. ‘We wanted to pay homage to the old Division by making a place that is a local place, an old-school place.'”

This is not just rhetoric based on a telephone conversation I had with Marcus about the work on the Double Barrel.  For example, the design in the floor is a septagram (seven-pointed star – a mural of sorts with seven stars surrounded by a circle).  “We wanted to honor the tradition and history of the Seven Corners – the name of the neighborhood based on the seven streets intersecting division in that vicinity.”

Recognizing the history of Seven Corners
Recognizing the history of Seven Corners

And then there’s the menu.   Each of their venues has it own specialties.  For example, at Club 21, we feasted on their “Build-a-Burger,” and at GDM we ordered seconds on the “Classic mac.”  The review from the Neighborhood Notes publication (3/27/2014) describes what holds court at the Double Barrel:

“Expect salads, snacks (tater tots, onion rings, hush puppies and gator bites), wings six ways, and eight signature burgers and sandwiches (including one called the Triple Threat that’s made with roasted pork loin, pulled pork and—because why not?—bacon)……”

Absolutely outstanding wings when we were there

Absolutely outstanding wings

Most of the social media reviews are positive such as this one from Yelp last December:  The juiciest (real meat not processed) hamburger cooked to perfection on the softest bun. The onion rings were so tasty and crispy. A 9 out of 10 – must try place…..” 

Menu specialty items...
Menu specialty items…

Not to belabor, but the $5 Single Barrel Burger was heralded during “Portland Burger Week” by the Portland Mercury in August 2014:

“…. a charred Painted Hills ground chuck patty with proper 80/20 juiciness. They throw on tender bacon and deep-fried jalapeño rings, then douse it with their killer creative masterstroke: a house-made spicy Southern pimento cheese that gets all the other ingredients in a line and creates a marriage ceremony “in your mouth.” 

Our own experience sampling the Happy Hour (an expansive 2:00 until 7:00 every day) options was really positive except for the Hush Puppies, which were soggy and flavorless.  That said, the fried cauliflower bites with pimento dip and the “little smokies” were scarfed up immediately and the delicious wings were already addressed.

10170744_682077521837835_1545290694_n facebook barSince Thebeerchaser’s passion is investigating the history, background and context of the bars visited, it is worth spending some more time on the thought process of Archambeault and Boothby in their work on the Double Barrel the end result of which is summarized aptly below in Willamette Weeks 2014 Bar Guide:

“But a month in, Double Barrel is classic in form, dim of light and somehow already aged into its space. It feels like yours the first damn time you walk in. Order a bourbon….. and drink to dear old dad.”

 I followed up with a telephone conversation with Marcus Archambeault on some of the specifics:

P1030232Beerchaser: “How did you come up with the name?”

MA: “Our corporate name is Double Barrel Inc. (May 2011 incorporation).  We also liked the double entendre – it references both the shotgun – consistent with the western theme of the bar and the barrels in which whiskey is aged and which are a feature in the bar.”

Beerchaser: “The long horseshoe bar is amazing and the whiskey barrels are a great touch.  Where did you get them?”

MA“We let the building speak to us.  We took the original bar and all the paneling and wood when we removed the dropped ceiling and restored to the original height.  It’s largely recycled from the original building.”

P1030241The whiskey barrels were obtained from the liquor store in Sellwood and we had to open up the slats to put them around the support beam and then put them back together – a tedious process!”

The games are a nice touch (darts, Big Buck HD and old-style pinball  – and DB is probably the only bar in town in which you will see an chicken and egg vending machine.

A prize inside??

A prize inside??

And since it is a bar, we should at least briefly address the beer, described by Willamette Week – again in its 2014 bar review:

“Double Barrel’s insistence on carrying not only Pabst and Oly, but also Hamm’s, Coors, Rainier, High Life and Tecate seems like an almost ham-fisted statement (Thebeerchaser strongly disagrees with this premise!), though there are also eight taps spouting local standards like Migration and Boneyard.” 

P1030242Dave Hicks had a Heater Allen Pilsner and I enjoyed a Commons Farmhouse Ale (Willamette Week’s 2013 Beer-of-the-Year) after I first hoisted a draft Hamms – in a “hamm-fisted” and rebellious manner!  They also had a cider on tap.

The Double Barrel is a great bar and another testament to Archambeault’s and Boothby’s vision and creativity – expect to see that imagination in the revitalized Sandy Hut when it reopens in May.

Dave Hicks and friendly bartender, Jesse - worked at the DB since its opening

Dave Hicks and friendly bartender, Jesse – worked at the DB since its opening

And finally, since it has been quite awhile since you have seen a bar joke in a Beerchaser post, it is only fitting with the theme of the Double Barrel that you are offered these to old western gems (with apologies):

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, why the long face?”

 A three-legged dog walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “I’m looking for the guy who shot my paw!”

Bars and Taverns – the center of stories and jokes for centuries

 

The Double Barrel Tavern

2002 SE Division Street    Portland

 

Bailey’s Tap Room – Keep a Stiff “Upper Lip”

Bailey's - Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

Bailey’s – Repeats on the Top 100 Beer Bars

As was the case with The Tugboat Brewery, (reviewed in March, 2013), Thebeerchaser was embarrassed that he worked downtown – right on the Portland Transit Mall for many years and had never visited – or even known about Bailey’s Tap Room.  For five straight years, it has made Draft Magazine’s Top 100 USA Beer Bars.  It even got special recognition in the preface to the list with the following quote:

“We want you to go to Bailey’s Taproom in Portland, Ore., which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. We want you to go to all 100 of these places, because they really are a cut above the rest.” (Actually, part of this statement is incorrect – the digital display shows how much of the keg is left, but does not give the date it was tapped, although it does have the designation, “Just Tapped” for a few selections. )

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Charlie and Jack Faust with Thebeerchaser logo

Accompanying me were Oregon appellate lawyer, Jack Faust, – who before retiring, made it on a number of list for many years – that of Oregon’s and America’s best lawyers.  Jack, who was also the award-winning moderator of KATU’s Town Hall program, was joined by his son, Charlie.

Bailey’s has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Bar Guide, featuring the paper’s favorite Portland bars every year since its opening in 2007, but let’s examine the rationale for Bailey’s –  BEER!!! (not that there’s anything wrong with that….)

Scott - one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

Scott – one of the knowledgeable and helpful bartenders

"Beer-me-up, Scotty!"  The space-age display

“Beer-me-up, Scotty!” The space-age display

The twenty-four rotating taps of West-coast beers – according to Scott, the friendly and knowledgeable bartender – they tap about five new ones each day – are an eclectic and impressive list supplemented by spotless showcases featuring over fifty bottled beers from all over the USA.

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

An impressive selection of bottled beers too!

But the title of 100 Best Beer Bars begs the question, “How come?”   The Beerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs is not primarily about the beer.  It’s about the ambiance and distinguishing characteristics that make you want to return to an establishment with your friend(s).

And that’s lacking at Bailey’s as evidenced by the following excerpts from the Willamette Week guide:

2009“What it lacks in atmosphere (white walls, bright lights and sparse decorations give off the vibe of an operating room) Bailey’s makes up in suds.”

2012“Simplicity is the name of the game at this busy downtown beer bar.  No liquor, no wine, no food, no games – just 20 taps of craft beers and a dozen tables filled with mostly male computer programmers, loan officers and other assorted cubicle drones.”

2014 –  “Really, the people are the only problem at Baileys.  First, there are always far too many of them crammed into the SW Broadway space, bird-dogging tables even when somebody just gets up to go the restroom.”

P1020110
Now it’s certainly true, that we had an excellent sampling of esoteric beers – and it helps that  they have both large and small glasses (4 ounces) for a number of brews, so you can get a good sampling and maintain your equilibrium and your wallet.

And Scott and Janelle, the bartenders, were extremely helpful and patient in explaining each one – but the overall atmosphere was more like that of a cafeteria (without the food…) than a bar or pub.

Between the four ounce glasses and sharing some pints, we tasted the following beers:

Green Flash White IPA (Belgian)         Oakshire Overcast Espresso Stout

Ninkasi Critical Hit      Kermit the Hop IPA        Stillwater French Farm Ale

Heater Allen Pilsner (McMinnville)      Ballast Point Navigator Doppelbock

New Belgian Gruitt (horehound, bog myrtlle, yarrow, wormwood and elderflower)

All of them were great except the Espresso Stout, which would have been better at Starbucks.

No food except what comes in externally - thanks Charlie!

No food except what comes in externally – thanks Charlie!

Fortunately, Charlie Faust had the foresight to bring some pretzels we could munch on and a number of reviews talk favorably about Santeria, the Mexican restaurant across the street that will deliver orders to go to the bar, and evidently has great food.

The lack of atmosphere and food means you focus the conversation on the beer and your compatriots – that’s not a bad thing given the background of the Fausts:

For example, I learned that Charlie, after graduation from U of O, traveled for a year in Europe and SE Asia, then worked as a staffer for Senator Bob Packwood.  That prepared him to weather the storms when he worked for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and had the experience of being on the crew in a NOAA hurricane research plane during Gloria in 1985 – peak winds of 155 mph.

Charlie's plane was in there someplace....
Charlie’s plane was in there someplace….

 

Jack Faust - Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff....
Jack Faust – Brews his own beer besides doing some other stuff….

And drinking beer with Jack Faust, means chatting with a very interesting and intelligent guy – after all, for years he had a hobby of brewing beer in his garage.  (once brewed a raspberry ale that was the color of sweat…)

He graduated first in his class at U of O Law School, was editor of the Law Review and still stimulates conversation with queries such as, “When will all the rhetorical questions end…?”

I shifted the conversation to past cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court after he told me that he would have to kill me if I asked any more questions about his service as a Special Agent in the Far East Command of the Army Counterintelligence Corps during the Korean War.

I will have to admit, however, that Charlie and I were both fascinated by his recounting the details of his arguments in the 1986 Oregon Supreme case Oregon Republican Party v. State of Oregon.  Did the Party violate the Oregon Corrupt Practices Act provision that “[n]o person * * * shall directly or indirectly subject any person to undue influence?”

And  finally,Thebeerchaser’s standard practice of visiting each bar reviewed twice, paid off because Scott the bartender, casually mentioned that I should visit “Bailey’s Upper Lip.”  My response was to ask whether I needed a secret code word or a note from the bartender, but that wasn’t the case.

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

The entrance to the Upper Lip on Ankeny Street

And walking part way down Ankeny Street to an inauspicious doorway with only a bottle on the door, and then up a dark, narrow stairway heightened the anticipation of what awaited.

Willamette Week’s 2014 Bar Guide sums it up well:  “There, you’ll find six well-chosen taps and a massive case of bottles ranging from Belgians to small-batch bourbon stouts.   P1020166

There’s a short bar, a long table for groups, a digital tap list, a bartender, a few high-top tables set on barrels…..”

There were less than ten people, while the Taproom below was very crowded and Luke, the bartender, told me that the group was typical – evidently a lot of people are just not aware of the speakeasy-type addition to the main floor bar.   I decided to be bold and had a small glass of Nebraska Brewing’s Sexy Betty Imperial Stout.  (Betty was, in fact, hot….)

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

Bartender Luke and the bar at The Upper Lip

If you want a to sample a wide variety of draft or bottled beers from all over the world and receive expert guidance and advice from the staff, Bailey’s is your place. 

Bottled beers from all over -- to say the least

Bottled beers from all over — to say the least

If you want the ambiance of a neighborhood bar with good food and interesting regulars, Thebeerchaser suggests going Off Broadway…..    

Long tables upstairs

Long tables upstairs

 

 

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If you want to view all a map with all the establishments previously reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click the link which states, “View Larger Map” below.

Bailey’s Tap Room and The Upper Lip                  231 SW Broadway