(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)
I’m still not fully back in the groove on exploits to new bars and breweries although I still have a few visited in the last few months to write-up, but first wanted to throw out a few miscellaneous topics which may be of interest. These include dogs, the Dirty Shame Saloon and its former owner, John Runkle along with his new venture) and the Benedictine Brewery.
Janet and I during the forty-three years we’ve been married, have never had a pet. That said, our two daughters and their spouses each had wonderful dogs and they became our “Grand-puppies.” We always looked forward to our visits with Sullivan – a wonderful thirteen-year old Havanese and Wesley – a beautiful six-year old Golden Retriever.
First there was “Sully Bear.” He always waited with anticipation at the window for his “parents” to come home and was the ultimate lap dog – he loved to cuddle.
Wesley loved to run and swim especially at the river and the beach. A big dog, but he was always gentile with the babies at his house.
Both dogs were wonderful with our granddaughters and both loved the beach. They also got along very well with each other at family gatherings.
We were grief-stricken on March 10, 2021, when Wesley, after a few cardiac episodes, died of a heart-attack. Exactly one year later, his “brother” Sullivan succumbed to multiple health issues based on his advanced years. The memorial stones below will always provide memories of these wonderful members of our family.
A Resurrection, of Sorts
Followers of Thebeerchaser know that I was captivated in the fall of 2019 with my two and one-half day visit to The Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana where I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with its charismatic owner, John Runkle – one of this blog’s memorable Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter.
The Shame remains my favorite bar visited in the eleven years of Beerchasing as reflected in the multiple blog posts needed to relate the rich history and stories of the fabled watering hole.
Thus, when John announced last year that he was selling the bar, I was downcast, thinking about how the many and robust fables which still lingered within the log walls of the bar would be lost – the second-hand smoke is largely gone….) . Now why should I be maudlin about a dive bar – 514 miles (8 hours and 38 minutes) – from my home in Oregon closing when I’ve visited and reviewed almost 400 incredible bars and breweries in the last eleven years?
Perhaps the short description excerpted from Joan Melcher’s first book “Watering Hole – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars” written in 1983 conveys some of that emotion:
“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.”
It brought to mind the song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” by my favorite country-western singer, the late George Jones – (Okay maybe a little overdramatic, but remember, I’m Thebeerchaser!)
“Who’s gonna fill their shoes?
Who’s gonna stand that tall?
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you?
Lord, I wonder who’s gonna fill their shoes?
Yes, I wonder who’s gonna fill their shoes?”
Would the out-of-state buyers, who also purchased the Yaak River Tavern across the street, retain the trappings described, in part, in my second blog post on the Shame:
“…a large rifle, cowboy boots, an old wood stove, a pool table and Fox News on the big screen TV over the bar. (The bullet holes in the wall when John bought it, from its hard-core biker days were removed after John bought it.) Two bottles of MD 20-20 wine prominently displayed on a shelf and which John says dates back to 1978.”
And the stories are incredible….even the more recent ones such as that reported in a December 1, 2017 edition of The Missoulian about a Saturday night incident which John described in an e-mail to me when I told him I was coming to Yaak:
“Don, you will see an article where a guy went nuts in the Dirty Shame with an AR-15 and you will also see the video of me bear spraying him and his brother trying to fight their way back into the bar and another video embedded in that article showing him running around the parking lot trying to shoot me through the window and then almost shooting his brother in the head.
It was a crazy night. The Dirty Shame is truly still the Wild Wild West.”
Then there’s the tales related to the Shame involving the Yaak River Road murderers, the “Crack Pillow” or how I was privileged to meet two personable and well-mannered relatives of Chevie Keyhole, the leader of the infamous Keyhoe Gang. (Chevie is now serving three life sentences in Florence Prison – known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” – in Colorado.) There are too many others to relate.
Murderer and White Supremist – now “rehabilitating” at the Alcatraz of the West….*2
The Dirty Shame was a community in itself and a key part of the Yaak locale. What would replace its role in events like the Adult Easter Egg Hunt, the Sasquatch Festival and the Crawfish Festival which involved other attractions such as The Big Foot Run, a mechanical bull, a giant inflatable Sasquatch and the Ceremonial Leg-Shaving to name a few.
(The Dirty Shame has not reopened at this time and who knows what the new owners are doing to the interior of the bar.)
What would John, a former Army paratrooper and instructor, successful real estate firm owner and entrepreneur-at-heart do? I couldn’t see him as Mayor of Yaak or another elected office – except possibly Governor of Montana…or talk-show radio host or land developer of environmentally responsible communities. It should be noted that helping raise their three young children will significantly occupy what he self-describes as “the oldest and proudest dad in the World!”
Fortunately, that question has been answered – at least for a time. John didn’t sell the Lodge and now — the Hungry Hunter Saloon – within the confines of that edifice opened just before Memorial Day – it’s already having live music and events! As John told me in a phone conversation this morning, “We’re rocking.”
He has some of the same crew who worked at the Dirty Shame including Darilyn. Of course the “Montana Motif” as John described it, is present with taxidermy, artifacts of the West and even a skunk hanging over the bathroom doors. There’s a long bar which seats twelve people made of yellow poplar from back east – people love it! With its tables, the Hungry Hunter can accommodate about sixty people. (Photos *3-5)
During my time in Yaak, I stayed in the Wolf Room at the Yaak River Lodge, where I had great conversations with John (besides those over beer at the bar) and reveled in the breakfasts featuring unforgettable blueberry pancakes.
The Lodge remains intact other than the bunkhouse which slept twelve. There’s an added benefit to the bar. Those imbibing too heavily at the bar can just walk down the hall and rack out in the Wolf Room or one of the other rooms – all with character – then wake up in the morning to the smell of bacon and take the short walk to the dining room for pancakes, hashbrowns, eggs and bacon with unlimited Folger’s Coffee.
John also bought two food trucks – one that serves tacos, Philly cheese steaks, etc. (also to go) and a larger one to supplement the kitchen. And their prices are very reasonable!!
John’s wife, Dallas, who is a dedicated teacher and counselor is teaching in Washington and the family has moved east of Yakima. John has been commuting regularly to Yaak and will spend most of the summer there. (Photo *6-7)
Stay tuned for more stories about the Hungry Hunter and see the connection between the picture of John and Don with Benedictine Beer I presented to him in 2019, relates to the next segment of this post.
The Benedictine Brewery – More Accolades!
I’ve mentioned this wonderful Benedictine Monk – owned and operated – brewery many times and was fortunate enough to be involved in the planning before it opened in the fall of 2018. Fr. Martin Grassel, the Procurator (CFO) of the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary – a former software engineer before seminary, is also the General Manager and Head Brewer of the enterprise – one reason he gets by on very little sleep because his primary dedication is being a Benedictine Monk.
Notwithstanding a number of skeptics, the Brewery and St. Michael Taproom have soared since the erection of the structure in November, 2017 at an old fashioned “barn raising”, where over 125 monks, priests, seminarians and members of the Mount Angel community started in the morning with a concrete slab.
Bolstered by a wonderful buffet lunch, by the end of the day, the frame of the structure was completed. (Be sure to check out the amazing videos in this Beerchaser post “Beam Me Up.”
The Brewery’s motto – “Taste and Believe” – was in full force from the inception. Since that time, the beautiful Taproom has been extended with an expansive patio and Fr. Martin has increased his beer offerings – now about ten on tap including the original Black Habit.
He has developed, not only a local, but a regional following for his excellent beer and people repeatedly clamor for its availability – now only at the Brewery itself or the Abbey Bookstore – a short walk away on the beautiful Abbey Hillside.
Unfortunately, one of the other Monk-owned Breweries – Spencer Brewery – in Massachusetts, which was formed by the Trappist Monks eight years ago, just announced it was closing due to financial reasons. With that closure, there will be only four ongoing monk-owned breweries in the US.
Jeff Alworth, prolific author and one of the nation’s leading beer experts (shown below at the Benedictine structure-raising in 2017) posted a very informative piece on his Beervana Blog entitled, “The Beer Market is Rough – Even for Monks.” It contrasts the business plan of Spencer Brewery with Fr. Martin’s successful strategy. Jeff also did a subsequent post entitled “Benedictine Brewery Thriving – both are good articles.
And furthering the exposure of Fr. Martin and his brewery, internationally recognized micro-craft industry consultant, Sam Holloway, who is also a full professor at the University of Portland, posted an outstanding nine-minute video interview of Fr. Martin on his “Crafting a Strategy” site. (*10-12)
Sam is President of CAS which is:
“.. a learning community which pursues understanding oneself, the industry and business strategy while combining the three wisely to craft a business. We provide a platform for members in communities to engage with others as they learn.”
Sam gave us some meaningful advice during the planning stages in 2016, and has been a good friend of the Brewery since that time. Fr. Martin is a devoted follower of the CAS site and it has enhanced his brewery and business acumen.
Expect to hear more good reports on Fr. Martin and the Benedictine Brewery going forward!
External Photo Attribution
*1. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons –https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George_Jones.jpg) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Secisek at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.
*2 Southern Poverty Law Center: (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/two-members-notorious-kehoe-family-arrested-again)
* 6-7 Runkle Facebook Pages (https://www.facebook.com/john.runkle.73) (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100017127797846)
*9 Spencer Brewery Facebook
* 10-12 Crafting a Strategy Website (https://craftingastrategy.com/)