Approaching Watering Hole # 300
Those of you who follow Thebeerchaser blog might remember that at the end of 2018, my count of bars, breweries and taverns reviewed since I started this retirement hobby in August, 2011 was at 287 – 111 were in the Portland area and the remaining 176 in Europe, numerous parts of the US and throughout Oregon ranging from the beautiful Oregon Coast to Central and Eastern Oregon.
Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve added four more Oregon establishments – the Gemini Bar and Grill, Old Town Brewing, the Bantam Tavern and Beachcrest Brewing and eight bars/breweries on our weeklong trip to Phoenix for a grand total of 299.
And after ruminating on what an appropriate watering hole would be to celebrate reaching the 300 mark, I settled on a Portland establishment – one which I initially visited in my early professional career on a regular basis, returned with some friends who are Beerchasing regulars in 2018 and made my customary second visit a few weeks ago with one of the most loyal Beerchasers – Dennis B. Ferguson.
I will be posting the review of that bar when I return from a road trip to Montana in the near future – six days solo starting with two nights in Yaak, Montana – home of the Dirty Shame Saloon. Then with my wife, Janet, for the second leg of the journey.
I originally talked to owner, John Runkel, three years ago after an Idaho bartender at the Moose Saloon in Coeur d’aline told me that she had worked there and my blog should include a review of the Dirty Shame.
John and his partner, Ray Falzone, who are both former paratroopers in the Army’s 509 Airborne Infantry, bought the bar out of foreclosure in 2013. John, who is a great guy and a true patriot, stated at the time:
“When we came up here, we had to pull bullet slugs out of the wall…One of the owners used to shoot pool balls off the table with his .357, you know.” (Daily Inter Lake, June 8, 2013)
I wrote up the following post at that time and made a vow to ultimately visit Yaak and meet John personally.
It turns out that he is also the owner of the Yaak River Lodge and I will be staying in the Wolf Room at that hostelry for two nights so I can spend adequate time checking out the bar and interviewing him.
Then on to stays in Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston before picking up my wonderful spouse who is flying into Billings. and is allowing me to make this trip – with the proviso that I reflect, read and get some exercise besides forays into the many historic bars and the new breweries in those and surrounding Montana bergs.
It will be a challenge to keep that pledge because I have spent hours pouring through the fascinating two books by Montana author Joan Melcher: Watering Hole – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars (1980) and Montana Watering Holes – The Big Sky’s Best Bars (2009). The latter was of significant benefit on our 2016 trip to Montana and Wyoming.
It is not surprising that the Dirty Shame is featured in both volumes – which chronicles the tales of many historic bars throughout the Big Sky. She’s a great writer but I think I will definitely disagree with Joan’s initial statement in her 2009 book:
“I guess someone had to do it. Someone bought the Dirty Shame and gave it a good cleaning. More than that, they cleaned up its lifestyle – so much so that many locals won’t step foot in it anymore…..
What I learn is that the Dirty Shame died a raucous death and has been reborn as a law-abiding establishment that is really more of a coffeehouse….The Dirty Shame is dead. Long live the Dirty Shame.” (Page 54 and 59)
My challenge to Joan’s assertion is based, in part, because times have changed in ten years – especially in Yaak! Joan’s quote above was after a female stockbroker (Gloria – a sweet smiling non-drinker) who moved from New York’s Wall Street came to Yaak. She and her husband bought the bar in 2007 and cleaned it up – they even had some book readings and a lot of dances. They sold it after a few years to a former Episcopal priest who eventually failed financially trying to operate the bar.
And yes, “Long live the Dirty Shame!” I think the evidence will show when I visit that it is absolutely no Starbucks type of place.
For example, I submit the text message I got from John Runkel with the following link to a December, 2017 story in the Daily Missoulian entitled: “Troy Man Charged Following Saturday Night Incident at Yaak’s Dirty Shame Saloon.
As John stated in his text:
“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!”
So coffee house or wilderness dive bar full of adventure? Stay tuned for the verdict!
After Billings, we will drive to North and South Dakota to see the three National Parks and Mount Rushmore National Monument besides the Crazy Horse Memorial and the notable Custer State Park. Then home while listening to audio books on the 1,200 mile drive back to Oregon. Now I just need to get the gun rack installed on our Prius before I start the trip.
The Oregon Historical Society Beer Exhibit
The Oregon Historical Society is a treasure conveniently located in the Park Blocks in the heart of downtown Portland. And Kerry Tymchuk, the Executive Director since 2011, has made amazing strides to both make OHS financially viable and a showpiece – a change because it had struggled in the prior years.
We joined our friends, Kate and David Dickson, primarily to see the exhibit “Beer – Barley, Barrels, Bottles and Brews – A Century of Oregon Beer” (ends on June 9th)
“The history of beer in Oregon and the passion Oregonians hold for beer and brewing extends back over two hundred years. This exhibition connects these moments in history, from the Lewis and Clark Expedition to early pioneer hop growers, from the nineteenth century European immigrants who established Oregon’s first breweries to the craft brewery revolution centered here today.”
The exhibit is fascinating and does a remarkable job chronicling Oregon’s rich brewing history.
For example, I learned that in the 1870’s the average US adult drank over 10 gallons of beer annually, which increased to 26 in the 1900’s, due in part to German immigration and the introduction of German lager.
Statistics vary, but at least in 2015, according to an article in USA Today, annual US consumption was 28 gallons with North Dakota, the highest per capita state for beer drinkers at 44 according to Beer Marketer’s Insight. (It should be noted that this statistic is not why Janet and I are traveling to North Dakota – it’s to see Teddy Roosevelt National Park….!)
I was also pleased that Oregon State University’s Fermentation Science Program was recognized. In fact, Cascade Hops were developed in the 1960’s at OSU as part of a USDA breeding program.
The richness of OHS was demonstrated because supplementing the beer exhibit was another current exhibit – “Ladies and Gentlemen – The Beatles” (through November 19th) and the absolute highlight of the day for us – the permanent exhibit Experience Oregon – with multi-media displays and artifacts that will take your breath away.
Make a point of visiting – better yet joining OHS and while you’re there, say hello to Terry.
This native of Reedsport, educated at Willamette University and then Willamette U’s School of Law, absolutely radiates enthusiasm for his organization and a passion for history.
He was named 2018 Statesman of the Year by Oregon Business and Industries and also honored by the Portland Business Journal as the Most Admired Non-profit Executive in Portland.
And given OHS’s great location, plan to raise a mug afterwards at one of the many nearby establishments.
We were rewarded with a terrific happy-hour food and beverage afterwards at the new (May 2018) Xport Bar and Lounge on the roof of the 16-story Porter Hotel with stunning views of downtown high-rises and the Willamette River.
A “Trek” Worth Making – and you don’t have to Go to the South Pole to get There
The Dockside (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in 2018) is a remarkable Portland watering hole in North Portland owned by Kathy and Terry Peterson since 1986 – a bar with great character and regulars plus friendly staff.
It’s also known for its incredible breakfasts – most notably the hashbrowns:
“I know only one joint in Portland that consistently serves hash browns like you’ll find at any decent Waffle House. I’m not telling you where it is…You can’t have my hash browns.” (Aaron Mesh – Willamette Week 11/28/2018)
It has now gained another distinction. As stated in a 2/15/19 Willamette Week article entitled “31 Reasons to Love Portland,” it was singled out by endurance athlete and adventurer, Colin O’Brady.
On December 26, 2018, he completed the first unsupported and unaided solo crossing of Antarctica in 54 days. It was a 932 journey – that’s an average of over 17 miles per day through the freezing ice and snow!
And The Dockside is his favorite:
“I live across the street from the greatest landmark in all of Portland – the Dockside….You have this old Portland relic combined with New Portland development. They were like, ‘No, we’re not knocking down The Dockside to build condos, we can have both.'”
And Finally – To Dramatic for Words!!
On Memorial Day, I was going through my late brother, Garry’s files and found the picture at the end of this post. Garry was a 1972 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and after graduation, one of his early duty posts was with the Armored Cavalry – that’s the Tank Corps – in Schweinfurt Germany.
My wonderful and talented brother had a rich and dry sense of humor which was demonstrated in our family’s Army vs. Navy rivalry since both my youngest brother, Rick and I were in NROTC and received our commissions in the latter. (The picture below was a Christmas present Garry gave to me in 1970…)
While at West Point, he had some remarkable experiences as a member of the West Point Glee Club, singing at various events, appearing on national television and even a gig at the White House in 1972, where his five-member combo – The Headliners got to pose with President Richard Nixon.
Garry talked about some of the tank exercises they had in Germany and how the iron behemoth’s chewed up the fields and even roads as they maneuvered. But this picture takes the cake – I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t one from his platoon, but maybe he kept it just to demonstrate the power and size of this weapon! (I used this picture once before in the review of the Tanker Bar in Portland, but it is too good not to repeat.)
Cheers and Stay Tuned for the 300th Beerchaser Bar