Brannon’s in Beaverton – Part II

P1030163Followers of this blog will remember the last post on Brannon’s – the new Beaverton pub and brewery located in the former Latin night club – The Blue Iguana.  The story of co-owner Kevin Brannon as a brewer, lawyer and scuba instructor was also covered in detail because of his amazing life experiences to this point.

Brannon - someone who is not a beginner in the brewery business.

Brannon – someone who is not a beginner in the brewery business.

So let’s talk about his new venture – a 10,000 square foot venue which opened in December 2014 and offers a great selection of Brannon’s own beers, guest taps, craft cocktails and a robust menu.

A small sample of the robust spread at the pre-opening gala

A small sample of the robust spread at the pre-opening gala

My first visit to Brannon’s was for the October pre-opening – a well-attended and upbeat affair.  Next time it was for lunch with five tax lawyers and one of my favorite legal assistants. (See below)

According to an article in the Portland Tribune (July 18, 2014)

“The restaurant will brew numerous styles of beer on site and specialize in stone hearth-baked pizzas prepared in the Neapolitan style, spit-roasted meat and fowl, salads, pastas, house-made bread and a range of pub-oriented specialities, with an emphasis on local ingredients.

The kitchen is a strength

The kitchen is a strength

‘We will have gluten free and vegan versions of everything,’ (Brannon) said. ‘It’s pub food kicked up a notch. I find the term ‘gastropub’ to be pretentious, but that’s kind of what we’re doing.’” 

So how is the food?  A January Willamette Week review stated, “It might have been a  lucky night, but the kitchen sent out an impressive Neopolitan pizza with chewy character-rich crust good enough to push into Portland’s top ten pies.”

And to illustrate take the rack of ribs that one of our party ordered for lunch.  As you can see from the picture below, it was huge and all of us who sampled thought it was an A+.  The rest of us ordered sandwiches which were also very good.

No question about the quality and quantity of the ribs.....

No question about the quality and quantity of the ribs…..

One of the joys of Beerchasing – besides discovering new watering holes and drinking good beer – is the people. Meeting those who work in the bars, talking to “regulars” and connecting with drinking buddies who share the experience is uplifting to say the least!

For example, I mentioned my lunch companions in January – a legal assistant and five tax lawyers, all of whom work or worked at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt where I labored for twenty-five years before retiring.

Each attorney, not only graduated with a law degree and passed the bar exam, but all then went on to get their Masters in Tax (LLM) after law school.

From left:  Pete Osborne, Dan Eller, Katherine Van Zanten, Roy Lamber and Marc Sellers

From left: Pete Osborne, Dan Eller, Katherine Van Zanten, Roy Lamber and Marc Sellers

 

You might ask, “Can’t you find more stimulating companions than tax geeks?”  A logical follow-up question would be:  “Were these attorneys advised by  their parents when they were young to pursue the tax lawyer route because their personalities were not good enough to be actuaries or accountants?”

 

The answer is an emphatic “no!”  As evidence let’s briefly look at their profiles:

Pete Osborne

Pete Osborne

Pete Osborne: Law Degree at Willamette U and LLM at New York University (NYU).  Pete is known by his peers as one of the smartest tax lawyers in Portland and has been known, on occasion, to return to Portland with both a big smile and winnings from the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas (Senior Division….).  Also a talented artist and his etchings are impressive.  Adjunct Professor at Portland State in their Graduate Tax Program.

Osborne etching
Osborne etching

 

Dan Eller:  Law Degree at Lewis and Clark and LLM at University of Washington.  Received the prestigious Joyce Ann Harpole Scholarship and other law school honors at Lewis and Clark.  Dan is an avid outdoorsman and cyclist and frequently cycles around the base of Mt. Bachelor.  Active in numerous civic boards and a scout leader for his kids.

Dan Eller

Dan Eller

 ———–

 

Katherine Van Zanten: Law Degree at Golden Gate University and LLM at Boston University.  Katherine is an avid skier and a girl scout leader for her kids.  Also active in the Oregon State Bar Tax Section.  A robust sense of humor that would keep even IRS auditors in stiches.

Katherine Van Zanten

Katherine Van Zanten

 

 

Roy Lambert:  Law Degree at Columbia University and LLM at NYU.  Roy is an active masters competitive swimmer with some regional records.  In retirement, he audits courses in medieval and Renaissance history at Portland State.  He and his wife spend part of the year at a lake property in Maine where he is involved in environmental non-profits.

 

Roy Lambert

Roy Lambert

Marc Sellers
Marc Sellers

 Marc Sellers: Law Degree at Georgetown and LLM at Loyola U.  Marc was described by the managing partner of a major regional CPA firm as his “go to” tax litigator and a fearless “take no prisoners” trial lawyer.

He was the first attorney in the U.S. to obtain an award of attorney fees against the Internal Revenue Service under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.  This courtroom mentality may have been derived from his dedication to martial arts for many years where he competed at regional and national championship levels.  He was also an accomplished mountaineer and volunteer in mountain rescue.

A firm with a tradition of civic and charitable service

A firm with a tradition of civic and charitable service

Some – but certainly not all – of the civic and charitable activities in which these lawyers have  been involved include the Beaverton School District Board, the Portland State University Foundation, the Lewis and Clark Public Interest Law Project, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lake Oswego School District Foundation, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Beaverton Rotary Club and Foundation, the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, the Portland Police Activities League and the Portland Opera Association.

And of course, another advantage to having this erudite crew as drinking companions is the ribald conversation.  Typically in a bar it would be, “How bout those Blazers?”  or “Did Cylvia Hayes really think we were that naïve?”  Instead, we had a prolonged discussion on Pete Osborne’s paper entitled, “Stock Redemptions and Non-liquidating Distributions.” 

When discussed in the context of Marc Sellers’ advisory tome, “Owners of Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts May Have One More Bite at Voluntary Disclosure,” it made LaMarcus Aldredge’s thumb injury seem pretty inconsequential!           

Roy Lamber, Kevin Brannon and Gretchen Reuter with Thebeerchaser logo

Roy Lambert, Kevin Brannon and Gretchen Reuter with Thebeerchaser logo

One cannot forget one of our female companions – Gretchen Reuter, a legal assistant for thirty-four years, who provided invaluable work for both Kevin Brannon and Roy Lambert, while they were at the firm.  She trained to “herd” her timekeepers by growing up on a cattle ranch in Dallesport, Washington.

She was one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite professionals before my retirement because of her positive attitude, competency and team efffort.

Now back to Brannons and why you should try it out:

P1030166

Brannon friend Ham Emery at the pre-opening

Technology:  Besides the automation he uses to brew his beer, Brannon’s customers have access to High Def. Multi Interface ports at most of the tables so they can watch a Blazer game or cable on their own console or pursue on-line activities.P1030187

 

Game Room:  Memories of college returned when seeing the Air Hockey  – it plays the Star Spangled Banner when someone scores, a Foosball table and Pop-a-Shot basketball and darts.  In fact, Brannon’s is home court for two teams in the Portland Dart AssociationP1030186

P1030185

 

 

——

 

 

And there are 24 high-definition television screens scattered throughout the bar and meeting rooms for sporting events.  An appropriate time to reaffirm the personal philosophy of Fall 2013 Beerchaser-of-the Month, Jud Blakely:

P1030159

Beerchaser Philosopher Jud Blakely in formative years....
Beerchaser Philosopher Jud Blakely in formative years….

“Bars, taverns, and pubs are the fundamental reasons that souls consigned to Purgatory have chosen not to be “elevated” on up to Heaven.  When you combine them with a cable feed of NFL channels, what you have is an all-powerful lure to forgo the promise of the pure goodness of Heaven. 

 

As for myself––speaking as a 100% lapsed Catholic––I look forward to being consigned to Purgatory.  No sane American male would wish upon himself an eternity in Heaven when Purgatory and the NFL await. “

The Beer and the Food:  Brannon’s, like any new enterprise, is shaking out some kinks – refining its menu, service and pricing, but the reviews are almost uniformly positive about a key pub issue — THE BEER!

From the three available last October, Brannon’s own brews have increased to ten and reflect the passion and expertise honed over his years in brewing.  I tried five in their sampler – a bargain at $7 – with my favorite being the Heliograph IPA  (“Bursting with pungent pine, tropical berries, and black pepper, which is backed up by intense NW hop bitterness”– which also happens to be their best seller.  However, I also will return for a pint of their Deputation Red Ale.  Check them out by buying a growler.

Now ten of their own beers
Now ten of their own beers

They also have eight craft cocktails including the Blue Iguana – named for the predecessor night club.

And finally, the pub’s furnishing are very impressive – again reflecting Kevin Brannon’s personal philosophy:

“My partners and I have a profound respect for the craftsmen and craftswomen who design things, and bring them to life with their hands for wood, metal, and whatever else they have to work with. Everything at Brannon’s, from the sign out front to the furnishings and bar, was handcrafted by friends and family here in the Pacific Northwest.”

P1030193

As summarized in one December Yelp review, “Finally a good Brewpub in central Beaverton.  Good beer, good food, good service, They have a full bar, game room, party rooms.  Worth a stop.” 

————

Brannon’s Brewery and Pub

3800 SW Cedar Hills Road

503-567-8003

Brannons’ in Beaverton…..Part I

 P1030181

Beaverton is not the sexiest location for a brewery compared to venues such as Bend, Hood River or Astoria, but at least it has more suburban panache than Gresham.  That said, Brannons’ Pub and Brewery is a classy new watering hole – one that replaces the notorious Blue Iguana and brews excellent beer along with great food.

Thebeerchaser and Kevin Brannon

Thebeerchaser and Kevin Brannon

Kevin Brannon, the co-owner, is also a good friend, having practiced law at my former firm, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt before he decided to return to his “roots” in the brewery business – as stated in the recent Willamette Week review, “(the beer is for now) decidedly classic, a reflection of owner, Kevin Brannon, who’s pinponged between corporate law and brewpubbing for for the past twenty years.”

So let’s define “ping ponged,” by giving some interesting history on Kevin while also gaining a brief perspective on The Blue Iguana.  In 1991 Kevin, after practicing law for a number of years, in a fit of entrepreneurial risk, co-founded and built a very successful brewery – the Frederick Brewing Company – in Maryland and managed its amazing expansion until it became one of the largest craft breweries in the mid-Atlantic region of the US.

This former attorney with an infectious grin and dry sense of humor was an outstanding business and corporate lawyer whose clients loved him.  He  joins a number of his legal brethren I have met since Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced.

The scales of justice - can also used to measure brewing components....

The scales of justice – can also used to measure brewing components….

They’ve become interested in brewing – first as a hobby, and then decide they enjoy the challenge of concocting the right blend of barley, malt and hops more than they enjoy analyzing the Rules of Hearsay in the Federal Evidence Code (including exceptions and exemptions…..)

P1030163My two trips to Brannon’s – once for the pre-opening with my wife and once with a group of tax lawyers – impressed me with the quality of their beer, the kitchen and the manner in which Kevin has used technology to give his patrons options while drinking.

Technology at each table...
Technology at each table…

 

Thebeerchaser has found that the history of watering holes is often very interesting and Brannons’ is no exception.  The Blue Iguana was a restaurant and Latin night club where one could gorge on large servings, drink margaritas, salsa dance and maybe even hire a contract killer.  As described in a 2009 Willamette Week review:

As much of sleepy Beaverton shuts down for the night, the Blue Iguana’s neon sign lights up Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard. Large men in dark clothing block the club’s doorway. “I need to pat the guys down to check for weapons,” one says. “The ladies can just go in.”

Past the first set of glass doors, a woman behind a ticket counter says, “Twenty-five dollars, por favor.”   Inside a second set of glass doors is a large room with a bar and two dance floors (one of them elevated) where couples grind to pounding music.

Most of the men are wearing cowboy hats, tight denim pants and cowboy boots. The women wear high heels and very tight everything. At 1 am, many people are just starting to arrive at the Blue Iguana, which stays open until 3 am.

Or check out this headline and excerpt from KGW.com in 2012: “Beaverton bar fight ends with man being run over.  KGW spoke with the property manager of the Blue Iguana who said police are often called to the Latin night club. She said she was not surprised to hear about the incident and the bar has problems with fights spilling out into the parking lot.”

And not to belabor the point, but one other review from a few years back also offers some insight:

I was thrown out Saturday night for having the nerve to type on my laptop at the bar. Owner sez he’s afraid someone will spill a watery margarita on my Dell and he’ll be liable. This, from a place that probably sends a truckload of drunks onto Cedar Hills Boulevard every weekend night. Perhaps I should have tried to convince him that all of the cinnamon roll crumbs would absorb any oopsies. Skip ’em, I say.

Wikimedia commons - public domain (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Angus_bellowing.jpg) by Sallico 1/9/2009

Black Angus – more docile although less profitable than Blue Iguanas…

Well, things were a lot calmer when Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Steak House was the tenant, although it brings back memories of a franchise which had better baked potatoes than filets.  As an aside, the owner of the Black Angus group filed for bankruptcy in 2004 with approximately $202 million in debt and an annual loss of $32.5 million.  In 2009, the group attempting to rebrand and remodel the chain also went banko.  (Wikipedia)

Frederick Brewing Company

Frederick Brewing - Getting started....

Frederick Brewing – Getting started….

The story of Frederick Brewing (FBC) is interesting and an enterprauenerial success story that could be a blog post in itself.  With some of the pictures and stories Kevin related while I was drinking one of the Brannon beer samplers, his east-coast brewing journey is worth summarizing:

Brannon is from humble roots – Lebanon, Oregon and went to Stanford for his undergraduate degree where he walked-on and made the baseball team.  He became a community organizer in Montana during the coal boom.  Unlike the incumbent with a similar background, he didn’t think that qualified him to run for President of the United States, so he enrolled in Willamette Law School’s excellent combined MBA/Law Degree program.

Happiness is a young lawyer with capitalist inclinations.....

Happiness is a young lawyer with capitalist inclinations…..

While learning to analyze torts and discounted cash flow models, he also started brewing beer.   After passing the bar in 1984, he practiced at NW firm, Preston, Gates and Ellis for seven years before being lured to West Virginia with his fiancé.

He denies any assertion that the country classic, “She was only a whiskey maker, but I loved her still,” had anything to do with their move east.  Actually, it was one of his clients who persuaded him.  The options were to either open a fly shop or a brewery so in 1991, after purchasing a Smith Carona word processor, selling his house and cashing in his 401(k) he made the leap.

Brannon and his partners wrote their business plan, soliciting investors and did their “pilot brewing” in a rented 18th– century house in West Virginia, where they brewed in the cellar (improved by dumping lime and a bunch of ¾ inch gravel on the floor – one reason why he was separated from the Environmental lawyers at Schwabe Williamson)

As Brannon relates it:

The first leased quarters were in this building

The first leased quarters were in this building

 Armed with little more than $200,000 in investor dollars and more confidence than common sense, we leased a building in downtown Frederick…….Because we had a deal to supply our Blue Ridge Golden Ale to the new stadium housing the Frederick Keys – the Single A affiliate of the Orioles – we bought a couple hundred “nasty old kegs and contracted with a now defunct Michigan brewery to produce it.  

A much younger, Kevin Brannon inspecting his product in Frederick, Md.

A much younger, Kevin Brannon inspecting his product in Frederick, Md.

We were under construction so we leased a falling-down warehouse, bought and repainted a refridgerated truck from a peach farmer and started selling beer to the ballpark and local bars.  It only took five months from funding to our first batch – this depite the fact that we decided to save money and time by skipping the permitting process, renting chain saws and clearing the back of the property ourselves.  (Another reason Kevin was located on a different floor than the firm’s Environmental Group when he was at Schwabe.)

Ignorance of the law works if you don't get caught.....

Ignorance of the law works if you don’t get caught…..

 I gave three free brewery tours every weekend for more than nine  straight months and on most weekends after that for 2.5 years.  I filled the tasting room with beer memorabilia from defunct eastern US breweries to complement the brewing history speech I gave at the beginning of every tour.

Thanks to an idiosyncratic law, we were allowed to sell beer in the new brewery’s taproom though still not sell it on the premises for money, but at least the sales paid for the free beer we gave away on the tours!   

A tour of the young brewery ended in the taproom with free beer

A tour of the young brewery ended in the taproom with free beer

The bottling was "painfully slow."

The bottling was “painfully slow.”

The bottling line was painfully slow and completely manual except for the bottle/filler/capper and labeling machine. Shelf life was pretty good. 

After the 1996 Initial Public Offering, their brewing facilities were pretty close to the then state of the art.

State of the Art Brewing

State of the Art Brewing

The demand soared – by their first anniversary party, they were brewing as fast as they could but completely sold out by the week of the party so they had to “beg” one of their retailers to sell a keg back so they had their own beer for the staff celebration.

“In 1997-98, we purchased two local competitors within a few weeks of each other – Wild Goose and Brimstone breweries and merged them into ours.  We brewed their brands after that which was pretty much the high-water mark for the company.”

Brewhouse Controls

Brewhouse Controls

Kevin and his partner, Steve Nordahl and two other early FBC staff went on to found their own breweries. Nordahl is now the owner/brewer of Lone Peak Brewery and Pub in Big Sky, Montana. The drummer in the picture went on to found a brewpub called Blue Moon in Savannah, Georgia.

The guy playing the guitar in the photo below (Matt Swihart) moved to Oregon and worked at Full Sail and then Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River. Based on their anniversary party dilemma, he wrote and performed a song named, “The Brewery That Had No Beer.”                                                                      

Repurposed dairy tanks in the back - used to age their lagers

Repurposed dairy tanks in the back – used to age their lagers

           

Matt __ sings, "The Brewery That Ran Out of Beer"

Matt Swihart sings, “The Brewery That Had No Beer”

 

 

 

 

 

The intense effort that went into making a successful brewery took its toll, and Brannon, as the Brewery’s legal counsel, found himself doing more desk work than he wanted so he and has partners sold the brewery to Snyder International in 1999.  By then, it had grown into one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest independent craft breweries.

Frederick Brewery Annual Meeting

Frederick Brewery Annual Meeting

Consistent with his desire to follow a respectable and traditional Lawyer/MBA path, he and his wife decided to move to the Bahamas, where they leased a house on the beach and became scuba diving instructors in an eco-resort….

Business was great during the tech boom, with many wealthy tourists moving or vacationing in paradise, but this traffic dried up – immediately when the boom turned bust in 2000 – as most of us remember from our 401(k) balances.  They moved back to Oregon and Kevin returned to the same desk at Preston Gates until he moved to the Schwabe firm in 2004 followed by his own practice at Brannon Law PC.

The Second Brannon Brewery – This Time in Beaverton

P1030165

The Brannons’ Kitchen was Busy at the Pre-opening Event

After several years of planning, his pre-opening event was in early October 2014, when he had three of his own beers on tap – that has now grown to nine.  Stay tuned for Part II on Kevin Brannon’s newest venture Brannons’ Pub and Brewery including an interesting lunch with five tax lawyers!!!

You can't miss with the Brannon Beer Sampler...
You can’t miss with the Brannon Beer Sampler…