Beerchaser Miscellany – What’s up in Bars, Breweries, Etc.?

The Benedictine Brewery

After over five years of planning and months of construction, the monks at the Benedictine Brewery are close to fulfilling the vision at the Mount Angel Abbey.  I’ve worked as a volunteer on this wonderful project  for the last two years. It will be one of only two breweries west of the Mississippi in which the monks are the owners and operators – the other being that located near Albuquerque, at the Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monastery.

Fr. Martin Grassel

Father Martin Grassel, will be the General Manager and Fr. Jacob Stronach, the Head Brewer.   The Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom will occur on September 22nd, shortly after the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest and you should plan to visit and raise a mug of their flagship beer – Black HabitOr if you are not a fan of dark beer, try the superb Benedictine Farmhouse Pale Ale.  Fr. Martin was Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in July, 2017. 

The picture above shows the facility as it draws closer to completion.  It has evolved from the remarkable Community Timber Raising ceremony in November at which over 100 monks, seminarians and community members helped erect the frame of the building from what started out as only the concrete foundation.  Some amazing videos of the event are included in the post below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

Benedictine Brewery hardware ready to go….

The Dynamic World of Bars and Breweries.

The world of bars and breweries is ever changing.  Fortunately, when we hear about bars closing, one will concurrently learn about new establishments – usually breweries, opening either in the former location as was the case with former Oregon Duck football star Joey Harrington’s Pearl Tavern (see below).

Backwoods – thriving in Carson and now in the Pearl

Successful enterpreneurs, Steve and Tom Waters, the owners and operators of the Backwoods Brewery and Taproom in Carson, Washington since 2012, will launch their new Pearl District pub in the vacated quarters at NW Everett and 11th.  The Waters are both University of Portland grads and great people.  Check out the new operation.

A loss to Portland is one of the first three bars I visited when I started Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs in August 2011 – the Ash Street Saloon.   A Willamette Week article entitled, “From Ashes to Ash Street,” describes the unique place this bar played in the Portland music scene before its December 2017 closing:

Gone but not Forgotten

“When tales are told of the downtown ‘rock blocks’ that once cultivated a burgeoning music scene, the Ash Street Saloon often doesn’t take center stage…..But soldiering on for decades with genre’ spanning live acts 365 days a year served a function just as vital – and one we suspect, far harder to replace.” 

The Copper Penny – a dive but with an interesting history

Other closures in the last eighteen months or so include the Lompoc Hedge House, BTU Brasserie, the Commons and the historic Copper Penny in Lents – now a high rise surrounded by new development.

But new locations of existing breweries such as Sasquatch, Migration, Storm Breaker, Baerlic and Great Notion ensure that Portlanders will never lack for great locations to drink good beer.

And there are creative bars such as Fido’s, which according to Willamette Week purports to be the “world’s first dog tap house.” It opened last February in Tigard and “is part 40-tap beer bar and part dog rescue shelter with a playroom filled with six adoptable dogs…”

This brings back memories of Thebeerchaser’s 2014 visit to Sniff Cafe in NW Portland in which I reported:

If you stop in for a glass of beer or wine during Happy Hour….you get a $1 discount on beer and wine plus your pooch gets a free romp in the pet indoor play area – even getting occasional personal attention by one of their attendants.  You also get to view not only your pooch, but the other dogs cavorting in this puppy plan pen.”  

And while I am not generally a fan of retail establishments such as sports shop and especially Starbucks, ill-fated effort to substitute for the traditional neighborhood watering hole, I think two Portland establishments with this model deserve a visit.

From Music Millenium Facebook page

One is Portland icon, Music Millennium – the oldest record store in the Pacific NW, operating since 1969 and after having some challenges with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, added beer and wine in 2015 to its amazing collection of recordings sold in all formats in their Burnside store.

And after a quick call, I was pleased to talk to an amiable chap on a Sunday evening, who told me that they currently had three beers on tap – all of them excellent from three outstanding Oregon breweries – Barley Brown’s, Boneyard and Pfriem.

So if you want to pick up (or sell) an historic or fabled music item such as the two in my collection of ’78’s and ’33 RPM albums (see pictures) check them out and have a micro-brew while you’re there.

A classic Big Band 78 RPM collection

The second retail establishment that looks interesting is also music-related –  Strum.  This is not the brewery in Ontario, California, but the vintage guitar shop and wine/beer bar on SE Stark Str.

As a Willamette Week article stated shortly after their opening earlier this summer, “If a guitar is the vehicle for rock music, then beer is the fuel.”  (It has four micro-brew taps.)

Now these niche-type establishments have a place and deserve support, but Thebeerchaser harkens back to the neighborhood pub or dive bar for true ambiance.  (Recent Beerchaser examples include The Standard, Mock Crest Tavern,  or T.C. O’Leary’s or Gil’s Speakeasy just to name a few in Portland.

The Mock Crest in North Portland

Of course, then you have the Old Oregon Saloon or The Sportsman Pub and Grub on the coast or Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee.  But don’t forget … I could go on and on….!!  (Click on the name of the establishment above to see Thebeerchaser’s review.)

A Dundee classic!

An April, 2018 Willamette Week article entitled, “Bubble Bobble – After a Record Year of Closures, Craft Breweries are Rethinking Some Things”  sums up the trend well:

“…beer geeks (are) wondering if the craft bubble has finally burst…..The answer might be to freshen up your direct-to-consumer roots, like all the local beer bars that have recently remodeled….. 

One of such establishments that has done it right is Old Town Brewing – in its brewery and pub on NE Martin Luther King Blvd.

Old Town Brewing in N.E. Portland – sparkling, but feels like home.. Stay tuned for the review….

“Rather than expanding distribution, younger breweries…..are opening new locations to meet customers in person and compete as local watering holes…..Why shouldn’t breweries be more like coffee shops and local taverns instead of cold manufacturing spaces?”   

The Portland BrewBarge

Thebeerchaser’s first experience on a mobile bar (as contrasted to the similar sensation in college described as the “Blind Whirley’s”…) was in 2014 on the Portland Pedalounge. Lloyd, the owner and “driver” took us on a great trip through the streets of SE Portland, stopping for brewskis at several bars and breweries along the way.   

The crew with our fearless leader, Lloyd…

My friends and I really enjoyed this trip – and Lloyd was a kick.  All of us would recommend it.

The second “bar in motion” experience was last week on the Portland BrewBarge.   Unlike the Pedalounge or this company’s equivalent BrewCycle where you drink at stops along the way, you can enjoy a beer while “pedaling” the boat or just relaxing on your leisurely 90-minute cruise up and then back down the Willamette River – either with your own beer or what you purchase from them.

All Aboard!

My son-in-law, Ryan Keene and I joined two of my favorite lawyers – Brien Flanagan and Carson BowlerEnvironmental Law partners at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, where I worked for twenty-five years before retiring.

Ryan and Thebeerchaser

The BrewBarge was an outing for Summer Associates (law school students who clerk at the firm) and a few graduates who had finished the Oregon Bar Exam that afternoon and were understandably ready to slake their thirst.

Captain Eric in yellow shirt) brief his crew..

Note:  It was nice to be floating on the surface of the beautiful Willamette and Brien, Carson and I did not talk about the DEQ, the EPA or the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services.   I also took comfort in a recent article I read in an OPB post (6/17/18) which based on their research with the aforementioned agencies asserted:

“A person would have to spend a very long time in the river – like hundreds of years – or be exposed to much high concentrations of heavy metals, industrial compounds, flame retardants, agriculture chemicals and pharmaceuticals to reach the level of exposure health officials worry about.”

Contemplating the hazards of PBR

(Carson opined that the likelihood of me having an adverse reaction was more probable based on drinking PBR than exposure to the aforementioned toxins…)

Captain Eric, a Wilson High School alum, and Eric Johnson, who was the deckhand, after advising us on safety procedures (given the number of lawyers on board, I assume this was more extensive than their standard spiel.)  headed north and the young guys and gals peddled while downing beer which was mostly bottled IPA’s.

Good view of the bridges with Eric Johnson and Brien in the foreground

I sat on the far aft bench with my two friends and downed two canned PBRs – it doesn’t get any better, especially since Brien – who got his law degree at prestigious Georgetown Law after graduating from Notre Dame – reminded me in light of Oregon State’s recent ignominious football record, how the Beavs cleaned the Irish’s clock 41 to 9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.

Captain Eric had worked there since the inception three years ago and business has been good for the owners who started the Portland venture after a successful run of the concept in Savannah Georgia.

Great view of the USS Blueback – SS 581 – at OMSI

It’s quite reasonable and the cost is only $35 per person unless you take the 90-minute sail on Friday or Saturday when its $40.  Bring your own beer to save on expense and enjoy the great views of the Willamette.

A Trusted Resource Goes Wrong at least for Thebeerchaser…

Speaking of local watering holes that feel like home (NOT!) my usually trusted resource Willamette Week hit it wrong on a recent recommendation.

The Happy Fortune on Barbur Blvd. had shifted its focus from dining to drinking and I checked it out with a friend.   WW asserted that:

“….Happy Fortune juggles an oddly congenial hotpot of upscale transients, Lewis & Clark undergrads, amiable suburbanites drinking through the commute, and an enviable corps of die-hard regulars.”

Well perhaps that’s true and to be fair, we only made one, rather than the customary two or more visits, but I will not return.  

The selection of beers was not great, (I had a bottled Tsingtao) but the weekday afternoon, we were there, had no ambiance – either in the environment, staff or regulars and just did not hit the mark in my opinion.  It seemed like an old and worn restaurant turned bar.  My fortune that day was not a happy one!

 

Beerchaser Miscellany – Five Years of Thebeerchaser

The first bar on Thebeerchaser Tour in August, 2011

The first bar on Thebeerchaser Tour in August, 2011

The Bars in Portland

Measuring Up Against a Standard

My retirement hobby – Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs started in August 2011.  The original intent was to restrict my visits and review of watering holes to Portland venues (after all, there are over 750 establishments and more breweries per capita than any other city in the world) but retirement travel opened new options.

Thebeerchaser with Janet - a supportive spouse.....

Thebeerchaser with Janet – a supportive spouse…..

The hobby is successful, in part, because of my wonderful and supportive spouse, Janet, especially when we have traveled.  Posts on Thebeerchaser include saloons in Europe, Alaska and Hawaii and many other states within the Continental US and, of course, some great bars in Central and Eastern Oregon plus those on the Oregon Coast.

After five years, the count of Portland bars is 78 and those outside of Portland number 97 for a grand total of 175.

An invaluable Beerchaser resource - the Annual Willamette Week Bar Guide

An invaluable Beerchaser resource – the Annual Willamette Week Bar Guide

 

The annual Willamette Week Bar Guide has been an invaluable resource and to demonstrate the potential future grist for this blog, I have compared the Portland venues in the 2016 WW Bar Guide to those I have reviewed in the last five years.  Keep in mind that each review requires at least two visits in addition to my on-line research before the blog posts (150 to this point) are published.

The 2016 Bar Guide has brief descriptions of the reporters’ 167 favorite Portland bars.  I adjusted downward to eliminate strip clubs, wine and cider bars, and restaurants that have bars such as Higgins – none of which I include when I select bars (exceptions were made for two of the McMenamin establishments with historic bars – the White Eagle Saloon and the St. John’s Pub and the memorable Buffalo Gap Saloon) Thus, the 2016 net figure of potential Beerchaser options in the Bar Guide was 135.

Exception made to recognize historic establishments

Exception made to recognize historic establishments

Of the 78 Portland area bars I have reviewed, there are very few I did not like or wouldn’t recommend e.g. The Yardhouse in Pioneer Place (for a host of reasons, it didn’t ‘measure up….”) and the Pearl District’s Low Brow Lounge, which had a surly staff.  Yet only 57.7% of my bars made the Willamette Week list.

The Yard House - Ambiance of an Olive Garden......

The Yard House – Ambiance of an Olive Garden……

Perhaps I need to accelerate my visits in the second five years.  It is obvious that there are still plenty of opportunities for Beerchasing without return visits to those seen from 2011 to 2016!

To see the list of bars featured  both in Portland and outside the Rose City, check out the tab entitled “List of Bars” in the header at the top of this page. There is one post for bars outside of Portland and another for those in the Portland metro area.

Are Dive Bars Disappearing?

Seattle dive bars bookIn an April 15, 2016 article in the Seattle Times, reporter, Bob Young, asserts: “Seattle’s dive bars are becoming an endangered species.”  He justifies his premise by citing the fact that, “Thirty-one of the 100 in Mike Seely’s ‘Seattle’s Best Dive Bars’ have shuttered since the book’s 2009 publication.” 

Some have expressed the same sentiment about Portland.  For example, a December 2014 article in Willamette Week entitled, “Closing Time” with a subheading,2014 Was Barmageddon in Portland.”  The article maintained that the closing of the historic bars such as Slab TownTiga, the Matador and others is the “canary in the coal mine.”  It quoted one bartender as stating, Every good bar, everything you see is going under. Everything is going straight to shi%#.”

Slabtown - gone but not forgotten....

Slabtown – gone but not forgotten….

The Portland Mercury also did an article on March 9, 2016 entitled “The Portland Dive Bar Preservation Society.” on the same theme and summarized brilliantly with this excerpt:

“Portland’s lost a bunch of dive bars recently. A few were absolute shitholes that deserved to disappear, but most were victims of circumstance and change. A number of other bars have changed ownership and been fancied up to suit the modern market. Dive bars, if not endangered, are at the very least under threat.” 

The article lists thirty-eight bar 2014 closures including institutions such as Slab Town,  the Grand Café (Frank Peters’ former establishment), the East Bank Saloon, Tiga, Pal’s Shanty and the Matador.  Although it was more of a restaurant than a bar, the picture below shows what is left of the long-term establishment the Macadam Bar and Grill which closed last year and was razed last week.   

The Grand Café is gone but back as Pour Sports Bar

The Grand Café is gone but back as Pour Sports Bar

(I mention this one only because it used to be a Mazzi’s Restaurant and my wife and I went there for our first dinner date in 1979!)

Macadam Bar and Grill - the remnants.....

Macadam Bar and Grill – the remnants…..

However, I would suggest that the concern is not as dire as it appears.  In Portland, we are fortunate to have entrepreneur’s such as Marcus Archambault and Warren Boothby who have totally renovated the historic Sandy Hut (or Handy Slut if you are a regular) and the Double Barrel.

There was concern that the wonderful Skyline Tavern would be razed and replaced by condos, but fortunately the owner invested additional capital and it was Willamette Week’s 2016 Bar of the Year.

Produce Row closed for about a year, but reopened and is thriving in the Eastside Industrial District.  Joe’s Cellar, one of my favorite NW dive bars, closed and like the proverbial Phoenix, rose again the next year and is pumping out draft PBRs like there is no tomorrow.  Both the Grand Café and Eastbank Saloon reopened as new bars (Pour Sports and the Bit House Saloon, respectively.)

New Copper Penny will turn into apartments....

New Copper Penny will turn into apartments….

But consider the recent loss of the venerable New Copper Penny in Lents, which after many years is closing as part of the Portland Development Commission’s ambitious goal to make Lents into a thriving mixed-use community.

New Copper Penny - history goes to auction

New Copper Penny – history goes to auction

What can you do?  Continue to patronize the many establishments which are truly bars and avoid the “fashionable” trend to get a beer at Starbucks or retail establishments ranging from ski shops to bicycle stores which put in a tap or two and attempt to reinvent themselves as a watering hole —-They’re Not!

Similarly, if you fly on one of the airlines now offering microbrews such as Virgin America (San Francisco’s 21st Amendment BreweryDelta (Sam Adams) or Southwest (New Belgium’s Fat Tire) and have a beer, you don’t have to tell your spouse that you stopped at a bar on your way home.

Not to be considered a dive bar or a pub......

Not to be considered a dive bar or a pub……

That said, don’t make the mistake of one Luke Thomas Watts (27) who on an Alaska Airlines flight from Sacramento to Seattle, locked himself in the bathroom and threatened to become violent if the flight attendants did not serve him a beer. The plane landed in Portland and Luke was removed.  He was indicted and went to trial in July!)  http://koin.com/2016/05/11/feds-man-locks-himself-in-airplane-bathroom-after-he-wasnt-served-alcohol/

These Brews Made the Cut….

While this blog, notwithstanding the name, is primarily about bars rather than trying to articulate the subtle taste differences between the hundreds of IPAs or analyze how hoppy a microbrew with an IBU (international bittering unit) of 60 is compared to a similar beer ten units lower, I do periodically mention beers.

Ryan popped the question - and a bottle of champagne at the summit of the South Sister in 2015

Ryan popped the question – and a bottle of champagne at the summit of the South Sister in 2015

My youngest daughter, Laura, and her fiancé’, Ryan Keene, are tying the knot on September 17th at Vista Hills Winery, right outside of Dundee. (My suggestion that the reception be held at one of my favorite Dundee dives – Lumpy’s Landing – was understandably rejected.) 

Rejected as wedding reception site....

Rejected as wedding reception site….

 

While Vista Hills has wonderful wine, there will be a few canned beers available and some family members recently got together for dinner and a blind tasting test to determine which brews would be offered during that celebration.  We tasted about ten beers that night and the following made the cut:

Oakshire Watershed IPA       Worthy Easy-Day Kolsch    Good Life Sweet As Pacific Ale

There will also be one cider – that being Portland Cider Co.’s “Hop’rageous.”

The tasting group and Wesley - making critical wedding decisions!

The tasting group and Wesley – making critical wedding decisions!

I told Ryan that his favorite professor at the University of Portland (where both of them graduated), Dr. Sam Holloway would be pleased since he sits on the Board of Eugene’s Oakshire Brewery.  Sam is also an internationally known expert on the business of brewing as documented when he was named Beerchaser of the Quarter for this blog – see link)

            ——————

What Would George Washington Think?

Thebeerchaser generally stays away from politics although the 2016 election cycle has made that more difficult.  Suffice to say that because of Beerchasing in Europe, at least unlike the Republican Presidential Nominee, I know that Belgium is a country and not “a beautiful city…..

But regardless of how tiresome the political rhetoric becomes, nothing will irritate me more than the opinion piece in Oregon Live on 2/26/16 written by the Executive Directors of the Oregon Student Association and the Bus Project entitled, Buying Postage is a Burden for Many Would-be Voters.” (click on link to see the narrative)

Usps-vanMario Parker-Milligan and Nikki Fisher, in their youthful wisdom and with righteous indignity, assert that voting by mail, “……assumes ample free time and a drawer full of stamps to get that ballot turned in….But there is a real – sometimes prohibitive (emphasis supplied)  cost getting to a post office during regular business hours….the last thing you should have to do is sacrifice needed income or time with your children to vote.”

Well Mario and Nikki, Thebeerchaser also doesn’t accept the premise that this situation is tantamount to a poll tax and suggests that rather than having urged the 2016 Oregon Legislature to enact Senate Bill 1586 to provide return postage for your ballots, that you just take your completed ballot and WALK to your nearest library or City Hall where you can return it without charge.

Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851

Washington crossing the Delaware. They were concerned about a Stamp Act far more significant than Senate Bill 1586!

And while you are in the Library, you might want to check out a book (it’s free unless you don’t have time to return it before the due date) and read about the sacrifices that George Washington and his Revolutionary Army made when they were fighting the British from 1775 – 1783.  I’m not sure they would have agreed with you on the definition of “burden.”

(It appears that SB 1586 was enacted on 4/4/2016 with an emergency clause, although according to the Secretary of State’s Election Division, the provision for postage was deleted from the final bill.)  Since the financial impact was estimated at $1.2 million annually if every registered voter took advantage (would obviously not be the case) that is fortunate.  Perhaps these funds can be diverted to civics education in the high schools!

And Finally Since we are Talking About Elections….

Thebeerchaser’s first full-time job in 1974 after naval service was as a clerk in the Clackamas County Elections Department, where we administered and conducted both the Primary and General elections in addition to numerous school and special district elections for bond issues, levies and board-of-director contests.

Although Mario and Nikki would be appalled at how onerous the burden, that was before Vote-by-Mail and each voter, unless they cast an absentee ballot, would vote at one of the approximately 120 polling places throughout the county.

Obsolete in Oregon, but not in many states

Obsolete in Oregon, but not in many states

Each location was staffed from 8:00 AM until 8:00 PM by four very dedicated and hardworking poll workers and one lead person who collectively reviewed the voter’s eligibility, had them sign the poll book and handed them the appropriate ballot.

They were generally retired ladies who worked for less than minimum wage and these great citizens were also responsible for ballot security since they returned the ballots and supplies to the Data Center in Oregon City after the polls closed.

Poll workers in an election polling location

Poll workers in an election polling location

In reviewing (and recycling based on the mandate by my spouse to “get rid of some of those outdated and unnecessary documents you have in multiple file cabinets in our garage,”) I came across one that also showed how conscientious these ladies were.

The letter below was written by Alta Bluhm, lead poll worker, at Clackamas High School during the Special School District Election on July 27, 1976 and signed by her co-workers:  Dora Burnwalt, Priscilla Coffa, Barbara Aldrich and Betty Jo Partridge:

Opal  L. Johnson (not her real name) entered Clackamas High School, became antagonistic toward the board, signed poll book  #1409, looked through poll book, received ballot #73, asked how to vote but was told we didn’t give out that information.  She hesitated a minute and then tried to leave building with (the) ballot in hand.

Our fourth clerk tried to stop her from taking the ballot from the building.  Opal Johnson then attacked her by striking her with her purse and transistor radio.  Ballot was retrieved and marked spoiled or void.”

I have a feeling that George Washington and other Founding Fathers would be justifiably proud of these five ladies and perhaps even Mario and Nikki would also share that sentiment….

Cheers - a Moretti at the Devil's Forest Pub in Venice in 2012

Cheers – a Moretti at the Devil’s Forest Pub in Venice in 2012