Beerchaser Miscellany – The Bad, the Unfortunate and the Good!

In one of my last posts entitled “Destiny of the Dives,” I listed a number of Portland bars and breweries that had closed based on the pandemic and resulting lockdowns and the civil disorder that was rampant in Portland last year.  Unfortunately, there’s a couple more, both of which I had hoped might reopen, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Bailey’s Tap Room – right on Broadway in downtown Portland and known since 2007 for its robust tap list (its twenty-six rotating taps were displayed electronically) will definitely not reopen although that was the intent when it first closed.

Unfortunately, the Upper Lip – a great lounge on the upper floor of the same building – is also gone.  The building was quickly sold and who knows if another watering hole will eventually take over the space.  An article in Brewpublic.com echoed the same pessimistic outlook.

One of the first electronic displays of its kind

Willamette Week reported in a  January article headlined  An Oregon economist could not think of another example of ‘an area that has so quickly fallen into disfavor.’”:

“Portland plunged from one of the most desirable cities for real estate investors to 66th among 80 cities (Urban Land Institute)….The reputational damage is what’s going to exacerbate or prolong what we saw unfold in 2020.”

Grixen Brewing – my former neighbor was one of the partners in this brewery opened in 2013 in SE Portland that featured a spacious taproom and good beer.

Great taproom and quality beer…

Grixen — Sorry to see them go…..

It was announced in August that they would temporarily close although their website now states:

“We have permanently closed.   We are still navigating a way to keep the beer alive.  Follow us on social channels for announcements.” 

Well, there is nothing in social media or on the internet that updates that info except a piece in NewSchoolBeer.com in October stating “Lease the Former Grixen Brewery.”  I hope I’m wrong, but don’t count on seeing them again.

Tax and Legislative Changes and Lifting of Restrictions

Fortunately, at least in Oregon, there are some positive developments which will now help bars and breweries after a tumultuous year.

Oregon Craft Brewers avoided what would have been a 100% tax increase:  “The $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress Dec. 21 includes a set of tax breaks that offer substantial relief for Oregon craft brewers, distillers, winemakers and cider makers, who are among the small businesses hit hard during the pandemic.” 

As an example, a brewery that produces 10,000 barrels a year would have jumped from paying $35,000 a year to $70,000 a year in excise taxes

My favorite cocktail — gin – up with olives

  At the end of 2020, Oregon Legislators passed a bill that allows bars and restaurants to sell mixed drinks for offsite consumption – something the industry has been seeking for the last year statewide.  It requires food with the drink order, but that’s a start.

Well, it took long enough, but at least they got this one right!

  Because of falling COVID rates, “For the first time since November, restaurants, bars and brewpubs in the Portland metro area will be allowed to reopen their indoor dining rooms at a limited capacity at the end of the week.”  (2/12)

So on 2/12, Portland area Beerchasers, while still practicing social distancing and wearing masks, could go out and support their local watering holes and not just  sit in the cold with portable heaters.

And to show how it goes, just when the COVID restrictions were loosened, Portland and the burbs got hit with an incredible ice storm that closed roads, led to hundreds of thousands losing power and trees either coming down altogether or large limbs breaking under the weight.

Matchsticks….! My sidewalk and street

I’ll take a pint over push-ups or pilates…..

Our own street and sidewalk looked like a behemoth tossed limbs like match-sticks.

But I’m confident normality will resume In Oregon.  It’s just a matter of when and how one defines “normality!”

After all, it was reported by Willamette Week, that a recent national survey by the American Addiction Centers revealed that bars won out over gyms on which adults missed most.  In Oregon bars won by a decent margin: 59% to 41%.  Go figure!

The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory and a Sad Farewell..

Followers of this blog know that one of my favorite dives outside Oregon is Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska.  I first came across this unique watering hole in 2014 and it has been serving beers (not on tap – just bottles and cans) for over forty years.

I always look forward to their pithy and biting quarterly newsletter – until I can return, but was glad to see in the latest edition that they reopened in late January:

“Several establishments won’t be opening at all.  Some were old, established icons around town.   (We will reopen) with the same wonderful staff that are known and loved – some as long as twenty six years.  Some minor tweaks were done during the shutdown, but the same free popcorn and free Jukebox will still be there too…..So get vaccinated and let’s end this crap.” 

My last mention of Darwin’s was to post a picture sent by Jon Magnusson’s – father-in-law to our older daughter when he and his wife, Nancy and two good friends, Dr. Bob and Stephanie Thompson visited Anchorage on a trip to see the Northern Lights in February, 2020.

I told them they had to check out Darwin’s and I got a text from Jon with the picture below and the comment, “Exploring Darwin’s – Great Place.”

From left – Jon and Nancy Magnusson and Stephanie and Dr. Bob Thompson at Darwin’s Theory in February 2020.

We were shocked and saddened to learn that Dr. Bob passed away last week following a heart attack while swimming.   He practiced Family Medicine in Seattle and was loved and respected by patients, colleagues and all who knew him.

In 2013, he was honored as the Outstanding Health Care Practitioner in Washington State and as stated by the CEO of the Valley Medical Center where he practiced for over thirty years:

“Dr. Bob, as he is fondly known, has worked at Valley for over 25 years and he is an emblem of what it truly means to be a tireless and compassionate care giver, committed to helping people in need.”

Dr. Bob Thompson was an outstanding person-of-faith who worked on many volunteer medical missions including Belize in Central America and Albania.  He was active in numerous charitable organizations and a loving husband, father and grandfather.  We will miss him.

New Times for Old Town

In an 8/16/20 Beerchaser post, I mentioned how entrepreneur, Adam Milne, the founder of the iconic Old Town Pizza in 2003 and his later expansion to Old Town Brewing, faced challenges during COVID and the riots/protests in Portland this summer.

Adam Milne – a bright and creative businessman

They caused him to temporarily close one of his his two establishments – the downtown location as reported in a July 12 Willamette Week:

“‘The moment of a temporary closure became, sadly, clear on Thursday when our revenue for the day was $18.75,’ he says….. ‘We really need help from the city. Downtown businesses have been hit especially hard with the high density, vandalism and tents in front of our business.'”

While Old Town Pizza is still closed, he has not been sitting idle and will expand with another eastside location besides the Northeast Brewery.

Just this month, he purchased Baby Doll Pizza on Southeast Stark – he won’t change the name although it will now feature a number of the excellent Old Town beers on tap.  Baby Doll is known for its’s New York style pizza.

Congratulations Adam.

Parting with Encouraging Words

In my recent post, Destiny of the Dives, I bemoaned the loss of some historic Portland watering holes, but parted with a hint of optimism – that during and after the pandemic – required restrictions, a number of establishments have either expanded or innovated to stay open and in some cases, grow and prosper.  The pent-up demand caused by isolation would be a beacon to Beerchasing…..

And then I came across an outstanding January 12th article from New School Beer.com that was stunning in the expansiveness of such plans in 2021 —  The Most Anticipated Upcoming Oregon Breweries and Taprooms of 2021 — New School Beer + Cider

The most exciting news is the info about Steeplejack Brewing – plans to open this summer – a heartening story not only because of the spirit of the co-partners (Brody Day and Dustin Harder) who are two college buddies, but because their partnership and cooperative efforts with the Metropolitan Community Church.

Portland’s Metropolitan Community Church

The result – a wonderful historic landmark will be saved and still serve as a community gathering place.  This is an incredibly ambitious project. Stay tuned and Godspeed!

“The church at NE 24th and Broadway is a landmark of Portland’s Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood known for it’s ornate steeple and long history.

The building’s most recent owners Metropolitan Community Church left the building in 2019 and it narrowly avoided being demolished. Turning down competing bids, the MCC leaders chose to sell the space to two homebrewers who wanted to keep the building intact and as a central hub or the community.”

Conceptual photo of the planned brewpub

Amen!!

 

Beerchasing in Corvallis with the King(s) II…!

Brian and Nancy King outside the historic Squirrels Tavern in Corvallis

Followers of Thebeerchaser know (or could have guessed) that the lockdown since mid-March curtailed both singular Beerchasing visits and group BC events which have been a hit in the past.  This is the final post on my 2017-18 trips to Corvallis – the home of my college alma mater – Oregon State University.

An aerial post of the Memorial Union and the beautiful OSU campus

The first post can be seen at https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/04/15/beerchasing-in-corvallis-part-1/

In reflecting on the absence of watering holes in my life for the last 3.5 months, it both reminded me and made me lament on one of my favorite quotes – used several times in prior blog posts – by 18th century English man-of-letters, Samuel Johnson.  And it’s supplemented by a new one that reinforces his original assertion.

If you can’t drink a draft in a saloon, there are good alternatives

The latter I discovered reading one of David Brooks’ marvelous books (The Road to Character) yesterday afternoon during my Happy Hour on our deck drinking a great can of Bend’s Breakside Brewing’s Sweet As Pacific Ale.

Brooks gives a remarkable and insightful narrative on Johnson – the complex individual known as a “poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer.” (Wikipedia).  However, he loved watering holes.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

and

“I look upon every day to be lost in which I do not make a new acquaintance.”

A complex personality “….a mass of contradictions: lazy and energetic, aggressive and tender, melancholic and humorous, common-sensical and irrational, comforted yet tormented by religion.” (David Brooks – page 221 The Road to Character)

These quotes epitomize the rationale for Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Breweries initiated upon my retirement in late 2011 and until the pandemic, the inspiration for visits (and reviews) of 375 watering holes during the last nine years in Portland, throughout Oregon and the US and even in Europe – also why I’m looking forward to the end of the lockdown.

The Kings Treated me Like 
Royalty

On the first trip in October 2017, I was privileged to be the overnight guest of former Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm colleague, Brian (Brain) King and his wife, Nancy.   Brian had a notable career as an environmental litigator – first in the corporate sector and then with two large law firms.   Before his retirement in 2016, he “anchored” Schwabe’s one-person Corvallis office after working in the Portland office for several years. The link below explains why I credit him as a primary inspiration for starting this blog in 2011.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/04/24/beerchasing-in-corvallis-and-stanley-idaho-part-ii-drinking-with-kings/

On a 2016 Beerchasing to Mummy’s – a Portland classic

(Brian has been on many prior Beerchasing expeditions in Portland, and for me, will always retain the moniker Brain.”  He will correspondingly label me as “Dan” although the humorous and true account surrounding those names will have to wait for the book I plan to write on law firm management.)

To demonstrate both his priorities and commitment, Brian even took a bus from the downtown Portland office after he drove up from Corvallis in 2016 to Beerchase at North Portland’s wonderful Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Dive Bar.

Schwabe colleagues Brian Flanagan and John Mansfield celebrate “Brain’s” (left) arrival by Tri-Met.

Professor and attorney, Nancy King

Nancy King, Brian’s wife is also a lawyer and until her recent retirement was a professor at OSU and earlier at Willamette University College of Law.  During her academic career, she taught graduate and undergrad business law courses including MBA courses on law and ethics for new businesses and emerging technologies.

She received a 2008 Fulbright Fellowship in European Union Affairs to conduct comparative law research on privacy and data protection issues related to mobile advertising enabling her to work on her research with law and technology experts at a University in Belgium.  Earlier in her career, she distinguished herself as an employment lawyer for the Bullard Law, a firm in Portland.

Now in the first Corvallis post, I related our visits to Cloud and Kelly’s and Block 15 Brewing.   The other establishments on this trip described below, included Squirrel’s Tavern, The Caves, and The Peacock.

Squirrel’s Tavern

Bustling on a weeknight.

The Loft at Squirrel’s

The Kings recommended Squirrel’s for dinner and I could see why.  It had great food and on a weekday evening was hopping, so to speak.

Since there were no seats available on the main level, we ended eating in the loft, which was a very good substitute.  And for $8, the Squirrel Burger would be a treat wherever you consumed it:

 (“Beef patty topped with fried egg, grilled ham slice, cheddar & swiss cheeses, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, mendocino mustard & ketchup. Potato chips & pickle slice on the side.”)  It lived up to its reputation!

The “Squirrel Burger” – no rodent aftertaste!!

Squirrel’s has an interesting history as related in this story in The Corvallis Gazette Times on the tavern’s 40th anniversary in 2014.  A great tradition is their hosted Annual Labor Day Party at a nearby park since 1976 – it always draws several hundred people.

Owning and operating a tavern for 45 years – especially in a university town, is a real accomplishment and Greg “Squirrel” Little, the owner, is known as an outstanding business man and citizen in Corvallis.

The bar obviously closed during the pandemic and will open again in July starting with curbside service.   As stated on their website, Look, it took a pandemic to get Greg to take cards!!!! 

And besides a number of bottled beers, Squirrels has seventeen beers on tap.  Of course, what better way to consume a Squirrel Burger than with a draft PBR.

Looking down from the loft

Squirrel’s has great ambiance, from the cordiality of the staff and regulars to the interesting and idiosyncratic art, to the pictures, sports memorabilia and cool rodent-related accoutrements such as mounted squirrels….

The bar is also known for its popular live music gigs.  The length of this post limits the number of social media reviews I can show, but this one (Yelp 10/22/19) does an apt job of summing up Corvallis’ sentiments:

“You cant beat Squirrel’s. Unpretentious. Good ordinary food at a good price. Really nice people. We’ve lived in Corvallis for over 40 years and Greg has been part of so many experiences for us. Off nights are best. You’ll get more of a local feel when it’s not so packed.”

According to Facebook, their plan is to reopen on July 6th, once safety protocols are tested and physical changes made to keep patrons safe.  Drop by and show your support for a business which deserves your patronage.!

The Peacock

A Corvallis watering hole since 1929

The Peacock Bar and Grill has been operating since 1929 – it’s birth was even before either Brian’s or mine and the history of this bar made at least a short visit on my trip mandatory.

After all, how many late night visits to the Top of the ‘Cock did we make when we were undergraduates and the second floor of this historic bar was always rocking and thereby lured us away from cramming for our Western Civ midterm the next day.

Unfortunately, based on the predominant sentiments in Yelp reviews from the last several years, the legendary $1.99 Early-bird Breakfast and quality burgers, don’t appear to overcome repeated concerns about rude and surly staff and bouncers such as (8/11/18):

“Don’t go to this bar for a good time on the weekend. The confrontation-happy bouncers will throw patrons on the ground as you walk out of the restroom.  They will beat up patrons, and throw your girl in a ditch. After doing reviews on the peacock they are consistently calling the cops on these patrons.”

The Top of the “Cock” in better days. Will it ever be the same?

Two dudes looking for conversation not confrontation….

Fortunately, Brian and I were in no mood that evening to engage in either a physical or mental confrontation, and we just stopped in to survey the surroundings and departed.

And while the description above may be exaggerated, it appears that you can now assess the Peacock’s service yourself as:

“Benton County was approved to enter Phase 2 starting Friday, June 5. The Peacock Bar & Grill is open for dine in 7am-midnight daily, starting June 5. We will continue to be open for take out, curb side and delivery 7am-1am daily.”

Caves Bier and Kitchen (Les Caves)

We ended the night with class although Brian had to convince me that he wasn’t taking us to a crypt with dead OSU alums buried there.

Ready for a nightcap with patrons who are still living…

The Kings and I stopped at this delightful European bar and bistro for a nightcap as they advertise – probably correctly:

“….Corvallis’ largest selection of draft and bottled beer from around the world with artisanal pub fare served in a cozy atmosphere.”

The pub is comfortable and with an upscale ambiance.  Although they describe their menu as “artisanal pub faire,” it seems very suitable to someone with a discriminating palate and accustomed to more sophisticated culinary faire in contrast to a Squirrel Burger (which tantalized my taste-buds earlier that evening….)

The prices seem very reasonable for such items as Chicken and Apricot Tagine, Moules Frites, Chana Marsala and Elk Ragout.

A cozy, upscale ambiance with a classic bar

“From a distance the bar top looks like a nice but somewhat standard wooden bar with a nice shiny finish, but once you pony up to it and grab a seat its beauty is immediately apparent.

Underneath its shiny polish are oak barrel staves from some of the Northwest’s best barrel-aged brews that have been re-purposed, cut up, straightened, and aligned meticulously for the bar top. Other than just being beautiful, it really speaks to the love of oak barrel-aging….”

Friendly and knowledgeable

Unlike the description of staff at one establishment above, our server was a very friendly and knowledgeable young woman who went through their robust tap list and let us sample a number before ordering:

“On tap you will find a selection of twenty beers brewed around the block and around the world. Our bottle list boasts over 130 unique bottled beers, stored in our temperature – and UV light-controlled beer cooler. All bottles are opened tableside and served in glassware appropriate to the style.”

The owners of Block 15 Brewery opened Caves in 2011 and its named for the cellars under Block 15’s brewery and Les Caves itself, which house more than 100 barrels of beer.  They feature several of Block 15’s excellent beers.  Brian and Nancy split a pint of their Alpha IPA (“6.5% ABV – Northwest style IPA with notes of citrus, fruit, and pine delivered by a robust blend of four NE grown hops.”)

Brian, knowing that in my undergrad days, I only drank in sips from the Fountain-of-Knowledge, suggested I down a pint of the Effect of Education Farmhouse Ale (also appropriate for an ag college).

It’s a collaboration with McMinnville’s Allegory Brewing (“8.2% ABV – Ransom whiskey barrel aged mixed culture Farmhouse Ale with local, hand-picked cherries.) A collaboration with our friends at Caves Bier & Kitchen.”)

Shoyu deviled eggs -floating on your bowl of ramen….

Caves is worth a return trip to test their kitchen and would also merit some research on their World Bier Passport“Take a trip around the world of artisan beer, guided by Caves’ World Bier Passport. By the time you complete your journey, you’ll gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of regional beer styles, timeless traditions, and emerging brewing techniques.”

Going with the flow…….

We returned to the King’s and Brian and I had a nightcap in their living room.  Nancy excused herself when I encouraged Brian to summarize his presentation a few years earlier at a local government symposium entitled, “How to Prepare for Your MS4 Inspection.”  He was duly impressed that I knew MS4 is an acronym for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

But when he declined and then got us some snifters of brandy, upon returning he did open up about the book he co-authored when I asked about it.

I have always respected Brian’s position on environmental issues and remembered reading an article in the Portland Business Journal shortly before he joined the Schwabe firm:

“Despite the upheaval of his now-defunct firm (Bogle and Gates), Brian King, also found the time to co-write a book published last month called “Fundamentals of Environmental Management.”

King said the book couches environmental compliance as a combination of law, science, politics and public relations….Despite company complaints, there is time and money to not only meet current regulations, but to exceed them.”

Available at Amazon

But the kicker was a summary of said tome which I had read from an unknown reviewer in Idaho which stated, in part: Fundamentals of Environmental Management with stimulating chapters such as ‘Air Emission Inventory and Analysis”’or ‘Ozone-Depleting Chemicals (ODCs).’ (Environmental lawyers are not a real popular group in Idaho….)”

I thought his book could lead to a stimulating conversation that would help me fall asleep that evening (or possibly while we were still chatting…)

For those of you interested, this legal thriller is still available new on for $13.92 – a savings of $136.83 off the list price – but hurry there is only one left in stock at Amazon.

Lawyer, author, environmentalist and prefers beer to Bloody Mary’s

Now if you do a Google search for this book, be careful not to get confused and order by mistake a volume by prolific author Dr. Brian King.   This Brian King has written less weighty manuscripts including ” The Art of Taking It Easy: How to Cope with Bears, Traffic, and the Rest of Life’s Stressors  and also  “A Field Guide to the North American Bloody Mary.”

Dr. Brian King, has an entirely different background from my friend according to his bio:

“…..trained as a neuroscientist and psychologist and for the past decade has traveled the world as a comedian and public speaker. By day he conducts seminars, presented nationwide and attended by thousands of people each year, on positive psychology, the health benefits of humor, and stress management. By night he practices what he teaches in comedy clubs.”

While “Brain” and “Dan” will always do a lot of mutual kidding, I would suggest that any person would be richer for knowing both him and his wife Nancy.  Brian has a wonderful and dry sense of humor and was respected and liked by both his colleagues and adversaries in the courtroom.

A wonderful couple who are great hosts

Note:  As a closing note, I was sorry to hear that it appears that the cherished Corvallis Flat Tail Brewery has permanently closed – not because of Covid 19 – but because of a dispute with their landlord over their lease as chronicled in a BrewPublic.com post on June 15th entitled “Flat Tail Brewing Closes its Doors in Downtown Corvallis.”  We certainly hope the ten-year old brewery with the slogan “Dam Good Beer,” finds a new location and reopens in the near future.

Hoping for a quick return….