Ecliptic Brewing – Shoot for the stars but settle for an earth orbit….

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This brew pub on the southern edge of N. Mississippi Avenue opened in October 2013 – a creation of John Harris, who has extensive (three decades) experience in the craft brewing industry starting with McMenamin’s (the first brewer to make Hammerhead), then Deschutes and Full Sail Breweries as brewmaster before opening his own venture.

AxialTiltObliquity

Would you rather discuss the obliquity of the axial tilt or just raise a mug?

The beers are named after stars and their website explains, “The name Ecliptic Brewing unites John’s two passions: brewing and astronomy and is the yearly path around the sun on planet Earth.” 

For the science geeks who want to get more serious, however, a more thorough definition is,The plane defined by the earth’s orbit projected onto the celestial sphere, along which the sun appears to move as viewed from the earth.” 

“Appears” is emphasized above because technically it is an illusion – to fully understand involves grasping the “obliquity of the ecliptic axial tilt” – a concept which would motivate most people to reach for several mugs of their excellent beer.

According to Willamette Week’s Art and Culture Editor, Martin Cizmar, in his 2/14 review,“It’s his (Harris’s) goal for Ecliptic to be considered among the top 100 restaurants in town, winning inclusion in either WW’s glossy Restaurant Guide or The Oregonian’s Diner.”  (The critic was not overly impressed with his food on his three visits and felt the ranking would be in the top 250 restaurants although most of the recent comments about the food in social media are positive.)

Our group sampling the food and beer after the walk around the neighborhood

Our group sampling the food and beer after the walk around the neighborhood

While they have celestial goals, the experience for us did not break into orbit.   The menu and the food were pretty good, and as expected, they brew some excellent beer.  However, after visiting over 100 bars, taverns and brewpubs on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland, Bars, Taverns and Pubs in the last three years, I would suggest that decent food and good beer do not make up for a sterile environment – which lacks any ambiance – at least at this point.

Ecliptic is a former auto body shop, with picnic tables massed in an uncovered large concrete parking lot which slopes downhill.  As one Yelp reviewer recently opined, “I think the main thing holding this place back is the rather sterilized/antiseptic feeling the location gives. It’s a big space, but there doesn’t seem to be much character.”   (March 22, 2015)P1030302

The interior is also pretty barren – the kitchen is essentially integrated with the dining space – spacious, but the walls are stark and lights bright conveying a cafeteria-type feel.

That said, they have great sandwiches and salads.  The 1/2 pound Ecliptic Burger was delicious as was their grilled salmon sandwich and Caesar Salad.  The fries are plentiful and cheap.

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As would be expected, the beer is their strength and they have ten beers on tap at a very reasonable price ($4.75 for a 16 oz. pint).  Five of their beers were nominated for Willamette Week’s 2015 Beer Awards:

White Astroid Imperial Wit IPA – Best Hoppy Beer

Stellanova India Session Ale – Best Session Beer

Spica Hefepils – Best Lager

Perihelion Crimson Saison – Best of the Island of Misfit Beers

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A Galaxy of Good Beers

Oregon Live in an April, 2015 post, stated:  The newest addition to Ecliptic’s line of beers is named after the Helix Nebula, a large planetary nebula and sun-like star (also known as “The Eye of God”) located in the constellation Aquarius. Helix is a crisp and refreshing golden lager, dry hopped with Citra and Jarrylo hops for extra citrus, spice flavor and aroma. 

The servers were responsive and knowledgeable and Ecliptic is attempting to be creative and flexible – again quoting from their website:

“…..beer and food menus (will be) in constant change and rotation throughout the year. Our seasonal menu will rotate every 6 weeks on the old world calendar. Changes at Samhian, Winter Solstice, Bridgid, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas and the Autumnal Equinox.”

Prost - good bier and a superior setting...

Prost – good bier and a superior setting…

So while Ecliptic does some things very well and is still a young establishment, Thebeerchaser’s inclination is to move several blocks up N. Mississippi Avenue and return to Prost – where one can also drink some excellent German beer and have comparable food, but raise your mug in a much superior setting – either in their interior which radiates warmth and character or on their attractive and covered wooden deck.

Or alternatively, pick up a bottle of one of the four Ecliptic offerings at the Belmont Station bottle shop and take it into the Belmont Bier Café and raise a mug with Beer Goddess, Lisa Morrison – both options more earthy and mundane than the stellar ambitions of Ecliptic.  Of course, one can also head out to Multnomah Village for the a nautical choice and dive bar ambiance at the Ship Tavern.

PBR rather than beers named after celestial bodies, but a down-to-earth clientele....

PBR rather than beers named after celestial bodies, but a down-to-earth clientele….

 

Ecliptic Brewing        825 North Cook Street

 

 

 

 

Stammtisch – Get a group, grab a table and drink a bier!

 

What Legacy??

A new face in the Kerns Neighborhood

Dan Hart and Chris Navarra are the co-owners of two North Portland bars –  Prost and Interurban – see Thebeerchaser reviews in November 2011 and May 2012, respectively.   Prost was an early favorite on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs.  Interurban, relatively new when we visited, was okay, but had none of the character of its counterpart a few blocks north on Mississippi Ave.

Memories of Prost....
Memories –  Prost in 2011

 

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Laura, Ryan and Kenzie – some of University of Portland’s great alums

They have now opened a third Portland bar – Stammtisch on NE 28th Avenue – in the Kerns Neighborhood.  Early reviews are very good and we had a great experience.

Stammtisch replaces a bar named Spints Ale House, which based on numerous largely critical comments, was not a loss because of mediocre food, expensive beer and marginal to terrible customer service.  One Yelp review concluded, Spints is ultimately an exercise in unmet potential,” consistent with another stating, “As mentioned in other reviews, the ambience in this joint is non-existent, the music loud and dreadful, and the staff a tad less than gracious (& I’m being polite there!).” (Yelp 1/2011)

Before that the site had Café 401 – closed only a few months after opening to big breakfast crowds.   An April 2009 review in the blog “Breakfast in Bridgetown” summarized as “Simple, but above average” – not a rousing endorsement.   So Stammtisch does not have an insurmountable legacy to uphold……

Community tables...

Community tables…

Stammtisch is a German term for “an informal friendly get-together held regularly and also the usually large, often round table, around which the group meets.” 

Based on the lively crowd  on a weekday night, the name is appropriate because community seating is encouraged – and appeared to be working well.   “My boyfriend and I shared a table with some strangers when we first sat down and we were clinking our steins with them by the time the bier arrived at our table.”

P1020369According to Oregon Live (4/30) (Hart plans to) transform it into a sister bar to Prost with more German taps, more schnapps and more food.”   Our experience and the majority of the early comments viewed indicate that predecessors food quality issues won’t be an issue: “Stammtisch has now become our go-to German restaurant in Portland ..and it’s a drive since we live about 30 miles out-of-town.” (5/6/14 Yelp John B)

Expansive menu and food quality creates a nice dilemma....
Expansive menu and food quality creates a nice dilemma….

Willamette Week published a restaurant review on June 25th and went into great detail on the expansive selection of German food on the menu.  The four of us shared just a few of the selections ranging from the Fiorelle (Riesling braised trout) to the Bretzel to the Brites to the Bratwurst with sauerkraut.  A return trip would pose the dilemma of whether to repeat what was outstanding or try something new.

This ambivalence would also occur on the German bier selection.  The 18 taps – six rotating – helped to reinforce Ernest Hemingway’s assertion: “It was as natural as eating, and to me, as necessary.  I would not have thought of eating a meal without drinking a beer.”

Affirmed at Stammtisch

Affirmed at Stammtisch

Our selection included:

Professor Fitz Briem 1899 Berliner Weisse    

Kostritzer Schwarzbier              Ayinger Celebrator 

Veltins Pilsner  

A Beerchaser tradition is to visit my bars with interesting people and this was no exception – three young professionals, all of whom make me an ardent fan of The University of Portland, their alma mater.  Brian Doyle, Editor of UP’s wonderful magazine Portland, award-winning author, and most impressively, Thebeerchaser of the Quarter in February 2014 summed it up best.

Author Brian Doyle

Author Brian Doyle

He was chronicling the amazing success of the Rise Campaign at the University which concludes this summer and has raised $180 million over the last four years.  He reflects on UP: “I cannot count the number of students I have met in 23 years here who became riveting and creative and devout and admirable men and women.”        

Portland - the UP magazine

Portland – the UP magazine

So let’s briefly look at my companions that night.  Laura Williams  who I am immensely proud to say, is my youngest daughter, a 2008 UP alum and a dedicated pediatric oncology nurse, first at Randall Children’s Hospital and now at Doernbecher.

Ryan Keene – UP 2011 – a skilled project manager at O’Neil Electric, who also helps coach the cross-country team at Clackamas High School, and even works weekends helping in the Arleta Library Bakery and Café – a great SE venue especially for breakfast and featured on the Food Networks “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”  (Ryan and Laura were along for Thebeerchaser visit to Quimby’s in NW Portland earlier this year in March.)

And Kenzie Larson – UP 2010 – a very successful senior account representative at the amazing young company, Jama Software – recognized on the Forbes’ Most Promising Companies in America list the past two years.

Our waitress, Leslie and Ryan, Laura and Kenzie with Thebeerchaser logo

Our waitress, Leslie, with Thebeerchaser logo and Ryan, Laura and Kenzie

All of them are good citizens and great athletes – with the emphasis on running.  For example, last summer Ryan, who ran two years of cross-country at Gonzaga before transferring to UP, ran a 50K – that’s 31.1 miles –  ultra-marathon in Bend on the Flagline Trail. He finished 3rd overall with a time of 4:15. – that’s essentially an eight minute mile for the distance!  In fact, the only negative thing I can say about Ryan harkens back to his college days when his favorite beer was warm Busch Light.  

Fortunately, his discernment in girl friends surpasses his beer selection...

Fortunately, his discernment in girl friends surpasses his beer selection…

 

Kenzie, besides having played basketball at UP, recently ran the Rainier-to-Ruston Relay, with a team of 4 ladies – it’s like a mini Hood-to-Coast (51.9 miles – so each ran about 12 or 13 miles over the 3 legs) from a starting point on Mt. Rainier to the Tacoma waterfront finish line.  They were the top female team, finishing in 7 hours and 20 minutes.

Laura, Ryan and Kenzie lend credence to the complaint: “The only problem with beer is that you have to be stationary to drink it.”  They also motivated me to at least sprint from the bar to my car when we left….     

Laura and Kenzie - stationary for the moment

Laura and Kenzie – stationary for the moment

Now there were complaints about the service at Stammtisch’s predecessors, but the reviews so far are very good.  Our waitress, Leslie –  a Louisiana gal who moved to Portland based on the recommendation of her friend who works at Prost – was knowledgeable about the bier, friendly and efficient.

She’s worked there for a month and one-half and said, “We’re having fun here.”

Adrian and his wife - neighborhood fans....

Adrian and his wife – neighborhood fans….

 And Dan Hart is smart.  One of Ryan’s co-workers at O’Neil (Adrian) and his wife live in the neighborhood.  They said that Dan met with the neighbors as they were planning the layout and operation – he was a good listener and responsive to their concerns.  As you can see by the picture of the parade of bikes which filed past while we ate, the neighborhood is interesting!

An interesting neighborhood
An interesting neighborhood

He had an impressive response to a complaint by one patron on Yelp that the beer was too expensive:

We are glad that you enjoyed Stammtisch. A little note in regards to the price of bier.  Our biers that we sell are all premium imported biers shipped from Germany that are sold in .5L glassware. These glasses hold approximately 20 oz, but are filled to the .5L (16.9oz) mark, then the rest with head.

This means that you are getting about 25% more bier then you would if you were at most any other brewery or bar in town…. From my experience that is cheaper than most any other brewery….that makes their beer on site and doesn’t need to be shipped half way across the world. Just trying to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your dollar. Thanks again for checking us out and we hope to see you at the Pub again soon.”  6/9/2014 Yelp

P1020367We thoroughly enjoyed Stammtisch and plan to return.  The comment from another happy repeat customer, who gave a five-star review in Trip Advisor, echoes our experience:

“I’ve been to Stammtisch several times since it opened a few months ago and I highly recommend it. It’s a casual place, but the staff is friendly and attentive, and the food and beer are excellent. Pretty much all the food I’ve had has been delicious.” (July 8, 2014)

 Stammtisch            408 NE 28th Avenue

 (To view the map with all the bars reviewed by Thebeerchaser, click on the “View Larger Map” link at the bottom of the map below)

The Horse Brass Pub – Pinnacle of Perfection

The Horse Brass Pub - One of America's 100 Best Beer Bars

Thebeerchaser at The Horse Brass Pub – One of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars

Although the power and prestige of England have diminished since the days of Admiral Nelson’s exploits for the Royal Navy in the 18th century and Winston Churchill’s fiery oratory during World War II, one is reminded of the superiority of the Brits when it comes to pubs.

It is doubtful that English poet, John Milton, was referencing drinking establishments when he stated in 1643, “Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live”.  The Horse Brass Pub in Portland, however, does a wonderful job emulating the classic English public house and is worth a visit by every Portlander. “Arguably, holding the title of Portland’s best bar since in opened in 1976…It’s a tribute to all thing English.” (Willamette Week’s 2012 “Our 105 Favorite Bars, Pubs and Clubs.”)

Sign at the Entrance to the Horse Brass Pub

Sign at the Entrance to the Horse Brass Pub

Along with five other Portland bars, the Horse Brass Pub (HPB) made the honor roll of the 2012 Draft Magazine’s “One Hundred Best Beer Bars in the USA”:

“….Founder, Don Younger…claimed, ‘If it were any more authentic, you’d need a passport,’ he wasn’t kidding….Bric-a-brac adorns the nicotine-stained walls (from the old smoking days) of this dimly-lit, wood-paneled pub, perfectly recreating the neighborhood haunts of England….

HBP has championed the craft beer movement since 1976, and with its legacy still intact as perhaps the best bar in the nation, it isn’t just a destination in Portland, but a bucket-list item for any beer lover.”

Horsebrass

English Horsebrass Featuring Gloucester Cathedral

My San Francisco friend and consultant, Dave Hicks, and I hit the HBP for dinner and then traveled a short distance to another one of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best – Belmont Station (See Beerchaser Review posted on 4/17/13)

Princeton graduate, accomplished singer and beer drinker, Dave Hicks

Princeton graduate, accomplished singer and beer drinker, Dave Hicks

Hicks has traveled all over the world and commented on the authenticity of the pub except for one missing element — pervasive smoke which permeates the Anglican pub environment — or at least used to before the House of Commons passed a smoking ban in 2007.

Based on the 2009 expansion of the Oregon “Smoke-free Workplace Law bars and taverns could no longer permit smoking on or within ten feet of the premises.  We are confident that the cigarette lobby at the time, taking lessons from the NRA in opposing reasonable legislation, maintained, “Cigarettes don’t kill people.  It’s the tars, and toxins in the smoke.”  

Wikiemedia Commons Adverse_effects_of_tobacco_smoking_svg

Graphic of a typical bar worker’s internal organs prior to the 2009 Oregon Smoking Law

Nevertheless, this law had a dramatic impact on the environment within such establishments as the Horse Brass Pub as can be evidenced by these excerpts from my favorite annual Willamette Week resource on bars:

“Surgeon General’s Warning:  Smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema and shriveled testes.  (The new law) also leads to outdoor drinking, rain or shine, which can lead to frostbit, melanoma and accidental arousal from rubbing against another addict while taking refuge under a tiny awning….”  (“2009 Drink Guide”)                 

     Wikimedia Commons

“There used to be two types of customers here (HBP): smokers and chain smokers.  The 2009 smoking ban devastated regulars. (They all died said a bartender).  (“2011 Drink”)                 

“We worried that (the new law) would spell the end of …(the) venerable Brit Pub…Not because the 33-year old bar…wouldn’t retain its loyal patrons, but because we assumed its billowing, milkshake-thick clouds of cigarette smoke were load bearing structural elements of the building without which the sprawling pub would collapse.”  (“2009 Drink Guide”)

 

Coffin nail or structural element?
Coffin nail or structural element?

“What will become of Don Younger’s sprawling pub in 2009?  After the encyclopedic beer list and heart-stopping English breakfasts, this slice of Britain on Belmont is best known for air so thick with smoke, you could bottle it.”  (“2007 Drinkers’ Bible”)

Another often-cited difference in beer served in the US and the typical English tavern is the temperature of the beer.  For example, Hicks and I had wonderful chilled mugs of Portland Brewing’s Rose Hip Gold and Caldera Brewing’s Dry Hop Orange, which if served 4,928 miles to the east, would not be quite as frosty.  (Although it is a misconception that British beer is served warm, beer in the UK is usually served at cellar temperature – 50 to 57 °F. – Wikipedia).

This is not to suggest that English beer is bad as exemplified by this commentary from Voltaire on both British citizens and their beer:, “They (the British) are like their own beer; froth on top, dregs at bottom, the middle excellent.”

Rose Hip Gold --- Even Better on Tap

Rose Hip Gold — Even Better on Tap

The 50+ different beers on tap at HPB, including 28 rotating or guest taps, create dissonance for an indecisive drinker.  They reflect what was purportedly Don Younger’s motto, “It’s not about the beer.  It’s about the beer.”

______________________________________________

A Comment on the 2013 Willamette Week Bar Guide (Horse Brass review continued below)

A Valuable Resource for Thebeerchaser Tour
A Valuable Resource for Thebeerchaser Tour

As evidenced above, an important resource for this blog is the Annual Willamette Week Drinkers’ Bible or Bar Guide.  Indeed, Thebeerchaser’s printed copies for the last five years of this annual list of favorite Portland bars is a valuable resource.

The enormity of the challenge of a comprehensive tour of Portland bars, pubs and taverns hit home when I read the 2013 publication.  WW listed 121 favorite bars visited in the last year.  This compares with 41 establishments since Thebeerchaser blog commenced in August 2011.

Of WW’s favorites, Thebeerchaser has only frequented nine to this point as shown below:

Brooklyn Park Pub     Coalition Brewery     Beer     Prost     Laurel Thirst     Lutz Tavern

Goose Hollow Inn     Sasquatch Brewery *     Horse Brass Pub

* Visited, but not yet reviewed and posted on Thebeerchaser blog.

To quote Alfred Lord Tennyson, “So much to do, so little done, such things to be.”

_______________________________________________________________________

Horse Brass InteriorThe rich history of the Horse Brass Pub, established in 1976, can be found on its outstanding website and gives a more thorough chronology than can Thebeerchaser, but the decades of founder, Don Younger’s impact, are evident throughout.  His dedication to the fledgling craft beer industry in Oregon is his legacy.

Memorabilia enhances the Ambiance

Memorabilia enhances the Ambiance

It would be a stretch to label the food as “outstanding”; however, the menu is extensive and offers numerous English-type options.  My bangers and mash were good and ample and Dave Hicks had a similar reaction to his steak and shepherd’s pie.

And oh yes, before ending the review of the Horse Brass Pub, a recurring theme on this blog bears iteration.  Just as with the Ship Tavern and Jakes, the HBP was purportedly the scene of a simultaneous gathering of approximately twenty Portland police cars one summer night in the ’80’s.

Members of the Portland Rugby Club and the team from New Zealand they had defeated in their match that day, capped off the day with food, drink and “revelry” — Film at 11:00 ….!

The Horse Brass Pub                    4534 S.E. Belmont

Some More Miscellany and 2012 in review

Looking Back and Moving Forward
Looking Back to Prost (November 2011 post) and Moving Forward

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So far in 2013, Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Taverns has been in low gear with only The Grand Café (which was a grand stop) and the Davis Street Tavern reviewed.  Three additional establishments will be visited next week including one brewery and posts will follow.

So during the interim and after contemplating some historic treasures below, I present the 2012 Beerchaser.com Annual Report compiled by WordPress.  For those of  you who are considering blogging, WordPress is a great option for your software.   There are some interesting statistics in the report, and although it is a bit tardy, take a quick glance below and click on the link:

Besides 6 rotating draft beers, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer at 1856 in NE Portland.

Besides 6 rotating draft beers, over 400 varieties of domestic and imported beer at 1856 in NE Portland.

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Wisdom in Words

Those of  you who follow this blog know that Thebeerchaser loves wisdom imparted through quotations – many by statesmen and notable philosophers on beer-related topics.  Consider the following:

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G. K. Chesterton                                                     

A brilliant essayist and philosopher who also appreciated a brewski at times.

A brilliant essayist and philosopher who also appreciated a brewski at times.

This brilliant British essayist, philosopher, newspaper columnist and novelist lived from 1874 to 1936 in London and was often known as GKC.  He defended Christians although he would not hesitate to take jabs at any institution.

“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”

His dry wit and erudition is remarkable. An internet search of his many remarkable  quotes will entertain and impress you including two of my favorites below:

“Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist.”

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Winston Churchill

The Prime Minister showed remarkable courage, foresight and political savvy during the War years.  He was also the master of a dry wit  – which might require moisturizer lotion even on a rainy Portland afternoon. (courtesy David Dickson):      

V for Victory and Cigars and a Good Whiskey...

V for Victory and Cigars and a Good Whiskey…

“Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.”

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The Pilgrims

And yes, even the Puritans who were stern and unyielding in their moral hygiene, understood the importance of ale when considering their course of action as evidenced from the following excerpt from the log of The Mayflower:

“For we could not now take time for further search (to land our ship), our victuals being much spent, especially our beer .”                                     

Some of the Ballast had Malt, Barley and Hops....

Some of the Ballast was Malt, Barley and Hops….

              

2012 Annual Report

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 6,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 11 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interurban – Urbane Saloon

“Urbane” is defined as “notably polite or finished in manner,” which is apt for the relatively new (November 2011) Interurban (IU), another watering hole on the now trendy NE Mississippi Ave.  One of the three owners is Dan Hart, who also owns Prost – a bar up the street previously reviewed by thebeerchaser in November.

The original opening was delayed because of a fire of questionable origin until, according to our waitress, Rachael, Portland Fire and Rescue came in and pulled down some walls and discovered the source – an action commemorated at the top of the stairs with the logo shown below:

Tribute to “The City that Works” – 11/27/11

The bar was evidently named after Portland’s first interurban line, the Portland Sellwood and Milwaukie Railway, constructed in 1890 and the first of several interurban lines serving Portland and the Willamette Valley.  According to one of the owners, a spur once ran down Mississippi Avenue, right past the restaurant. For those into historic trains, an extremely interesting website can be found at http://pdxhistory.com/html/interurbans.html

The Oregon City Trolley on the Interurban Line

Reviews on IU are somewhat mixed and from our perspective, it was almost a little “too cool” – really dark wood, taxidermy, a coolly efficient staff, a nice sound system playing what one patron described as “a mix of classic funk, old school hip-hop, trip-hop and the like,” but was some good jazz when we (thebeerchaser and spouse) were there. A number of reviews have criticized the noise level at IU as being too loud with the sound system a factor.

IU is pretty confined – on the lower level, two tables by the entrance, a somewhat crowded bar with about 10-12 stools and some “buddy bars” with stools facing the wall and a small ledge for eating and to place drinks.  Upstairs there are about six or seven more tables. 

The Bar on the First Floor

There is also a patio for use when the weather is reasonable??!!    Happy Hour is every day except Saturday with $2 drafts $3-4 whiskey and $5 wine.  They have a nice selection (14) of cocktails, craft jello shots, 8 bottled beers and 14 draft beers (we had a nice Staropramen Pilsner).

Distinguishing Characteristics

The Food – two of the owners are well-known Portland chefs and the menu (coolly set forth in manilla file folders with clips..) has a great selection of pork and beef dishes, lamb stew and what is billed as “Portland’s largest corn dog” at $9.  I had the “hot dog of the day” – a chili dog – all the meat is from Olympic Provisions, which was outstanding.  Also a good range of soups and salads.

The African Trophy from Namibia

The Taxidermy!  one of the bartenders told us that besides the large moose head on the wall, the other two animals on the first floor were shot by one of the bartenders and his father on a trip to Africa.

An Antelope from Zambia

The Mix of Cocktails Both the display in the menu and the assortment were impressive and unusual for most bars.  For example, “The Suffering Bastard” – which research revealed has a history.  One website quoted a 1959 New York Times interview with the inventor himself, Joe Scialom, one-time head bartender at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. 

“When liquor was short during the war, he had to concoct ‘something to quench the boys’ thirst.’ He combined equal parts gin and brandy with a dash of Angostura bitters, a teaspoon of Rose’s lime juice, and English ginger ale. He garnished the drink with a sprig of fresh mint, a slice of orange and a cucumber peel.”

We enjoyed Interurban (of course, how does one not appreciate any public house).  It was cool – but lacked the character of many of thebeerchaser’s prior bars and taverns.  If the old trolley line was still operating, I would have taken it up the street to revel in the ambiance of Prost!                                   

The Patio — Weather Permitting…

Interurban  4057 N. Mississippi

Beerchaser Miscellany

Thebeerchaser’s tour of Portland pubs, taverns and bars and this blog commenced in August 2011.  My education on blog software is continuing and I hope to make it easier in the future to find items on the site; however, it may be helpful until that time to recap the venues reviewed in categories during the last ten months.

The next review will be posted this week and recaps our visit to Interurban, which will be followed by a visit to the historical Mock Crest Tavern.

Neighborhood Bars

  • Brooklyn Park Pub
  • Gladstone Street Pub
  • Hawthorne Hideaway
  • Laurelthirst Public House
  • Muddy Rudder Public House

“Taking the Plunge…”

Dive Bars (Not a negative connotation – see post entitled “Analyzing Dive Bars – Head First” from September)

  • Ash Street Saloon
  • Dixie Tavern
  • Joe’s Cellar
  • Yukon Tavern

Brew Pubs

  • Amnesia Brew Pub
  • Coalition Brew Pub
  • Migration Brew Pub

Miscellaneous Bars and Pubs – In a Class of Their Own

  • The Buffalo Gap Saloon
  • Proust
  • The Twilight Room (Could be considered somewhat of a neighborhood pub but also a traditional  “hang-out” for watering hole for University of Portland students)

Followers  of the blog have asked if I have identified a favorite establishment to this point.  While every visit has been positive, probably two tie as favorites for different reasons:  The Laurelthirst and The Twilight Room.

Beerchasers of the Month

This label above is a misnomer because only five of the ten months have named an “honoree” as follows:

  • Princeton University professor and author of On Bullshit, Dr. Harry Frankfurt
  • Crime novelist, James Crumley
  • Retired chemical engineer and drinker, Harold Schlumburg
  • The bartenders of the Brooklyn Park Pub, the Gladstone Street Pub, Prost and the Twilight Room

Efforts will be made to bestow that honor more frequently, however, my favorite to this point is the esteemed Dr. Frankfurt, who responded to thebeerchaser’s e-mail informing him of the distinction and he became a follower of the blog.

BS Expert – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

Beer-related Lawsuits

Having worked in a law firm for twenty-five years and at the Oregon State Bar prior to that time, I collected a lot of law-related articles and memorabilia. In reviewing old files, I came across my favorite law suit – reported in The Oregonian in 1976. It documents a $53,000 suit filed against the Mount Angel Oktoberfest in Marion County.

The plaintiff, Robert Rispler, claimed the portable toilet he entered at the annual Oktoberfest was pushed over by unruly patrons and he was “violently thrown about inside said portable toilet, became intimately mixed (emphasis supplied) with the contents thereof and sustained a fracture of his right wrist and other contusions and abrasions.”                                                          

A Lawsuit Dr. Frankfurt Might Appreciate

Unfortunately additional research on the results of this suit are beyond the resources of thebeerchaser although a quick search of the internet found two Robert Risplers – one, a 1974 graduate of Reynolds High School in Portland (he would have been too young to drink legally….) and one who is now Director of Accounting at Fannie Mae in Washington DC.  Thebeerchaser avoids political commentary (at times) and will omit any direct or indirect implications related to federal agencies.

Favorite Bar Jokes

Although my archives has more lawyer jokes than bar jokes, this blog needs to return to more relevant topics in this post and will finish with a few bar jokes, which will also grace future posts:

  • A grasshopper walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Hey, that’s really cool.  We have a drink named after you. The grasshopper looks at him skeptically and says, “You have a drink named Murray?”

  • A piece of toast, a glass of orange juice, some hash browns and a side of eggs walk into a bar and they order four beers.  The bartender says, “I’m sorry we don’t serve breakfast here.”
  • A physician, a nurse, a rabbi and a bulldog walk into a bar and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”

Spring Training in Phoenix

Thebeerchaser and spouse were privileged to take in a few games during Spring Training in Phoenix in March.  While the tour of pubs is restricted to Portland, we visited and observed a number, which generated these observations:

It seemed like every bar we passed was jammed with people especially from about 4:30 to 7:00 and not necessarily because of Happy Hours.  It may be that given urban sprawl in this badly planned metropolis, that people don’t try to drive during rush hour and just hit a bar each day.  Rotating designated drivers keep things legal.         

It also seemed that many of the venues had multiple levels to accommodate all the patrons (see pictures below).  Perhaps it was also the hot weather.  It was ironic that it cost $4 for a bottle of water at the baseball games when one could get a PBR for $1.50 at the pub across the street.  It brought to mind, beerchaser of the month, Jame’s Crumley’s  request from his main character, C.W. Sughrue, “I want a beer as cold as my ex-wife’s heart.”

Of special interest was the Irish Pub, shown below, that also served as a saddelry.    

Did you hear the one about the horse that walked into the bar? **

*Bartender says, “Hey! Why the long face?”                     

Happy New Year – The January 2012 Beerchaser of the Month – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

Although somewhat erratic in 2011, the intent of this blog is to recognize a Beerchaser of the Month twelve times each year.  The honoree, so to speak, may or may not have a direct relationship to pubs or beer.  When more indirect, I will attempt to explain the link, which is necessary for the January recipient.  Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., an author and professor at Princeton University, has shown wisdom and humor in promoting meaningful communication.

Princeton Professor Emeritus – Dr. Harry Frankfurt

One of the reasons for thebeerchaser tour is to experience the ambiance unique to each bar, pub or tavern.  I would suggest that each ale house has its own character based, in part, on the conversations and relationships of its patrons.  Thus, by listening and interacting, I have gleaned pearls of wisdom from my visit to Joe’s Cellar that were distinct from Prost, the Yukon Tavern or the Twilight Room and other stops on my tour;

however,

All the discourse was worthwhile and sincere, which is not true of much of today’s dialogue – most notably in politics, government and law.  It seems fitting, therefore to start the New Year by acknowledging, Dr. Harry Frankfurt Ph.D., as the January Beerchaser of the Month.  He is the author of a brilliant 67-page treatise published in 2005 entitled:

As the esteemed Dr. states: (all quotes below in blue italics)

The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

Unmitigated BS

In On Bullshit, Dr. Frankfurt, quotes from learned sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary  

 

 

 

An excellent reference source

An excellent reference source

The Prevalence of Humbug (an essay by Max Black 1985)      

The Economist 

and “Lying” in Treatises on Various Subject in Fathers of the Church by RJ Deferrari (1952) re. St. Augustine’s position on lying.

St. Augustine

Dr. Frankfurt’s stated purpose in On Bullshit will help you understand why this little book is so insightful:

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.  And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.  In other words, we have no theory. 

I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory analysis…..My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not.

Understandably, the professor agonized that, “Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only answered, but unasked.” (emphasis supplied)  

Questions on BS??

With the Presidential election cycle upon us and the increasing use of the internet and social media for communication, “On Bullshit” becomes an invaluable resource to gauge communication….and character.

A recent column by The New York Times Op-ed Columnist, David Brooks, entitled, “Behaving Badly in Cyberspace” wisely states:

And if more people spent their evenings at least thinking about what exemplary behavior means they might be less likely to find themselves sending out emotionally stunted tweets at night.                                       ……The reason politicians behave badly these days is that we spend less time thinking about what it means to behave well.  This was less of a problem in past centuries when leaders, teachers and clergy held detailed debates over what it meant to have good character.

Does the proliferation of e-mail and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, increase the amount of bullshit in global society?  Dr. Frankfurt wrote his tome before the advent of social media and since then the number of talk shows and reality shows has also increased dramatically.

Is the Amount of BS Time Relative???  Even in 2005, when Dr. Frankfurt wrote his book, he opined that the amount of BS was distressing:  Why is there so much bullshit?  Of course, it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more of it nowadays than at other times.  There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased        

Perhaps it is nostalgia, but it would seem that some of the great statesman and intellects of the past were more direct and concise – essentially far less inclined to bullshit, than current dignitaries.    For example, let’s compare the wonderfully concise assertion of Henry David Thoreau in 1854, to former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s response at a press briefing in February 2002:

A Great Communicator and Pub Companion

“We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”  Thoreau said this even before some of the statements uttered by George W. Bush and Texas Governor, Rick Perry  (I wonder if they had a pub in the vicinity of Walden Pond?)  It also begs the question whether Thoreau was implying that Maine and Texas residents are bullshitters, which Dr. Frankfurt does not address in his book.

And now, Rumsfeld’s comment on why no weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq:

Obfuscation or Just BS?

There are known knowns, there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

Rumsfeld’s quote may typify government communication and reinforces the need for a new law signed by President Obama, effective October 2011 – “The Plain Writing Act” – perhaps more aptly described as the “Anti-Bullshit Act.”

Can You Legislate Against BS?

It was prompted by such examples as the Pentagon 26-page brownie recipe which included a directive that “ingredients shall be examined organoleptically.” 

Frankfurt would certainly classify that directive as bullshit. A pre and post – Act comparison is edifying:

Before – “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommends a half-hour or more of moderate physical activity on most days, preferably every day.  The activity can include brisk walking, calisthenics, home care, gardening, moderated sports exercise and dancing.”

After – “Do at least 30 minutes of exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.”

A Stark Contrast – Does it Drive One to Drink?

To further the premise that communication has declined in quality and the bullshit quotient increased, we can turn to the contrast between Benjamin Franklin and current Republican candidate, Presidential Newt Gingrich.  Perhaps dialogue was more meaningful, tempered and civil in Franklin and Thoreau’s time because they strived to make it that way.

Franklin integrated his social and civic life with his business life.  In 1727, he formed a club of young workingman called, “The Junto.”

The Founder of The Junto

When they met they discussed issues of the day, debated philosophical topics and devised schemes for self-improvement.  In a description of the goals of this group, Walter Isaacson, in his 2003 590-page book, Benjamin Franklin, An American Life” states:

Franklin stressed the importance of deferring, or at least giving the appearance of deferring, to others…… ”When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him.”  

Instead, he would agree in parts and suggest differences only indirectly…. This velvet-tongued and sweetly passive style of circumspect argument would make him seem sage to some, insinuating and manipulative to others, but inflammatory to almost nobody.

BS Trendline in Election Years

The contrast between Franklin and Gingrich’s demeanor and communication is striking.  Gingrich’s term as Speaker of the House, essentially marked the beginning of the end of bi-partisanship and civility in Congress.

“Yo — BS Alert”

I think one of the great problems we have in the Republican party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words.

..There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate

The above is Newtie’s rationale for multiple marital affairs – BS so profound that it would astonish even Dr. Harry Frankfurt.  Perhaps the following excerpt from On Bullshit is particulary apt during election campaigns — especially in this era of concern about global warming:

When we characterize talk as hot air, we mean that what comes out of the speaker’s mouth is only that. It is mere vapor.  His speech is empty, without substance or content.  His use of language accordingly does not contribute to the purpose it purports to serve. 

Uplifting???

No more information is communicated than if the speaker had merely exhaled.  There are similarities between hot air and excrement, incidentally, which make hot air seem an especially suitable equivalent for bullshit.  Just as hot air is speech that has been emptied of all informative content, so excrement is matter from which everything nutritive has been removed.”

While Franklin’s Junto may not have initially met in a tavern or alehouse, it would seem that this type of setting would have been appropriate.  Although it is a generalization, I have found that those who frequent pubs have a propensity to identify and refrain from drinking with bullshitters.  There is a certain authenticity and candor to bar-room rhetoric that is refreshing.

This is not to suggest, however, that a good bull session is out of place in the tavern setting.  It is critical to understand the distinction.   

What tends to go on in a bull session is that the participants try out various thoughts and attitudes in order to see how it feels to hear themselves saying such things and in order to discover how others respond, without it being assumed that they are committed to what they say. It is understood by everyone in a bull session that the statements people make do not necessarily reveal what they believe or how they really feel…..

Shooting the Bull

The purpose of the conversation is not to communicate beliefs.  Accordingly, the usual assumptions about the connection between what people say and what they believe are suspendedThe statements made in a bull session are different than bullshit in that there is no pretense that this connection is being sustained.

This resemblance between bull sessions and bullshit is suggested also by the term ‘shooting the bull,” which refers to the sort of conversation that characterizes bull sessions and in which the term ‘shooting’ is very likely a cleaned-up rendition of ‘shitting.’  The very term ‘bull session’ is, indeed, quite probably a sanitized version of “bullshit session.’”

So let us embark in 2012 by toasting Dr. Harry Frankfurt and his book – still available at Amazon.  Let us resolve to speak with candor and frankness, but with civility.  Let us not shy away from debating issues ranging from the Portland Trailblazers, to the Columbia River Crossing to the impact of eliminating the letter ‘M’ from the alphabet, in bull sessions.

But as we lift our mugs in 2012, let us avoid the furtherance of bullshit.

A Toast to Dr. Frankfurt!

A Concluding Rhetorical Question from Dr. Frankfurt

Is the bullshitter by his very nature a mindless slob?  Is his product necessarily messy or unrefined?     The word ‘shit” does, to be sure, suggest this. 

Excrement is not designed or crafted after all; it is merely emitted or dumped.  It may have more or less coherent shape, or it may not, but it is in any case, certainly not wrought.

A Tour of Portland Pubs — Bar None!

Happy New Year from Thebeerchaser

Amnesia Brewing Co. Pub

After we visited Prost, one person in our group suggested we take a “quick walk” down to the Amnesia Brewery.  It was largely a forgettable experience – sorry, but I was going to make a comment about Republican Presidential Candidate, Rick Perry and his “Oops” debate, but we’ll leave it at “forgettable.”

Memories of Amnesia Brewing???

Although they do have a good selection of beers with interesting names, the place seems more like a cafeteria – for example plastic chairs and picnic tables.  The bartender was not very friendly and Amnesia just doesn’t come close to the ambiance that made the Coalition Brewing Co. Pub such a good place to visit.

After the great environment up the street at Prost, Amnesia was as flat as a happy hour PBR — the next day

Maybe in the summer, when they open the large garage doors to the beer garden, of sorts, the atmosphere might be better (although some will complain because they allow smoking in the beer garden)

Perhaps novelist Stephen Wright’s quote is the most appropriate way to move on from this experience:

 “Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.”

“Getting the Boot” at Prost

Portland’s North Mississippi Neighborhood has become a very trendy place.  There are numerous interesting restaurants, pubs, condos and shops.  At the northern part at the corner of Skidmore and Mississippi Ave. stands what appears to be a somewhat sterile modern building.  This is Prost, but don’t let the external appearance fool you.

Prost is a classy German-style pub with both Portland and Seattle locations.  The name is the German equivalent to the English toast “Cheers.”  (“Bottoms Up” is “Zum Wohl.”)  We were there on a Wednesday night and it was jammed – the second anniversary of the Portland bar was that weekend (October 28th) and undoubtedly, the crowd spilled out into the large beer garden, which has heaters in the winter and ample space.

There are all kinds of old photos on the wall, many of which are from the one of the co-owner’s (Chris Navarra) home town in Germany.  All “bier” is imported from Germany and there were eight selections on the menu plus three rotating taps.   We liked the Bitsburger Pilsner and the darker Spaten Optimator – which sounded cool just ordering it. There were also a nice selection of bratwurst sandwiches and salads.

Unfortunately for those in my group, the German origins of Prost compelled thebeerchaser to tell the international monetary joke from George Will’s column the day before, to wit:  A Spaniard, a Greek and an Italian walk into a bar one night.  They drink until dawn.  Who picks up the tab?

Blame George – not thebeerchaser!

Answer = The German

Harkening back to college, Prost is a pub with the type of atmosphere that would allow you, after one beer, to forget about the term paper due the next day – until you weaved out several hours later.

The hat may not still be in style – but the bier is!

Distinguishing Features

Prost has a “Stein Club Membership” for overachiever beer drinkers.  A punch card (with 50 pints checked off) will “earn” the individual a shirt and there are eight levels of progress.  For example at five cards – a plaque on the “Wall of Bier” and you can slosh you way to 30 cards, which is a custom Prost jacket.  After 1,500 pints, I’m sure they’re only available in extra-large.

The small plaques – there were about 20 – on the entrance wall are a nice touch and have the drinker’s name, the date the feat was accomplished and a quote for humanity e.g. Karl Johnson, Feb. 2011 “Wise Beyond my Biers,” or Robert Bennett, April 2011 “Beauty is in the eye of the Bierholder.”

The Boot                                                   

Getting the Boot from Emily the Bartender

 The most fun and interesting event that night for our group of six was buying a 2 liter glass boot for $18 – plus a $50 breakage deposit! The custom is that once purchased, the boot has to be passed within your group and cannot touch the table.  We didn’t ask about the consequences, but that was no problem for us.

We were advised to point the toe  towards you when you drank or you would have bier stains on your torso.  Given the name of the pub, it is fitting to end the review of Prost with a toast.

For every wound – a balm.

For every sorrow – cheer.

For every storm – a calm.

For every thirst – bier.

             Prost                            4237 N Mississippi Avenue