Pueblo Beerchasing Continued…..

The Rio Grande Bridge outside Alburquerque

Two recent posts will give Beerchaser followers an idea of our trip to the Southwest US last September and the first installment on the wonderful historic dive bars we visited in Pueblo Colorado.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

The last post focused on Gus’ Tavern and Eiler’s Place, both of which have retained their rich character going back to the end of Prohibition.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

Shamrock Brewery and Irish Pub

Our next stop that afternoon was at the Shamrock Brewery and Public House right in the heart of downtown Pueblo.  Like the other Pueblo establishments we visited, it’s housed in an historic building and has been in operation for over sixty years.

Shamrock Brewing Co. is one of the oldest Irish pubs in Colorado.  Originally constructed as a mercantile building in 1908, the first notable tenant was Johnson Bros. Motor Company in 1913.  Founded as a bicycle shop, Johnson Bros. became one of the first Xcelsor dealerships west of the Mississippi.”  (Shamrock Brewing Website) 

It’s an expansive space divided into two parts – the east side which has an impressive mahogany bar with old-fashioned bar stools and a wonderful backbar was opened as the Shamrock Cafe in 1940.

The west side – acquired later and where we had our beers – has been a cigar shop and pool hall before the bar expanded and they started brewing.

It is a family- oriented and community gathering place:

“The Pub was the main meeting place in downtown Pueblo for many years and locals still reminisce about past business deal, raucous St. Patrick’s Days and old romances.  To this day, couples frequent the establishment on the anniversary of the day they met there so many years ago.”

The Shamrock gets good reviews on both food and beer – they usually have four of their standard and two seasonal rotating.  And, of course, as you would expect, green beer on St. Patty’s Day.

But what made the Shamrock such a positive experience was meeting the Taylor family (except for their son, Travis).

Cassy Taylor is our Beerchasing friend, John and Barb Senger’s daughter, and her husband, Kirk is the Sheriff of Pueblo County.  Their daughter, Sarah Taylor Gallegos, was there with her daughter, Penelope, and this is one impressive and friendly family.

From l to r: John Senger, Kirk Taylor, Cassy Taylor, Penelope, Sarah Taylor, Barb Senger and Janet

Since I’m not part of the family, I can do a little bragging about these new friends and Beerchasing companions…..Let’s start with Cassy – seen in the picture below with husband, Kirk.

Cassy has had a distinguished teaching career in Pueblo City Schools, where she is an elementary literacy specialist.  Like the rest of her family, she is an advocate of continuing learning and besides her undergraduate degree, has two Master’s Degrees related to education.

Kirk is an elected official for Pueblo County with responsibility for law enforcement and corrections as Sheriff – first elected in 2007 and re-elected three times.

Although I only spent several hours chatting with him, he reflects the quiet confidence plus having both a background and values which make Pueblo fortunate to have him leading the Department.

Kirk is a USMC Veteran and started as a patrolman in the narcotics division for the City of Almarosa, CO. After earning his associates degree and while ranching full-time, he completed his BA.

While working as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, he attended and graduated from law school at the University of Colorado.  He has been a leader in law enforcement serving on numerous state task forces in addition to teaching at the State  Police Academy.

Kirk is a man of faith, family, an avid outdoorsman, coaches youth athletics and is active in civic and non-profit organizations such as 4-H.   He is also a national authority on the impact of legalizing marijuana including an appearance on a CBS 60 Minutes special.

And then there’s Sara.  I was fascinated by her background because of her Navy experience – a 2009 graduate of the US Naval Academy with her degree in chemistry.  (Having had a brother who graduated from West Point, and Academy degree is an accomplishment in itself.)

But Sarah’s record since graduation at the Academy transcends the ordinary.

(Sarah – second from left)

She was the Captain of the Women’s Rugby Team and also a soprano in the Women’s Glee Club!

(Sarah is third from the left)

After commissioning, she became a Surface Warfare Officer and was stationed in Pearl Harbor with one tour aboard the USS Crommelin FFG 37 where she had two deployments to Southeastern Asia and one shore tour as a Communications Officer.

USS Crommelin FFG 37

Sarah states:

“I completed my pre-requisites for nursing school while on shore duty and got accepted to Colorado State University-Pueblo Accelerated Program for a Bachelor’s of nursing.

I was ready to come home and be closer to my family in Colorado.  I actually served as a bartender and a unit secretary at the local hospital during nursing school……I have been working as an  ER and ICU nurse for the past 5 years in Pueblo and am now going thru Walden University online program for my Masters of Nursing-Nurse Practitioner where I hope to graduate in 2021!”

Smitty’s Green Light Tavern

From the Brewery, our group walked one-half block to the Fitch Block in the heart of Pueblo and the home of an imposing three-story historic building – the oldest in Pueblo and originally the home of Stockholders’ Bank built in 1873 by Pueblo cattlemen, Charles Goodnight and Col. Michael Fitch.

The Pueblo Club – an association of Pueblo’s wealthiest – met there, President Teddy Roosevelt was a guest – and in later years, the Elks and Eagles also “lounged and loafed” in its luxurious furnishings.   In other words, it reeked of the history of this railroad, steel and mining town.

Before it became Smitty’s Green Light Tavern the building was also home to the Pueblo Telephone Exchange.

Now when the Sheriff walks into your establishment, patrons take notice and Greg – “Smitty” – was there to greet us with a warm smile and welcoming handshake.

The bar, which opened in 1933 and having four owners since, has been part of his family since his dad – Linn “Smitty” Smith bought it in 1956. Greg became the sole owner in 1985 and loves the building and has enhanced and remodeled it while always being sensitive to preserving its heritage.

This South Pueblo High School graduate is now sixty-two and his bearing and personality reflect his athletic background – he was captain of the football and wrestling teams in high school.

The clientele was diverse and low key the afternoon we were there and did not reflect the reputation that some assert Smitty’s carries as a biker bar.

Smitty’s response is:

“I’ve had the stigma of being a biker bar. They’re all my friends. They come in here and support the place.” 

(And Thebeerchaser has seen many bars where the Harley guys and gals who are regulars add character – not trouble – to the environment. The Gemini in Lake Oswego and the Corner Saloon in Tualatin are examples.)

Smitty, although the bar was hopping during “Panic Hour” (every weekday from 5 to 6 PM with beers $1 and premiums $2), joined us at our booand he radiated enthusiasm for not only his bar but the City he calls home.

Quite a few customers came up and shook his hand and chatted – and for many that was also the case with Sheriff Taylor – both well known Pueblo personalities. 

The bar’s décor is fitting the tradition of the region.   On weekends, there is live music

 

 

 

 

The Star Bar

While in Pueblo, we wanted to experience a  dinner built on the City’s reputation for green chile peppers.  Now at $5.00, the Starburger, a straight burger has a great tradition. 

And while many bars and restaurants serve “Sloppers,” the Star Bar in the Grove Neighborhood, is purported to be the origin of this amazing creation. The bar is also a Pueblo institution.

It was closed for a time and has had several different owners, but is now going strong.  Sam Romero, the current owner, was quoted stating he didn’t believe it was a dive bar.

“We try to make everybody as welcome as a regular.”

Well, Thebeerchaser has been to a lot of dives and the Star Bar appeared to be one – just look at the building this classic bar occupies – and the regulars in many bars welcome strangers contrary to the stereotype.

The dark mahogany bar, the old bar stools, the booths and the distinctive ceiling tiles all make the “dive” description appropriate as do the two beers on tap – Bud and Bud Light, sold in $2.50 schooners – cash only…..

The “Slopper” is an open-faced burger – single, double or triple – smothered in green chile and raw onions. As one November, 2019 review on Restaurant.com stated effusively (and somewhat redundantly…)

“I finally got to taste what generations of Puebloans have shared with me in their storytelling. WOW. I had a triple and added Pueblo Chile and bacon. WOW. I also had the fresh cut fries. WOW. Need I say more. And so affordable…..Add a schooner and you are all set.”

And is it popular?   According to an article in The Pueblo Chieftain:

“Star Bar goes through about five gallons of green chili a day. Five pound of green chilies, five pounds of pork, diced tomatoes and a bit of salt and pepper to into the pot and are simmered for at least two hours. The result is chili that’s brought customers back ever since the Star Bar began serving up the slopper forty-five years ago.”

My slopper experience replicated the reviewer’s above, although given my recent lack of exercise, I didn’t have the guts – so to speak – for the triple and wolfed down a double slopper with a schooner of Bud.

(At $7, my double slopper was a bargain and to validate that premise, I offer the following comparison)

The next night we stayed at a wonderful organic farm – the Los Pablosnos Inn and Farm on the outskirts of Albuquerque.   The expansive acreage with a picturesque old hotel and many acres with vegetables, bee hives, goats and other healthy stuff I usually don’t eat, had an outstanding, high-scale restaurant.   The cost of Janet’s glass of wine that night weighed in at 275% of my double slopper!!

Although being built in 1900 didn’t seem “old” compared to the previous Pueblo watering holes, the Star Bar, which Cassy Taylor recommended and at which she accompanied us, ended our Beerchasing adventures that day on the same high note that will notch the Pueblo bars in Thebeerchaser’s all-time favorites.

We were warmly greeted by Margarette, the manager, and we noticed the dart tournament in the back of the bar, a lively game at the pool table and the crowded poker room immediately adjacent. Part of the ambiance is reflected in the ceiling tiles – a remarkable recollection of those who have visited the bar in the past.

(I didn’t find out how one qualifies for the ceiling tile option, but since the allure of the Pueblo watering holes beckons me to return, I will find out.)

Margarette warmly welcomes our group to the Star Bar

Back to Albuquerque

And so ended our unforgettable time in Pueblo and after a stay at the aforementioned organic farm, we spent one more night and half-day in Albuquerque before catching the flight back to Portland.

The tap room at Sante Fe Brewing in Alburquerque

We went to four establishments – all which were nice but not notable: Boxing Bear Brewing Co., Bow and Arrow Brewing, Gecko’s Bar and Tapas and Santa Fe. Brewing.

We attended a climate change demonstration in the afternoon, visited an historic chapel – the San Filipe de Neri Church in a building constructed in 1793 and walked to the historic Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town

The San Felipe de Neri Catholic Church

And while the scenery on our Southwest trip – most notably the National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes) and the historic cathedrals –  were memorable, the history of the entire region was remarkable, the food was good (I still “relish” another slopper….) and the beer was varied and well-crafted from the Second Street IPA on the first night at Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe to the schooner of Budweiser at Star Bar in Pueblo, what will make this trip stand out to us when we reminisce are the people.

Horse at Eiler’s Place

From Ernie Bob at Second Street our first night, to shaking hands with “Horse” McHorsney at Eilers Place to reuniting with John and Barb Senger and meeting the wonderful Taylor family, to having a beer with Smitty from the Green Light and to Margarette’s greeting at the Star Bar that made us feel like regulars, our road trip reaffirmed why Thebeerchaser will continue his tour.

Even if in future years I end up bellying up to the bar to order just a soda water or Hires Root Beer….I will continue to meet the wonderful owners, bartenders, regulars and visitors that have made this an outstanding retirement hobby for the last eight years!

Check out the other blog posts from our Southwest trip at:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/

https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/05/beerchasing-in-the-southwest-part-i-oh-ernie-bob/

 

 

 

Beerchasing in the Southwest – Part I (Oh, Ernie Bob….!)

The excellent ranger-guided tour at the Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park. (see below)

In September, we flew to Albuquerque for an nine-day trip through the Southwest.   We hit twelve Beerchasing establishments in Santa Fe and Pueblo, Colorado besides Albuquerque and visited two National Parks (Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes), the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in New Mexico, the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, a number of impressive chapels and cathedrals, even stayed at an organic farm one night and attended a climate change demonstration on September 20 during the Global Week for the Future.

The Rio Grande Bridge over New Mexico’s Grand Canyon

From a Beerchasing standpoint, the most interesting and impressive part of the journey was the one and one-half days in Pueblo where there were three good breweries.  But the highlight was the collection of four historic dive bars – some of the most iconic watering holes visited in the eight years of Beerchasing.   Those bars deserve more pictures and narrative and will be the topic of two future posts of Thebeerchaser blog.

John and Barb Senger and Janet at Gus’ Tavern in Pueblo

Santa Fe – We flew into Alburquerque at night and drove to Santa Fe where the desk clerk at our hotel responded to our inquiry with a recommendation for Second Street Brewery – an enterprise that celebrated its 22nd anniversary this year and has expanded to three locations – all serving good food and with some excellent barrel-aged beer.

It turned out to be a stellar recommendation – we went to the original location on Second Street and met Ernie Bob – the most friendly and gregarious server we  encountered on the trip.

Ernie Bob and Janet at Second Street

Besides impressive beer, we had an excellent meal and enjoyed a long chat with Ernie Bob about his history – and the origination of his moniker.

One of the many “Friends of Ernie Bob”…

And you can see that Ernie Bob’s reputation as an outstanding representative of his brewery transcends our visit by the t-shirt the woman is wearing in the picture below (“Friend of Ernie Bob”).

When he introduced himself as Ernie Bob, I then asked him if he was from the South based on the “handle.”  The conversation went like this:

BC: “With that name, were you raised in the South?”

EB: “No, I was actually born in Michigan and have lived here since the ’80’s. My given name is Robert.”

BC: “So, tell us the story!”

EB: “It’s a long one….”.

BC: “We’re drinking beer and eating. We have time and if you do, we want to hear it.”

A few of the numerous beer awards

EB: “I started working at Second Street twenty-two years ago when it opened.   There were three Roberts who worked as servers then. There was a lot of confusion on whose orders were whose and in communicating so our manager said that we had to go by different labels.”

BC: “That’s understandable, but how did you get Ernie Bob?”

EB: “Well, I was the most junior guy and the first guy said I’m sticking with Bob. The next guy then said, well, I like Robert but will shorten it to Bert since that’s easier. I had always been a fan of Sesame Street, so I said, ‘If there’s going to be a Bert, there needs to be an Ernie.’   And it quickly became Ernie Bob.”

Ernie on the left has a legacy in Sanfa Fe!

Ernie Bob recommended the Second Street IPA – strong, malty and dry-hopped – which was one of the five beers on tap at Second Street.

We then had an excellent meal (Janet – Fish and Chips) and (Don – 1/3 pound Buffalo Patty Melt) and we left thinking,  “What a great start to our trip to the Southwest.”

Cathedrals and Chapels in Santa Fe

And we spent the next day visiting a beautiful chapel, a cathedral and an historic mission – all in the central part of Santa Fe.

The first was the beautiful Loretto Chapel – famous for The Miraculous Staircase – an impressive and memorable structure – “….has two complete 360 degree turns with no center pole for structural support.  The entire weight of the staircase rests on the bottom stair.”

It was built by an unknown carpenter who disappeared after he completed it and never asked for payment.  The chapel was built in 1873.

The Miraculous Staircase in the Loretto Chapel

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is also known as Saint Francis Cathedral and is a “working” Roman Catholic Church, built between 1869 and 1886.  Another example of beautiful carvings and stonework.

We started taking in these edifices in Europe and the three in Santa Fe rivaled some of those we saw on that trip.

And although it did not evidence the architectural grandeur of the two above, from an historical perspective the San Miguel Mission – a Spanish colonial mission church – is considered to be the oldest church in the continental US – built in the first quarter of the 17th century.

It has survived damage  incurred during revolts and warfare and  has been repaired and rebuilt, but the historic preservation is remarkable.  Its original adobe walls are still largely intact

The altar at the mission

Now I know that some of the followers of this blog, may ask, “What does this have to do with beer, bars and breweries?” It is healthy, however,monk to recognize and pay tribute to the divine inspiration that promoted early beer production and the legacy of the monks who were some of the early brewers dating back to the sixth century…..

Besides, one needs some culture and appreciation of the natural beauty of the US to fully enjoy your brewski at the end of a long day!  And there is a lot of material on actual Beerchasing in these posts to come.

One of the skyscrapers in the Georgia O’ Keeffe collection

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was also a highlight and the legacy and images of this remarkable artist in Santa Fe surprised me as I reluctantly, but fortunately tagged along with Janet.

This encounter with creative artistry, along with the impact of the architecture and décor of the religious structures, made Thebeerchaser forget – at least for awhile – the storied history of some of the Southwest’s dive bars awaiting us in the next few days…..

Well, since we were walking right by the Blue Corn Cafe after the museum tour, we stopped for one of their own five beers on tap and what were outstanding nachos.  They are known for great Southwestern food.

Janet had the Gatekeeper IPA and I downed a pint of the Atomic Blonde LagerBlue Corn Brewery opened in 1997 and asserts that it is “….one of the New Mexi o’s first breweries.”

Our friendly server made our day when we asked him to take our photo and he remarked, “What a cute couple!!??”

Cute??? How about “distinguished” or “urbane?”

Since this is a blog about bars and breweries, I won’t go into detail about our visits to Mesa Verde and Grand Sand Dunes , but the former is one of the most memorable of the many National Parks we have visited.

Mesa Verde is dynamic history (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) first hand – excellent ranger briefings and one can visualize the activity of the twelfth century Pueblo Indians constructing the still impressive structures and their daily lives. It’s the epitome historic preservation.

“With more than 5,000 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.  The Cliff Palace (the one we visited) is thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.”  Wikipedia 

By the way, the Mesa Verde Park Lodge where we stayed also had an outstanding gin martini.

Up with olives….

Now the panorama of the Dunes from the time they are visible on the horizon to right in front of them is magnificent.

We decided against hiking up them (or “boarding” down them – a rental option) because of the expansive dunes in Oregon’s Honeyman State Park – right in our own backyard…. – near Florence on the Oregon Coast.

On to Pueblo

Pueblo is an historic city in Colorado which has a fabled history dating back to 1842 including at one time being one of the largest steel producing cities in the US.   Thanks to John and Barb Senger (a friend of Janet’s going back to high school in McMinnville), who traveled from their home in Boulder, we were able to spend a great day with them.

Janet and the Sengers at the Sink in 2015

Since they have Beerchasing roots going back to 2015 when we hit several breweries and the remarkable and renowned  Sink Bar – right next to the campus of the University of Colorado, they had set up a mini-tour of breweries and dive bars – some with the most impressive histories I’ve witnessed in the eight years of this hobby.

John’s son-in-law is Kirk Taylor, the Sheriff of Pueblo County and he and his wife, Cassy – a teacher – and his impressive daughter Sarah – a US Naval Academy graduate, formal Navy officer and after obtaining another Bachelor degree is now an ER and ICU nurse – and her daughter Penelope, met us in the late afternoon for stops at a few establishments. (I will cover these bars and these wonderful people in a subsequent post.)

Beerchasing at the Shamrock Brewery Pub (l to r) John Senger, Sheriff Taylor, Cassy, Penelope, Sarah, Barb Senger, Janet

We completed our road trip in the Southwest returning to Albuquerque after a short side trip to see the  Rio Grande Bridge, and spending a night at the unique organic farm (Los Pablamos Historic inn and Organic Farm).

“Crashing a wedding at San Felipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our final day and one-half – the eighth and ninth of the trip, we spent the time hitting another chapel – this one at the San Felipe de Neri Church during a wedding ceremony we inadvertently crashed, hitting few more watering holes, attending a climate change demonstration in a City park and flying back to Portland in the evening.

The following shows the Beerchasing establishments we visited on this trip:

Oh – and did we tell you about Ernie Bob??

Santa Fe – Second Street Brewery and Blue Corn Café

Pueblo – Brues Ale House and Brewing, Gus’ Tavern, Eiler’s Place, Walters’ Brewery, Shamrock Brewing, Smitty’s Greenlight Tavern and Star Bar

Albuquerque – Boxing Bear Brewing, Bow and Arrow Brewing, Geckos Bar and Tapa