Jumping in June

Wesley Walter and Sullivan

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

I’m still not fully back in the groove on exploits to new bars and breweries although I still have a few visited in the last few months to write-up, but first wanted to throw out a few miscellaneous topics which may be of interest.  These include dogs, the Dirty Shame Saloon and its former owner, John Runkle along with his new venture) and the Benedictine Brewery.

Grand-puppies!

Janet and I during the forty-three years we’ve been married, have never had a pet.  That said, our two daughters and their spouses each had wonderful dogs and they became our “Grand-puppies.”   We always looked forward to our visits with Sullivan – a wonderful thirteen-year old Havanese and Wesley – a beautiful six-year old Golden Retriever.

First there was “Sully Bear.”  He always waited with anticipation at the window for his “parents” to come home and was the ultimate lap dog – he loved to cuddle.

 Wesley loved to run and swim especially at the river and the beach.  A big dog, but he was always gentile with the babies at his house.

Both dogs were wonderful with our granddaughters and both loved the beach. They also got along very well with each other at family gatherings. 

We were grief-stricken on March 10, 2021, when Wesley, after a few cardiac episodes, died of a heart-attack.  Exactly one year later, his “brother” Sullivan succumbed to multiple health issues based on his advanced years.  The memorial stones below will always provide memories of these wonderful members of our family.

A Resurrection, of Sorts

Followers of Thebeerchaser know that I was captivated in the fall of 2019 with my two and one-half day visit to The Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana where I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with its charismatic owner, John Runkle – one of this blog’s memorable Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter. 

The Shame remains my favorite bar visited in the eleven years of Beerchasing as reflected in the multiple blog posts needed to relate the rich history and stories of the fabled watering hole.

Thus, when John announced last year that he was selling the bar, I was downcast, thinking about how the many and robust fables which still lingered within the log walls of the bar would be lost – the second-hand smoke is largely gone….) . Now why should I be maudlin about a dive bar – 514 miles (8 hours and 38 minutes) – from my home in Oregon closing when I’ve visited and reviewed almost 400 incredible bars and breweries in the last eleven years?

Photo Jun 08, 3 53 24 PM

Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes???

Perhaps the short description excerpted from Joan Melcher’s first book “Watering Hole –  A User’s Guide to Montana Bars”  written in 1983 conveys some of that emotion:

“The Dirty Shame is the fresh, sharp smell of pine, and the dank odor of dirt-laden, beer splashed floors, wild nights of revelry and mornings of shared pain.”

It brought to mind the song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” by my favorite country-western singer, the late George Jones – (Okay maybe a little overdramatic, but remember, I’m Thebeerchaser!)

“Who’s gonna fill their shoes?
Who’s gonna stand that tall?
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul
To get to me and you?
Lord, I wonder who’s gonna fill their shoes?

Yes, I wonder who’s gonna fill their shoes?”

George Jones Asked the Rhetorical Question! *1

Would the out-of-state buyers, who also purchased the Yaak River Tavern across the street, retain the trappings described, in part, in my second blog post on the Shame

“…a large rifle, cowboy boots, an old wood stove, a pool table and Fox News on the big screen TV over the bar.  (The bullet holes in the wall when John bought it, from its hard-core biker days were removed after John bought it.) Two bottles of MD 20-20 wine prominently displayed on a shelf and which John says dates back to 1978.”

And the stories are incredible….even the more recent ones such as that reported in a December 1, 2017 edition of The Missoulian about a  Saturday night incident which John described in an e-mail to me when I told him I was coming to Yaak:

“Don, you will see an article where a guy went nuts in the Dirty Shame with an AR-15 and you will also see the video of me bear spraying him and his brother trying to fight their way back into the bar and another video embedded in that article showing him running around the parking lot trying to shoot me through the window and then almost shooting his brother in the head.  

It was a crazy night. The Dirty Shame is truly still the Wild Wild West.”

Then there’s the tales related to the Shame involving the Yaak River Road murderers, the “Crack Pillow” or how I was privileged to meet two personable and well-mannered relatives of Chevie Keyhole, the leader of the infamous Keyhoe Gang.  (Chevie is now serving three life sentences in Florence Prison – known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” – in Colorado.) There are too many others to relate.

Murderer and White Supremist – now “rehabilitating” at the Alcatraz of the West….*2

The Dirty Shame was a community in itself and a key part of the Yaak locale.  What would replace its role in events like the Adult Easter Egg Hunt, the Sasquatch Festival and the Crawfish Festival which involved other attractions such as The Big Foot Run, a mechanical bull, a giant inflatable Sasquatch and the Ceremonial Leg-Shaving to name a few.

(The Dirty Shame has not reopened at this time and who knows what the new owners are doing to the interior of the bar.)

What would John, a former Army paratrooper and instructor, successful real estate firm owner and entrepreneur-at-heart do?  I couldn’t see him as Mayor of Yaak or another elected office – except possibly Governor of Montana…or talk-show radio host or land developer of environmentally responsible communities.  It should be noted that helping raise their three young children will significantly occupy what he self-describes as “the oldest and proudest dad in the World!”

Fortunately, that question has been answered – at least for a time.  John didn’t sell the Lodge and now — the Hungry Hunter Saloon – within the confines of that edifice opened just before  Memorial Day – it’s already having live music and events!  As John told me in a phone conversation this morning, “We’re rocking.”

He has some of the same crew who worked at the Dirty Shame including Darilyn.  Of course the “Montana Motif” as John described it, is present with taxidermy, artifacts of the West and even a skunk hanging over the bathroom doors.  There’s a long bar which seats twelve people made of yellow poplar from back east – people love it!  With its tables, the Hungry Hunter can accommodate about sixty people. (Photos *3-5)

During my time in Yaak, I stayed in the Wolf Room at the Yaak River Lodge, where I had great conversations with John (besides those over beer at the bar) and reveled in the breakfasts featuring unforgettable blueberry pancakes.

The Lodge remains intact other than the bunkhouse which slept twelve.  There’s an added benefit to the bar. Those imbibing too heavily at the bar can just walk down the hall and rack out in the Wolf Room or one of the other rooms – all with character – then wake up  in the morning to the smell of bacon and take the short walk to the dining room for pancakes, hashbrowns, eggs and bacon with unlimited Folger’s Coffee

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John also bought two food trucks – one that serves tacos, Philly cheese steaks, etc. (also to go) and a larger one to supplement the kitchen.  And their prices are very reasonable!!

John’s wife, Dallas, who is a dedicated teacher and counselor is teaching in Washington and the family has moved east of Yakima. John has been commuting regularly to Yaak and will spend most of the summer there. (Photo *6-7)

Stay tuned for more stories about the Hungry Hunter and see the connection between the picture of John and Don with Benedictine Beer I presented to him in 2019, relates to the next segment of this post.

The Benedictine Brewery – More Accolades!

I’ve mentioned this wonderful Benedictine Monk – owned and operated – brewery many times and was fortunate enough to be involved in the planning before it opened in the fall of 2018. Fr. Martin Grassel, the Procurator (CFO) of the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary – a former software engineer before seminary, is also the General Manager and Head Brewer of the enterprise – one reason he gets by on very little sleep because his primary dedication is being a Benedictine Monk.

Notwithstanding a number of skeptics, the Brewery and St. Michael Taproom have soared since the erection of the structure in November, 2017 at an old fashioned “barn raising”, where over 125 monks, priests, seminarians and members of the Mount Angel community started in the morning with a concrete slab.   

Bolstered by a wonderful buffet lunch, by the end of the day, the frame of the structure was completed. (Be sure to check out the amazing videos in this Beerchaser post “Beam Me Up.”

The Brewery’s motto – “Taste and Believe” – was in full force from the inception. Since that time, the beautiful Taproom has been extended with an expansive patio and Fr. Martin has increased his beer offerings – now about ten on tap including the original Black Habit.  

He has developed, not only a local, but a regional following for his excellent beer and people repeatedly clamor for its availability – now only at the Brewery itself or the Abbey Bookstore – a short walk away on the beautiful Abbey Hillside.

Unfortunately, one of the other Monk-owned Breweries – Spencer Brewery – in Massachusetts, which was formed by the Trappist Monks eight years ago, just announced it was closing due to financial reasons. With that closure, there will be only four ongoing monk-owned breweries in the US.

Jeff Alworth, prolific author and one of the nation’s leading beer experts (shown below at the Benedictine structure-raising in 2017) posted a very informative piece on his Beervana Blog entitled, “The Beer Market is Rough – Even for Monks.”   It contrasts the business plan of Spencer Brewery with Fr. Martin’s successful strategy. Jeff also did a subsequent post entitled “Benedictine Brewery Thriving – both are good articles.

And furthering the exposure of Fr. Martin and his brewery, internationally recognized micro-craft industry consultant, Sam Holloway, who is also a full professor at the University of Portland, posted an outstanding nine-minute video interview of Fr. Martin on his “Crafting a Strategy” site.  (*10-12)

Sam is President of CAS which is:

“.. a learning community which pursues understanding oneself, the industry and business strategy while combining the three wisely to craft a business.  We provide a platform for members in communities to engage with others as they learn.”  

Sam gave us some meaningful advice during the planning stages in 2016, and has been a good friend of the Brewery since that time.  Fr. Martin is a devoted follower of the CAS site and it has enhanced his brewery and business acumen.

Expect to hear more good reports on Fr. Martin and the Benedictine Brewery going forward!

Cheers

External Photo Attribution

*1.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons –https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:George_Jones.jpg) This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Secisek at English Wikipedia. This applies worldwide.

*2   Southern Poverty Law Center: (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2013/two-members-notorious-kehoe-family-arrested-again)

* 3-5+8 Hungry Hunter Saloon Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/hungryhuntersaloon (religionunplugged.com)

* 6-7  Runkle Facebook Pages (https://www.facebook.com/john.runkle.73) (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100017127797846)

*9  Spencer Brewery Facebook

* 10-12  Crafting a Strategy Website (https://craftingastrategy.com/)

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

The Benedictine Brewery

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

Fr. Martin Grassel

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

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

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

Benedictine Brewery hardware ready to go….

The Dynamic World of Bars and Breweries.

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

Backwoods – thriving in Carson and now in the Pearl

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

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

Gone but not Forgotten

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

The Copper Penny – a dive but with an interesting history

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Music Millenium Facebook page

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

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

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

A classic Big Band 78 RPM collection

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

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

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

The Mock Crest in North Portland

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

A Dundee classic!

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

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

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

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

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

The Portland BrewBarge

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

The crew with our fearless leader, Lloyd…

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

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

All Aboard!

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

Ryan and Thebeerchaser

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

Captain Eric in yellow shirt) brief his crew..

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

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

Contemplating the hazards of PBR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Trusted Resource Goes Wrong at least for Thebeerchaser…

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

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

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

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

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