On Monks and Beer – a Long History

It Appears that People are Taking the Motto “Taste and Believe” Seriously

Followers of this blog know that I was involved in the latter stages of planning for the Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael Taproom on the beautiful grounds of the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary near Salem, Oregon. 

It opened in the fall of 2018 and Fr. Martin Grassel – a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, as the Head Brewer, has built a strong reputation for his beers, which expanded from the original flagship, Black Habit, and now number nine on tap and have a loyal following.

Notwithstanding the lockdowns when the Taproom was closed for months in 2020, the Brewery has done extremely well and has become a popular regional destination brewery 

Fr. Martin recently brewed his first IPA – “Hairshirt.”  I had the pleasure of sharing a pint of this with him and Fr. Timothy Kalange at the Taproom.  Fr. Timothy is enjoying a pint of Hairshirt IPA below. (7.1 ABV – 56 IBU).  It has now become my favorite Benedictine beer – beautiful appearance, inviting aroma and a nice slightly bitter, fruity taste.

The Taproom is impressive and inviting and on some occasions, a chance to interact with seminarians and monks over a mug.   The Brewery recently expanded its covered patio in the beautiful setting overlooking the Abbey’s hop fields.  Plan a visit.  This is the only location at which you can purchase Benedictine Beer, besides the Abbey Book Store

Of course, the entire Abbey Hilltop is worth spending an afternoon visiting.  Its Library – not only known for its distinctive design by noted Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, but as the repository for many original manuscripts from the Abbey’s collection of rare books and art, is fascinating.

The Romanesque-style Abbey Church is a thing of beauty and the renovated Guesthouse and Retreat Center welcomes people of all faiths to come and spend time in prayer and quiet reflection.  For a better idea of what can be seen, check out this Hilltop Walking Tour link.

Speaking of Taste and Believe…..

I’ve recently read some of the works of St. Augustine and was fascinated by the story of this remarkable Catholic theologian who lived from 354 to 430 AD.   He was brilliant even in his youth, although a wayward boy and young adult. 

During this period he was enamored by the carnal and intoxicating pleasures in life including alcohol and mistresses.   His conversion story is fascinating and  he went on to become one of history’s great theologians.

“For thirty four years, he lived in this monastic community (one that he founded in Africa).  He wrote a vast number of books and became known for his eloquence, logic and spirit.  These three combined to make Augustine one of the most significant thinkers in the history of the Christian Church.  (Page 52 –Devotional Classics

Intrigued by the account of his doctrinal contributions and the manner in which his life changed, I did some supplemental research and found that he was also known as a Patron Saint of Brewers.

I mentioned this in an e-mail to Fr. Martin and that based on this information, wondered if would consider naming one of his new beers “St. Augustine.”   (Since I’m Protestant, I didn’t think he would seriously consider my other suggestion of “Reformation Red Ale.”)

Fr. Martin, is an incredibly wise and learned man on everything from theology to brewing, to financial analysis (he is the Procurator (CFO) for the monastery and seminary, to engineering (a 1985 graduate in Computer Science from the University of North Dakota). He replied:

Fr. Martin lecturing on the Rule of St. Benedict

“Don, yes St. Augustine is a patron of brewers.  There are lots of saints with that patronage.  St. Luke, the evangelist is another one, rather surprisingly.  Augustine is a patron because of his lifestyle in his youth….Others like the two St. Arnolds, actually had something to do with brewing.”

And Fr. Martin is correct based on the following article “Meet the Many Catholic Patron Saints of Beer.”  But the saint he referenced who intrigued me the most and also demonstrated why Fr. Martin is loved for his great sense of humor, was his last tongue-in-cheek sentence:

“St.  Brigid is said to have turned bathwater to beer for clergy.  I guess that will get anyone canonized, whether they acted like a saint or not….!” 

The article referenced above states the following about St. Brigid:

“There was a 5th Century Saint Brigid of Ireland (apparently a good friend of Saint Patrick, about whom we still cherish many misconceptions every March 17th.)  Brigid is a patron saint of several things, including dairymaids, cattle, midwives, and newborns. But there’s also evidence of an equal passion for beer.

Brigid worked for a time in a leper colony, and when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.’

And there are also attributed to her these lines, which later inspired both poem and song: ‘I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.’

In heaven, bear in mind, there are no hangovers.”

St. Brigid of Ireland – A Passion for Beer *4

This brought back memories of an article I saw last year about a public entity with an innovative approach to making beer in the Willamette Week 2/12/20 article entitled, “Washington County is Recycling Wastewater and Using It to Make Beer”:

Waste water eventually converted to beer! *5

“The county’s Clean Water Services utility treats nearly 60 million gallons of wastewater at its facility in Tigard each day. But engaging the public on sustainable water practices can only go so far if you mostly use it to irrigate golf courses.

‘If you want people to talk about water,’ Art Larrance, owner of Cascade Brewing, told the committee in 2015, ‘you’ve got to make beer’……

Now the program is expanding – at this year’s Oregon Brewers Festival, it will provide the highly purified water to eight participating breweries.  But while the process results in ‘the world’s most sustainable beer,’ the result flavor-wise is negligible to the untrained palate.”

Perhaps St. Brigid was just many years ahead of her time and didn’t have the benefit of modern brewing technology.

In conclusion, that’s something to make one flush with excitement…..!

Cheers

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Photo Attribution

*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#/media/File:Sandro_Botticelli_-_St_Augustin_dans_son_cabinet_de_travail.jpg by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510).

*2. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine_of_Hippo#/media/File:Triunfo_.jpgThe triumph of Saint Augustine” by Claudio Coello (1642-1693).

*3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olaf_Simony-Jensen_-_K%C3%A6lderinteri%C3%B8r_med_munke_i_festligt_lag_-_1904.png

*4.  Wikimedia Commons – Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic. Author: Wolfgang Sauber – 21 July 2011.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid_of_Kildare#/media/File:Saint_Non’s_Chapel_-_Fenster_3_St.Bride.jpg

*5.  Washinton County Clean Water Services https://cleanwaterservices.org/about-us/one-water/resource-recovery/water-reuse/  

Tie Up at the Dockside……

The Dockside – a Portland Classic

The number of new breweries and pubs making the scene in Portland is remarkable.  Although it probably lags the proliferation of cannabis shops, each week Willamette Week or The Mercury will feature either a totally new brewery or another brewpub for an existing establishment.

Just a few examples from a January, 2018 posting of Newschoolbeer.com are Great Notion Brewing (NW), Migration Brewing (Gresham), Modern Times Brewing (SE), Ruse (SE) and Stormbreaker Brewing (St. Johns).  My wife and I did like the sign below in front of the Thirsty Monk Pub and Brewery when we visited Asheville, North Carolina – it’s home base.  It conveys a certain wisdom!

Speaking of monks, don’t forget the much-anticipated Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey which should brew its first batch on site in the next three weeks with Grand Opening of the St. Michael Taproom on September 22nd.

While the Thirsty Monk Brewery is an Asheville, North Carolina corporation, the ownership and brewing at the Benedictine will be by actual monks including General Manager Fr. Martin Grassel and Head Brewer, Fr. Jacob.  It will be one of only three such brotherly enterprises in the United States.

Installing brewery equipment at The Benedictine Brewery earlier this month.

But to experience one of Portland’s classic establishments, you should follow my lead and by the end of the summer, travel north on Naito Parkway (fighting backed up traffic to accommodate the ill-advised “Better Naito” Bikeway) then on to NW Front Avenue to the Dockside Salon and Restaurant.

And make a point of personally thanking the owners Terry and Kathy Peterson for their initial entrepreneurial spirit in 1986 and the perseverance and courage to maintain this great saloon in the face of surrounding  development.

In the good old days…

Like many of the classic bars in Portland, The Dockside and its domain have historic roots as well-stated on their website:

“The Dockside Saloon & Restaurant opened its doors on September 15, 1986. Prior to that, the restaurant, What’s Up Doc occupied the building and before that it was home to Dot’s Sternwheeler.   It has always been some sort of restaurant and in the early years served as a commissary for the train workers. By our best guess, the building was built around 1925.” 

When construction was beginning..

The Dockside doesn’t have the most robust tap list – seven draft beers including three rotating seasonal on tap, but it carries about fifteen different bottled beers plus a good selection of wines and a full cocktail menu.

Happy Hour is from 4:30 to 7:30 Monday-Friday and rotating craft beers – normally $4.50 are $1.00 off as is the case with LagunitasCoors Light is also $1 off from the regular $3.75 but you can get a PBR for $2.75 instead of the regular $3.50.

And well drinks – normally $4 are $3.25 with wine reduced by $1 from the regular price of $6.25.

They also have an outstanding Sunset Menu with six options including a burger, bowl of clam chowder, chicken quesadilla, Caesar salad, beef tostada or three sliders – each for an astounding price of $3.95.  That means you can have a burger, chips and a pint of PBR for $6.70!

Entering The Dockside is like stepping into an old neighborhood diner – others in Portland visited previously by Thebeerchaser are Sloan’s Tavern and Crackerjack’s Pub.

Historic pictures, old beer signs and memorabilia adorn the walls.  You immediately feel welcome and the staff greet you like you are family.  And they are family themselves. For example, Karen, the lead server has worked there for 27 years and Angel, the chief cook, for 22.

So why is the ambiance so good and the employees so hospitable?  Perhaps other hospitality owners should take a lesson in management perspective from Kathy Peterson who wrote me:

“I am very proud of my staff.  Angel and Karen have been with us for many years and I am thankful for their dedication and devotion to making the Dockside what it is today.  In addition the entire staff works hard at making us successful.”

Of course, it helps when you accompany a regular – on all my visits of the last several years, I have joined Dennis B. Ferguson for breakfast.  And breakfast is one of many reasons you should visit The Dockside.  Denny, who initially retired after a very successful career as an insurance executive, is now the Senior Philanthropic Advisor for the Portland State University Foundation.

Besides knowing everyone in Portland, he is the most optimistic and cheerful person I have ever known.  (He has such a positive viewpoint that each time he makes a withdrawal from the ATM, when the cash is delivered,  he shouts, “I won!  I won!”).

On my most recent visit, I got there a little earlier than Denny – parking is somewhat of a challenge – and told Karen, when she came with coffee, I was meeting “Fergy.”  She immediately responded, “He’s coming in today.  That’s like winning the lottery.”  (Karen is one of the most personable servers I’ve met in the seven years of Thebeerchaser Tour.) 

Angel, Karen and Denny

The sixteen primary breakfast options are all named after Portland-area bridges and the prices are very reasonable and the food plentiful and delicious. 

The choices range from the Burnside Bridge (2 eggs, hashbrowns and toast for $8.25) to the robust St. John’s (7 oz. ribeye steak, 2 eggs with hashbrowns and toast for $14.75). 

Legendary breakfasts – especially the hashbrowns..

Or try my favorite – the West Linn Bridge (2 small cakes, 2 eggs & 2 sausage links or 2 pieces of (superb) bacon for only $7.75)

And the hashbrowns are legendary as evidenced in this quote from Oregon Live’s 2018 “Ultimate Guide to Portland’s 50 Best Inexpensive Restuarants,”

“….making some of the city’s best hashbrowns….Those hashbrowns are a wonder with preposterously ideal crispness.  $3 on their own or a bit more with eggs or other things in one of the Dockside’s bridge-themed breakfasts.”

Coffee and a side order of hashbrowns

Or a 12/4/ 2017 Yelp review – just one of the many mentioning this dish:  “They’re buttery crispy, golden brown and cooked all the way through.   They’ve ruined me for hash browns at any other place.”

For lunch and dinner, they also have a multitude of sandwiches, soups and salads.  Oh yes!  If you hit The Dockside on Tuesdays between 4:00 and 7:30, you can get three tacos for 1.50!

Any review or article on the Dockside will inevitably mention the connection with Portland’s infamous “celebrity,” former Olympic ice-skater Tonya Harding.  Although she had not been to the Dockside, her then husband, Jeff Gillooly, purportedly got rid of a bunch of trash including papers in the Dockside dumpster in 1994.  Notes in an envelope appeared to provide evidence of her complicity in the ill-fated attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Tonya – Added new meaning to the term “Dumpster ‘fire'”

The Dockside’s website and the back page of their menu tell the story – Kathy Peterson found the documents and called the FBI.  She and The Dockside were interviewed by broadcast and print media from all over the world.  A good summary of the story is on this YouTube of the KOIN newscast of the story.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuD2kDC-Szw

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune also wrote a good story on Harding’s recent emergence in the movie and on Dancing with the Stars.  (Notice in the article that she said about her TV appearance, “My knees were shaking,” rather than “knocking.”   Go figure!)

Server, Ashley; Denny and co-owner, Kathy Peterson

Karen confirmed the accuracy of a Willamette Week article on February 10, 2016, where you can find out about the commercial project which surrounds the eatery.  The original developer tried twice to buy out The Dockside, but Terry and Kathy gave them the thumbs down.

The project named “Field Office” – a six-story two-building $100 million sustainable office and retail complex, which literally envelops the saloon, was then acquired by Portland developer Project^, working with Hacker Architects.  They were cooperative:

“The development will horseshoe around the 90-year-old building housing longshoreman’s hang-out Dockside Saloon as if the Dockside had a forcefield around it.  ‘The Dockside will stay exactly how they are,’ says lead architect Stefee Knudsen.  ‘We’re not touching it, we’re staying away from it to the best of our ability, to accommodate this historic pub.’ 

‘The Dockside was not on the table,’  says Jonathan Ledsma a developer for Project^. ‘I wasn’t interested in purchasing it.  Ledesma says they carved out extra space along the lot line to give the bar some breathing room, and have been in constant contact with Kathy and Terry Peterson, Dockside’s owners.

‘It reminds me a little of the skyscrapers built around the little house in (the movie) Up,’ Knudsen says. ‘But I hope we’re accommodating it better with the design.‘”

Reminiscent of “Up.:

Now if you want to go to an establishment named The Dockside, you can also choose very upscale options in Wilmington, N. Carolina; in North Tonawanda, New York – along the Erie Canal; on the shore of Lake Michigan in Oconto, Wisconsin, on York Harbor in Maine or for delicious ribs and lobsters, in Hyannis Harbor on Cape Cod.

However, Thebeerchaser will lay odds that the best option is Portland’s own Dockside Saloon and Restaurant – and ours is not even actually on the water…..On weekdays they are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.  And when you enter, say hello to Karen, Angel, Ashley and owners Kathy and Terry.

I will conclude with the words of one of the many positive reviews on social media which sums it up quite well – Trip Advisor: 11/16/17:

“OK, this is SO Portland…this little gem of a restaurant is hidden in a sea of condos, apartments and commercial buildings along Front Avenue.  It has been a restaurant since the 1930’s and must NOT be overlooked.  Owned and operated by a local Portland family for over 30 years (who can say that?). 

The food is down home.  Scratch biscuits, home made hollandaise sauce, daily soup, eggs cooked to perfection and THE BEST hashbrowns and bacon anywhere!  All at very reasonable prices…..

They have the friendliest wait staff anywhere and they quickly learn what your favorites are…..Hands down, its just the best in casual dining.”  

Of course, if you really want to make it a winning day, call Fergy and invite him to come with you.  Then go out and buy a Megabucks ticket!

Fergy – Like winning the lottery!

The Dockside     2047 NW Front Avenue