January’s Jumbled Thoughts



(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 the video at the end of the post and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

The events of the last two years – most notably the pandemic, have generated profound changes – in economics, culture, politics, media, communications and interpersonal relationships as well as education – to name a few.   (*1 See end of post for external photo attribution)

And, in part, due to the stress and the unfortunate influence of social media (except for blogs….) there is a spate of irrational thought as the chorus in Billy Currington’s song states:

“God is great, beer is good
And people are crazy.”

One wonders about those who question the need for masks and the debate has caused a lot of strife.  It made me think back to one of my favorite childhood TV shows – the Lone Ranger

Perhaps those who oppose masks and don’t believe in the scientists’ assertions, could  protest by adopting the legendary Texas Ranger’s – facial adornment as shown below rather than an N95 mask or suitable alternative. (The people in Texas might approve of this style.) 

Clayton Moore and Silver – “Master of Disguise?” *2

And what struck me as somewhat humorous is that the description of the Lone Ranger’s attributes on Wikipedia listed “Expert marksman, above-average athlete, horseman, hand-to-hand combat, and master of disguise.”  (emphasis added)  This raises several questions I never thought about in the “50’s such as “Did he just make the University of Texas RodeoTeam, but not get into the starting roster and therefor was only considered above average?”  

More importantly, “Did Clayton Moore and the Directors really think that this mask, which he always wore (even without a mask mandate), would keep most people from surmising who wore it?  What about this facial covering makes him a “Master of Disguise?”


COVID has also resulted in a need to redirect the emphasis of Thebeerchaser blog from exploring new bars and breweries – at least until the statistics trend downward.  But, in pondering the pandemic, I offer a few thoughts – and questions.

Although it is vital that they are monitored, we’re all tired of hearing about trends for the virus – statistics which are always filled with nuance and disclaimers.  And then, a new variant springs up.  I don’t know as many statistician jokes as lawyer or bar jokes, but this one is pretty good and also works in a bar theme:

“A guy met a statistician at a bar and asked her for her phone number.  She gave him an estimate.”

We made it through 2020 – a horrible year and as 2021 closed, most people thought, “We are out of the woods,” only to have Omicron start a new and more contagious surge.  This prompted one guy to ask rhetorically, “Omicron is like eternity.  When is it going to end?”


And one empathizes with parents, teachers and students as education has been turned inside out.  One wonders if grade school kids are now going to have to learn the Greek Alphabet — and what it will look like in cursive?

There are other crazy news items including this one which most people wouldn’t comprehend.  And as can be seen below, it wasn’t just because of COVID, but a repeat annual record.  (Maybe I just have more time to read this type of valuable information since the lockdowns and constraints on traveling.)  

“Spam sales hit a record high for the seventh year in a row, the CEO of parent Hormel said.”  It appears that this is because of global sales:

“Outside the (Continental) US, Spam has a large international market, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. It has been a household name in Hawaii since it was introduced in 1937.  It can be found on menus across the islands, as Spam musubi – a sushi-like dish – Spam fried rice, and the popular breakfast – Spam, eggs, and rice.

In South Korea, it was introduced by the US army during the Korean War, when food was scarce.  Today, Spam is so much a part of South Korean culture, that it is the staple ingredient in one of the country’s favorite dishes: budae jjigae, or army stew.”

And if you would like to personally take in all the facts about this pork product, take a trip to Austin, Minnesota where the Spam Museum is located and admission is free!

 “The museum tells the history of the Hormel company, the origin of Spam, and its place in world culture.  Austin is also the location of final judging in the national Spam recipe competition.”

What Were They Thinking???

But perhaps the most bizarre event I’ve read about occurred recently in my own city – Portland, Oregon.  It made papers ranging from The Oregonian to the New York Times to The Guardian. It begs the question, “What were these people (a lot of them in different roles) thinking?”

Fact Situation:   

  1.  98-year old David Saunders, a World War II and Korean war veteran who lived in Louisiana with his 92-year-old wife, died from the coronavirus.
  2.  His wife donated the body to Med Ed Labs, a Las Vegas based company and is told it would be used for research with the cremated remains returned to her in an urn.
  3. Med Ed sells the body to another company –  Death Science for use in a “Cadaver Lab Class” held during the Oddities and Curiosities Expo, an annual traveling event marketed toward “lovers of the strange, unusual and bizarre.”
  4. Death Science sells tickets for an autopsy to be held at a downtown Portland hotel with tickets ranging from $100 to $500 per person.
  5. The hotel, originally scheduled, finds out about the plan and backs out, whereupon the Portland Downtown Marriott ends up holding the event.  Seventy people watched a “certified anatomist – a former University of Montana professor – handle the remains with ‘utmost respect’ and take questions from people in the audience representing themselves as students, anthropologists, and therapists,  (New York Times)

Perhaps the Manager of the Downtown Mariott took an overly broad interpretation of the corporation’s mission statement: “To enhance the lives of our customers by creating and enabling unsurpassed vacation and leisure experience.” 

Understandably, there was a lot of finger-pointing by all parties involved and both law enforcement and regulatory agencies from Multnomah County and the State of Oregon are investigating.   And then there’s the future law suits…….


And since this is a blog that usually deals with bars and breweries and the beverages consumed therein, I will end with some more statistics, recent events and an observation or two.

The pandemic has obviously affected the work environment and work habits of millions of Americans.  While some workers prefer the remote environment and not having to either dress for or commute to work, it creates stress if their home workspace is small and has to be shared with family members.  Conversely, in many cases, it creates a more relaxed and informal workplace. 

An Oregon Live article published in April 2020, was entitled, “Almost half of Oregonians are drinking while working at home during coronavirus pandemic:” 

“Beer is their drink of choice over cocktails, according to Alcohol.org, but that’s probably little consolation to corporate bigwigs….Advertising and marketing agency employees had the highest percentage of employees answering with ‘Yes’, with 49.14%,’ Fishbowl (a social network for employees) reported…..

The larger Fishbowl survey showed workers in North Carolina, Oregon and Connecticut were the biggest drinkers, each with 47% partaking on the job.”

Having worked in a law firm environment, I can see where a gin and tonic could help a lawyer’s attitude when trying to formulate a creative justification for the taking clause in an eminent domain case or construct a Daubert motion to exclude expert testimony.

However, this is a disturbing trend and it remains to be seen how companies will implement policies on working on/off site once the pandemic is over. 


And one article asked,What’s more embarrassing—a drunk text or a drunk trade? Nearly one-third of investors, and 59% of Gen Z investors, have traded while inebriated, according to a survey from consumer finance site MagnifyMoney.”  *9 

And so Oregonians don’t get overly concerned about the statistics above, (after all, the survey was taken during a global pandemic) consumption by those in Oregon pales in comparison to Australia and France as set forth in this fascinating piece from The Guardian – 12/3/2021 with the caption: 

“Risky levels  – Australia is the drunkest country in the world, survey finds — While French drank most times a week, Australians surveyed got drunk an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average.”

It begs the question, “Were respondents sober enough to give an accurate answer to the questions?”  The results are summarized below:

The international survey found Australians drank to the point of drunkenness an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average of 15.  Almost a quarter of Australians reported feeling regret for becoming intoxicated.

The Global Drug Survey (GDS) asked more than 32,000 people from 22 countries what their drug and alcohol consumption was last year….(the majority of participants tend to be young and the findings are not representative of the wider population).

On average, Australians drank alcohol in line with the global average of two nights a week, and became heavily drunk about once every two weeks. The French topped that metric, drinking around three times a week.”

What’s interesting is how time (and booze) ebb and flow.  For example, in October 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, I read a headline, “Millions of kegs of beer have gone stale as venues and bars closed down across the country, Bloomberg reports.”

“While some companies have found creative ways to turn the beverage into natural gas for electricity generation or into hand sanitizer, a majority of it will ultimately be dumped—a college fraternity’s worst nightmare.”  *12


Fortunately, offsetting the statistics on increased alcoholic consumption as COVID raged, is a new trend addressed in an ABC News article (3/15/21) entitled, “New wave of bars creates buzz without the booze.  Alcohol-free bars are opening around the world amid a growing number of people exploring sobriety”

I have often said that I could pursue my hobby and “Beerchase” while drinking Sprite or soda water, because I primarily want to discover the ambiance and history of the bar or brewery.  For example, on my 2019 solo road trip through Montana where I hit 29 watering holes in six days, you better believe I did not consume a Budweiser at each stop.

Concepts such as Zero-Proof Therapy explained in a fascinating New Yorker article “An Ex-Drinker’s Search for a Sober Buzz” and Dry Januarys are becoming more prevalent.   The same article stated:

“But an increased interest in health and wellness has allowed brands to try to own the practice of moderation. A 2019 Nielsen survey found that 66% of millennials are trying to cut back on alcohol consumption, compared with 47% of all people of drinking age in the US.” (“Marketing Brew” Newsletter – 9/27/21)

In addition, alcohol-free beers and cocktails are starting to appear.  For example, Heineken started marketing its “0.0” beer in the US in 2019 and a senior marketing rep stated “…the Heineken brand is spending nearly half its US media budget in 2021 on marketing 0.0.”

Brewing a great tasting 0.0% alcohol free malt beverage, is it even possible? *13

If your preference is for ready to-drink cocktails rather than beer, check out this Thrillist article entitled “Our Favorite Non-Alcoholic Canned Cocktails.”  

And before those of you who prefer a high ABV beer get too concerned with this trend, you can finish this post with some reassurance as reported by “CNN Business:”

“Samuel Adams is launching a new, limited edition beer, (‘Utopias’) and it packs such a potent punch it’s illegal in 15 states.”

Although your buzz ((28% ABV) will be expensive, since the limited edition’s suggested retail price is $240 for 25.4-ounce bottle!   

Finally – you know it’s really too late for Dry January in 2022, but February only has 28 days…..


2020- Pam draw 2

External Photo Attribution

*1 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons  (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f6/AntiCoronaShield.png)  This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication – 8 April 2020.

*2 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Ranger#/media/File:Lone_ranger_silver_1965.JPG) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright noticeAuthor: Pleasure Island – 2 August 2011.

*3  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Omicron_uc_lc_2.svg)  File is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.  Author: Miguel C. Ventura  -15June2015.

*4  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spam_2.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Attribution: Cypher789 (Bodo Akdeniz) – 7 November 2005.

*5  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spam_Museum_Sign.JPG)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.  Author: Darb02 -16 March2016.

*6  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons  (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Autopsy_Room_at_Indiana_Medical_History_Museum.png) The copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. Author: Huw Williams 29 July 2010.

*7  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Instrumental_para_autopsia_Jetter_%26_Sheerer,_Tuttlingen,_1940.jpg)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author:  Pablo de otto 18 August 2020.

*8   Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – PacWest Center (icensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Cacophony 18 June 2006.

*9  Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_market#/media/File:Philippine-stock-market-board.jpg)  By Katrina.Tuliao – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12262407

*10  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reliefmap_of_Australia.png)  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.  Author:  Hans Braxmeier – 15 January 2008.

*11 Wikimedia Commons  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France#/media/File:France_base_map_18_regions.png By Chessrat at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50060468.  Author: User:ChessratUser:RosssUser:Sting 28 December 2015.

* 12  Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kegs_in_Bristol.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Author: Tiia Monto  3 August, 2018.

*13  Heinekin ‘0.0’ Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/heineken0.0ru/photos/a.106680548076221/1066813180761440

A Petri Dish — Bar Culture Part I


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

Books, articles and watering hole patrons often talk about “Bar Culture.”  But how does one define this abstract concept and how does one find it?  Recently, Bridgelinera Portland, Oregon online newsletter edited by Cassie Ruud (I’m proud to say – an Oregon State University grad) featured two interviews with yours truly – The Beerchaser.  

The link below will take you to the first interview – how the Beerchaser started and how it has changed during the pandemic.   https://bridgeliner.com/%f0%9f%8d%bb-portlander-don-williams-takes-us-beer-chasing/

And the following narrative is an expanded version of the second article entitled “The Foamy Culture.” The narrative below is my response to the first question Cassie asked with a lot of photos added from bars I’ve been to over the last ten years to illustrate the elements of bar culture.   

Most are from Portland watering holes and It saddens me to add that a number of bars are from some of my favorites which are no longer open. Future posts will address the other four questions on bar culture because it is a complex topic and needs a lot of photos to convey.

I’m saddened that the photos below are from a number including Club 21, Zarz, Crackerjacks, Mad Son’s, The Tanker all permanently closed – a loss to not only their patrons but Portland’s bar culture. And those are just ones represented in some of the photos in this blog post.  There are many more on the list.

Regardless of where you live, when it is again safe, get back out and support these small business people whose livelihoods have been decimated in the last eighteen months.  Try Kelly’s Olympian or……….

What are some key elements of pub and tavern culture (particularly in Portland) you’ve observed in your years of beerchasing?

That begs the question, “What is culture?” Let’s assume it’s a set of intangible aspects of social life – in this case in an individual bar or tavern – as contrasted to a brewpub or taproom – because there are some real differences.  One way I describe this is a watering hole’s “character.”  It’s really no different in Portland than elsewhere.

It can include more global items such as its location and the exterior, the regulars, the personality of the bartender and staff such as Phoebe, the charismatic bartender at the Brooklyn Park Pub – the first bar I hit in 2011.

Consider the style of the furniture (tables and/or booths) and how they’re set up. Take, for example, the unique Captains’ chairs at Claudia’s Sports Pub.

But it’s also a conglomeration of more mundane factors ranging from the lighting, the art (often nicotine-stained murals) or knickknacks such as old beer cans, bottles of MD 20-20, hats and mugs, and  team pictures and trophies from bar-sponsored teams,. 

Don’t forget the signs/posters with trite sayings such as “The consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy. ”

The music (jukebox or live-streamed or live music) is also a factor and the number and types of beer on tap and the prices.  

The atmosphere is influenced by whether there are games such as pool and shuffleboard or pinball and Skee-ball   Don’t forget a favorite – Big Buck Hunter.  Are there TV’s and if so, how many and how big?  Is video poker pervasive?  Is there a smoking patio? 

Do they have weekly events or gatherings and are these karaoke or Naughty Bingo Nights?

Are there animals present.  Not just service animals that are required under Oregon law, but are pets (and kids) welcome in the bar and on the patio.

Are the critters alive or dead?! Consider the skilled work of taxidermists with their product hung on the walls with glassy stares?  And are these mounted trophies, deer and elk or more exotic critters such as the albino goat at the New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana or the ferocious stuffed alligator hanging over the bar at the Blue Moon Saloon near Kalispell.

It’s important not to overlook the bathrooms or heads.  Are they unisex and are there locks on the door (or doors at all)? Do the sanitary conditions (for example vomit-stained toilet seats) motivate you to drink your beer slowly so you can wait until you get home?

And where but in Whitefish, Montana, can you see a life-size image of former NBA star Kevin McHale say farewell as you exit the men’s head at the Bull Dog Saloon?

Is there food and what type (usually plentiful) and whether it’s cooked on site or prepackaged?    Some of the cooks at dives and neighborhood bars are really quite accomplished at their profession. 

I guess, however, it does not take a trained chef to prepare the fried ravioli – available for $5 at The Standard or the Chicken Gizards (only $2.75 when they are the special-of-the-day) at the Yukon Tavern.  And oh the Burgers!!!

Are the trappings dive bar vinyl booths and card tables or more refined dark wood with fire places (often in dive bars too)  with volumes of books (real not decorative).

Two more factors that are important are the bar counter and back bar.  Is your beer served on a Formica stand or a dark, classy wood counter with an attractive backbar filled with a multitude of attractive liquor bottles or knickknacks which evoke stories? 

The Gold Pan Saloon , an historic dive bar we visited on a road trip to Colorado that dates back to 1879, had an impressive long, rich mahogany bar in Breckenridge.

In talking to the bartender, she told us that the bar and the beautiful backbar were shipped around Cape Horn to its’ destination in Colorado during gold mining days. I couldn’t verify the story, but it would not surprise me.

You throw all these elements – abstract, tangible and then add the people and the staff together and the result is a “Community” – and each bar or tavern is its own unique community or cultural institution.

Stay tuned to Thebeerchaser.com for future posts with the remaining four questions in the Bridgeliner interview about Bar culture.


For Downtown Bars – Choose ZARZ

Janet, Kate and David ready for Happy Hour

With so many new bars east of the Willamette River in Portland, both in NE and SE, it is easy to ignore downtown Portland – or the Central Business District (CBD) as it was called during the 25 years I worked in its heart – on the 17th floor of the PacWest Center.

The venerable PacWest Center, home of the Schwabe Williamson law firm

A suggestion by my friend and Beerchaser regular, David Dickson, that we (his spouse, Kate and mine, Janet) take a jaunt by the river along the Promenade and then hit Happy Hour at Zarz on First, a relatively new bar (September, 2016).  It describes itself as a “neighborhood bar” and the “Best Happy Hour in Portland.”  


A brisk walk along the East Bank Promenade

David’s suggestion was a good one and after a brisk and delightful three-mile jaunt, we had a great dinner and good drinks at excellent Happy Hour prices.

Bernie Stea at lunch with our server, Erin

The experience was enjoyable enough that it motivated me to return for lunch a few days later with another veteran Beerchaser – Bernie Stea, co-managing broker with his wife, Debb Janes, at the Carl Group, a real estate investment and development firm in Camas.  http://natureasneighbors.com/about/   (It should be noted that Beerchaser standard due diligence is to visit a bar at least twice before offering a review.)

Both my daughter, Laura and her husband, Ryan, graduated from the University of Portland and one of my favorite authorities on beer, Dr. Sam Holloway is a tenured professor at the school (and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, so I was happy to see that Zarz is the product of another successful UP graduate.

Zaryab “Zar” Sheikh graduated and earned his MBA from UP in 1979 and went on to earn his CPA, worked internationally and ultimately became President and owner of Gorge Hotels, a Washington corporation that owns several hotels besides the restaurant.

I had read about the bar’s extensive whiskey selection which their website describes as “inspired by Zar’s favorite signature cocktails and regional wines…..comprised of standout, premium cocktails made with quality liquor from top international and local distillers” and seeing the classy setting with a beautiful bar, I was reminded of two of my prior Beerchaser venues focusing on hard liquor rather than beer – Barlow Artisanal Bar (visited in 2016) and the Portland Whiskey Library (2017).

Multnomah Whiskey Library – a $600 membership fee

Although both of these bars were good experiences, I would return to Zarz again before either of the former.   Barlow’s menu is significantly more limited, the drinks and food are more expensive and the setting and décor do not compare.

While the ambiance of the Whiskey Library is outstanding, one has to either purchase an annual membership for $600 or buy a $25 “Hall Pass” and stand in line for what can be hours to drink in what admittedly is an exclusive, award-winning setting.  Fortunately, I had a benevolent host during my visit who picked up our tab…….

So why would Zarz get the nod over these other classy venues?  Well, the food is very good starting with the burger, which for Happy Hour is a very reasonable $8 for a large and delicious burger with fries – on the regular menu for $12.  All of use chose this option on the first visit.

Didn’t take long to go with the burger…

Almost without exception, the social media reviews are very positive on the food.

The Cuban sandwich, which Bernie thought was excellent draws raves: “Husband had the Cuban, which was one of the best he’s ever had. I went with the local Oregon raise fried chicken with grits and greens. I have to say it was the best I’ve have West of the Mississippi and North if the Mason Dixon.”  (Yelp 9/15/17)

The fish tacos get good comments:

“What really surprised me were the fish tacos. These were unbe-lievable and so good that we had to place another order of them. You will definitely want more than one order as these fish tacos are addictive.”  (Yelp 2/1/17)

Three small sliders for $8 – a good deal! Bernie’s Cuban is in the background.

Multiple compliments were also offered on the deviled eggs,  steak, hummus, bacon sampler and especially the fried chicken – available as an entrée or as one of  three slider options – three sliders for $8 or a buck cheaper at Happy Hour.  I had the fried chicken option for lunch and was very pleased with my choice.

The beer selection is good – nine on tap ($6 and $1 off at HH) along with two ciders and a reasonable choice of red and white wine.  My Kiwanda Cream Ale by Pelican Brewery that evening was good, but not very cold although this was remedied the next day when my excellent Suicide Squeeze from Fort George came and was cold as was Bernie’s Oakshire Amber.

But the flagship beverages at Zarz are their fifteen cocktails ($10 and $2 less at HH) -people seemed to like the margarita – and about 150 types of hard liquor on the shelf.  Now while this does not compare with Multnomah Whiskey Library’s purported 1,500 labels.

150 + options available

The selections range from old standbys such as Jack Daniels ($7 per shot) to about fifty labels of Scotch ranging from my favorite – the Balvenie 17-year Double Wood  for $45 to their most expensive which appeared to be a Cragganmore 25-year which would increase your tab by $152 for a shot

Erin, our wonderful server, asked the bartender, friendly Eric, who acceded to my request and climbed the ladder to retrieve the bottle of Cragganmore and pose in a picture. (Note: the bottle was about 2/3 full so somebody has tried it!)

Eric, gingerly holds the Cragganmore

I did some quick calculations and figured there are about 757 milliliters in a fifth and assuming a shot is 44 milliliters, that would mean the bottle would generate $2,615, so I told Eric to be very careful when handling the bottle.   Some internet research revealed that the retail cost of a fifth of Cragganmore is about $425.  It was evidently distilled in 1988 and aged in oak casks.

One on-line whiskey rating site stated in part:

Nose: sweet with lots of vanilla, heather honey and hints of honeydew melons. Nice bits of dried mango. The fruitiness is balanced (or muted if you like) by green, spicy oak and liquorice…………Mouth: creamy, still rather sweet with some honey and orchard fruits. Nice hints of pineapple and coconut….”  

In the village of Ballindalloch in Banffshire, Scotland.

They concluded: “The oaky notes, ginger, pepper and plenty of vanilla make this one typically American oak, but they also make it seem younger than it is. A lot of distilleries have this profile at half the age and a fraction of the price.”

And remember, the $152 taste of fruit as it sails down your gullet lasts for about three seconds. (Perhaps chewing a Bit O Honey candy bar while swilling a glass of good oaky Maysara Pinot Noir (McMinnville) would save you about $140 dollars and last a lot longer.)  The New York Times described as “In your face aromatically, with a blast of sweet red fruit.” (10/19/16)

Well, we digress – now back to Zarz.  Besides the food and drink and the friendly and helpful staff, the other attribute that speaks well of this bar is the ambiance created by the interior.   It is housed in one of Portland’s historic buildings (purported to be the 9th oldest) and the longish space besides having a great bar, has spacious booths besides a number of tables.

Adorning the walls are a number of retro pictures including those of Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Ray Charles and the Rat Pack.  (I took Bernie’s picture by this one because of our days working at the Oregon State Bar (He served as Director of Continuing Legal Education and I was the Business Manager).

He presented his budget on a laptop Osborne computer using VisiCalc software and would quietly sing Frank Sinatra’s classic “I Did It My Way, as he tried to justify a plan filled with what we budget people called “fluff.”  (He may not have gotten all of his funding approved, but he got high marks for creativity.)

The only negative about Zarz was the challenge of parking in that area of town although there are some Smart Parks in the area which is probably the best bet.

Oh, and if you like live music, check them out on a Friday or Saturday night.  Erin said that one of the most popular groups is Portland’s Toledo Kesch – a blues-based rock and roll group which was appearing that Friday.

Zarz has had some challenges which is not unusual in the restaurant and hospitality business.  After their September, 2016 opening, they evidently closed for a period earlier this year.  However, the bar and bistro has come back strong.  It deserves a visit, so check them out.



Zarz on First          814 SW First  

You’re Overdue! (For a Visit to the Multnomah Whiskey Library)


Followers of this blog know that the title – Thebeerchaser – is a misnomer of sorts.  While it mentions good lagers we taste at various watering holes, the focus is on the bars as an institution – the history, the character, the regulars and the staff.   That said, of the eighty-three Portland bars, taverns and breweries visited and reviewed since August, 2011, only one – the Pope Bourbon House – has focused on hard liquor or distilled spirits.

That is until the first Beerchasing event in 2017 – the Multnomah Whiskey Library (hereafter MWL), which Beerchasing regulars, Dan Eller, Michael Jones and I visited on January 4th (more about those two fellows below).


Eller and Jones

In the three + years since opened by owners, Greg Goodman and Alan Davis, this unique gathering place has taken Portland by a storm and received national attention.  For example, Thrilllist includes it in its 2014 list of the “Twenty-one Best Whiskey Bars in America.”  (“MWL ia about as close as you can get feeling like part of the 1% without going broke.”)

The MWL on its website lists forty-five links to newspaper and magazine articles ranging from the New York Times to the United Airlines Hemisphere to Travel and Leisure to Portland Monthly.  (Click on the links to see the articles)  An article in Paste Magazine was entitled “This May Be the Greatest Whiskey Bar in the World “ https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/this-might-be-the-greatest-whiskey-bar-in-the-worl.html


Inconspicuous entrance

And while the reviews (including this one) have been overwhelmingly positive, there are some who feel it is not consistent with Portland values and culture:  “…..The pretentious vibe, however, was a bit much…” (Yelp 12/3/16).   Most of the negative comments relate to the doorman and staff at the vestibule – they check-in every person entering the bar – it’s in an old building (formerly a piano warehouse) on SW Alder Street.  You’ll have to look for a small sign above the door, overshadowed by the sign for Chizu – a sushi bar for cheese in the space next door.

There is a sound rationale for the check-in staff and procedure set forth below based on the MWL business model.  Those who simply drop in can expect to wait from forty-five minutes to two hours or more (on weekends) in the Green Room – the smaller bar on the ground floor, before being ushered up to the spacious and ornate lounge above.

The Green Room downstairs

The Green Room downstairs

Because many don’t want to hear the hostesses’ message or resent having to wait, the recipients of their ire are the ones who convey the message.  For example:

“The hostess at the front repeats an automated, pretentious, stone-cold response to stomp the hopes out of every potential patron…..”  (Yelp 11/7/16)

“The waitress (in the Green Room) was standing behind the bar ignoring us. She was rude and hostile the entire time.” (Yelp 9/28/16)

“My guest and I were greeted by a pretentious lackey masquerading as a        maître d’…with the ferociousness of an angry kitty, this bow-tied fella who I suspect was the victim of bullying as a child has embraced his role as a table Nazi by taking tremendous pleasure in turning people away…..”  (Yelp 5/6/15)

photo-jan-04-6-46-30-pm-2You see, the MWL is primarily a member-based bar with 600 of Portland’s power-crowd paying the $600 annual fee which allows them unfettered access during normal  operating hours and preferred reservations to special and educational events – and don’t forget a “Set of the Library’s custom tasting glassware”!?!.   Although that same amount could buy you 400 Happy-hour draft PBRs at the Yamhill Pub, there are more than 600 people on the waiting list. 

So maybe it was appropriate that my companions were Eller and Jones, since Dan is a tax and estate-planning lawyer at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and Jones is an investment counselor/financial adviser with Merrill-Lynch.   Given the increased scrutiny the IRS gives to meals and entertainment expenses, Eller would be able to advise to ensure maximum deductibility and Jones could develop a financial strategy so you could experience at least most of the 1,500 different labels (a total inventory of 1,900 bottles) well into retirement.

Eller on Cycle Oregon trip

Eller on Cycle Oregon ride

These two gents have accompanied me on two other Beerchasing events – the Oregon Public House, the Pope Bourbon House.  Both fit the profile of successful young, civically- involved Portlanders the MWL would want on its roster.  Eller, besides his Masters in Finance at Portland State and law degree, has an LLM (Masters in Taxation) from the University of Washington.  He’s is on the board of Cycle Oregon and past chair of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society besides being an adjunct professor at both Northwestern Law School at Lewis and Clark and Portland State in his spare time….                                  

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones in his favorite non-bar environment

Jones after his undergraduate degree at Marylhurst University earned his MBA, is a US Army veteran, and worked in management positions in Japan before returning to the states.   He has been on the City Club of Portland Board and chairs the annual Alzheimer Walk for the Oregon Alzheimer Association.  Mike is a skilled woodworker as well as an avid hunter and outdoorsman as you might deduce from this picture.  Both of these gents are also great family men.

Dan made sure that our group had a “Hall Pass,” so we did not have to wait to get in.  This entry fee for non-members at the MWL costs $25 per person.  The fee seemed inordinate since my only other experience with a hall pass was in grade school.  Then you could secure one at no cost by just raising your hand and looking at the teacher with an imploring and strained look on your face.  But in both instances, it’s a great way to avoid a wait.



Antibiotic and janitorial resistant……

Upon entering, I was struck by the stark contrast with the one “grunge bar” visited on my Beerchasing journey (three times…) – the Yamhill Pub where one almost expected an inspection by the Oregon Health Division in order to get out of this bar – the toilets may be a breeding ground for hostile invasive species in all likelihood immune to antibiotics.

The stairs at the Whiskey Library lead up to a spacious dimly-lit room with what was described by one Trip Advisor reviewer as “an absolutely dazzling selection” (8/16) and the MWL website proudly asserts is “…an exhaustive collection representing all major and lesser styles of distilled spirits known to the modern world.”  

There are a number of twelve-foot ladders which the staff use to retrieve many of the bottles – “organized categorically by region, ingredient and distilleries’ production practices. In short, this is a whiskey lover’s paradise.”  (PDX Eater  6/4/14)


Fear of heights might be a problem when dusting the bottles


Indeed, the collection is so extensive that the new employees each take part in the ongoing cycle of “dusting” the bottles.  Our server, Jason, confirmed this informing us that the dusting shifts for new employees also help them learn the names of the brands served.

The ornate framed portraits lining the walls stand out.  These are “the most important people in whiskey, all done by local artists. They include Jack Daniels, Mary the Jewess (‘the first true alchemist of the Western world’), George Washington, and Shinjiro Torii (the founder of Suntory whiskey).  (Munchies Magazine 5/7/15)  

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

Portraits of Whiskey Icons

And one’s initial exposure to the stained-glass skylights, the dark wood tables and long wrap-around bar, leather chairs and over-stuffed couches, exposed brick, twenty-foot ceilings, chandeliers and the hushed efficiency of the vested and tie-wearing servers, may be responsible for multiple ethereal references:

“I feel that this is what man heaven must be like.” (Yelp 5/4/16)

“(I thought) I died and went to whiskey heaven.” (Yelp 8/24/16)

“The host checking people in…pretends to be the gatekeeper to heaven.” (  5/29/16)

The scope of this review doesn’t provide space to amplify on the Green Room, but it also reeks of class and evidently has a nice selection of spirits.  Similarly, I will not address the food served at the MWL which has been described as good and reasonably priced.

And lest you think that the sophisticated ambiance and upscale trappings mean a stuffy or staid group of patrons, there was a nice energy in both bars and the crowd was diverse in demographics as one reviewer described it:

“(The crowd was) also classy, buzzing with conversation.  It feels like people here are talking about culture and worldly experiences vs. whose sports team is better or the Kardashians.”  (Yelp 12/23/16)  (not that the latter should be a standard…..)

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our personal bartender

Jason, our bartender/server, as reflected in most of the reviews on the staff, was knowledgeable, very helpful and a nice person.  Having worked there for eighteen months, he loves his job and answered our ongoing stream of questions about the bar and the selection of whiskeys as he prepared our cocktails at his rolling cart by our table.

Notwithstanding some stories about the extravagant tabs run up by some high-rollers (one rumored at $15,000 over two nights), the prices are pretty reasonable and we sampled a broad range of libations without requiring bank financing.  For example, I had an Old Fashioned, their “go to” drink,  while Eller had a Manhattan and Jones a Cadet (40 creek barrel select, fundador, nocino, house spirits coffee) and the round cost under $30 without tip.  They also have three beers on tap as well as a number of bottled beers for those with a myopic perspective.

The Room

The Private Tasting Room

I had a friend who went there on business who told me that he shared the most expensive bottle of scotch he’d ever drunk costing $350 (bought by the other party…) and MWL’s most expensive offering is a single-malt Macallan Royal Marriage, with a price tag of $1,785 a shot. according to Munchies Magazine.  You have to shell out $1,250 to procure your own “spirit locker.”

Our visit was a great experience and I don’t expect to visit another bar where the head bartender has the title of “Librarian” or “Curator” and where “Membership cards are personalized with your name laser etched into cherry wood…. making them, quite possibly, the coolest library card in the word.” (Montecristo Mag 9/30/14).  My only comparable experience was in my junior year at Oregon State when NROTC midshipmen Mulvey, Riley and I sneaked a pint of Wild Turkey into the William Jasper Kerr Library to help us study for a final exam in our navigation course.

While one can sympathize to a certain extent with those who encounter an unexpected and very long wait, it’s only requires a modicum of common sense to do a little research before going to a high-profile bar of this type rather than just dropping in.  A hall pass can eliminate the wait and is well worth the price.  The Multnomah Whiskey Library fills a good niche in the Portland food and beverage sector.

The Multnomah Whiskey Library         1124 SW Alder Street


Two high rollers and Thebeerchaser…..