Thebeerchasers’ Best Portland Dive Bars

As I mentioned in my 2018 Annual Report, after pursuing this somewhat unusual hobby for a little over seven years, some might wonder which bars of various types or which breweries are my favorites.  Conversely, which would I not recommend although there are not many in the latter category.

So over the next few months, while still doing blog posts about bars I visit in 2019, I will try to identify my favorites to this point by category i.e. dive bar, neighborhood establishment, sports bar, brew-pub, etc. – without paying undue attention to defining the criteria for the categories.

As one can see by the first logo pictured above, I was originally  going to confine my journey to just Portland watering holes; however, given our robust retirement travel, it has expanded to cover bars in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, a number of regions in the continental US and throughout Oregon from the High Desert to the wonderful and scenic Oregon coast.

I’ll divide each category into separate posts covering Portland establishments and those outside the Rose City.  For each bar, I will provide a brief narrative on my rationale for it being on my “all-star” list.

I might add that one of the joys of this undertaking – especially on our trips, has been sharing the experience with my wife of 39 years.

Janet has transitioned from almost exclusively drinking wine, to enjoying IPAs – especially the hoppy ones.  That said, she demurs when I suggest hitting a dive bar — there have been one or two exceptions when we have been traveling.

I welcome your comments and opinions.  It should be also noted that I am not ranking these within the all-star categories, although I might feel inclined to indicate one that supersedes the others in each specific group.  Most of the narrative about each bar was applicable when I reviewed them.  Things may have changed since then, but hey – with 286 bars down and a lot more to go, I don’t have time to go back and update!

If you want to see the original post for the four I highlight below, you can click on the purple link in the name of the bar which precedes its story.

Cheers and Go Beavs!

Best Portland Area Dive Bars

 The Ship Tavern – December 10, 2012

The Ship, located in nearby Multnomah Village, could make the all-star list just from its unique mural on the exterior front wall, but this bar is a “must visit” for those who appreciate the ambiance of a good dive.

One could assert that it gets some competition as an iconic watering hole from Renners’ Bar and Grill, another great dive just around the corner and reviewed by Thebeerchaser in August, 2017 – unfortunately, now closed because of a disastrous fire.  However, even when both were operating The Ship clearly anchored the exceptional bars in the Village.

It’s aptly described by this Yelp reviewer who wrote: “The ship isn’t anything to write home to Mom about…..heck it probably isn’t even a place I would tell my Mom I went….but it knows what/who it is.”  (Yelp 9/1/17)   

The Ship has been in the same location since 1946 and this site of a former garage has big-time history and character.   If you go on Thursday, your table will have free peanuts in the shell – the shells go on the floor when you are done.

There’s also a great juke box with the favorite plays when I visited in 2012 as follows:

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Get a Job”

Bad Company“Bad Company”

The Raconteurs “Steady as She Goes”

Waylon Jennings“Good-Hearted Woman”

When you want to play a song in the juke, you tell the bartender who turns off the stereo. The old-time pinball machine is also great.

Da Bears, Da Cubs and Da Sox! – Now there are several bars in Portland which purport to be Chicago Bears’ bars – these  include the Buffalo Gap and the Hob Nob Grill, but The Ship Tavern is very passionate about their favorite NFL Team.  They also like the Cubbies and White Sox.

The Ship can be considered a Chicago hangout as evidenced by the fact that any time the Bears, Cubs or the Sox play, Pabst Old Style Beer – A Chicago favorite –  is $1.50 per can and margaritas and Bloody Mary’s are $3.50.

Debbie, the friendly bartender, emphasized, “This doesn’t apply to Blackhawk games – we’re not big on hockey.”   

Furthermore, every Sunday during football season they “offer meals that are themed after the opposing team.” The Sunday after my first visit, they played the Minnesota VikingsThe special was Tator-tot-Hotdish and Caesar salad for $5.50.  

According to Wikipedia, “Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable mixed with canned soup.  The dish is popular in Minnesota and North Dakota.”

Part of the lore was also supplied by former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Jay WaldronThe bar was a hangout for the Portland Rugby Club (of which Waldron is a charter member) and they had their Book-and-Brew discussions at The Ship.  (I didn’t ask what percentage was brew and the allocation of book, nor the nature of the literature purportedly dissected.)

The overall character and décor make this bar the epitome of a good dive bar including the pictures and memorabilia – and the stories surrounding each one of them.  In the words of one patron:

“The Ship is simply your quintessential dive bar……It’s an ultra local joint with good history…….that dark and dank local bar with a handful of guys in trucker hats and grey mustache’s…..”(Yelp 2/29/12)       

Candace, the friendly bartender

The Ship Tavern        7827 SW 35th Ave.  Portland (Multnomah Village)

Gil’s Speakeasy – May 9, 2017

When they named it a speakeasy, they weren’t kidding.  There is no sign with the name and other than a few innocuous beer signs in the front windows, no indication that this is actually a bar.

It’s on the ground floor of a multi-story apartment building and based on the surrounding structures, you could walk right by it if you didn’t know it was there.  Perhaps that’s why PDXbars.com described it as, “Small, hard to find bar, with a huge personality.”

A viewing slot like a traditional speakeasy

And this is okay with Brett Gilhuly, who bought and renamed the bar in 2004 – it’s been around since 1939.  He stated in a media interview, “If you could find it, you were more than welcome. And if you couldn’t, – find something else.”

Brett also originated their advertising slogan, “The nicest assholes in town!.”  Gil’s wife, Katie is the co-owner and bartender and a very nice person….The dingy, although spacious bar, is also distinguished by its collections of signs, old bottles, photos and memorabilia.

 

Katie and bartender, Judd – “the best bartender in town!”

It features one of the few full-length shuffleboard tables remaining in Portland bars and has a great juke-box with a slew of albums ranging from Otis Redding and Sam Cooke to Pearl Jam and Guns ‘N Roses.

Although possibly a little inconsistent with the preferences of the typical dive bar regular, they even have “Teenager in Love,” by Dion and the Belmonts – it hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959.

Dion and the Belmonts!!

But the best feature is their daily food special – you’ll have to go to my original blog post to see all of them, but to give you an idea, on Monday – which is also Dirty Bingo Night, you can get three tacos for a buck and on Friday (when I ate there) – a Sloppy Joe with chips – also for $1.

The Friday special for $1

The large pool table with red felt is a nice touch and is in a comfortable adjacent room.  They have a good tap list and beer is cheap.

Even the coin-operated breathalyzer is a nice feature and one which is not found often in Portland Bars.

Summed up in a dated, but still very accurate Yelp review on 4/17/14:

“In my top 5 dives in Portland. this place is great. drinks are reasonable, strong pours, and the food is great and affordable. check out their turkey dinner. delicious, home made, cant be missed. place is cozy.”

Gil’s Speakeasy         609 1/2 SE Taylor

Mock Crest Tavern – May 23, 2012

The Mock Crest is definitely a classic and borders on being a neighborhood establishment rather than classified as a dive; however, although it has some great features, it’s characterized by the wonderful environment of a dive bar.  Perhaps, this Yelp comment summed it up best although the reviewer equivocates to some extent:

“Hmmmm…I cannot classity this as a Dive Bar.  I’ve been to a generous handful in my day, and this is upscale divey, if not a classy dive bar.  It is a gem.”

Yep. It’s a dive albeit a classy one…..

So what are some of the distinguishing factors of this historic establishment which has operated for about 70 years and was named after North Portland entrepreneur and philanthropist, John Mock.

North Portland icon

A pharmacy and butcher shop/meat market occupied the building before the bar.  A picture of Mock hangs on the wall as you go out to the bar’s outside patio – not fancy, but a great place to contemplate the God’s gift of beer!

Mock Crest has eight rotating draft beers and about 21 bottled and cans.  Happy Hour is twice each day – from 3 to 6 P.M.and 11 PM to close.

Good food can be an exception to the rule at dive bars, but the bar has a good menu (including fried pickles) and gets favorable comments about its food including breakfast.

When we were there six years ago, the menu stated, “Breakfast served – any time.”   My colleague, Intellectual Property lawyer, John Mansfield, decided to be coy and stated, “Okay, I’ll take French Toast from the Renaissance Era.”  I see that they now serve it only until noon on weekdays – probably so they never have to listen to that comment ever again…..

Mansfield – he’s welcome back provided someone else orders the food!

Live Music –  Although the size of the bar is pretty limited, it is well known for its long history of good live music.  Their website states:

“(We) play host to NoPo’s best live music every Thursday thru Saturday. From Rock ‘Roll and Country, to Jazz, Pop, Blues and R&B, you’ll enjoy local legends, touring artists, as well as up and coming stars.  Best of all there never a cover charge – ever.”

The evening we were there we got to hear the Eagle Ridin’ Papas featuring legendary musician, Johnnie Ward, who was described as “a living study of Northwest Roots and Blues Movement with nearly 40 years of performance art to his credit.”  You are close up to the musicians and they like to interact.

At least one reviewer (Yelp 10/7/16) objects to the space constraints although most patrons (including John and I) like this intimate set-up:

“Want to have a conversation with some friends?  Forget it.  Want to use the bathroom?  Forget it, unless you don’t mind making direct eye contact with the lead singer while you squeeze through the drummer’s floor tom and the bass amp.”  (I guess Johnnie Ward realized how old I was because he smiled and nodded empathetically when I made the trip…..)

Johnnie Ward – up close and personal..

Mock Crest describes itself with several nice slogans – all of which are apt:

Home of the North Portland Blues

Easy to Find – Hard to Leave

Where Friends Meet

And in far North Portland, it’s a bit out of the way, but well worth a visit – one of the classics to which I will look forward to returning.  The character is best described by this one succinct review.

 “Small, hard to find bar with a huge personality.”

Mock Crest Tavern       3435 N Lombard Street     Portland

The Standard – June 26, 2018

While with the Mock Crest Tavern, one can make an argument that it is not a traditional dive bar, that is not the case with The Standard.  The entrance, shown above, confirms before you enter, that you are arriving at a true dive – and this is affirmed when you see the interior.

You walk in through the covered patio, which is vaguely reminiscent of the days before Oregon’s smoke-free legislation passed in 2008 and the interior of every dive bar had a hazy, smoke filled environment, which would be hazardous for anyone without pristine lungs. (The second-hand smoke during  the times I was there was pretty minimal, however.) 
Individuals and groups sit at the picnic tables chatting, smoking and working on computers – often accompanied by their pets. And they drink cheap beer.

It’s a bar, which even with a great reputation, has been below the radar in an inconspicuous location on NE 22nd Avenue – just off Burnside.  And some might assert that with the dark wooden fence with a dumpster in the middle, fronting the bar, it looks like a recycling center. Opened in 2007, it doesn’t have the long history of some other classic bars, but demands recognition.

It’s replete with old-style pinball machines and games, a pool table and even a photo-booth.

There’s also a curiously-short shuffleboard – with empty kegs underneath,  old beers signs, tacky art, an idiosyncratic (or bizarre) cracked mirror – the full length of the bar – and well, a lot of stuff that just  makes you feel welcome.

Another distinguishing characteristic is a noticeable affinity for Hamm’s Beer.  It’s manifested by its Wednesday all-day $1 Hamm’s pints, numerous logos and a notable stuffed Hamm’s Bear over the bar wearing a Portland Trailblazer jersey. The Standard, like a lot of dives, is not the go-to place for quality pub food.  Its line-up is confined to items such as chips and salsa, a few sandwiches (micro-waved), mini-corndogs and fried ravioli(?)

They also have a drink special each day which includes the aforementioned Hamm’s special on Wednesday.

I don’t know why I loved this watering hole so much.  Was it the overall environment, the sense of community – reflected by such features as their Crappy Book Club“Bring your crappy books and trade them for other crappy books,”  the annual chili cooking contest, the Christmas decorations and showing of Santa Horror Movies?

Or was it just the people with whom I experienced the bar – a group of some of my favorites Beerchasing regulars.

But The Standard ranks as my favorite dive bar to this point in the seven and one-half years of this pursuit.  Perhaps it’s best conveyed by former Willamette Week Project Editor, Matthew Korfhage

In 2017, he garnered first place for his columns on food writing in the American Association of Alternative Newspapers.  Matthew has reviewed establishments while living in St. Louis, Chicago, Munich and Bordeaux.   He wrote the following in the annual Willamette Week Best Bars Guide.

2016It’s the best little bar in Portland, and I won’t hear otherwise.”

2017: “The bar is cheap, no-nonsense fun in a way that takes all comers and yet is loving towards its long-time regulars.  These days in Portland that makes The Standard not very standard at all.  It makes it a GD treasure.”

So take in The Standard experience.  And while they have some good craft beer on tap, in the interest of honoring the character of this establishment, belly up to the bar and ask bartender, Tyler, for a draft Hamm’s.

The Standard        14 NE 22nd Ave.     Portland

Well that’s it folks and stay tuned in the coming weeks for a similar all-star list of dive bars outside of Portland.  And remember when you are contemplating this topic, the wisdom of Seattle author, Mike Seeley in his book Seattle’s Best Dive Bars:

“But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term ‘dive’ is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.” (Pages 9-10)

 

The Yamhill Pub – A Dive Bar with Character or Grunge?

the Yamhill Pub - Dive or Grunge - or is there a difference?

The Yamhill Pub – Dive or Grunge – or is there a difference?

One of the wide-ranging debates in contemporary society – rivaling that of climate change, the future of Congress as a viable institution and gun control is that of the definition of dive bars i.e. how does one determine if the PBR he is drinking is consumed in a true dive bar or a trendy hole-in-the-wall that tries to masquerade as one (or is there even a level below “dive bar”?)

Justice Stewart - probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Justice Stewart – probably raised a mug in some dive bars

Some will reference the late Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart’s threshold test for obscenity when he wrote in his legendary opinion about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” 

Others try to identify specific dive bar characteristics,as exemplified by reference sources used by Thebeerchaser in his journey to visit bars, taverns and pubs in Portland – and subsequently, other locales including Europe, Alaska, Colorado, the South and Oregon regions east of the Cascades, and on the Oregon Coast.

seattle-dive-bars

An invaluable Beerchaser reference source

For example, my favorite from pages 9-10 of Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely:

“Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom.  Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then……..But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term “dive’”is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.    

The Yukon Tavern - one of Portland's other dive bars

The Yukon Tavern – one of Portland’s other dive bars

Dive bars is one of the subsets of venues reviewed on the home page of this blog and of the approximately 115+ bars reviewed since August 2011, about fifteen have been so categorized including Portland’ dives the Ship Tavern, Bar of the GodsJoe’s Cellar, the Yukon Tavern and Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage Alaska to name a few.

And up North - Darwin's Theory in Anchorage

And up North – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage

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The Yamhill Pub in downtown Portland is the latest addition to the class, although I would submit that this historic bar may be submerged one additional step below “dive” to “grunge,” as discussed below.  In this scholarly discussion, I will first quote in full, the summary paragraph from Portland Barfly, because it so eloquently captures the “aura.”

“A genuine dive-bar lurking midst the downtown shopping arcade, the Yamhill Pub maintains an unreconstructed seediness through blaring juke, food…

Toilet No. 1

Bathroom No. 1

(and, for that matter, toilets) best avoided, actively-encouraged graffiti upon the smoke-stained walls, pennies-a-serving pitchers, and a fiercely-protective cadre of underemployed regulars (seniors, rockers, bike messengers) willing to throw themselves in front of Hummers to prevent the forces of gentrification. Intimidating for the first-time visitor, but that’s sort of the point.”

The bar at the Yamhill

The bar at the Yamhill

 And this excerpt from one of the Bar Fly reviewers in 2011 is edifying albeit puzzling,  “Yamhill IS the  bar in all of Portland, if not the world. I love it and will never stop drinking there.” 

You will not find the Yamhill Pub in the annual Willamette Week Bar Guide nor will it ever be one of the five Portland watering holes in Draft Magazine’s exclusive list of Best 100 Beer Bars in the United States

I visited the Yamhill three times – once with the Portland State University Athletic Department’s erstwhile, Denny Ferguson.  He also accompanied me at prior visits to the Cheerful Tortoise and The Cheerful Bullpen.  I also had an afternoon beer on my second visit with Merrill Lynch financial wizard, Mike Jones (also a Beerchaser at the Oregon Public House).

Beerchaser Regular - Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy)

Beerchaser Regular – Dennis B. Ferguson (Fergy) with Thebeerchaser logo and PBR!

 

P1030195

Beerchaser and financial wizard, Mike Jones

 

 

 

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What “distinguishes” the Yamhill?

The Bathrooms – the bathrooms are most often characterized with adjectives similar to this description in 2010: “Bathrooms are disgusting,” and brought current by this Yelp reviewer in 2015: “The restrooms (were) just sick,” – both patrons evidently not disturbed by the fact that one of the heads has no lock on the door.

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Bathroom No. 2 - also no paradise!

Bathroom No. 2 – also no paradise!

These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent...

These hieroglyphics are not of an intellectual bent…

The Graffitias you can see from the picture, every conceivable space in the one-room bar is covered with words and phrases accumulated through the years since it’s opening in 1939, and the same is true on the bathroom walls.

While some neat classic beers signs and one for Camel Cigarettes were displayed, there was a real paucity of the good memorabilia – okay junk – that typifies many dive bars and adds to the character because there are usually stories behind them.  Unfortunately, the graffiti, rather than offering the usual range of intellectual expressions and philosophical albeit trite drivel, was either indecipherable scribbling or obscenities ranging from one or two words to more graphic short phrases.  P1030321 P1030324

The only exception I found, notwithstanding a zealous search, was this truism which might be a suitable campaign slogan for Hillary Clinton:

“To be one with your weaknesses, is your greatest strength.”

And immediately below this phrase to add context –  if not a verifiable scientific hypothesis:  “You smell better when you are asleep.”

The Clientele – unlike a number of social media comments suggested, we did not find a group of hostile regulars who resent any new patron as an interloper. The approximately fifteen-seat bar was filled on each visit with a diverse group (male and female and a broad age demographic) ranging from tattooed punkers, a jovial drunk, some blue-collar serious beer drinkers to a few office workers – presumably downtown employees.

P1030325

On my third and final visit over the lunch hour, I sat at the bar next to a guy who was on his second Rainier Tall Boy when I sat down.  After spilling a good part of the second can on the bar which went on to his t-shirt, he told me that he was “getting ready” for his 1:30 court appearance for second degree trespassing.  (I did not suggest to him that the judge was probably not going to be impressed with his pre-function.)

The bartender on each visit was friendly and his conversation with those at the bar was ongoing. Unfortunately, it was difficult to the point of unattainable to carry on a conversation because the rock music pumping out of the juke-box was so loud.

The Food and Beer – Most of the dive bars reviewed at least have decent grub which helps one appreciate the usual lack of selection of quality beers; however, at the Yamhill, there is a microwave for popcorn or for a limited menu of frozen “treats” such as wings, corn dogs, chicken strips or lasagna and mac & cheese (the latter two obviously to be avoided).

Kevin, the owner and bartender, told me that you can also bring your own food in although besides a Subway and the YUMM Chinese restaurant, there’s not much near by.   (Warning – you might get beaten up if you bought food in a YUMM container.)

And by the way, don’t look for a website with their menu, the beers on tap or anything for that matter.  They do have a surprisingly decent selection of beer with ten on tap, including Blue Moon, Widmer Hefeweizen, Georgetown Porter, Oakshire Amber, Sam Adams Nitro Stout and Alameda’s Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA.  (Mike and I downed draft Blue Moons – as expected, the standard orange slice on our class was missing!)

The Standard at Yamhill!

No. 18 in North America in 2012!

Denny and I had PBR’s – $1.50 during Happy Hour and the bartender affirmed the astounding claim that the Yamhill is the top seller of PBR in Oregon (“We have four kegs of it on tap daily“).

Not only that, but at one time in the ’90’s they were #5 in North America!!  Before I could scoff, he pointed out this PBR sign from 2012 – Number 18 in North America in PBR sales.  Perhaps it’s the special they advertise “$3 for a pint of PBR and a shot of Old Taylor Whiskey.”

Thebeerchaser has used more quotes than typical in this post; however, they are so rich that they are worth sharing and it is fitting to close with the following two:

“The Yamhill Pub is a glorious sh*t crater. It’s a hole, a mess, a f*ing dive. The walls and floors and sundry surfaces are more graffiti-ed than not, and the pub certainly came by every squiggle honestly. Plastic cups do for the dirt-cheap well drinks, and the very idea of ordering any kind of cocktail seems vastly inappropriate.

The only thing that clashes with the Yamhill’s perfect image of a dive is the surprisingly decent collection of taps. Even in the midst of punk squalor, Portlanders still demand a decent IPA. The Yamhill Pub is amazing. It’s perfect. Never go there. You’ll ruin it.”  (Joe Streckert – Portland Mercury)        

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

Any bets on the five-year scenario?

And this one from a regular I chatted with briefly about Thebeerchaser blog. He ended our conversation with the lament, “Mark my words, this place will be gone in five years and that will be a tragedy.”

Although the Yamhill Pub is a grunge pit – He’s correct.

The Yamhill Pub

223 SW Yamhill

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

P1030299

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

AxialTiltObliquity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P1030301P1030305

 

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

White Astroid Imperial Wit IPA – Best Hoppy Beer

Stellanova India Session Ale – Best Session Beer

Spica Hefepils – Best Lager

Perihelion Crimson Saison – Best of the Island of Misfit Beers

P1030303

A Galaxy of Good Beers

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

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

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

Prost - good bier and a superior setting...

Prost – good bier and a superior setting…

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

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

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

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

 

Ecliptic Brewing        825 North Cook Street

 

 

 

 

Wait — Did you say “Handy Slut…..?”

The Sandy Hut - A great neighborhood/dive bar - not a restaurant

The Sandy Hut – A great neighborhood/dive bar – not a restaurant

The outlandish and long purple building known as The Sandy Hut, looked intriguing when I passed it several months ago on the way to review another great Portland dive bar on Sandy Blvd. – The Slammer.Entrance

I was also surprised to learn the Voodoo Donuts has a second Portland location – Voodoo Too right across the street.

While the “Handy Slut,” as it is known to regulars and operating since 1923, has been missing for several years from my favorite bar reference guide – The Annual Willamette Drink Guide, the descriptions from these 2008-9 excerpts were still spot on:

2009 – “When people from outside the area—say, writers for The New York Times—think of Portland, they imagine we all look like the eclectic mix of customers at the Sandy Hut. Even post-smoking ban, if you look at the Sandy Hut in the right light, you can still feel the nicotine fog filling every cubic inch of the air.   

P1010977

It’s the sort of place you can wear a leather choke collar and no one will bat an eye, but a full suit and tie will lead to exclusion from the bar’s spontaneous bouts of insanity.”            

A great group of "regulars"

A great group of “regulars”

2008  “The Handy Slut, as regulars and the bar’s merchandise call it, is a lurid, windowless utopia. It looks like it once housed the Rat Pack—and hasn’t cleaned since the party ended.

The drinks pack enough alcohol to fuel a racecar, and often mere eye contact constitutes consent. The east side loves you, Sandy—you dirty little slut.”

Mansfield admiring the poster by  on an exterior wall and wondering if it is copyrighted.

Mansfield admiring the Jackie Danger mural on an exterior wall and wondering if it is copyrighted.

———

One of Thebeerchaser’s most frequent and entertaining regulars, Portland lawyer, John Mansfield, (His firm’s slogan is “Smart Law – Smart Clients!”) accompanied me He was also present at The Slammer, Church, The Ship Tavern and Mock
Crest Tavern).

John, who focuses on Intellectual Property law and litigation, and I always have interesting conversations while raising our mugs, and the Sandy Hut was no exception, to wit:

  • He expressed concern about the proliferation of “patent trolls,”  i.e. individuals or groups which buy obscure patents and then threaten lawsuits against hundreds or even thousands of people and businesses to coerce them to pay cash to make what is a specious lawsuit, go away.
These patent trolls may have good costumes but did not graduate from accredited law schools
These patent trolls may have good costumes but did not graduate from accredited law schools

While John deplored the tactics, he did think it would be a kick to attend his next Halloween Party in a patent troll costume.

  • We also talked about innovative, but ill thought out patents, and as evidence, I showed him a news article to demonstrate:

Dr. Calvin Rickson, a scientist from Texas A & M, invented a bra that keeps women’s breasts from jiggling, bouncing up and down and prevents the nipples from pushing through the fabric during cold weather.”  

The article goes on to state that, “At a news conference, after announcing the invention, a large group of men took Dr. Rickson outside and kicked the crap out of him.”

Four beers  on tap and   bottled and canned brews besides wine and cider

Four beers on tap and twelve bottled and canned brews besides wine and cider

We toasted these gents – me with a $2.00 PBR Tall boy (available all day) and John with a Lagunitas IPA, one of the four beers and one cider on tap at the Sandy Hut – they also have   twelve canned and bottled beers.  And don’t forget about the Jell-O Shots for a buck!

Christopher, our friendly and very well-informed bartender, explained their menu, which includes breakfast, a focus on Mexican food and the old pub standards such as burgers, pulled pork, fish and chips, etc.  They also have a “lighter” menu that starts at 5:00.

Christopher the bartender - helpful and competent
Christopher the bartender – helpful and competent
"Breakfast" Burrito - gigantic and delicious...
“Breakfast” Burrito – gigantic and delicious…

—-

I had a very large and delicious Breakfast Burrito and John, thinking he was going to have to lose some weight to make it into a troll costume, chose the Mexican Wedge Salad – a two-thumbs up option.

Christopher also introduced us to the weekend cook, and touted the guy’s original tamale recipe – which is so popular, they have a brisk “to go” business.

One of the highlights of many dive bars – and The Sandy Hut was no exception – is the patrons and this old, but still accurate, Google Review by Andrew summed it up well:

Free shuffleboard and a number of video games

Free shuffleboard and a number of video games

“Is it the dark, windowless dim lighted bar? Is it the jello shots? Is it the shuffle board? Is it the diverse group of people, from hipsters to old locals? (emphasis added) It has to be a mix of all of those factors because this is a great dive bar with a great bar staff and an amazing jukebox. The sum of the parts? A great, great time.”

Kevin – a friendly regular we sat next to at the bar epitomized this.  He welcomed us and stated he has frequented the bar since 1979 when he moved from Phoenix.  He said the bar is filled with people who work nearby or who live in the neighborhood.  “These people take care of you,” Kevin stated – which seemed to include both the staff and the twelve to fifteen people sitting at the bar, including Kevin’s wife.  He said there is a younger group who frequent the bar at night – we were there at about 5:30.

Kevin, John and Thebeerchaser Logo

Kevin, John and Thebeerchaser Logo

I inquired what the NHRA logo (National Hot Rod Association) was on his coveralls and learned that he is a master mechanic at Gibson Auto and Electric (an independently family owned & operated business since 1983).

It’s a full-service shop but Kevin focuses on Porsches and the computer and electrical systems of other autos.  John and I talked about buying Porsches just so we could attest to Kevin’s good work…..

The Sandy Hut makes good use of its roomy, long rectangular environ and has a pool table, free shuffle-board, a number of video games – including an imposing Golden Tee golf game by Incredible Technologies with a 47 inch flat screen.

Not a shirt - but you can test your iron play

Not a shirt – but you can test your iron play

Blazers 40 - Houston 55 in Third Quarter - it didn't get better

Blazers 41 – Houston 55 in Second Quarter – it didn’t get better

—————-

You will also find four TVs including a 100-inch projector screen – which unfortunately amplified the poor play of the Blazers against the Houston Rockets (Lost 101 to 116) when we were there.

And don’t forget their juke box which, “….is internet based, so you can choose nearly any song you want to hear.”

Juke Box is Internet-based so how about some Count Basie or Benny Goodman??

The Juke Box is Internet-based so how about some Count Basie or Benny Goodman??

Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland bars, tavern and pubs which started in August of 2011, has visited some great dive bars and the Sandy Hut ranks up there with all of them.

And don’t forget to check out the interesting mural on the outside (see picture above) by California artist Jackie Danger.  It reflects her “edgy and rebellious presence.”

The Sandy Hut    1430 Northeast Sandy Blvd  (503) 235 7972

Beerchaser Miscellany V

“They Stopped Drinking There Today….”

Down and Out.....

Joe’s Cellar   —  Down and Out…..

Last month, Joe’s Cellar, the fourth stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour (“Step Up to Joe’s Cellar” – 9/17/2011) served its last Budweiser and “Pork De-Lite” lunch (a pork chop, two eggs, cottage cheese and tomato slices for $7.50).

Unfortunately this great dive bar, in an historic building on NW 21st – down towards the industrial section rather than the trendy shops and cafes farther south – closed after Portland code officials condemned the building.  Now the legendary ’50 style bistro and the lounge – one which had a Happy Hour at 7A.M. for the factory workers getting off night shift – is gone for good.

Similary, the Original Safari Club in Estacada (Beerchaser post on 3/18/13) has gone out of business and a report in Willamette Week, also says another historic dive bar, the Black Cat in Sellwood, has closed because of building problems. The latter was on Thebeerchaser’s list for a future visit – sob!!

"Whose Gonna Fill Their Shoes?"

“Whose Gonna Fill Their (His) Shoes?”

And another legend sang his last tune in April when country crooner, George Jones, died.  A verse from his hit vocal, “Bartender’s Blues,” written by James Taylor, was featured in a post on this blog on November 9, 2011.

“Well I’m just a bartender And I don’t like my work, But I don’t mind the money at all.  I’ve seen lots of sad faces, And lots of bad cases of folks with their backs to the wall

But I got four walls around me, to hold my life.    To keep me from going astray.  And a honky-tonk angel, to hold me tight to keep me from slipping away.”

Ruggers – Some Other Legendary Bar Guys

A Gorilla (?)  and Scholar......
A Gorilla (?) and Scholar……

Jay Waldron is an outstanding Portland environmental and energy lawyer who practices at the Schwabe Williamson firm.  Jay wasted 40% of his undergraduate study years and spent the other 60% drinking and partying at Providence College.  He appears to have changed his ways while both getting his Masters in English and graduating from one of the nations leading law schools at the University of Virginia.

Somewhere along the way, (Some say it happened when he heard the motto, “Lose the first two letters of ‘scrum’ and drink what’s left,”) Jay started playing rugby and his passion for the sport evolved into playing, coaching and broadcasting rugby on a regional, national and international level and stints as a director of the U.S. Rugby Foundation. He reminded me after reading the December 2012 post (“All Hands on Deck at The Ship Tavern”), that this great dive bar had once been the site of the Portland Rugby Club’s ”Book and Brew” discussions.

A Shrine to Ruggers??

A Shrine to Ruggers??

The Glory Days...

The Glory Days…The 14th Annual Blitz Weinhard Rugby Tournament in 1976

He also urged me to visit the “shrine,” of sorts, to ruggers in the bar at Jakes.

Yes, I was skeptical, but these pictures attest to the fact that an alcove leading into the men’s room preserves some  rugger nostalgia – thanks to John Underhill, Jake’s former manager and rugby player.

One of the best mementos is a letter to Jakes written by Steven G. Hayford on April 29, 1982.  He took umbrage with his experience in the bar where:                                                     Haywood Letter

“….. we were assaulted by 5 to 8 of your largest patrons.  My arms were pinned behind my back while a third cut my tie with a pair of scissors…..one mustached individual bounded over the bar to break up a possible ensuing riot. 

As each offending participant was twice as large as (we were) and a full four times as large as your bartender, a riot did not ensue, and my party bid a hasty (although loud) retreat.

…..I believe the ‘gorillas’ that attacked us belonged someplace other than at a high-class place like Jake’s and should have been evicted……I would like to consider the incident closed…but my bruised ego is preventing me from making a clean break……

I would appreciate it, if you would reimburse me for the nominal amount of $20…… for my silk tie.  If you decline, I’m afraid…..people who wear ties will start avoiding your restaurant.  Please consider my flippant tone a measure of my sense of humor and not as a lack of seriousness of this matter.”

Since the statute of limitations has tolled, Waldron is pretty candid about the incident and provides this perspective:

Surely you Jest....

Surely you Jest….

“We placed the cut portion of the tie on the bar with a double margarita as compensation —I cut it with the scissors from a Swiss army knife — A warm night in Jake’s after rugby practice, we in shorts and practice gear, he and others were in suits .

He made a loud remark about the inappropriateness of our attire. We reacted immediately—Two 250 lb. players lifted him off his feet and pinned his arms , a Swiss army knife appeared on car keys from one of the player’s pocket and I cut cleanly.”

Now, while we do not condone social upheaval in bars, there should be consensus that unless you’re a client, it is better to hear Waldron’s authentic rugby stories than his legal theories on siting of mining facilities or the definition of major stationary sources under Title V of the Clean Air Act.

From the Rugger Archives..

From the Rugger Archives..

Thebeerchaser is conducting some additional research to determine if there is any other info on this historic incident to update you.  For example, were there eight “gorillas” or three participants?  There is a Steven G. Haywood, who is a “Think Tank Professional” in San Diego who is approximately 60 years old …. who might be the victim – er, guy!

New Bar Opening in N Portland

A new bar in North Portland will be having its Grand Opening on May 11th.  Check out the brews and food menu at the Lost and Found not too far from the University of Portland at   5426 N. Gay Street – right off Killingsworth.  Let’s try to help the two young women owners, who have a vision, achieve their dream and see if they can deliver on their promise below:

“While you sip fresh-made signature cocktails, craft beer, or local wine, you can enjoy the truly unique atomic Northwest atmosphere, custom-made works of art, great music, delicious snacks, and a huge patio. And you can rest easy knowing you are in the care of the friendliest and hardest working staff in the entire city.”

Emotional Disequilibrium, Rotating Metaphors and “On Bullshit”

A Masterpiece by Dr. Harry Frankfurt
A Masterpiece by Dr. Harry Frankfurt

 Dr. Harry Frankfurt, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University, wrote a brief but brilliant and witty book  – On Bullshit. His marvelous work was quoted extensively in this blog when Dr. Frankfurt was named Thebeerchaser-of-the-Month in January, 2012.

I thought of the good professor when I read this excerpt from a recent interview of David Shields, a University of Washington Professor and author, who gave this response to one question:

“What I am good at, I think, I hope, is meditating with rigor and candor on my emotional disequilibrium and trying to rotate that out as metaphor so it comes to feel, God forbid, somewhat universal and it makes the reader feel as Phillip Lopate says, ‘less freakish and more human.'”   (For the unwashed, Phillip Lopate is a writer, media critic and professor of English at Hofstra University.)

Shields has written fourteen books including some on sports.  While he is the Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington, and his latest book, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, was a New York Times bestseller, his statement led me to the following conclusions:

  •  I would not want to have a beer with Shields, and if he frequented a bar where there were ruggers, they would cut his shirt off (as an academic he would not deign to wear a tie) and run him out of the bar after he uttered his second sentence.
  •  While there were a few favorable reviews, the U.W. students who wrote the following reviews should have the pleasure of listening to Dr. Frankfurt in lecture, instead of Shields:

” I learned almost nothing from this class.  He accepted very few deviating opinions; not available outside of class at all. Find another prose teacher ASAP.”

“I never got the impression that he actually wanted to be there, or had any interest in helping students improve, and certainly didn’t seem to want to actually read any student writing. He only wants you to listen in awe while he muses about why fiction is so useless. He thinks everything he has to say about writing is gospel and it gets old fast.”

“David Shields is a nice guy. But he’s kind of a snob. He told us in class repeatedly he didn’t think we were capable of any “good” writing because we were too young, had too little experience.”

Author and Philosphy Professor is January Beerchaser of the Month

Dr. Frankfurt  — This is the Professor to whom you want to listen and with whom you want to drink a beer.

Or to quote On Bullshit:

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

Now perhaps Thebeerchaser is not erudite enough to appreciate Shields need to pontificate although a reviewer of his two books (How Literature Saved My Life, and Reality Hunger: A Manifesto  in the 2/13 New York Times seems to agree.  Maybe it would be worth having a beer with Shields rather than making a big inferential leap about his pomposity from one interview.  I think, however,  I’ll pass and drink with a regular at The Ship Tavern.

Thebeerchaser Tour Continues…..                            

Naomi affirms legacy of great servers...

Beerchasers of the past at Gold Dust Meridian on Hawthorne

After almost 21 months since the commencement of this blog, Thebeerchaser has visited forty-one bars, pubs, taverns and breweries.  Forty-three of you follow this blog regularly and it received view number 12,000 last month – beerchasers from all over the world. 

If you have an establishment that should be visited in the future, please leave a comment on the blog.

Go Beavs 00002

A Hobby Cultivated at The University

All Hands on Deck at the Ship Tavern

The Ship with Two Regulars in the “Smoking Lounge”

“The Ship isn’t anything to write home to Mom about . . . heck it probably isn’t even a place I would tell my Mom I went . . . but it knows what/who it is.” (Yelp/9/17/11)

I wanted to hit a tavern on the west side for the next stop on Thebeerchaser tour.  My  Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt colleague, John Mansfield, and I were meeting former  Schwabe lawyer, Chris Lewis, and Multnomah Village seemed to be a good location.  I was drawn to The Ship Tavern (hereafter “The Ship.”)

Mansfield and Lewis — Not the Physique, but each has the face, if not the intellect of a Rugby Player.

A little due diligence almost resulted in a veto, however.  Jay Waldron is also a Schwabe lawyer – one of the best environmental and energy lawyers in the NW and a man of varied interests.  When I was the COO at Schwabe, he used to motivate me with quotes such as that from Scottish writer and essayist, Thomas Carlyle, “A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.” (The quote seems appropriate for a post about this bar…..)

Not a rugby player, but like Waldron, a strict Cavlinist

Not a rugby player, but like Waldron, a strict Calvinist

Waldron is a director of the U.S. Rugby Foundation and has played, coached and broadcast rugby on a regional, national and international level. He has also been on whitewater rafting expeditions (successfully tackling the Upper Yangtze River in China) and motorcycle adventure trips on six continents.

A man of varied interests who has visited The Ship

Jay is a follower of this blog and was very positive about The Ship even noting that it had been a long-ago hangout, of sorts, for Portland Rugby Club players.  This raised some initial concerns on my part as I wanted to drink from a glass rather than eat one……A little more research, however, uncovered the fact that their impact was relatively mundane – the site of the Rugby Club’s “Book and Brew” discussions which will be addressed below.

The Ship is the epitome of a dive bar.  Quoting from one of Thebeerchaser’s posts (September, 2011) and the notable reference book, “Seattle’s Best Dive Bars,”  this 70 + year Multnomah Village institution fit the definition to a tee:

” “Some dives have vomit-caked toilet seats in the bathroom; others have cracked vinyl booths in the barroom.  Some have nicotine-stained murals dating back to the Depression; others have drink prices that seemingly haven’t wavered since then……..But really, no collection of characteristics can be melded to truly define what makes a bar a dive…..The term ‘dive’ is bestowed with a spoonful of love….What they have in common aren’t so much attributes, but a state of mind — you just know one when you see one.”  (Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely – pages 9-10)

An Invaluable Resource for Thebeerchaser

In the words of one Portland patron: “The Ship is simply your quintessential dive bar……It’s an ultra local joint with good history…….that dark and dank local bar with a handful of guys in trucker hats and grey mustache’s…..”(Yelp 2/29/12)       

—————-       

The Bar at The Ship

  Distinguishing Characteristics

Da Bears…..The Ship is a Chicago hangout as evidenced by the fact that any time The Bears, the Cubs or the White Sox play, Pabst Old Style Beer – A Chicago favorite –  is $1.50 per can and margaritas and blood mary’s are $3.50.  Debbie, the friendly bartender, emphasized, “This doesn’t apply to Blackhawk games – we’re not big on hockey.”        

Ditka Would Love The Ship

Mike Ditka Would Love The Ship

And for Bear fans, every Sunday during football season they “offer meals that are themed after the opposing team.” 

For example, on a recent Sunday when they played the Minnesota Vikings, the special was “Tator-tot Hotdish” and Caesar Salad for $5.50.  According to Wikipedia, Hotdish is a variety of baked casserole that typically contains a starch, a meat or other protein, and a canned and/ or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup.  The dish is popular in Minnesota and North Dakota.”

Harry Carey (RIP) Would be Proud

————————

What do  You Mean Credit???   The Ship may be one of the few bars or pubs in Portland to totally disdain credit cards.  It’s cash only and no tabs – pay as you imbibe!  Times change, however.  Last year was the first time The Ship offered liquor and Candace, the Manager, (who was also very helpful) said they might consider credit next year.                     

All of the people in the photo collage at The Ship have one thing in common -- they paid cash for their beer!

All of the people in the photo collage at The Ship have one thing in common — they paid cash for their beer!


Peanut Demolition Day – Each Thursday – the day we were there –  each table has free peanuts in the shell all day.  The shells hit the floor when you discard them……..

Other Interesting Fixtures – You will see five TVs, a bunch of video poker terminals, one old-fashioned pinball game (“Medieval Madness – King of Evil”) and while many bars have video games, the one at The Ship was particularly interesting and fitting i.e. “Big Buck Hunter.”

Doe Tags are Not Valid on This Machine

Doe Tags are Not Valid on This Machine

The rules on the two pool tables are also worth noting.  If you drop a cue, the fine is 25 cents and 50 cents if a ball goes off the pool table – according to Debbie, the bartender, it is a “maintenance fund” for pool table repairs.

You will find no menus at The Ship.  The food, which is what  you would expect at a dive bar – that’s a compliment – is on a blackboard above the bar.

From L to R - Debbie and Candace standing below "The Menu"

From L to R – Debbie and Candace standing below “The Menu”

———

The Juke Box at many bars will reveal a little about the regulars.  When you want to play it at The Ship, you inform the bartender so the stereo can be turned off.  The “hottest plays” were the following:

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Get a Job”

Bad Company“Bad Company”

The Raconteurs “Steady as She Goes”

Waylon Jennings – “Good-Hearted Woman”

"Hey Debbie - Turn off the Stereo"
“Hey Debbie – Turn off the Stereo”

And the Rugby Club’s past  “Book and Brew” discussions???  As an example, there was heated debate on the non-fiction classic, “The Iron Man – How Shelby Donovan Revolutionized the Chicago Dry Cleaning Industry” and some awkward moments when former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh’s presentation, “What Can Your Rug Be?”  was not quite what the rugged jocks expected…….

The scene at The Ship during a heated debate by "The Beef and Brew" group.

The scene at The Ship during a heated debate by “The Book and Brew” group.

——-

My apologies to Jay Waldron for the above, although he deserves legitimate credit for his perfect delivery of one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite bar jokes at the City Club of Portland when he was a presenter on Metro area transportation planning two years ago:

“A traffic engineer walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says to the bartender, ‘Give me two beers –  one for me and one for the road.”

The Asphalt prefers Budweiser....

The Asphalt prefers Budweiser….with an oil chaser…..

—————-

The Ship has been in the same location since 1946 and this site of a former garage has big-time history and character. Visit The Ship and remember the intent of James Lawrence’s (skipper of the USS Chesapeake)  famous last declaration in 1813 – paraphrased – “Give up the Ship??? — Knot!!”         

Three rotating taps -- microbrews and all these beers in cans available...

Three rotating taps plus several microbrews and the old standards like PBR on tap —  plus all these beers available in bottles and cans…

The Ship Tavern             7827 SW 35th Ave                       Portland