The Yard House – Does it Measure Up??

Is this the entry to a bar or a Fortune 500 corporation?

Is this the entry to a bar or a Fortune 500 corporation?

The Yard House (hereafter “YH”) in downtown Portland is one of sixty-six establishments (mostly west of the Mississippi) in this national chain.  Thebeerchaser’s affinity for dive bars and neighborhood taverns would keep him a distance from this type of bar, but it provided a convenient gathering place for several Beerchaser regulars to hoist a mug, so we gave it a try.

Westwood, Kevin and Amy, Jack Faust and Thebeerchaser

Westwood, Kevin and Amy, Jack Faust and Thebeerchaser

The company included lawyers Jack Faust and Jim Westwood, in addition to local radio icon, Amy Faust and her husband of twenty-four years, Kevin – more about this interesting couple below.

And while YH had an impressive selection of beers, I will not be hitting this or another YH again for the reasons set forth below.

P1040027

Now when I step into what is usually the dim and cluttered entry to a bar, a quick scan of the environment will reveal some regulars who look interesting, a few alcoves with some old Schlitz or Olympia signs above them to elicit good memories.  Also expect either a stuffed animal head or a sign that says something like, “Our beer is colder than your exe’s heart.”

Décor at the Club 21 in NE Portland

Décor at the Club 21 in NE Portland

Don’t expect that at the Yard House.  As you enter the sterile, corporate-like lobby area, you will be greeted by what one Trip Advisor reviewer aptly described as a “…..snooty, ‘I’m too sexy for this podium host.'” 

The host(s) – there were actually three when I entered – probably recent Portland State University Communications majors, aggressively steer you to a table in the massive basement-level space.  They don’t want to hear that you just want to sit at the bar or seat yourself.  

Environmentally safe transport from the source....

Environmentally safe transport from the source….

The large bars are impressive and the overhead tubes trans-porting one of the approximately 100 beers on tap (shown on an illuminated digital display) from the overhead kegs are visually stimulating and kind of cool:

“Our glass-enclosed keg room is the pulse of the operation. Each keg room houses as much as 4,000 gallons of beer kept at an ideal 36-38 degrees, and delivered to our island bar through five miles of individual beer lines stretching overhead. Every draught is fresh and perfectly chilled.”

But the YH has the ambiance of an Applebee’s or a suburban branch of Citibank. In fact, since the YH bars are owned and operated by the Darden Restaurant chain, I should change the named restaurant comparison to The Olive Garden – the chain’s flagship brand!    P1040029

Perhaps a Yelp reviewer on a visit from Seattle, in an effort to be positive, made my case more succinctly than anyone when he stated, “This place is like Red Robin but an upscale, classier and better version. I really enjoyed this.”  Really!!??

Affable and competent server, Jason.

Affable and competent server, Jason.

Now I will admit that Jason, our server, was a very personable and helpful young man, who knew the beer list well even though he had only worked there two months.  He suggested a Six-Pack Sampler with six different beers which was great – although we traded in the Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourban Barrel Stout for a second sample of the excellent Fort George 1811 Lager from Astoria. I had a pint of the Green Flash West Coast IPA – a very nice beer.

One of the distinguishing highlights at the YH is the option to buy a half-yard of beer – delivered in a very tall and impressive glass (see the picture below).  And you can see why the recipients of that mug are smiling……

A good option at the Yard House

A good option at the Yard House

It was no surprise to us that Jim Westwood volunteered to be our half-yard participant.  You may remember from prior posts on this blog that both Westwood and  Faust are past Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter. (see posts of 3/28/13 and 9/2/14

Westwood - Ben Padrow would be proud!!

Westwood – Ben Padrow would be proud!!

 Westwood was the captain of the legendary Portland State College team that captured the hearts of the nation when it went undefeated in the 1964-65 GE College Bowl television quiz in what NBC producers labeled as, “the most outstanding team performance in College Bowl history.”

He’s so smart that he converted the half-yard height of the mug into the metric system while taking the first gulp – 42.75 centimeters…!

Distinguishing Characteristics

Despite the somewhat sterile atmosphere, one does have to applaud the variety of not only beers (over 100 drafts in nine broad categories ranging from “hoppy/floral” to “strong/spiced”) at the YH, but they also have an impressive list of cocktails (21), house martinis (10) and even five different sake drinks for those who are adventurous. (Try the Snow Maiden which is tozai, junmai and nigori.)

We drank rather than ate at the YH.  Given the Dresden Inc. ownership of the Olive Garden along with the YH, I expected to see a menu which included unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, but the YH does appear to offer a good selection of edibles ranging from appetizers, soups and salads to steaks, burgers and ribs to seafood and deserts.

Scads of TVs if youre not into conversation

Scads of TVs if you’re not into conversation

The tacos drew good comments in the reviews such as this one on Trip Advisor in November, 2014:

“(the taco was amazing…..with rice and beans on the side and the rice is the best Mexican rice I have had in a long time. It’s spicy, but not what I expected from a bar food joint. They also had a long list of desserts, I think we tried most of them. Very tasty.”

What if these guys were around in 2016?

What if these guys were around in 2016?

Drinking beer while hearing Westwood and Jack Faust debate the implications of the 1783 Treaty of Paris (negotiated by John Adams, John Jay and Benjamin Franklin in which the British agreed that the thirteen US Colonies were free, sovereign, and independent states) was stimulating.

And it grew more animated when they theorized that these statesman could have achieved more favorable terms than Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his negotiations with Mohammad Javad Zarif in the US/Iran Nuclear Deal of 2016.

However, I was more interested in chatting with Amy and her spouse, since this was Kevin’s first Beerchasing adventure.  Amy is the female half of the popular Mike and Amy Show on KWJJ – The Wolf (see Beerchaser post on 8/14/2015).   Kevin is a fascinating and transplanted East Coaster who met Amy when they were living in New York.   mike and amy

August will see their 24th wedding anniversary after they originally met in Brooklyn at a party in a loft in what was once an Ex Lax factory.   As Amy recalls, “It was called the Ex Lax building and things have been going smoothly ever since……”

BillboardKevin taught architecture in Ireland after teaching on Long Island and worked for architects in NYC and in Dublin as well.  He graduated from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, established in New York City in 1859 and which is among the nation’s oldest and most distinguished institutions of higher education.

At his graduation, our fellow Beerchaser gave the valedictory speech from the same stage on which Abe Lincoln delivered  what has become known as his “right makes might” address” in 1859.

And there is a connection with Westwood, who is also a long-time coach of the former National Championship, Grant High School Constitution Team.  Kevin and Amy’s daughter, Alice, was selected for the team and will participate in the competition this coming year.

 

Abraham Lincoln speaking in Cooper Union's Great Hall February 27, 186

Abraham Lincoln speaking in Cooper Union’s Great Hall February 27, 1859

Notwithstanding my outstanding drinking companions, the aseptic ambiance of the YH was as pervasive and cloying as Jan in the Toyota commercials.   It made Thebeerchaser yearn for a dive or neighborhood bar environment.

For example, the YH highlights its art collection:

The stunning, original art featured on our walls is a major contributor to the very special vibe of every Yard House. The Yard House Original Art Gallery Collection has been created by artist Jerome Gastaldi.

Each piece is uniquely handcrafted to reflect the regional environment, the energy within the Yard House restaurants, and the core values of the company.”

Commissioned art by in the Portland Yard House

Commissioned art by Gastaldi in the Portland Yard House

Now, while neither the wonderful Nest Tavern in SE Portland nor the Low Brow Lounge in the Pearl have famous artists on retainer, their “works” reflect an underlying character and personality that will keep yours truly seeking this type of establishment on Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Pubs and Taverns.

Original art at the Nest Tavern in SE Portland

Original art at the Nest Tavern in SE Portland

So while the ambiance of the Yard House was like being buried three-feet under, you might check it out the YH for its beers or cocktails if you want a convenient place in downtown Portland.  But I would harken back to the Sandy Hut, the Ship Tavern or Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage or another dive bar for a fulfilling experience. (All reviewed on Thebeerchaser.com)

While these classic bars don’t have a “glass-enclosed keg room that keeps the beer at an ideal 36-38 degrees,”  you can get an ice-cold draft $2.50 PBR to die for!

Creative work at the Low Brow Lounge

Creative work at the Low Brow Lounge

 

                    The Yard House  

                  Pioneer Place

                        Portland, Oregon

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas from Thebeerchaser – Beerchaser Miscellany VI

The perfect bicycle for one who has everything

The perfect bicycle for one who has everything

Last Minute Christmas Shopping – If you have not found that perfect present, why not consider the bicycle in the above photo.  This is one of over 40 bicycles featured in the Portland Art Museum’s exhibit, “Cyclepedia,”  earlier this year.  Each represented different structures, materials and functions for bicycles from the 1920’s to contemporary design.

The exhibit “….included racing, mountain, single speed, touring, tandem, urban, folding, cargo, curiosities, and children’s bicycles.”  Portland was the only city in the US to host this exhibit, in part, because of the affection Portlanders have for bicycles and the number of cyclists per capita – reportedly, the highest in the US.

The bike above was Thebeerchaser’s favorite for obvious reasons.  Can you imagine touring on this mobile platform which has a keg, a tap and undoubtedly a holder for a glass of your favorite microbrew.

Scales of Justice

A Good and Zany Read – Given that before retiring, Thebeerchaser spent almost forty years of his career working with lawyers, I confess that I still enjoy the American Bar Association Weekly Journal (on-line) each week.

It has a listing of interesting cases, and includes the zany and bizarre judicial matters that pop up regularly. And while the sample below may strain credibility, anyone who has worked in the legal environment can attest that they occur:

3/27/13 –Man stranded on Disney’s ‘It’s a Small World’ ride, wins pain and suffering damages.”

7/26/13 – Banned from campus over ‘Hot for Teacher’ essay, college student loses free speech suit.”

11/5/13 – “Lawsuit for traffic stop resulting in 3 enemas, 2 X-rays and 1 colonoscopy in cops’ fruitless search.”

I love lawyers and they are, in general, a very smart, dedicated, competitive group of professionals, but the work environment breeds some interesting results:

7/10/13 – “Lawyer leaves $200K Ferrari in floodwaters to make it to hearing on time.”

9/16/13 – “Attorney who billed for 29-hour day, did the work, his lawyers says.” This one reminded me of the Wall Street associate in the ’70’s who wanted the record for billing the most legitimate hours in his firm, so worked a 24-hour day and then continued his work on a plane flight to Los Angeles for an actual 27 hour billable day.

12/9/13 – “Unwitting lawyer is suspended for arranging client loans to secure Nigerian inheritance.”

And finally, if you or a relative is considering law school as a career option, you  might want to check out this post from December 9th:

“One law school’s credit rating drops to junk-bond status.”

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Lighter face beerchaser headerThebeerchaser Logo – A New Look – Let’s raise a $2 mug of PBR to Jud Blakely, who designed the new logo you now see as the background or header for this blog.

Followers of this blog will remember that my SAE fraternity brother, Jud, was Thebeerchaser-of-the-Quarter (September 16, 2103 post ) where I saluted him for his heroism in Viet Nam (Bronze Star with Combat V and Purple Heart) and his subsequent exploits – as a member of The Gulf Coast Humanities Consortium, on the executive staff at Tri-Met, as a communications consultant, on the basketball court, etc. etc.

1965 Bronze Star Award Ceremony for Captain Blakely USMC
1965 Bronze Star Award Ceremony for Captain Blakely USMC

He obviously has developed new talents in the technology area.  Thanks Jud.

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The Yard House – Coming to Portland — While in Seattle, my wife and I dined in the new restaurant/bar that replaced the Borders store near Westlake Plaza.  Reportedly, one is in the works for Pioneer Square in Portland.

Would you believe over 100 beers on tap??

Would you believe over 125 beers on tap??

While Thebeerchaser typically avoids restaurants rather than a single purpose bar or tavern, this one was notable because it had over 125 beers and hard ciders on tap.

And that doesn’t count some of the seasonal specials such as the Sam Adams Merry Maker that I tested and thought was a winner. (“Heartiness of dark roasted malts and a touch of wheat.  But it’s the intensity and spices of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, & ginger that add a wicked kick for a jolly playful brew full of merry mischief.”

The "hydraulics" to get the brew from the kegs to the taps would be a good science project....
The “hydraulics” to get the brew from the kegs to the taps would be a good science project….

And the interior was fascinating“The glass-enclosed keg room is essentially the pulse of the operation housing as much as 5,000 gallons of beer at a time. Three to five miles of individual beer lines stretch overhead from the keg room to the island bar maintaining a constant temperature.”

The menu was robust and there was not an empty seat in the restaurant or bar.  Stay tuned for the Portland opening.

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Joe’s Cellar Moves Up –  We are pleased to report that one of our two favorite dive bars – the other being The Ship Tavern (December 10, 2012 post) in Multnomah – reopened this summer.

Joe’s Cellar, originally opening in 1941 and a great watering hole in the NW Industrial District (they had a Happy Hour at 7 A.M. for the workers getting off the night shift) had building structural issues that caused Multnomah County building officials to shut it down earlier this year.

Moving Up.......

Moving Up…….Step Up to Joe’s Cellar

Fortunately it is now back under new ownership and as Thebeerchaser advised you in the September 17, 2011 post, “Step Up to Joe’s Cellar.”

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Bar Jokes – We can’t end the year without at least one or two of our favorite bar jokes – the first from The Oregonian’s Edge column:

A duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, “You got any bread?”

Bartender “No.”

Duck: “You got any bread?”

Bartender (looking annoyed): “No!!”

Duck: “You got any bread?”

Bartender: “No – and if you ask one more time, I’m going to nail your bill to the bar!”

Duck: “You got any nails?”

Bartender: “No.”

Duck: “You got any bread…??

######

guy walks into a bar

A guy walks into a bar — He really hurts himself…….

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Lumpy's Landing - a delightful dive on Highway 18 on the way to the Oregon Coast
Lumpy’s Landing – a delightful dive on Highway 18 on the way to the Oregon Coast

How Cold Was It……? – Sign outside the door of Lumpy’s Landing – a wonderful dive bar in Dundee, Oregon.

This is the tavern where the original idea for Thebeerchaser Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs, originated while I was eating natchos and drinking a Budweiser on the way to the beach:

lumpy's sign

How Cold Was It??

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Most Outlandish Simile:  And finally, while having written over sixty reviews of bars since Thebeerchaser blog commenced in August of 2011, I understand that sometimes “writer’s block” can shroud one’s brain like a San Francisco fog. 

However, a critique of the El Modernito Restaurant/bar by Martin Cizmar, a reporter for Willamette Week (which is a good resource for this blog and usually has informative and reliable reviews) contained what is probably one of the most pretentious and/or ridiculous descriptions of a cocktail, ever to hit print:

“Oh, but the chorizo and cocktails.  They’re united in a margarita made with sausage-flavored tequila and a salty foam that tastes like a wave perpetually suspended at the point of breaking.” (emphasis supplied).  Enough said – back to journalism school, Martin!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Thebeerchaser