Thebeerchaser’s 2017 Annual Report

Cheers from Thebeerchaser

I would suggest that 2017 was a year of good cheer – but isn’t that what you would expect from the author of a blog entitled “Thebeerchaser.”  While there were national and international events which make me shudder, the following speaks strictly to my idiosyncratic retirement hobby i.e. visiting bars, taverns and pubs and then blogging about them.  The following is my rationale for asserting, “It was a very good year.”

Buffalo Bill’s Saloon in rural Beavercreek

Blog Statistics – while I would still pursue this hobby even if the only people reading my posts were family members (out of a sense of obligation), it is gratifying to see that the number visiting the blog has increased – a lot – each year from my first full year in 2012. 

The chart below shows the total number of views with the darker blue being the number of visitors each year.  

The unique Multnomah Whiskey Bar

For example in 2017, I had 24,577 views from 18,623 visitors – meaning each visitor looked at an average of 1.32 different posts.

This compares to 2013 when the views rang in at 15,223 by 10,031 people – a 60% increase in views over that four year period. My first full year, only 6,704 ventured in, so the increase has been gratifying.

Thebeerchaser’s Statistics from 2012 – 2017

Since its inception in August, 2011, I have published 189 posts – each one averaging about 1,500 words.  In 2017, followers of the blog saw twenty-nine posts, which is pretty close to the annual average over the six full years I have been on this “Tour.”   But in 2017, since we were on the road more, we visited more different public houses than in any prior year.

Wonderful scenery (and breweries) along the S. Oregon Coast

When we travel, I describe multiple bars and breweries in each post.  For example, in September we headed down the Southern Oregon Coast through Redwood National Park to Eureka.

In three different posts, I described eleven breweries, one bar and one bottle shop that we visited on that trip including our favorite, Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake California.

Drinking with the friendly staff of Mad River Brewing

And I am always amazed to see the locations at which the visitors to Thebeerchaser are doing their Google searches which bring them to my domain.

For example, in 2017, 85% of the views were from the US, but 3% were from India, followed by 1.8% from Canada and even ten views from Saudi Arabia.

Known to roam both New Guinea and Khazakstan

Perhaps that’s some people getting vicarious thrills from reading about watering holes because Saudi Arabia has a complete ban on alcohol – it is illegal to produce it, import it, or consume it.

In fact, in 2017 I even had two visitors from New Guinea and one from Khazakstan.  Perhaps they got to my blog by mistake and they meant to do a search for The boar chaser……

Thebeerchasing Itinerary

At the wonderful dive bar AC Tap outside Sister Bay in Door County, Wisconsin

My practice when Beerchasing in the Portland area is to generally visit an establishment at least twice – that gives me a better feel for the place and more opportunity to meet patrons and talk to the bartenders or staff about the bar or brewery’s history and distinguishing characteristics.

Now 2017 set a record for the most venues visited.   Although the Portland area total was lower than most years at fifteen bars and breweries, this number was supplemented by twenty-seven outside Portland including multiple entries in Wisconsin, California and the Oregon Coast.

Lakefront Brewing in Milwaukee

You can see the list for both categories at the end of this post.  And one brewery is in a special category – the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel which will be discussed below.

Friendly owner Tom O’Leary

 

For Portland establishments, I devote the entire post to one venue.  For example, my favorite bar in 2017 of the nine Portland area watering holes, was TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub where I got to know the owner, Tom, a former star from Ireland’s most popular soap opera.

And the brewery which captured my imagination of the five Portland area enterprises reviewed was Tigard’s Flyboy Brewing.  The outstanding people in these establishments gave them the nod plus you haven’t lived until you have tasted their Pilot’s Peach Pale Ale.

Michelle Faubion and Mark Becker of Flyboy Brewing

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

Each quarter I also write about an individual or group for which I bestow the “honor” Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (BOTQ).  In the past, these have included authors, athletes, war heroes, media personalities and even my graduate school Professor of Public Finance, Portland State’s Dr. John Walker.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year was named in 2016 – my wife of thirty-eight years, Janet, who has shown the patience and given her support for the time I spend checking out these colorful and many times historic, public houses.

The only Beerchaser-of-the-Year

Fortunately, she has grown to have a fondness for IPAs (Buoy Brewing’s of Astoria is her favorite) – a change from generally consuming an Oregon Pinot when we dined out in prior years.

Amy Faust of 99.5 – The Wolf

 

 

 

I was somewhat remiss this year and only named three BOTQ – Portland radio personality, Amy Faust, of the Mike and Amy Show and then a  tribute to the late author and my friend (as a result of this blog) Brian Doyle.

And then there’s Father Martin Grassel, who is the head brewer at the Benedictine Brewery at the Mount Angel Abbey (in addition to being the Procurator for the Abbey – a very big responsibility.) He is a wonderful man with a fascinating background.

Father Martin of the Benedictine Brewery

Stay tuned for a catch-up effort in 2018, when my first BOTQ will be Portland developer and civic leader, Mark Edlen.

For a list of past recipients of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, see the tab so designated on the header at the top of this post.  These people are interesting and have compelling stories and you probably know some of them.

Looking Back and Reflecting……

Dave Booher and Steve Larson at the Central Pastime Tavern in Burns

Since my visit to the Brooklyn Park Pub in August, 2011, my first bar on what has been a six and one-half year journey, I have visited and reviewed a total of 257 different watering holes.

While my initial intent was to restrict these visits to Portland locations, our retirement travel was conducive to telling you about bars in Europe and Alaska, Hawaii,  Montana and a bunch of other states in addition to saloons all over the state of Oregon – from the coast to John Day and Baker.

The personable Phoebe of the Brooklyn Park Pub

By the way, I was very happy that I returned to the Brooklyn this summer and had a visit with their wonderful bartender Phoebe Newcombe, one of my favorite of many dynamic personalities (also third place in Willamette Week’s Best- of-Portland Bartenders) I have had the pleasure of interviewing since 2011.

Darwin’s Theory – An OSU Beaver in Anchorage

So of that total (257) 114 have been in Portland and 143 in the aforementioned other geographical locales.  (Sometime if we have a beer, I will tell you about our visit to the bar right below the summit of  top of Mt. Schilthorn in Switzerland – at an altitude of 9,744 feet.)

Or there was my favorite dive bar of all time – Darwin’s Theory in Anchorage, Alaska – owned by an Oregon State University alum.

The Schilthorn Taverne in Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve got to be kidding? Beer at 9,500 feet!

The List of 2017 Venues

The charts below show the name, location type of establishment and date of the post for each place reviewed in 2017 – separated by those in the Portland metropolitan area and those outside the Rose City.

Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Multnomah Whiskey Library Downtown Whiskey Bar January
Nineteen 33 Taproom West Linn Neighborhood February
Buffalo Bill’s Saloon Beavercreek Neighborhood February
Ancestry Brewing Tualatin Brewery February
The Independent Downtown Sports Bar March
NEPO 42 Northeast Neighborhood April
Burnside Brewing East Brewery April
Gil’s Speakeasy Southeast Dive Bar May
Flyboy Brewing Tigard Brewery May
Cascade Brewing Barrel House Southeast Brewpub June
Labrewatory North Brewery June
Renners Multnomah Village Dive Bar August
Slow Bar Southeast Neighborhood October
TC O’Leary’s Irish Pub Northeast Neighborhood October
ZARZ Downtown Whiskey Bar December

Wisconsin Beerchasing

On the Oregon Coast

 

Name of Venue Location Type Date of Post
Nauti Mermaid Beach Club Lincoln City, OR Neighborhood July
Scooters Pub Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood July
Dukes on the Water Milwaukee, Wisc. Dive July
Water Street Brewery Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery July
Badger State Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Hinterland Brewery Green Bay, Wisc. Brewery July
Door County Brewing Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Brewery August
AC Tap Sister Bay, Wisc Dive August
Coyote Road House Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Cornerstone Pub Bailey’s Harbor, Wisc. Neighborhood August
Pourman’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Lake Front Brewing Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewery September
McGillycuddy’s Bar Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
Bar None Milwaukee, Wisc. Neighborhood September
The Aly Asylum Riverhouse Milwaukee, Wisc. Brewpub September
Yachats Brewing Yachats, OR Brewery November
Defeat River Brewing Reedsport, OR Brewery November
Seven Devils Brewing Coos Bay, OR Brewery November
Bandon Brewery Bandon, OR Brewery November
Broken Anchor Bar and Grill Bandon, OR Neighborhood November
The Beverage Barn Bandon, OR Bottle Shop November
Arch Rock Brewing Gold Beach, OR Brewery November
Chetco Brewing Brookings, OR Brewery November
Six Rivers Brewing McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Humboldt Regeneration McKinleyville, CA Brewery December
Lost Coast Brewery Eureka, CA Brewery December
Mad River Brewery Blue Lake, CA Brewery December
Benedictine Brewery Mount Angel, OR Brewery November

The Benedictine Brewery

Sign designed and created by Brother Andre’ Love

Fans of great beer and the rich history of brewing can look forward to the opening of the Benedictine Brewery and Taproom in mid-2018.   After an incredible community timber raising on November 11th, the Brewery is now framed and its flagship beer, Black Habit got a wonderful review at this link in Willamette Week.  http://www.wweek.com/bars/beer/2017/12/12/in-a-bavarian-village-in-oregon-you-can-drink-beer-brewed-by-benedictine-monks/  

I have been working as a volunteer on this project for the last fifteen months – it’s a vision of Father Martin Grassel.  When completed, it will be the only brewery west of the Mississippi in which the ownership and brewing is by monks – in this case those at the Mount Angel Abbey, established in 1882.

To see some videos which will amaze you and give you an idea of the energy and spirit shown at the timber raising at which about 100 monks, seminarians and friends from the Mt. Angel community worked as a team all day,  check out the following link from my post on 11/21.

 

Updated picture from 1/4/18

 

 

 

 

 

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

Happy New Year!

Beerchasing on the S. Oregon and N. California Coasts – Part II

The winter months are a good time to finish narrating (and remembering…) our three and one-half day journey down the southern Oregon coast and through the beautiful Redwoods as far as Eureka in mid-September.  Beautiful scenery in the state parks, some great hikes and twelve breweries, one bar (and a bottle shop) in which we raised a shared-mug (most times) along the way made it a trip to remember.

We left off the last post telling you about the personable and entrepreneurial owner of the Broken Anchor Bar and Grill in Bandon where we stayed our first night.   We enjoyed outstanding food, a good tap list and our conversation with Jessica Neal.

We were sorry to hear that shortly after our trip, she ran into a few strokes of bad luck with both a fire which destroyed her liquor inventory and her walk-in freezer malfunctioning – the latter resulting in a significant loss not covered by insurance.

Jessica – bouncing back from bad luck….

Not surprisingly, in a recent phone call to see how she had recovered, she was upbeat and positive.  Jessica was enthused about  moving forward into the holidays and thankful for her loyal customers.   When you are in Bandon, you should stop at this quality bar, partake of the great food and say hello to Jessica.

Note

This is a long post although it is hard to be concise when visiting so many quality breweries and witnessing the beautiful scenery.  But to see our favorite brewery of the entire trip, you have to either read or move down to the end of this post.   Here’s a picture of their taproom and if you are in Northern California, stop and visit this wonderful brewery.

What Tap Room is this?

Our last bar in Oregon before we hit the California border was in Brookings where we visited the Chetco Brewery – a brewery with a simple philosophy – “Small town brewing – world class beer.”  

The community had been decimated by the Chetco Bar Fire, which was started by lightning in July and burned almost 200,000 acres before it was contained, including severely damaging one of Oregon’s last redwood groves.

Businesses in that area including the brewery, were severely stressed by the haze and distinct possibility of evacuation during the zenith of the tourist season.  Just visiting the brewery’s small taproom with sixteen of their own vegan beers on tap, however, gave an indication how the community rallied.

It was appropriate that we shared a pint of their “Evacuation Ale”:

” With the ash falling around us, still sipping the morning coffee, it clicked. Smoked, Coffee, Porter. Pure delight amongst the panic. Just a little caffeine to settle the nerves. Smooth, complex, and interesting enough to take your mind off of your impending doom.”

Chetco Taproom – not fancy, but a community gathering place.

And it is not surprising to see how this enterprise is thriving.  Their website gives the story entitled, “Much to be Thankful For.”  It relates how they are “revitalizing” a much bigger building down the highway and moving the taproom and brewery in a project that will be incrementally completed next March.

Just over the California border, we made a short stop at Six Rivers Brewery in McKinleyville.  The “Brew with a View” – overlooking the Pacific on Hghway 101, opened in 2008 by Talia and Meredith became the second all-woman-owned brewery in California and has also expanded with success.   The pub has a good menu and eleven of their beers on tap. 

We shared a half-flight of five 4-ounce samples for only $6 after our helpful servers, Erin and Rebecca let us sample a few to narrow our choices and especially enjoyed their Bluff Creek Pale Ale.

The taproom at Six Rivers

 

 

 

Another quick stop in McKinleyville was on the agenda. The taproom is essentially a small square room in a storage shed, but we wanted to see Humboldt Rengeration, because of its innovative and sustainable approach to brewing as evidenced by the three quotes below – the first from their webpage and the second two from Yelp.

“It’s a sustainable Farmhouse Brewery which means we are growing our own grains and hops. The barley and wheat are floor-malted on site.”

“A true heirloom Brewer – using cutting edge technology and methodology with old school craftsmanship…..A recent stop in Humboldt Regeneration had me sampling seven (7) different offerings the day of my visit – the brew master (Jacob) had produced 200+ different styles of brews in the past year.  His unassuming 2 1/2 year old nano brewery has been taking the northwest brewery scene by storm – voted one of the top nano breweries of 2014 in an industry paper.” (Yelp – 1/7/15) 

Humboldt Regeneration – a storage shed, but innovative brewing

“Sure, the atmosphere is a nano brewery (read: storage shed) but what you may lose in surroundings is more than made up for in the beer. Every beer I tried was complex and refreshing. The Faro Red– if you like sours– holy taste explosion.” (Yelp – 8/16/17)

We had a nice chat with Jacob the brewmaster and shared a good Whiskey Barrel Pilsner.

That night we stayed in Trinidad, California at the Turtle Rocks Inn, a picturesque bed and breakfast where we sat on our private deck and enjoyed a beautiful sunset dinner while listening to the sea lions bark on the rocks below. One of the joys of road trips is discovering places off the beaten path – and there are many on the coast.

The Turtle Rocks Inn Bed and Breakfast

 

 

Lest you think this trip was only about beer, the next day was our favorite – a day spent touring and hiking in Redwood National Park.  A hike through the Lady Bird Johnson grove led by a Forest Service ranger, giving the history and interesting facts about the flora and fauna made this a highlight of the trip.

John Steinbeck’s quote on the Redwoods cannot help but ring true when you are standing in this magnificent grove gazing up at these trees which often grow over 300 feet and are hundreds of years old – the oldest purportedly were saplings before the birth of Christ.

Words are not necessary….

““The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable.

From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

And fortunately, because of bi-partisan effort  evidenced in that very spot when President Richard Nixon dedicated the park in 1969  and named the grove after Lady Bird Johnson – wife of his predecessor of the other political party – the Redwoods were saved from developers although many of the massive trees were logged before protection through park designation.

Keep this in mind and realize the current “occupant” of the White House on December 4th proudly announced in Salt Lake City that he was drastically scaling back two national monuments (Baby Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante) established in Utah by his Democratic predecessors.  It was the largest reduction of public-lands protection in U.S. history.

I guess when Nixon’s legacy (and demeanor) start appearing to be positive from a relative perspective, it is understandable why even blogs about bars and breweries have to digress (or regress) to political commentary to vent righteous indignation and disgust.

We finished that day with the Trillium Falls trail – a wonderful 3-mile loop through more majestic old-growth timber.

For dinner, we drove down to Eureka where we dined at the Lost Coast Brewery Restaurant, located in a 100-year old building in the heart of the city.  It’s another brewery started by a woman, Barbara Groom, and has grown and expanded to become the largest brewery we visited on our trip.

 

The restaurant was packed and has an expansive menu.  Janet had their flagship beer, the Great White – their original and a Belgian-style white, while I had the Tangerine Wheat. 

The pub at the Lost Coast Brewery in Eureka

We sampled this good beer on a trip a few years back and liked it so well, we stopped at a bottle shop and brought a six-pack home. The Lost Coast logo and artwork is wonderfully creative and distinct.

 

That night we stayed in charming Arcata and hit two last California breweries:

Unimpressive exterior but good tap list

Redwood Curtain Brewing – another unimpressive location – brewery and tasting room in a non-descript strip mall, but an impressive selection of beers on tap (24 of their own beers) in a nice tasting room.

Redwood Curtain brewing and tasting room

It was a Friday night and overflowing with students from nearby Humboldt State College, anticipating the live entertainment. Chris, the friendly bartender, gave us a good recommendation – their flagship Golden Ale.  We were going to stay for dinner, but Chris told us that a semi-truck had recently wiped out their food cart in the parking lot…..!

Mad River Brewery – okay, I told you I saved the best for last.  We tasted a lot of excellent beer and met wonderful people in breweries down the coast into Northern California, but our favorite in either state by far — Mad River.

Was it the charming and well-designed tasting room and patio?  Or was it the great logo and artwork on their bottles?  That was part of it, but we loved their beer – stopped and picked up a half-case to take home – and the staff we met that afternoon, that distinguished them.

Mad River, started in 1989 and has been going strong ever since, brewing with skill and pride:

“Our most prestigious awards include four Gold Medals, four Silver Medals and one Bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival. Two Bronze awards from the World Beer Cup and 2010 Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award from the Great American Beer Festival.”

And perhaps we hit the Taproom at just the right time – there were six employees sitting at the bar after they had finished their work day and were enjoying a fringe benefit – an after-shift beer with their personal mug – each one hanging on a prominent display to the side of the bar – a creative and positive gesture by management. 

A look at their website is ample evidence that they are a team-oriented enterprise.  All of the guys we met while sitting at the bar were very friendly and one could tell by their comments that they loved their jobs and appreciated their brewing company.   While we liked all of them – Sean, Nate et.al., our favorite was Zeke Branca(the first guy on the left in the picture) a big guy who is the Cellar Master and who stated on their website:

“I am a seventeen year MRBCo employee, with 35 years brewing experience as an award-winning homebrewer at both national and state competitions. Native Californian, married and father of two. Other interests include; officiating soccer, watching international futbol and Saturday night poker club….CHEERS”

And our half-case was a variety pack because we couldn’t decide on our favorite.  We especially enjoyed the Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, the Mad River IPA and the Jamaica Red Ale was one of the best I’ve tasted and lived up to its 2011 Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival

You could also get a delicious burger or sandwich in the taproom.

 

Well, early the next morning, we left and made the long drive to our beach house in Lincoln City, but of course, we made one stop that harkened both of us back to family vacations before we hit our teens.  In fact, with me, it was when our family made a 6,500 three-month camping trip in the summer and fall of 1962.

We lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and after that trip, my dad quit his job and my wonderful parents told us, “We’re moving to Oregon!”

“Nice shoes, Tommy! Where are you from?”

And just like Janet, I remember the Trees of Mystery on 101 although they now don’t have the guy who sat hidden in the bottom of the giant logger and fascinated young kids by talking to each one personally when they came up for a picture.

Janet gets her “bearings”

 

 

 

 

 

And thanks to Duane (FDW) and Frannie Williams for having the pioneer spirit and courage to move their family to a better life on the West Coast

To see Part I of the trip along the coast, click on the following link:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/13/beerchasing-on-the-south-oregon-coast-and-through-the-redwoods-part-i/

 

 

 

 

Beerchaser Miscellany – Fall of 2017

The Brooklyn Park Pub – Revisiting the First Stop on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs and One of My Favorite Bartenders

Seven years ago, when I decided to implement my crazy idea as a retirement hobby, I was concerned about how it would be perceived by the bartenders I would interview.  For it to be successful, I needed them to answer my questions about what makes their bar different, comment on the tavern’s regulars and offer info on their own background.

Would they dismiss these inquiries as some old guy with idiosyncratic tendencies or support the idea that highlighting the history and distinguishing factors of Portland’s many watering holes was a cool idea?

Phoebe in August 2011

Well, my trepidation was unnecessary when the first bartender I interviewed became one of the most memorable.  Phoebe Newcomb was behind the bar at the Brooklyn, a great little Southeast neighborhood pub – and still one of my favorites after seven years.

She told me about the Whiskey Club, talked about the tradition of serving their draft beers in Mason jars and to check out the woodchuck posters…..

Phoebe’s gift at my first stop on the Tour….

When I told her that the Brooklyn was my first of what I hoped would be many bars on the tour, she gave me a Brooklyn Park Pub cap and signed it.   I still remembered her charming and distinctive laugh that echoed through the bar as she was interacting with her customers.

In July, I was reviewing Willamette Week’s Best of Portland issue and discovered that third place for Best Portland Bartender was none other than Phoebe, who now works at the Landmark Saloon besides the Brooklyn.

This motivated me to return to the first of what has become 85 Portland bars and another 125 in Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, a slew of places in the continental US and all over Oregon on Thebeerchaser’s tour of Bars, Tavern and Pubs.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/08/07/the-first-establisment-on-the-chase/

A reunion six years later. And the beer is still served in Mason jars

I was not disappointed in Phoebe’s reaction when I again told her my story and that I had returned to thank her for the positive kickstart to Thebeerchaser’s Tour.  I donned the treasured BPP hat and one of the regulars took our picture.

Brian Doyle – His Legacy Lives On – As followers of Thebeerchaser blog and those who appreciate good literature know, we lost a great human being in May with the passing of Brian Doyle who succumbed to brain cancer.   Brian was prolific, authoring about thirty books including novels, collections of short stories and penetrating essays, was the editor of the award-winning Portland magazine published by the University of Portland and a gifted speaker.

Having a brewski in the St. Johns Pub with University of Portland colleague, Dr. Sam Holloway

I met Brian in 2013 when I informed him by letter that I had named him my eleventh Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter and all it required for him to receive the “award” (a pint of beer) was to meet me for an interview at the saloon of his choice.  He chose the Fulton Pub.

We had drinks after that on a number of occasions and corresponded by e-mail in which he never failed to demonstrate his positive view of humanity, his religious faith and his imaginative and fanciful sense of humor.

I was therefore pleased when in July I received an e-mail  request from the Design Editor of Melbourne Catholic Magazine in Australia requesting permission to use one of the pictures posted in a tribute to Brian in the blog shortly after his passing.    I laughed when I found out that they selected the one I took at the Fulton Pub the first time we raised a mug.

In the Fulton Pub

The article entitled, “Minor Prophets – A Tribute to a Favourite Author” will be published in September.  Ann Rennie, the author, states in part:

“(Minor prophets) remind us of the universal and eternal.  They remind us of God and of good, and the everyday revelation of the glory in life in all its weariness and work and woe; in its humdrum, ordinary decency and its scintillating, soul stirring wonder.   One such profit (was) the American writer, Brian Doyle, whose beautiful words, written with candour and joy and lyricism, help us to find again the simple and larger truths.””

The picture of the main character on the cover has a strong resemblance to ……

I recently finished Chicago the second to the last novel which Brian wrote in 2016 and it’s my favorite – it’s a perfect example of his keen observations of nature, people and events, some of which many would view as trite or inconsequential.   I’m sure that Brian could have ridden the #33 Tri-Met bus (McLoughlin Blvd…..) from Oregon City into Portland and have written a lengthy and entertaining essay (with very long sentences…..) on what he observed that would have been a good read.

As with another one of my favorite Doyle novels, Martin Marten, I fold back pages as I read so I can go back and write down phrases or paragraphs I want to ponder and remember.  (The book ends up having more pages with folds than those that are not.)

Author, poet and hero of Edward

You should read Brian’s account of Chicago – his descriptions of Chicago White Sox games and players and the Chicago Bulls, gyros, meeting former NBA great Artis Gilmore on a walk, street basketball, Lake Michigan and dribbling his “worn and shiny basketball” through miles and miles of the urban landscape.   And as in Martin Marten, one of his main characters is an intriguing, erudite and marvelously resourceful animal – this one, a talking dog named Edward who had a strong and enduring admiration for both Abe Lincoln and Walt Whitman.  

“But to say of Edward merely that he was a dog and leave the description at that, would be a grave disservice not only to him but to you, for he was one of the most subtle and gracious beings I ever met, and the litany of his adventures alone would fill a shelf of books, before getting to his influence on other beings, for example, which was both considerable and renowned, so much so that creatures of various species would come to Edward for consultation and counsel, from birds to people of all manners and modes of life.”  (Chicago page 2)

The following is a description of his main character’s daily walks in Chicago as he ambled (dribbled…) through countless blocks of the urban landscape.  I offer this as one of many examples why Ann Rennie ended her article with the words, “Thank you Brian, for words that warmed our hearts, enlarged our minds and touched our souls.”  

“….So I walked; and there were days when I thought it likely that I had walked farther and deeper in Chicago that day than anyone else in the whole city, and this was a city of three million souls…

..I met a roan horse….I met buskers by the score, a hundred street basketball players, dozens of people fishing the lake.  I met librarians and bookshop owners and probably every gyro vendor north and west of the Loop.  I met train conductors and bus drivers and taxi drivers….I met teachers and policemen (curiously, never a police woman) and many mayoral candidates – it seemed like every other person in the city that year was running for mayor – and bartenders. (Chicago – page 188)

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/06/09/brian-doyle-beerchaser-eternal/

Pondering Those that Come and Go – I am saddened to report that one of Portland’s  most iconic breweries has “chugged” into the sunset.  The Tugboat Brewery, which I visited with former Portland Mayor, Sam Adams in March 2013 and was downtown Portland’s oldest craft brewery,  was severely water-damaged when the ceiling of the apartment above it in the Stewart Hotel collapsed.  While initially, the plan was to open after repairs, the damage was evidently too extensive.

They posted a sign which stated, “The flea bag hotel above us had an arson fire…..that caused water damage to our pub.”  https://thebeerchaser.com/2013/03/08/say-tug-boat-brewery-ten-times-really-fast/

Sam Adams at the Tugboat in 2013

Similarly, MadSon’s Pub closed in August although no reason was supplied other than rumors of electrical and HVAC issues which would have required extensive repairs.  MadSon’s was a cool and spacious neighborhood-type bar on the near Eastside which had a nice ambiance and a superb brunch.  My first visit was with Portland lawyer, Jack Faust and his clan.  

Add the Hop & Vine on North Killingsworth to the list of closures after eight years of serving beer and wine to its loyal customers.   And, of course, the historic and famous Lotus Cardroom, in downtown Portland is also gone in the name of development.

Fortunately, some other rumored closings did not occur including Tony’s Tavern, a noted dive bar for twenty-one years on West Burnside.   Like Joe’s Cellar, Tony’s reportedly closed because of lease issues, but reopened and is back in business.   This is fortunate.  As one of Tony’s bartenders stated in the Willamette Week clip “It’s where people are friendly.  Some of our customers are assholes, but they’re friendly.”

Other rumors of closings which fortunately did not become a reality were the Laurelthirst Public House and the Dockside, which will see a multi-story office building built immediately adjacent to it.  The Dockside is “best known locally as the place Tonya Harding’s then husband, Jeff Gillooly, tried to dispose of evidence in the kneecapping of (Olympic figure skater) Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.”  (Willamette Week)

And Some That Thrive….! – I am happy to report that on a recent and one of many return visits to what has become one of my favorite brewpubs – FlyBoy Brewing in Tigard, Mark Becker and Michelle Faubion report that their expectations have been exceeded since the opening earlier this year. The City of Tigard has been very helpful in the permit process and they will be opening a new patio in front of the pub in several weeks.

The Flyboy Management Team

The newest of the Flyboy Brews Pilot’s Peach Ale (ABV: 5.50%) has been well received (It had sold out on my visit) and Michelle stated that some patrons are mixing it with Flyboy’s White Cloud Imperial IPA (5.80% ABV).  My first pint of the Peach Ale is one – not the only reason – I keep returning.  https://thebeerchaser.com/tag/flyboy-brewing/

A remarkable beer

Drop by and try some of the thirty beers on tap and the great food on their menu.  Happy Hour is from 3:00 to 6:00 each weekday.

Thebeerchaser Goes Civic –  I was pleased to be able to make a repeat performance relating the story of Thebeerchaser blog and why it has become a wonderful retirement hobby – this time in August at the Lincoln City Rotary Club.   I made the same presentation to the West Linn Rotary Club in 2016.

They appeared to enjoy the stories on the dive bars, especially since one of my favorites is Lincoln City’s venerable Old Oregon Saloon.   And it was gratifying when the principal of one of the local schools came up afterwards and said, “I loved the dive bar stories and descriptions.  I grew up in one.  My parents owned a dive bar in Washington.”

Farewell to a Portland Legend – Born in Hot Springs, South Dakota, Jack Stutzman died in Portland last week at the age of 77.  He graduated from Oregon’s West Linn High School and found his niche in the bar and restaurant business after Army service.  His first tavern, the Green Spot was followed by The Local Gentry, Gassy Jack’s and he then purchased the Hoot Owl in John’s Landing in 1973.

It became the legendary Buffalo Gap Saloon & Eatery, named after one of his favorite towns in South Dakota:

“The Gap grew from a seating capacity of 25 to 250……Became a neighborhood tavern, a home away from home.  It sheltered a diverse crowd from all walks of life, the neighbors, the  young and old party goers, the students from Lewis and Clark, the medical community from OHSU, the commuters between PDX and Lake Oswego, the occasional celebrity and everyone in between.”  From obituary in Oregon Live 

Holly Eldridge, our server, and Jack Faust at the Buffalo Gap in 2011

The Gap was one of Thebeerchaser’s first watering holes visited when this blog started in 2011 with Beerchaser regular, Jack Faust.  Drop by this great saloon which still thrives on SW Macadam and toastJack Stutzman’s  memory.

https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/12/14/the-buffalo-gap-saloon/

Renners – “Generous Cocktails, Cold Beer and Good Food Since 1939”

Multnomah Village is a small community with a bustling, albeit small business district about five and one-half miles south of downtown Portland.   It was annexed by the City of Portland in the 1950’s.  “The community developed in the 1910’s around a depot of the Oregon Electric Railway.” (Wikipedia)  For many years, it’s been relatively off-the-radar except for those who like to visit the Annie Bloom’s Books or O’Connor’s Restaurant – a nice little bistro owned by Montana natives who have been serving good food for the last twenty years.

The Ship – just around the corner in the Village….

It is also home to one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite dive bars – The Ship Tavern – reviewed in 2012. https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/12/10/all-hands-on-deck-at-the-ship-tavern/.

Based on my two recent visits, I have added another memorable dive bar to my list of favorites – Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room, a well-known watering hole that’s been around since 1939.

Don’t be misled by the title and most notably the words “Suburban Room”  – the “Room” is a small, dark chamber in the back of the bar to which many of the regulars gravitate.

The Inner Sanctum..

And Renner’s for years had a reputation for being a tough place with stiff drinks and regulars who don’t welcome strangers.  In fact, one person told me that it was the hangout for those who were too tough or unrefined for The Ship.

Photo courtesy of Keith Watkins, Religious Historian *1

The Village has changed, however.  It’s becoming gentrified and a great location given its proximity to Portland yet largely retaining its small-town ambiance.  Property values have soared, there are new stores and restaurants e.g. a Lucky Labs Pub, in an old building that used to be a Masonic Temple. It’s now a challenge to find a parking place even on a weekday evening.

Renner’s has also changed, as you will see below, however, it has definitely retained it’s character and ambiance.  This excerpt from a May 23, 2017 Willamette Week review describes it well:

“…..This little hole-in-the-wall tucked among the century-old buildings of Multnomah Village is the epitome of a dive bar, minus any of the pretension about being a dive bar you’d get closer to the center of the city.

It’s dark, it’s a little gritty, it takes forever to get a drink, Fleetwood Mac is somehow always playing and the food is greasy in the best way possible……The wells are a dollar instead of the drafts, and as every night, they’re the strongest you’ll get west of the river.”

The  Multnomah Villager blog quoting the Portland Tribune in October 2005 stated, in part,:

“Renner’s is built into the side of a hill. It feels like the dining car on a Depression-era train, and it’s about that big. A lunch counter and a few raised booths fill the front.

….. Art deco lamps hang from the uneven  …….The back wall is lined with photos, like the signed celebrity photos in many historic dining rooms. But here they are all pictures of loyal customers.”

Renners regulars from years past

Even the sometimes cynical  Portland Barfly opines:   ”With some sixty-odd years under its belt, Renner’s vintage charms beckon a surprisingly diverse array of regulars. It’s a shining example of the endangered neighborhood bar.”

A distinctive and historic sign

As one approaches Renner’s, the sign, which looks similar to an old Rexall Drug Store sign, beckons you into what is a very tight and intimate space – very different than some of the spacious classic dive bars reviewed previously on Thebeerchaser such as Gil’s Speakeasy or Bar of the Gods.

But Emmie, the cordial bartender, who is a McMinnville girl like Thebeerchaser’s spouse of 37 years, gives a friendly “hello” and expertly goes through the list of eight drafts and six bottled beers available in addition to three Tall Boys – Ranier, PBR and Rolling Rock.

A good selection of beers

There are about eight or nine seats at the semi-circular bar and three booths with black vinyl seats in the front part of the bar with historic photos or newspaper articles on the walls of each.  The first time there, I was accompanied by Beerchaser regular Walt Duddington

Walt is a veteran of such bars such as the Lutz Tavern and more recently, Ancestry Brewing.  Walt had a draft Total Domination IPA from Ninkasi Brewing and I couldn’t resist a PBR Tall Boy.

Walt Duddington on the first Renner’s visit

We talked to a nice guy named Steve Potter, an insurance adjuster and also chatted with two personable chaps who were in their coveralls and had just finished the day installing and maintaining HVAC systems.  Their customer base includes a number of bars in Southeast Portland – nice fellows and typical of dive bar regulars.

On one of the two big screen TV’s, we watched part of the first round of the NBA draft wondering if General Manager, Neil Olshey, would pull off some kind of miracle to allow the Blazers to exceed the fifty-win threshold in 2018 and garner another trip to the playoffs.

Or alternatively, draft a tall, skinny kid from the WCC who wasn’t a starter the entire year before he turned pro…. maybe he should have opted for a Migration Brewing’s Terry’s Porter for his first draft choice (ABV: 6.7% IBU:42: Roasted chocolate malts with hints of herbs and coffee)

A draft while watching the Draft – NBA style…

The next trip to Renner’s was for both beer and dinner with another veteran Beerchaser, my brother-in-law, Dave Booher.  He has also accompanied me on two three-and one-half day Beerchasing fieldtrips  through Central and Eastern Oregon in 2013 and the Central Oregon Coast in 2014.

Dave, the Tapman on the Oregon Coast

Dave and I started with a beer at the bar and  then moved into the Suburban Room for dinner which I was anticipating with additional salivary gland adrenalin after talking for twenty minutes on my first trip with Josh, the co-owner, who also bears the moniker, “Uncle Stumpy.”

Emmie and Josh make you feel at home…..

 

Josh, has been the co-owner for  2.5 years although he has worked at the bar since 2010.  He is also a partner in another bar with great atmosphere in the Barmuda Triangle in Southeast Portland – the Hawthorne Hideaway which Thebeerchaser reviewed in the first full year of the journey. 

https://thebeerchaser.com/2012/03/26/the-hawthorne-hideaway-amiable-alliteration/

Now one of the characteristics of many dive bars is cheap but not succulent food.  One doesn’t expect a Steak Diane with your $2.00 PBR.  For example, given the cost, I was happy with my Friday Special of Sloppy Joes and Chips for $1.50 at Gil’s Speakeasy, but it didn’t rank up there with the faire at some of Portland’s fine restaurants.

Gils Speakeasy Sloppy Joe is typical of dive bar grub

However, Uncle Stumpy has aggressively worked to make Renner’s menu attractive and the food one orders from that extensive document is superior and something that makes his clientele want to return.  (I have not used the word “clientele” previously in a blog post about dive bars…..).  Josh speaks with pride about his bar and stated

“Renner’s is 5.5 miles from downtown Portland, but it might as well be 100,” Josh asserts. 

His goal is to “maintain the dive bar experience, but offer superior food from scratch and a neighborhood bar charm.”  So far, he is succeeding.  As evidence I offer our dinner experience and these recent reviews from social media:

Cozy bar with INCREDIBLE food. Seriously, Renners has managed to elevate pub food to a whole new level. Their buffalo chicken thighs are so good (yes thighs not wings). I haven’t tried anything I didn’t like!”  Yelp 5/7/17

They even have started a quality breakfast which is worth a trip:

This historical bar serves a whoppin’ size breakfast that’s really good! Old menus and photos adorn the walls and good old village folks like the happy hour too!”  Trip Advisor 8/12/15

This is just the specials……

Take a look at the five entree’s available during BBQ Month the night we were there, a number of which rotated during the week.   These are supplemented on the regular menu by thirteen burgers including an elk burger and a peanut butter bacon burger which should probably be avoided unless your nickname is “Skippy.” 

Outstanding onion rings

There’s also seven hot dogs and eight sammies from which to choose including “Connor’s Cardiac Arrest” which should come with its own defibrillator given the ingredients including brisket, pulled pork, bacon and barbecue sauce on a ciabatta bun.  And if you’re not up for dinner, there are seven Happy-Hour items ranging from fries to tacos, cheeseburgers and sliders.

The Taman pleased with his Hangar Steak dinner

The Tapman opted for the Hangar Steak with corn-on-the-cob, fries and cole slaw ($15.75) and I honed in on the Bison Meatloaf Sandwich ($14.75) and upgraded to some wonderful onion rings.  Dave said it was the best hangar steak he had eaten in Portland and my sandwich was excellent and large enough that it made a good follow-up lunch.

There were a few scattered and minor complaints about the bar on social media including the music being too loud and the pace of service:  “….the music is way too loud. It’s excessively annoying. I can’t have a conversation with the people I’m with. If I wanted to listen to music, I’d put some headphones on at home. It’s terrible. Everyone around us is yelling because the music is so loud. Bad ambiance.“ Yelp 4/15/17

However, both of us and a number of others at the bar who were over sixty, can’t hear most conversation anyway and don’t try when any kind of music is playing.

Looking out from the Suburban Room

Renner’s was filled the night we were there and Emmie did a wonderful job with our drink and dinner orders.  No complaints on what was excellent and friendly service on both visits when the bar was very busy.

This alley is grandfathered in the zoning ordinance

Overall, it was a great experience and Josh appreciates the historic ambiance provided by the turn of the 1900’s building including the small alley-walkway in between the bar and the next building.

He’s also being creative with specials and events.  Up until July, 2017, you could get a draft OR a well-drink for a buck from 9:00 PM to close.  Based on insurance issues, that was changed to $2 – still a good deal.  Or you can visit on Wednesday, which is Bingo Night and gets great comments.

And on August 21st – during the celestial event:  “All you can eat and drink during the eclipse.$25.00.”  (I didn’t check to see whether this was during the two minutes and forty seconds of totality or for the two hours and thirty-five from start to finish in which case, it could be a good deal…..)   

Start drinking and eating…..(Courtesy of R.W. Hap Ziegler)

You should take the succinct but accurate advice of this couple and hit Renner’s:

“Quaint little neighborhood dive bar.  The place looks well worn, but loved by the regulars.  Stopped in for breakfast at 7:30 AM, there were about a dozen or so other patrons scattered around.  Most were drinking and seemed to know everyone else.  So a friendly place to meet and plan your day or your mischief.“ Yelp /23/17

And perhaps your “mischief’ should include a walk around the corner with a stop at The Ship for a beer chaser after your tasty breakfast at Renner’s.

Renner’s Grill and Suburban Room

7819 SW Capitol Hwy

Multnomah Village

The bar in the Suburban Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

*1 Keith Watkins blog:  https://keithwatkinshistorian.wordpress.com/tag/james-david-duncan/  3/4/14

 

Stir Things Up at the Labrewatory

Tucked away on NE Russell Street is a small, relatively young brewery and taproom.  It’s in the same area as some favorite past watering holes on Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced in 2011 – the historic White Eagle Saloon, Prost and The Rambler are just a few. (Click on the links to see the reviews)

Although the Labrewatory is typical of many small breweries – a large garage door that can be opened in good weather – the venue is more than a cool, fifty-seat taproom.  t’s actually a brewing experiment – an idea generated in late 2015 by its head brewer, Charlie Johnson.  And it gets some good reviews including being selected by Travel Portland as one of “Portland’s Best New Breweries in 2015:”

“A new project by Portland Kettle Works (a company that crafts equipment for many local breweries), this cutting-edge brew lab is the first of its kind in the city. Rather than employing its own brewers, The Labrewatory serves as a testing ground for sudsy new experiments from creative minds all over the country.”

Laura, Ryan and friend Kenzie Larson at 2014 Stamtisch Beerchasing

The idea to visit The Labrewatory (hereafter LB) was my son-in-law’s, Ryan Keene.  He and wife, Laura, are veteran Beerchasers, having been on several expeditions before their recent September marriage last year.  These included Stamtisch, Quimby’s and MadSon’s Pub.  (To see Thebeerchaser reviews of these watering holes, click on the link over their names.)

Ryan and Laura debating on the LB beer choice

 

 

 

It was a nice Father’s Day gift to me and Ryan’s dad, Ron, who along with Janet Williams, my wonderful Beerchasing spouse joined our group.  The five of us enjoyed both the beer and the venue.

This was the first Beerchasing expedition for Ron who grew up in Spokane and has been in Portland close to 35 years.  He works for XPO Logistics as a business analyst in IT working on pricing projects. Ryan, who is a an expert runner and excellent athlete, inherited much of his athletic talent from his dad although Ron asserts that “I owned Ryan on the Ping Pong table until he was 12.”

Charlie Johnson, the aforementioned head brewer, has both a masters degree in microbiology and a doctorate in chemical engineering and perhaps considerably more vision in his high school chemistry class than I did.

Dmitri wore a funny hat and drank vodka rather than beer……

Most of us just tried to understand the logic as to why Iron was abbreviated Fe (Atomic # 26) while Iridium was Ir (Atomic #77) on the Periodic Table of Elements and what Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev was trying to prove when he created it.

The LB has a very upscale and attractive interior:

“The sparse, wood-grained brewpub signals its experimental nature with lab-themed decor: Light fixtures look like diagrams of the atom, and the back wall sports a series of beakers and Erlenmeyer flasks arranged on shelves like shoes at Nordstrom.”  Willamette Week Bar Review (12/30/15)

The LB is a great place to taste beers from smaller breweries with the four guest taps hosting Freemont, Sierra Nevada and Cascade Lakes breweries when we were there.  But you can also experiment with BL’s own innovative beers with ten on tap.

Ryan and Ron try a $12 sampler with six different beers.

We tried two of their samplers and were able, with the six beers on each tray, to try most of the options.

And the samplers are reasonably priced at $12 for six four-ounce pours.  Our two favorites were the BL Falcon IPA and the Cascade Lakes Brewing’s Salted Caramel Porter.   BL’s Yuzu Mimosa (Kettle Soured Golden Ale) and Gose in Your Mouth both had plenty of pucker power!

Given their business model, it’s understandable while LB chose not to provide food service – at least not right away – but that does not seem to be a problem.  Multiple parties were ordering food from Tamale Boy, right next door and the offerings (which they will deliver to the Labrewatory when ready) looked very good i.e. reasonable prices and expansive menu – while also getting stellar review in social media.  For example, this 6/21/17 review on Yelp.  

Tamale Boy provides great food options

The quality of tamale goes beyond just authentic. A single tamale is $5 but is almost double the size of tamales I’ve eaten in the past. It is plump and avoids being dry. Wrapped in a freshly steamed leaf, you can tell care went into its production…..The salsa that accompanied the had a great tang, on the spicy side with fresh chunks of cilantro and tomato- excellent!

Delicious, made to order, fresh and full of flavor! Qué fantastico. Super fun eating experience. You can sit (if w/kids), in between the store and the brewery, and they will serve you on your wine barrel.   (Yelp 1/8/17)

Where the innovative brewing takes place….

And the LB deserves credit for their enteprenaurial spirit and innovativeness.  For example, in January of 2016, they released a crowd-sourced beer brew – the @PDXBottleshare IPA...

What’s that?  Well read the description from their website:

“The beer was brewed during the December 2015 @PDXBottleShare event held in our taproom. Participants brought in a bottle of beer to share…and a bag of hops to contribute to the brew.

Nearly 40 people showed up to the event at Labrewatory, bringing in 50 bottles of beer and 23 different hops for the event brew!… For the IPA, Charlie used all of the hop additions in the mash and during fermentation- none in in the boil. He used a very low mash temperature and used traditional German mashing schedule to keep the beer dry, and then the beer was fermented with our house yeast strain from Imperial Organic.”

And the creativity is also reflected in their activities.  In six years of Beerchasing, I have not seen another combination of yoga and beer similar to what goes on once each month:

Monday nights are Yoga + Beer nights in Portland! The last Monday of each month is our class at Labrewatory…..After class we roll up our mats, spread out the tables and enjoy pints of their most recent (and tasty!) concoctions. This detox + retox class, led by Yoga + Beer instructor, Jana Bedard, is an all-levels flow yoga class. After class, yogis are invited to stay to enjoy a delicious beer!  

Yoga and Beer on the last Monday night of each month.

The cost is $20 for the yoga class and a pint or $15 just for the yoga.  (They didn’t offer a beer-only option for somebody who wanted to come and observe the class and just drink while they were inspired by those more motivated to stay in shape.)

There are other interesting stories and perhaps Charlie’s imagination got a little overzealous for one of his first creations.

Loligo vulgaris = squid. Supplied the ink for one of Charlie’s first beers

“…..It’s not too often that a brewer gets so much creative freedom to make beer. Then you get to ask yourself, ‘how far can you push the limits’?”   A cherry Gose brined with squid ink. Yes, squid ink. The ink will act as the salty agent in the beer and give an enticing dark color.”   11 November http://labrewatory.com/meet-our-first-brewer/  

Then there was another one based on an idea by a fellow brewer as documented in New School Beer.com: http://www.newschoolbeer.com/2015/12/the-labrewatory-is-now-brewing-up-strange-brews.html

“This beer was still clearing up in the tank but poured a milky yellow and is spiced with lemongrass, coconut milk, Thai chilies and fish sauce. It wasn’t half bad, though, and I think will get better after clearing up and getting some carbonation.”

No need to follow the steps of Pierre and Marie Curie when brewing….

Perhaps those experiments go beyond the cutting edge and maybe it’s a good thing Charlie got his PhD in chemical and not nuclear engineering.  (He might decide to do some brewing with Radium – that’s Ra and atomic number 88 in the Periodic Table.)  While I have no problem with brewing creativity, I don’t want to have to use a Geiger counter when having a brewski…..

Check out the Labrewatory.  You will enjoy it and there are a lot of other good bars nearby if you want to make it an evening.

Labrewatory        

670 N. Russell Street

 

 

 

Roll Out the Barrel at the House of Sour..

Cascade Barrel House is kind of an unassuming structure on SE Belmont Street  – a plain rectangular building with a large row of windows on the front and an awning over a patio accommodating a number of picnic tables in front.

It has essentially no ambiance, but that was offset because I was having another lunch with my favorite group of tax lawyers – not a group which you would expect to demand a rich environment – just one which allows a break from interpreting provisions of the Internal Revenue Code

The interior is also kind of stark – a few round wooden tables with steel stools and a bar which faces a bunch of taps ingrained in six barrel-type housings.  Two big screen TVs are available for watching sporting events.

A bit of a stark interior

To be clear, this is not a review of the Raccoon Lodge and Brew Pub, which is the primary Cascade Brewing facility – located in SW Portland.  http://raclodge.com/

While we had no expectation of an intriguing interior – typical of most dive bars (like the recently reviewed and nearby Gil’s Speakeasy) and many breweries, at least the beer at Cascade does have interesting and unusual characteristics.

Gils Speakeasy – no sour beer, but dive bar ambiance!

As one enters, a large barrel-end  displayed on the wall with the words “House of Sour” in large black letters greets the customer.  A majority (about 12 or 13 of the 18 beers on tap) are considered sour beer. 

According to their website: “A sour beer is one that has been deliberately brewed to achieve high levels of acidity. This elevated acidity delivers a predominantly sour flavor to the beer as opposed to the bitter or sweet flavors found in standard ales and lagers.”  (But there’s a lot more to sour beers – see below)

Cascade Brewing was founded in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception.  In fact, Cascade has a long-term reputation – even nationally,  for its sour beer.  “Cascade Brewing makes a variety of ales, but has made a name for themselves as pioneers of very distinct sour beers……distributed in eight states across the country.”  (Cascade web sight)

“After tasting twenty different sour, wild and farmhouse beers from all over the country ……..Cascade’s 2014 Kriek, a (barrel-aged) sour cherry beer brewed in the Belgian style …… was the best sour beer of them all……in a national survey conducted by New York Times on sour beer.”   Willamette Week 9/9/16

How was our lunch at Cascade Barrel House? (hereafter CBH)  Well, there’s a limited menu – a few decent sharable appetizers, four sandwiches – kind of expensive with most at $10.50 and $11.00 not including a side dish – three were available ala-carte for $1.50 to $2 extra – and four salad options.

Reuben sandwiches not a strength although at least they weren’t sour!

Coincidentally (and maybe because of the lack of choice), all five of us had a pork pastrami-Reuben sandwich ($10.50), which I thought was somewhat mediocre especially for the price, and would not order again.

Goose Hollow’s Claim

For example, compare the Reuben at former Portland Mayor Bud Clark’s Goose Hollow Inn, which advertises it’s sandwich as “The best Reuben on the Planet.”   Based on Thebeerchaser’s experience several times, this may not be an exaggeration and it is available with sides for $9.95 and $10.95.

Small glass of Oblique Coffee House Blonde

Three of the five of us had beers – all Cascade’s own – Oblique Coffee Blonde Stout – 6.5% ABV  (This blonde coffee stout features 1-1/4 lbs per barrel of single origin coffee beans from Colombia called El Corazon, roasted locally by Oblique coffee roasters.

Aromas of sweet, bright, fruity coffee with hints of caramel percolate from the glass. Smooth caramel, cream and coffee notes dance on the palate and lead to a soft, creamy caramel finish.”  (Rate Beer.com)  

And the dark Sang Noir – a whopping 9.5% ABV (“This deep, dark double red was aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels, then blended with a barrel of Bing cherries.” – Beer Advocate.com)  Reaction to both was very good – they were unusual and not available at most pubs.

The Sang Noir

And when I asked retired Schwabe Williamson lawyer, Pete Osborne how he liked his Cascade IPA – 5.7% ABV, he replied, “It was okay, but I’m not a good judge.  The only bad beer, in my opinion, is an empty glass!”

Prices for the beer are on the high side – eight ounce sour mugs run from $6-8 with pints of non-sour about $5 or $6.   I had one of the small glasses for $2.50  – this is one place, given the characteristics of the beer, where the small glasses of beers may be a good idea to hone in on one that comports with your taste in sour beer – provided you have one.   If not, you can always try the Cascade IPA, which also gets good reviews.

And the staff was very efficient and helpful – both our server and bartender, who answered some questions about the history of Cascade.

Friendly, helpful staff

Now before you lose your pucker, let’s talk a little more about the concept of sour beer.  I tried to gain a rudimentary knowledge after visiting CBH and admit, there’s more involved in brewing this type of beer than meets the palate – like a bunch of chemistry, microbiology and technical brewing stuff.  But remember, notwithstanding the name, this blog is primarily about bars – not the beverage served……

According to an article in the March 19, 2015 edition of Paste Magazineentitled “The Beginner’s Guide to Sour Beer”: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2015/03/beginners-guide-to-sour-beer.html

A Yeast Cell

Sours get their trademark tartness and sourness from bacteria and wild yeasts – Lactobacillis, Acetobacter, Brettanyomyces and other critters that you wouldn’t find in other styles of beer. 

Each type of bacteria gives its own trademark flavor and aroma…..For some of the sour styles, the wild bacteria and yeast come into the beer during an open or spontaneous fermentation (something that sounds like a college date…..) with open vats of wort exposed to natural air. 

As the barrels get older, the more sour the beer gets, which leads to the common practice of blending beer from several different barrels, young and old to get a consistent beer.”

And its tricky and uncertain because evidently rather than the sterile environment of modern brewing, wild yeast and bacteria are introduced rather than pure yeast cultures and because the beer can take months to ferment and years to mature.”  (Wikipedia

Our bartender emphasized how long it takes to age the sours and this may be one reason that while the tasting room at CBH is very small, according to their website, they have another 5,000 square feet where sour beers are aging in barrels.

And boy do they have a wide range of bottled fruit beer selections – enough for your quota of fruit for the month and possibly tempting you to plant the bottles in your yard to see if they might grow at your home i.e. tangerine, apricot, strawberry (3 different years), blackcap-raspberry, raspberry, blueberry (3), cranberry (3) and elderberry (2).

If you just want a good pub or bar experience, the Cascade Barrel House isn’t necessarily a great option.  And if you decide to try it, you might want to check them out on “Tap It Tuesday” nights at 6:00 when they tap a new creation which gets good reviews.  Happy Hour is Monday-Friday from 4:00 to 6:00.

But if you want to explore sour beers or if you are a real fan of the concept, the CBH is a good bet.

Gils – after your sour beer and to quench thirst for a PBR

And maybe another option is to have a good (albeit expensive) sour beer and then walk just five blocks to Gil’s Speakeasy for a great environment and a $1.50 happy hour PBR nightcap. You can.even listen to Dion and the Belmonts sing “Teenager in Love” on the classic juke box!

Cascade Barrel House      939 SE Belmont Street

 

 

Gil’s Speakeasy – “We’re the nicest a-holes in town……”

Gil’s Speakeasy – A classic dive at the bottom of an apartment building with no sign…..

Since January 1, 2017, Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Bars, Taverns and Pubs has featured nine venues consisting of two breweries or brew pubs, four neighborhood bars, a sports bar and the Multnomah Whisky Library which really defies classification. You may have noticed that there are no dive bars in this categorization..

This is typical of a “sparkling” new brew pub.  Breakside in the Pearl

The above does not count six additional brewpubs/breweries visited, but not yet posted including the relatively new digs at Breakside’s and Ten Barrel’s Pearl District facilities and Flyboy’s new location in Tigard.

Also included is our visit to three enjoyable and classy breweries on the North Oregon Coast – Astoria’s Fort George and Buoy and the Seaside Brewery in late April.  Stay tuned in the next few months for narratives on all of these.

This (Club 21) is typical of a dive bar

One of Thebeerchasers favorite (former) dive bars – RIP Club 21

So it is fitting, and possibly imperative, to return to my favorite type of watering hole – the classic dive bar.  And the latest bar visited needs no rationalization why it fits that description.  Gil’s Speakeasy has been around since 1939 and derives its moniker from the Prohibition saloons which weren’t identified by signs or external labels.

These places that served alcohol had to stay hidden.  The regulars (and usually the cops) knew where they were, but admission was selective.

The current status of the Club 21 building – yes, that’s graffiti….

Note:  This blog has previously shared the concern about the disappearance of some of Portland’s most sacrosanct dive bars.  In this case, take a look at both a past and a more recent photo of the iconic Club 21 as the historic structure awaits demolition.  With development in SE Portland, Gil’s Speakeasy could see the same future.

Former City Club of Portland’s Interim Executive Director and now consultant, Greg Wallinger, and I visited Gil’s on my first trip to the saloon.  Greg was also on a previous successful Beerchasing event at The Rambler – one of my favorite neighborhood bars.

Our plan was to meet for a brewski at the Charlie Horse Saloon – also a dive bar which is on SE Morrison, but we were greeted with a locked door and a sign stating, “Closed for Remodeling.”

Closed for remodeling

Parking in that vicinity is a challenge and based on the picture below, which is typical of ongoing development, it’s not going to get better.

As I walked the three and one-half blocks to the Charlie Horse from my car, I remembered seeing what looked like it might be a bar on the ground floor of a large, three-story apartment building on SE Taylor.

How many parking spaces do you think will accrue to this SE PDX apartment building???

We made the return trip and I was correct.  Though it had no sign with the name of the place and only a slit-type peephole in the door, a classic neon Pabst and a Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum sign indicated that this wasn’t a coffee shop and we walked into what PDXbars.com’s Best Bars” succinctly (and accurately described) as,  Small, hard to find bar with a huge personality.”

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

Followers of this blog understand how a dive bar earns the label (and can be reminded by examining the following post) https://thebeerchaser.com/2011/09/18/analyzing-dive-bars-head-first/— but one characteristic of which I’m fond are the signs and bric-a-brac lining the shelves and much of the interior of dive bars.

In Gils’ case our favorite was, “The consumption of alcohol may actually cause pregnancy.”

As you walk in, you’re greeted to a spacious, albeit appropriately dingy, space divided by the large bar into two sections.  The bar has a wonderful and very typical collection of signs, old bottles, photos and memorabilia throughout.

On the right side is an old pool table with red felt and what is a pretty good juke box, a Big Buck Hunter video game and a classic pinball. (The Sopranos)

Big Buck Hunter included

Albums ranging from Otis Redding to Dion and the Belmonts…..

And I might add, that while dive bars have their faults, one item which seems to fit in well in most, is a good juke box.  In this case, it had a slew of albums ranging from those by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, to Pearl Jam, Guns N Roses and even the popular vocal group from the ’50’s, Dion and the Belmonts. (The last one seems a little counterintuitive as I don’t think any of the regulars would appreciate hearing the group’s main hit, Teenager in Love even though it hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March,1959.)

The focus on the bar’s left side is a large shuffleboard game described by Willamette Week in its “2015 Best of Portland” issue:

“Shuffleboard is no longer only the sport of septuagenarians on cruise ships. With its crowded floors, greasy snacks and affordable beer, Gil’s Speakeasy has all the necessary components for a great shuffleboard experience.”

One of Portlands best shuffleboards

Another distinguishing factor is the ceiling at Gil’s which is filled with chalked comments, drawings and signatures (reminiscent of The Twilight Room visited back in 2011 – a month after I started this journey).

The ceiling at Gil’s

I asked the bartender, who was a nice woman named Katie, (or it might be KT) “Who’s Gil?” and she replied that he is the co-owner of the bar (since 2004) and her husband – Brett Gilhuly.  The couple also own the Twilight Cafe and Bar at 14th and Powell, which is a bar that hosts rock groups most evenings.

Bartender and wife of the owner, Katie, with Judd, who in one review was called, “The best bartender in town.”

When interviewed by the Portland Tribune in August 2012, about the historical lack of signage, Gil stated:

The door at Gil’s – You won’t see a sign…..

“If you could find it, you were more than welcome to come in, and if you couldn’t, find something else.” 

He followed by asserting that when he took over the bar he never gave a thought to the lack of a sign. 

Unless it was in the woman’s bathroom, I could not find the old foosball table that was referenced in some reviews. (Katie told me in a subsequent phone call that it broke down and they took it out about a month ago).

 

The Men’s Head at Gil’s

 

But speaking of toilet facilities, the men’s head was a tribute to dive bar “climate” (although not comparable to that found at the Yamhill Pub which should have been declared an environmental hazard.)

Yamhill Pub – envir.  hazard?

We ordered two beers after reviewing the twelve on tap which, of course, included PBR and Rainier, and Greg opted for Santiam Brewing’s Pirate Stout, while I had a Seaside Brewing ESB – my first of a number of future encounters with this excellent pale ale.

The beer list is certainly adequate and like most dives, at a very reasonable price.  For example, you can get a pint of PBR or Rainier for $2 or $1.50 if its Happy Hour (small pitchers are $3!)  The most expensive pint if it’s not at HH is $4.50 for quality beers such as Boneyard, Lagunitas or Oakshire

Now the regular menu at Gil’s is what you might expect at a dive bar – a few salads, chili and nine different sandwiches ranging from $7 to $9, but the really distinguishing factor is their daily specials, which are notable enough to require itemization:

The Sloppy Joe and chips – What a bargain for $1.50 on Fridays

Saturday –  Chili Dog  – $3

Monday  –  Three Tacos  $1 – also Dirty Bingo night…

Tuesday – Turkey and Mashers with Salad – $6.50 or Turkey sandwich – $5

Wednesday – Pork sliders – $1.50

Thursday – Prime Rib – $10   from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM (See note below) or French Dip – $5 all day

Friday – Sloppy Joes – $1

Tell me where you can score a better deal and the past reviews are good.  For example, this one from Yelp 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.”

As we look at the prime rib special, take a look at this quote on dive bars:

“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….”  (Seattle’s Best Dive Bars by Mike Seely – pages 9-10)

Now while the price may not be the same as in Depression days in the quote above, look at the price of the prime rib special from this review in 2010:

Been here 10+ times. Best prime rib in Portland. Thursdays prime rib with salad and bread $10.00.”

Well, if you walk in Gil’s on a Thursday from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, you can still get a 6 1/2 ounce of prime rib at Gil’s for $10.00 (for which Gil is the personal cook) or up to a 16 ounce slab for $25.  (There were no recent reviews commenting on the prime rib.)

From Gil’s Facebook page

And to conclude, I asked Katie if she knew who had originated their motto, since Gil’s slogan asserts that they are “the nicest a%$ holes in town.”  She didn’t know and I thought the people I met at Gil’s were quality individuals, but to digress for a moment on a more scholarly note on what is becoming a more compelling, contemporary issue, you might want to check out a recent New York Times best seller by philosopher, Aaron James, entitled “Assholes – A Theory.”

James presents a theory of the asshole that is both intellectually provocative and existentially necessary.  What does it mean for someone to be an asshole? The answer is not obvious, despite the fact that we are often personally stuck dealing with people for whom there is no better name.

Gil’s – great dive bar ambiance

Try as we might to avoid them, assholes are found everywhere and in multiple iterations: smug assholes, royal assholes, the presidential asshole, corporate assholes, reckless assholes. The list goes on.   Asshole management begins with asshole understanding. Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so….”   

The above could be an absorbing topic of discussion especially while swilling a $2 pitcher of PBR with a friend.   And while you’re at it and considering the current political environment, you might want to reflect on a related best-selling tome by former (January, 2012) Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Dr. Harry Frankfurt, Princeton Professor Emeritus and author of the brilliant book On Bullshit.” 

Dr. Frankfurt in his 2005 book asserts:

The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.  And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us.  In other words, we have no theory.”

Dr. Harry Frankfurt – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter in 2012

To remedy this sad state of affairs, Dr. Frankfurt proposes (and brilliantly succeeds):

“……..to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory analysis…..My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not.”

And in what will remain as one of the treasured pieces of correspondence related to this blog, I offer Dr. Frankfurt’s response when I informed him that he had received the title of Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter:

From: Harry G. Frankfurt

Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012

To: Williams, Donald

Subject: RE: Hello Dr. Frankfurt

Dear Mr. Williams,

First of all, thank you for the honor of naming me the January 12, 2012 Beerchaser of the Quarter.  I have looked at the blog in which you announced my receipt of this distinction, and I was impressed by its wit, its charm, and its erudition.  Also, I enjoyed the pictures.  I intend to follow your blog regularly.  Anyhow, thanks very much for writing.  Sincerely,  Harry Frankfurt

________________________________________

From: Williams, Donald [DWilliams@schwabe.com]

Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Subject: Hello Dr. Frankfurt

Dr. Frankfurt, during your distinguished career as a professor and an author, you have undoubtedly received many honors and much acclaim. I would like to inform you about one additional plaudit, although it pales with those previously received. You were named the January 12, 2012 Beerchaser of the Month on my blog www.thebeerchaser.com<http://www.thebeerchaser.com

One of my lawyer friends in the firm gave me a copy of your book, On Bullshit a few years ago and I loved it. While I could be described as a purveyor of bullshit at times during my tenure at the firm, I did not often have the opportunity to write creatively. Memos regarding law firm statistics, strategic planning and operational issues tend to be on the dry side. My blog has been a wonderful chance to remedy that and I wanted to share some excerpts from your book with my followers in the context of an essay, which I tried to relate to my bar tour and the presidential election cycle.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of your works now that I am retired and thank you for the hours of enjoyment I got from reading your book and sharing its wisdom with others.  Sincerely,   Don Williams

“Blow Before You Go”

And if you get too enthused in your discussion and are concerned that you drank too much beer in too little time, there is a breathalyzer right by the door to determine whether you need to catch a cab for the ride home. (“Wait 10 minutes after last drink for best results….”)

Regardless of whether you want to talk about a best seller, mingle with friends, have one of their daily specials or just have a pint of Rainier and reminisce about the good old days, you should drop by Gil’s Speakeasy, one of Portland’s venerable watering holes.

Gil’s Speakeasy         609 1/2 SE Taylor