Thebeerchaser’s 8th Annual Report – 2019

240 blog posts totaling 370,188 words since 2011

A little over eight years ago, I hesitantly walked into my first bar as Thebeerchaser.  Having recently retired as COO of the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt law firm, I became convinced after visiting Lumpy’s Landing in Dundee, Oregon and the Stanley Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon in Idaho, that visiting and writing about bars, breweries and pubs would be an interesting hobby.

The Rod and Gun in Stanley

Thanks to the warm greeting I got at the Brooklyn Park Pub when I told Phoebe, the bartender, in August 2011, that her bar was the first of what I hoped would be many on this somewhat curious project, I was motivated to go forth!

She gave me a BPP cap and autographed it, gave me great info on the bar and posed for a picture.

 

Phoebe – where it all started….

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of 2019

The count of watering holes I had visited and reviewed (Unless on the road, I virtually always hit a watering hole twice to get a more accurate picture.)  was 287 establishments of which 111 were in the Portland metro area and the other 176 in locations ranging from Europe to most regions of the US and all over Oregon – from the coast to the desert in Eastern Oregon.

For the complete list, check out the link below which categorizes them by year and in or out of Portland.  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/01/17/hey-have-you-seen-thebeerchaser-during-the-last-seven-years/

2019 Was a Very Good Year

The Gemini – a classic in Lake Oswego

Now the good news is I visited more bars this year than in any since the blog’s inception – 80.  I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that only 8 of those were in the Portland area – another 1 on the Oregon Coast and 3 in Washington.

The Caroline Tavern in Seattle

All of the remaining 68 were on three trips – Phoenix for Spring Training in March (8) and two wonderful road trips – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas in June (48) and the Southwest (New Mexico and Colorado) in September (12).

To see the list for each trip, click on the links above.  The picture below from the Trappers’ Bar in Eureka, Montana was one of my favorites.

The chart below will give you the history by year of “Thebeerchasers 366”

Year Portland Outside Portland Yearly Total Composite Total
2019 8 72 80 366
2018 12 30 42 286
2017 15 27 42 244
2016 14 39 53 202
2015 11 36 47 149
2014 17 17 34 102
2013 13 21 34 68
2012 20 5 25 34
2011 9 0 9 9
  119 247 366

Blog Statistics

I’m pleased to state that Thebeerchaser.com for the fourth year in a row, had over 20,000 “visits” or internet hits – with 20,030 in 2019 by 14,800 individuals – that means each person who reached the blog looked at  an average of 1.35 different posts.

The Flag of Ukraine –

Persons from 111 different countries found Thebeerchaser with 17,621 from the US with India in second place at  601 hits.

And even the Ukraine registered 9 although I can’t tell if any were from the Embassy staff.   As was the case in 2018, one bold individual from Iraq took at least a momentary glimpse.  That’s where internet sites featuring bars and alcohol are probably discouraged…..

Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter

First Quarter 2020 – B-O-Q

While the number of bars I hit was a new high in 2019, I was remiss in “honoring” Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, naming only two last year.

I have already got three good candidates for 2020, so that performance issue will be SOLVed.  (That’s a hint for the first quarter as is the untitled picture here.)

Retired Colonel Terry “Spike” McKinsey

Terry McKinsey became a friend when we were shipmates on our first midshipman cruise on a WW II destroyer – the USS John R. Craig – DD 885 – he from the US Naval Academy and me from Oregon State NROTC.   We discovered that we attended rival high schools in Oregon – he West Linn and me Oregon City. 

Two other middies on that cruise were Larry Walters also USNA and Ken Guest from University of Kansas NROTCThe four of us spent the summer learning about how a ship operates, trying to meet young debutantes at Navy sponsored dances and making fools of ourselves on liberty in Honolulu and San Francisco.

Larry and Terry on 1/c Midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean

Terry and Larry took their commissions in the United States Marine Corps.    Terry married Anna, his college sweetheart and they had two children during their forty-nine year marriage.

Spike distinguished himself as an aviator and had a remarkable career after the USMC including Base Commander of the Oregon Air National Guard and as the Assistant Chief Pilot for Horizon Airlines.

After a lapse in contact, we reconnected in the mid-1980’s through a humorous business incident when Spike had moved back to Oregon and I was Business Manager at the Schwabe firm.

Terry died last January after a short illness. My reason for trying to honor Terry with his story including the legendary “steamroller escapade” at West Linn High School when he was on summer leave from the Academy is summarized well by this quote from Larry, his classmate and best friend since Academy days:

I met Terry ‘Spike’ McKinsey in 1966.  The country was chaotic and would get worse.  But for Terry, the choices were always clear.  He was guided by his love of God, family, good friends, and country.   He didn’t have to tell you about it, he lived it!”

To read the story and remarkable service of this amazing patriot, athlete and family-man, click on the link above on his name.

John Runkle

After visiting 366 bars, I can say without equivocation, my favorite and the most interesting was the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak Montana.   And John Runkle, the owner of both the bar and the nearby Yaak River Lodge where I stayed for two nights in the Moose Room during my two nights in Yaak was a clear choice for Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

This former paratrooper and California real estate entrepreneur is a prime reason why the Shame  got three separate Beerchaser posts and more print in this blog than any of the waterholes during the past eight years.

He bought the Lodge in 2004 and the Saloon at auction in 2013 after the ignominious departure of the former owner left it in foreclosure (after being extradited back to Maryland).   John was the driving force to bring this fabled dive back to the status which had made it a destination for bikers, hunters and Beerchasers as well as a community gathering place.

John is a charismatic guy, who is a great story teller, born salesman and shepherds community events such as the Crawfish Festival, Yaak Attack and the Sasquatch Festival.

 

 

 

 

When we had a discussion in the bar with, Todd Berget – who died later last year – John described his friend as a guy “having a political philosophy slightly left of Stalin…” 

Todd and I tried to tell him without result that his politics were somewhat misguided and John needed to shift back and reflect some of his California upbringing, but at least we all ended laughing, shaking our heads and toasting  rather than cursing each other. (Rest in Peace, Todd!)

Todd and John – Still smiling after discussing national politics…

John puts in a work week at the Lodge and Saloon that would “shame” most people. his age.

He is also a devoted family man.   His beautiful wife, Dallas, just delivered their second daughter in August, shortly after I was in Yaak.

 

 

 

 

 

As author, Joan Melcher, wrote in her second book Watering Holes  – A User’s Guide to Montana Bars (Page 88):

“The Dirty Shame is the fresh, sharp smell of pine, and the dank odor of dirt-laden, beer-splashed floors, wild nights of revelry and mornings of shared pain.” 

The Dirty Shame was on my bucket list before my trip and now is the only item on that dwindling slate that returned to the list after getting there. If John Runkle stays in Yaak, you should add it to yours’ as well.

And 2019 Final Highlights

Beerchasing has been a wonderful hobby for a guy whose friends and family wondered how he was going to “survive” retirement.   As I’ve stated before, “I really like beer – especially a $2.50 Happy Hour PBR – but I could go to the bars and drink soda water rather than alchohol and continue this hobby indefinitely.”

My wife, Janet, has been a wonderful Beerchasing companion on our trips and even flew into Billings to join me so I could spend the first six nights solo – driving through Montana (in a Prius with no gun rack and a Starbucks mug) meeting bartenders and regulars at thirty historic bars before we continued to Wyoming and the Dakotas.

One of the highlights was hitting my 300th bar in June at the Leaky Roof in Portland, which was more memorable because I was joined by my friend of forty years, Denny Ferguson.

And for those of you who followed Thebeerchaser from the beginning and have continued through this post in January, 2020, you have read 241 posts which filled you with 372,173 words about bars, breweries and interesting people.  Thanks for sharing your time on this pursuit with me.

An always cheerful and youthful looking, Fergy..

The people I met this year continue to be unforgettable and supportive ranging from Ernie Bob at Second Street Brewing in Santa Fe to Edmonds Wash. Daphne’s Bar, legendary mixologist, Demond van Rensberg.

Ernie Bob and Janet in Santa Fe

Then there was Pete Pete Andrijeski of Seattlebars.org  King of the Beerchasers with 3,906 bars reviewed since he started his journey in 2006.  (1,659 of the bars in Seattle)

I met Pete at Daphne’s after coming across one of his posts when I was researching the history of the Caroline Tavern in Seattle.

Pete and Desmond on our night drinking cocktails at Daphne’s

And I can’t forget James “Horse” McHorsney, who is a regular at Eiler’s Place in Pueblo, Colorado.   Horse is in both of the pictures you see here and to learn the story, click on the following link:  https://thebeerchaser.com/2019/12/28/pueblo-rich-in-history-and-dive-bars/  

The Benedictine Brewery

Followers of the blog know I have been involved with this unique project for the last three years as a volunteer and I am proud to report that since the Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom opened in September, 2018, it has been an impressive success.

Fr. Martin, the head brewer and general manager has now developed seven beers after the initial positive reception to Black Habit – our flagship beer and his brews have drawn rave reviews.

The Brewery is one of only three in the US where the monks own and operate the enterprise.  Plan on coming to the Taproom in Mt. Angel and visiting the beautiful Abbey Hilltop.

Beerchasing Event at the New Oakshire Beer Hall

In October, about thirty Beerchasing friends gathered at the Oakshire Beer Hall in NE Portland to try out the establishment which opened in July – a Portland addition to the popular Oakshire Brewery in Eugene.  One of the attendees was Oakshire Brewing Board member, Dr. Sam Holloway, a professor at the University of Portland, President of Crafting a Strategy and a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.

Br. Thomas, Sam Holloway and Fr. Martin at the Oakshire Beerchasing

Thanks to the followers of this blog for their support and if you have suggestions for bars or breweries to add to my travels in 2020, please let me know by a blog comment or send an e-mail to dwilliams2951@gmail.com.

Although some might think it redundant, I loved the piece by Edgar Allen Poe which I used to end 2018.  While he is not known for a positive outlook, Poe got this one right!

Happy New Year.

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

At least he was positive about ale!

The list of the bar’s outside Portland can be found at the links in the narrative above.   The list of Portland establishments is shown below:

2019 Portland Area Bars

  Name Location Type Date of Post
2018-1 The Gemini Bar and Grill Lake Oswego Neighborhood January
2018-2 Old Town Brewing NE Brewery and Pub February
2018-3 Xport Bar and Lounge SW Hotel Bar – Hotel Porter June
2018-4 Bantam Tavern NW Neighborhood April
2018-5 The Leaky Roof SW Neighborhood June
2018-6 Roots Lake Oswego Non-profit Neighborhood August
2018-7 Oakshire Beer Hall NE Brewpub October
2018-8 Mad Hanna NE Dive Bar October

Big Sky Beerchasing – The Preface

Just above Kootenai Falls near Libby, Montana

On a back road right outside Yaak, Montana

In June, we took a combined fourteen-day road trip through Montana with subsequent stops in North and South Dakota and Wyoming, before returning home through Montana, Idaho and Oregon’s Columbia Gorge.  The magnificence of the vistas we encountered each day is still ingrained in our minds.

I use the term “combined” because on the first six days of the trip, I soloed – driving slightly over 1,400 miles starting with two nights in Yaak, Montana (stay tuned to find out why I chose that destination) and with overnight stays in Kalispell, Hamilton, Anaconda and Livingston, before picking Janet up at the airport in Billings.

The Grand Hotel in downtown Kalispell – which was both historic and grand!

(I should add that the idea for the solo part of my trip for which I am indebted to my wife of 39 years, originated in 2004, when for ten days of my law firm sabbatical, I traveled 2,600 miles through Eastern Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana enjoying our beautiful Western scenery.)

This time a Prius instead of a Subaru….

The pictures show the difference between the first trip and this one – I look a lot older now and I wised up and even though it looked cool to carry a bike on the back of the car, my plan on this trip was to rent a cycle if I had the opportunity to work that in.

In the 2004 trip, because of two flat tires, I ended riding a total of four blocks while lugging the bike the entire way!

 

The day I left in 2004 – this time in a Subaru Forrester with a mountain bike (for decoration…)

On the earlier trip, I was still working and had not started my idiosyncratic retirement hobby of Beerchasing although a visit to one of the few bars at which I made stops – The Stanley Idaho Rod and Gun Whitewater Saloon – was a key factor in germinating the idea for my Beerchasing Tour – started in August 2011. (My wife and I returned to the Rod and Gun on another road trip in 2016 after I started the blog.)

From Billings, the two of us then tacked on another 2,300 miles, visiting three National Parks (Teddy Roosevelt, Badlands and Wind Cave), one National Monument (Jewel Cave), two Memorials (Mt. Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial) and what has to be one of the most impressive and expansive state parks in the US – Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Badlands National Park

Now since this is a blog about bars, saloons and breweries, and in order not to disappoint Beerchaser followers, I have to add that the combined total of establishments visited (meaning having a drink or meal and interacting with the bartender or customers and not just making an entrance) was 49, of which 30, I enjoyed on my first six days.

Trappers’ Saloon in Eureka Montana – the third day on the way to Kalispell

The remaining nineteen saw both of us participating.  The picture of Trapper’s Saloon above in Eureka, Montana is a sample of the rich environment that characterized the great majority of the bars and breweries.

A bar with a rich history in the metropolis of Wise River…

I  have to add that some may think the statistics above demonstrate an unhealthy obsession with establishments operated primarily for the sale of intoxicating spirits.  In defense, I would suggest that the usually brief visits we paid are one of the best methods to meet new and interesting people, find out what should be seen in a new city and in the case of older bars, educate oneself on rich and fascinating history.

The Dewey Tavern

In addition, it spurred us to visit smaller cities such as Eureka, Troy, Miles City and Wise River that we otherwise would have just passed by.

We hit establishments in twenty-seven different bergs on the trip.  Stay tuned for the posts on this journey and you will have a better appreciation.

Note:  Since I started Beerchasing, I realized that it was imperative that I drink responsibly in visiting the bars/breweries and never get behind the wheel without being absolutely sober,.

So to allay any concern about that issue, while alone, I would space my visits throughout the day and usually consumed a single bottle of Miller High Life (by the way, an excellent brew and deserving of the label, “The Champagne of Beers” rather than a pint of microbrew.  My visits to most of the bars would last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Sometimes I would just have a soda water and when Janet and I were Beerchasing, we inevitably shared a pint or would have two or three four-ounce samplers between us.

Since I worked in legal management for over thirty years and a considerable part of my job was being immersed in statistics, I should point out the overall total would compute to one watering hole, for every 75.5 miles traveled.

The chart at the end of this post gives a complete listing including the name and location.   In several subsequent posts, I will highlight or at least offer some brief comments on each one, but this post is intended to set the stage.

Why Start and Spend Two Nights in Yaak?

For three years, visiting the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak – up near the Canadian border in NW Montana was a personal, if not peculiar, goal of mine.

John Runkle – owner of the Dirty Shame

Since talking to a bartender in Idaho, who used to work there and subsequently calling the owner, former Army paratrooper, John Runkle and doing a short post on his revival of the Dirty Shame when he purchased it out of foreclosure in 2013, visiting it has been on my bucket list.

Blueberry Pancake Breakfast in the Lodge

And the two nights I spent in the Moose Room of the outstanding Yaak River Lodge – John is also the owner – and my time spent hanging at the bar and interviewing John, were a wonderful start to my trip – one which you will be reading about in future posts. 

I presented him with two bottles of Benedictine Beer from the monk-owned brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon which now occupy a shelf in the Dirty Shame Saloon.

The Dirty Shame had the most stories of any of the 300 watering holes I’ve reviewed in over seven years — and they are all true!!

Thebeerchaser and John Runkle with the ceremonial presentation of Benedictine Beer

Janet was willing to go on a road trip through Montana but agreed to my six-day solo venture because although she likes breweries, she has an aversion to the dive bars I cherish.   She also thought the opportunity for me to read, reflect and see some wonderful scenery on my own would be enriching.

Ubiquitous!!

I use this term meaning “found everywhere” to recognize my long-term and cherished friendship with Oregon State SAE fraternity brother and former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Craig – The Dude – Hanneman, for his legendary athletic, mountaineering and notable professional accomplishments. 

Back in the last ’60’s at OSU – Thebeerchaser and The Dude

Kirby Neuman-Rhea, the Editor of the Hood River News is also part of the tale. The story behind our attachment to this word is too long to relate the background, but it’s funny. 

There were certain features or characteristics that one encountered everywhere in Montana and, for the most part, added to its charm and distinction.

Big Sky Scenery – One was the beautiful and varied scenery – it made the miles of road never boring.  The stunning vistas made it difficult not to stop and take photos.  It became obvious why Montana is commonly referred to as “Big Sky Country.”

Straight Roads – Speaking of miles of roads, those roads were often long and straight – not only the Interstate, but the State highways we traveled.  Janet was driving when I took this picture.

And miles to go before I sleep….

Taxidermy – virtually every bar and many of the breweries had mounted wildlife as part of the bar’s décor.  In some cases it was overwhelming, but in most, it accurately reflected the culture of the state.

A little research revealed that there are 205 taxidermists registered in the state and Helena even has the Montana School of Taxidermy and Tanning.   And this year’s annual convention of the Montana Taxidermists’ Association in Billings was the most well-attended ever according to the Billings Gazette.

Now one may disagree with the entire concept of hunting (I went hunting for deer one time in junior high and never had the desire to do it again…)  but it appears that taxidermists and most of hunters use the entire animal and don’t just kill for sport.   As evidence, the sign on this firm which I photographed in Anaconda.

Crosses Along the Highway – Montana has a very high rate of traffic fatalities.  It’s a combination of a high speed limit especially in rural areas, bad weather and road conditions in many months of the year and a high rate of alcohol consumption.  

In my first few days, I kept seeing crosses along the highways – even in very remote areas and wondered about the background. According to a  2004 article in the Billings Gazettethis program started in 1953 by the American Legion and is done solely by volunteers.

By 2015, there were more than 2,000 crosses erected.  Last year the 181 traffic fatalities was the third straight year the death toll dropped because of State programs to reduce car accidents.  And seeing those symbols is a sobering reminder to drive responsibly.

Casinos – Although many Oregon bars have video poker, the number of “casinos” in Montana and the signs advertising them is annoying – they are everywhere (or one might say, “ubiquitous…”).

The licenses for bars and restaurants are cheap and they can have up to 20 video games in the establishment although most bar “casinos” only had about five to ten.  There are also six tribal casinos.

Ubiquitous!

According to GamblingSites.com, there are “1.033 million people spread out across 147,000 square miles…. and Montana offers 292 different gambling establishments.”

Recreational Vehicles (RV’s) and Long-haul Truckers – I’m sure that the number on the road is similar to other states which have major Interstates.

I was amazed, however, at the quantity and diverse makes of RVs – usually with the male driving and the female in the co-pilot role.  I’m interested in how the economic analysis of RV travel verses lodging and eating in inexpensive or moderately priced motels and restaurants charts out…..

Class A RVs – the baby boomers’ luxury ride.

Long-haul trucks were an oft-repeated vehicle one passed on all of the Montana.  And I have the utmost respect for the long-haul owner/operators.  They have a tough job and are skilled drivers which make the highways safer for the rest of us.

They typically drive these 80,000 pound behemoths (a single rig) between 2,000 to 3,000 miles per week and are often away from family usually for two to three weeks at a time.

Sirius Satellite Radio –  I subscribe to Sirius Radio on our Prius.   And the low monthly price was well worth it during the days on the road when the AM and FM frequencies would be hard to receive.

Other than a very few remote locations, I got the Sirius signal clearly and besides two cable news channels which admittedly have a politically biased slant, I also listened to channels called Bluesville, Yacht Rock, Soul Town, Rockin’ Country BBQ and Forties Junction.

Sirius Satellite was good company….

My music tastes are eclectic and I roared down the road rocking to the TemptationsGeorge Benson, George Jones and Don Williams, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller and America and Phoebe Snow. (I must have heard “Sister Golden Hair” at least twenty times and loved it.)

It was only when Yacht Rock teed up “Muskrat Love” by the Captain and Tennille that I drew the line because I did not have a vomit bag.

Muskrat Love was not vomit proof….

 

Fox News – Without getting immersed in politics, I will state that I am not a fan of Fox News (although I admit to being a moderate Republican) and its political commentators.

While in most Oregon bars, one sees multiple screens with athletic events, it appeared to me that there were fewer big screen TVs, but they were almost always turned to Fox be it in bars, restaurants or hotels.

Montana Humor

Many native Montanans are not happy about the influx of people from other states – most notably Californians moving to the state and buying up land.

The sign below reminded me of Oregon during the Governor Tom McCall era when we wanted people to “visit but not stay.”

Although there are political divisions and critical economic and natural resources facing the state, I was still impressed with the good nature, welcoming conversation (especially the bartenders and bar regulars with whom we interacted) and indications of the positive outlook and sense of humor of Montanans.

Given all that Janet and I witnessed, it begs the question:  “Why would Montana Governor Steve Bullock ever want to win the Presidency and move to Washington DC?”

Subtle, but funny….

Stay tuned for the next several month’s post on Thebeerchaser where I will tell the rich story of not only The Dirty Shame Saloon, but convey the highlights of many of the other historic bars we hit in Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho.

Also the great breweries, especially in Montana that now rank it second per capita in the US on number of breweries according to Statistica.com – only Vermont exceeds it while Oregon comes in at #4, right behind Maine.

Another example of Montana humor – in a field by Yaak.

List of Bars and Breweries Visited on our Trip

(The first thirty were visited by Don and the remainder by Don and Janet)

Name of Establishment City State
Kootenai Brewing Bonners Ferry Idaho
Dirty Shame Saloon Yaak Montana
Yaak River Tavern Yaak Montana
Silver Spur Bar Troy Montana
Cabinet Mountain Brewing Libby Montana
Mint Bar Libby Montana
Trappers’ Saloon Eureka Montana
Bull Dog Saloon Whitefish Montana
Blue Moon Bar and Nite Club Columbia Falls Montana
VFW Bar Kalispell Montana
Moose Saloon Kalispell Montana
Bias Brewing Kalispell Montana
Del’s Bar Somers Montana
Higher Ground Brewing Hamilton Montana
Bitter Root Brewing Hamilton Montana
Sawmill Saloon Darby Montana
Antler Saloon Wisdom Montana
Wise River Club Wise River Montana
Dewey Dewey Montana
Club Moderne Anaconda Montana
Owl Bar Anaconda Montana
Katabatic Brewing Livingston Montana
Livingston Bar and Grille Livingston Montana
Neptune Brewing Livingston Montana
Murray Hotel Bar Livingston Montana
Mint Bar and Grill Livingston Montana
Stockman Bar Livingston Montana
Whiskey Creek Saloon Livingston Montana
Atlas Bar Columbus Montana
Caboose Saloon Laurel Montana
Angry Hanks Microbrewery Billings Montana
Montana Brewing Co. Billings Montana
Uberbrew Billings Montana
Montana Bar Miles City Montana
Tubbs Pub Miles City Montana
Little Missouri Saloon Medora North Dakota
Boots Bar and Grill Medora North Dakota
Wild Bill Bar Deadwood South Dakota
Zymurcracy Beer Co. Rapid City South Dakota
Firehouse Brewing Rapid City South Dakota
Tallie’s Silver Spoon Rapid City South Dakota
State Game Lodge Bar Custer South Dakota
Smith Alley Brewing Sheridan Wyoming
Black Tooth Brewing Sheridan Wyoming
Plonk Wine Bar Bozeman Montana
Outlaw Brewing Bozeman Montana
Bunkhouse Brewing Bozeman Montana
North Idaho Brewing Wallace Idaho

Bitter Root Brewing in Hamilton