In July, we had a chance to hitchhike a road trip onto the wedding of my niece, Brooke, and her fiancé, Matt near Coeur d’aline (hereafter CDA), Idaho. The wedding, held at a beautiful, rural setting in Altho, was wonderful and it gave us a great opportunity to spend a day exploring CDA and then several days on a subsequent road trip through McCall and then Stanley, in the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains.
And, of course, Beerchasing was part of this trip. The first stop was for lunch at the Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick, Washington. Sister-in-law, Pam Williams joined us on the trip to the wedding.
The brew pub at the marina on the Columbia River is much newer and we checked it out, but opted for the more historic downtown location.
It’s in an old train depot where you could still see remnants of an old fire on the ceiling and where each time a train passes by, rattling the place to its foundation, patrons have a chance to get a discount on beer based on the result of a spinning wheel on the wall.
Staffers, Adam, who worked in the brewery and Angelique, who was our server, were very nice, talked about the history of the brewery – opened six years ago. I downed their good Tangerine ExBeerience – a gold medal winner at the North American Beer Awards in 2011.
While there is no question that CDA is a tourist mecca, the downtown has a lot of character. There are a few good brewery/tavern options and one can understand based on the famous Floating Green at the Coeur d’aline Resort where countless golfers have dunked golf balls in the drink, why they want to discuss the experience over a beer.
Taphouse Unchained – this new bar with a cycling theme was spotless and sleek and had interesting décor’. It had not opened for the day but Tai and Sarah, who worked there, let me in to take some pictures.
According to some of the social media reviews on Yelp, they are still working out some of the customer service kinks.
The Moose Lounge – for Thebeerchaser, the best bar option because it reeked of character and Tara, the bartender, besides being a very interesting and attractive woman, was a wealth of information.
She was originally from Las Vegas, but does not like big cities. On her journey, which eventually brought her to Idaho, she worked at the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana – a notable dive bar which will be visited on another road trip. (see note and pictures at the end of this post for more interesting info on the Dirty Shame)
The Moose Lounge has animal heads (and skins….) and classic beer signs hanging from the walls, American flags, tons of old memorabilia and a large space where bands play on many evenings. They also have karaoke and a great Trivia Night.
While I drank a draft Blue Moon, Tara also showed me the “Moose Mug” – a 34 ounce monstrosity. The social media reviews of this quaint place are good and unfortunately, we were not there for an evening visit, but it would definitely be worth a stop.
She also told me that the Corner Bar, although off the main drag, was a dive bar worth visiting.
The Corner Bar – We made a short visit to this classic dive and the second-hand smoke would hold up the ceilings if a load bearing beam ever collapsed. Evidently Idaho law still allows smoking in some bars although I did not attempt to analyze the idiosyncratic regulations in detail.
Crafted Taphouse and Kitchen – we had lunch at the very popular and relatively new pub, which has a spacious patio in front, fifty beers on tap and great gastro-pub food. The seafood chowder was incredible. Crafted reminded me a bit of the Ecliptic Brewery in Portland. Great beer selection and good food, but a little too sleek and glossier than the dark ambiance of the Moose Lounge or any dive bar for that matter.
That said, based on their website they do take pride in their venture and distinguishing their establishment from others. “Each member of our bar staff has formal Cicerone training.” (that could be more marketing than substantive training….)
I appreciated the sign below at the front of the patio, but I guess they did not follow this warning literally as we did not see any amped up kids wandering around and Humane Society volunteers were nowhere to be seen. It did, however, make me wonder about the converse of the statement on the sign…..
Finally, we strolled down to the Coeur d’aline Resort – a luxury hotel on the water, with a great golf course and other amenities. The bar looked pretty spiffy as well although I’m sure one would pay premium bucks for a draft beer…
We spent the first night in the historic Hotel McCall – opened in 1904. McCall still maintains its charm although the city has grown tremendously as a year-round tourist mecca. Some of the best skiing in Idaho takes place at Brundage Mountain and Tamarack Resort. McCall dubs itself “Ski Town – USA.”
We talked to Rachael, a server in the very cozy, nook bar at the hotel, who was a delightful and sharp young woman – a recent Washington State graduate who will start her Master’s in Architecture at the University of Oregon in the fall.
We drank one of the outstanding Grand Teton 208 beers that we first downed on our trip to Wyoming last year and learned that the beer is named after the Idaho Area Code 208. Perhaps the brewery will develop another “numeric” beer soon, as Rachel reported that Idaho would soon get a second area code.
The Salmon River Brewery is one of three in McCall and although the space is limited, was a nice venue with some good beer and outstanding fish and chips. It is adjacent to the Hotel McCall.
Like the Ice Harbor Brewery in Kennewick (above), our server, Cynthia, told us that it’s housed in an old railroad depot – their second location for the pub. Salmon River was hopping on that Sunday night . The fire pit is a nice feature and I’m sure appreciated by skiers in the winter and their art is also eye-catching.
Their PFD Pale Ale was a silver medal winner at the 2013 North American Beer Awards. They have about thirteen of their own beers plus a few rotating taps which makes a nice selection of eighteen drafts.
SRB has an Oregon connection as explained on their website:
“Salmon River Brewery’s Co-founding owner/brewer, Matt Hurlbutt has a direct family connection to the hop fields of Oregon’s famed Willamette valley. Matt’s sister Kelly, and brother in-law Monty are the owners and operators of Weston Bend Farms. The farm is named for the location, which is situated on the most westerly bend of the Willamette river.”
The next morning we drove around Payette Lake and walked through the compact downtown area. Janet dropped into the Country Treasures Store to browse and was a little surprised by the request made by the staff. The propietor asked my wife, Janet, if she would mind the store for about ten minutes while she went to the grocery and bought toilet paper. I then walked in and may not have looked as trustworthy, as proprietor then said that she would make the trip at noon!
On the Idaho trip, we visited three good breweries, but our favorite was clearly the McCall Brewing Company. Perhaps it was their outstanding second-floor patio overlooking Payette Lake or the more spacious quarters. Those factors helped, but it was the graciousness and charisma of the staff and owner which sent it to the top.
It started with Carl, the bartender, who patiently let us sample multiple beers of the twenty-four they had on tap (of which ten are their own brews) and explained each beer and the history of the brewery.
Edgar, the brewmaster, although busy, met with me and stopped so I could take pictures. He also hailed the owner, Louie, who was a dead ringer for Sam at Cheers (Ted Danson) and they both gave a tour through the micro-brewery – right in the middle of the building and slated to expand.
Although it had not opened for the day, he took us up to the patio and explained the interesting tail of how he became the owner in 1994.
And their beer was superb, most notably the Hippie Hopped Pale Ale which has as it’s logo a VW Bus – one that brought back memories of my dad’s red and white VW in which we toured the US in 1959 and resulted in us moving from Ohio to Oregon.
Our last day and night in McCall was a real treat for both Janet and me. My Oregon State SAE fraternity brother, Gary Barton and his wife, Kathy, live in Boise, where Gary is an investment consultant, but have a cabin just outside of McCall.
(Gary and I sat up late reminiscing about house dances, keggers, the highlights of his time on the OSU football team under Coach Dee Andros and our college nicknames – his was “Golden Boy” and I was (and still am) “Dirt,” which may be some comment on our respective social strata in Corvallis……
They picked us up and Gary, Janet and I took a beautiful four mile hike to Boulder Lake. Kathy cooked a wonderful dinner and we took off for Stanley in the Sawtooth Mountains – about 150 miles away, the next morning after breakfast.
Supplemental Notes on the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana
One of the pleasures of my Beerchasing hobby, has been the people I’ve met and what should possibly be described as the “six ABV’s of separation” in what I will label the “beer and bar community.” Examples abound – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Dr. Sam Holloway from the University of Portland (see TheBeerchaser post on 8/25/15) an internationally traveled brewery consultant, is a good friend of The Beer Goddess – Lisa Morrison (see Thebeerchaser post on 4/9/15), also a prior Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. Another coincidence is that former Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter, Jud Blakely and Steve Lawrence and I all cherish $2 happy hour draft PBRs.
Those in the “fraternity,” appear to be collaborative and supportive rather than competitive to others in the business. It may also give some insight why Thebeerchaser.com is primarily about bars – their history, the bartenders and the regulars – rather than a technical analysis of beer.
That was evident on the Idaho trip. McCall Brewing Company’s owner and brewmaster (Louie and Edgar), both told me to look up their friend and former colleague, “Mikey,” when we went to Stanley, Idaho (my next Idaho post) where he now works in the Casino Club Saloon. The McCall Brewing staff was also trained on their bottling machine by the staff at Ice Harbor Brewery (see above) in Kennewick, WA., home of the machine’s manufacturer.
Tara, the bartender at the Moose Lounge in Coeur d’aline told me she had worked in the Dirty Shame Saloon in Yaak, Montana (population 248 and the most northern community in Montana) and it was a wonderful dive bar. When I finally got in touch by phone with John Runkle, the current owner, he remembered Tara and notwithstanding the fact that his cook was gone that day and he was manning the grill, spent time chatting about his bar.
And the Dirty Shame Saloon has an incredible history which may best be appreciated by reading the two articles from the links below:
“The Not-So-Dirty-Shame Saloon” by Bill Schneider from 8/17/09 Newwest.net
John appeared to be a guy with whom anyone would love to raise a mug and he laughed when I told him that both the Dirty Shame bars in Garden Valley, Idaho and John Day, Oregon had identical names to the original Montana Dirty Shame establishment which has trademark and copyright protection. The John Day version on the Facebook page labels itself as “It’s a Dirty Shame Saloon,” evidently in a misguided effort to get around the intellectual property legal issues, but still uses the abbreviated name on their building etc.
John, however, seemed to be the kind of guy who is more interested in preparing for the Yaak Crawdad Festival (which he originated), Yaak Attack and the Yaaktoberfest, than lawyering up. The Crawdad Fest was moved from the spring when John maintained it was “too butt-stinging cold…”
And you will see the Dirty Shame story continues to evolve. In the first article, Bill Scheider talks about meeting the new owner, Don Belcher, and his wife of twenty-five years, Gloria, while on a Montana cycling trip. It turns out that Belcher, who was 81 at the time of the article, was convicted in 2011 of molestation charges and sentenced to five years probation. The bar went into foreclosure.
John, who also owns the Yaak River Lodge, and his former partner, Ray Falzone, both of whom were paratroopers in the Army’s 509th Airborne Infantry Battalion, invested a lot of capital to bring the bar’s plumbing and interior to par.
“Over the years, the Dirty Shame earned a reputation as a tough biker bar……Locals said the most captivating stories about the Dirty Shame would be inappropriate for a family newspaper.
‘When we came up here, we had to pull bullet slugs out of the wall,’ Runkle said. ‘One of the owners used to shoot pool balls off the table with his .357, you know.’”
I ended my phone call by stating that an ideal future Montana road trip would include a stay at his lodge (where you can get the Moose Room for $149 per night) during the Crawdad Fest and having a beer in the Dirty Shame after visiting the world famous Clinton Testicle Festival (“Testy Festy”) which was August 3-6th this year. Or you could stay until Thanksgiving when veterans eat for free.
Of course, those events are in the summer and fall, but if the trip was in the spring, at least we could hit the Dirty Shame’s Adult Easter Egg Hunt. Better get your reservations soon, however, Flathead Livng Magazine recently (6/10/16) named the Dirty Shame Saloon as a gem in its “Brief manual for the off-the-beaten-path seeker of roadside burgers and beer!”
(Photos from Dirty Shame Facebook page used with permission of John Runkle)