Saraveza – Breaking the Top 100 – Again…

A beacon in Northeast Portland - Sareveza

Saraveza – A beacon in North Portland

Saraveza in North Portland is a great bar and for the fourth year in a row, it is on the list of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in the country – along with four other Portland establishments in 2014 – Bailey’s Tap Room, Bazi Bierbrasserie, Belmont Station (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in April 2013) and Imperial Bottle Shop.  Missing for the firm time in three years are The Horse Brass Pub (reviewed by Thebeerchaser in May 2013) and Apex.  It should be noted that there are only 31 bars in the entire Western region of the US which garnered this honor.

Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station in 2013
Thebeerchaser at Belmont Station  – another in the Top 100

Without making any inference about these venues, it raises a few questions about how Draft Magazine determines its annual listing of the best beer bars in the country. For context, the publication prefaces its 2014 awards with the statement:

 “After six years of making this annual list, we had to rethink the definition of a top-notch beer bar. New ones are opening every second, and “good beer bar” no longer equals a zillion taps; there’s just more to it now. We needed to walk out of these places saying, ‘Now there’s a bar that really, really cares about your experience with beer.’”

So what does that mean? Having well-cared for, thoughtfully selected beer with an eye toward variety, trends and tradition, in the kind of place you’d want to stay awhile, delivered by someone who knows their stuff. We don’t want to send you to a place where the server doesn’t look up from her texting when you ask questions….”

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

Evidence that Saraveza is serious about Beer!!

To support its premise, the publication even uses the example of Bailey’s in Portland which cares so much about beer freshness, the digital menu says when each keg was tapped and how much is left. 

This statement raises the question, however, about how sophisticated or picky a beer drinker has to be to truly enjoy his brewski – harkening back to college days when a luke-warm Blitz in a can (even if it had already been opened for several days) was synonymous with Nirvana on a hot day in Corvallis.

Year and temperature unknown, but eminently drinkable -- still

Year and temperature unknown, but still eminently drinkable — (Thanks to Olyguy and Olygal for the photo)

One reader who questioned the criteria stated, “Interesting that a bar from one year can be left off the list the next year, even though nothing has changed about it to warrant not making the list.”

And the list does make one wonder if Draft personnel personally visit all these bars – and more importantly, about the thousands of other watering holes which didn’t make the list but serve a mean micro-brew and have great ambiance.

Okay!  So I worked around lawyers for almost forty years – process is important – but rather than castigate Draft Magazine, I will put forth Thebeerchaser’s Theorem on Bars based on my experience visiting 52 bars since August 2011 when Thebeerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs commenced:

“Bars are like  Bull Markets or ______, (fill in your own option) when they are good, they are fantastic and even when they are bad, they are still very good.”

The bar at Saraveza

The bar at Saraveza

But I digress – Saraveza is a really neat bar.  It has also made Willamette Week’s Annual Drink Guide or best bar list every year since it opened. The 2010 description is representative:

“With illuminated PBR signs posing as art, a bottle-cap mosaic tabletop and a misguided allegiance to the *#+*% Green Bay Packers, Saraveza is like the coolest Midwestern dorm room ever. The only problem is that Portland lacks a soul-crushing winter freeze to justify the heft Saraveza will donate to your midsection.”

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Beer memorabilia adds to the ambiance

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers - but don't publicize it in this bar

Some people are not fans of the *+$#@ Green Bay Packers – but don’t publicize it in this bar

       

 “There’s the beer, of course—in bottles big and small, drafts bitter and sour and strong—but the pasties will do some damage, too. Bring a date and split one of those flaky meat pies and a mountainous Caesar salad.”

One important factor which makes a superb bar is the staff.  And from Sarah Pederson, the owner and founder of the bar in 2008, (the name of the bar is derived from a combination of her name and the Spanish word for “beer.”) to Tyler “The Elder” Vickers – the original bartender, who is still there, they have a great team.  I heard Sarah speak to a civic group a few years ago and she truly has a passion for her craft and is another Oregon example of a young entrepreneur who successfully pursued her dream.

In fact, our waiter, Brian – who had only worked at Saraveza for about six months – was one of the best waiters encountered on Thebeerchaser tour to date.  He was friendly, knowledgeable and the epitome of a great server.

Brian - an example of the great Saraveza team

Brian (on the left) – an example of the great Saraveza team –  Roy holding Thebeerchaser logo, Mary and Janet

Thebeerchaser and his wife, Janet, were pleased to be accompanied by Roy Lambert, a retired tax lawyer from Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt.

Roy who could be considered an Ivy League guy having graduated from Cornell before going on to Columbia University Law School and then hitting the books again where he earned his LLM – a Masters Degree in tax at NYU – is also an avid swimmer. In college, he swam for Cornell and now swims every morning at 6:00 AM.  His background prompted me to find my favorite quotes to promote some erudite conversation that night about taxes:

Will Rogers - "I can't figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation."

Will Rogers – “I can’t figure out the calculation for double-declining balance depreciation.”

As a starting premise: “The Internal Revenue Code should provide some evidence that it was written on purpose.” He was also reluctant to agree with Will Rogers, who stated, “The reason death is not as bad as taxes is because death does not get worse each time Congress meets.” 

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Nine beers on tap and then there's the bottles....

Nine beers on tap and then there’s the bottles….

Brian did a great job of walking us through the nine beers on tap and encouraged us to sample those that were not familiar.

Interestingly, three of the four of us immediately chose the Occidental Brewery’s Dopplebock – a great choice.

Roy’s companion was Mary Maxwell, who is a very interesting lady and had a demanding and important job as Director of Aviation for the Port of Portland for four years before she retired in 2009.  Prior to that she was the Port’s General Manager of Business and Properties for seventeen years.  I’m sure that she has stories which would make novelist Arthur Hailey’s Airport Manager, Mel Bakersfield glad that his fictitious job was prior to the TSA.  The tales would also be much more interesting than Roy’s yarns about the nuances of the Internal Revenue Code.

Wikimedia Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Portlandinternationalairportfromtheair.jpg)  Photo by Mike Teague, September 2005
PDX – An operation exceeding $150 million annually

Mary had a bottle of Red Nectar Ale from Humboldt Brewery in California. “….. a floral aroma, distinctive accents of toasted malt, caramel, spice and a sweetness to appease those demanding taste buds.”

Red Nectar Ale - an excellent bottled beer

Red Nectar Ale – an excellent bottled beer

And those who love Saraveza for the food, have a reason.  Our group had macaroni and cheese, bratwurst and the fabled Caesar salad – it was mountainous!  We reluctantly passed on the free bacon (if  you buy a beer) because we were there on Bacon Night the second Monday of each month.

The pasties also receive rave reviews.  I was not familiar with this traditional British pastry filled with meat or mushrooms or vegetables or combinations thereof – a specialty at Saraveza and one which they have mastered.  The rest of the menu is also varied and extensive.

The pasty - Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

The pasty – Saraveza is rightfully recognized for this pastry.

We took home what was a first-rate  quart off Portland’s Upright Brewing ” Five” (“Five blends three hop varieties with pale caramel malt to create full flavors. Subtle pale fruit aromas produced during the fermentation brighten the profile and provide contrast to its bitterness.”)

Upright Brewing's  Five -  Beer-to-Go...
Beer-to-go: Upright Brewing’s “Five” 

It’s  one of the 250 different kinds of beers they have in attractive display cases.  In fact, Brian stated that a sizeable portion of their clientele is patrons who come in on beer tours and one can understand why such a tour would choose Saraveza.

Beer in Surround - sound.....

More Beer Stuff….

And one last thought about Draft Magazine – perhaps after Thebeerchaser hits the remaining 700 Portland watering holes, the Tour should start visiting the top 100 and those that did not make the cut too!

Saraveza Bottle and Pasty Shop

   1004 N. Killingsworth

Be Careful – or You’ll End up in (the) Pourhouse

The “About” tab of this blog states that the Tour of Portland Pubs and Bars by Thebeerchaser, will essentially be that — reviews of Portland establishments which are so numerous that the goal of visiting all sometimes seems insurmountable.  However, this general guideline can be waived if there are “compelling circumstances.”

A several day visit to Olympic National Park in Washington (a wonderful treasure in our own “backyard”) was followed by a one-night stay in Port Townsend, WA and resulted in a “compelling circumstance.”

The Mighty Olympics

We had picked up a brochure entitled, “Olympic Culinary Loop Adventure Map with a listing entitled Pourhouse stating, “Explore craft beer! Twelve rotating taps and 200 different bottled beers for here or to go…..beer garden on the beach with outdoor games.”  The name of this bar brought to mind prior history lessons regarding Depression Work Farms or scenes of Poor Houses and evoked memories of two quotes from the era:

“Uncle claims that if he files his income tax wrong he’ll go to jail, and if he files it right he’ll go to the poorhouse.” 

Would Probably Drop by Pourhouse

And of course, Will Rogers’ 1930 quote, “The United States is the only country ever to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.”

I’m inclined to think that based on some of his statements on alcohol that Rogers would approve (and possibly even visit Pourhouse if he were still around.)  To wit:  “Communism is like prohibition, it is a good idea, but it won’t work.”

or

“Prohibition is better than no alcohol at all.”

Riches Can be Found at Pourhouse

On a Thursday night after a superb dinner at Port Townsend’s Silverwater Cafe, Thebeerchaser and spouse decided to check it out, although the innocuous entrance made us wonder if it would  have the same ambiance as our motel — None!

What a pleasant surprise.  Pourhouse – just opened in February 2012 – was hopping.  Yerda (pronounced Gerda) the bartender, was extremely friendly and helpful.  She explained their twelve rotating taps of craft beer and we had two superb glasses:

Yerda – Friendly and Knowledgable

They do not serve food yet but patrons can bring their own or they have take-out menus from local restaurants.  Although there was no band that night, they often have live music, which drew favorable comments in the reviews.

And the claim about 200 bottled beers was no exaggeration as shown by the photo below:

200 Options for Bottled Beer

But what made Pourhouse distinctive was the crowd.  Three cyclists were drinking at the bar and immediately started chatting with us.

The beer garden right on the water and with a nice view of the Olympics was hopping and included tourists and locals (a lot with their dogs) socializing, eating and drinking good beer.

Thebeerchaser and friendly cyclist

And the reviews were unanimous in their praise:

“The atmosphere was so great, beer and really nice wine and a very eclectic crowd who were friendly and totally non-judgmental about pretty much everything.” (Yelp – 7/17/12)

Thumbs Up on the Twelve Rotating Taps

Good beer selection and prices. Right on the water, great place to sit outside on a nice day, but also really cool inside if the weather isn’t cooperating.” (TripAdvisor 8/26/12)

Do You Prefer the Water or the Mountains?

“(The) interior is clean, modern and comfortable with very cool historical photos of Port Townsend….A huge sunny, outdoor space right on the beach with amazing views is what set this place apart….aside from their beer list.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and genuine….This is definitely the bar to hit when visiting or living in Port Townsend.” (Yelp – 2/21/12

The Cool and Modern Interior

“….a small but eclectic wine list.  The prices are crazy cheap compared to what we’re used to shelling out in Seatte……An awesome addition to the town!!  The owners are young, local and have their finger on the pulse.”  (Yelp – 4/3/12)
All in all, this bar “compelled” a spot on the Beer Tour and I would suggest – rather than beg – Be frugal and go to Pourhouse on your next trip to the Olympic Peninsula.
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