By Andi Prewitt
Of the Oregon Beer Growler
It only took three sentences at the bottom of a press release to set off a frenzy of theories on Facebook.
When Thirsty Monk announced in late October that it would be purchasing a “well-known Portland beer bar,” seemingly every blogger, author and industry insider in town leapt to their social media accounts to pile onto the mound of ideas in this guessing game. Could it be Horse Brass? No way would a brewery fit in that basement. The ill-fated Tugboat? Maybe, but rehabilitating the fire-damaged building made it a longshot. Produce Row? APEX? Blitz Ladd? The debate eventually fizzled after a few weeks came and went without a leak, an official announcement or a correct answer.
“I was reading what everybody was speculating and it’s amazing how everybody always assumes that it’s the bar that’s not doing well, you know?” said Hilda Stevens, owner of Bazi Bierbrasserie, the well-known Portland beer bar in question that no one suspected was up for sale. “Where people should really think about, like, maybe there’s a bar that is doing really well but they have a business plan and they have some priorities.”
What few people knew was that Stevens’ priorities had shifted with time and that she actually never intended to remain at the helm of the business that’s become a Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard headquarters for Belgian-style ales and soccer-viewing parties.
“When I opened this place, I knew it wasn’t something that I was going to do the rest of my life,” Stevens explained, which might sound like a friend just broke it to you that they weren’t really in it for the long haul. It’s all too easy to get attached to our favorite bars, and Stevens admits she’s become synonymous with Bazi, another factor that likely contributed to the surprise surrounding the announcement Thirsty Monk would take over in mid-December.
“I didn’t realize that I had become as much of a brand of this place,” Stevens described. “It’s like, I’ll go to place and people might not remember my name, but they remember Bazi. They associate me with the brand.”
That’s due to six years of cultivating relationships across the bar and around the neighborhood through her involvement with the Hawthorne Boulevard Business Association. Bazi has become her home, its kitchen filled with kegs and living room overflowing with rowdy soccer fans watching a match on any given day, and her home is conveniently located just blocks from Bazi. The bar was a result of Stevens’ conservative planning, but even the most thorough proposal can sometimes benefit from a boost due to fortuitous circumstances. Those happened to take the form of a layoff from Stevens’ well-paying job in the tech industry, the arrival of Major League Soccer in Portland and the space Bazi opened in suddenly becoming available. Stevens also points out that the business ended up filling a need few realized existed at that point in the city’s beverage scene.
“I love the fact that we were the first Belgian beer bar to come into Portland in a time where people were like, ‘What is she thinking? A Belgian beer bar isn’t going to make it in hop-centric Portland,’” Stevens said. “It was all about catering to the right community and knowing our audience — knowing there’s a lot of people in this town who have traveled all over Europe and really appreciate Belgian beers.”
Stevens had a target: Bazi’s fifth anniversary. If she could build a clientele and become successful by that milestone, it would then be time to challenge herself once again by either expanding or selling. And when that five-year mark arrived, Stevens wasn’t ready to let go. The search for a second location was underway until, much like the founding of Bazi, unexpected factors intervened. Last March, the neighboring bicycle shop that shared storage space with the bar, which was primarily occupied by hundreds of empty boxes that once contained the two-wheeled rides, vacated the premises. Even before the clutter of cardboard was cleared, however, Stevens had envisioned the perfect purpose for that site.
“Nobody knows that there’s all that space unless you have worked here. And people who have worked here know that,” Stevens said. “And they know that I’ve always joked around and said if the bike shop ever moves out, a brewery needs to open up here.”
But the decision to look for someone else to acquire the business was solidified when Stevens realized it was simply time to go home. On Bazi’s fifth anniversary, her parents’ residence in Houston flooded, which would happen again when Hurricane Harvey pounded southern Texas with record-breaking rain, and Stevens couldn’t help. The distance during their crisis still pulls tears from her eyes; the ease with which she’d talked about Bazi suddenly halts as her voice grows unsteady and laden with sadness.
“And it was really hard, you know, not being able to be there. And … that’s, that’s the part — that’s the part that’s really hard to talk about,” Stevens said. “I can talk about the business side, no problem. But my family, it hurts. And watching how much they slow down, and you’re always missing out.”
The decision was easy at that point. It was time to pull out of the expansion plan and find Bazi a good owner so that Stevens could move back to Houston after nearly two decades in Portland. She put the business up for sale in July and quickly drew the interest of multiple companies. That included Thirsty Monk, an Asheville, N.C.-based brewery that uses Belgian yeast in all of its beers — from the more traditional tripels and wits to the somewhat unconventional combination of Northeast IPAs or chocolate stouts. CEO Barry Bialik said he put Bazi under contract nearly as soon as he heard it was available and without even seeing it, flying out a few weeks later to meet with Stevens and take a tour. That personal touch was impressive and helped her feel confident about entrusting what she’d built to Thirsty Monk.
“Definitely the fact that it was the CEO was the one out there looking for the location — that in itself says a lot about an organization,” Stevens added.
Bialik also wanted to be involved in making the announcement to the team at Bazi and remained tight lipped about the deal with media until they knew.
“We’re so sensitive to that and how we talk about news and how we share it to make sure we deliver it right,” he said. “There was no other way to even think about it. Of course I wanted to be there to share with the employees. I want everyone to feel comfortable that, yeah, their jobs are safe. They’re going to be part of the transition and we’re all going to help this grow together.”
The CEO had been scouting out possible sites in Portland earlier this summer, but found the perfect match for the company’s ethos in Bazi. The way he describes it, the two could’ve been set up on a beer bar dating app and there wouldn’t have been a more complementary partner out there.
“What was so great about walking into Bazi for the first time is it felt just like walking into a Thirsty Monk,” Bialik recounted. “It had the same kind of energy, it had the same kind of community, it had the same kind of family-pub feel. And they’re on the same top 100 beer bar lists we are. They specialize in Belgian beer just like we do. It just felt like such a natural fit.”
There won’t be many immediate changes—the Bazi name will stay in place until Thirsty Monk’s Denver brewery can supply the Portland spot with its beer. Even then, they’ll stay true to Stevens’ model of offering a wide variety of Belgian-style offerings, with about half of the taps reserved for a rotation of other producers. Bialik’s brother Opus is in the process of moving his family from Seattle to Portland to serve as the new general manager. And as for that storage space housing a brewery, it’s still too early to tell. Architects need to survey the room to determine if a small system could be installed. If not, Bialik said he will either purchase an existing brewery elsewhere in the city or contract brew with another business. Either way, Thirsty Monk will eventually make beer in Portland. Until that happens, Bialik is focused on the ownership change and grateful for Stevens’ assistance.
“I’m so happy that Hilda is going to have the time to stay around and help as long as she’s available to help Opus with the transition and to learn about the community she’s created there and how we can honor and continue that.”
It’s a legacy she hopes will be remembered each time a crowd gathers there to drink Belgian beer as a soccer match plays on the business’s big screen.
By Alethea Smartt LaRowe
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Romance is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you head to your local brewpub for a pint. But if you love beer as much as I do, then you find ways to incorporate a visit to a brewery in everything you do, including a date with a special someone. This list includes just some of the Oregon breweries that have one or more of the following elements of romantic ambiance: cozy seating options, a fireplace or fire pit, a nice location on the water, a great place to watch the sunset, and even a place to sleep. For your next date, seek out the perfect spot at one of these breweries and order an oyster stout, or any beer made with chili peppers, honey or chocolate. Let the magic of the ingredients and the setting make it a day (or night) to remember!
Note: In an effort to keep this list manageable, it only includes locations where beer is made on site.
1019 NW Brooks St., Bend
Nestled along the banks of the Deschutes River near Mirror Pond in downtown Bend, this quaint brewpub has a patio for enjoying the scenery in the summer months. In the winter, grab a table by the big windows in the back and watch the snow fall.
Crux Fermentation Project
50 SW Division St., Bend
Located in the former AAMCO building near the Old Mill District, Crux is the perfect place to watch the sunset from the tasting room and patio. Sundowner starts a half-hour before sunset and lasts for one hour, offering discounts on appetizers and beers. Afterward, you can linger with a pint by the fire pit.
1355 SW Commerce Ave., Bend
This brewery encourages living the good life with great beer and food to be enjoyed in a variety of settings. While the indoor space is filled with natural light and ample seating for large groups, the beer garden with its grassy lawn and fire pit is perfect for spreading out a blanket and lounging with your loved one.
Old St. Francis School
700 NW Bond St., Bend
Another gem in the McMenamins crown that is comprised of more than 50 properties in Oregon and Washington, of which 24 are also breweries. Here, take your pick from a glowing pot-bellied stove or a toasty outdoor fire pit on the patio. Maybe you can catch a romcom playing at the movie theater. Overnight guests can enjoy the soaking pool, surrounded by stained glass and shimmering tilework.
Three Creeks Brewing
721 Desperado Court, Sisters
Housed in an Old West livery stable, this warm and rustic brewpub is a welcome respite after a fun day outdoors. Particularly inviting are the plush leather couches in front of a gas fireplace.
The adjacent FivePine Lodge (operated independently of the brewery) offers a unique experience for those seeking romance and adventure.
Astoria Brewing Company
144 11th St., Astoria
Start your visit here by catching a ride on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. After you’ve taken a ride down the waterfront and waved at all of the passersby, walk back to the Wet Dog Cafe, which has been in business since 1995. The riverfront deck is open seasonally and offers a fantastic view of the Columbia River.
Buoy Beer Company
1 8th St., Astoria
This brewery, which opened its doors to the public on Valentine’s Day 2014, is as close to the water as you can get. In fact, it was literally built over the water, from the meticulously repurposed remains of an old cannery building. The river view room is the big draw here, featuring a wall of windows facing the Columbia River, where sea lions cavort and cargo ships ply their trade.
Fort George Brewery
1483 Duane St., Astoria
Located on the original settlement site of Astoria (founded 1811), the Fort George building housed an automotive repair facility before being revitalized and made into the brewery. The upstairs section, which opened in 2013, has the best views of the sunset and the river. In a neighboring building, the cozy Lovell Taproom features a huge gas fireplace, where you can snuggle up with your honey on the hearth.
Pelican Pub & Brewery
33180 Cape Kiwanda Drive, Pacific City
If you want to enjoy an award-winning beer with sand at your feet and nothing but beach between you and the Pacific Ocean, then this is the place for you. Scan for bird activity on Haystack Rock, watch the dory fleet landing, look for spouting whales or just stare into the eyes of your special someone as the sun sets.
Rogue Brewers on the Bay
2320 SE OSU Drive, Newport
The name says it all -- this two-story brewpub offers a panoramic view of Yaquina Bay and the marina. Wind your way through the brewery to get to the full-service restaurant. Just for fun, order a beer with a seafaring name, like Old Crustacean. You can also buy a bright red bottle of Double Chocolate Stout, the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. If you want to extend the date, Rogue’s Bed ‘n Beer is just across the bay.
Dragon’s Gate Brewery
52288 Sunquist Road, Milton-Freewater
Adam and Jennifer Gregory’s 10-acre farm is in the middle of vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley. The brewhouse, in a small barn, is where Belgian-style ales are made with their own estate-grown hops. Relax in an Adirondack chair and take in the view of the Blue Mountains framed by hop bines. Don’t miss the massive black Friesian horses.
Mutiny Brewing Company
600 N. Main St., Joseph
Minutes from Wallowa Lake, this brewpub has a beautiful view of the Wallowa Mountains. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy a pint while you watch the sunset behind the mountains.
Terminal Gravity Brewing
803 SE School St., Enterprise
An oasis in Eastern Oregon, this brewery is known for its excellent IPA. A destination for locals and tourists alike, the outdoor dining area, in the form of picnic tables under the shade of an aspen grove, offers views of the Wallowa Mountains. Sit by the creek and let your worldly cares dissolve.
Mt. Hood Area
Big Horse Brew Pub
115 W. State St., Hood River
This small brewery is one of the oldest in the Columbia River Gorge. North-facing windows on the second and third floors of this remodeled home offer expansive views of downtown Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge.
Full Sail Brewery
506 Columbia St., Hood River
This employee-owned, award-winning brewery was constructed on the site of the abandoned Diamond Fruit Cannery. Perched on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, the brewpub has a wall of windows facing the river along with an outdoor patio that is open year-round.
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
4785 Booth Hill Road, Hood River
Located on a picturesque 10-acre estate off Highway 35 complete with assorted animals and 400 cherry trees, this brewery celebrates its four-year anniversary in February. On a clear day, the tasting room windows offer a beautiful view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood Brewing Company
87304 Government Camp Loop Road, Government Camp
On the south slope of the mountain, it’s too close to offer views of the snowy peak. All the more reason to cuddle up in comfy booths or grab a seat in a leather armchair in front of the fireplace. If things get too warm, head to the bar, the entire length of which features an ice-glazed strip for keeping your beer cold.
Pfriem Family Brewers
707 Portway Ave., Suite 101, Hood River
Housed in a Silver LEED-certified building across the street from Hood River’s beautiful Waterfront Park, this brewery made 50 unique beers in 2014. The rustic beer patio features a large fire pit and sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge. The upstairs “library” is a nice place to escape for a quiet conversation.
4945 Baseline Drive, Mount Hood Parkdale
This cozy brewpub located just off of Highway 35 in Parkdale will celebrate its three-year anniversary in April. With spectacular views of orchards and Mt. Hood, it’s is a wonderful place to grab a picnic table and soak up the sunshine on a clear day.
Thunder Island Brewing
515 SW Portage Road, Cascade Locks
Uniquely located alongside the Columbia River near the Bridge of the Gods and the Pacific Crest Trail, this year-old brewery is the perfect place to grab a pint after a day of hiking. With views of namesake Thunder Island from the large outdoor patio, the brewery is a year-round destination for adventure lovers of all types.
Portland Metro Area
Base Camp Brewing
930 SE Oak St., Portland
This brewpub offers the opportunity to pretend you’re on a camping trip. As you sip a S’more Stout, topped with a roasted marshmallow, you can plan your next outdoor adventure using the topo maps on the glass-topped tables. Look up at the wooden bow truss roof and spot constellations in the permanent late-summer night sky. Or just head outside to one of the fire pits, grab a seat on a log bench, and take turns howling at the moon.
Deschutes Brewery and Public House
210 NW 11th Ave., Portland
The reclaimed wood carvings throughout this enormous warehouse space feature northwest animals and landscapes and make the perfect backdrop for the stone fireplace that separates the bar area from the open kitchen.
2126 SW Halsey St., Troutdale
Located on the site of the former Multnomah County Poor Farm, this sprawling 74-acre property offers countless ways to romance your loved one. Rocking chairs on the verandas, Ruby’s Spa, a soaking pool (for overnight guests only), numerous fire pits, and the oh-so-cozy Little Red Shed with its wood-burning fireplace are just a few of my favorite options.
Old Town Brewing
5201 NE MLK Jr. Blvd., Portland
A large stone fireplace anchors the bar area, giving it a ski lodge feel. Assorted armchairs and couches offer plenty of cozy seating options for couples.
Portland U-Brew & Pub
6237 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland
The perfect activity for a beer-loving couple — drink a pint of the house-made beer while you brew your own. The best part is that you don’t have to do the cleaning! The couple that brews together stays together.
Stickmen Brewery & Skewery
40 N. State St., Lake Oswego
The 200-seat back patio overlooks Lakewood Bay and is open when the weather is good. When the temperature drops, the heat lamps make things cozy. A great place to watch the sunset.
Tugboat Brewing Company
711 SW Ankeny St., Portland
This tiny brewery specializes in British-style strong ales. The pub is homey and relaxing, with lots of small tables topped by lamps, and jazz on the sound system. Read a book of poetry to your sweetie or play a board game.
Caldera Brewery & Restaurant
590 Clover Lane, Ashland
If the weather is nice, grab one of the 69 patio seats with breathtaking Siskiyou Mountain views. Indoors, the couch that faces the bold, blue fireplace is the perfect place to snuggle.
Klamath Basin Brewing
1320 Main St., Klamath Falls
The Creamery Brew Pub & Grill is great for sports lovers. Cheer on your favorite team together from a table near the large brick fireplace. If you want a space away from the action, the intimate front area and booths provide a quieter setting.
Brewers Union Local 180
48329 E. 1st St., Oakridge
This spot describes itself as Oregon’s “only Real Ale pub and brewery” featuring “a blend of the best of the British Public House, the American spirit of adventure, and the natural scenic beauty of Oregon's Cascade Mountains.” The cozy front parlor is the choice spot for lingering over a pint.
2065 Madrona Ave. SE, Salem
A beautiful stone fireplace anchors the bar area and is surrounded by overstuffed leather couches. Pringle Creek runs along the covered back patio which opens up into the large backyard of the property and creates a nice ambiance and a quiet place to chat.
High Street Brewery & Cafe
1243 High St., Eugene
This location features McMenamins’ only truly subterranean brewery and was the first microbrewery in Eugene since the days of Prohibition. Explore the renovated 1900s house or relax in the backyard beer garden where ales are enjoyed under the shade of fir, ash, hawthorn and tulip trees in the summer; warmth is provided by an outdoor fire pit in winter.
Ninkasi Brewing Company
272 Van Buren St., Eugene
The tasting room itself is pretty tiny, so everyone heads to the outdoor patio. Make a beeline for the two-part fire pit, a mesmerizing work of art. You can also stay under the tent and huddle together next to a patio heater.
Sky High Brewing
160 NW Jackson Ave., Corvallis
This four-story renovated building offers multiple options for date night. Drink and dine year-round on the heated porch on the third floor. In season, enjoy the 360-degree views of the Coast Range, Willamette River and the countryside from the rooftop, then watch the sunset over Corvallis. Patio heaters provide additional warmth on cool nights.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.