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Previous Pint Pleasures - November 1998

Guinness Eileen

Bill's Tavern and Brewhouse, 188 North Hemlock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Although there are a lot of brewpubs and excellent microbreweries in Oregon -- most notably around Portland -- there are hardly any along the Oregon coast. I suppose this is due to the fact that brewpubs, like many other businesses, thrive around population centers where they can attract the necessary paying customers. And American brewpubs, be they in large megalopolises or small university-oriented communities, need to attract a microbrew-friendly customer base, which rules out a lot of the small town populations in America. I think you know the towns I'm talking about: the most popular watering holes offer Budweiser or Miller for the locals, and possibly Corona or Heineken for the occasional sophisticate passing through. But never a locally made beer. I mean, why should they?

I suppose I'm being a little hard on small towns -- snobby is probably a more appropriate word. But living in Seattle, and having grown up in Los Angeles, I'll freely admit I'm a big-city girl and I don't have much experience with most small towns. But since my mother grew up in the town of Seaside, Cannon Beach's neighbor to the north, and since my parents returned to Seaside for several years after my father retired, I have spent a good deal of time in the small towns of the Oregon Coast, most notably Seaside, Astoria, Gearhart, and Cannon Beach.

So imagine my surprise and delight on a recent trip with my mother when we discovered Bill's Tavern and Brewhouse. Situated along the main road which runs through the quaint, touristy town of Cannon Beach, Bill's is an oddly cozy wood-paneled saloon with high ceilings and brewing vats visible in an upstairs room. Although the brewery started in November of 1997 the original tavern was established in 1932 for those thirsty Oregon Coast lumber-industry workers. I suppose if a brewpub is going to arise in a town like this, it makes sense it would grow out of a well-established tavern.

The day of our visit the beers on tap included Marshall's Mighty Bitter, Smokey the Porter, Bronze Ale, and 2X4 Stout (an appropriate name, seeing as how unpainted 2x4s provide much of the decor). Schooners are $2.00, pints $2.75, and pitchers $8.00. I had a pint of the Duck Dive Pale Ale. It was a nice rich color but a fairly boring brew, a bit like riding in a vibrantly robust copper-colored station wagon with cool sensuous curves, but it's a station wagon nevertheless: nice-looking on the outside, but with torn beige leather upholstery inside, faint baby smells, a scattering of a child's jigsaw puzzle pieces on the floor, mysterious stains on the door panels, and perhaps a soggy pair of swim trunks mildewing in the wayback. My mother had a pint of Blackberry Beauty, a fruit ale similar to McMenamin's Ruby Ale, only very blackberry-like, obviously. It offered no hoppy bite, no malty zest, no body -- just blackberries in abundance.

Oh, and they also serve Bud and Bud Lite. (Yeah, right!)

The lunch menu features sandwiches and fish entrees. I accompanied my beer with a surprisingly good garden sandwich, and my mother said her BLT was quite satisfying. The rotating CD player provided an enjoyable selection. For lunch we were treated to a little Billie Holliday, some Bob Dylan, and the Pogues' first album Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash.

I'm assuming the face on the tavern's logo is that of Bill. He looks like an interesting guy in his derby hat with a couple days' growth of beard. Is he squinting because he's trying to see something, or is he simply drunk? Or perhaps he just has a lazy eye; it's hard to tell. I'm sure he was probably an interesting guy to hoist a pint or two with -- although back in those days they must have hoisted mugs or schooners. I suppose the typical American lager was better back in those days, too, nothing like the watered-down corporate drek of today's American macrobreweries. There were probably a lot of smaller breweries around, although they were all producing German bottom-ferment lagers, as was the American style. The interesting thing is that now you have to pay more for a top-ferment English-style ale -- i.e. the typical microbrew -- than a lager. In England the case is reversed: a pint of lager costs more than a pint of ale. Now, I'm not trying to knock German beer; I've had some excellent weiss beers in Munich. But why did German-style lagers take over in this country? Why not the English-style ales which were being produced by the original New England breweries? As much as British real ale purists may complain, I'd rather be faced with drinking a pint of mass-produced ale like Watney's than a schooner of mass-produced lager like Budweiser any day.

I suppose I should get off the subject of lager vs. ale before the terms become meaningless. After all, both lager and ale are still considered "beer", good or bad, and whatever I say about them doesn't change that fact. So perhaps I should switch the subject to duct tape, a product whose name has indeed become completely irrelevant. A couple of months ago I read about a study conducted by scientists at the Lawrence Laboratory in Berkeley, using all varieties of duct tape -- economy, professional, and nuclear grades -- as well as other types of tape and duct sealants. What they basically discovered is that duct tape is no good for taping ducts. As Max Sherman said, "What we found was that duct tape almost always failed. It failed reliably and often quite catastrophically. And nothing else except duct tape failed." Apparently duct tape works great for labeling clothing, sealing packages, and securing cables to carpeting -- not to mention wrapping up your pet duck. But it dries, shrinks, and separates too fast to be considered the least bit useful for taping refrigeration, heating, and ventilation ducting.

That makes sense; there are a lot of other similar products out there. I mean, have you ever tried to tape a shot of Glenmorangie or Johnnie Walker Red with Scotch tape? What about using a pocket calculator to add up the number of pockets you have? And can you really protect yourself against burglars breaking into your larder by confronting them with a staple gun? What about securing loose teeth with toothpaste? We have a secretary in our office, with four drawers and a couple of shelves. But has this piece of furniture ever done any filing or typing for us?

English is a very strange language...