Friday, May 22, 2009

Southeast Morrison Pub Crawl

There is a growing bar district between Grand and 9th on Southeast Morrison Street. With three interesting places -- Morrison Hotel, The Maiden, and Sway Bar -- opening within the past couple of years, it deserves a place on the list of Portland pub crawls. It's also nice because there are several options for extending the crawl beyond those three places: a beer-bar jaunt down 9th past the Green Dragon and Lucky Lab to Roots; spendy bowling at Grand Central; or you could head north on Grand into hipster heaven as the Pub Nighters did Tuesday.

Walking into the Morrison Hotel Tuesday, I was a little bit concerned that some poetry might be happening there. Turns out it was just the quizmaster administering some trivia to an attentive audience. We were happy to crowd into the bar side instead, where we were only occasionally distracted by an outburst from the restaurant-booth side. The Morrison isn't much for beer on tap -- only four taps -- but they have dozens of nice bottles available, with a good mix of Belgian and German imports and nice American micros, all priced pretty reasonably. Tuesday they were selling Russian River Damnation for $9 a bottle -- I've never seen it for less than $10 in a store.

We were very surprised to see Widmer Alt on tap at the Morrison Hotel. Not the 25th Anniversary Double Alt that is selling in 22's right now -- which is excellent, by the way -- but the honest-to-goodness original Widmer brew. Not sure I've ever seen that outside of the Gasthaus.

Then we went a few doors down to The Maiden -- originally called the Maiden in the Mist, but renamed by new management. We weren't sure if the live music that night was going to impede conversation too much, but we ended up having a blast there. Some really good swing dancers were going to town -- apparently they knew to show up when the Tracy Kim Trio was playing. The mellow Parisian jazz was a great backdrop, and it was fun for a bunch of wallflowers like us to watch the dancers. The beer selection was not incredibly inspiring, but on Tuesday they always have a $3 IPA -- usually Ninkasi, but this week it was Alameda's El Torero. Swanky atmosphere, good food, and lots of fun if there's dancing going on.

When I told my wife we were going to the Sway Bar, she eyed me suspiciously and said "That looks like a pick-up place to me." Not for our type. It was a bust for the beer-loving Pub Night crowd. The bartender was offended when we turned up our noses because there was no draft beer: "We have six taps, it's just that we're out tonight." Call me a zealot, but zero out of six seems like a smaller number than, say, zero out of two. Anyway, I'm not sure how they sold out of all six at once, there were only two customers in there Tuesday evening, and couldn't you keep a spare somewhere? Might be an interesting place, but we took our party around the corner to the cheater-pint slinging establishments on Grand Avenue.

Over on Grand, we stopped in at the Eastbank Saloon, the Slow Bar, and My Father's Place. Not very impressive for beer nerds, except Bridgeport's Hop Czar on tap at the Slow Bar, which also had the most interesting atmosphere of the bunch. I might write up a Grand Avenue pub crawl another time; meanwhile check out the Morrison Hotel and the Maiden, and maybe even the Sway Bar if they remember to stock some kegs of beer.


  1. Bill:
    For the record, that was one of my favorite Pub Nights ever...mostly because it was so unexpected. Thoroughly enjoyed both Morrison Hotel and The Maiden, good beers & company. Probably good you had your back turned to the Tracy Kim Trio; instead all you got to see was me, Bryce and (quite possibly) Sharon gawking at the hot lead singer. Wouldn't be opposed at all to us mixing in these two places every now & then...having Alameda El Torero and Black bear XX was great, too...

  2. oh, i was definitely gawking... we're going back to The Maiden soon, right?!? so hawt :)

    good beer that night too.. Aventinus is always a winner and the Black Bear XX on tap was a great way to cap the night!

  3. We'll definitely keep it in the mix, fun time!

  4. Nice photography, Bill! I'm glad to see you have the same trouble with dark bars that I do. We need to band together with the likes of Matt taking richly-textured, freakishly well-lighted shots.

  5. Jeff: Trouble?! These are impressionistic art photos ;-). Can't you see the swirling phantom dancers in the last one?

    I am very jealous of Matt's skills. Derek is coming along with some beautiful pictures also.

  6. Bill,

    That was a fun night and Slow Bar makes a mean Burger!