When you look back in your life, there are ‘big’ moments, and ‘BIG’ moments, those events that you can point at and say with certainty “That’s a day my life changed forever”. For me, it was the day I flew into Portland from Albuquerque and rode the MAX to my friend’s house, single suitcase and overstuffed backpack in tow. There’s more to that story, but there’s so much more to talk about from after that date – the reason I moved to Oregon, the reason you’re here, is for the beer, the industry, and everything it encompasses. And so it that I celebrate this week particular week of July as the moment when my life changed, permanently and certainly, with no going back.
Loyal to the Legion
It so happens that this amazing beer hall opened up not far from the house I would end up living at for 3+ years after some unfortunate housing adventures. I’m working on a longer version of this story for the interested, but I’ll sum it up by saying the rental housing market in Portland, and all the profiteers in it, can get fucked. *clears throat
This beer hall was called Loyal Legion, and it was a renovated union meeting hall in the inner SE side of downtown Portland, an area with a lot of warehouses and business blocks and on the same block as RoboTaco and legendary ‘dive’ hole Star Bar. It is a very well-done space, with a design that put the bar in the middle of the space, and stretches from one end to the other, allowing for a very long 2-sided bar with 99 taps in the middle. Booths of various sizes line the walls, all finished in a plush blue leather with deep cushions. Much of these features are replicated at the newer Beaverton location, where I’m writing this entry. I’ve spent many, many hours at either location, and they both still have some secrets left to tell me. I’ll get to that in a moment.
It has to be said that the bar layout is usually just a result of factors in the building design and the cost of a renovation, or the many other things a business owner thinks about when designing their establishment. But the folks behind Loyal Legion had the intention of making this a place that stood out from the others, and they did that by doing something almost unheard of in most places; Loyal Legion was designed around the bar, in every way – the keg room/cooler was built directly below the center of the room above, allowing for the shortest, most direct route for the beer to travel. From the top of the keg to the tap in just a few feet keep the lines short and easy to clean and the amount of beer in them as little as possible. This holistic approach to the entire flow, this focus on keeping the beer as fresh and untouched as possible, sets Loyal Legion apart from any other ‘large’ taproom before it, and still to this day. They duplicated this process at their Beaverton location, cementing my personal loyalty by demonstrating a continued dedication to this ideal treatment of the beer.
ITS WHY I MOVED HERE
This single business validated my decision to move to Oregon in more ways than one – it proved to me that there were people here working to elevate the industry at every opportunity. In all of my travels around the country, in all of the great places where I’ve experienced this passion, I’ve amassed a certain instinct about these things, and LL just hit all the senses as…’right’. From the beginning, they printed their philosphy on the menus and tried to explain why it was important, integrating the process with the food they cooked – they used the beer flushed from the lines every day to soak their sausages. In 2015, this wasn’t entirely new in Portland, but for someone who had just moved to town, chasing beer and untapped check-ins, this was an incredible spot to be able to walk to* (see my longer article)
So now I find myself sitting at the 2nd Loyal Legion location, writing about the original, thinking about all the places I’ve been since that first visit, and I still call this one of my favorite places in the world (2nd, right behind John’s Marketplace). They’ve added an immense selection of top-end whiskey, bourbon and tequilas, with a mixed drink menu and wine for those not interest in beer (for some strange reason). There is a shot of the day, recently bumped up to $4 as things have tended to go. The menu has expanded to include ‘smash’ burgers, fried foods and salads, with the sausages another great focus – if you see it on the menu, try the frankfurter corndog. There’s even a happy-hour menu if you stop in from 3-5pm, which will save you a couple dollars on your beer and food. This is truly a full-service bar now, although the entire premise remains BEER. Everyone here has to be certified as a level 1 cicerone, which requires a written test of basic beer stuff, but this is more than a lot of beer nerds I know have gone. For the record I’m not a cicerone, but I do have an OLCC servers card and could jump behind the bar to pour beer anywhere in Oregon. Put me in, coach.
As it happens, it’s not a great plan to show up to these places with the intent on writing anything substantial, especially not if you like talking about the subject and can be easily distracted by an intelligent, thoughtful conversation. It is now Saturday, and the events are already underway at the PDX Loyal Legion, and I’ve been to the new Breakside pod already today without hitting that publish, button.
SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON oh wait this isn’t youtube. Just come back soon for more.