Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Bottle Shop Downtown May open in Time for Beer Month!

Though it may be news to some of you, for many it's already old news that a new bottle shop looks to open soon in downtown.

Nick Lopez who has manned the taps at Venti's and helped Gilgamesh launch the lounge, soon will have his own gig: Franklin's Bottle Shop!

They'll be located in the Electric Apartments.

It was built about 1920 for use as the local headquarters of the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company.

During the roaring 20s they often advertised for bond and stock sales.

"The land is rich with grain and fruit and produce of every kind...will you find yourself ready to enjoy some of the comforts of life?"

We think beer is an excellent comfort! - and a humorous, if slight, link by the ad to the former principal tenants of the building.

July is Oregon Craft Beer Month and the shop may be open in time to celebrate it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pilsner in the Paper, Date of Thielson Building - History Notes

It's open! Instead of beer for breakfast, it was pilsner in the paper. It was so nice to see the show announcement for "History on Tap: Farms, Fermentation and the Free Lunch."

We'll drink to that!

Thielson / Gray-Belle Building

No doubt earlier this week you also saw the story about the restoration work at the former Rainbow Chinese Restaurant at 440 State Street.

According to the paper, its known history seems to start with the Gray-Belle Restaurant in about 1915. Later it was Nohlgren's and in at least 1932 it was known as the Thielson building.

We believe there is reason to date it to 1907 - and that it was always known as the Thielson building! The New Thielson Building, to be exact - though, we suppose there is ambiguity whether it was the new [Thielson Building], just incidentally new, or the [New Thielson] Building replacing and distinct from the Old Thielson building.

Anyhow, in 1907 the current building appears to have been built and a shoe company installed there. Some of the Prices are buried in Lee Cemetery, and the family also seems to have had a store and roots in Eugene.

An ad for the new store suggests the building was known as the "New Thielson Building."  So it wasn't just in 1932 that it was known by this name!

There may be more to say in another note...there are lots of Thielsons/Thielsens running around (the spelling doesn't seem to be stable) and we weren't sure which ones were the builders.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Incredible? Panama La Esmeralda at Broadway Coffee

Here's something interesting - and maybe even incredible. 

It's pretty neat that Broadway Coffeehouse is serving Stumptown cold brew on tap. That's remarkable, but doesn't quite ascend to the level of wow.

But what might just be mind-blowing is the prospect of Panama la Esmeralda on tap here in Salem. Frankly, it's almost too-good-to-be-true, so perhaps some caution is in order (more on that below).

Hacienda la Esmeralda is one of the world all-stars in coffee. They grow an heirloom Ethiopian variety called "gesha" or "geisha." Latin American soils and climate + ancient genetic variety = amazing.  It is so highly sought after that it's sold by auction.

For many years Esmeralda was sold in the "Best of Panama" auctions - and almost always brought the highest price and highest cupping scores. In 2004 it took the coffee world by storm, taking a then-unprecedented $21 a pound.  (For comparison, the current minimum Fair Trade price is $1.40 a pound, and bulk commodity coffee goes for less.)  Most other uber-specialty lots of coffee go in national auctions, like the Best of Panama, but as Esmeralda has grown in popularity and esteem, the farm now appears to conduct their own auctions for a bunch of different micro-lots. Moving up!

Last year at Best of Panama a lot of Esmeralda sold for $75 a pound - that's green, unroasted coffee! This year (2012) it looks like Stumptown purchased a lot directly from the farm for $45.50 a pound.

Price isn't always a good proxy for quality, mind you.  Too often price is a proxy for status rather than quality - just think of trophy wine and other luxury goods.  Still, roasters thought there was something unusual about Esmeralda and were willing to pay for it.

And whether the cold brew is from this auction lot (possibly 2011 rather than 2012) or another (there was also a peaberry*), you can try some. In Salem!

So for $3.50/$4/$4.50, this is a crazy-good deal for one of the world's finest coffees.

Now, some caveats. We've been lucky to taste a handful of gesha coffees over the years, and they ranged from beguiling to magnificent. If you're really into coffee, they might blow your mind. If you just "like" coffee and find other beverages like beer or wine or scotch interesting, you'll probably also find a gesha coffee different and interesting (though most likely not mind-blowing - at the end of the day, it's just coffee, a decoction of caramelized seeds).

But if you drink coffee with cream and sugar or with flavorings, though, they are probably not worth the premium. The layers of fruit over lively acidity are something to behold, but they shine straight-up, not cut with the other stuff.

However, we've never tasted a cold brew gesha. Who knows what the cold brew does to the flavor.  Cold brew usually is a mellower brew, with less acid, so there's some risk. The brightness and liveliness - often citrusy - are an important part of the distinctiveness of a gesha coffee, and without that it might be underwhelming and much less brilliant.  In a muted expression, would it still be special?

There's also a chance the brew is the result of unsold inventory - maybe the coffees were too expensive and didn't sell, and so this is a way to transform old coffee into something less expensive that will sell. Stumptown doesn't show a current lot of Esmeralda, but the google turns up some older listings from 2011.  The brew might not be from the freshest coffee beans. So the pricing and timing suggests some caution on this offer.

But you know what? If you're into coffee, you can't miss this! You gotta jump!

In beer terms? Much more unusual - even rarer - than, say, Pliny the Younger. Much.

So there you go. Some hype and some caution. If you drink coffee regularly, it's worth trying. If you don't drink coffee often - don't worry, it won't change your life. It's like birds - for your coffee "life list" you need Esmeralda, but if chasing after rare birds isn't your cup of tea, well then, this isn't your cup of coffee.

* Late add:  Another tweet suggests it's the peaberry, and a fact sheet dates the lot to December 2011. The wonders of a cached page show it sold retail for $41.25/12 oz, equivalent to $55 a pound.  This is top-shelf stuff.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salem Houses by Van Evera Bailey? An Architectural Quest

Pursuing down some details about the Capital City Laundry, reader RC found some very tantalizing suggestions in the archives of the Oregon Historical Society - and also proved there's just one degree of separation between anyone and beer!

Mid-century, the laundry was owned and operated by Richard Rawlinson, and perhaps even sometimes known as Rawlinson's Laundry. Apparently in 1953 the Rawlinsons engaged Portland architect Van Evera Bailey to design a home. The drawings are at OHS, and suggest the Rawlinsons had a lot on Argyle Street:
93 plans, sections, details, schedules and elevations on 6 sheets of a house for Mr. & Mrs. Richard Rawlinson on Argyle St. in Salem, Oregon, scale: 1/4" : 1' to 1:1, 1953.
Naturally we were curious, and poked around a little more. Turns out Bailey also drew up plans for Werner and Geraldine Brown.

Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 2011
Why is Bailey interesting?  You may recall the hops article in last winter's issue of Oregon Historical Quarterly.  Right next to it there was also a long essay and reconsideration of Bailey! The cover reproduced an image from the July 1954 piece in Better Homes and Gardens on the Eyre home in Portland. (It makes us think a little of the Watzek house, newly minted National Historic Landmark!)

About Bailey the quarterly summarizes,
During his forty-year career, mid-century Oregon architect Van Evera Bailey (1903–1980) designed hundreds of modern residences, many of which are lived in today in the Portland metropolitan region. Bailey’s legacy is but little known outside local architectural circles and is continually eclipsed by those of his more famous contemporaries and fellow developers of the Northwest Regional style. Architectural historian Hope H. Svenson takes a fresh look at the domestic architecture of Van Evera Bailey, offering thorough analysis of several Bailey-designed houses in greater Portland. By situating his architecture in its broader regional and historical contexts, the author demonstrates the importance of Bailey’s contribution to Oregon’s built environment in defining and documenting the shifting cultural values of modern-era America and the Pacific Northwest.
There is also a $20,000 mid-career fellowship for architects in his name.

So it would be interesting to learn that some of Salem's residents might have commissioned a house by Bailey.

The initial leads unfortunately peter out. Phone directories suggest in the mid-1950s the Rawlinsons moved into a house on Doughton - close to Argyle, it's true, but the county assessor suggests the house was built in 1951, a couple of years too early (if the finding aid's dating of 1953 is correct).

The Browns also moved in the early 1950s, but they seem to have moved into the Cusick House, designed by Fred Legg 40 years before, and not into a newly built house.

So does anyone know of any Salem houses designed by Van Evera Bailey?  One or more would be an interesting chapter in Salem mid-century modern style and development.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Newish News: Breweries for Gilgamesh, Santiam; and a Laundry Trip

By now you've heard about the new Gilgamesh location. Many commentators have greeted the move with enthusiasm.

We've been thinking about it for a while now, and we're not so sure.  We wonder if it's a missed opportunity.

The former Loose Ends site is tucked in between Pringle Creek, the Railroad, a warehouse and an office park. Basically, it's in the Fairview Industrial Park, just behind this office park.

The location isn't very conducive to walking or casual neighborhood visits. It's a driving destination. And while the prospect of creekside drinking and dining is alluring, it's hard to imagine it being really picturesque. It's really suburban industrial. And the warehouses are never far.

The Southside Speakeasy has made a similar and nearby location work, Wandering Aengus Cider House is not far; maybe with Pringle Creek Community and the rest of the residential stuff going in at Fairview, this is something of an emerging district.

It will be interesting to follow.  (A generation ago now, Widmer and Bridgeport and others in Portland located in industrial areas and the neighborhoods have gentrified around them.  So it's important to note that the same may happen here - we can only wish for success like that!)

Santiam Brewing

Many also know that the Beer Czar's side project, Santiam Brewing (and on facebook), is very near to opening. Maybe within the month!

As the crow flies, their site on 19th street just south of McGilchrist is very close to the Gilgamesh site. But between the railroad and road plan, it's a roundabout connection. Still, it is interesting both are siting in industrial areas. Both will be primarily breweries, so it's not all that surprising, but we still wonder whether locations more inviting to casual foot traffic and closer to residential neighborhoods would have merit. Perhaps rents vary too much; it's hard to imagine the industrial sites being very expensive right now.

The Capital City Laundry

Still, we want to suggest an alternate site for a brewery with a pub or tasting room. It's an industrial site, plumbed for heavy water use. It's in a somewhat historic building and has a glazed northern exposure facing one of the city's finest plazas across the street. It's nicely urban, and the Grant neighborhood is full of residences in easy walking distance.

It is the old Capital City Laundry, right across the street from the Broadway Coffeeshop. Perfect for redevelopment!  Apparently the Salem Alliance Church owns it, and maybe they have plans for it - but we can dream!

(In this vintage image from the Oregon State Library you can see what look like the overhead lines for the Oregon Electric interurban and streetcar. It went up High and Broadway and rejoined the main line just north of Madison, where it crosses Broadway.)