In memory of Don Younger

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Last night Portland lost one of its legendary figures, Don Younger, owner of the Horse Brass Pub. If you enjoy Oregon beer, you should raise a pint to him tonight. As a relative newcomer here the story’s not mine to tell, but suffice to say that he and his bar did a great deal to nurture the brewing community that’s made Portland justifiably famous for beer. Imbibe wrote about that history in one of their first issues. John Foyston has more in the Oregonian, and Ezra is collecting memories of Don at the New School. Many more tributes will be rolling in.

I’d read about Don and the Horse Brass before I’d moved to Portland and made a point to visit the bar on my first trip out here several years ago. When I finally did move here the Horse Brass became one of the first local bars where I felt at home. I loved beer, but it was also one of the best places to enjoy a cigar. Knowing few people in the city, it was a place I could visit anytime and strike up a conversation with whomever else was there at the end of the bar where the cigar smokers gathered. On one of these early visits Don was holding court at his usual spot, and though I didn’t meet him then I still remember the night. There was a young guy a few spots down from me nursing a beer and reading a book alone. Don called him over: “What are you doing, you don’t come to a bar to read a book!” Just like that the guy was introduced to the group and welcomed into the pub community.

A few weeks later I tried to meet Don myself. The statewide smoking ban was about to go into effect and I wanted to talk to Don for some articles I was working on. Many bar owners privately opposed the ban, but he was one of the few who actively fought against it. I had no luck getting an interview though: The bartenders informed me that Don was sick of talking to people about it. I ended up writing about the ban in the Oregonian anyway, not expecting to hear from Don. Then I saw him at the Horse Brass a few days later and introduced myself. Amazingly, he knew exactly who I was, said he loved my article, and that if he’d known who was asking for him he would have gladly talked to me. I’ve never been more flattered to find out that someone had read something I wrote. As intimidating as he was by reputation, in person he was as friendly as could be, the perfect publican.

A few months later I noticed something that cracked me up: He’d posted a clipping of the article in the hallway of the Horse Brass, right by the bathrooms, with some patron adding a graffitied mustache to my headshot. It stayed there for about a year. I may never win a Pulitzer, but how many Pulitzer winners can say they’ve had their writing displayed outside the men’s room of the Horse Brass? I’ll take it.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to know Don well after that. I spent less time at the Horse Brass after the ban, and reportedly so did he. But I do have one more story. The final night of smoking at the Horse Brass was not, in fact, the last night one could do it legally. A few days after the ban took effect Don allowed his regulars one more chance to light up in defiance of the law. Though I hadn’t arrived for this part, I’m told by others that Don called for patrons’ attention a half hour before we lit up to let everyone know what was going on. He said he knew that smoking is illegal now, but that he’d promised his friends they’d have one last session together. Anyone could leave if they wanted to, and he gave them the phone number they could call to report him, but this was going to happen. The bar burst into applause. And, of course, nobody called the number.

What a man. What a bar. Long live the Horse Brass.


A qualified defense of Ayn Rand on Medicare

Michael Ford at Huffington Post calls out Ayn Rand for accepting Medicare payments when she was ill with cancer:

An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand’s law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand’s behalf she secured Rand’s Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O’Connor (husband Frank O’Connor).

As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so.

This isn’t accurate. While there’s some surface irony in Rand accepting Medicaid payments, in her non-fiction writing she stated clearly that she thought it appropriate for people who share her beliefs to do so:

A different principle and different considerations are involved in the case of public (i.e., governmental) scholarships. The right to accept them rests on the right of the victims to the property (or some part of it) which was taken from them by force.

The recipient of a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims.

Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. The victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it…

The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

True, The Fountainhead wouldn’t have been quite as compelling if Roark were depicted collecting unemployment and living on food stamps. But given all the future taxes he surely ended up paying on his skyscrapers, he would have been totally within his rights to do so. That’s Rand’s argument, anyway, and whether or not it’s convincing her actions were in accordance with her stated beliefs.

This is a question that at some time or another confronts everyone of libertarian stripe. Whatever we think the ideal way is of funding various goods, we live in a world where we are taxed to pay for them and where private alternatives are crowded out by government services. For most of us, the question is not “Will I ever use services funded by taxes?”; it’s “Given the extent to which I am taxed to pay for services I may need, under which circumstances can I justify accepting them?” The answers to which we arrive have as much to do with our practical situations and personal integrity as they do with strict principle. To criticize a dying person who paid taxes all her life for accepting aid in her final days, and who had defended taking such aid years earlier, is uncharitable to say the least.

[Via BoingBoing.]


Beer cocktails in the Associated Press

I’m telling you, 2011 is going to be the year for beer cocktails. Today the AP picks up on the trend:

Something new is on tap on the bar scene as adventurous mixologists brew up beer cocktails.

“Beer as an ingredient can offer such a wide variety of flavors,” says Jacob Grier, a drinks blogger who tends bar at Metrovino in Portland, Ore. “They can be sweet and malty. They can have chocolate roast-y notes. It can be a great complement to a cocktail.”
For most people, beer and liquor have never been more than nodding acquaintances.

Sure, maybe you’ve had a shot with a beer chaser here, or, in more reckless moments, a boilermaker — in which the shot glass of liquor is dropped directly into the pint of beer.

But the new trend goes far beyond that, with mixologists looking for creative new ways to blend beer and booze.

Read the whole thing here
. And for the Brewer’s Bramble recipe, see this post from last year.


Links for 1/22/10

This is your war on drugs: Video of Utah man gunned down by cops during no-knock drug raid.

Over objections from the state-sponsored anti-smoking body, France will once again allow cultural depictions of smoking in advertising. Examples of previous French censorship here.

One Oregon lawmaker wants to ban cycling with young children.

This year’s Edge question: What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive tool kit?

“In China, children are being taught English in utero.” The most emailed NYT article ever.

The Oregonian takes a look at two new local fortified wines, including my friend Neil Kopplin’s excellent Imbue vermouth.

From barista to bartender, an excellent career path!


Averna Stout Flip at Daily Candy

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Today’s Daily Candy has a great feature on beer cocktails, including an Averna Stout Flip from me:

2 oz Averna
1 oz stout
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 egg

Stir in the whole egg, shake vigorously with ice, and double-strain into a wine glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. For the beer, go for a stout with a smooth, rich mouthfeel. St. Peter’s cream stout is perfect here; Samuel Smith’s oatmeal stout is also good.

[Thanks to Lush Angeles for the photo, who also offers a non-flipped version of the drink.]


Links for 1/20/11

Jeff at Cheap Talk takes a look at jury strategy and the conditions under which non-unanimous convictions may be preferable. It’s an angle I hadn’t thought of, and worth keeping in mind.

Mandates don’t stay modest” is possibly the most important meme in the continuing debate over health care reform.

Erin at Uncluttered is right: It’s worth taking the time to learn the names of people you encounter on a regular basis.

I hope you like Bell’s Beer (I do!), because odds are good you’ll be subsidizing their operations soon.

It was only a matter of time before a legislator tried to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages; Iowa state senator Brian Schoenjahn gets there first.

A small town in New York has extended its smoking ban to include all public sidewalks.

Casting for The Dark Knight Rises is now complete; I’m looking forward to Nolan’s take on Bane.

Good Spirits News reviews the Cocktail Collective: “[A] great little 100 page book to keep in your pocket as a reference or to challenge your local bartender when out on the town.” Buy it here.


Big Bottom debut


I was recently hired by Big Bottom, a new independent whiskey bottler and soon-to-be distiller based outside of Portland, Oregon, to come up with a few cocktails for their debut product. Their first is a nice 3-year old Indiana bourbon with a high percentage of rye in the mash bill. The second is a 2-year bourbon finished in tawny port casks, a unique whiskey that will be available soon.
For the cocktails we focused on classics like the Seelbach and Boulevardier, but I also came up with one spirit-forward original for them, named the Decatur in a nod to the spirit’s Indiana origins:

2 oz Big Bottom bourbon
.75 oz fino sherry
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash chocolate bitters

Stir with ice and serve up.

Check out the rest of the drinks here, and look for Big Bottom on the Oregon market soon. (The name, but the way, is not a reference to the Spinal Tap song. It’s in honor of the Big Bottom protected wilderness area near Mt. Hood.)


Eating big at Taco Time

Another day, another study that finds no effect on consumer choices when mandatory calorie information is posted:

But the latest study from one fast food restaurant chain in Washington state found that the calorie counts did not make any difference in purchases that people made.

“I was surprised that we found basically absolutely nothing,” says Eric Finkelstein, a professor of health services research at Duke-National University of Singapore of his negative results. He found that even after the Taco Time food chain added the caloric information to their menus, consumers continued to chose the same items they had prior to the labeling.

One of the reasons hypothesized for the finding:

One factor confounding the impact of the calorie labeling may have been a logo that the taco restaurant chain Finkelstein studied used to highlight healthier choices. With that designation already in place, he says, the addition of the calories might not have made much difference in people’s assessment of better-for-them foods.

I hate to say I told you so, but I did sort of tell you so:

The alternative is not zero information. Chain restaurants are already responding to consumer demand for nutritional information without mandated displays. Many have been making it available on their websites or in literature within the restaurant, readily accessible for interested consumers. Some, like Subway, tout the healthiness of their menu and prominently advertise it. Others, like Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr., flaunt their excess. In between are hundreds of other restaurants that highlight their healthier offerings or entrées that comply with popular diets. There’s no compelling reason to think that the trend toward greater transparency won’t continue or that this multiplicity of approaches is somehow inferior to the single right way dictated by local government.

Given the lack of evidence that mandatory calorie labeling has any effect, the federal government should have refrained from imposing the costs of the mandate onto chains across the country.

Update: As long as we’re talking Taco Time, I should link to this thorough take down of a Taco Time owner’s claim that the chain’s tacos stand up to those of quality local taquerias and taco carts. Spoiler: Taco Time does not come out on top.

[Via EaterPDX.]


Links for 1/4/11

Why not start your new year off with some links?

Libertarians and the art of letting go:

Libertarians view, or should view, the story of politics as one of fitfully learning to let go of power. Letting go is most certainly an art to be learned. It doesn’t come to us intuitively. Instead, it appears intuitive to think that planning, regimentation, and following a consciously designed order are the only rational ways to run a society. As a result, letting go can appear to be a default on our responsibilities. Yet letting go often has very good results…

David Weigel highlights ten conservatives to watch in 2011.

Clover is getting into the pour-over coffee game.

Hard to argue with this list of the five worst comics of 2010.

Writing in the Oregonian, John Foyston calls beer cocktails one of the “surprising trends” in beer from 2010. Here are a few more beer cocktail recipes from Wine Enthusiast.

Camper English takes a look at the evolution of the Martini, a drink whose name has been more constant than its recipe.

Given Portland’s love of both coffee and strip clubs, it’s surprising we don’t yet have a café con piernas.