(Or Where I Feel Comfortable Taking My Sometimes Cranky Weimaraner)
By Frank James
One of life’s quandraries for dog-owning beer lovers is what to do with your pooch when you want to go out to have a cold one. For Portlanders, the answer is pretty simple: take Fido with you. Here in dog-friendly Portland, the real question becomes a matter of where to take Fido.
Obviously, you never want to go someplace where you have to drink bad beer. And if it’s a hot, sunny day, the numero uno factor is whether the place has sufficient shade, cause roasting like a lizard in the desert is a no-go from the very start. (No need for further tanning here.) Location is always another factor that comes into play in one fashion or another.
And as important as any issue is whether your pooch actually likes the place, as nothing will ruin a pleasant pint like an anxious, unhappy dog. Now, if you own your typically easy-going, no-drama Lab, just about any place that will allow you to park your pooch under the table is okay. But if you have a dog who can be just a little finicky, you have to be a bit more selective. So, as I go through my decision making process, Binx, who can be more than a little finicky, gets a heavily-weighted vote.
Binx, a 6 year old, rescued Weimaraner, pretty much runs my life. Or at least he seems to think so. He’s a great dog, but he definitely has a very well-defined sense of his likes and dislikes and he’s pretty upfront about expressing his opinion about those issues. He lives to chase the chattering squirrels who tease him in our back yard and at the parks where he patrols like a manic, furry pinball, bouncing from tree to tree as he glares up at his tormentors. But he thinks chasing inanimate objects like sticks and balls and Frisbees is about the dumbest thing any self-respecting Weimaraner could ever do. He loves ice-cold, fresh water -preferably filtered by Brita – but will literally turn his nose up if he’s presented with old, tepid water that came from a tap, no matter how thirsty or hot he may be. He loves little dogs, but is extraordinarily wary of Great Danes, especially if there is more than one around at a particular time. A true Oregonian, he hates the hot sun and will literally run to find shelter in the coolest shade around, where he’ll plant himself until he’s forced to move. Binx also has certain favorites when it comes to the Portland area’s craft beer establishments. How do I know? Am I merely attributing anthropomorphic traits to a mute, four-legged creature who wouldn’t know one bar from another?
Possibly, but as any dog owner knows, it’s pretty easy to figure out whether your dog likes something or someone or a particular location. Their posture, their ease – or discomfort – and whether they are happy or displeased about being in a particular place becomes pretty apparent, pretty quickly. In fact, if a dog owner can’t tell whether their dog likes a certain place, they aren’t paying attention. All you have to do is watch them closely and you’ll get all the information you need. What are the spots that rank as Binx’s favorite spots, ones that I also enjoy? What are the craft beer establishments with outdoor seating that Binx feels most comfortable? And why?
This isn’t a “best craft beer establishment to take your dog to…” listing. No, it’s much more subjective, as it is simply a list of the places I like to go to because I know that my dog is most comfortable at those places. There are specific reasons, and I’ll note those reasons, but the establishments I’ll describe are simply the places Binx really likes and I’ll let you know why he likes the particular establishment. He’s a funny dog. He’s very friendly, but he also hates to be bothered by other dogs who can’t take a hint when he tries to nicely tell them to bug off. He’ll tolerate a certain amount of guff from another dog, but then he will lose patience. Binx usually has a very friendly, goofy, silly posture – he’s never started a fight or incident in the three and a half years I’ve owned him – but if another dog refuses to simply leave him alone, he will get this look that reminds me of Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, when Travis says : “You talking to me? You talking to me?” And that is usually enough to motivate a too-curious dog to move along. But obviously, I prefer frequenting places where that type of mini-drama is unlikely to unfold, where Binx can just chill, scavenge leftovers from our meals and get a cool drink of water.
Now, the human in this equation does get a vote. These places are on the list because they all serve good beer, either their own or via a series of taps that are consistently of good quality. But ultimately, if Binx likes the place, it’s cool with me.
1. The Green Dragon, Portland, OR
The Dragon definitely has Binx’ s favorite craft beer patio. Whenever I’m driving within about four blocks of the bar, from any direction, Binx gets excited. (Yes, he can tell directions!) And one reason is that the outdoor seating area is just so…well, so huge. The outdoor patio area is just to the left of the interior bar, and the tennis court-sized area holds about 15 or so large picnic tables. There are also three long, pew-like benches that offer additional seating if a table is not available or if you come by yourself and don’t want to occupy an entire table. To their credit, the Dragon uses the space well and doesn’t try to jam as many tables as possible into the space, which is a great decision on their part. As a result, the large tables are situated well apart from each other – they could probably fit 10 more tables back there – and that makes for a very comfortable experience for the customer. The space is definitely a big plus for Binx, who hates to be crowded by other dogs, and he likes it for several other reasons. The large water bowls are always clean and available and there is always a water keg filled with cool, fresh water. The space is nicely shaded by trees and buildings and it is always cool even on the summer’s hottest days. And because of the generous use of the space, Binx doesn’t have to worry about obnoxious or bothersome dogs. Some dog-friendly patios end up packing dogs snout-to-tail, which can sometimes present problems if the two dogs just don’t hit it off, for whatever reason. One other big plus, from my perspective, is that the area stays pretty clean and you never suffer from dog hair accumulating and then flying around and settling in your beer. Because the space has no roof, the wind, the rain, combined with the bar’s cleaning efforts keeps it relatively clean for an outdoor patio. And last, but not least, most of the folks who work there appear to love dogs and Binx gets plenty excited and happy to see the folks who bring the food that he gets to sample after we finish with it. Whenever he sees Lindsay or Lexi or Katz or any of the servers who bring food, he gets that happy dog smile and wiggle going. He senses that they like him and he also knows that those nice people bring food that turn into his treats. All in all, this is pretty much always the default place we go to when we want to have a beer and bring the dog along, especially on really hot days when we’re trying to find a cool place to hide out in for a while.
2. The Raccoon Lodge, Beaverton, OR
The patio area at the Raccoon Lodge is definitely larger than the space at the Dragon. There are two sections to the patio area: a covered area with about 11 picnic tables, and a section adjacent to that covered area where about 20 more tables sit on a well-tended, grassy, park-like area that is graced by large shade trees. When the temps rise, this is another one of those nice cool spots to escape to, one that is further helped by the fact that you’re sitting on grass, and not concrete. As is the case at the Dragon, there is a lot of space and each table is sufficiently separate from others so that Binx has lots of space and never feels claustrophobic or irritable with other dogs who might be cranky and too close. A very comfortable spot, with lots of available parking and and with enough tables so that you can almost always get outdoor seating. This place might rank higher if it wasn’t in Beaverton. (Please don’t be upset, Beaverton residents, I live in Beaverton, and I’m just joking!)
3. Walking Man, Stevenson, WA
I don’t know if this qualifies as local, but it’s close enough for my purposes. About 50 miles east in the Gorge, if this brewpub was in Portland, this would be my favorite choice. Why? Well, because it’s Walking Man, my favorite brewery within an hour’s drive. Binx likes the place well enough, though he clearly prefers the Dragon. It’s a bit smaller than the first two options I’ve described, with about a dozen round tables in their main patio. (There is another, smaller area, a narrow strip with about 5 tables and that space is shaded by a blind.) The main patio area is bordered by both trees and huge plants, and a good portion of the area is typically shaded and cool in the late afternoon/early evening. The tables are well-spaced and not jammed right next to each other. The waitresses will always provide fresh, cold water for your four-legged friend. And because it’s Stevenson and because you’re right there in the Gorge, it’s just a real treat to kick back and enjoy a cold Walking Man brew, after a long hike on one of the nearby trails.
4. Amnesia, Portland, OR
On cooler days, this is one of the best spots. On those blazingly hot days, unfortunately, only about half of the patio is shaded and the intensely hot, very busy outdoor grill doesn’t help keep things any cooler. But it is a large, comfortable space with a couple dozen large picnic tables and it’s usually easy enough to find a good spot for you and your furry friend. The only problem is that it gets extremely crowded on the best days as it seems as though every dog owner in the city has the very same idea: let’s go to Amnesia and grab a beer out on the patio! And because there isn’t as much space, and with more tables in a smaller space, it can be a bit less comfortable for a dog like space-conscious dog like Binx, who doesn’t like sharing it with a pushy mastiff with a drooling problem.
5. The Lucky Labs, Portland (2 pubs) and Multnomah Village
I have a soft spot for the Lucky Lab pubs because one of my first Portland experiences occurred when my first visit to their pub coincided with their early fall dog wash back in ’98. I’d been visiting the city, had rented a bike, and was pedaling down Hawthorne searching for the bar when I saw dogs and dogs and more dogs heading to the bar with their owners. I’d never seen anything quite like it before – the entire scene with the dog wash and people drinking beer with their dogs in the patio area. This is my kind of city and my kind of brewpub, I thought, that experience went a long way to persuading me to move west .So the Hawthorne Lucky Lab was very instrumental in getting me to Portland, and I do have a sentimental attachment to the place. Now, Binx has definite preferences regarding the three pubs. He likes the Multnomah Village and Northwest pubs, but definitely gets skittish at the Hawthorne location. The Hawthorne location is fine, if we take him at an odd hour, when it’s not too busy, say, early on a weekend or during the day, during the week. Or during the winter months when the crowds thin because it’s January or February and they have to heat a portion of the patio to make it tolerable for dogs and humans. But when it gets crowded, Binx simply doesn’t deal well with the large number of dogs crowding the space which is enclosed but for the side facing the parking lot. He suffers from sensory overload and gets cranky. In fact, he’s actually ran back to the car to try to get back in, on a couple of occasions when he’s just tired of dealing with so many dogs in such a relatively small space. He responds much better at both the NW Portland pub and the Multnomah Village pub. Even though the NW pub seems a bit smaller than the Hawthorne pub, because it is more open – only a portion is covered by a roof and bordered by a wall on two sides – it doesn’t provoke the same sense of anxiety for Binx. There are plenty of small buckets that double as water bowls and fresh water is readily available. It can get a bit crowded, but because it is so open, it’s more comfortable than an enclosed space would be. One problem is that a good portion of the area is open to the sun, and you can really roast when the sun is blazing and you don’t get the benefit of the shade provided by the adjacent building. That sense of openness is one of the best aspects of the Village pub. About 16 large tables sit on concrete block on hat would be the front lawn area of the unique building. There is no or canopy roof or bordering walls, and the sense of openness that is very pleasant. It has the feel of a sidewalk cafe, with space for dogs. It’s a great people watching spot also, because it is right there on the street and not stuffed in the back somewhere hidden by trees. Fresh water and the Lab’s signature water buckets are also readily available. Even though it may be the smallest patio area of any of the Labs, this is probably Binx’s favorite.
6. The Fifth Quadrant, Portland, OR
There are about ten tables in an area that is partially-enclosed – a roof and bordering walls, while being exposed to the parking lot on one side – and it is clean, comfortable and relatively spacious. The tables aren’t jammed up against each other, which certainly eliminates most problems associated with disagreeable dogs being forced to lay next to each other. There are water bowls and plenty of fresh, available water. One problem is that on the hooter days, it can be a bit hot because a lack of air circulation, and much of the space is exposed to the west. On another side of the bar, there are several sidewalk picnic tables that often enjoy much better shade and that is typically where I’ll grab a table.
7. The Laurelwood, NE Portland, OR
It’s really too small and sometimes the sun can bake you if you’re there at the wrong time, but this is on the list because I’ll often drag Binx there so that I can grab a pint of their Workhorse IPA, one of my favorite local brews. Occasionally I’ll sit out with him on the patio, but most times, those spots are taken. I do miss their original pub, a space about a mile down Sandy that is now being used by another establishment. That spot had several full picnic tables that were always nice and shaded and cool. It was once my favorite spot to enjoy a cold one, as it was only about a mile from my home.