Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two Years in Portland

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of my arrival in Portland. It's amazing to me that its been two years already, in so many ways the town is still new to me. At the same time it feels like home, like this is where I was always supposed to be. Looking back, my time in Chicago was bittersweet. I met people there that I consider life long friends and associates and gained insight into what my life's work would be. I take pride in having grown along with the likes of Benjamin Schiller, Matt Seiter, Danny Shapiro, Cody and Anne, and have great memories at the two bars I worked at in Chi. I have some less than positive memories there, too, but overall I look back fondly on my time in the windy city. I wouldn't be doing what I am today without those personal and professional experiences, so for that I am grateful.

I left Chicago on May 1st of 2010 with a Uhaul trailer loaded up and a crumpled mapquest printout pointing my way to Oregon. I had little idea of what I was going to do once I got here but I knew this was where I needed to be. After three days on the road(including a nice stop in Templeton, Iowa) I arrived in Portland with only the ambition to carve out a niche for myself in a new and exciting town. After two underwhelming interviews and two cold calls I wandered into the Teardrop lounge to drop off a resume. I owe a big thank you to Daniel Shoemaker for pointing me to Irving Street Kitchen, who hired me on the spot on my second day in town. I vividly recall walking up to the wrong door at Irving when I first dropped by in search of an interview and bumping into Tommy Klus, whom I didn't know, and chatting about bar spoons. Little did I know I would learn so much about technique from sitting in front of he and Ricky Gomez or that I would consider them both friends soon after. ISK was a great opportunity to grow and I am forever grateful they provided a platform for me to integrate into the community. I got to work with some pretty great folks there and had some awesome times behind that bar. I've learned a lot since that first shift at Irving, considering I thought I pretty much knew what I was doing when I started (boy was I wrong!), which has humbled me to acknowledge how much there is to know and how far I still have to go.

Today is significant in another way for me as it is also my one year anniversary of working at Beaker and Flask. I had heard of the place before moving here and it sat on the same pedestal as Clyde Common and Teardrop as one of the cocktail Meccas in Portland. I remember someone asking a TDL employee if it still had the magic once you've worked there for a while. I'm pleased to say that Beaker still has the magic for me and I couldn't imagine working anywhere else in town at this point. An eternal debt is owed to Kevin Ludwig, the best boss I've ever had, and to Dave Shenaut for helping make this opportunity available. I hope I've done justice to the bar program and the business behind it in my time here. I've certainly worked to build a culture that nurtures service, quality, and is a great place for employees to work. Each day feels like a step closer to our ideal and I'm fortunate to work with a team of professionals and with a product I believe in. I hope this ride doesn't end any time soon.

Looking ahead I can only hope the year ahead is as gainful as the past two. Having recently took over as president of the Oregon Bartenders Guild I'm proud of what we've accomplished in my two years of involvement. We recently took on office space and are poised for the biggest year ever with a monumental Portland Cocktail Week planned for October. In its third year we stand ready to again bring hundreds of bartenders into our town and provide a dynamic Portland experience. Without Lindsey Johnson this festival would not exist, and thanks to her I've seen what real community means. She is one of a kind and it's not lost on me how lucky I am to know her and work with her. If I ever won the lottery the first thing I'd do after buying my mom a new house would be to buy LJ a kickass Bentley. With a driver. She's just that rad.

On this two year anniversary I thank all of my Portland family for welcoming me with open arms into this truly special community. I'm honored to call you friends, peers, and am proud to work alongside you as we together raise the bar in our fair city. To my friends and family abroad I raise this toast to you as well: May the year ahead be as fruitful for you as my time has been thus far in PDX.

 Cheers, Brandon