Over a Pint: Pat “Patio” Shea of GoodLife Brewing

Here’s a new monthly feature I sort-of stumbled into this month: Over a Pint. The idea behind this comes from beer writer Brian Yaeger, who kicked it off last month; here’s Brian’s premise and description:

“Over a pint.” Sort of in the vein of The Session kicked off by Stan Hiernymous exactly 8 years ago in 2007 and still going strong. The Session entails a different blogger each month conceiving a disparate topic related to beer wherein everyone aims for that target and then said blogger hosts the discussion on his or her web-log. Since The Session claims First Friday of the month, how’s about Last Monday for Over a Pint?! I’ll link to everyone’s “OaP” left in the comments or tagged on Twitter. I’m envisioning just two instructions.

  1. Head out with someone who brews for a living and talk to them over a pint (or more) without recording it or taking any notes. Just chat. About stuff.
  2. Don’t do it at the brewery’s pub or tasting room.

So to be honest, I pretty much spaced out on this even though last month when I saw Brian’s original post I said I’d be in. Fortunately, on Sunday we had a fortuitous bar run-in (the good kind) with GoodLife brewer Pat “Patio” Shea—a guy who’s been around the Bend brewing scene for ages and brewing in general for nearly two decades. So, without further ado…

Name: Pat “Patio” Shea

Brewery: GoodLife Brewing

Professional brewing experience: Started at Rock Bottom in Portland, then Anderson Valley Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, Three Creeks Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project, 10 Barrel Brewing, and GoodLife. (Maybe more?)

Pat "Patio" Shea and the GoodLife/Terminal Gravity crew
Patio on the left

Sunday, the 22nd, was National Margarita Day, and my wife and I had decided to head over to La Rosa on Bend’s west side (one of the best Mexican restaurants in town) and, being without kids, decided to sit at the bar. Fortuitous that we did, because within minutes of sitting down, Patio and his wife showed up out of the blue and decided to sit with us—affording the perfect (unplanned) opportunity to sit and chat quite literally over a pint. Well, at least a pint on my part; I drank Pacifico (gasp! not craft!!), while everyone else partook in National Margarita Day. (Not that I’m anti-margarita, I enjoy them, but I find I tend to drink them too fast, at least as compared to drinking beer; it’s a self-moderation thing.)

Patio’s a good brewer, and he might equally be known as that guy who’s worked nearly everywhere. What’s perhaps lesser known is that he’s the one who came up with the idea of The Little Woody (one of Bend’s best beer festivals), and more recently helped come up with the relatively new Central Oregon Winter Beer Fest.

Conversation ranged informally across range of topics, from the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference to homebrewing to St. Patrick’s Day to margaritas (of course). A story that stands out is that Patio is old school friends with Christopher Bowen, a homebrewer and beer enthusiast with an unusual link to Allsopp’s Arctic Ale. (And yes, I chose that particular link for Martyn Cornell because it actually features… Chris Bowen. Small world!)

The story, according to Patio, is that he was visiting his home state of Pennsylvania on vacation when a chance encounter hooked him back up with an old school friend whom he hadn’t seen in decades: Bowen. As it turned out, Bowen in essence had his own brewery and English-style pub with a mug club and everything—as a hardcore homebrewer, wherein the local homebrew club members could use the “brewery” and drink at the pub (for free). While visiting this pub, Patio noticed a map of the Canadian Arctic on the dartboard, and upon inquiring, Bowen produced a picture of two very old beers that were sitting on his bar: Allsopp’s Arctic Ale, and another one almost as old (Patio didn’t remember what the second one was).

Bowen had in fact become obsessed with the story of Arctic Ale, to the point that he organized a motorcycle roadtrip with other diehard homebrewers to Hudson Bay, where the ship containing the lost bottles of Arctic Ale was found, to brew a recreation recipe on that very beach.

Oh, and he apparently owns a bottle of Arctic Ale that he had purchased online as well. Patio noted it was the oldest bottled beer in existence (plausibly).

The trip to the arctic was (mostly) successful, and Bowen is planning to turn it into a documentary film named “Arctic Alchemy”—and even launched a Kickstarter to help back it. (Which was successfully funded.) An interesting corollary to the story is that the wood from the ship the bottle was recovered from was apparently repurposed into ornate desks—which now belong to the Oval Office of White House and the Queen of England, respectively. Bowen’s goal is to get pictures of his bottles (the Allsopp and the other one not quite as old) on each of those desks, to match the photo he has of them sitting on his bar. Nobody’s really sure yet how he’ll manage that feat.

That was certainly one of the more memorable stories of an enjoyable, impromptu evening. It was fun, the Pacifico tasted good, and we now have some plans for St. Patrick’s Day.