On The Rail: Sandy Hut

It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Sandy Hut; my ambient memories are dark and tinted green but enjoyable. The Sandy Hut was one of Portland’s better known and loved dive bars so there was an understandable concern when the place was sold to new owners. What would they do? How would it change? So I’ve come to check it out now that it’s been renovated.

And wow, is it an awesome joint. It feels divey; wood paneling and lighting out of the 1970’s or at least what I seem to feel like the 1970’s was like. Plus, because it’s Portland I can get Ft George’s farmhouse ale.

It’s spicy from the yeast, with a hop bitterness followed by a citrus nip at the tongue at the end. It’s got a softness on the mouthfeel; makes me think of saisons and the clarity of the beer suggests that’s just what they did. It’s pretty good; both easy to drink and complex in the best ways. I feel like I lucked out on this pick!

There’s a man in an incredibly ugly plaid shirt and a straw hat that has loudly proclaimed that he used to live near here when he was a boy. “Same bar,” he says, “but so much better. It’s unbelievable.”

The man’s taste in shirts is questionable but is assessment of this bar isn’t. The coolers may not be installed yet (the bartender is pulling beers from buckets of ice out of view) but there’s a warmth to this place that I feel ought to keep the regular dive patrons while welcoming people who want to check it out.

I’d be happier if there was a better selection of beer on draft but there’s a Rainier draft handle that must be from the 1970’s and that earns a sliver of forgiveness.

The bartenders are still talking about the changes, too: it’s new to them as well. “There’s all these creepy manikins in the basement,” one says, “that they used to hang from the ceiling. It freaks me out whenever I have to walk in the office.”

There’s a BASEMENT here? Holy crap, I can barely imagine what might be lurking in the basement of the Sandy Hut.

One of the bartender stumbles for a moment. “Jesus Christ, we gotta get rid of that bucket,” he says. Yeah man. But I look forward to coming here again and  having a drink. It feels pretty damn fantastic in here and I hope the bar is rewarded for cleaning up.

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