So at home
It's around noon on a recent Sunday and Old Post bartender Pat Allgeier, an insouciant, animated 39-year-old with a thick frame, gray muttonchops and a long brown ponytail, is fixing drinks for the brunch crowd. He spurts a circle of whipped cream on a snifter of Irish coffee, spears an olive, pickle and pepperoncini to garnish a bloody mary and pours champagne for a mimosa.
The bar's abuzz. Allgeier glides around, handing out menus and taking orders for, among other things, French toast stuffed with sausage, bacon, eggs and cheese. He chats with bellied-up patrons. He tells one that it's awfully warm out to be going duck hunting. After six years at Missoula's Old Post, Allgeier appears so comfortable he might as well be wearing a robe and slippers.
This work suits him—its fast pace, the coworkers. And, he says, "I enjoy drinking. It's hard to get away with that in any other industry."
Not that he really knows.
Allgeier's family owns the Cumberland Brews brewery in Louisville, Kentucky, where he grew up. He stumbled on Missoula about 15 years ago, when he and a friend came to Montana to fish and their truck broke down in Missoula. While a mechanic fixed it, they walked around town and into the Old Post.
His friend's girlfriend's sister worked at the Old Post. His friend, Michael Owens, would eventually move to Missoula and get a job here, too. "And about six years ago," Allgeier says, "I was done doing what I needed to do in Kentucky and he offered me a job and a place to live out here, so I took it." Now he's the bar's manager.
Allgeier's still fishing. He's on the river all the time. He frequents the upper Blackfoot. He shows me a photo on the bar wall of a 38-inch bull trout his friend and Old Post kitchen manager Loren Yoshinaga caught near Clearwater Junction. They measured it on a cooler, which was 36 inches, and its head and tail flopped over the edges.
Allgeier looks like he might be a Deadhead. "Cumberland Brews" gave a clue. When I ask what his favorite band is, he defers to Roger, a regular who's just walked in the door. Roger mulls it over. "Gotta go with the Stones."
"Let's go Stones and Widespread Panic," Allgeier says. "'Cause I was thinking Stones." Then he laughs. "Naw, screw both those. Say the Grateful Dead."
A couple of years ago, during the Old Post's annual summer pig roast in the parking lot out back, Allgeier confronted an intoxicated transient who kept trying to join the party. When Allgeier told him he wasn't welcome, the guy smacked him across the face—"open-handed, just like your mom would." The cops took the guy away.
And then there was the time that a patron—twice as big as Allgeier, Allgeier says, and that's pretty big—passed out on the bathroom floor with his pants around his ankles. "I walked in there and opened the stall door and this guy starts swinging at me." Allgeier retreated. "I had never been punched by a guy who had his pants down around his ankles, and it wasn't going to be the first."
"No offense, but I wouldn't want to find myself on the Old Post bathroom floor," I say.
"No, I wouldn't either, especially with your pants down. No offense taken."
Still, Allgeier says he's never really had a bad day at the Old Post, partly because he gets along so well with Owens, who's been a friend for more than 20 years, and Yoshinaga, the kitchen manager. "It might go back to the fact that we all like to fish," he says. "We all sort of have the same outlook on things"—and then he excuses himself to pour another screwdriver.
The best thing about Janie
Thursday night starts slow at Missoula's Union Club, downtown on Main Street. A handful of drinkers slouch at the bar, nursing whiskey and beer. Several more loiter at tables or curse missed pool shots. One guy pumps bills into a keno machine. The clack of cues against balls is the only sound that reaches above a whisper—besides Janie's laugh.
The bar was hoping to book some live music tonight. But with the holidays still fresher than the milk in most refrigerators, one or two members from each of the Union's regular stable of bands are out of town. Instead, a ping-pong table occupies the tiled dance floor.
Janie Pollock is a born-and-bred Missoulian. The slowness of the evening does nothing to mute the smile she flashes across the bar. Conversation passes as easily as if she's known each of her customers from birth. She moves fast, bouncing from the taps to the cooler and back, but each drink and drinker gets her attention. She gives everyone a chuckle as a chaser.
Pollock has been here for 25 years, through three managers and countless shots of Patrón and Jameson. She remembers the bar before the college crowd descended, when it was mostly union folk—mill workers and railroad guys and telephone company men. She was hired straight from a job at a Chinese restaurant—"where Feruqi's is now"—and hasn't budged since.
"Twenty-five years and she still lives off tips," a patron says.