California Pilgrimage: Genesis (Bj’s Restaurant and Brewhouse)

(The California Pilgrimage is my one month journey around California encompassing various activities but overall, these posts will be about beer. This title is directly from the first episode of Michael Jackson’s old show called The Beer Hunter. A True Beer Geek must know about Michael Jackson. If you don’t, you’re either a poser or someone who is starting out the journey through the Elixir of Life. I hope you are the latter.)

Day one, May 24, 2015

Genesis… The beginning… It is the first book of the Judeo-Christian religions referring to the origin story according to this culture and religion. It is, in some ways, my Genesis into Craft Beer. I have been crazy about the drink for the last five years yet I haven’t been able to visit the American Breweries I know and love. To that end, I was able to visit three breweries during this visit. This was quite low for my preferences but NorCal (I was mostly based in San Francisco and the Bay Area during this visit) has so much to provide. It is my type of place and I can’t wait to go back. Nevertheless, this day was a great start.

I arrived at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) around 4 PM with my grandparents (who are the best grandparents one can have). The view was cloudy and grey, a sharp contrast to the warm, bright and sunny palette that I was exposed to the past few months. I was ecstatic after bearing a fourteen hour flight in economy class plus the hour long wait at immigration. I arrived at my aunt’s house around 6:30 PM with this beautiful view of the Western Conference Finals Game (anything in a 72 inch screen is beautiful).

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72 Inches is Bliss

Prior to leaving for San Francisco, I messaged my good high school friend Aaron on my trip to the Bay Area. We agreed to see each other when I arrived but I didn’t expect to see him a few hours into my trip. He saw my uploaded photo of the TV on my Facebook feed and he surprised me by arriving at the driveway fifteen minutes later. It has been more than a year since I last saw him when he and his wife visited Manila. Seeing him just sent bolts of energy around my body and I couldn’t help but run and hug the mofo. After talking to him for a few minutes, I asked permission from my relatives if I could spend the night with them. Luckily, I have very understanding relatives.

Due to my incessant demand for beer (I was in California, it’s beer country), Aaron and Sarah brought me to Bj’s Restaurant Brewhouse at San Bruno.

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Bj’s Restaurant and Brewhouse is a casual dining restaurant with a focus on beer. They operate several brewpubs and they distribute their beer to their restaurants. Since I already had dinner, I focused on the beer. This is a beer blog after all.

Their menu featured ten in house beers and a cider on tap. Given the selection, I asked the waiter if I could try a sampler of their brews. Thankfully, they have a sampler set for four styles. I got the Berry Burst Cider, Piranha Pale Ale, and Tatonka Stout.

The Spoils of the Journey with the One and Only Aaron Giving a Background Panache
The Spoils of the Journey with the One and Only Aaron Giving a Background Panache
Berry Burst Cider
Berry Burst Cider

I started the night with the recommendation of our waiter, the Berry Burst Cider. This cider was made with blackberries, raspberries and other wild berries. At 3.6%, this brew is  definitely one that I could drink all night. The cider was light in feel with a texture similar to diluted syrup. It’s definitely easy to drink and I, for one, am a serious berry lover. The tart flavor (the sourness that you get from the berry fruit) was definitely at the forefront of the sip with a gradual mellow sweetness (the sweetness from berries is great due to its tartness) that cleans the palate leaving you wanting to drink more. This was definitely a great way to start my night. It is an award winning cider and I am in favor of this commendation. Just imagine this with a pavlova. The berries are definitely bursting with flavors.

Piranha Pale Ale
Piranha Pale Ale

The next brew that I had was the Piranha Pale Ale. The pale ale had an average amount of malt flavor with slight caramel and cereal notes. A moderate amount of hops which tasted more on the drier side that had hints of pine and grass. When I was looking at the menu, it was said to be dry hopped. I certainly prefer dry hopping in pale ales. It gives off enough of the hop flavor without overpowering the malts. It gives enough bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malts. It’s definitely on the subdued side when it comes hopbombs that the west coast is known for. I am definitely big on this pale ale due to its maltier flavor. It’s lighter compared to the other West Coast Pale Ales (there is a start difference between the West Coast and the East Coast when it comes to hop intensity) but this is definitely a pale ale that is easy to drink and one that I don’t mind drinking everyday. This beer is also a multiple award winner at the Great American Beer Festival. The GABF is one of the hardest beer competitions in the world. Good job Bj’s!

The next on the list was the Hopstorm IPA.

WP_20150525_023Being the first IPA I had on my trip. I had high expectations for this brew. It was good enough for me to be happy. Again, this is California, IPA country. The taste of the IPA started with a mild sweet caramel malty start followed by a smooth pine, earthy flavor then the fruit flavors of citrus (a little bit of apricot was present) came about. A dry semi-bitter finish ended the taste due to its dry-hopping. This IPA was not as oily as other IPAs (the hop oils make IPA slicker in its mouthfeel/texture) which was good. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to start drinking IPAs. This is a good introductory IPA.

Tatonka Stout
Tatonka Stout

The last of the Bj’s sampler was the Tatonka Stout. This is an Imperial Stout (one of my favorite styles). As an Imperial Stout, I expected dark chocolate and coffee notes along with a creamy mouthfeel/texture. At first sight, I expected it to be creamy due to the head (the bubbles of the beer). You can see at the top of the beer it’s creamy appearance.

The taste of the brew started with toffee and caramel with a smooth transition to faint notes of dark dried fruits such as prune and licorice. Then, the chocolate flavor seeps in followed by the coffee notes. Imagine a well made cafe latte from well-sourced beans, remove the cream and make it colder. Any coffee lover will love this brew. I have converted my cousin to Imperial Stouts before because of it’s coffee taste. I would like to say that Coffee notes are should actually be called Imperial Stout flavors since Stouts were made by humans prior to the discovery of coffee, but anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s a good brew. It’s also a great introductory beer for the style and it’s great to have a major restaurant chain have the variety of beers available for consumption.

After the Bj’s sampler, I ordered a pint of Lagunitas IPA, the California Classic IPA.

Lagunitas IPA
Lagunitas IPA

It was what I expected, an in your face hop bomb from the West Coast. It started with a rush of pine followed by grass and grapefruit with an intermingling of caramel on the side. It was a message to me by California saying “Welcome to California! We don’t mess around!” The texture of the brew was oily due to the hops involved. My palate was bursting with excitement. It is a classic that every hophead and beer geek should dry.

Full and semi-tipsy (yeah right), we decided to go to Twin Peaks, a famous spot on a hill to see the view of the City by the Bay.

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The View from Twin Peaks

Damn, the start of my California Pilgrimage was great. It was sign of things to come.

Beerman out!

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