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BJ's Brewery

The latest west coast brewery chain finally reached us out here in the desert when BJ's Brewhouse and Restaurant opened it's doors on North Oracle road recently. We stopped by to check the place out the other night and found that, even though it's only been open for about a week, it was already crowded and felt like a local favorite that had been around for years. On the inside at least. The outside looks like any other big boxy, north Oracle business like Babies-r-Us or Toys-r-Us. Maybe they should have called it Brewpubs-r-Us. Anyhoo it fits right in.

One thing that became evident immediately upon arrival is that they definitely had the staffing thing down, complete with a phalanx of girls to open the front door, and all sorts of hostesses, bus people, waitron units and bartenders swarming about. One of them told us it was going to be a twenty minute wait to get a table in the restaurant but that we could seat ourselves in the bar area and so we did so, perching our hind ends at a long thin table along the wall by the kitchen. The seats were kind of teetering and the eating surface small but not bad and we got to watch all the steaming dishes go by as we waited for one of the multiple servers to take our order. Soon after we sat down, a smiley girl with pretty eyes who's nametag said Tara showed up and asked what she could bring us. A pale ale of course. First things first.

As loyal readers know, we are pale ale drinkers here at the Goliard and often judge establishments and especially places trying to pass themselves off as breweries by the quality and quaffibility of same. Hoppiness is the key to our enjoyment and countless visits to Thunder Canyon, Nimbus, and Four Peaks, locally and countless establishments in the Northwest previously, have given us a pretty good scale on which to judge. We've always believed that there is something about the coastal air that extracts and accentuates hoppy flavor and most of the best American style pale ales we've tried are brewed and can be found clustered along the Northern west coast specifically in Portland and Seattle. Whether it's the water or the air or the amount of water in the air we're not sure but we usually don't expect the same palate torquing hoppy experience from beers brewed here in the desert. However, since BJ's is a chain with stores all along the west coast we weren't really sure what we'd get when we ordered their Piranha Pale Ale. Big brew kettles are visible through one window but who knows where it really comes from. We took the first cautious sip expecting the worst but hoping for the best.

The hoppiness was definitely there. The menu described the brew as "A hoppy, American-style pale ale made with Yakima Valley's best hops. bittered with Chinook, while dry-hopped with the snappy flavor and bite of Cascade hops. For hopheads only." And while we are most certainly hopheads, this was far from the hoppiest brew we'd tried. It had a good flavor to it though but something still wasn't quite right. It was as if the bartender had drawn seven eighths of a glass of a great pale ale like Boundary Bay or Maritime Pacific and then topped it off with tap water. It had almost no head to speak of and lacked the murky color of some of the better brews in it's class. It wasn't bad however and left a nice aftertaste that made you want to belch pleasantly and sip again. If we hadn't just returned from an extended trip to Washington and Oregon, we may have not been as critical and after half a glass or so we got acclimated and began savoring the hops and not noticing the watered down quality so much. It proved drinkable and good enough that we didn't feel the need to sample any of the other choices. We were hungrier than we were thirsty anyway and with a endless stream of waiters passing by with heaping plates of all sorts of stuff that looked really good, we began to scan the extensive menu. 

The choices are quite diverse and they seem to have just about every type of food covered on the menu at BJ's. We watched salads, pizzas, steaks, and pastas go by and were a bit overwhelmed but elected to start with an appetizer thin crust pizza
. It was described as having Mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan cheeses, fresh basil with a hint of oregano, sliced Roma tomatoes and a touch of Italian sausage for 7.95. It came as advertised and was quite a tasty little number although barely enough for two hungry blokes. We eyed the parade of main dishes and finally selected a New Orleans Jambalaya which featured blackened chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage, sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a spicy sauce. It was hearty and somewhat piquant but a far cry from something you'd find in the Quarter. We also sampled one of their pot roast dinners which sounded interesting and was quite tasty in an old fashioned beef pot roast kind of way, served with garlic mashed potatoes which were somewhat bland and steamed vegetables. There were many other things we wanted to try such as the deep dish pizzas and the giant stuffed baked potatoes and we'll fill you in in the event that we return. We'll also probably try some of the other beers to see if they perhaps brew and excellent Hefeweisen or Stout. In any event, the food and experience was pleasant overall if just ever so slightly corporate and pre packaged but regardless of that it's good to have a new brewery on the block. Even if that block happens to be north Oracle.

BJ's Brewhouse and Restaurant
4270 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85705

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