A first look at BJ’s Brewhouse

By on July 27, 2016

With locations in 22 states, I assumed BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse knew what they were doing when it came to beer. Wait for it …

Lancaster County’s newest brewery is a chain based out of California, which started out as a pizza shop. Eventually it grew (and grew), and eventually got into the brewing game. The chain operates 177 restaurants, but only a handful have a brewery on site. The rest, like Lancaster’s, get their beer shipped in from another location. BJ’s operates six breweries, with the two main producers being located in Reno, Nevada, and Temple, Texas.

So, I stopped in last week to get lunch … and a beer. Actually, my wife and I ordered a flight. We were able to choose four beers, so I went with the Brewhouse Blonde, Harvest Hefeweizen, PM Porter, and the Tatonka Stout. My wife, being the hop head in the family, ordered the HopStorm IPA, Piranha Pale Ale, Oasis Amber, and the Nutty Brewnette. Okay, not all of those are hoppy. Anyway, this way we got to share and taste most of what was available at BJ’s.

 

Although the Lancaster location of BJ’s doesn’t brew on the premises, all 11 of their flagship brews are available for sale, including the award-winning PM Porter, LightSwitch Lager, and Magnolia’s Peach.

Although the Lancaster location of BJ’s doesn’t brew on the premises, all 11 of their flagship brews are available for sale, including the award-winning PM Porter, LightSwitch Lager, and Magnolia’s Peach.

 

My standout favorite was the blonde. Described as a German Kolsch, this beer was just a bit cloudy, slightly malted, and had a very subtle hop flavor. I later learned this 4.7 percent ABV brew is award-winning. Most recently it took home silver in the cream ale category at the 2012 North American Beer Awards. I’m a sucker for cream ales, and I can’t really say this fits the description of a traditional Kolsch; it definitely more closely resembles a cream ale.

My “runner up,” if you will, was the porter. It’s a classic. It’s one of those porters you can drink over and over again. No bells, no whistles (although the bottle label has a train on it), this is just a straight up beer. This beer is award-winning, too. PM Porter won gold at this year’s World Beer Cup. It is smooth and silky, pours a great head, and is filled with the caramel and molasses flavors I would expect to get from a porter.

It turns out many of the BJ’s beers have won medals over the years. They’ve accumulated 150 honors for their 11 flagship brews and handful of seasonals. At the 2015 Great American Beer Festival, BJ’s brought home two gold medals for their session beer, LightSwitch Lager; and their fruit wheat beer, Magnolia’s Peach.

I can’t say I was overly impressed with the other beers in our flight. I did have a hard time deciding on my lunch from the creative and intriguing menu. I went with the seared ahi salad: field greens, Napa cabbage, romaine, red bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, pickled cucumber, cilantro, wasabi, crisp wonton strips and green onions served with a rice wine vinaigrette. In the end, the food was great, but the beer was what we like to call “pedestrian.” Besides the blonde and the porter there was nothing really to rave about.

I’ll definitely go back again, and maybe trial a seasonal. Cheers!

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

 

General Manager Gary Ford stands inside BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, on the perimeter of Park City Mall. (Photo by Blaine Shahan/LNP)

General Manager Gary Ford stands inside BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, on the perimeter of Park City Mall. (Photo by Blaine Shahan/LNP)

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