NEW BEER: BJ’s Hoppy Scotsman Ale

My wife and I visited our local BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in Folsom for a bite to eat and to try the new Hoppy Scotsman Ale released today (full disclosure, BJ’s comped my bill).

I’m not keen on “chain restaurants,” however, I have some fondness for BJ’s. It’s the place I really discovered there were different styles of beer — beer with flavors and aromas. I enjoy their Nutty Brewnette and HopStorm IPA and pretty much hate the LightSwitch Lager. Ugh!

But that’s the great thing about BJ’s; as a beer novice, it allowed me to ease in to Craft Beers. I could discover what I liked and didn’t like before I hit some of California’s premier breweries.

Unfortunately, as I developed a thirst for California Craft Beers, I sort of tossed BJ’s aside a not “serious” craft beer. That’s a mistake. BJ’s is the 44th largest craft brewery in the United States and they DO make good beers. Plus, I love Brewmaster Michael Ferguson‘s Beer Geeks television show!

The Hoppy Scotsman Ale was developed by the Huntington Beach-based BJ’s and Caledonian Brewing of Edinburgh, Scotland. Click here to see BJ’s promo video. The beer had a nice balance of malts and hops and went well with my deep dish pepperoni pizza. I also had a wedge salad; the combination of the beer and blue cheese was a bit bitter for my taste.

The food was plentiful and tasty, but I wish the restaurant’s atmosphere was more like Stone World Bistro than T.G.I.Fridays (just a personal preference). Also, do yourself a favor and DO NOT look  at the menu item calorie counts. Scary!

The service was pleasant and efficient.

There are 64 locations throughout the state and though the company is based in California, the beer appears to be brewed out of state in Reno, NV, Chandler, AZ and Boulder, CO.

Hoppy Scotsman Ale
Hoppy Scotsman Ale
Wedge Salad
My wedge salad
Pepperoni Pizza
My deep dish pepperoni pizza

 

California Coastal Beer Trip, Day 1

After visiting my folks in Oceanside over the weekend my wife and I decided to take a two-day beer trip up the California coast. We planned to follow Highway 1 today from San Clemente to Santa Barbara and have a progressive meal.

Our first unofficial stop was to purchase tickets for the San Clemente Micro-Beer Festival on April 20 (my sister and I have made this an annual sibling event).

Stop One: Appetizer at Newport Beach Brew Co.
We leisurely drove up Highway 1 through southern Orange County heading toward Newport Beach.

We arrived at NBBC at about 12:15 p.m. I thought it was pretty slow for a Monday lunch crowd. There were only three other folks in the place, all sitting at the bar.

We sat inside, near the patio door (we would have sat outside but it was far to windy).

I ordered a plate of nachos to share with my wife and a sampler of six house beers:

  • Newport Beach Blonde
  • Pelican Pale Ale
  • Old Man Jenkins (strong ale)
  • Bayside Brown
  • Village Idiot IPA
  • Lil Cowboy Stout
  • None of the beers really excited me too much, and, as I expected, I favored the IPA.

    The nachos we ordered were okay, nothing special, with cheese and beans on them. They seemed like they might have just been heated in a microwave (we heard the microwave dinging too many times in the kitchen for our liking, suggesting other items may be equally lackluster).

    I asked our server who Old Man Jenkins was, but she really didn’t know. That disappointed me; she really wasn’t knowledgeable about the beer lineup.

    The pub had a cool feel to it. Lots of TVs and I’m sure the place hops in the summer and weekends.

    Stop Two: Starters at Belmont Brewing Company
    Next, we drove to Long Beach hoping to hit Beachwood BBQ. I was able to try their beers at last year’s San Clemente Beer Fest and hoped to try their barbecue. I should have checked first to see if they were open!

    We noticed Belmont Brewing Company was nearby so we made the short drive to their beachside location.

    Again, we would have loved to sit outside, but the wind was too fierce.

    I ordered the beer sampler and a Chicken Bleu Salad, while my wife had the Lobster Bisque and a mojito. Sara’s mojito was disappointing is there was a minuscule amount of muddled mint.

    The salad was very good with a mild lemon dressing. Very refreshing. Sara thought the lobster bisque was good but not worthy of the praise she read on Yelp. Interestingly, Sara’s soup arrived way before my salad. We thought they should have been delivered together.

    My beer selection consisted of:

  • Marathon
  • Strawberry Blonde
  • Pale Ale
  • Top Sail
  • Long Beach Crude
  • Smash IPA
  • Our server dropped off the beer sampler without any explanation of the beers (yes, there was a description under each glass, but I had to guess the Smash IPA was the special ale.

    My favorite of these average ales was the Pale Ale. Both Sara and I enjoyed the Strawberry Blonde (weird for me, as I don’t care much for blondes).

    The atmosphere was “vacation casual.” The place was pretty empty and lifeless, but it was around 2:30 so we may have been between crowds.

    Stop Three: Main Course at Anacapa Brewing Company
    This had become an enjoyable road trip with somewhat disappointing beer stops…until we hit Anacapa.

    Located in Old Towne Ventura, this brewpub provided what we had been seeking all day – good service, a lively crowd, tasty food and pretty decent beers.

    We shared the Pretzel Fried Chicken with polenta and vegetables. Very good!

    My beer taster included:

  • White Cap Wit
  • Shamus McMalty’s Irish Red
  • O’Danny Boy Stout
  • Salute Your Schwarzts Black Lager
  • A Face For Radio IPA
  • The NCAA Championship game was on and the patrons were definitely engaged. The place was packed for a Monday night.

    Our server was efficient and attentive, a first for the day.

    Stop Four: Dessert at Santa Barbara Brewing Company
    We decided to finish our evening with dessert at SBBC.

    The hostess gave us a bit of attitude and was hesitant to seat us at a table since we were just ordering dessert and drinks. Our server had a much better disposition.

    I ordered the beer sampler and Sara had a Kahlua and Coffee.

    The beers included:

  • Santa Barbara Blonde
  • Pacific Pale Ale
  • Double IPA
  • Rincon Red
  • State Street Stout
  • None of them “wowed” me but my favorites were the Red and the Stout.

    We had a choice of Chocolate Lava Cake or Cheesecake (strawberry or caramel) for our dessert. We chose Strawberry Cheesecake. I expected a slice of cheesecake with strawberries on top. What we received was a slice of strawberry-flavored cheesecake. Eh. Disappointing.

    The place was jumping as we watched Louisville defeat Michigan to win the NCAA championship game.

    We headed to our lodging for the night, the beautiful Montecito Inn in Montecito (Charlie Chaplin was one of the original investors).

    Overall, this was a beautiful day of travel up the California coastline. I didn’t find any outstanding beers (but then again, there was only one I truly disliked). Tomorrow, I have very high expectations as we’ll be hitting one of my favorite breweries, Firestone Walker.

    (NOTE: I’ll add some photos later…not enough bandwidth at the Inn!)