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



OREGON: Southern Oregon

We started day two of our journey with a scenic drive up California’s rugged North Coast from Eureka to Crescent City, before we cut across the mountains to Oregon and found ourselves in Grants Pass.

My wife loves to make beaded jewelry, so our first stop today was Fire Mountain Gems, a huge mail order gem and bead company. We took a tour of their facility.

This may sound lame, but it was a fantastic tour. They do everything at their facility but make the product and print the catalog!

If you’ve ever wondered how catalog sales works, take this tour. Stop by at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. on weekdays.

20131231-101248.jpgMy wife was in heaven!

Following the tour, we drove down the street to Wild River Brewing and Pizza Company.

Good pizza and decent beer.

  • Kolsch
  • Honey Wheat
  • Bohemian Pilsener
  • IPA
  • ESB
  • Raspberry Brown
  • Surprisingly, my favorite here was the Pilsener.

    20131231-101445.jpgMy flight at Wild River

    Next, we headed off to Central Point, home of the Rogue Creamery and some awesome Blue Cheese!

    We traveled a short distance down to Medford and the Southern Oregon Brewing Company.

    Nice pub atmosphere with a small crowd gathered to watch the Oregon Ducks take on the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl (spoiler – Ducks win).

    I tried a sample of eight beers:

  • Na Zdravi
  • The “Pale”
  • Nice Rack IPA
  • Woodshed Red
  • Redwood
  • Pinup Porter
  • Old Humbug
  • Holy Water
  • Another surprising favorite for me here — Holy Water, a maibock, was crisp and refreshing and had a wonderful hint of honey.

    20131231-101607.jpgMy flight at Southern Oregon Brewing

    After a quick stop at Harry & David‘s for some post-holiday bargains, we headed on to Ashland.

    Arriving in Ashland, we checked into the historic Ashland Springs Hotel.

    This 88-year-old hotel has been lovingly restored and we enjoyed a comfortable, European-style stay. The room was comfortable and warm and the hotel was within walking distance of our dinner destination…Standing Stone Brewing Company.

    20131231-101943.jpgThe lobby at Ashland a Springs Hotel

    This was, by far, my favorite brewery so far on this trip. Standing Stone lives up to their website description:
    “Standing Stone Brewing Company is a family-owned, full-service restaurant-brewery committed to craft beers, great food, happy customers, fulfilled employees, community and sustainable business. We seek to ensure customers feel like friends, employees feel like family, our community values us as good neighbor and we leave the world a better place. Handcrafted beer is our passion and we love to share it!”

    Our dinner was fantastic. I had top sirloin (SSB raises it’s own beef one mile away) and my wife had trout. Presentation, flavor and service was flawless (this place feel like an Oregon version of Stone Brewery World Bistro in Escondido).

    The beers were the best of the day as well:

  • Barley Wine
  • Farmer Brown Ale
  • I (heart) Oregon Ale
  • Amber Ale
  • Twin Plunge 2IPA
  • Steel-Cut Stout
  • Noble Stout
  • My favorites we the stouts and the I (heart) Oregon Ale.

    20131231-101741.jpgStanding Stone
    20131231-101749.jpgMy flight at Standing Stone

    Art, Beer and Food in The City

    Wow, it’s been over nine months since I blogged. So, here goes:

    I woke up Saturday morning and I says to my wife, Sara, I says, “Let’s get out of town. Let’s head to The City.”

    I had a vague plan of “Art, Beer and Food.”

    de Young Museum

    First and foremost on our excursion to San Francisco we wanted to see the special exhibit at the de Young Museum, “The Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

    What a beautiful show, with Dutch paintings on loan from the Mauritshuis. “The Girl” reminded me one seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre — the painting was simple, beautiful, haunting and much smaller than its larger-than-life reputation. My other favorite painting from the exhibit was Jan Steen’s “As the Old Sing, So Twitter the Young,” a painting so full of life you feel like you are partaking in the celebration.

    Accompanying this exhibit was “Rembrandt’s Century,” which explored the printmaking of the era. I never knew Rembrandt was such a prolific printmaker!

    “The Girl” exhibit runs until June, so if you’re in Northern California check it out.

    Southern Pacific Brewing Company

    We crossed The City for our next stop, Southern Pacific Brewing Company. (Truth is, we crossed The City many times on this day!)

    The brewery is housed in a 10,000 square foot warehouse building in the Mission district and is named for the Southern Pacific Railroad line which once ran down Harrison Street in the early 20th century.

    They’ve created a fun party space in the bi-level brewpub. Sara and I sat in the balcony to enjoy the meal we ordered at the bar. I had the Macaroni and Cheese with Pork Belly and an Extra India Pale Ale, while Sara sampled the House Burger with Sage Fries and a Belgian Wit. Both the food and the beer were tasty. I really enjoyed the XIPA.

    City Beer

    City Beer is the premier beer shop in The City. They have an amazing selection, although I was a little disappointed with the selection of Bay Area/Northern California beers today. I left with only three bottles.

    In addition to the bottle shop, you can also sit and have a pint or two in the tasting room which features fourteen beers on tap (no tasting here for me today).

    Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

    I wanted to check out the new Speakeasy Tap Room, which debuted during the recent San Francisco Beer Week. It is fashioned after a prohibition-era speakeasy (naturally!), complete with the sliding-peephole on the door. It’s dark inside, but once your eyes adjust they’ll feast on the era-appropriate decor.

    I was so excited to find they still had Green Death on tap, a brew the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild created for SFBW. It wasn’t as hoppy as I had imagined, but still a damn good beer.

    I purchased several bombers (22-oz. bottles) of Speakeasy beers, including a barrel-aged Scarface Imperial Stout (I’m saving that for a couple years down the road).

    Tartine Bakery

    I’d never heard of Tartine Bakery, but apparently it is one of the best in San Francisco. It’s located in a sign-less shop at 18th Street and Guerrero (we knew that was the place by the line around the block).

    Parking was very difficult to find on this gorgeous Saturday afternoon in The City. I think it took almost a half hour, but my persistence paid off.

    We waited our turn in line to get inside the shop. Funny, I expected it to smell more like, well, a bakery. I didn’t get those bakery scents.

    We were there at 5 p.m., so unfortunately they were out of some of the treats we were interested in like the Coconut Cream Tart and Double Pain au Chocolat. We settled on a Lemon Tart and a Chocolate Tea Cake (both delicious). We shared them at a sidewalk table outside the bakery.

    I love having dessert before dinner.

    Pizza Orgasmica

    Dinner time! We headed across The City (again!) to Cow Hollow and ordered pizza at Pizza Orgasmica. We ordered a half Menage-a-Trois, half Serpent’s Kiss (or half Cheese, half Garlic & Chicken). All their pizzas have sexy, sinful names.

    I enjoyed their award-winning IPA. Nice and hoppy, but not too overpowering.

    The pizza was good, but not extraordinary.

    Bay Bridge Light Show

    We decided to end our day with another dose of art. I had heard about the new “light show” on the western span of the Bay Bridge so we headed down The Embarcadero toward the bridge.

    It took us 75 minutes to get from Cow Hollow to the Bay Bridge. Apparently everyone else decided to do the same thing (how rude of them!).

    It was definitely worth the wait. Sara said it looked like The Matrix. It reminded me of seeing the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the first time. Millions of beautifully programmed LED lights forming different patterns and motions. Amazing. And the energy only costs $30 per day!!

    I kept anticipating seeing the lights while we crossed over the bridge, but, duh, we were underneath going east!

    It was such a great day for sharing art, beer and food in the company of my lovely wife.

    Sara beside “The Girl”
    Lunch at Southern Pacific Brewing Company
    Green Death at Speakeasy