GB and BJ's
By Bobby Bush
The last two destinations on this day-and-a-half trip to Los Angeles were both new
brewpub chain establishments.
On the north side of downtown Burbank, Gordon Biersch opened their doors in
February 1999. Part of the 12 brewpub chained started in Palo Alto in 1988 by Dan
Gordon and Dean Biersch and recently acquired by Big River Breweries of Chattanooga,
this huge brick structure, with corner positioning on a busy city street, fit the GB mold to
perfection. And thatís good. One exception, this brewpub building was constructed from
the ground up, so itís better than perfect as far as the typical GB facility goes.
An open kitchen, outdoor patio, banquet rooms for private parties, striking
yellow/black place setting accented with black napkins, Creole and more traditional
entrees preceded by an impressive appetizer menu, high ceilings and a 20 minute wait for a
table on a Tuesday night. Hectic was the action as I squeezed in at the bar for a glass of
Dunkles. This dark, semi-sweet and pungent lager was brewed to company tradition.
That tradition is well founded and unvarying: German-style beers, all lagers except the
summer seasonal hefeweizen and an occasional alt, brewed to meet Reinheitsgebot, the
ancient Bavarian purity law which allows only water, grain, hops and yeast. You wonít
find funky fruit or spiced beers here, just stylistically correct lagers like Marzen, Golden
Export, Blonde Bock and the seasonal Fest bier. All served at a vast island bar, hops
vines drying overhead. One complaint- and itís a typical peeve of mine -the beer was too
cold to enjoy properly until it warms a bit.
At least in food and beer, the Gordon Biersch success story is legendary. And the
Burbank facility will just get busier. A hotel is planned for the lot across the street.
And just a few miles northwest off the 101 is a new BJís Pizza Grill Brewery in
Woodland Hills. A link in the Boulder-based BJís chain, this barn-like building,
constructed of brick, stained wood and suspended, glaring television monitors, began
brewing in March 1999. Judging from the ten house beers on tap, it was obvious that BJís
is making significant strides toward attaining GBís status as a purveyor of fine beer.
As do most brewpubs, BJís deals primarily in ales. From my sampler tray, I
started with the clean, sharp kolsch-style BJís Brewhouse Blonde and tried only a sip of
the banana ester, yeasty Harvest Hefeweizen. Piranha Pale Ale, winner of a Ď98 GABF
bronze medallion, was red in hue with a pronounced bitter finish and aftertaste. Jeremiah
Red took a Ď96 sliver for the chain. At 7.1% abv it was strong with a slightly sweet
character. BJís Special brew of the night was Pilsner. Light bodied with mucho hops
effect, it was a very satisfying Czech-style lager. Bock worked its deep gold color and
malty nature succinctly, while Nutty Brunette was an American Brown, sweet foretaste
followed by a short bitter end. Another seasonal, Juniper Rye began with a sweet floral
announcement giving way to a tangy, cider-like sensation. With a smooth nitro mouthfeel,
PM Porter harbored complexity in the form of caramel, chocolate and molasses tones
promoting a sudden harsh conclusion. Tatonka Stout- available in forced and cask
condition -was Imperial in style. Strong at 8.3% abv, its smooth, tempting body presented
a harsh, roasted finish. The cask version, definitely smoother, was full of dark, dark
chocolate milkshake notes with a more bitter finish. Either way, Tatonka Stout was a
meal in a pint glass. Hmmm.
Hosted by brewmasters Alex Puchner and David Mathis, BJís conducts a monthly
Beer Appreciation Night. Fourteen bucks covers beer samples, handouts and raffle ticket.
Recent seminars have covered a variety of topics, including ďTrappist & Abbey-style Ales
of Belgium,Ē ďIntroduction to Beer EvaluationĒ and ďLocal Microbrewers Night.Ē
Sounds like the kind of school that I might like to enroll in.
BJís is all about good beer.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush