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Previous Pint Pleasures - May 11, 2008

guinness eileen

Jupiter, 2181 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California

guinness eileen

BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, 107 South First Street, Burbank, California

As my life at present is rather abysmal, I'm relieved to be once again going back in time to a happier existence -- specifically to my August 2007 visit to the Pacific Coast. When my friend Mistah Rick and I took our 3-day 1100-mile road trip down Interstate 5 from Seattle to Long Beach, California, we decided to spend our second night at Rick's flat in Oakland. When we pulled off the freeway after a long day's drive and found ourselves in Berkeley we decided to have something to eat and a pint at Jupiter.

I'd been to Jupiter with Rick twice before in past years. On my first visit we sat in the large attractive beer garden which was buzzing with activity. At some point we heard the lilting sounds of wonderfully dissonant jazz. When we followed the musical trail up some stairs we found an ensemble performing in an upper room. It wasn't until my second less crowded visit that I was able to take in the pub's interior, with its long bar offering a beer festival's worth of microbrews.

On this third visit we sat again in the beer garden and shared a pizza made with a honey wheat crust. Jupiter's pizzas are all named after mythological and astronomical figures. I think we may have had an Odysseus, but perhaps it was a Galileo. Whoever it was, they were tasty.

To accompany our pizza Rick had a pint of Bombay By Boat IPA (5.9% ABV, Moonlight Brewing Company, Fulton, California). A very bitter IPA, this particular brew was responsible for Rick's IPA epiphany, with a taste flying straight as an arrow through one's yippie-IPA. I had a pint of Jupiter's own Quasar IPA (8.5% ABV, brewed for Jupiter at Drake's Brewery, San Leandro, California). This is described on the menu as a "double IPA", double hopped with a high alcohol content, and brewed with two Pacific Northwest varieties of hops, Tomahawk and Willamette. So if it's a double IPA, would it be IIPPAA or IPAIPA? All I can say is Yippee-ti-yi-ipa-ipa! Git along lil' ipadogies! YeeHAW!

The next morning we jumped into our 16-foot Budget truck laden with my worldly belongings and headed down I-5 toward Long Beach. The mercury quickly climbed to a blistering 95° F, and as we battled the infamous Grapevine we decided to wait out the Los Angeles Freeway rush-hour traffic by stopping in the San Fernando Valley for a pint and a bite. We pulled off in Burbank and were fortunate enough to find a shady spot to park our behemoth before walking down the road to BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse.

As I'd already experienced 2 other BJ's in Long Beach and Woodland Hills, this was my third BJ's. The chain opened in Santa Ana in 1978 as a pizzeria, with their first brewery opening in 1996 in Brea. And then the chain started multiplying like rabbits until there were BJs all over California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, and Hawaii.

As it was a scorcher of a day we decided to sit outside on the patio in the shade. We had pints of Piranha Pale Ale (5.7% ABV, BJ's Brewery) which is a great patio pint. It's quite carbonated, but I didn't mind that on such a blistering hot day. And it's nicely bitter and hoppy, reviving and refreshing. We shared a Santa Fe Salad, which was a big plate of romaine, red onions, roasted red peppers, and dressing topped with cheese, avocado, tomatoes, corn tortilla strips, and a fillet of blackened salmon. It was just the right size to end our long hot drive and prepare us for the hour-long drive through Los Angeles to my mother's house in Long Beach where she would greet us with a pitcher of margaritas.

Ah, yes . . . is this a Southern California experience or what?