BJ’s Brewhouse (Portland)

BJ's Brewhouse logoWhile we were in Portland, we also had dinner at BJ’s Brewhouse, up on Weidler in the Convention Center district near the Lloyd Center Mall. BJ’s is actually a chain of brewpubs in various western states and Hawaii. Overall, the experience wasn’t bad, but the service left a bit to be desired.

To start with, I will say their beer taster option is one of the best I’ve seen: seven tasters, five ounces each (which is a lot for a taster!), for only $7.25. Great deal, and I got to taste all of their regular beers and one seasonal. I’ll write more about those in a moment.

The food was pretty good, too, I thought. Nice big portions, tasted good, no problems. Where things fell apart was with the waitress; she was nice, but flighty, and we’d go stretches without anyone checking on us (there were four of us, sitting at what we jokingly referred to as the "rock star table").

As a result, our dinner stretched into a good hour-and-a-half, or a bit more. It wasn’t a huge deal, since we weren’t in a hurry, but you’d still like to have the good service.

On the other hand, I had so much beer to taste, and had such a big portion of food, that I couldn’t eat everything, and didn’t even finish my last taster—I was too full!

Okay, the beers. From memory only… I was tempted to pull out a pen and paper and write down notes, but I think everyone else would have thought I was crazy. They were all pretty good. I’d go back for them again.

BJ’s Blonde: A Kolsch style, very light. Crisp and slightly fruity (tart), too. Very clear. Pretty good if you’re into Kolsch, I think.

Harvest Hefeweizen: A good traditional weizen, fruity, clovey, spicy. Nice yeasty haze there too. Very drinkable, a good session beer.

Piranha Pale Ale: A nice hoppy pale, about average for me. Their description proclaims, "For hopheads only!" and says it’s dry-hopped; I don’t know about that, I’ve had hoppier beers. It was decent.

Jeremiah Red: Ahhh, now we’re talking. A nice, strong, malty red ale. I think it’s more an American red style than the Irish red they describe—more hops, stronger, bigger. Pretty good, one I’d definitely order again.

PM Porter: Decent, but for me, it doesn’t compare to Black Butte Porter (but few porters do). Dry, dark, malty, but not as strong as the Red, so it didn’t have that bite to it that I was expecting. Less hoppy than I would have expected, too.

Tatonka Stout: A Russian Imperial Stout, yum! And it was good, too, rich and complex and creamy and smooth—I think this one was my favorite of the bunch. A very good example of the style, not as strong as some I’ve had (8.3% alcohol by volume), but still very, very good.

Oatmeal Stout: I don’t remember the exact name, but this was a seasonal and the only one I wasn’t able to finish. It wasn’t as good for me as the Tatonka Stout; it was harsher, with more bitter overtones (coffee, roast malt). Drier. Not bad, but not as good as an oatmeal stout should be (creamy and smooth).

Overall, a decent visit marred by a not-so-great service experience. They make some good beer, worth visiting for. I’ll go back to try them again sometime.


  1. We have a couple of BJ’s Brewhouses here in Houston, and a BJ Brewery down near NASA. I am going to echo your comments, but suggest that the next time you go, you skip the appetizers and save room for the bizookie. Cake/cookie like dessert that goes very well with the Tatonka Stout (my opinion). The Jermiah Red is also my favorite. Last time there, my wife sent me to pick up food to go, and I tried to finish to ‘Red’s before heading back home. Not advised for those under 200lbs body mass… you get the idea.

  2. Interesting. One of these opened in Tucson a few months back. My wife and I went and found it extremely underwhelming on all fronts. The food was mediocre at best (I don’t remember what I had, but I remember it tasted re-heated) and their beer had a funny metallic taste to it (both mine and hers, and we ordered different things). I ordered a Belgian in the bottle to try and salvage the evening (I think it was a Westmalle Tripel) and even *that* tasted like it hadn’t been stored properly (formaldehyde flavors starting to peek through). Maybe they just had a rough go getting started, but there are too many other good places around here to have a beer for me to want to even give it a second chance.

    Glad your experience in Portland was better.

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