Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

BJ's Enters Oklahoma Market: Restaurant Known for Selection of Microbrewed Beers

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

BJ's Enters Oklahoma Market: Restaurant Known for Selection of Microbrewed Beers

Article excerpt

A California-based restaurant and brewery chain opened its first Oklahoma location on Tuesday in Norman, with a second restaurant planned for Oklahoma City this summer.

And while the restaurant, at 330 Ed Noble Pkwy., offers standard fare such as pizza, pasta and salads, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse offers a selection of microbrewed beers unlike many available in Oklahoma.

Michael "Mufasa" Ferguson, BJ's director of brewery operations, was in Norman recently training the staff and helping to open the store. When asked about his nickname, he said all of the company's brew masters have nicknames. His nickname comes from the deep- voiced character King Mufasa in the movie The Lion King, voiced by James Earl Jones.

One thing that's for sure is Ferguson knows beer. He knows how to brew it, and what food to pair particular beers with for the utmost enjoyment.

Ferguson, a former IBM engineer, left his job about 17 years ago to train to brew beer. After five years training with a German brew master and schooling at the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago, he finished his education with an apprenticeship in Germany.

"If someone had told me 20 years ago I would be a brewer, I would have just laughed," he said.

Based in Houston, Ferguson oversees the beer for many of the more than 60 BJ's around the country. Ferguson has been brewing beer for BJ's for about three years. The company, which was founded in 1978 and is based in Huntington Beach, Calif., has nine breweries around the nation.

"We believe in local centralized brewing," he said. "The fewer breweries you have the more consistency you have."

Consistency of the taste of the beer and individual states' liquor laws are two of the reasons Ferguson said the beer is not brewed on site.

"Oklahoma's a strange state when it comes to beer laws so we had a lot of research to do before we set up what we're doing here," he said. …

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