If you want to know what the weather's going to be, look west. Do the same when you want a great IPA. That maxim includes black IPAs. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack is the acclaimed brewer's foray into the black IPA world, a world that's become quite a crowded place. One of my first black IPA's was Grand Teton's amazing Trout Hop. Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous set the standard for the genre and is my favorite. Then came along Uinta's Dubhe, a very good entry. So, given my growing affection for all things Firestone Walker, an affection driven by my crush on Double Jack, when I read reviews comparing their Wookey Jack favorably to Sublimely, I had to try it. After months of checking online to see if it had finally arrived in Chicago, the day of reckoning came on Sunday when Northdown Cafe - who else? - became first in Chicago to tap it. I understand that they tapped it at Whole Foods in Schaumburg earlier this past weekend, but I had no need to pay two tolls and go to IKEA so that journey was out.
Once I confirmed Northdown had indeed tapped it, I strolled down there, each step with increasing anticipation. I hoped the beer would live up to the lofty expectations. Usually when I'm this hyped about a beer it disappoints. It arrived to me in a miniature pint that they dub as an old man glass, and it certainly looked appealing enough.
It delivered the goods. I anticipated it would be a black Double Jack and share the imperial IPA's same smoothness and deceptive potency. But it's nothing like it and more akin to Sublimely because of its robustness. A chunky white two finger head sat atop it as it awaited my tasting. I smelled a strong woodsy hop profile on it, a bit of spice and a touch of smoke. It shares Sublimely's graininess and rugged mouthfeel with strong carbonation. As you sip it, the head dissipates and leaves a thin yellow-tan foam layer with clear black bubbles This is a rye IPA but I don't get the crazy amounts of rye as I get in Founders Red's Rye. You get more of the Citra, Columbus, and Amarillo hops in the flavor, bitter with an increasingly citrus finish. There's a decent amount of graininess, pine, and charcoal mixed in. This beer is almost pitch black but has a dark redness to it, presumably from the rye, when backlit.
Drinking it was splendid. My buddy brought a guy from California whom I hadn't seen in 10 years. The first time I had met him my tire got slashed outside a Roscoe Village pub. I ended up with a slashed tire, a tow, and a ticket. Rough night. But on this night, thanks to the dude from California who had played in a very entertaining LA power pop band called Roadside Attraction - check out their gut-wrenching epic song "Colorado" - my Wookey Jacks were comped, completely free. It was karma. All of this confirms for you that good things usually come out of the West.
4.5 of 5 stars.