Monday, August 13, 2012

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Review

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.

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