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Firestone Walker Wookey Jack

April 29, 2013

I first became aware of Firestone Walker several years ago after they, like many breweries before them, were pulling out of New York state due to an inability to meet demand. A brief aside here, New York state is simply put, pretty damn big, with several large cluster points of population, namely around New York City. It’s common for breweries to get into business in the state, find themselves doing pretty well in areas like upstate/western New York and then suddenly be just incapable of getting enough bottles and kegs out fast enough to supply people downstate. So, they scale back.

This happened to Firestone Walker in New York a few years ago, when I first tasted their fantastic Union Jack, but was remedied within a year or so. Not surprising given the fact that Firestone Walker is an older brewery from California, and much more intimately familiar with the beer game now than when they began. The brewery was founded by two brother-in-laws who regularly found themselves having a discussion on what makes beer good. After a variety of experimentation, they eventually found themselves in operation by 1996, and they’ve been making cool beers ever since.

I recently got a hold of their Wookey Jack, an ‘American Black Ale,’ that promised not just hops, but many other delicious flavors. The beer that was handed to me was nice and dark, a solid black color with a light fluff of brown for the head. A strong pine hop scent was what greeted me when I sniffed the beer, along with a very light note of chocolate.

Once inside of my mouth, I found the Wookey Jack to be smooth, clean, and easy to drink. The best way to describe the taste however is I think a sentence I wrote down in my notes, “There is a pine tree growing in my mouth.” This is a very interesting blend of hops over the barest hint of roasted malt. The main thrust of the flavor comes from the pine and citrus hops colliding in a way that is certainly closer to delicious than not, before the beer comes to a close on a hop finish that is almost tart. In comparison to other Black IPA’s I’ve had, I felt like there could have been more roasted malt flavor but I can’t actually condemn this beer for tasting bad for it was, as I said, closer to delicious than not.

I’ll end by once again decrying the insistence that ‘American,’ now means, ‘Hoppy,’ since I’m an American and I don’t just want hop flavors in my beer. It bothers me when I pick up something with the innocuous sounding name, ‘American Black Ale,’ and end up being like, “Oh, we meant Black IPA,” which is a perfectly legitimate and appetizing name for this style of beer. It’s not like this beer’s original style was, ‘Patagonian Ass Beer,’ and it needed to be called something else.

Anyway, ultimate verdict: give this beer a taste, especially if you’re a hop head.

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