Taking one look at the photo above, it may appear as though I’ve simply chosen to ignore the matter of seasonality Bret spoke about last week, and to a certain extent I have, but the beer you’re looking at is not quite so easy to pin down, and certainly not by its color alone. A recent addition to Firestone Walker’s ever reliable Proprietors Reserve series, the beer is called Wookey Jack, and it’s what we’ll go ahead and call a Black IPA, which is way less of a mouthful than the other names people use for the style. American Black Ale? Cascadian Dark Ale? No thank you.
For me, the simple term Black IPA offers a pretty good indication of what you’re getting into with a beer like Wookey Jack. There’s an abundance of the dark, roasted malts you’d find in something like a porter or a stout, which you’ll notice as soon as you lay your eyes on it, but then in the aroma, there’s a huge blast of fruity, piney hop character like you’d find in a west coast IPA. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a hint of rye, too, which comes across as a sort of spiciness that I think nicely bridges the gap between bold hoppiness and the rich, chocolatey roasted notes. There’s a lot going on here, some of which seems contradictory, but in the hands of a brewery as accomplished as Firestone Walker, it winds up being complex without ever veering into acquired taste territory.
As with all beers, Wookey Jack changes considerably as it warms. The flavors meld together a bit more, and its fairly thick texture becomes more noticeable, coating the mouth nicely and scattering evidence of every element across your palate in a way that really drives home just how good this beer is. Its 8.3% ABV and $10 price tag (for 22 ounces) make it more of a one-off indulgence than anything even approaching sessionable, but that’s ok. BBQ season doesn’t last forever, you know.
Wookey Jack is available at all the usual Brooklyn bottle shops, but it’s also been popping up on tap quite a bit in the past week or so, at places like The Double Windsor and Breukelen Bier Merchants.