Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, a brewery that is halfway across the country from me, has been slightly frustrating to me as the few beers that I have managed to obtain from them have been great and I am always wanting more. Today is my lucky day as I hold in my hand a bottle of double barrel-aged Dark Apparition, a world-class beer that has been on my mind and one that I thought I would never get to try. More about the beer later but first, let me tell you a little bit about this Athens, Ohio-based brewery.

Art Oestrike purchased O’ Hooley’s Irish Pub in 2005, a 90’s era brewpub that he hoped would make his dream come true of owning a brewery. During the next year, Oestrike’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer and it became clear to him that he would rename the place after his mom, Jackie. His mom passed in June of 2006, but not before she found out that her son was naming the bar and brewpub after her. She questioned him about the name, exclaiming ” A bar?!”, in which Oestrike promptly, replied “It’s going to be so much more than a f#@*ing bar, Mom”

In January 2007, the name officially changed to Jackie O’s and the journey began. Early in his career, Oestrike knew what he wanted and the brewpub became the first in the state of Ohio to ban smoking to bring about awareness about lung cancer. The brewery also started some of the earliest barrel-aging and sour programs and used as many local ingredients in its beers as possible.

Today, the brand has expanded across town including a restaurant, a full production brewery, a farm for ingredients and a bakery.

This version of Dark Apparition was aged for eight months in bourbon barrels and then transferred to port wine barrels for another six months. The base beer used for this version is the original Dark Apparition offered by Jackie O’s which comes in at 10.5 percent ABV and was originally released in 2008. The double barrel-aged version pumps up the ABV up to a bold 13 percent. It was originally released on July 6, 2017 priced at $15.99 for each 375ml bottle with only 160 cases available and a purchase limit of six bottles per person per day.

The pour is what I expected: a black color and a tan head that basically is a film across the top of the beer. Light carbonation is visually present, but overall, this beer seems flat although appropriate. Initial aroma shoots right up my nostrils with warm port and a nice back-up of bourbon. The first sip is cloyingly sweet with the port but stays just under from going over the top. It is fortified and allows just enough of the bourbon to come through to help with the balance.

There is a bitter fudge taste as the beer goes down, along with some dark fruits, cherries and a lactose feel. Although the flavors are bold, they seem to mellow a touch after the initial hit and produce more and more flavors like oak, brown sugar and overripe cherries. Balance remains together during the first half of the beer and although flitters a bit throughout the drinking process, keeps the balance pretty tight, without falling apart. As the beer warms, I get an almost sherry-like taste and feel and more notes of dark cherries, rich sweet malts and some booziness. Warming of the beer continues to bring out the 13 percent ABV but only slightly alters the balance, still allowing the initial flavors to continue. The finish is sweet from the port barrels and allows some tannin, oak and malts to participate.

Jackie O's Double Barrel Dark Apparition Imperial Stout
BREWERY: Jackie O's Pub & Brewery
LOCATION: Athens, Ohio
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 13
IBU: Not Disclosed
PRICE: $15.99
RELEASE DATE: July 6, 2017
AVAILABLE IN: 375ml bottles
Overall, Double Barrel Dark Apparition is a very nicely balanced stout that takes some great flavors from the bourbon and port barrels. The balance only slightly changes during the drinking process and provides a drinkable and surprisingly smooth big beer. I struggle to find any obvious downsides, though maybe the sweetness could have been slightly reduced.
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