Beer Review 0215: Firestone Walker Double Jack Imperial IPA

Here’s another first for this website — a beer by Firestone Walker. This brewery isn’t distributed in my home state of North Carolina, but I picked up a bottle of their Double Jack Imperial IPA recently on a trip up to Virginia.

Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, California) began operation in 1996 when two brothers-in-law — Adam Firestone and David Walker — sat around discussing good and bad beer. Firestone had made some wine, while Walker hadn’t ever fermented anything, but both agreed that 60-gallon oak barrels were the perfect vehicle to create great beer in.

Thus was born the “Firestone Union,” a method of beer making inspired by Britain, employed from 1840 and beyond. The system uses various heavy and medium toasted American oak barrels, and the beer is initially fermented in these barrels before being transferred to stainless steel for secondary fermentation. The barrels are used for about twenty weeks before they are retired to the brewery’s barrel aging program. Firestone Walker says it is the only brewery in the United States that uses this method for beer.

Double Jack Imperial IPA is part of the “Proprietors Reserve” series in the Firestone Walker lineup; these beers are limited release and often age in barrels. Coming in at 9.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 100+ IBUs (International Bitterness Units), this beer does NOT use the “Firestone Union” brewing method. I know, I know…you’re saying “so why’d you write about it?” Well, I though it was interesting. Next time, I’ll try to pick up a  brew they use that method on… This beer is hopped with four pounds per barrel of Warrior, Columbus, Cascade, and Centennial, and then dry-hopped with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Simcoe.

The pour issued a large and creamy bright white head, which decided to stick around for quite a while. The beer was golden orange in color with a slightly cloudy body, but free of particles and sediment. Double Jack had some good but thin lacing, leaving behind a few patchy sheets on my glass.

On the nose, there was a vivid demonstration of hops, with a large note of pine and tropical fruit, especially pineapple. This smelled like a sweet IPA, with lots of fruit juice concentrate scents; there was peach and some lime, which reminded me very much of a great key lime pie. There were also caramel malts, and the whole aroma was candy-like and extremely nice.

Double Jack indeed rewarded with a ton of hops; very direct up front was our old friend grapefruit, followed with some pine and those wonderful tropical fruits; pineapple, mango, lime, even papaya. The mouthfeel was medium with a creamy character, and the finish definitely dried the mouth out, presenting a moderate bitterness, a sharp pine note, and an eventual fading into a sweet caramel/hop bite conclusion.

We’ve got a classic Imperial IPA here, folks. For my first Firestone Walker beer, this is sure impressive. I’d love to have this in my fridge as a regular visitor! Easy drinking and damn tasty.

Firestone Walker Double Jack Imperial IPA, 95 points. Price: $8.95 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.


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