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Sunday, December 16,2012

Get 'em while they last

Sales of specialty brews becoming an Athens tradition

By David DeWitt
Photo Credits: Kevin Riddell/Athens NEWS
Photo Caption: Matt McGushin, Jackie O's production manager, puts labels on bottles of Brick Kiln Barley Wine Friday in preparation for Saturday's bottle sale.

Jackie O's Pub and Brewery celebrated its 7th anniversary with a weekend extravaganza, including one of its signature multi-annual bottle sales that bring brew lovers across the nation flocking to Athens.

The Union Street bar/restaurant bills itself as a "hub of experimentation" when it comes to crafting specialty brew. Every year, 50 to 60 different beers are made in the establishment's seven-barrel brewing system.

Owner Art Oestrike said Saturday after the bottle sale that Jackie O's has been holding the event a couple times each year since 2009.

"Basically, we do a lot of bourbon-barrel aging for our beer, and have a souring program in the basement of what was O'Hooley's," he explained. "We have over 30 barrels that are doing different things with beer down there. A couple times a year we do a bottle release."

Their website explains that the barrel-aged beers have caught the attention of craft brew lovers across the nation, and the bottle sales themselves have become renowned, with hundreds of people filling Jackie O's Saturday to get their case of the bottled suds.

Oftentimes, at Jackie O's, it's local inspiration that triggers new brews to be developed. For instance, Athens' only local brewpub has popularized a number of craft beers using local ingredients such as the pawpaw fruit, black walnuts, spice bush, maple syrup, lemon verbena and pumpkins.

"Using local ingredients allows the pub brewers to add terroir and personality to our brews that only Athens can provide," the website asserts. ("Terroir" is a term that comes from French wine-making, referring to vineyards in the same region. By extension, it means the unique "personality" associated with wine made from grapes grown in a particular region, or the local flavor of any beverage made with indigenous ingredients.)

Also special about this anniversary weekend, Oestrike said, is that the pub had over 40 of its own beers on tap.

"That's pretty abnormal, pretty awesome," he said. "We'd like to have as many as we can but that's been tough to do. So we kind of save things up for Brew Week and our annual extravaganza."

As for the bottle offerings themselves this year, Jackie O's managed to provide some unique variety.

They offered an Oaky Golden Pucker, which is a 46-month aged sour golden ale. The Thorogood is a bourbon barrel-aged scotch ale; the Bourbon Barrel Brick Kiln is a barley wine style ale; the Bourbon Barrel Skipping Stone is a Belgian style quad; the Bourbon Barrel Dark Apparition is a Russian Imperial Stout, while the Rum Barrel Brick Kiln is also a barley wine style ale with the obvious rum barrel difference; and, finally, the Rum Barrel Oil of Aphrodite, which is an imperial walnut stout.

"One time we counted and 14 different states were represented in the room," Oestrike said of the crowd that these bottle release events can draw. "I'm sure we were pretty similar to that today."

Many visitors come into town on Friday and make a weekend in Athens of it, staying in local hotels and bringing tourist dollars to other area businesses as well.

"We have a very good regional draw," he said. "I think we booked 30 to 40 different hotel rooms for people who came up (Friday) night."

He said some people have been to every bottle sale and it's become a tradition.


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