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Ohio Brewmasters: Part I
10 Questions with Brad Clark of Jackie O’s
July 14, 2009
Written by Dogbrick
1.The first question I always ask is how brewers got their start. Why don’t you give us your background in brewing and how you ended up the Brewmaster at Jackie O’s.
a.During my freshman year at OU I started to try a lot of craft beers. This was when I started to really build an appreciation for the different styles of beers. I began to pick up Brew Your Own magazines and researching home brewing equipment. A couple years went by and I had moved out of the dorms and into a house. I had also landed a job at the local brew pub O’Hooley’s as a door guy and a happy hour bartender. The brewmaster at that time had opened up the Athens Do It Yourself Shop. He finally pushed me over the edge and I soon was an avid home brewer. Home brewing was a casual hobby for about three weeks, and then turned into an obsession. I remember having over 40 gallons of wort fermenting all the time in my small college bedroom, it was a trip. O’Hooley’s had gone under and one of my buddies had purchased the business in 2006 and asked me to stay in Athens and be the brewmaster. I was trained by an old O’Hooley’s brewer and a year later attended Siebel Brewing Institute. The brewpub has since then been renamed Jackie O’s and business has been growing.
2. I hate to delve into stereotypes, but Athens, OH is known as a college town, and college students are not typically known for appreciating craft beers. What is your assessment of the craft beer scene in Athens? Do you consider yourselves a niche beer provider catering to people who already like microbrews or are you trying to penetrate the built-in student market?
a.The beer culture in Athens is growing quite a bit. Jackie O’s and I have slowly been giving our customers (locals, students, and OU faculty) more and more options. We introduced high gravity ales from our 7bbl system along with other options. We always have a few Belgian beers on draft. We are committed to creating Barrel-aged brews and Sour beer as well. We also work to educate the customer, to provide the proper glassware and to be helpful in finding the right beer for the right customer. I don’t believe high gravity/ barrel aged/ Belgian/ or sour beer have ever had a home in Athens until Jackie O’s was here. We are not targeting the student crowd but we are delighted to have their support and adventurous palates. Anybody who wants to enjoy a great craft beer is welcome here at Jackie O’s.
3.One of the big beer events in the area is Ohio Brew Week (http://www.ohiobrewweek.com/), which is coming up in July. Can you give us a little background on the event as well as what beers you plan on providing this year?
a.Ohio Brew Week is a week long event where 20 some bars in a 4 block radius change up their tap lines and feature beers from all over Ohio. This year will be the 4th year for OBW. The Event has grown a lot over the years and this year is going to be a great one. Beer lovers have a lot to choose from as far as beers, food, entertainment, and other events. Jackie O’s is the only brewery in Athens so we view ourselves as the "Host" brewery. This year we will put out 23 beers and debut many barrel aged sour beers along with some new bourbon barrel creations and our first Cabernet Barrel offering. It is going to be tons of fun and I can’t wait to meet other brewers and beer lovers from all over the state and beyond.
4.Jackie O’s has a constantly revolving lineup of beers. Does the brewpub have a “signature” beer, and is there a general brewing philosophy you follow with regards to the beers you decide to brew?
a.We have a few signature brews at Jackie O’s. The OPA (Ohio Pale Ale) has been a signature ale before the ownership change when the brewpub was still named O’Hooley’s. We have continued the legacy of OPA and it has been a strong member of our line up. The students absolutely love our Razz Wheat. This beer uses 84lbs of natural raspberry puree per 7bbl batch. Razz Wheat is brimming with bright raspberry character and is our best seller. Firefly AmberAale has become a very popular beer as of recently. After 3 years of tweaking this brew I feel that it is finally dialed in. People love it for its light balanced character and lower abv. When it comes to our more experimental brews Black Betty is a unique offering from us. Black Betty is an Imperial Raspberry Vanilla Porter that people really enjoy. We have also found out that it does very well in both bourbon and cabernet barrels. It is a fun beer to brew and age! Here at Jackie O’s we hand craft neo-traditional artisan ales. Traditional techniques and ingredients are paired with creative spins on classic beer styles. We always use the finest ingredients from all over the world and give our ales time to do what nature intended them to do. Beer should be enjoyed and remembered, that is why quality and character are at the heart of every beer we produce.
5.Jackie O’s beers have recently been showing up as far away as Columbus (at Bodega). Is your goal to expand further throughout the state, and if so how are you deciding what areas to approach?
a.The expansion of the Jackie O’s brands is something that will be slow and calculated. We have a brewing staff of two (including myself) and our production is very limited (360bbls last year). There are some great bars that are somewhat close to Athens that I am interested in getting my beers on tap like Brews in Granville and a couple other establishments in Columbus. A possible Cincinnati move may be possible as well. We will need to increase production to make anything else possible. I am only interested in getting into well respected beer bars right now to ensure that our efforts to make a couple hour drive every week is worth it in the long run.
6.Do you foresee bottling any of your beers at some point?
a.I am always thinking about bottling our products. The reality of that thought is that we have hardly any room to support a bottling program and not much capital to get that rolling right now. When it does happen, I believe we will focus upon our premium products first. High Gravity, Barrel Aged, and sours will be the first types of beers to find there way into bottles.
7.As you alluded to earlier, your brewpub has some eclectic beers available at any given time, particularly sour and aged beers. Explain how you got involved with these specialty beers and how they have been received by your customers thus far.
a.I love experimental/ extreme brewing. My brewing youth was spent drinking Dogfish, Avery, Allagash, and Belgian brews. I was always reading about Lost Abbey, Russian River, and Jolly Pumpkin. It took awhile before I felt comfortable enough with myself as a brewer to dive into Barrel Aging and most recently Sour beer. So far, the results have been very rewarding and people seem to appreciate the fact that we are offering these types of beers and taking the risks to create something very unique. I have only been working with Oak for about a year and a half. Wild yeast and bacteria arrived at the brewery about year ago. I can’t wait to see where both the sour program and barrel aging program go in the next few years!
8.What are some of your favorite beer styles in general? Are there any particular beers that you feel nail the style that you would like to emulate?
a.I love drinking Porters, Saisons, Sour beers, and hoppy Brown Ales. I have never been much of a style guy. If a beer tastes great I am all about it. If it nails the style, great, if it crosses a few styles or pushes some guidelines that’s great too. If I could make a Saison like Saison DuPont that would be amazing. If I could create a beer like Orval I would be very pleased, but I don’t want to become concerned with emulating any beer. As long as I put forth my best effort and create something that I am proud of I feel that I have done my job.
9.If you could change anything about the craft beer scene in Ohio, what would it be? How do you think the brewers in this state stack up to the rest of the country?
a.Ohio’s beer craft beer scene is growing with out a doubt. Ohio brewers are getting more experimental and their beers are getting some much deserved recognition. I think there has been a great influx of brewing companies expanding their distribution in to Ohio. Ohio has the palate for great beer and people are taking notice. My fellow Ohio Brewers and I need to keep doing what we do best and always strive to do it better or to the best of our abilities. I would love to see more Belgian style beers being produced by Ohio brewers myself included.
10.I am always curious to know: What are some of the beers we would find in your fridge at this moment? Aside from beer do you have any other favorite adult beverages?
a.Churchworks Quadzillia, Backwoods Bastard, Lagunitas Little Sumptin’ Sumptin’, and a revolving cast of characters from my cellar. I am a beer guy, and that’s all I drink.
Born and raised in Athens, Ohio. I am very glad to have a place like Jakie O’s in my home town. It adds a touch of class, and it allows people to set their sights on what beer should be and how it should be made.53 months ago
Look forward to one day trying some of their stuff in bottles...Good interview!83 months ago
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