This isn’t the best double IPA I’ve ever had, but Firestone Walker’s Double Jack is definitely on the top shelf. As part of the brewery’s Proprietors Reserve Series, this beer spends extended time in bourbon and wine barrels to enrich flavor as much as possible. What is produced is a double IPA that yields copious amounts of complex hop flavor. The brewers call the combination of strong flavors in Double Jack “aggressive,” but they only seem that way if tasted individually. Taken as a whole, the beer is smooth and the powerful flavors blend so well they’re hard to discern.
Above all else, hops are the most noticeable flavor element. They control the scene from start to finish, and while they’re extremely pronounced, they’re easy to handle. Double Jack is very smooth and feels lighter in your mouth than you might expect. The beginning of each sip greets you with a hop explosion, and as it continues, the same hop flavor is sustained. While hops are by far the main flavor component throughout, by the end of each sip they are most potent. The blow is lessened by citrus flavors, predominantly grapefruit, rounding it out. It’s refreshing and satisfying, giving you all the hops you want – and more – without overpowering. The trick to help balance the strong hop component is malt. While the malt flavor never overcomes the hops, it provides what the beer needs by neutralizing some of the hop sweetness. This also adds smoothness to the beer, making it creamy and smooth, which avoids any lingering flavors that throw off the beer. To top it all off, the extended time Double Jack spends in barrels enriches the maltiness and smoothness. The barrel aging further brings all the elements together, making Double Jack richer and deeper in flavor while adding even more smoothness. Upon the first sip, this seems like a very simple imperial IPA, but the more you drink it, the more appreciation you gain. The depth of flavor is noticeable from the first sip and only gets better as you drink.
For me, this is Firestone Walker’s flagship beer. While I’m not rating it as high as Union Jack, for some reason Double Jack sticks out more for me. Maybe I’ll put a finger on it someday, but for now, if given the opportunity to have a Union Jack or Double Jack, I’ll choose the Double.