Beer: Oro Negro
Brewery: Jackie O’s Brewery (Athens, OH)
Style: Stout- Imperial/Double
10% ABV / 65 IBU
Here’s an interesting alternative for bittering: Walnuts. Specifically, black walnuts, which are considerably more bitter than the regular variety of walnut. This is not to say that Jackie O’s Oro Negro and its sister beer Oil of Aphrodite are deriving all of their bitterness from the locally-sourced black walnuts added to the brewing process, but it definitely plays a part. The bitterness you experience here really tastes like black walnuts were added to the wort with their skins – the most bitter part – left on.
In terms of gravity and color and mouthfeel, Oro Negro is functionally the same as Oil of Aprhodite. The latter is the base, an imperial stout brewed with walnuts. Oro Negro is a slightly tweaked version of this magic elixir, conditioned on cacao nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and habanero peppers. Interestingly enough, both of these beers come in barrel-aged versions, which is a common hack winemakers use to augment tannins from the grape skins. But tannins are naturally found in walnuts too, which is why a beer like Oro Negro can have both a bracing bitterness and the palette “drying” affect of tannin-heavy wines.
You know how in every episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel show there’s a shot of him sampling something and saying, “Oh man, that’s good”? That’s how I feel about Oro Negro. The imperial stout base hits the sweet spot in the 10-11% ABV range of drinkability without the medicinal aftertaste that high-octane Russian imperial stouts sometimes sport. And you can discern every discreet element of the spice additions in Oro Negro. The Mexican hot chocolate-style combination of habaneros and cinnamon is particularly fantastic. When it comes to balancing the scales of justice between “sweet” and “heat,” Jackie O’s nailed it.
For more info, check out Jackie O’s Brewery here.