A lot more than a bar, Mom

A lot more than a bar, Mom

Jackie O’s makes good on a promise to its namesake

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: Owner Art Oestrike at Jackie O’s newest production facility

Life often presents a strange, simultaneous mix of experiences. In December 2005, Art Oestrike had just purchased O’Hooley’s, a brewpub in Athens, Ohio, now made famous as Jackie O’s. A Cleveland native transplanted to Athens via Ohio University, Oestrike had fallen in love with the area. He and his business partners had purchased Bagel Street Deli two years prior and were expanding their business ventures. But just weeks after Oestrike bought the bar, his mother, Jackie Oestrike, who had never smoked a cigarette in her life, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. She had about six months to live. Despite the positive developments with his new business, Oestrike was crushed.

Oestrike recalled many conversations with his mother during her last months, including the one in which he informed her she would be the namesake for his new business. At her bedside, Oestrike told his mom, “I think I’m going to name this place ‘Jackie O’s.” His mom was incredulous: “A bar?” Art promised his mother, “It’s going to be a lot more than a bar, Mom.”

In the intervening years, Oestrike has delivered on that promise. Today, Jackie O’s is a household name in Ohio craft beer. In 2008, the brewery expanded, purchasing the adjacent bar to create the Jackie O’s Public House. A year ago, the brewery expanded yet again, buying up a production facility and canning and distributing several core labels: Mystic Mama IPA, Chomolungma Brown Ale, Firefly Amber Ale, Hop Ryot IPA, with Razz Wheat coming out this year.

The brewery is also widely known for its seasonal and experimental brews. Brewmaster Brad Clark estimated he has crafted more than 280 different recipes for Jackie O’s since the operation opened, creating whales such as Oil of Aphrodite, Dark Apparition and Matriarch. A significant portion of the new production facility, as well as the basement of the brewpub, is devoted to the brewery’s barrel-aging program, where Clark and crew produce wild sour ales and boozy concoctions aged in spent liquor barrels.

Despite the myriad brews, one beer stands out as special to Oestrike: Chomolungma Honey Nut Brown Ale. Why? Because Chomolungma connects Oestrike back to his mother and his family.

Oestrike related a scene from his mother’s last days. Art, along with his younger siblings Brian and Katie, were visiting Jackie. Art and Katie were in the other room when Brian walked in and announced, “So, mom just totally gave me permission.” The two siblings responded in unison, “For what?” Brian’s response stunned them: “I’m going to climb Mount Everest next year.” 

After Jackie Oestrike’s passing, however, Brian’s quest united the family. “It was a life-changing moment, and we were so tight as a family,” Art said. Brian is an ultra-athlete who had spent some time in Nepal. He convinced Katie to serve as basecamp manager and Art to run the operations stateside. The siblings used Brian’s quest as a way to honor their mother and to help others with similar diagnoses. The Oestrike trio connected with LUNGevity, a lung cancer non-profit from Chicago. 

To raise funds for the climb, Oestrike and Clark created Chomolungma. Why a brown ale? “Mom grew up in England,” Oestrike explained. “Newcastle Brown Ale was always in the fridge. When I was going out at 16, that was the one bottle that went out with me to start my evenings. I still don’t understand why she kept buying them: she wasn’t drinking them and dad wasn’t drinking them, but somebody was. So, it made sense to make a honey nut brown, which was her flavor.”

The name also made sense. Oestrike noted the connection between Everest and lung cancer advocacy: “We called it Chomolungma because ‘chomolungma’ means ‘Mount Everest’ if you are speaking Tibetan. The first batches were all organic and a dollar of every pint from the brewpub went to Brian’s climb, as well as to LUNGevity.”

Brian Oestrike, with climbing partner Justin Hewitt, summited Mt. Everest on May 23, 2007, doing so in an environmentally- and socially-sound way that defines all endeavors undertaken by the Oestrike siblings – no use of high-altitude Sherpa support, no fixed lines and using supplemental oxygen only after it became medically necessary. (See the details about Brian Oestrike’s climb at climbforcancer.blogspot.com.)

This year, with Chomolungma in full distribution throughout Ohio, thanks to a partnership with Cavalier Distributors, Jackie O’s will be celebrating ChomoLUNGma Day on Friday, May 23, the anniversary of Brian’s summit. Look for Chomolungma on tap throughout the state, served in commemorative glassware. A portion of the proceeds go to LUNGevity, the charity associated with Brian’s climb. The full list of participating breweries is still being finalized, but expect to find it in most craft beer bars and check the Jackie O’s and the Cavalier Distributing websites (jackieos.com and cavbeer.com, respectively) for more details. On May 23, raise a pint to the Oestrike family, to lung cancer research and to a brewery that has indeed become “a lot more than a bar.”

Jackie O’s is located at 24 W Union St. in Athens, Ohio. For more information, please visit jackieos.com.

Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balance, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at
KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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