In late 2005, Lenny & Megan Meyer and I decided to pursue an opportunity to buy a bar, something we had wanted to do for some time. A good friend of ours, Billy Christie, told us about O'Hooley's, which we had frequented many moons before. We knew that O'Hooley's was a microbrewery and we were excited about the prospects. Brad Clark told Billy about how O'Hooley's was going under and that we would make great new bar owners; we have own(ed) Bagel Street Deli since October of 2003. The late Jimmy Prouty, became a really good friend over the following years. Jimmy took a liking to us right away and, in short order, we signed an agreement on December 12, 2005.
O,Hooley's opened in 1981, but moved in 1986 to its current location at 24 West Union Street in Athens, Ohio. Jimmy went out on a limb when he installed the brewery in 1996, but we are ever-so-thankful he did. When we entered the scene, the brewery was in need of some real TLC. About three weeks after we bought O'Hooley's, my mother, Jackie Oestrike, was diagnosed with cancer. She passed six months later, but not before knowing that the bar would eventually be named in her honor, Jackie O's Pub and Brewery.
Of course, O'Hooley's has been an Athens staple for nearly 30 years and the bar is sometimes referred to as Jackie O'Hooley's; others like to think that it refers to Jackie Oanassis, the late wife of JFK, as his picture adorns our walls as the only Irish Pub in Athens, Ohio. In any event, Jackie O's was born. All of our ideas and directions as a business began with our time in this building. From the brewery to the bar, restaurant and music venue, we learned a plethora of information about how to function successfully in this very limited space.
Brad Clark, who has been our brewmaster since day 1, was sent off to Siebel Brewing Institute in Chicago where he received his Asssociate's in brewing theory. Brad is an amazing person, let alone brewmaster. He has crafted some amazing beers for the past 6 years while dealing with a building meant for munchkins. Jackie O's continued to improve and expand its business from 2006-2009.
In the summer of 2008, our next door neighbor Skipper's went up for sale. I, along with a number of other people, sought to procure this space in order to expand Jackie O's. We were nearing an agreement when the economy bottomed out and I lost all of those would be investors. As the year rolled on and turned to 2009, we continued to talk and negotiate. Skippers eventually went belly- up and we were able to rehab the space while adjoin our patios to expand our operation. The new room, called the Public House, opened in September of 2009 as a venue, before the kitchen moved in December. We have seen unprecedented growth and continued improvements since that time. The Public House is a great draw to both the students of Ohio University (OU) and the community of Athens, Ohio.
When we acquired the Public House, we immediately made plans to expand on the number of fermentors in the "old side", now labeled the Brew Pub. We went from 2 7bbl fermentors to 5 in the course of a few months and were able to double the number of barrels of beer we produce annually. At the same time, the kitchen emptied out of the brewery space. This allowed Brad to begin playing with the aging of beers in Bourbon Barrle/Cabernet/Rum. Let Brad go for a minute here to include local fruits and souring a bit.
Finding a bigger kitchen has allowed the kitchen to truly grow. We try to make whatever we can in- house. In late 2005, Constantine Faller from Athens' Own, told me that we could open that kitchen in a matter of days. I didn't really believe him, but sure enough, we were giving away free burgers on New Years Eve 2005. Our menu was very slow to develop and only consisted of three items for several years. When brewing, you have a large amount of left-over "spent" grain. Constantine began taking this grain and delivering it to a local farmer to serve as an addition to his cows' feed. We then turn around and buy that very same meat for our kitchen. We also serve fish and chips, in honor of my mother, an Englishwoman and our Pub's Irish roots. The third item on our menu was our pizzas. We use spent grains in our pizza crust to give them a very whole-grain, healthy taste. These three items are still with us today and available in both the Brewery and Public House - check out our menu!