Classical Beer Review: Jackie O’s Oil of Aphrodite

While we are enjoying our Christmas break in #SoCal, Kyle and I try to keep up with tasting and reviewing our weekly dosage of Classically-themed beers. We already have a couple of good ones lined up for you, but just needed some time amidst all of the family events to sit down and write. First up is one we have been eying for a while, Oil of Aphrodite by Jackie O’s from Athens, Ohio. By adding this brewery to the mix, we now have reviewed beers from three of the Athenses around the world (see e.g. here and here). Only 57 more to go…

Oil of Aphrodite is an American Double Stout brewed with ‘Integration Acres black walnuts and Belgian candied syrup.’ The walnuts are definitely present in the scent of the beer, as well as notes of plum. Upon drinking, the Belgian candy sugar is dominant with a touch of melon and chocolate. There is also a roasted flavor to the brew, which lingers a bit after finishing.

Background
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and beauty. There are different versions of her origin story, which place her at different positions within the Greek pantheon of gods.
In Homer’s Iliad, dating ca. late 8th, early 7th cent. BC) Aphrodite is a daughter of Zeus (see e.g. Hom. Il. 5.310-314) by the Titaness Dione (e.g. Hom. Il. 5.370-374). This would put her among the second generation of Olympians, on a par with deities such as Apollo and Artemis.

Yet Hesiod (Theogony, 173), a source thought to be roughly contemporary to Homer, recounts a more famous version of Aphrodite’s birth. This version effectively makes her an aunt of Zeus and a pre-Olympian goddess. According to Hesiod, Aphrodite is born off from the foam that sprung from Ouranos’ severed genitals falling into the sea after his son Kronos had cut them off. This would make Aphrodite the sister of Kronos. Kronos’ son, Zeus, ends up overthrowing him and establishing himself, his siblings, and some of his children as the Olympian gods. While Aphrodite is apparently also invited to Mt. Olympus, in Hesiod’s version of the story she is the odd one out.

The reason why the Greeks had trouble fitting Aphrodite into their pantheon may have something to do with her origins outside of Greece. Many scholars believe that the cult of Aphrodite was modeled after that of Astarte or Isthar, a goddess worshipped at the time in the Levant and Near East. The Greek geographer Pausanias, writing in the 2nd cent. AD, said (Paus. 1.14.7) that her cult was brought to Phoenicia and Cyprus from Assyria and that the Phoenicians subsequently introduced her to Kythera. Pausanias mentions both Cyprus and Kythera because both the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod associate the goddess with these islands. Indeed, Hesiod writes that the foam in which the goddess was formed first reached Kythera and next drifted to Cyprus, where Aphrodite came ashore.

Facts
37.5 ml bottle
10% ABV
Ingredients: black walnuts, Belgian candied syrup, malts (English, German, Belgian), hop (Pacific Northwest)
Brewed by: Jackie O’s, Athens, Ohio.

Sources
Hadzsits, G.D. 1909, Aphrodite and the Dione Myth, The American Journal of Philology 30.1, 38-53.
Hesiod, Theogony
Homer, Iliad (‘daughter of Zeus‘ & ‘daughter of Dione‘)
Pausanias, Description of Greece

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