I recently had the privilege of visiting Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham, Massachusetts. Before I divulge the details of my latest brewery experience I need to come clean about something. I do NOT like lagers (for the most part).
Believe me, I will be the first to “throw down” when someone says “I don’t like beer.” Don’t even get me started … again. In fact, you can read about that topic in my Hops in a Bunch posting. Or if you do not feel like reading that now, here’s a summary: The word “beer” is like the word “food.” Each style of beer is like a meal. So if you have had a few meals which were a bit sub-par, or even horrendous; you wouldn’t say that you “didn’t like food” would you? Of course not! However, you wouldn’t prefer that meal, or even that style of cooking. The same can be said for beer, just because there are multiple styles that you may have had that you don’t like, it doesn’t mean you don’t like beer. It just means that you haven’t had the “right” beer for you.
Well, most of the lagers, or ‘meals,’ that I have had I loathe! From their watery bitter breadiness or their weak bodies and unpleasant after tastes; they would be far from my “go-to” beer. Don’t get me wrong, I will always try a new one but never with high hopes. That being said, Jack’s Abby, you have rocked my world!
Jack’s Abby has definitely changed my perspective on things. I have even changed my analogy in the term food being synonymous with beer. I now look at styles of beer as more of a “cuisine” of choice. As one may lean towards Italian, or Indian, etc; a style of beer may lead itself to a broad variety of types of the said style, as a cuisine may lead to many different dishes under that style of food.
Jack’s Abby Lagers are no exception! If you haven’t tried their rich variety of brews take a gander at their site. Click on beer and just peruse (in the true meaning of the word) each one of their delightful concoctions. They have traditional lagers, India Pale Lagers, Black lagers and my new favorite Lager-wines.
In a previous post I mentioned about two times a year my family and I head out to Eastern Massachusetts. When out there I seek out new local brews and/or breweries and this trip was no exception. It was about dinner time and after talking with my friend, Jonathan Sabola, from Tapferkeit Hopyards, we decided to satisfy our hunger – both for beer and food- by visiting a brewery that also serves good fare. Both he and I have been wanting to visit; me to try something new and to build a better appreciation for a lager variety, and Jonathan because he absolutely loves Jack’s Abby beers.
The facility is basically a box like structure located on its own block, with its entrance on 100 Clinton ST, Framingham, MA 01702. Upon entering you will find a gift shop filled with Jack’s Abby swag (T’s, caps, bottle openers, etc.) as well as beer to purchase. Not sure what you like? ask the friendly clerk for a sample before purchasing. To the right you will find the Beer Hall and Kitchen. The food is full of flavor and worth the trip alone, and may be a bit overwhelming when looking at the menu. I indulged in the Smoke & Dagger Braised Beef Goulash with Bread Dumplings. This meal is basically a beef stew with beef tips that literally fall apart like pulled pork. Though hearty, it’s a little light but absolutely hits all the good spots of your palate and soul.
Ordering is a bit confusing, at first, but once you get the hang of it, it all makes sense. Tip: claim your seat right away because it’s first come first serve. Once you have your seat you can mosey on over to the bar and place your drink order under your name. Take it back to your seat, and from then on all orders are under your name.
If you get overwhelmed at the site of all the delicious liquid combinations, either ask your friendly server for some details or just order a flight. The menu is helpful since it lists the prices of each so there’s no surprises. I highly recommend the Framinghammer or the Bride Maker. I tell you, my palate was on serious flavor overload. Come to find out they should be on Phantom Gourmet at some point, so you know they are good!
In a future post both I and Chris will post our top favorite Jack’s Abby beers but as for now, as is our forte, we shall get you a closer personal look to the minds behind the brews.
We were able to score an interview with the Jack in Jack’s Abby, Jack Hendler. Enjoy!
TBM: Hi Jack, Thanks for your time, we know the brewing world is quite busy. So to start, how did you come up with the name, Jack’s Abby?
Jack: Well I’m Jack and my wife is Abby and we brewed a beer for our wedding back 7 years ago now named Jack’s Abby and the name kind of stuck.
TBM: Congratulations! On the marriage of course, but also on a successful brewery. When it comes to brewing, what What is your philosophy? And where do you draw your inspiration?
Jack: Specific to us in particular is our dedication to brewing all lagers, so the brewery is particularly process oriented. Which isn’t to say that we’re not interested in our raw materials, we still use the highest quality raw materials, but what sets us apart- because every craft brewer probably uses high quality ingredients- is our process. Whether it’s a mash process like decoction, fermentation temperatures and programs, dry hopping procedures, spunding and natural carbonation, all these things are things we do to make the best beer possible. If you use great ingredients and have a crappy process you’re going to get a crappy beer, so sometimes there’s more at stake with your process.”
TBM: Noted, I find a little balance goes a long way. So what made you want to start brewing?
Jack: Haha, drinking lots of beer. It’s kind of that simple. Everyone gets to a point where they ask themselves what they’re going to do and I found myself in an interesting position where I had a job prospect for cleaning kegs and was able to take that and turn it into a career.
TBM: Are you hiring? Ha ha. That’s great. Especially when you can entrepreneur in something you love, it makes the work more satisfying; I’m sure the beer tastes better too. For any aspiring brewers, do you have any words of advice?
Jack: Beg… plead… but seriously, there’s a lot of opportunity out there, there’re a lot of breweries opening but if your goal is to try to open a brewery my suggestion to you would be to get experience brewing on a commercial scale. If that means that you have to clean kegs for a year before you can bottle for a year before you can can for a year before you can centrifuge for a year before you ever get to brew- any practical experience is so important. You can learn so much just cleaning kegs at a brewery that you wouldn’t learn in your kitchen homebrewing because you can understand sanitation, you can understand production processes, you can understand quality beer on a commercial level.
TBM: Good tips and thanks for your candidness. Now, with all those remarkable Lagers you make, if you had to choose just one type, what would be your favorite?
Jack: That’s a tough one. Besides the one I’m drinking at any given moment? I don’t know. I think something unique to us is that we see lager as such a wide category, there’s so many options that fall within the realm of lager. We probably brew 30 different lagers a year and a dozen or so traditional styles and that’s just us. It’s impossible to choose.
TBM: Ahh, sweet indecision, sounds like you and I have something in common. For good reason though. Now as mentioned, Jack’s Abby specializes in lagering. Do you feel that alone makes your brewery stand out? What do you think makes your brewery unique to New England, let alone MA (especially with all the local crafts)?
Jack: I think what makes us unique here is what makes us unique across the country and maybe across the world and that’s our unique spin on lagers. Certainly we do traditional beers but we’re doing things with lagers that no one really dreamed of or considered. Part of that is almost like art for art’s sake- it’s lager beer for lager’s sake- but I think we really wanted to blow the lid off people’s perception of lagers, even if that means doing things that aren’t really necessary. There’s no reason to brew a double IPL I suppose but that really hammers home ‘craft lagers’ for us.
TBM: That’s art for you, keep creating even when there’s not necessarily any reason to. I say there’s a reason for a double IPL, my tummy! ha ha. Okay, with the abundance of Lagers, which one of your beers would you recommend as an introduction to Jack’s Abby, for someone who has not had the experience?
Jack: One of my favorites and go-to’s is House Lager. It has everything that’s great about lager from a traditional standpoint as well as a certain complexity. It’s something that I think would appeal to a macro drinker as well as a craft beer nerd.
TBM: I just recently tried House Lager at Table & Vine a few weeks ago. Great suggestion, I found it to have a bit of a “Euro-style” flavor, and surprisingly smooth.
Words cannot express the thanks for your time with us today Jack. We hope this will help spread the word a bit more, and maybe help some to try a lager or two to cure what ..Ales them? I know bad pun. In all honesty though, please check out Jack’s Abby. If you can make it to Framingham Massachusetts and visit the brewery, or check with your local retailer to see if they carry or can get Jack’s Abby lagers, I can guarantee there’s a Lager for you.
As always, drink local, drink craft, and just enjoy your beer. Email or tweet us at firstname.lastname@example.org or @thebarleymen
I love the history of beer and how its made, the whole beer experience. My philosophy is, finding your beer is like finding your soul-mate, you may have a long search, and learn some lessons, but there is a beer that’s just right for you.