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Reinventing lager at Jack’s Abby Brewing

Jack’s Abby

Lagers emerged from Central Europe more than 150 years ago, and today, approximately nine out of 10 beers consumed worldwide are some variation. Germans and Czechs have gotten pretty good at making them.

Since opening its doors in 2011, Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham has had a very specific mission: reinvent the lager. On the surface, it may seem like the lager didn’t need much tweaking. The difference between a lager and an ale, quite simply, is the type of yeast used to brew them. And yet, in the three short years of Jack’s Abby’s operation, the three Hendler brothers — Jack, Sam, and Eric — have managed to inspire changes in how lagers are brewed nationwide. The biggest change is an invention so obvious — like Uber or Airbnb — that other brewers are undoubtedly kicking themselves for not doing it sooner: add more hops.

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Hoponius Union, a Jack’s Abby staple, is one of the first iterations of the India Pale Lager. Given the popularity of India Pale Ales, it makes perfect sense to make a hoppy version of a lager. And yet big brewers like Samuel Adams and Magic Hat only started producing IPLs after tiny, upstart Jack’s Abby released Hoponius Union. “It’s become more of a thing that people know what it is,” says Sam Hendler. “I’d like to say we play a big part in that.”

Jack’s Abby will be a little less tiny soon. The brothers have finalized financing and signed a lease on a new brewery space in Framingham, at 100 Clinton St., the site of the former Dennison Manufacturing Co. They expect to move late 2015 or in 2016. “We are out of room at our current space,” says Sam Hendler. “We’ve actually added a couple thousand feet of off-site storage just to get us by, and it’s still not enough.”

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The new brewery encompasses 67,000 square feet, compared with 12,000 at the current location. Current production capacity is 22,000 barrels. The new space is set up to brew 50,000 barrels in the first year, with additional capacity for twice that much. “It’s been a roller coaster,” says Sam Hendler. “We really haven’t stopped since Day 1. We haven’t had a year when we didn’t more than double our production.”

I witnessed Jack’s Abby’s space dilemma firsthand at an event last year called Battle of the Barrels, where brewery staff faced off against each another with experimental brews that the public got to try. The room was so packed, Hendler called it “not a good consumer experience.”

He expects the new space to have plenty of room for events, as well as a 5,000-square-foot tap room serving food and drinks. In addition, for the first time, Jack’s Abby will begin canning its beers and distributing them in 12-packs.

All this success because they manage to come up with the obvious.


Gary Dzen can be reached at gary.dzen@globe.com.