Co-founder and Head Brewer at Jack's Abby Brewing
(Editor’s Note: This is part of a series in which we scoured the country to find 30 innovative brewers and beer professionals under 30 years old, each of whom hopes to further the scope and breadth of the American craft beer scene.)
Jack Hendler, 30
All About Beer: Tell us about your brewery.
Jack Hendler: Jack’s Abby Brewing is a craft brewery based in Framingham, MA, founded by me and my brothers, Eric and Sam Hendler. The company’s mission is to create truly distinctive lagers featuring locally grown ingredients, traditional German brewing standards, and American innovation.
How did you first get into brewing?
Immediately after graduating from college I got an internship in Brooklyn where I cleaned kegs for the summer. Before being hired for the internship I had signed a lease in Boston starting in September, so I frantically sent out resumes over the summer to every brewery around Boston and got lucky with a job at a brewpub in town. I was 22 when I started commercially brewing. When I got my first job, I didn’t know the brewing process, couldn’t tell you what ingredients were in beer and it took me nearly two years until I truly enjoyed drinking an IPA. Way to bitter and hoppy. Oh how things change. My interest in brewing never stemmed from homebrewing but simply an amazement with the process and the craft.
What was the first beer you ever brewed and where did you do it?
The first beer I ever brewed myself at the brewpub was the brewpub’s flagship pale ale. I was so nervous and excited I forgot to add the whirl hops during the brew. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be my last time forgetting this hop addition.
What’s your favorite beer style?
I’m sure I’m not alone on this, but I hate this question. I usually just say whatever beer is in front of me. There is a perfect time for almost any beer. Maybe I should have just said lagers.
Do you have a mentor in the brewing world?
I was very lucky in this regard. When I started at my first paid brewing job, the three head brewers and two lead production brewers had over 50 years experience among the five of them. I made it a goal to absorb as much information from all of these talented brewers as I could. Even though I’ve been brewing for eight years and now run a brewery I still look up to all these brewers, feel like a novice around them, and expect them to have all the answers for me.
What inspires you when you’re brewing?
We have so many first timers who come to our brewery who say “I don’t like lager,” “lagers are boring” or something to that effect. Our goal at Jack’s Abby is to completely change people’s perception and attitude toward lagers. Lager beers have been tainted by the macros, and people almost always associated ales with craft beer. We want to prove that lagers deserve the same credit and energy as their ale counterpart.
What do you attribute to your success?
Honestly, lots and lots of free labor. I mean, great beer, passion and hard work. It’s not a coincidence that Jack’s Abby is a family business that I started with my two brothers. Where else can you find 110-percent dedicated, 110-hour-a-week employees who don’t get paid? Not to mention the countless part-time family members.
What do you think drives the popularity of craft beer?
Kind of a loaded question with infinite answers. In general terms, consumers are shifting toward local, higher quality products. This may be somewhat cynical, but I think in recent years, the huge growth in craft beer can be attributed to dollar signs. Distributors, retailers, banks, suppliers, and the old establishment have been convinced that the money for the future lies in craft beer.
In general, how do you think the next generation of brewers will shake up the craft beer world?
Innovation, creativity, flexibility, risk taking, hands on approach, face to face interaction with consumers.
In particular, how will you contribute to that shake up?
We’ve carved out a niche for ourselves with brewing unique variations on lagers. We’re not afraid to take risks, try something new, or push any boundaries. While some might argue that the concept is extreme and the beers don’t regularly fit defined style guidelines, they are for the most part approachable and sessionable. For many of our beers we see our use of lager brewing as a vehicle to truly highlight the special ingredients that we add to our beers. We’ve created our own line of India pale lagers, including Black IPL (Cascadian Schwarzbier), Ginger & Juice IPL, Rye IPL (RIPL Effect), not to mention numerous other creations that push standard style guidelines. We’re only beginning to explore the possibilities of lager brewing.
Last one: Cascadian dark ale or black IPA?
That’s an easy one. Cascadian Schwarzbier!
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