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Jack's Abby Brewing

Beer GeeksJun 11 '15

Host and master brewer Michael Ferguson visits Jack’s Abby Brewing in Framingham, Massachusetts, where, unlike most breweries, all they make are lagers. Michael helps brew a Double India Pale Lager, then visits the brewer’s family farm to help build a hop trellis. Also, making beer beef stew, and food and beer pairings.

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Episode Recap

Jack’s Abby is a rarity in the world of craft beer – a brewery specializing in lagers instead of ales. But not just the traditional lagers. Jack’s Abby brews its lagers with a wide varieties of spices, hops, and malts, producing unique brews like smoked maple lager, a beer that boasts one gallon of maple syrup per barrel and perfectly smoked malt flavor.

At Jack’s Abby, Michael Ferguson met up with lederhosen clad Jack Hendler, one of the three brothers who founded the place. And together they brewed a cutting edge double IPL (India Pale Lager). Milling in with locally grown specialty grain, Jack used organic malted barley at the base of the brew. However, the hops gave the beer its defining characteristics. After beginning with Apollo Creed hops (to give the beer a bittering component from the get-go), Michael helped Jack add Calypso, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe. The combination of ingredients added citrusy and tropical fruit notes as well as pine. The process concluded with a hop-back addition of Amarillo and Calypso.

After completing the batch, Jack took Michael to the Hendler family farm to meet Jack’s family and close friends. Michael helped them out with the task at hand - constructing a hop yard. Since hops grow vertically, it’s essential to create a hop trellis. Michael helped as the crew “planted” tall redwood poles, strung wire between them, staked twine from the wires to the ground, then planted hops to grow up the strings.

Ten minutes down the road from Jack’s Abby Brewing, Stone’s Public House has been serving food and drink for more than a century and a half, and Jack’s Abby has been on the menu (both the tap menu and within the dishes on the main menu) since it began brewing. Here, Michael joined general manager and chef Greg Bergeron to create Stone’s famous beef stew with Jack’s Abby’s Smoke & Dagger Black Lager. Greg explained that he used the beer to add a smoked barley backbone to the dish as well as to give it a unique malty flavor.

To conclude his visit, Michael sat down with Greg, Jack, and Stone’s Jim Ward to enjoy some mouth-watering pairings. Greg introduced the first dish: seared scallops with sweet and spicy melon paired with Jack’s Abby’s Hoponius Union (an extra hoppy IPL with citrus flavors and strong pine aromas). The combination was met with approval. The hoppiness of the beer wasn’t bitter but instead added flavor with great palate-cleansing properties, and it worked perfectly to cut the heat from the dish.

Next on the table was a cod dish, accurately described as a “deconstructed clam chowder.” It was paired with the Maibock Hurts Like Helles, a strong golden lager with intense malty sweetness. It avoided stepping on the mild flavor of the cod, but still added a great flavor.

Greg then served his popular pork chops with Jack Abby’s Private Rye (a Biere de Garde with spicy rye flavor and a mild fruity aroma). The chef explained that the chops were brined for twelve hours before being served with a pork jus (or, as Michael referred to it, “liquid bacon”), which resulted in their savory and tender characteristics. The dish was very flavorful and earthy, which the rye beer did a perfect job of enhancing. The spiciness of the smooth beer supported every aspect of the dish, resulting in a delicious and balanced combination.

The table concluded the pairings with Greg and Michael’s freshly made beef stew. Paired with the same beer it was created with, the Smoke & Dagger, a black lager with a sweet malt flavor and a smoky character, the dish was enhanced by the additional smoke flavor from the beer. Although Michael explained that he usually prefers contrasting beer in pairings, he found this combination to be very well balanced.

Michael left Jack’s Abby impressed. While most craft beer lovers do gravitate towards ales, Michael has a suggestion – give some lagers a try.