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Jack’s Abby Brewery Seeks Special Permit to Expand Offerings

Posted by boston.com  October 31, 2013 06:00 PM

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(Photo by Jordan Griffin)

The trip from the brewery to the bar is getting shorter, as local craft brewers are turning their tasting rooms into taprooms.

Jack’s Abby Brewing of Framingham is hoping to be the third brewery in the Boston area to obtain a special permit, called the Farmer Series Pouring Permit, which will allow the brewery to function more like a bar. Customers will be able to order pints instead of just samples, and still jump in on tours of the facility.

With the license already approved by the town, the trio of brothers who opened the brewery in 2011 -- Eric, Jack, and Sam Hendler -- are awaiting final approval from the state.

“It’s a hard sell to get people to come to Framingham if all we’re doing is 2 oz. sample pours,” said Eric Hendler. “We want to get people to come more often and stay longer.”

Sam Hendler said Jack’s Abby draws “a couple hundred people coming through the tasting room every weekend,” including people who drive from Boston. Having a taproom, in addition to the brewery and tours, will help to create a destination worthy of the commute, he said.

The permit itself is new to the state, having been instituted in July 2013. According to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, there are 20 breweries in Massachusetts that have secured the permit.

Slumbrew co-founder Caitlin Jewell, a brewer and seasoned beer traveler, said that breweries in other parts of the country have been pouring pints for years, and Massachusetts is just beginning to catch on.

“Over the last 20 years, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California have had a variety of tasting rooms that welcome locals and beer travelers,” she said via e-mail. “The New England region is quickly catching up on craft beer tourism.”

The Hendlers decided to pursue the license after they attended the Great American Beer Festival, an annual event and competition in Denver, last fall.

“All these breweries all over the Denver area, and even small production breweries of similar size to us, have these cool little taprooms,” said Sam Hendler. “You’d go in at 7 o’clock at night and there’d be 25 people hanging out, drinking pints and ordering growlers. It was just a fun environment.”

The Farmer Series Pouring Permit, about $1,500 annually, allows a brewery to sell and pour beer beyond the 2 oz. sample limit mandated by Massachusetts’ law.

Dennis Giombetti, chairman on the Framingham Board of Selectman, signed off on the town’s license approval.

“Allowing and assisting the Hendler family to grow their business, in this case with their new on-premises beer license, is something we should make every attempt to help and encourage,” Giombetti said.

In preparation for the pouring license, the brewery’s current 850 square-foot tasting room would be re-tooled into a functioning bar – complete with merchandise for purchase. Demolition of the space began in late October.

Rob Macey, former bar manager of Area Four in Cambridge, was hired to assist in building and running the taproom – making recommendations for the point-of-sale system, maintaining inventory, and training and overseeing staff. Macey said the new space will serve as a meeting place for customers, with five barstools, oak barrel tables, and plenty of standing room. A graphic on the wall will depict the lager-brewing process and the history of the brewery.

“People can mingle, but still learn about Jack’s Abby as a brewery,” he said.

Harpoon, in South Boston’s waterfront district, and Night Shift Brewing in Everett are two breweries that already have the pouring license. Michael Oxton, co-owner and brewer at Night Shift, said that having the license gives customers more options and is profitable.

“Now visitors can come in and enjoy more than just a tiny glass of our beer,” said Oxton. Being able to pour beer on site “allows us to earn more money per ounce of beer.” He that ‘beer flights’ – a grouping of four, four-ounce glasses of different beers – are his bestsellers.

Since opening in 2011, Jack’s Abby Brewing has quickly grown. In its first year, the brewery had five fermentation tanks, no bottling line, and produced about 500 barrels of beer. After a recent expansion, it now has 15 fermentation tanks and a new bottling line, and is on target to produce 7,000 barrels of beer before the year’s end. Jack’s Abby’s beer also has spread beyond the state’s borders, into New York, along I-90 through to Buffalo.

Located in an industrial area of town, Jack’s Abby is the only brewery in Massachusetts that produces only lager-style beers. Lagers are brewed using yeast that requires cooler temperatures to ferment. Producing a batch of lager typically takes twice as long as an ale-style beer, whose yeast ferments at much higher temperatures.

Brewery regulars often bring growlers, 64 oz. re-sealable glass bottles, and fill them up with beers on tap. There are also individual bottles and six-packs for sale. Macey described the brewery as being similar to a farmer’s market.

“We have a solid customer base of locals who treat the brewery almost like their CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] share – they come and refill their growlers. It’s like their beer store,” said Macey. “We now want to . . . open up an opportunity for people to enjoy the beer at the brewery.”

This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.

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