Good Beer Hunting

Jack’s Abby to Launch New Barrel-Aged and Sour Beer Venture

Jack’s Abby is known for its Lager-centric portfolio, but the venerated Massachusetts brewery is readying itself to diversify. This winter, the company will launch Springdale Beer, a new taproom adjacent to its current beer hall in Framingham, dedicated primarily to expanding production of its sour and barrel-aged offerings. The company says Springdale will boast the largest barrel program in all of New England.

Springdale is a Jack’s Abby side project, but only in an ownership sense. At the practical level, aside from having its own name, Springdale will employ its own business model, staff, and growth strategy.  
“We can already see, just internally, the cultural differences between the two brands, and I think that was kind of a key point,” company co-founder Jack Hendler tells GBH. “Knowing that we need to keep focusing on continuing to brew great lagers, but also be able to focus on all these new projects, it really is going to take two separate mindsets to be able to excel at both.”
Since launching five years ago, Jack’s Abby has solidified itself as a quickly growing regional player, and this year anticipates producing nearly 36,000 barrels of beer. To date, its sour production has been a very minor part of that—this year, the company projects packaging only 300 BBLs worth, spread between eight releases. At 30,000 square feet, though, the new space, complete 1,000 different wine and bourbon barrels (with room for 2,000 more), alongside five foeders (and space for seven more), will enable the company to dramatically grow both its sour and barrel-aged output.
But Springdale is designed to accomplish more than just growing the company’s funky production. As with myriad other companies opening secondary facilities dedicated to sour and barrel-aged beers, the Springdale location will reduce the risk of contaminating clean beers. “It was always a little dicey packaging all the sour beer in our clean environment here,” Hendler says. It also affords the company some latitude in making other styles of beer, which, like sours, haven’t fit as well beneath the company’s Lager-specific umbrella to date.
Joe Connolly, newly tapped to serve as Springdale general manager, says Springdale will release IPAs, Saisons, and Brettanomyces-driven beer, while there are additional plans in place to reintroduce cask offerings and to launch a live blending draft operation. Consumers can also look forward to both clean and treated versions of certain beers.
“The encapsulation of it for us here is this is a new space for creativity, a sandbox we get to play in that we’re really excited about,” Connolly tells GBH. “Part of that is going to be our inspiration from some old world beers we’ve all loved a long time.”

Although Jack’s Abby beers can be found all over New England and throughout much of the Northeast, there are no plans for distribution of Springdale branded beer. Rather, the company will employ the type of direct-to-consumer approach utilized by other beer heavyweights in the state, like Tree House and Trillium.

“We’ve spent five years thinking about nothing else except Lagers,” Hendler says. “This is that next step for us.”
—Dave Eisenberg