Jack Hendler and his two brothers, Eric and Sam, are New York natives that have taken the Northeast by storm with their Framingham, MA based breweries, Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers and Springdale Beer Co.
Since launching Jack’s Abby in 2011, the trio has seen their brewery triple in size. Jack’s Abby’s Beer Hall & Kitchen and Springdale Barrel Room have become landmarks of Boston’s MetroWest community. The Hendler brothers bring a legacy that dates back to their grandfather’s family’s ice distribution company that began in Stamford, CT. We caught up with Jack Hendler to speak with him about a wide range of topics from IPAs to distribution and even the importance of how beer is poured.
What got you interested in the beer business?
It’s an interesting story. During college, I started to become interested in the craft beer scene. Through my Uncle Jeff, I was able to find an internship with a restaurant group in Manhattan and it really took off from there. After college, I moved to Boston and went to work at a brewpub for six years. That really taught me the ins and outs of brewing. I then spent time in Munich learning how the Germans make beer.
What are the big differences between the German approach and the U.S. in regards to beer sales?
The big difference lies in the loyalty that brands are able to generate in Germany. In many cases, that comes from the long-term roots that a brand has in a region. The craft beer drinker here in the U.S. is constantly in search of what’s next. As such, we’re always looking for ways to innovate.
Is craft beer still a phenomenon or are you now in what is known as the maturing phase of growth?
With ten years behind us, we are now one of the older companies in the industry. The data from the Craft Brewers Association shows that we are in a phase now where for every barrel of beer gained by a regional brewer comes at the expense of another regional brewer. So, it’s really important to gain a loyal customer. I do think you are going to see major changes in this industry in the next decade.
As you look at your marketplace, do you see more potential with on-prem or retail with liquor store and supermarkets?
We’ve built our brands with draft beer served in restaurants. We’ve focused on hospitality from the very beginning. We then created a small base of distributors that could get our story out and get customers tasting our products. Very early on, we built an understanding that we’re going to need to build locally and then regionally. Way too many brands have failed when they pushed nationally way too soon.
What’s your approach to staying ahead of your customers’ tastes and figuring out what they are going to want next?
We have a Pilot Brewhouse on-site, which allows us to experiment with new flavors and styles. We are able to make small batches, and really perfect the recipe before moving it up to our 60-barrel brewhouse. After brewing something on our Pilot system, we pour it on-site here at our Beer Hall and Barrel Room, which allows us to get feedback directly from our customers.
What are your thoughts on how your retail partners pour your beer for their customers?
We continue to support our retail partners as they educate their customers on what makes Jack’s Abby and Springdale Beer Co. special. Most restaurants understand the importance of a clean glass for the pouring of our products. It allows a more even, clean pour and a substantial, fragrant head. We are lucky, because we have a unique understanding of restaurant needs because of our own taproom operation, here in Framingham (MA).
As you look at 2020, what’s in the Crystal Ball for Jack’s Abby?
We are focused on the craft beer industry that continues to change fast. The IPA segment continues to grow very quickly. There has also been a recent focus on lagers, which is great as Jack’s Abby is on the forefront of that trend as a lager-only brewery since its inception in 2011.
To learn more about Jack’s Abby, visit their website.