Originally Posted at The Beer Nut
The ‘Abby’ in our name is in honor of Jack’s wife, Abby. However, it is also meant to represent the long history of beer being brewed in monasteries.
When most people think of abbey beer they refer to the Belgian tradition. In fact, many people after hearing about our name have asked us when we will be making a Belgian-style beer. While these are great beers, it is not what we had in mind when we came up with our name.
We are more interested in the equally rich tradition of German monastic brewing. We feel that it is an area that has been somewhat forgotten by American craft brewers. German monasteries have left a lasting impression on the art of making beer from standardizing production methods, to spreading the use of hops and introducing lagers to the world.
The history of German monastic brewing dates back to the 6th century with the spread of Christianity through the region. As the German monasteries were being founded, feudalism was also becoming the way of life. Wealth and power were consolidated by the new lords, who gave the monasteries special privileges and financial support. These advantages gave the monasteries the unique opportunity to become centers of learning. Part of the knowledge they accumulated related to brewing, which they applied to their own breweries.
While this trend was not unique to Germany, there were several major developments that were. When Charlemagne was in power in the 8th century, he created many guidelines for breweries that helped standardize brewing practices. This push prompted German monasteries to hone their craft to ensure that if Charlemagne passed through, they would pass the inevitable inspection.
Another major breakthrough by German monasteries was the use of hops as a replacement for gruit, an herb mixture that had been used for flavoring beer. There are records of hops being cultivated by German monks as early as 736, however, the first records of hops being used in the brewing process are from the 11th century. From there, the use of hops spread rapidly and soon overtook the entire brewing world.
While no one at the time really understood the role of yeast in fermentation, it was the practices of German monks and nuns that lead to the creation of lagers. This is because lagers use a different strain of yeast than ales, a strain that is better suited to the conditions present in German monasteries. While it is unknown exactly when lager yeast strains formed, it was the brewing practices at the monasteries that provided them the environment they needed to flourish.
The German monastic tradition has endured. Currently two German monastic breweries are able to argue over which is the oldest brewery in the world. Weltenburg Abbey and Weihenstephan Abbey, which are still brewing to this day, were both founded in the 11th century. There are many other monastic breweries that have been shaping the brewing world for hundreds of years as well.
While we are not brewing strictly traditional German beers at Jack’s Abby, they still serve as important inspiration for our own distinctive lagers.
[Originally published at The Beer Nut]
Here at Jack’s Abby Brewing we have decided to do something different than most craft brewers. We will be focusing entirely on lagers for our initial beers.
Lagers are one of the two main families of beer, with ales being the other. The vast majority of craft brewers focus on ales, inspired from the English and Belgian traditions and spurred by the popularity of beers such as IPAs. We feel that putting the extra time into lagers is worth it to bring you something unique.
Lagers originated in Germany, somewhat by accident. Brewers stored their brewed ales in damp and chilly caves. These caves were the same temperature as the ideal temperature for fermenting lagers. At some point a yeast strain mutated to take advantage of these conditions, creating the second great beer family. Over the years, German brewers developed an exacting tradition to ensure the quality of their lagers. It is to them that we owe much of our inspiration for our brewing standards.
There are a number of differences between ales and lagers from how they are brewed to how they taste. Ales use a ‘top’ fermenting yeast that ferments best at temperatures around 65-75°F. Lagers use a ‘bottom’ fermenting yeast that works best at cooler temperatures around 45-55°F. In recent years, new strains of yeast have been found that can blur the line between these distinctions, however these rules generally hold true. Lagers also require a longer process of cold conditioning.
The use of different yeast strains and fermenting temperatures when brewing lagers leads to some differences. The lager process prevents many of the fruity and spicy chemicals that are present in ales from forming. Instead, the flavors of the hops and malts come through unaltered. As a result, lagers require more exacting standards to make sure they receive all of the required flavors and aromas just from the hops and malts. While this process is less forgiving, when it is done properly you can create some great beers.
At Jack’s Abby Brewing, we will be doing some things differently when brewing our lagers. Using a hopback will allow us to maximize the flavor of our lagers. A hopback is a chamber that is filled with whole-leaf hops. The hot wort is then filtered through the hopback before heading to the chiller. This process allows the beer to pick up hop flavors and aromas that would have normally been lost when the wort is boiled. Cooling the wort right after going through the hopback ensures that these flavors will be retained. Spices, herbs, and other ingredients can also be put in the hopback as is the case with our Leisure Time Lager.
We have talked a lot about the German tradition that inspires our general brewing process at Jack’s Abby. We also plan on brewing some very untraditional beers. We have selected hops, spices and grains to use that are unusual and surprising. Our goal is to combine the rigorous, traditional process of making a lager with innovative ingredients and concepts. This unique approach led us to the idea for our India Pale Lager, our twist on the classic ale, and several other distinctive brews coming your way.
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