As beer blogger Jay Brooks of the Brookstone Beer Bulletin once wrote, it’s amazing how often people ignore history.
Here’s a tidbit that’s been under our noses for decades: Jack Daniel’s, famed Tennessee whiskey maker, was also, briefly, a Tennessee brewer.
The brewery was admittedly short-lived. In 1995, Jack Daniel’s released seven different beers in 6-packs under the Jack Daniel’s 1866 Classic label: Amber Lager, Oak-Aged American Ale, Oak-Aged Honey Brown Ale, Oak-Aged Pale Ale, Oak-Aged Pilsner, Oak-Aged Summer Brew, and Oak-Aged Winter Brew. The brewery closed just two years later, in 1997.
A Jack Daniel’s representative didn’t return a request for a reason why, perhaps because the reason is obvious: The beer wasn’t nearly as good as the whiskey.
In a dusty corner of the internet, the Jack Daniel’s Collectors Page, which touts itself as “a place where friends of Jack meet,” a person named “JeePee” shares Jack Daniel’s mementos he’s collected since 1988. The page devoted to Jack Daniel’s Beer is complete with photos of the bottles, along with 1994 clipping from the Moore County News, a Lynchburg, Tenn. newspaper.
The article, headlined “Distillery opening new beer brewery,” reads: “There’s something new brewing in the hollow — Jack Daniel’s is opening a brewery to craft beer the way it was made in Mr. Jack’s day. The Jack Daniel Brewery is located in Lynchburg, Tenn. on the grounds of the historic Jack Daniel Distillery, founded in 1866 and America’s oldest registered distillery. The brewery will open for visitor tours in December.”
The article describes the brewery “reviving the turn-of-the-century brewer’s art using the Jack Daniel’s tradition and commitment to old-time craftsmanship,” and its plans to “slow brew beer from 100 percent malted barley in small batches.”
A Jack Daniel’s spokesperson said of the small batches, “We won’t make a lot, but what we make, we’ll make right.”
Those of us who never got to try Jack Daniel’s beers will have to take Brooks’s word for their caliber. “I tried a couple of the flavors once, but don’t remember being particularly impressed,” he writes, “although I also don’t recall that it was bad for any reason, just that it didn’t stand out.”
Brooks adds that another whiskey distiller jumped onto the trend — and quickly fell off. “Jim Beam once made a failed attempt of brewing beer,” he writes. “Maker’s Mark, in response, created an ad claiming they’d never make that mistake.”
Indeed, the fake Maker’s Mark Beer ad read, “Never happen.”
Incidentally, Jim Beam and Budweiser are releasing a bourbon barrel-aged beer, Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager, this fall.
We’re amazed at how history repeats itself, too.