I drank it so you don’t have to: Jack’s Abby PB&J Framinghammer, and Fire…

The Jack’s Abby PB&J Barrel-Aged Framinghammer Baltic porter and Fire in the Ham rauchbier/smoked lager (i.e. the meat beer, which is not actually made from meat), sound like fun, except for the fact that beer has an unyielding tendency to taste a whole lot like beer.
That, in a vacuum, usually produces some positive results, in that it usually results in beer. The problem is when brewers and drinkers alike succumb to the incessant siren’s song of new beer flavors, many of which tend to go off the deep end.
Does a peanut butter and jelly beer make much sense? Not really. Does anyone expect it to be good? Probably not, but that’s hardly the point in the first place.
Alas, we commercial mosquitoes cast out upon the winds of brewing enterprise are incessantly drawn to the light of the latest microbrewery lab experiment, eternally bound to that pilgrimage toward the latest cauldron offering a new form of brewing beer with farm cheese and waffles — or whatever they’re running with these days.
Today, it’s a peanut butter and jelly beer and a meat-flavored beer.
Jack’s Abby PB&J Framminghamer, Fire in the Ham
Jack’s Abby’s choices for the two beer styles to play around with are curious ones. When it comes to incorporating intense outside flavors, beers tend to break down a whole lot like elementary school gym class. There are the nimble, light kids who can pull off most anything, then there are the stout ones (beers or kids).
The Fire in the Ham is the result of playing around with a lager, a style that is often considered the anchor of the beer world — in that lagers such as Busch, Keystone and Natty Ice have been dragging it down for years.
Putting aside the sect of beers that are designed to be “pounded” or “crushed, bro,” lagers are a legit beer when done right. Making lagers that don’t suck is more or less the calling card of Jack’s Abby as a brewery, and the versatility of the beer is shown here in the form of a smoked lager that pulls out those deep smokey, meaty smells via some sort of dark beer magic (it’s the only explanation).
Where we start to run into trouble is with the Framminghamer. Making a PB&J beer is admirable, really. They’re doing God’s work. However, trying to pull off that high-difficulty move with a Baltic porter (a famously dense, heavy, malty, cumbersome dark beer) with a 10 percent ABV wasn’t going to end well.
Watching a Baltic porter try to taste like something this exotic is a lot like watching a panda do a double somersault. Sure, you’ll sit and watch as it derps through the process, but no one believes it has the alcoholic dexterity to pull it off. You’d watch that scene because it’s a panda, not because you’re a gymnastics fan. If you’re going to drink the Framminghammer, it’d better be because you like Baltics, because this is not appeasing many peanut butter and jelly enthusiasts.
So what do they taste like?
PB&J Barrel-Aged Framinghammer – The Framinghammer fits its billing as a Baltic porter with that dark, malty taste up front. However, there’s no real direct peanut butter taste. There’s a little bit of a savory note underneath (Maybe? It’s not much). On the other side, that jelly sweetness rings out a little bit at the end in the aftertaste.
Ultimately, trying to play around with the Baltic porter here ended up a lot like a boozy sarlacc pit. The peanut butter takes the Boba Fett route and ends up getting swallowed up in a disappointingly easy manner after generating a bunch of hype. The jelly, meanwhile, winds up a whole lot like Han Solo. Sure, it’s still cool and survives, but it’s barely dragged out at the end, and even then it’s still mostly blind and useless.
Overall, it’s an OK Baltic porter. The PB&J barrel aging doesn’t add much to it, nor does it take too much away, though the jelly taste at the end is a little weird.
Fire in the Ham – This one starts out as a standard smokey lager on the front end, but as the smokey nose implies, there’s something more sinister here. The taste of a solid lager up front opens up as the smoke pours in and vibrant flavors of ham and bacon stand out. Note: This beer doesn’t have notes of meat-like flavors; it tastes like bacon and ham.
Fire in the Ham is the Dr. Faustus of beers. It starts out as a normal, respectable lager, but sells its beer soul early on in a fiery ritual with the demon Mephis-hop-heles. (T-minus 12 minutes until some brewery in Portland steals that for their smoked double IPA, though they’ve gotten close already.)
Once the pact is sealed, the abyssal rift to the Great Bacon Inferno is opened, unleashing complete hamdemonium with smokey notes pouring out, eventually conjuring those meaty flavors from the same vessel where hops and malt once resided.
It’s hard to say whether Fire in the Ham is good or bad. There’s simply nothing to compare it to. It’s more of n rush then a pleasure, like taking your mouth on a roller coaster ride instead of hopping on the bumper cars.
The final word
Creative expression through brewing rarely works. There are usually two outcomes: 1) The beer tastes like the weird new flavor, which is cool, but takes away from the primary goal of beer – tasting like beer – or 2) The new flavor is subtle enough to be incorporated into the style, but then ends up tasting like a normal beer with some weird flavor mixed in.
That’s why it’s rare to see any of the really off-beat beers gain much traction in the marketplace. You’ll see tons pop up in small bursts, but almost all of them lack staying power.
The Framinghammer is a solid beer, which is why it’s going to stick around. Since the additional flavors are added during the aging, there’s plenty of room for it to stick around while still playing around with some flavors. Fire in the Ham, though, is the truly ambitious one. But is the world ready for a meat beer?

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