In February, Idle Hands Craft Ales founder Chris Tkach was served an official letter. In so many words, the letter told Tkach to vacate his property. The Everett building, which housed the tiny brewery, was being sold, to make way for the billion-dollar Wynn casino project. Idle Hands, a tenant since 2011, would have to brew somewhere else.
Wynn offered Idle Hands $10,000 plus assistance with brokers, financing, and moving, as well as free rent from the time Wynn purchased the building, according to a spokesperson, but Tkach said he would have lost money in the transaction. He bought some time with the casino to continue brewing through the spring, but as of the end of June, Idle Hands is out on the street. “We knew about the casino’s plans, but that was a little bit of a shock,” says Tkach. “We thought we had a lot longer.”
Idle Hands is small. Last year, the brewery produced 400 barrels. But even so, Tkach says finding industrial space near Boston is difficult. The brewer says he’s close to signing a lease on a space “a few miles away” from the current one, but didn’t want to give details on the location until it’s official. Even if that deal goes through, it will take some time to set up shop for a working brewery. “You can’t move a brewery overnight,” says Tkach. “I’m not an automotive shop. I’m not a carpenter. It’s not a matter of packing the boxes and finding another contractor bay.”
In four years of operation, Idle Hands has been a lot of things. It’s been a brewery with Belgian-leanings, relying on staples like Triplication, an abbey-style tripel, and Pandora, a Belgian pale ale. It’s been an early adopter of urban tap room culture, drawing throngs of growler-toting fans despite the gritty, cramped environment. Former neighbor Night Shift Brewing — a broomstick’s length away in the early days — moved to a larger space in Everett last year. Tkach says Idle Hands was going to move eventually. “We’ve wanted to get out of that space for a while,” he says. “It was a hindrance to the growth of our business. We want to offer a better experience than we do today.”
In the short term, Idle Hands will scale way down, selling all of its current brewing equipment and producing a few seasonal beers at Night Shift just to keep the brand going. The beers will be draft-only. Of the assist from Night Shift, Tkach says, “I can’t thank them enough.”
Tkach says he has no plans to lay off any current staff, and he hopes to get up and running in a new facility. But he acknowledges the worst-case scenario of not being able to reopen.
“I think if I were to start a brewery today, I’m not necessarily sure I would,” he says. “There’s just a lot of new breweries to come into the market. It’s going to get really competitive. It already is.”