You shouldn’t have to think too much about your beer.
At least that’s the philosophy some beer makers are following these days as consumer choices tilt toward the overwhelming. Craft beer has always been about the next big thing, but what if sometimes it isn’t?
Idle Hands Craft Ales is one brewery that’s trying to simplify. And the Malden outfit’s newest release, Slate, doesn’t require drinkers to take a master class in zymology (that’s fermentation science; I had to look it up) to enjoy.
“Slate is an everyday ale,” explains founder Christopher Tkach. “It’s designed to satisfy the thirst of someone who wants to drink something flavorful and local, but doesn’t want to get tied up in the whole concept of, ‘What hops are in this?’ or ‘Is this a New England IPA?’ or whatever. It’s meant to go with kind of everything that you’re really doing.”
Slate is such an everyday beer that Tkach is hesitant to define the style, IDing it only as an ale, “brewed in a way that has a crisp character to it. I wouldn’t say it’s lager-like but it has some characteristics.”
Idle Hands already makes excellent, German-inspired craft lagers, including Emelyn, a young, unfiltered Vienna-style Zwickl beer, and Edgeworth Pils, named for the neighborhood in which the brewery is located and featuring crisp notes of lemon and cut-grass.
Slate is less traditional (hence the no style thing), but like those lagers, it’s designed both to quench the thirst of craft drinkers suffering from flavor-bomb fatigue and to appeal to a wider audience.
“People’s palates are just getting burned out with the intensity of the flavors that are out there,” says Tkach. “We live in a world where the craft beer geek is kind of the vocal minority of things. Sometimes you’ve got to filter a little bit of that out and think about the overall landscape, and who really could be your consumer versus who you think your consumer is. Slate’s designed to play in both worlds.”
I recently cracked a can of Slate, shoved it into a koozie, and headed out to my backyard. The first few sips were grassy, with mild, bitter notes of melon and pine. Unlike with an IPA, though, the bitterness isn’t overt, and even the fruity notes fade away on the back end, leading to a crisp finish. At 5.3 percent ABV, you can have more than one, even on a hot day. I wrote down “this is the IPA’s warm-weather friend,” and I’m sticking with that.
With the help of Dorchester Brewing Co., Idle Hands is brewing more of Slate than its usual beers, so expect to see it all around Massachusetts, at a price a dollar or two less than a typical Idle Hands 4-pack.