Beermaker Chris Tkach isn’t the kind to sit idly by. The local brew enthusiast built Idle Hands Craft Ale from a homebrewing hobby to a full-fledged brewery and soon-to-open taproom. Since June of 2015, Idle Hands has led a nomadic life, producing a limited supply of suds at Night Shift’s facility as they work on construction for their new Malden location. As the purgatorial period heads into its final months (Floors have been poured! Walls are going up!), Tkach is itching to get back to the business of making beer and sharing it with the Boston community.
Tkach got his beer start with the gift of a homebrewing kit in his college days, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he took the hobby commercial with the launch of Idle Hands. The beer-lover was working in software when he realized that the corporate America path wasn’t such a good fit and “if it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I needed to make that change before I was sucked into it, dependent on the large paycheck.” The career reflection coincided with a ski trip that landed Tkach and his wife at a still-small-scale Maine Beer Company. A conversation with the owner opened up the possibility that “you didn’t have to be a big, ginormous brewery to get into the business.” During what Tkach calls the birth of nano breweries, Idle Hands Craft Ales came into existence—on a very nano level. Their first set-up was a one and half barrel system “cobbled together” with Ebay- and Craigslist-sourced parts in an Everett warehouse.
Tkach and team grew their production and grew out of the admittedly less than ideal location. “It looked like an abandoned warehouse,” says Tkach. “Dirty, grungy, unlit, not very consumer friendly, a nightmare to find.” Advances in the craft beer world exposed the necessity for a customer-facing taproom, a concept that wasn’t previously (legally) possible. When the Idle Hands land was bought for Everett casino construction, the brewery set their sights on a bigger, better space. “We wanted something larger, easy to find, some place that—get this—had bathrooms.” The new brewery on Commercial Street in Malden is, according to Tkach, everything the old one wasn’t. Beyond bathrooms, the renovated space has increased accessibility (parking lot, MBTA stop) that will allow Idle Hands to “serve the local community with fresh beer in a comfortable environment.” Tkach is eyeing an early summer launch for the updated facility, complete with taproom and eats from local catering companies and food trucks.
As far as design, “my whole concept on the retail side of the business is that when you walk in, you still feel like you’re inside a brewery.” Tkach aims to minimize the separation between retail and production because “you might as well be visiting a bar at that point.” A taproom, for Tkach, is “more of a meeting spot than a place to go out and get drunk or have dinner and a beer, although you can do that.” He chalks up the atmosphere to the fact that beer production, rather than retail, is the bread-and-butter of a brewery: “An ancillary tap room is more of a nice-to-have so you don’t necessarily feel like you’re being rushed to get in and then turn over the table for the next party.” The community feel fits with the brewery’s focus—distributing only in Massachusetts. As summer approaches, Tkach is looking forward to “welcoming our fans back to a bigger and better brewery.” Or, as he puts it, “It will be nice to have a home again.”