Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Brewery Tour #18 & #19 - Night Shift Brewing and Idle Hands Craft Ales

If every rose has its thorn, then perhaps every thorn has its rose.

One thorn DBNE recently came across was an ugly industrial park in the ugly town of Everett, MA. That’s right, we're talking two layers of ugly here. But if you’re a beer lover that happens to be passing by Charlton Street in Everett, turn onto it.

Once you’re on Charlton St., ignore the immense, crumbling brick building in front of you with its windows blown out. Just bear left into the mess of unforgiving construction that makes you feel like you have no business being there. Disregard the sinking feeling that you're trespassing into guarded territory, and park your car anywhere alongside the chain-link fence where it feels like you’ll be instantly towed. Get out of our car and slowly walk down the foreboding narrow alley in-between the two buildings and look for a small, inconspicuous black and white sign of a hop cone that looks like an angry owl. If you feel like you’re in the wrong place, you’re in the right place. Got it?

Once inside your first door, walk down the dark and seemingly deserted hallway, straight past a couple of side doors and into a dimly lit garage of sorts. Walk around the cars, and you'll find yourself facing two doors. If you feel like you've gone far enough and this is all a cruel joke, fear not. Behind these two doors is your thorn’s rose – friendly people pouring tasty beer. 

The two doors in front of you are the entrances to two of Boston's newer nanobreweries. Night Shift Brewing, and Idle Hands Craft Ales, founded in 2011 and 2010, respectively. 

What's a nanobrewery? There’s still no confirmed definition, but as one might assume, it’s a very small brewery. Very, very small. Sometimes just a glorified homebrew set up that happens to sell their beer commercially. Some industry folk have casually defined nanobreweries as operations using no more than a 4 US barrel (470 L) brew system.

DBNE first walked through the left door, which puts you square into the tasting room for Night Shift Brewing. Inside were 3 men standing behind a bar, dishing out samples to a handful of people. 

Once you've made it this far inside, you realize the building you're in (which moments ago felt unwelcoming at best) seems like a communal manufacturing facility that probably leases raw individual spaces to small, start-up production companies of any kind. It's actually a smart space for a start-up brewery to get its feet wet in the industry. 

We were acknowledged immediately in the Night Shift tasting area and offered a full tasting of six beers on tap, going from light to dark.

Our tasting included “Trifecta,” a very agreeable Belgian-style pale; “Rose,” a saison brewed with rosemary, rosehips, honey, then aged on crushed pink peppercorns was a hit and made its way home with us;  A Berliner-Weisse style sour ale brewed with lemongrass and ginger, called “Somer Weisse,” tasted tart, bright, and refreshing, but it seemed better suited for warmer months (I envisioned drinking it with a strawberry chicken salad); “Taza Stout,” brewed with chicory root, ginger, and then aged on cacao nibs was a nice change of pace and also found its way home with us; "Fallen Apple," a golden ale brewed with fresh MA apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, allspice, then aged in rum and brandy barrels was a bit hit with us. Lastly, we finished up with “Viva Habanera,” a rye ale brewed with agave nectar and aged on habanero peppers. The pepper kick on the finish of this last beer was a surprise, and while interesting to experience, was a bit overwhelming on the palate.

The Night Shift tasting room is open every weeknight from 5:00 – 9:00 pm and Saturday afternoon 12:00 – 5:00 pm. Pre-filled bottles and growler fills are both available for sale.

Leaving the Night Shift tasting room, we popped into door #2 to visit Idle Hands. Similar to Night Shift, you immediately walk into a small tasting area with a bar. The tasting here included their flagship “Pandora” – a very agreeable Belgian inspired pale ale, “Rosemary for Remembrance"– a delightful ale made with sweet potato and rosemary, "Charlton Rouge” – their homage to a Flanders Red, and "Cognition" – a very sessionable Abbey style brown ale.

There were no duds in the Idle Hands lineup. All were enjoyable. We particularly loved the playful sour notes in Charlton Rouge which blended well with its brown sugar malts. Hence, we took a bottle home along with Pandora which offers layers of elegant flavor yet is deceptively simple to drink. If bottles of Rosemary for Remembrance were offered, and not just growlers of it, that would have made it home with us as well because it would've paired superbly with Thanksgiving dinner. 

Idle Hands is not open to the public as often as Night Shift, so be sure you visit these parts when both breweries are open. Hours for Idle Hands are Thursdays from 5:00 – 8:00 pm and Saturdays from 12 – 4:00 pm. Night Shift is always open during Idle Hands’ hours.

Despite the humor of locating the entrance to these breweries, we very much recommend a visit. Although I must admit, I can’t imagine the humanity of trying to locate the appropriate doors in a scary industrial site during dark weeknight hours in winter; not unless I want my family to see my face on the local news the next day with the word “MISSING” underneath it. For your first visit, stick with Saturday daytime hours and enjoy. 

Night Shift Brewing 
3 Charlton St
Everett, MA 02144
Open Monday – Friday 5:00 – 9:00 pm, and Saturdays from 12:00 – 5:00 pm

Idle Hands Craft Ales
3 Charlton St
Everett, MA 02144
Open Thursdays from 5:00 – 8:00 pm, and Saturdays from 12 – 4:00 pm