Beer

Idle Hands is experimenting with wine-beer hybrids

"If Germany and Napa Valley had a love child."

Handout
Idle Hands Weinlager is a 6 percent alcohol by volume lager described on the brewery's website as "if Germany and Napa Valley had a love child."


It was a conversation last summer that prompted Idle Hands brewery founder Christopher Tkach to think more deeply about marrying beer and wine.

That chat, with City Winery’s head winemaker, Richard Jacob, began when Idle Hands started supplying beer for the winery’s Greenway pop-up across from South Station.

“We wanted to do something more with them, and it just seemed logical to try and marry beer with wine,” says Tkach.

Creating beer-wine hybrids in the craft beer space is not completely new. Another local brewery, Trillium, has, for example, released beers in the Dialed In series that include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling grape juice. These brews, all IPAs, play up the pungent, fruity notes of the hops with the addition of the grapes’ more concentrated citrus.

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In an effort to see what Idle Hands could do with wine grapes, Tkach and his team visited City Winery last fall to taste through barrels of finished wine. But when they started tasting just the fresh juice of some Chardonnay, from Scopus Vineyards in Sonoma, “it just clicked.”

“We had a good sense of what the juice would contribute as it had a wonderful tropical flavor profile that we knew we could work with.” says Tkach.

But rather than go the IPA route and “kill it with hops” like so many breweries do, Tkach and his team decided to go simpler, brewing a lager to pair with the California grape juice.

“We wanted to showcase that tropical fruit character in a much different way and to really get that flavor top center in the beer,” he says. “This led us to using it in a very clean lager, which would allow the tropical fruit characteristics of the grapes to shine with minimal interference. And I have to say that we were successful in doing so.”

The finished beer, called Weinlager, is a 6 percent alcohol by volume lager described on the brewery’s website as “if Germany and Napa Valley had a love child.” I recently sampled the brew and found it crisp like a lager but also lemony and slightly tart, though much less so than many sour beers would be. I found myself appreciating the nuance of each sip, and tasting the wine and beer aspects of the drink at different times.

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While a limited release last month, some four-packs of the original batch of Weinlager should still be on shelves in Greater Boston beer stores. But the bigger news may be that Idle Hands isn’t done experimenting with beer-wine hybrids. They’re anticipating brewing further batches of Weinlager throughout 2022, as well as working with a prominent-but-unnamed Massachusetts winery on an additional release.

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