Although the craft beer marketplace is getting very crowded and competitive, I think there are a number of opportunities for smart breweries to stand out by doing things that are a little different. One underutilized style is hop-forward but well balanced and easy drinking session beers. There are obviously some great examples of these, but too many “session IPAs” taste like hop-water or dumbed-down versions of the same brewery’s full strength IPA. As the ABVs of hoppy beers continue to creep up, it feels like most “single” IPAs are around 7% ABV now, there is clear demand for lower ABV beers that can be enjoyed in quantity without putting you under the table. While many breweries have addressed this with pale lagers, I think every brewery should develop a well-crafted, lower alcohol hoppy beer as part of their regular rotation. In they can distribute these beers at a lower price point compared to their “full-strength” beers, all the better. A great recent example of this idea is Slate, the new pale ale from Idle Hands. Slate is designed to be a flavorful beer for everyday enjoyment and is now a core beer in the Idle Hands lineup, available across the state on draft and in 16 oz cans with a suggested retail price that is well below what most hoppy beers are selling for.
Idle Hands Slate pours hazy light yellow with a full white head. The aroma features a solid burst of fruity and citrusy hops. As advertised, this is a light bodied and crushable all occasions beer. The hops lead the flavor, notes of orange, lemon, guava and cut grass along with a little bitter bite. This is balanced by a pale malt backbone, hints of cereal and crackers. Slate is nearly a session beer at 5.3% ABV and finishes crisp with some lingering hop flavor. Overall this is a flavorful and easy drinking beer, every brewery should make a beer like this. While I might prefer a beer like Six Seam on overall flavor, this is the kind of beer I want for a BBQ or another situation where I’m drinking a few beers, and I am sure I will be drinking plenty of Slate this summer. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Idle Hands Reviews:
Idle Hands Check Raise, Idle Hands 34 and Six Seam, Idle Hands Brocktoberfest, Idle Hands Proeme, Idle Hands Thing 1, Idle Hands Heide, Idle Hands Riding Shotgun, Idle Hands Adelais, Idle Hands D’aison, Idle Hands Triplication