Drink This Now: ‘Brew the Charles’ Beers From Castle Island, Idle Hands, and More

In honor of HUBweek, six Massachusetts companies brewed with purified water from a notorious source in Boston.

Castle Island Brewing Company's Chuck, a dry-hopped cream ale brewed with water from the Charles. / Photo provided

Chuck, by Castle Island Brewing Company. / Photo provided

Made famous decades ago with the Standells song “Dirty Water,” the Charles River has made notable strides in water quality over the past few years. It earned a B+ cleanliness rating from the EPA last year, and a few brave Bostonians have even begun to dive in.

But this weekend, you have the unique chance to drink beer made with that water, thanks to HUBweek Brew the Charles.

In August, water technology company Desalitech treated close to 4,000 gallons of Charles River water at its Newton plant, ABC News reported. The purified water went to six area breweries to use in beers, which will be released this weekend:

  • Harpoon Brewery: Brew the Charles saison, with dandelion wildflower honey,
  • Ipswich Ale: Chucktoberfest marzen,
  • Samuel Adams: 80 Miles of Helles (honoring the 80-mile length of the Charles River),
  • Cape Ann Brewing Company: Homeport Pale Ale,
  • Castle Island Brewing Company: Chuck, a dry-hopped cream ale, and
  • Idle Hands Craft Ales: Czech for Charles, a Bohemian-style pilsner.

Brewing a crisp pilsner just made sense to Idle Hands owner Chris Tkach. He wanted to create something that would put the soft quality of the Charles River water on center stage, rather than mask its presence with hops.

“The nice thing about a Czech pilsner is that there’s nothing to hide behind,” Tkach says. “If there’s something that’s off in the water or brewing process, or ingredient-wise, it’s going to show through in the end product. This didn’t [do that] at all—it’s exactly the way we wanted it.”

Adam Romanow had similar feelings about brewing Chuck. The Castle Island founder compared the cleanliness of the water delivered by Desalitech to what the brewery normally uses, if not better. To play up that clarity, he brewed a light cream ale. Romanow finished the beer by dry-hopping it, which he says added some punchy aromatics and a “pillowy” mouthfeel.

Above all, both Tkach and Romanow say these beers are aimed at promoting the uptick in the river’s water quality. The Charles has come a long way in recent years, and it’s only getting better. Let your paranoia fall to the wayside and give these river beers a try.

“I’ve heard it all,” Romanow says. “Is this safe? Is this beer going to make me glow? Did you guys find any school buses in the water when you were emptying it into the tank?”

If you can’t make it out to Brew the Charles, you can still drink these beers around town. Idle Hands is sending a few kegs of Czech For Charles out for distribution, as well as tapping it at the Malden taproomCastle Island canned a portion of Chuck, and there are still a few 4-packs left at the Norwood brewery.

HUBWeek Closing Party, featuring Brew the Charles, $25, Saturday, October 1, 5-10 p.m., SOWA Power Station, 540 Harrison Ave. South End, Boston, register at hubweek.org.