If you look at any list of the most popular or sought-out breweries in Massachusetts I bet you’ll find Tree House Brewing Company near the top, but my trips out to the brewery in Monson or now Charlton have been pretty rare. It has nothing to do with their beer, I have never had a bad beer from Tree House and the vast majority of their beers I’ve had a chance to try have been world class. The issues I’ve had are with everything else that goes into a trip to Tree House, it’s a long drive round-trip and it’s hard to find the time and energy to deal with the long lines and can limits. The popularity of the brewery also attracts a subculture of people that care more about the trophy than the beer, it’s only a small percentage but they can be a hassle. Fortunately everything I’ve heard about the new brewery has been positive, the lines are still there but they move quickly and the increased production means you can buy much more beer in a stop. While the issues with the trophy hunting/beer trading subculture probably aren’t going anywhere, it’s probably time to make the trip out to the new facility. Fortunately, one of the perks of writing a beer blog is that my friends keep me in mind when they visit breweries, especially those that are a little out of the way for me. My friends Tim and Amanda made a recent stop at Tree House and picked me up a few treats. One of the beers they grabbed was new to me, Tornado, an American pale ale originally brewed after the 2011 Brimfield tornado. Tree House Tornado is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 16 oz cans at the brewery.
Tree House Tornado pours hazy light yellow with a solid white head. The scent features a solid hit of hops, juicy and a little floral. The hops lead the flavor, notes of orange candy, mango, peach and pear with minimal bitterness. There is a little malt flavor in the backbone, touches of biscuit and crackers. Tornado is medium bodied, drinks very easy, and at 5.4% ABV it won’t put you under the table. The finish is crisp and refreshing with some lingering hop flavor that keeps you coming back for more. This is a very good New England style American pale ale, it’s nice to have more beers in the sub-style that feature the juicy hop flavors without the bigger ABVs. I’ve still never had a sub-par beer from Tree House, and with their expanded production I need to make a trip out to Charlton very soon. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Tree House Reviews:
Tree House Julius, Tree House Alter Ego, Tree House Haze
I follow a number of other beer writers, both local and national, on twitter. Discussing everything that’s happening in the world of beer with these writers is usually a blast, even when I respectfully disagree with their points of view. There is one national beer writer who is based in Massachusetts and while I respect the work he does and many of his opinions, I get frustrated by his harsh negativity when discussing the local beer scene. Some of his attacks are at particular breweries that he doesn’t care for, while others are general. I agree that the local scene isn’t perfect, Massachusetts is middle-of-the-pack in breweries per capita and it seems like some new breweries open without thinking about a niche or even developing good recipes. I think the breweries per capita statistic is a little overblown, one of the advantages of the geographically small states in New England is that breweries in neighboring states aren’t that far away, especially compared to the West Coast. I also don’t understand the point in attacking breweries you dislike, I think it is more productive to praise the brewers who are making delicious and innovative beer and hold them up as the example to be followed. One of the breweries that is unquestionably making great local beer is Tree House Brewing Company, and the one of their standout beers is their flagship IPA Julius. Tree House makes a number of tasty beers, but it was the popularity of Julius that helped turn a farmhouse in Monson into a beer lovers mecca. Julius has all of the desirable characteristics of the new class of American IPAs, huge fruity hop flavor and aroma but still extremely easy to drink. On a recent visit I filled growlers and bought cans, and it still disappeared from my fridge quicker than I would have liked. Tree House Julius is available on a rotating basis for growler fills and in tall boy cans at the brewery, check their website for availability.
Treehouse Julius pours a hazy deep orange with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a big burst of fruity hops, distinctive of a new-school American IPA. The hops dominate the flavor, notes of orange, grapefruit, guava and mango. Hop bitterness is present but soft, enough so you know it’s an IPA but it doesn’t linger on the palate. The malts add just enough balance, touches of grainy bread and just a hint of honey. This beer is incredibly easy to drink, so much flavor without going over the top, and at 6.5% ABV it isn’t overly boozy. The finish is clean with lingering hop flavor and just a hint of crisp bitterness. This is easily one of my favorite beers in New England, really one of my favorite beers period. I have dedicated this blog to celebrating the best beers brewed in this area, and this is clearly a beer worthy of that distinction. Hoppy Boston score: 5.0/5.
Previous Tree House Reviews:
Tree House Alter Ego, Tree House Haze
This weekend I violated one of my principal rules as a beer connoisseur. I have stated that I strongly dislike the idea of waiting in line for beer, I even wrote a whole article last year about why it bothers me. Yesterday was my birthday, and on Saturday my wife was taking full baby duty and giving me the morning and early afternoon to do whatever I wanted. Obviously I was going to a brewery, and under the circumstances it had to be one that was a little out of the way and more of a challenge to visit. After some debate I chose Tree House Brewing in Monson. I have enjoyed every Tree House beer that I’ve had the pleasure of trying, but it is a rare occasion that I make my way out to Monson (which is pretty much the only place you can buy their beer). This week they had over 450 cases of cans of both of their flagship IPA Julius and their 3rd Anniversary IPA Alter Ego when they opened on Wednesday (plus a substantial amount for growler fills). Despite relatively limited hours both beers were sold out by Saturday afternoon. I made the trip Saturday morning, arrived 30 minutes before the brewery opened and I was still #88 in the growler line. Despite the crowd they have the process down to a science, and in a little over an hour I was back on the road stocked with cans and full growlers. While I generally stand by my stance against waiting in line, I’ll put up with it on occasion for these super-fresh and flavorful beers. This was my first chance to try Alter Ego, brewed with the same malt base as Julius but it’s dry hopped with Amarillo and Mosaic hops. Tree House Alter Ego is available on a rotating basis on draft and in tall boy cans.
Tree House Alter Ego pours a hazy deep orange with a substantial off-white head. The scent is a huge burst of hops, mostly citrus and tropical fruit. The taste is also very hop forward, notes of tangerine, grapefruit, passion fruit, pine and lemon. The hops add a noticeable but soft bitterness, you know you are drinking at IPA but it drinks very smooth. The malts provide some balance and a base to showcase the hop flavor, touches of whole grain bread and just a hint of caramel. Alter Ego is medium bodied but very easy to drink, the 6.8% ABV is about what you’d expect from and American IPA. The finish is crisp and clean with some lingering hop flavor. While Julius gets tons of hype (for good reason), it’s cousin Alter Ego is a great IPA is it’s own right, the massive hoppiness you want from an American IPA but still balanced and easy to drink. After my first glass of this beer I knew that the trip and even the wait in line were worth it! Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Tree House Reviews:
Tree House Haze
Near the junction of the Mass Pike and I-84 is a small town called Monson, MA. If you are driving down East Hill Road in Monson (probably not by accident, it’s a bit out of the way) you’ll see a hand painted side pointing you towards “fresh beer sold here”. Inside the renovated barn on this rural road is Treehouse Brewing Company, where you can buy some of the most sought-after beers in New England. The interior of the barn has been rebuilt as a tasting room, and on a weekend expect it to be packed. As you walk in you’ll probably be greeted by Dean, who will guide you through the process and entertain you while you wait. At the front bar you can taste what is on draft (no full pours), and order growlers. The back bar has seating and small pieces of paper where you write out your orders for 750 mL flip-top bottles or 2L full growlers. The beers on draft constantly change and can sell out at any time, so don’t expect to always get your first choice. On a recent visit I was able to purchase Haze, their sought-after double IPA. Haze sold out right after my bottles were filled. I got my ticket to the bar just in time! Haze is pretty new – they don’t even have a description on their website yet, but Treehouse is known for their hop-forward beers so I knew this was worth the drive alone.
Treehouse Brewing Haze pours a hazy creamsicle orange with a moderate white head. The smell is a huge burst of succulent American hops, tons of tropical fruit and some citrus. The taste is all hops, mango, papaya, orange, lemon and grapefruit. There is a solid hoppy bite, but it isn’t tongue numbing. There is just enough malt to provide some balance, but this is an unabashed hop-bomb. Haze is extremely drinkable, which is actually a little dangerous at 8.2% ABV, you don’t taste the booze at all. The finish is crisp with a mouth-puckering bitterness left on the tongue. This beer is so good that I would drive back to Monson again just to get more. I can’t wait for my next trip out west. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.