Sunday, September 1, 2013
Two weeks ago, Andrea and I made a trip out to Central Mass. Wedged in between hitting the antique marts in Putnam, CT, and getting dinner at Paul & Elizabeths in Northampton, MA, was our real reason for going -- Tree House Brewing Co. in Brimfield, MA. I first learned of Tree House at the American Craft Beer Fest at the end of May. There, I had their Tornado, an American Pale Ale filled with grapefruit and pine notes, but I was blown away by their Space & Time, a new creation of theirs from April that hit me with dark fruits, molasses, and coffee flavors. However, after the brewfest, it was their Julius IPA that everyone was raving about. When I looked it up on BeerAdvocate, some people went so far as to declare it the best IPA in Massachusetts. Soon after, Julius IPA was entered into my wishlist on the Untappd beer app, and two months later when Andrea asked if I wanted to make a beer-themed road trip, Tree House was my reply.
Once we made it to Brimfield and traveled up the rural roads, we came upon the brewery. A brewery that looked more like a farmhouse with a barn albeit one with a yard-turned parking lot full of cars. Well, parking lot doesn't do the beauty of the place justice as I will explain in a bit. We wandered inside and were greeted by owner Dean Rohan. He was curious as to why we were here, and when I replied "for the beer," he shot off a few feet to ring a ship's bell to celebrate my good answer. I described trying his brews at ACBF, and he then gave me a overview of the brewery activities and explained how to get growlers filled. I was also there to see if I could wrangle a keg to put on as a rotator at Russell House Tavern where I work, but Dean explained that they were at capacity and there was a long waiting list. After viewing the brewing facility in the other half of the barn (photo below), I quickly understood their limitations. They had no clue of what sort of monster they had created -- all by high quality coupled with word of mouth.
Unfortunately, the wait to get growlers was long, but fortunately they make the time pass pleasurably. Before you leave the barn, there are couches to sit in and lots of bowls of snackfood to eat -- most notable was the housemade salsa. Outside, was a glorious koi pond with rather friendly fish. Although they might have been friendly since I was sitting on the footbridge where they probably get fed from a few times a day.
And yes, towards the back part of the property was the namesake tree house that was free to explore. Apparently, music and firepits are also common means of entertainment on the grounds although not while we were there. Eventually, our name was called and the three growlers we purchased were filled; they do limit growler sales per person to prevent unfair distribution of their product, but we were well under our maximum allotment. Besides the Julius IPA that I desired, I also got another Tornado APA and a milk stout called That’s What She Said. I do regret passing over their ESB, Old Man Special Bitter, in favor of retrying the Tornado, but that pale ale was rather good last time. Hopefully, it will be there again as one of the selections the next time.
So far we have only cracked open our growler of Julius IPA. My notes were, "Grapefruit, orange, floral, clean pine finish. Very drinkable." The comparisons to The Alchemist's highly sought after Heady Topper were understandable but there was a little more complexity here beyond the similar grapefruit that predominates Head Topper. We'll definitely be back once our three growlers are drained.