Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tree House Brewing Company

I have spent many a morning and afternoon waiting in line for concerts tickets "back in the day", prior to having anything/everything available for purchase on the Internet. The anticipation, the excitement, the uncertainty that accompanied each step forward towards the ticket window. It was entirely possible you could line up two hours early and then get to the window only to be met with a "Sorry, Sold Out" sign, dejected, depressed and ticket-less and forced to head home to listen to Van Halen's latest album in your room as you wept gently. I'm not saying I ever did this-twice-but it's been known to happen.

As I've grown older, (and the aforementioned world wide web has made virtually everything accessible without lines), my willingness and desire to wait in line for anything has all but evaporated. I was standing behind three people at Target to buy Band Aids recently, Band Aids that I desperately needed as my thumb was bleeding at a steady clip after a tragic tennis ball can opening event, and I decided to bail because it was too annoying. I let my thumb bleed into a Dunkin Donuts napkin for three hours until it fully clotted-spilling over onto my steering wheel, J. Garcia tie, work shirt, pants, Iphone case...all because the prospect of standing in that line was too daunting, and I am somewhat of an idiot. However, every week for the last three months, usually several times a week, I stand in line on average for twenty plus minutes to buy beer.

It's almost unfair to even call the liquid I wait in line for every week 'beer" as it's so much more than that. The fact that Busch Light and Keystone are technically referred to as beer along with what I'm in line for every week is all but blasphemy. There is beer all over this great land and this planet-some of it excellent-but there's a vast disparity between what some folks call beer and what awaits me at the end of my weekly line. 

Tree House Brewing Company is located up a hill and at the end of some curvy and bumpy roads in the woods of Monson MA. They are approximately thirty five minutes from my office, I often encounter traffic on the way up, I routinely dodge squirrels, potholes and apparently suicidal birds that enjoy dive-bombing my car but I would continue to make this trip even if the roads were lined with glass, dragons and landmines. See, Tree House makes beer, technically, but they are crafting beer that's so far and above everyone else that a new moniker is really deserved. I mean, I can paint and some of it looks pretty good to me but the Sistine Chapel it is not so to label my work as "a painting" is almost ludicrous. I do slap together a lovely apples & bananas sitting in a bowl though. You'd be impressed, kinda.

Tree House got it's start, as the story goes, when Brew master Nate Lanier received a Homebrew kit from his girlfriend and started making beer that was probably 88000% better than I could make after ten years and reading 900 beer books. He then moved his operation into his buddy Damien Goudreau's barn that rested on his new home in Brimfield MA and before long everyone on Earth was declaring him a genius and wanted his beer. That may be a slight exaggeration but only by a smidge, which you fully understand  if you've tried the concoctions this kid and his team put out every week. I rent a barn from my friend too but I use it to practice cartwheels and store my Hong Kong Phooey action figures. Very doubtful anything genius level is gonna come out of that barn.

Nate and the folks at Treehouse have been making their nectar out of the current location in Monson since 2012, and I am almost embarrassed how late to the party I am. I have always loved beer and have made a concerted effort to sample brews from a variety of breweries but somehow, up until the last few months, I had missed out on Treehouse. I had heard the name mentioned by several friends and seen them praised in various blogs and publications but I was young, brash and impetuous and I was very tardy in sampling their goods. I blame Obama. Or maybe it was George Bush or the terrorists or Wilford Brimley-it really doesn't matter-I was late in hitching to the Tree House bandwagon but I am now making up for lost time. Waiting in line three times a week!

Let's get real here for a second...there should be lines for Tree House beer. There should be lines from the front door all the way to Canada. They only sell what they make at their location in Monson and it's so far superior to every other fermented liquid that instead of complain about the lines I wait in each each week I do cartwheels that I even have the opportunity to be there, and not just in my friends barn! The line itself  is an event at Tree House, as I have met a multitude of great individuals who not only love their beer but either brew themselves or plan to. I have become friendly with other locals who have helped school me on the intricacies and science of the brewing itself. I've run into former and current co workers and friends that I had no idea shared the deep affinity for Tree House that I do; the location has become a place of commerce, camaraderie and conversation-and it's an absolute joy.

From the moment you arrive in Monson at the brewery, you're met by very helpful and courteous dudes that are staffing the numerous parking lots and ushering you in. However, when you park your car and begin the walk-run to get in line at Tree House your mind sort of loses the ability to notice your surroundings other than it's most basic survival instincts to avoid walking into a ditch, tripping over a feral cat or attending a Justin Bieber concert, so these poor folks are sadly and unfairly overlooked. I commend them for their jovial attitudes, brilliant flag waving ability and adaptability to some severe temperature changes over the seasons. When you bolt out of your car and start the walk down to get in line, you watch the others shuffle through the main lot to get in line and you intermittently loathe and adore them. Part of you grows angry as you see that you don't have the angle to get ahead of them from across the street so they will likely be inside Beerapalooza  before you and tasting the day's fresh batch sooner, while the other half adores them for their dedication and worship of Tree House that you share in tandem. No matter which emotion wins out, by the time you're in line it's all smiles and brotherhood and giddiness as you know that taste bud euphoria won't be far off...

When you finally get through the door of Tree House, it's as though you've arrived at the culmination of a lifetime's recurring dream. You're inside a sanctuary that's equal parts pleasing wood grains, aromatic teases for the nose and warm, friendly attitudes. The staff inside the brewery are so accommodating, cheerful, and welcoming that you almost feel like you're at a family reunion and these are your cousins-the ones that aren't' idiots-serving you the beer. Of course, the treats at this reunion cost money but if my relatives invited me to a party every week and made anything that tastes half as good as what Tree House is cooking up I would happily fork over my hard earned dollars to them! On one side sit the numerous taps where Growlers are filled and retail glassware is sold and the other rests the tables where the cans are put in cardboard packages and sold to the eager patrons in line. Behind the can line you see the massive stainless steel tanks that assist in bringing the magic Tree House nectar to life, if not a few of the staff checking levels or cleaning or posing for a goofy picture; the atmosphere and vibe inside this place is second to none-everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and eager to be there-it's infectious.

Someone said to me recently, "Dude, it's just beer," after I explained where my weekly trips were taking me and the excitement and joy that accompanied it. After I berated him, screamed and then grappled him to the ground in anger, I took a few deep breaths and pulled myself together and tried to enlighten him in a way I will echo now...

Yes, Tree House Brewing Company is just making beer, as it's defined by it's primary ingredients of Water, Hops, Barley and Yeast. However they are making exceptional, delicious, superior beer at their location and they are doing it with a smile on their faces while hundreds and hundreds of patrons wait to be served each week. They have created a demand with their limited availability but unlike many other items that are hard to obtain, Tree House not only lives up to the hype, it surpasses it by leaps and bounds. These folks are crafting a product that is artisanal and without peer, and they are doing it with patience, love and an intense focus on quality over quantity. They are bringing people together, making people happy as they lick their lips while also acting as a conduit for others to forge new relationships. Tree House is a destination and a state of mind and not just a brewery or beer. It is an escape from the familiar, the mundane and the common. It's an experience that-for a short time while you're there or as you savor it sip by sip-that removes you from some of the darkness in your own world or the greater one. Tree House is the treehouse we all wished we could build and enjoy as adults but never got around to because jobs, kids, life and an inability to brew anything close to what Nate Lanier is capable of got in the way. Tree House is our happy place.

I don't pretend to know even ten percent of what some of the "beer snobs" of the world do and I have yet to even attempt to brew my own beer, but I have taste buds that luckily have not been completely eradicated by the $9/case ________Light beers I used to drink as a younger lad. When I taste beers from Tree House my mouth does it's own cartwheels and my entire face feels like it's having a New Years Eve party. This is not the reaction any beer(s) prior have ever induced and I know it's something special, as do thousands and thousands of others across New England and this country...and beyond. When you add in the amiable personalities and attitudes of the staff it makes Tree House a destination that has really has no equal. I would love to keep singing the praises of this incredible brewery but I need to check their website and see what they will be canning tomorrow as well as make room in my fridge. Luckily, said fridge is stocked with 90% Tree House beers, along with milk, the occasional and random meat product as well as a generous sized can of whipped cream- and because the beer doesn't last long-I will have plenty of room to add my newest bounty this week!

Do yourself a favor and make your way up to Tree House Brewing Company in Monson Mass and allow your taste buds and soul to be happy. You won't be disappointed, and if you are then you're obviously mental so please don't go back. In the meantime, please feel free to check out some of my "reviews" of Tree House Beers on YouTube, including my current favorite, King JJJulius. They are irreverent, ridiculous and odd but the affinity shown for Tree House beers is absolutely sincere. Tomorrow is Wednesday and they are open so I need to go practice cartwheels so stop reading this and leave me alone. 

I love you all,


http://treehousebrew.com/ is located at 160 East Hill Rd - Monson MA 01057. They are in the process of opening a larger location in Charlton MA in 2017.

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