Passion for Great Beer: A Visit to Tree House

Jenny D.Features, News & Views

By: Jenny D.

Do you have something you’re passionate about that you feel normal people do not understand? For me, there are a lot of things, but one of them is craft beer. Although I did not care much for it at the start, seeing the passion of people around me started my interest in craft beer: I wanted to love it because they loved it. So, I kept trying it until I grew to appreciate the bitter taste of an IPA paired with a juicy burger. Nowadays, craft beer has become more complex, offering many different styles of beers for all sorts of different taste buds. And there are many people like me who are passionate about tasting it. Sometimes, you just have to know where to look for them.

I finally made it out to Tree House Brewing Co. in Charlton, Massachusetts for the first time since they built their new (much bigger) brewery. For those who don’t know, Tree House is one of the most beloved craft breweries in the country, with 18 beers in the top 250 on Beer Advocate. Fans wait hours in line for the chance of buying this beer. People buy it to drink themselves, or they trade it on websites for other sought-after beers. You can find out which beers Tree House is currently selling and the per-person can limits on their website. You cannot buy Tree House in stores or in bars; The beer is so popular that it sells out straight from the brewery. The popularity has grown so much that they are already outgrowing their one-year-old 55,000 square foot facility and are talking about expanding again.

That’s all well and good, but still, why would a person venture nearly two hours from one’s comfy home on the Freecoast to a middle-of-nowhere central Massachusetts town and wait in line for an  hour+ in 99 degree weather just to buy beer?  It’s crazy, right? Yeah. But that’s kind of the point!

The line is long but where else can you go to be around this many people passionate about beer?

Tree House has an indoor tasting room which is pretty respectable in size and has plenty of tables to sit at and enjoy drafts. Additionally, you can purchase cans of beer, t-shirts, and glassware inside. But before you get that far, you have to wait in line outside. The lines are split into “drafts” and “cans and drafts.” As you can imagine, the “drafts” line was much shorter than the “cans and drafts” line, so that is where I met my father and my best friend so that I could sample the beers before buying cans. However, the heat ended up being too much for my 72-year-old dad and he left me with his rolling cart (which in hindsight I should have refused but I will come back to that later).

When our place in line finally made it inside the building, my friend and I were greeted with the refreshing sensation of air conditioning and a man at a counter who took our ticket orders. The way the ticket system works is you find which beers you want on lists posted throughout the building (and on their website), make note of their respective ticket colors, and then purchase tickets in the necessary colors. I thought I would try two of the beers that they were selling cans of that day, so I got one green and one red so that I could sample the Julius and the Doppelgänger, respectively. My friend did the same but ended up getting Alter Ego and Haze. After purchasing our tickets, we proceeded to another line to get the actual pints. This one wasn’t as long and by this point we were inside the cool building so it was not a big deal. They let us get all of our beer at once which was great because that meant we wouldn’t have to get back in the line again. We found a standing table and enjoyed our purchases.

First of all, I’d like to say I love the look of their beers. I am a huge fan of cloudy, unfiltered-looking beers. The sight of them just makes my mouth water. The first beer I sampled was Julius, an American IPA with 6.8% ABV and at the time of this writing, #13 on the top 250 beers on Beer Advocate. Upon first sip, it reminded me very much of drinking orange juice if orange juice was bitter instead of sweet. It was very refreshing after waiting in line for several minutes under the hot sun. However, after sampling all four of the beers we got, my favorite was the Alter Ego. It tasted like a sweeter, juicier Julius.

After finishing our beers, we headed into the cans line, which stretched back well into the parking lot. In observance of the heat, there was a water station for people and dogs halfway through the line. Crew members came out periodically to give updates on which cans were sold out or about to sell out. I was happy they did that, as I needed to revise my order a couple times because they sold out of two beers by the time I made it to the front. Right before you get inside the building, they have small sheets of paper on a table with the names of the beers they have available and a place for you to put how many of each you want. This makes it easy for the customer to put their order in and also easy for the person putting your order together, I imagine. The whole process felt smooth and well-organized.

I purchased 24 cans: 16 Julius and 8 Bright with Citra. My friend and I brought our cans outside to load onto the cart. But the square-shaped crate my dad left me did not accommodate well the rectangular shape of the beer cases. As I began to roll it down the hill toward the parking lot, disaster struck as cans spewed out all over the road and my friend ended up with a Bright fountain to the face. I could only bow my head in shame as I felt the spray on my dress. A kind lady picked up a rolling away can and returned it to us while we were still in shock.

In hindsight, I don’t think this cart was such a great idea…

As we continued down the path, I stopped rolling the cart for a second. Bad idea. Disaster struck again as cans fell out of the crate (my friend said something about physics and angle and momentum or something like that. In hindsight, I probably should have taken physics). By this point, I’m probably leaving a trail of beer in my wake as we pass the sign reading “Live Well” on our way out to the overflow parking lots. Yeah, I’m covered in beer and yeah it’s really hot, but I’ve got some really great beverages in tow so this sign feels more like a thumbs up than a personal jab.

or Die?

Now that my cans of Julius and Bright with Citra are safely in my fridge, I feel a giddy happiness every time I think about them. And despite savoring and preserving these cans, I’m already daydreaming about my next trip to Tree House; To be somewhere where great beer is treated with so much importance, and to feel like I am a part of that.