The Tree House Brewing Experience

Discussion in 'New England' started by JCrandall, Dec 16, 2012.

  1. JCrandall

    JCrandall Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2012 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    So, I made my first trip to Tree House Brewing in Brimfield, MA today. Let me say, I was floored. It's a very simple, unassuming red barn in the backyard of a beautiful New England home with a fantastic view. Outside there is a quaint little seating area adjacent to a well manicured pond. Step through the very inviting green door, currently adorned with a wreath for the holidays, to find essentially the perfect chill spot/man cave. The window is lined with several empty rare beer bottles from Hill Farmstead, Cantillon, Westy, etc. A beautifully air brushed motorcycle sits against the wall just to the left of the entrance. There is a high top bar that separates the entrance area from a "living room" style sitting area reminiscent of Paul Bunyan's log cabin. A coffee table covered in several beer publications is surrounded by couches and a rocking chair built of what must have been wood found outside, unplaned and unfinished. In the corner sits an old school wood stove that heats the entire space. It would appear that their philosophy on the ambiance is the same as theirs on brewing, everything is hand crafted. Behind the small bar, two very welcoming and clearly legitimately joyful young ladies poured me a tour of the beers they had this week.

    First, I started with the Green, an IPA. It was golden in color, clean, and delicious. Sadly, it ran out before I was able to purchase some to go. That was followed by That's What She Said Milk Stout. Very delicious and easy drinking. Could definitely see myself curling up on a cold CT evening with a few of these. Finally, the reason I decided to quit having any excuses to put off the trip, Merry Mint, a stout that was "dry hopped" with fresh mint leaves. This beer was perfectly balanced so that the base would have stood alone and stood tall. The addition of the mint was very present but did not take center stage or steal the spotlight from the rich stout flavor. I'm hoping to procure more next weekend as it will be a perfect Christmas beer.

    Finally, I have to note that the hospitality was second to none. As soon as my friend and I walked in, we were greeted by the women pouring, asked our names, where we came from, and if this was our first time. They both seemed genuinely excited when we answered that it was. They immediately called Dean, who I presume is in charge of the operation, over to greet and welcome us. Again, he appeared to be genuininely excited to learn about us and how we heard about Tree House. He continued to mill about the customers waiting for their growlers to be filled as though he were the host and we were all guests at his very intimate party of only close friends. Then came Nate, the head brewer. We were a third time greeted with the same enthusiasm. Shortly after, Dean and Nate engaged a customer in conversation about playing guitar. The quickly went in back and returned with 3 guitars and all broke out in an impromptu jam session.

    I can't say enough good things about this little start up. If you are every looking for something to do on a Saturday morning, stop by and say hello. You will not regret it.
    pisano, Pahn, davey101 and 5 others like this.
  2. FarmingtonRiver

    FarmingtonRiver Initiate (0) Jul 7, 2004 Connecticut

    One of my favorite new breweries in New England- Dean,Nate,Damien and John are great hosts - wait til you try the Julius!
    Bizoneill and heffnate77 like this.
  3. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York
    Beer Trader

    heffnate77 likes this.
  4. Psychmusic

    Psychmusic Disciple (365) Jun 22, 2012 Connecticut
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I agree that the beers I had were phenomenal and the hospitality was incredible as well. I want to like this place, and I do plan on going back, but my experience wasn't exactly pleasant.

    We arrived around 11:30, based on their websites statement that they tend to run out of beer by 3:00pm. We were greeted enthusiastically by the owners and got in line. About 30 minutes later we finally got a tasting. We loved the beers, so we filled out an order for several growlers and happily set out to explore the building and the grounds. For the next hour and a half we enjoyed ourselves sitting around the fire and by the koi pond. After about two hours we went back inside, assuming our growlers must be close to being filled. We asked, and we were told that we were "Not even close." Soon after, the IPA kicked, meaning half of my order was no longer valid anyway. Ten minutes later the breakfast stout kicked, taking out the rest of my order and half of the order of the person I was with. Twenty minutes later they added an autumn ale, but we were told it was barely going to last at all so we'd better not get our hopes up. After about three hours we decided it wasn't worth it any more. It was painfully obvious that we wouldn't get any beer at all, never mind the beer we'd ordered, so we payed for our tasting and left.

    All in all, the great experience we had for the first few hours only made the rest worse. Hospitality is great, but if people are at a brewery to buy beer it can only get you so far. I really just wish I'd known that this all was a possibility when I arrived. It seems insane to me that they could have a whole stack of growler tickets and no idea that they the bottom of the stack would leave completely empty handed.

    All-in-all, the beer was not quite good enough to be worth it. I'm sure they'll get it together once they've finished their expansion, and with the additional kegerator for tastings the whole process may already be smoother. Until I'm sure I won't have to sit around for 3 hours and leave empty handed, I'll skip this place for Jack's Abby every time.
  5. ppoitras

    ppoitras Poo-Bah (3,805) Jan 15, 2004 Massachusetts

    I was apparently there the same day as Psychmusic was there, and got my growlers a bit ahead of where they would have been. I too watched the IPA and breakfast stout go away, but I was lucky enough to get some of the "Awesome Autumn Ale". Felt like I had to get some, even though I dislike spiced brews. Two plus hours invested, and the wife wondering WTF happened to me on my morning errand trip, raging into midafternoon. As a local (less than 2 miles from brewery), I want to support them, but don't have this sort of time each Saturday, even for good brews. I have corresponded with them since, and they have added more taps so tastings and growler fills aren't dueling for pour time anymore. They also said that with the sign up growler fill sheets, you can leave glass and come back to pick up your fills. I have not had the chance to try this yet. Hopefully their planned expansion will soon alleviate these problems.
    Psychmusic likes this.
  6. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (954) Mar 17, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I recently had Julius and That's what she said. The beers were alright but I wasn't overly impressed based on my samples. I look forward to visiting there soon and trying more of their beers though. Maybe when they get the bigger system up and running. It seems like they still have to work some things out before I make a trip.
  7. JCrandall

    JCrandall Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2012 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    I'm in love with the Merry Mint.
    Trevdawg likes this.
  8. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,446) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    been planning to get out there but never seem to have a chance, maybe in the new year
  9. Trevdawg

    Trevdawg Initiate (0) Feb 9, 2012 New Hampshire

    Very much want to check this place out. A great bartender at the Dive Bar and Armsby Abbey in Worcester turned me on to this place and it looks great and has a ton of potential.
  10. Fujii13

    Fujii13 Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 New York
    Beer Trader

  11. Trevdawg

    Trevdawg Initiate (0) Feb 9, 2012 New Hampshire

  12. koflaherty

    koflaherty Initiate (192) Nov 11, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I've gotten to know the folks at Tree House through another BA that is out there are fair amount. I've only made it to Brimfield once, but I've had their beers on several other occasions. I've gotten some time to speak with Nate the head brewer and some of the other folks involved. They really are nice folks and are serious about making great beer, but they don't have the investment capital and are really doing it as a second job / hobby at this point.

    The time I was out there, it was quiet and I no problem getting my growlers. I also spent hours with friends and my two young children wandering around and playing in the treehouse on the property. It was about as good a beer drinking experience as you can imagine and I think everyone that came that day had a great time. I have heard about some of their challenges on other days and I can understand why not everyone has a great experience. They have a great setting, but it's someone's house and they're not really set up for a rush. They're also struggling to make enough beer; they basically have a series of homebrew setups at this point. With the new equipment, they should have a lot more to go around in early 2013. They've also talked about setting up in a new location which they will clearly have to do as they get better known. Hopefully, they will be able to keep some of the same charm as the current place.

    I'm definitely a bit of a homer on their beers and I find them consistently very good. I love Julius and they have a bitter that is very good as well. If you like sweet stouts, Thats What She Said is great. I haven't been blown away by some of their other beers, but I feel like everything is well made and enjoyable. I do think that having the beer super fresh from a brewery you really like makes the drinking experience better so take this with a grain of salt but clearly the basis is there and I expect they will only get better and will soon have a lot more beer available.
    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  13. ppoitras

    ppoitras Poo-Bah (3,805) Jan 15, 2004 Massachusetts

    Got there this weekend, made an effort to hone my timing. Was there a touch before 11AM open, still mobs of people in there already. Got my growler orders in, and left for awhile. Came back later after seeing on FB that beer was gone, and I had a moment of panic that maybe I missed out. Irrational fear that unpicked up growlers when beer was out would be drank or auctioned off or something, I don't know. Anyways, dashed over and all was well. Quick visit with the Tree House people (kids were waiting in the car), and off we went.

    Sounded like their new brew set-up got caught in the Midwest blizzard, so a delay there, but they are obviously doing all they can to get their product into people's hands and mouths. Glad to support local and them when I can.
    FarmingtonRiver likes this.
  14. Trevdawg

    Trevdawg Initiate (0) Feb 9, 2012 New Hampshire

    I've had the chance to taste both Julius and their Milk Stout as they have been recently delivering kegs to local bars. Both were great stuff. Very excited to see more of this around. Seems as if the new brew equipment is set up and running.

    Looking forward to more form these guys and potentially a few bottles to hit local shelves.

    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  15. kleo

    kleo Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    Just got back. Something like my 5th trip overall but the first since the new equipment came in. Previously, a crowd half the size of the "OMG STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORM" stampede I encountered guaranteed no beer. Only real trouble today was parking rage caused by the field being too goopy and the street too narrow to take any overflow. There may have been some issues for new customers because some new ordinance had the guys confused as to whether or not their license still allowed them to do samples so they erred on the side of caution.
  16. mikeywtc

    mikeywtc Initiate (97) Dec 7, 2011 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Does anybody know if they're cash only or do they accept credit/debit cards? Unless I'm going blind, I can't seem to find this info anywhere on their site...
  17. DonFrap

    DonFrap Zealot (536) Feb 27, 2011 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    They take cards. Pretty sure they use square on an iPad.
  18. kleo

    kleo Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    Cards are taken. Kittens are not. I love when the kitten visits the Tree House <3
  19. mikeywtc

    mikeywtc Initiate (97) Dec 7, 2011 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Great, thanks for the conformation!
  20. omniscientcause

    omniscientcause Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2010 District of Columbia

    I see what you did there.:sunglasses: I actually bought some swingtops from them online with the anticipation of going there in a few weeks. Does anyone know if they fill non tree house swingtops? I have some from HF.
  21. kleo

    kleo Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    Most Mass brewers will tell you that it's illegal to fill any growler other than their own. Only time I ever heard any different was a "well you can BUT the tax code means you'll then need to.... ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" lecture. So I'd say no.

    What I meant by kitten day is when this dude comes to visit the tasting room.

    FrankLloydMike likes this.
  22. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    To me, nothing can beat enjoying a sampler paddle of beer around a fire pit with some records playing out of the barn, like they do at Tree House. That is except for a friendly cat keeping you company while you do all that.
  23. omniscientcause

    omniscientcause Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2010 District of Columbia

    I found it funny that the guy asking the question has an avatar in it with bubbles...who loves cats.

    Well I bought a few I just wanted to make sure that I had at least one in case they ran out for some reason when I visit. I will buy more when I am there though. Also wanted to procure some glasses before these guys blow up, because they do look pretty nice.
    FrankLloydMike and Trevdawg like this.
  24. kleo

    kleo Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    Just as an FYI, their Facebook feed said they were out of 2L growlers for this weekend.

    Beer choices today are:
    ​"Curiosity One" 5.4% ABV (750ML - $7 | 2L - $14)
    "Julius" 6.8% ABV ( 750 ML - $7 | 2L - $14)
    "Dirty Water" 3.9% ABV (750ML - $5 | 2L - $10)
    "That's What She Said" 5.6% ABV (750ML - $6 | 2L - $12)

    The glasses are pretty nice. Good weight to them. Fantastic with a well hopped beer because the nose can get really involved. Plus, they clean very easily (which is nice when all your "dedicated" beer glassware turns out to make milk taste better. Six glasses. One broken. Four with a lovely thick white crust I can't get out short of soaking for six hours with a potent detergent or scratching the shit out of the glass with a skewer).

    So far as blowing up goes, it's in process. They've outstripped their parking. Got there half an hour before open because today is a bit hectic. Fill line was six deep.
  25. omniscientcause

    omniscientcause Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2010 District of Columbia

    Anyone know if the inclement weather will cause Treehouse to be closed tomorrow? Was really looking forward to going to my parents place tonight to grab my car and head out there tomorrow morning.
  26. FarmingtonRiver

    FarmingtonRiver Initiate (0) Jul 7, 2004 Connecticut

    According to their FB post they will be open... parking just may be a challenge almost 2' of snow .
  27. omniscientcause

    omniscientcause Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2010 District of Columbia

    Yaaaay im pumped to drive in my little hatchback without snow tires lol.
  28. bootdown21

    bootdown21 Devotee (427) May 14, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    I made the trip to the brewery on this past Saturday and all I can say was that it was one of the worst brewery 'experiences' I've ever had.

    1. They only fill their growlers. Coming from CT as a regular customer of NEBCO, this was news to me. As I was told it is an 'ambiguous state law and we were advised to only fill our own growlers'. OK, fine. I was a bit disappointed but if it is law then fine. Perhaps a note on their website might have helped, I mean they do have a complete page 'Retail Shop / How it works'.

    2. They do not offer tastings. Yes a brewery in which I just traveled 1 hours and 15 minutes to will not allow me to sample their beer. I was told 'somebody in town complained so we stopped but we hope to give samples in the future'. Ummm... ok. You either have a 'pouring' license or you don't. What am I missing here? Also perhaps a little heads up would have been nice. Their FB postings made no mention of this at all neither does their website.

    3. They were out of the 750ml swing tops and only could fill the 64oz growlers. So they want me to buy their own growlers of beer that I can't even try. Wow, this trips just went into the dumper... meanwhile I have four 750ml swing tops from Hill Farmstead in my hand just staring at me... nope I can't use them...

    Having made the trip on a specific recommendation of Julius, I decided that I'd suck up and order. After about 15 minutes they called my name saying my order was ready.... as I am checking out (literally about to swipe my card) the girl comes from behind the bar saying 'Hey we have those 750ml swing tops, I just found them, do you want to order some more?'. Umm... 'No thanks'.

    I'll never go back and will never recommend then to anybody I know, I don't care how good their beer is...
  29. jomobono

    jomobono Disciple (348) Mar 12, 2012 Massachusetts
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I think you may be over reacting a bit.
  30. Jnorton00

    Jnorton00 Initiate (0) Apr 13, 2007 Massachusetts

  31. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Devotee (495) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    Totally agreed.

    That really is a bummer about the tastings. My favorite part about visiting Tree House the few times I have, has been sitting around the firepit outside or in the barn, and enjoying a sampler of their offerings. I've been very impressed by their beers, so I won't worry about getting one that is subpar, but it will definitely hinder the experience and keep me from discovering some unexpectedly great beers, no doubt. I hope they get that figured out soon, and can start doing samplers again.

    As to the rest of the complaints mentioned, it's pretty common knowledge that breweries in Mass can only fill their own growlers. It's a dumb law, and no brewery I know of mentions it on their website, just as they don't mention every other law they have to abide by. And places run out of supplies. Again, if the laws made sense, they'd be able to fill any growler you brought in, but they can't, and they can't sit on an endless supply of glassware. So it sounds like the poster's complaints are almost entirely about things outside their control: someone in town doesn't want them serving samples (whether that's a town ordinance, the town police, or just a neighbor they don't want to piss off, it's outside their control, but hopefully quickly remedied); the growler thing is a state law, and even though it's dumb, you can't fault them for staying on the good side of the law; and I don't see how running out of or even misplacing a certain size of glassware warrants "never recommending" a brewery no matter "how good the beer is." Again, there are definitely some things that are a bummer there (especially no samplers), but the anger should be at stupid state laws and uptight neighbors/local officials. The brewery is in a cool place and the beer that I've had has been quite good--so how bad of a time could it have been?
    jomobono likes this.
  32. DigitalNate

    DigitalNate Initiate (158) Dec 20, 2010 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Good evening,

    I'm Nate - an owner at Tree House. I have been following along here and appreciate the opinions shared - both critical and receptive. I like to remain out of the fray but I feel compelled to respond to the above. I spoke to you and your friend directly during your visit. I'm sorry you feel that way about your trip.

    1. On two occasions representatives at the ABCC told us just that. We are sorry but until there is clarification with the law we will not risk our license. I have a lot of growlers myself. Lovely beer receptacles that are useless here in Massachusetts. It sucks. We especially wish we could fill flip-top HF growlers because they have the lovely swing tops that are so nicely protective of pale hoppy beers. We have answered this question on Facebook many times but will add a note to our website.

    2. We offered tastings for the first nine months we were open without fault. In late February an investigator from the ABCC called us regarding a complaint. Long story short, they informed us that our Chapter 19C license does not allow for tastings. This was news to us. My most recent blog post on March 8th addressed this issue and notified customers. We do our best on our blog/website to direct folks to our ON-TAP page, where we have the most up to date information.

    3. We sold over 150 new 750’s Saturday - a big number for us. We are sorry we ran out. A new shipment of 1008 comes in tomorrow. Sensing your discontent, I rinsed and sanitized four 750’s I had set aside for myself to take home after a long day of brewing. That’s why we ‘just found them’. Lauren offered you the bottles in lieu of your 2L bottles - not in addition to. We would have happily taken them back and properly disposed of them.

    Thank you for the feedback,
    nate l.
  33. koflaherty

    koflaherty Initiate (192) Nov 11, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    The growler thing in Mass is well known, but not being able to do tastings does suck. Is this true for other breweries, or do most folks have another license that allows it?
  34. Aaron58

    Aaron58 Initiate (195) Dec 16, 2007 Massachusetts


    Im just lurking through this thread after first hearing about you guys recently. Just wanted to say that I cant wait to get out there and see your set up and get some beer!
    FarmingtonRiver likes this.

    ILOVESTOUTS Initiate (100) Apr 13, 2006 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Entitlement at it's finest.
    Please do your research before coming into what was a positive thread and contributing "nothing". I am not affiliated with the brewery but respect the hell out of what they do. Feel free to BM me if you would like. You are nitpicking on variables that the Treehouse Staff has no control over. Oops, they misplaced the 750 swingtops...better bitch on BA and add nothing of value to the community. How was Julius?
    cfrances33, MarkF150 and davey101 like this.
  36. davey101

    davey101 Meyvn (1,080) Apr 14, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Seriously? Its about as small as a brewery can possibly get and you'll never buy from them again and even go so far as to persuade others to not buy from them on the basis of issues that were out of the hands of the brewery? Solid. The MA growler law shouldn't be news for anyone in New England, certainly not for someone who will drive an hour plus for some beer. If it is, no big deal. Just buy the damn glass. The tasting issue is also just Treehouse's way of not getting shut down. It sounds like there is a huge grey area in terms of the definition of what small microbreweries can and can't do and its not worth the risk. Perhaps they should have listed these two things out on the website but as was mentioned earlier in the thread, the tasting thing was covered in a blog. You seem to dig NEBCO (hey, so do I!) and if you have visited numerous times you'll surely be aware that they run out of growlers on occasion. It happens, get over it. I can almost guarantee that any minor issue you once had would have been wiped away by the beer.
  37. Jesse14

    Jesse14 Initiate (148) Jul 21, 2011 Massachusetts

    I can't imagine you have kids...If you did, then you would realize NOTHING goes as planned. Always plan for changes in the plan and learn to adjust to the unexpected. You got a long way to go in life if you can't deal with the small stuff. If the beer was terrible then you have a complaint. The other stuff is trivial in my eyes and definitely would not keep me from going back.
  38. bootdown21

    bootdown21 Devotee (427) May 14, 2009 Connecticut
    Beer Trader

    Thanks for the reply Nate I appreciate it. Perhaps I did over react a bit by saying that I will never go back but at the time that is how I felt (for better or worse). Looking back it was a bit harsh. Your brewery came highly recommended so it was a dissapointment when everything seemed stacked against my friend and I.

    I do now see a note where the tastings have been on hold until further notice. The more info the better.

    Julius was very good BTW. :relaxed:
    jomobono and DigitalNate like this.
  39. omniscientcause

    omniscientcause Initiate (0) Jun 4, 2010 District of Columbia


    Visited this weekend for the frist time and it wont be my last for sure. Bought 3 750s and a 2L.

    Drank a 750 of Curiosity One last night and I found it to be very similar to maine beer co's MO, which is a good thing.

    I will probably open my 2L of Julius tonight, and see how that goes. I may pop into Stoddards tomorrow night as it is a 15 min walk from work to support you guys there.

    I will drink TWSS on Wed/Thursday depending on how much julius is left.

    I am saving my 750 of Julius for my roommate from school visiting this weekend for both EBF and STFRK (who has a song called Julius)

    I got there a little before 11 and was out the door by 11:10. Pretty painless and everyone inside was very enthusiastic.

    Thanks again,

    DigitalNate likes this.
  40. drbeerdr

    drbeerdr Initiate (0) Mar 11, 2013 Massachusetts

    Dean from Tree House here,

    Makes me sad to hear people not having a wonderful expierience at Our Brewery. I try very hard to make the expierience as good as humanly possible.

    Unfortunately ,I was out on Sat. on a long needed much welcomed 1 day trip with my 11 y/o daughter.

    Hope you will have a change of heart and try us again. As Nate explained , our sampleing/tasteing issue is not under our controll and Please Please believe me when I say,,,,It Hurts Our Hearts to Not Be Able To Let People Try Our Labors of Love !!!!

    JohnnyB, Dizbro21 and OtisCampbell like this.
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