Thoughts on Tree House: Vol. I

I could write volumes about Tree House Brewing. In fact, I think I will…this will be the first of, I’m sure, many thoughts on my favorite brewery. Here goes…

There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray’s parents are planning on moving and Ray describes the perfect distance for them to be. Too close and they’ll be over all the time and drop in without notice, too far and they won’t be able to come by to visit at all. In many ways, this is how I’d describe my feelings on Tree House. At about 2 hours away, it’s too far to just drop by but it’s close enough that I could go on any given weekend. But let’s apply this analogy to other aspects of TH.

When I do make the trip, I usually load up on beer to make it worth the drive, and at $3-$5 per can I’m spending a solid $125 for a case and a half. Again, too much to make a habit of it, but not so much that I feel buyers remorse.

Trail Magic German Pils

Similarly, the variety of beers that Tree House brews is right in the sweet spot. They’re obviously known for their New England IPAs double IPA’s and, to a lesser extent, their stouts. But they also regularly release Pale Ales, an Extra Special Bitter, a German Pilsner, an Amber, mixed fermentation ales, porters, and a Blonde Ale to name a few, and they do them all extremely well. For my taste buds, this gives them an advantage of breweries like Other Half that seems to just pump out IPA after IPA. Tree House has enough of a focus on juicy, hop forward ales that define their taste while maintaining enough diversity in their offerings to keep things exciting without diluting the brand. They haven’t yet released any sours, they don’t regular seasonals (Oktoberfest) or followed some of the other trends in the industry (Gose.) I’d be less excited about visiting if I knew I’d only walk away with IPAs. I want these – I really want these – but I think I was almost more excited to try Old Man (their ESB) than the Very Green that’s sitting in my fridge right now. Almost.

The comparison extends to their flavor profiles, too. Tree House has a “Tree House flavor” that, I think, is attributable to their proprietary yeast blend, and is most easily recognized in their hop-forward ales. It’s always exciting for me when trying a non-IPA beer from Tree House to taste whether it has this signature taste. Trail Magic, their German Pils, does not have this profile (probably due to being a lager, supporting my yeast theory), but Eureka (Blonde Ale) and Ma (Amber Ale) do exhibit the Tree House flavor. (I’ve never crossed paths with TH stouts have never crossed paths, but I’m excited to evaluate whether they have the TH flavor.) While I love the signature taste, the fact that it isn’t in all of their beers keeps things exciting.

And one last example of Tree House landing right in the sweet spot is the rotation of their offerings. They have a core lineup that’s on the regular rotation: Julius, Green, Haze, Bright, Sap, Eureka, Alter Ego to name a few. But they have a long list of other beers that pop up every few weeks (Old Man, Trail Magic), months (That’s What She Said, Very Green), or only on the rarest of occasions (Juice Machine, King Julius.) They also keep the regulars exciting by using different hop combos (Bright w/ Galaxy, Bright w/ Citra.) So these days you’re guaranteed to have a nice selection of 4-7 beers to chose from, but you’re also likely to hit on at least one of the more limited releases (this week brought us Very Green and Very Hazy on the same silent release) and, if you’re really lucky, one of the Tree House whales.

I could list another half dozen ways in which Tree House perfectly walks the line between everyday common and extremely special, from their branding to their PR to the brewery and taproom. They’re giving the fans what they come for while always keeping things fresh and exciting. I just love this brewery and am really lucky to have it right in my back yard…well, maybe a few houses down is OK.