The Madness and the Greatness that is Tree House Brewing Co.

Every time someone mentions Tree House Brewing Company, a few topics of discussion arise:

1.  Tree House supposedly has the best beer ever.

2.  Tree House has massive lines.

3.  Some days Tree House serves only cans, and other times they serve both cans and pints to the public.

4. Tree House does not distribute.

5.  Julius!

Honestly, if you don’t mind crowds and waiting in line for a beer or two (or want to try their cans — sold exclusively at their brewery location) visit Tree House Brewing Co!

Here is my personal visiting experience:

So I visited Tree House Brewing Company, located in 129 Sturbridge Road, Charlton, MA 01507, on a hot Saturday in July.  I arrived there sometime around noon and the place was pretty packed already, or at least the parking lot area was.
They have extensive parking below the brew house where you can either park and walk up (a very short five minute walk) or you can park and take a small shuttle bus that drives back and fourth from the brewery to the parking lot frequently.
For those of you who know you are going to purchase cans upon cans of beer (yes they have dolly’s to carry all the cans) I would recommend driving up and trying to park right next to the brew house (there may be no spots but it’s easier to wheel the cans right out and then return the dolly (they will take your ID until you return their dolly safely)).
Once you get past parking, it’s a short shuttle bus ride or walk to the top where, on a nice day, you will find a few food trucks, and you also start to notice the crazy line from the  brew house out to the parking lot.  Normally, the line can get crazy!
So I got there around noon on a Saturday and I waited at least forty-five minutes in line (the line for cans and pints), and that was only the first line I would wait in.  The man behind me said that the line today was actually less than average, he said normally it wraps around the parking lot.  Anyway, there was a line for pints only (two max pints per-person) and a separate line for pints and cans (this is the line I was waiting in).

If you are already confused, don’t worry – the process works line this:

  1.  You arrive, park (free) and either walk or drive to the top.
  2.  Then you would pick the line you want to wait in (there are a few sign, but make sure you are in the right line before you just start waiting).
  3. As you reach the doorway to the brew house there will be someone who comes around checking ID’s and will handout on tap lists.  This tap list is important, because it tells you what ticket color you will need to purchase in order to get certain beers.  So for example, if you want Julius you would ask for a red ticket etc.  Be warned: they are constantly selling out of beer left and right so these lists update super frequently; what you wanted five minutes ago, may be sold out by the time you reach the bar!)  So I picked a few options of pints that I wanted and a few can options as well, just in case.
  4. If you are in the pint line, you will simply purchase tickets at the small reception booth right as you walk in the brew house.  Then you will then walk to another line for the bar (this line was wrapped around to the bathrooms when I went — about a thirty-minute wait).  If you are in the pints and cans line, you will pick up your cans first and then purchase your colored tickets at the same location.  Remember: you can only purchase two pints per-person, so I would recommend getting two pint tickets so you don’t have to wait in line again for the second ticket (that is if you plan on drinking two beers while you are there).
  5. Once you have your cans (if you decided to wait in the pints and cans line) you have a few options on what to do with them while you think about waiting in another line (the pint line).  You can either:
    1.  Bring the cans back to your car with a dolly.
    2. Carry the cans back to your car if you don’t need a dolly and just don’t want to hold them in the pint line.
    3. Hold the cans while you wait in the pint line (with or without a dolly).
    4. Send a friend to drop off the cans in your vehicle, while you or another friend wait in the pint line (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!)

7.  Congratulations – you have got past one line, to now wait in another line (the pint line)!  However, if you didn’t want to purchase cans in the first place, you would already be waiting in the pint line, BUT if you did decide to purchase cans you now have another line to wait in…  Anyway, you are almost there now that you have purchased your colored tickets and are waiting in the pint line!
So when I visited, I waited about thirty minutes in the pint line, by the time I got to the front of the line, the tap list has already updated and the beer that I originally wanted was sold out (good thing I had a back up plan!).  There are plenty of updated tap lists on the bar counter when you get up to the bar so you can quickly look over the updated list and decide.  At that point I decided to get my two pint pours at once, because if you only get one at at time, you have to wait in the pint line again to get the other  (even though you may have already purchased your colored ticket).  So for my pints I choose Bright – Citra and Julius.

Bright – Citra
Brewed by: Tree House Brewing Company
Style: Double IPA
ABV: 7.80%
Bright w/Citra is a clean and elegant showcase for a notoriously delicious hop – Citra!  It is crafted with a simple malt bill and fermented with clean American Ale yeast to create a flavor profile that is more a function of its vibrant fresh ingredients than an expression of yeast character.  Bright w/Citra’s aroma is a citrus explosion. The taste follows suit with notes of orange juice, grapefruit, and tangerine with a gentle finish. She is dry, soft, and adequately bittered resulting in a very approachable and thirst quenching IPA.

Brewed by: Tree House Brewing Company
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.80%
Bursting with pungent American hops, Julius – our flagship American IPA – is a bright, juicy beer filled with flavors and aromas of mango, peach, passionfruit, and a melange of citrus juice. A soft, pillowy mouthfeel and rounded bitterness ensure Julius will never tire the palate – a true joy to drink!

8.  You are done…almost!  Now only if there was a spot to sit and enjoy your pint(s)… Well Tree House Brewing has an air-conditioned facility so you can enjoy being inside or you can venture outside and sit under their shaded area or on one of their many Adirondack chairs outside.  I really didn’t find a spot to sit after waiting in both lines, so I just stood at a barrel until the side of a long table opened and then I sat down.  For my second beer, I ventured outside in the heat and found an open Adirondack chair in the sun.

My Experience Overall:

All in all, even though there are a lot of lines to wait in and various moving parts to figure out (like what colored tickets you need to purchase and what beers are sold out, etc.) I never felt totally annoyed or overwhelmed by the experience.  Everyone was super nice and helpful (even those waiting in line with me were very friendly), and they even allow dogs inside!  I though the beer was indeed phenomenal, very smooth, crisp, stayed cold and tasted great.  I still don’t know if Tree House has the best beer ever, but it’s pretty high up there in quality.
Yes, they have long lines but if you are willing to make a field trip out of it, it is a great experience.  If you have other plans the day you want to visit Tree House or expect to be in and out of the brew house quickly, don’t even bother, because you never know how packed they will be.
The best thing about Tree House Brewing Company — is that they are one of a kind!  They don’t distribute so you can only get cans and pints exclusively at the brewery, making the experience even more appealing.

My only recommendation to the folks at Tree House:

Invest in a live digital screen that is large enough for everyone waiting in the pint line to see; that way people can tell when a certain beer has sold out.  Plus this eliminates the need to pass out updated brewery lists ever so often (which can lead to a lot of paper floating around).

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