Tree House Brewing Company – A Visit to the New Facility

Tree House has been a beacon for hype in the beer world for many years. In July of 2017 they officially opened the Charlton MA facility to the public, expanding the offerings of beer available for on site consumption, and greatly increasing amounts of beer available in cans. I visited the previous location in Monson just about a month before the new facility opened and am including a brief description of that visit to contrast with the experience I had recently in Charlton.

In the old facility, they would only occasionally pour draft beer after they sold out of cans. On the Saturday I drove out there I spent 45 minutes in line after driving an hour and a half from Boston to walk away with 8 cans and that was only because my husband was with me (limit 4 cans per person). In the new facility, on an extra busy Tuesday I waited in line for an hour and a half to walk away with 2 bottles and 64 cans and was able to hang out after to have a few pints. Typical Tuesday lines are much shorter according to the people in front of me in line. And if you know the right people you can get some real time updates on the lines. But since word got out that they were releasing a rare imperial stout, the line remained steady until we left the brewery around 6:30PM.

Then line from where I joined it.

With the move to the new facility, Tree House has massively expanded production so locals who want to drink nothing but Tree House can easily do so with a monthly visit to pick up cans. The expanded production has also allowed them to bring back other styles of beer and make more stouts, porters, and even an ESB and a pilsner. IPA fans can now fairly regularly show up on a Tuesday or Saturday and find hazy favorites on draft that can be enjoyed in their massive outdoor seating. On the sunny Spring day I was there, I could see many people enjoying their beers in the open air in the relaxing chairs spread throughout the facility. They limit each person to 32 ounces for on site consumption to keep it more of a tasting room experience.

Purchasing cans is one of the most efficiently run system I’ve experienced. People fill out a slip of paper with the beers they want to buy. You hand the paper to the employee at the front who quickly rings up your cans while someone else brings the cans out to you. People buying beers by the case can leave even faster because they have cases stacked up in boxes ready to pass to customers. If you buy more than 2 cases, be prepared to have a friend help you carry them or ask for a dolly. I had to stop twice on the way to the car with 2 cases in hand. They are working on making this even more efficient so that I hope my next visit will be even faster. If you plan to fly home with the beer, I suggest bringing some hard plastic six-pack or four-pack holders so they don’t move around in your luggage.

The serenity of the Charlton location is only going to get better. They recently announced the outdoor space will be expanded further and soon they will open miles of hiking trails in the surrounding space. They also just added a pizza oven that should be used for great things. Despite spending an hour and a half in line before I ultimately got my beers, the hour or so I spent sitting in their outdoor space sipping Julius and SSSap were revitalizing. This was my first experience of either beer and they lived up to the hype.

Me (left) hanging out with my friend who joined me at Tree House. It was his first time.

To get an idea of the progression of the new facility, they opened Charlton in July of 2017 and by September 2017 you could regularly pick up 20 cans per person in a single visit. By January 2018 they had multiple beers available with a limit of a single case. By March 2018 you could show up and buy a case of each of 3 beers. During my visit in May of 2018 I had four IPAs to choose from with a limit of a case. Of the beers I have had since I came back from my trip I am quite satisfied by the quality of the beer and they still rank up there with some of the best hazy IPAs I have experienced around the country. They are one of the few that consistently produces delicious balanced hazy IPAs at around 7% alcohol while not overwhelming the palate. The fresh batch of Green I brought back was especially delightful and had a more pillowy mouth feel than most at that alcohol percentage.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Monkish Hazy DIPAs, An Experiment

With Monkish Hazy Double IPAs there are some people who say that they peak around two weeks. I did my own experiments though I didn’t choose the best beer for the experiment because the Gasket Hunter release I snagged seemed to be hopped much more than usual. I was able to verify this once I picked up some cans of Rinse in the Riffs that did not have the same green taste even a week after release.

Monkish has been hyped like crazy for their hazy double IPAs in the last couple of years and from what I have been able to try I find them to be worth the hype. The purpose of this experiment was to see two things. First, if the fans were accurate and the beers peaked around two weeks after packaging, and second if the beers hold up nicely a month or so after release.

Gasket Hunters is unique in that they ridiculously saturated the beer with hops, so much that even a month old the beer was still tasting somewhat green. I had saved one can of the beer to see how it tasted a month and a half in but it was not in my fridge when I returned from a short trip. The beer was still quite enjoyable overall with flavors of overripe tropical fruit and melon coming through at the various stages. What makes the beer green in the first month to me is the strong hop acidity at the finish and the highly noticeable alcohol character.

I am comparing this to my experience with Monkish growlers that hide the alcohol insanely well and drink like 5% alcohol though being really 8.5% alcohol. Even 3 weeks and 1 month old, various cans of Gasket Hunters were insanely grassy and acidic in a way that I typically don’t experience with Monkish beers.

In comparison, the Rinse in the Riffs beer was creamy and delightfully balanced at 11 days old based on the canning date. It stayed deliciously creamy and hoppy up through when I opened my last can at almost a month and a half old. This is consistent with what I have read reported by many people as far as when Monkish Double IPAs peak in flavor and experience. My assumption from reading fans’ discussions online is that the Gasket Hunters was hopped more like a triple IPA so that once I determined it was a bit too harsh for my palate i should have sat on the beers even longer before getting into them further.

In conclusion, my results verified what people told me on BeerAdvocate forums. Most double IPA releases from Monkish hit peak balance just around two weeks and from there get slightly more mellow but still stay flavorful for up to a month and a half. If you read a description for a beer that claims to be as saturated with hops as Gasket Hunters was, you may want to test out for yourself starting at three weeks in to see how it is tasting. Of course even when a beer is “green” some of you may prefer that flavor because it is up to personal preference.

Since writing this blog, I had the pleasure of putting together a few side-by-side tastings with Tree House Hazy IPAs and Monkish Hazy IPAs. The result, no surprise to me, was that for the double IPAs, the beers were indistinguishable. In particular, I put Waterballoon Fighters from Monkish up next to Doubleganger from Tree House (an extra-hopped version of doppleganger) and could hardly tell the difference other than one beer was a little more “green”. If you like a good hazy IPA, I haven’t found a brewery in Southern California more consistently great than Monkish is though Modern Times occasionally comes close enough and is more readily available.
With Monkish Hazy Double IPAs there are some people who say that they peak around two weeks. I did my own experiments though I didn’t choose the best beer for the experiment because the Gasket Hunter release I snagged seemed to be hopped much more than usual. I was able to verify this once I picked up some cans of Rinse in the Riffs that did not have the same green taste even a week after release.

 

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Washington DC breweries, DC Brau and Right Proper

DC Brau Brewing

DC Brau is a bit outside Central Washington DC and quite a pain to get to on public transit but I decided to make the trek during a recent visit and I am very glad that I did. I basically rented a car just to go out to this brewery and another one because I like to drink at breweries rather than bars. While I expected the beers to be good, I was very impressed by the quality of everything they served.

I generally would be spending a bit of time complaining about the fact that the brewery serves their tasters and plastic cups. Surprisingly, the beers were so good that I didn’t really care that much. I started with the Keller Pils, an unfiltered Pilsner. It was crisp and delicious with an earthy malt base and light notes of fruit. I ended up getting a pint of this before I left. I was especially impressed by the Heffeweizen, a style I normally do not order as often while visiting breweries. It was excellent, balancing the notes of banana and cloves with a nice chewing mouth feel and dry finish. While both banana and cloves were flavors I tasted, they were not so strong that they overpowered the rest the beer.

The Porter was creamy and dry with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, and roast the finish. While I did not get a taster of the dry stout myself, it was also quite excellent from what I tasted of my friend’s beer. The IPA was super dry at the finish with notes of resin and dank hop notes balanced perfectly with a medium bitterness to finish it off.

The double IPA was dry and resinous with mild sticky dank character and some hints of ripe fruit. The beer hid the alcohol extremely well and finished with a light herbal bite and subdued bitterness. Both of the IPAs reminded me nicely of my local favorite Societe brewing in quality. The scotch ale was also quite nice with notes of raisin, caramel, and a lightly sweet finish.

It is rare that every single beer that I tasted a brewery is this excellent, but that is exactly what I experienced at DC Brau. If I could get there Heffeweizen locally, it would be something I would drink regularly. If you are in the DC area, you should absolutely try something from this excellent brewery.

Top two:
Heffeweizen
double IPA

Right Proper Brewing

Right Proper has two locations, a brewpub closer to the city and a brewery tasting room further outside. The top lists were quite different between the two. I started with the ornithology. It was funky and oaky with a mildly tart finish, nice and complex as I would’ve expected. Song lines was an interesting hoppy farmhouse ale with notes of sassafras, light funk and minimal bitter finish.

Baron Corvo, their bier de garde, was excellent with notes of cherry and berry over a smooth malt base with a dry finish. Jammy smears, cherry sour, was tart and puckering with more flavors of cranberries than cherry although it was quite good. Raised by wolves, the aromatic pale ale had a hint of herbal hops with a nice mix of tropical fruit and citrus. The beer had tons of hop aroma and was nicely balanced and not overly bitter.

Just a sample of the interesting artwork at the brewery tasting room.

The brett grisette was funky and earthy and also super light. Crushing souls IPA was super fruity with mild dankness and herbal characters on the finish. My notes are not very clear about these last two beers but I don’t recall them being anything but solid. I was also quite impressed by the quality of beers at right proper. I am glad I was able to fit them into my trip.

Top 2:
Baron Corvo,
Raised by Wolves

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Port City Brewing Alexandria Virginia

Port City is a nice neighborhood brewery in Alexandria and overall they had a solid lineup of beers that were quite enjoyable. They have a wide open tasting room with tons of space to sit both inside and outside. Because they don’t have taster flight trays, they give you one or two tasters at a time from your six taster flight. This works out well for the most part.

I started with the porter. It was roasty and lightly smoked with notes of cherry, bitter chocolate, and toffee. The beer was easy drinking with a nice medium body. I can see why this is an award-winning porter. The scottish ale was easy-drinking with notes of cherry. It would be quite easy to drink down by the pint. The session IPA had a mix of bitter grapefruit and floral hops with a strong bitter finish. The beer had a good medium body and a crisp dry finish. Though I would prefer slightly less floral hops, this was well done.

The English IPA was lightly sweet with a soft body and notes of peach. The flavors balanced nicely with a mild bitterness on the finish. The Integral IPA was soft and juicy with bright citrus on the notes and notes of juicy tropical fruit and melon finished off with a light bitterness. I really enjoyed this one and might have had a pint except a band was about to start playing where we were. The Scotch ale was a caramel color and had notes of caramel and raisin with a hint of cinnamon to balance out the sweetness.

All the beers I tried at Port City were well done and they had an excellent porter and IPA. This is a great neighborhood spot and worth visiting if you are in the area.

Top 2:
Integral IPA
Porter

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Aslin Beer Company – Herndon Virginia

Aslin recently closed their tap room so when I stopped by I bought cans and left. Thankfully they had a good variety so I was able to try quite a few beers. I picked up cans of Orange Starfish, hazy pale, Progeny Devil’s Son in Law, Hazy IPA, Gose with apricots, Gose with blackberry and raspberry, and Master of Karate DDH Double IPA.

Both Orange Starfish and Progeny were tasty hazy beers. Orange starfish was creamy with notes of citrus. Progeny was a nice mix of ripe tropical fruit and herbal hops on the finish with a good medium body. The apricot gose was delicious with tons of apricot flavor that balanced nicely with the base beer. The berry version was my favorite, bursting with juicy berry flavor and a nice soft mouthfeel.

The Master of Karate was my least favorite of the bunch. It was a bit restrained on the hop aromas and seemed a bit more malty than I would have preferred. It had some notes of tropical fruit and an herbal bite. While it didn’t blow me away it is still a good drinkable hazy DIPA.

Hazy Double IPA
Progeny IPA

Aslin is a worthwhile stop if you are in the area and need your hazy IPA fix. The price per four pack is reasonable and the beers are all quite good. If you compare it to other hazy IPA breweries in the North East US they are about average in the Hazy IPA department but stand out with the deliciously juicy gose beers. The berry gose was more explosively juicy than most beers I have had of the similar style. If you are not in the area but looking to trade, go for their fruited gose beers because that is where they really win out.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney serving clients in San Diego California.

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Exploring San Diego's Craft Breweries