Brewer Insight: Tree House Brewing Co.

The entrance to Tree House Brewing Co. in Brimfield, MA
BRIMFIELD, MA - The road west on Rt. 20 through Sturbridge and Brimfield, Massachusetts is a visual paradox.  The cornucopia of autumn colors litter the landscape; small clapboard houses, rustic churches and ancient storefronts complete the Rockwell-esque portrait.  This is the way life should be.
But look to the hills running alongside the road and there is a different picture.  The devastation from last year's tornado that ripped through the Pioneer Valley is still evident in spots, creating desert-like barrenness.

"I have this mental image of us hiding inside the barn using all of our weight to keep these doors closed," said Tree House Brewing Co. tour guide (and brewer Nate Lanier's girlfriend) Lauren of her experience during the storm, which took place during a brewing session.

Tree House Brewing Co. in Brimfield has a spirit, though, not of a tornado, but of the first description, a harkening back to another era.  

When we walked in, we were greeted by Lauren and Kim behind the bar.  We introduced ourselves.

"First time here?  Well, welcome Kristi and Matt!  Let's show you around."  Our first impression was, "Wow, these people are nice."  And it was true.  There was nothing insincere either.

The tour consisted of the very knowledgable and affable Lauren showing us around the property, a house purchased two years ago with an adjacent barn that houses the brewing.  

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There's a Koi pond and a gazebo with a fire pit to sit on while you have your samples of the beer.  If we love one thing, it's drinking by a fire.  There's an uninterrupted view of Pioneer Valley mountainsides looking south.  A tree house - from where the brewery gets it's name - sits on the property, a remnant of the house's former owner.

Tree House head brewer Nate Lanier started brewing his own beer a few years ago when Lauren bought him a basic kit for his birthday.  A bedroom full of fermenting carboys partially prompted the decision to start a brewery, but his inspiration faced north.

"I took some inspiration from Hill Farmstead," said Lanier of the notoriously hard-to-find, but famously delicious Vermont brewery.  "I just didn't want to drive four hours anymore.

"The local thing is important to us, but more than that I want it to be good.  It's really important for the beer to be fresh.  We want to do it small and we want to do it right," he said.  

Lanier noted that there have been multiple requests for interviews from major local media outlets that he's refused.  The group takes immense pride in the fact that Tree House's growing reputation has taken place almost entirely by word-of-mouth, social media, or by extension of their exclusive retail relationship with Cedar Street restaurant in Sturbridge.  Indeed, the brewery is packed with regulars and newcomers every Saturday.  We recommend getting your bottle-fill requests in early, as the line grows as the day goes on.

Nate Lanier brews up Old Man Bitter and talks to Review Brews.
And who wouldn't want to come have a beer with the people of Tree House Brewing Co.?  The brewers and the girls behind the bar possess a magnetism.  They're sincere in the old-fashion "let's-talk-about-you" way, with smiles and locked-eyes.  Plus, they have good music, a tree house and a fire pit.  And snacks.  Did we mention those?

All still hold "9-5" jobs, it was noted on the tour, but Lanier "can't wait to get here and brew.

"I think we've created an atmosphere that people want to hang out at," he added.  "We want people to come in and see what we're all about."

Right now, plans for expansion aren't huge.  Lanier & co. brew on a Brew Magic machine that yields only so much and a bigger, five-barrel brewing system is in the works.  To give an idea of scale, Tree House ferments their beers in the basement of the house on the property.  In a way, we like it this small.  It's very western Massachusetts.

The Beers:
A nice lineup of beers from Tree House Brewing Co.
On tap during our visit was Julius, an IPA; That's What She Said, a milk stout; Old Man, a bitter.  All three were terrific.  Initially, my reaction was that the bitter was the best of the bunch.  It's a very good beer.  However, I felt like I didn't get a good enough feel for the IPA, so I took a growler home (I also took a growler of the milk stout).  Julius is a terrific beer and much different than anything I've gotten locally.  I'm looking forward to having another.

The lineup changes often.  It's best to check the website to see what is on tap for the weekend.  The hours are 11-6 on Saturdays.

We can't wait to go back.  It's nice to think that we won't have to drive four hours to find our very own fresh, top-notch beers.

(Update: read the review of Tree House Brewing Co.'s Green IPA on Review Brews.)

Kristi's take:  "Great beer, great atmosphere, and great attitudes.  This is a field trip I strongly encourage people who enjoy these things to take-you are a guaranteed a memorable experience.  Shout out to Lauren for starting Nate's brewing career and making our experience an enjoyable one."

Treehouse Brewing Co. is located at 63 St. Clair Road, Brimfield, Massachusetts.  Visit their website (Nate tends to "get a little ranty," but that's a good thing) and find them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Logo over the brew pots.
The entrance.  Note the gazebo and view.
Nothing like an IPA by the fire.

What's on tap?

Waiting for our bottle fills.

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