Vermont and Tree House Trip
I recently visited Vermont with some buddies to make my annual pilgrimage to Hill Farmstead Brewery, which is tucked away in its own little piece of heaven, surrounded by barns, dirt roads and miles of silence. The piece of heaven I am referring to–Greensboro, VT–is 5-6 hours from NYC, so we made some stops on our way–all beer related, of course. First up was Tree House Brewing Co.
Tree House is about a three hour trip from NYC. Tree House, like HF, is another brewery that is hidden, located in the town of Monson in Massachusetts. While Tree House has been open for over three years, the past year or so they have made a name for themselves on a national level with their juicy IPAs like Julius and coffee forward stouts like Double Shot. They are quickly becoming one of the hottest breweries in the craft scene, and my personal favorite brewery out there right now. Led by head brewer Nate Lanier, Tree House brews offer a very distinct nose (it smacks you in the face once you step inside the brewery) and complex mouth-feel you don’t get from other breweries. I have had about Tree House 10-15 different brews, and have never been less than blown away. What makes the visit up to Tree House even more memorable is their Co-Founder Dean. I challenge you to find another brewery out there where the founder makes customers and locals feel more at home. Every time I make a trip up to Tree House, I see Dean walking the line, chatting it up with familiar faces, and manning the cash register, making you want to give a tip so he can scream out “BIGGGG TIPPPAH HERRE.” On top of all this, there is even a group called, “the tree house gang.” The group includes people of all ages and from all over the country, but everyone has one thing in common: their love of all things Tree House.
I’ve visited Tree House multiple times and know that you have to arrive at least two hours early if you want to be in and out at opening. This time around, since we had another long drive ahead of us, we made sure to arrive at 2:30 for a 5 p.m. opening, and we were still 15th in line. We added our growler bags to the growler line forming right outside the back of the brewery. At around4:30 p.m., the brewery staff came out with order tickets for those in line. The tickets are filled out as staff collects growlers so that when 5 p.m. rolls around, patrons can come in and grab their filled growlers and take off.
For this round, we lucked out as Tree House was releasing their Curiosity 18 along with my favor Tree House beer, Green. Curiosity 18 is a DIPA brewed for the Fourth of July, blending flavors from Curiosity 15 and 16. The beer pours a beautiful golden unfiltered color, with a ton of fruit juice on the nose. The flavor bursts of passion-fruit, mango, orange, but with a good amount of pine bitterness on the back-end to balance the beer out nicely.
Once we picked up our growlers, we headed over to a local BBQ joint, B.T.’s which is actually BYOB, allowed us to finally get in that 5:30pm “lunch” we needed. I have to say, I would have never thought this would be a sentence I would utter, but B.T.’s was probably the best BBQ joint I’ve been to in the Northeast, if not anywhere. After downing some brisket, pulled chicken, and cornbread, we set out to finish our drive up north.
Arriving in Waterbury, it was clear the town was a little lower key than what I was used to coming from NYC, however for what it lacked in size it made up for in character and beer options tenfold. AS I checked into our hotel, I was greeted with the question “would like something from the bar, we just got in some Focal and Heady”. ….wait…what? Yes, that is correct; the hotel had Focal Banger available, I was surprised as well. The last time I had seen Focal was a few months back from the Alchemist’s release party. I had no idea it was still made fresh for local consumption. Overwhelmed with the beer options that awaited us, we decided to head out into Waterbury and check out the three local pubs, Reservoir, Blackback, and Prohibition Pig.
I have heard stories of how good the tap lists are at these three establishments, but they were better than I could imagine. We immediately started with Double Citra, followed by more Double Citra with some Sip of Sunshine thrown in the middle. If only there was something half as good as this at my local bar I would be a happy camper. Unfortunately with a long day ahead, we wrapped up after a few hours, and headed back to our hotel.
The next morning we got up at 7am for the Saturday morning Heady Topper release. The release was slated for 10am, but since only the first ten customers in line were able to get a full case, we knew we had to get there relatively early. As we pulled up the to the empty parking lot, we has a sigh of relief, knowing we would leave that day with our full case. Now all we had to do was to sit in a parking lot for 2 hours ha. Our second stop that morning was Fiddlehead for the Second Fiddle release, which was a relatively easy in out. Finally it was time for Saturday’s main event, off to Hill Farmstead.
I was told that HF had adopted a system similar to Tree House where order tickets were filled out and then you were able to pick up your order when it’s ready, similar to a local deli. However, when we arrived, it seemed like that idea was scrapped as we stood in the old “snaked line.” The wait was luckily only an hour, as we were able to purchase a flight of 2oz samplers while we waited. After the hour and way too many dollars later, we left Hill, our truck a little heavier and slower than before.
Next we stopped at Parker’s Pie for a late lunch. The entire way there my buddy Nick couldn’t shut up about what sounded like a drunken recipe mistake. Veggies, maple syrup, and bacon pizza, yes I can’t make this up. Despite all the hype, this pizza somehow was the real deal (I smh as I’m writing this because I still don’t know how). Parker Pie was empty at the time, so we were able to enjoy our pizzas in their garden alongside some S&S 4 and Coconut Framinghammer.
S&S 4 pours a hazy straw-like color. There is a ton of fruit juice on the noise, papaya, orange, tangerine, and grapefruit. The taste follows suit, juicy and floral, with a bit of pine on the back end. This one is described as the meeting between Double Galaxy and Double Citra, I don’t think there needs to be more explanation after that. This one is probably my favorite beer I’ve had from Hill Farmstead.
As we were finishing up, Nick, noticing it was 4:20 came up with the suggestion that somehow we hadn’t spent enough money at Hill, so we should go back before closing and get more growlers. We jumped in the car and headed back to Hill, arriving 10 minutes before closing where there was no line, so were in and out, just with a little less money.
I will spare you the details of the rest of the night because it went just as the previous. Double Citra over and over with some other hoppy goodness thrown in middle. Another successful Vermont trip, hopefully the last one for a little for the sake of my bank account.