When to open @TreeHouseBrewCo cans

I’m pretty sure by now you’ve all heard of Tree House Brewing and that most of you have even tried their beers in both growlers and cans. This is a very good thing. In the world of craft beer, it’s hard to top their amazing recipes and in-house same day sales. This level of freshness is ideal and can make for the ultimate tasting experience. The question for this piece is therefore a touch counter-intuitive… Is there any reason to intentionally age Tree House cans beyond the day of their release? Before your knee jerk reaction of a vehement, “No way!’ forces you to X out of this page, let me be more specific about what I mean. Does the flavor and drinkability of these beers peak the day of release, or very shortly there after? By shortly there after, I mean a couple of days, a week, maybe even a month. Never age more than a month, unless it’s to prove to yourself that you should never do it again. To this end, I undertook a several year-long personal taste experiment with as many of their canned releases as possible. The results, are a bit surprising and vary radically by the beer in question.

Before I go into detail on specific beers, let’s cover a few basics. First, there’s canning shock. The process of putting beer into cans disturbs it and requires a bit of settling time (ideally). However, the amount of time is hotly debated. I find 4-6 hours of fridge time to be more than sufficient. In a pinch, a couple of hours in a cooler would do as well. I’ve heard others argue to wait as long as a week! Don’t wait a week (except for Green! but we’ll get to that later…). Remember, if the beer was canned the day before or earlier in the week, this becomes a non-issue in almost every case. I must personally admit that I open at least one can as soon as I’m legally allowed to. It takes me less than 30 mins to get home from the brewery in Monson. Don’t over think this one. Canning shock is real, but will your beer taste terrible if you don’t wait? Absolutely not. As is true for most of these truly higher order metrics, we’re talking about a mathematical limit you can’t reach… perfection and this only really can take a point or two at most away from the taste. Furthermore, I assume you have a general understanding of how to care for beer and what I mean by aging (letting them sit in your beer fridge). Always have a cooler in your car, avoid putting the beer through heat cycles, store the beer in a fridge, never expose it to direct sunlight or prolonged heat. After 3 weeks in the fridge it should become a priority to drink or share any remaining cans.

Now for some specifics. In every case we are assuming the beers have been transported, stored, etc in a like manner so the only real difference is the amount of time in the fridge and it’s effect on flavor, aroma, hoppiness etc.

Julius – The Dr is in and he’s delicious. Their flagship beer is to me the one with the shortest ideal fridge life. Canning shock aside, drink this as soon as possible. The thick rich and juicy fresh-cut mango aroma and flavors peak around day 2 and start to fall off by day 5. Past day 7 the beer is still phenomenal, but will not reveal such a robust juiciness. Although I’ve done far less testing on King Julius, so far I’ve found the same applies.

Green – Oddly enough, the Queen to King Julius is the beer I recommend storing the longest aside from Ma and Bear. This is consistently my favorite regular Tree House release. I can say with some confidence that at this point I’ve had more Green, in either cans or growlers, than any other beer I’ve drank… ever. It’s a test of patience and will, opening the fridge on day 3 or 4 and seeing the untouched cans. They seem to speak, softly ‘drink me’ lol. Ok, not really but you get it. Who goes and buys their favorite beer and then doesn’t drink it? This guy. Why? Because from day 5ish to day 12 Green goes through the most delectable flavor evolution of any canned beer I’ve ever tried. Passion fruit, peach, apricot and guava lead to larger notes of orange sorbet, pineapple and grapefruit. The flavor is AMAZING! but takes a few days to gel up and evolves constantly.

Sap – Pineapple! It’s weird for me to drink the new Sap. It’s nothing like the original in flavor and worthy of its own name. Days 1-3 the aroma and flavor is loaded with more pineapple than Ballast Point’s Pineapple Sculpin (true story). After that the fruitiness starts to subside and the danker more piney/resiny character of the Chinook hops starts to come through. Two very different beers, the most dichotomous of their releases, so know what you like and drink accordingly.

Alter Ego – This falls somewhere between Julius and Green with a strong tendency to evolve and change while remaining delectable. Days 2-5 there’s a pronounced hint of grape juice and herbal dankness that I’m very fond of. Beyond that, the beer takes on a very nice floral and tropical fruitiness that remains very juicy into week 3.

Eureka – This one is simple. These are the most immediately present and consistently flavored beers over time. Drink them fresh, ship them to friends, have a bunch around.

Haze – Drink this fresh. I know, you’ve been saying to yourself all along, “fool, I have to. It even says so on the can!” Haze fades and falls off more dramatically than any other Tree House beer I’ve tried. 3 or more weeks out, I’m apt to pass it by, my heart filled with regret I waited to drink it.

Ma/Bear – Very different beers, very similar aging profile. Both can do with a solid week to 10 days of mellowing to peak. Both remain solid deep into the second month, continuously mellowing with subtle changes to the flavor. Far and away the most durable of the canned releases.

Sometimes I find I write these pieces to help clarify ideas in my own head. Other times, it’s because it keeps coming up with friends and acquaintances alike. In this case, it’s both. Knowing what the beer is will determine when you want to drink it. Using the basic guide above, you will find a more consistent level of quality from the beer in cans and in my opinion get the most out of each release. Enjoy!









Hibiscus GoseThere are few things more thrilling for a seasoned Alehead than discovering a wholly new flavor profile. I still remember the joy of drinking my first Tripel (a Westmalle) forever ago. My first encounter with a true sour beer was a Monk’s Cafe in San Francisco and it was life-changing.*

*My life isn’t terribly interesting, so it doesn’t take much to change it. I’ve had life-changing cookies. And poops.

A couple of years back, I started noticing some white cans of Westbrook on the package store shelves labeled “Gose”. I kept passing them by because I mistakenly thought it was just Westbrook’s version of a standard summer ale. I saw the words “wheat” and “coriander” and my initial thought was “312 Urban Ale” or “Sam’s Summer”. Nothing wrong with a nice, light wheat beer in the sweltering summer months, but like most Aleheads, I prefer an IPA when the sun…

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Big name, wimpy beer WTF??? A brief tirade on a growing trend in naming craft beer…

Has this happened to you? You walk into your favorite beer store or maybe a new one you’ve just discovered and you see a label on the shelf you don’t recognize or a new beer from a known brewery or really any beer at all… as long as it has a stunning stellar aggressive name that wows your palate into reaching for your wallet. You take a chance, lured in by the promises of bold flavor and excessive whatever’ing only to find out it’s a completely wimpy passable miss?

This is happening more and more lately and I can only blame the successful growth of the craft industry in general. In most cases, a sale on a new product has nothing to do with the quality of what’s in the bottle. No one’s had it or heard of it. We all try new beer, but to intentionally take a very very mild beer and use marketing on your beer label to mislead rather than impress and inform? I can’t condone it and I find myself sitting on a growing pile of beer I won’t drink that’s just aging on the living room floor, waiting for me to either open them and pour them down the sink for the return or to find someone I like little enough to make them a gift.

[I encourage you to berate this point if you disagree and hopefully to add your latest discovery or just any warnings you may come across to the comments section. I am only going to call out a single specific brewer here because I feel they deserve it, and can take the criticism as it’s intended, to be constructive and with love from an adoring fan.]

RE Six Point Beast Mode. I LOVE nearly every beer these guys have made. Resin has been a favorite for years, but I also hunt down 3 Bean and Global Warmer, etc an array or bevy. So when I read they were releasing a Porter I got excited. A big bold flavorful hoppy porter, except that it wasn’t… and still isn’t. As a fan I decided to take the liberty of “busting their stones,” as it were to which I received a totally glossed over marketing friendly cookie cutter response aimed at both tongue in cheek admitting I was right and also declaring… “We want to sell this beer and stand by the name.” Really? You can’t see the risk to your integrity in denying you will occasionally make a very light and mild beer, totally out of character for the brewery and want to sell it? All of which would be fine if you warned the fans. It’s a very light bodied porter with no real standout flavor or aroma character, so maybe Light Brown would have been a better name?

They certainly weren’t the first, the last or even the most recent… sadly. And to be fair, I don’t dislike Beast Mode completely. I do, however think it’s extraordinarily light for such a kickin’ name and brewery. Today I took a chance on a beer I hadn’t heard of and found myself fooled again. I refuse to give up trying beers just because no one’s rated them, so I accept the casualties as they lay and grow in that near forgotten corner of the spot behind the couch. If I have offended Six Point or the folks who make CowPuncher or any of the really nice people at Iron Duke, I say to you only this… it’s always about the beer. To all brewers across the world, save your money and fire any junior marketing execs you’re paying to ‘grow your product’ and focus on maintaining legitimacy.


Saison Dupont Cuvée Dry Hopping 2014

My top 3 favorite new beers of #2014 @baxterbrewing @TreeHouseBrewCo @TroegsBeer

beer_301141lil After an extraordinarily long hiatus from blogging and brewing I’ve decided a short piece on my top 3 new beers that I tried in 2014 was a perfect way to get back into the swing of things. I rated 122 new brews this year, not an outrageous or exhaustive effort by any stretch but I’m picky! Plus I’ve found too many that I love and can get locally and super fresh to always be trying something new, lol. I’m sure there are many that I missed, I mean honestly with the sheer volume of quality craft around it’s hard not to. Please feel free to share your take on my favorites and share any information and links you have related to your own.

#3 Tröegs Hop Knife (4.5/5) – I’ve decided fresh hop ales deserve a category slightly separate from traditional IPAs, in much the same way DIPAs and DIPLs are beyond the current BJCP style guidelines… The aroma is pungent, earthy, herbal with some citrus. The flavor follows, is somewhat mild, but solid. Finishes clean and bitter with a bit of a softer mouthfeel. If this beer lacks anything it’s a touch of crispness and maybe a bit more carbonation. http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/beername/274497/

#2 Tree House Double Shot (4.8/5) – Absolutely delectable aroma and flavor. Lots of coffee and chocolate notes. Bitterness is tempered and balances nicely. My only complaint? Reminds me of Wormtown’s Norm, though slightly less decadent… but still left me wanting coconut! http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/go/256686/286115/

#1 Baxter Bootleg Fireworks (4.8/5) – I really enjoyed this beer! It may very well be the best new beer I’ve tasted in a couple of years. The aroma is pungent and packed to the gills with southern hemisphere kiwi hops mixed maybe with a little El Dorado?. The flavor is again dominated by Galaxy and it’s cousins but there’s also solid grapefruit and citrus with a bit of earthy spice from something like Columbus added to Styrian Savinjski. I think they say there are 8 or more types of hops used. They blend well and don’t muddy each other! The malts only exist for ABV and color… say amen. Beats the hell out of Enjoy By… http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/go/301141/286115/

What to Drink on Turkey Day: A Thanksgiving Beer Pairing in 5 Courses

sounds like beer

By now, Canadians are surrounded by signs of the harvest season: changing leaves, gourds on stoops and pumpkin-spiced EVERYTHING. More importantly, the belt-expanding feast of Thanksgiving is fast approaching, leading many to turn their minds to menus. What kind of vegetables should I roast along with my 30 pound Butterball? How many ways can I hide kale in a dessert? Is there such thing as “too much gravy”? And most importantly: What should I drink with dinner? Sure, you could go with some variation of white wine with turkey, red wine with desert, but with the bounty of brews available in this great country, why not give thanks the proper way: with beer. Herewith, my suggestions for the perfect Thanksgiving dinner beer pairings.

Appetizer: Butternut Squash Soup with India Pale Ale

photo: nakedkitchen.com photo: nakedkitchen.com

The first course of any meal should warm up the palate and prepare your taste buds for the…

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Tröegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale: Tröegs defies yet another law of the Universe.

A hilarious send-up of a delicious beer! Tinfoil hats optional… but recommended


Next up, Troegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale:


OK, sheeple, listen up. Beerbecue uncovered Troegs’ Nugget Nectar mind-control project. Beerbecue exposed Sierra Nevada Hoptimum’s secret hop collider under Chico, CA. And Beerbecue busted Troegs Perpetual IPA’s blatant defiance of the laws of thermodynamics and the theory that time is finite. Nobody took me seriously. Hopefully, this time you’ll listen.

Sure, Hop Knife looks innocent enough. However, the small print on the neck label reveals that Troegs uses a HopCyclone to create an “inward spiral of hop dispersal during fermentation”. Fair enough. But when I asked them on Twitter whether the HopCyclone spun clockwise or counterclockwise there was only damning silence.

See, in the Northern Hemisphere, free moving objects apparently deflect to the right due to the Earth’s rotation, and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s known as the Coriolis effect. Don’t ask me. Some shit about conservation of momentum and…

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Mr Hops rates all 12 SierraNevada Beer Camp brews so you don’t have to… Victory Brewing takes the honors with Alt Route

Sierra_Nevada_Beer_Camp_Across_America_brochure_final_(2)_Page_2_1  First run of a quick and simple rating of all 12 beers from the beer camp mix pack… Read my detailed ratings here on Ratebeer.

Update 8/07/14 – I recently attended a tap takeover which featured all 12 of these beers on draft. I was thoroughly disappointed with each of the six I managed to sample, especially having specifically selected each of the collabs I rated highly from the sampler pack. I honestly suspect contamination of some kind in the lines or kegs due to how little I enjoyed any of them, but be that as it may I urge you to sample these on draft with extreme caution. Long story somewhat medium, my ratings above and on Ratebeer are for bottles and cans only unless otherwise specified.

Mastering 3724 – Brewing with the Dupont Saison yeast round 4

I’m not afraid to admit that last Summer Wyeast’s 3724 Dupont Saison yeast got the better of me. A constant battle with stalled fermentations and bottles that refused to carbonate and condition, I came very close to swearing off the beast and its kindred strains for all-time. So it was with determined trepidation that I approached what I consider an extensive research project into any and all conditions that afford at least a fighting chance at smooth sailing with this yeast. To date what I’ve derived from innumerable sources, debates and forums has allowed me be much more successful. I’m just finishing up this year’s 2nd 5 gallon batch, and although I may describe each style-defying over-hopped recipe in greater detail in a later post,  the aim of this article is to attempt to explain why this summer’s results are such a stark improvement over last year’s attempts. So far I’ve decided at least through my own reasearch, reasoning and experimentation that the following three factors are in fact the key to mastering 3724.

Fresh healthy yeast – This seems like a no-brainer, right. But I do not mean fresh smackpacks or vials.  I have begun to collect, wash and repitch yeast from a starter or previous batch rather than work straight from a manufacturer’s sample. I feel this yields greater cell count reliability and viability, less stress on the yeast having had the chance to successfully reproduce healthy cells after shipment, and a level of craftsmanship not possible in a bulk lab. This is surprisingly simple and reusing yeast is both cost-effective and prone to reduce the chance of infection and underpitching. It’s a practice I’ve begun to use across all strains, but most relevant is that I was able to do this for both batches where I pitched the Saison yeast. In each case I had rapid airlock bubbling within 2-3 hours and reached a close to Final Gravity of 1.004 within 3 days. The bottles have all carbonated within 2-3 days with absolutely no off-flavors. If you have not had serious and regular infections in your beer I suspect your sanitizing skills are sufficient to try washing your yeast.

Low OG – Historically this yeast strain is known to stall around gravity 1.035. There are a lot of articles, blog posts and forums on why this happens and how to recover from it. Aside from proper wort temperature management, most brewers agree that the primary concern is a drop in pH caused by the sequestering of CO2 in the wort as the yeast consumes the bulk of fermentable sugars in a somewhat ravenous fashion. Many have resorted to disturbing the wort, releasing CO2 and often causing airlock overflow. I do not advocate this unless you are using a blowoff tube and really only as a last resort if your fermentation does get stuck. Instead, starting my two batches with wort gravities of 1.034 and 1.038 respectively removed this tripping point for at least two reasons. The move from 1.03x to 1.015ish happens rapidly, immediately, although more efficiently than if presenting the yeast with a wort closer to 1.060. This means the drop in pH is both less dramatic and slower, allowing natural conditions to assist in balancing and accommodating the change. This approach, however, of course begs the question of how to produce a higher ABV product? In my second batch I opted to double ferment the wort, raising the theoretical combined OG to 1.054. I consider this a fairly safe alternative to fighting with a stuck fermentation. I waited until the initial FG was under 1.010 insuring sufficient alcohol content to risk opening the fermenter. The wort I added to the beer was prepared following a standard brew day recipe.

Maintain wort temp between 90°-93° F and ramp up to 95°+ F to finish – I recently wrote a post on maintaining proper temperatures throughout the life of a batch of home brew. This is never more important than when working with the 3724 Saison yeast. This strain wants to be 90°+ all the time, rising a bit towards the finish. In practice this means understanding that wort temps start out at ambient temp, rise 4-12 degrees during the first few days of primary fermentation, then slowly drop back to ambient as primary completes. How did i manage all this? I pitched 85° ambient temp yeast into 87°+ wort. Over the course of a couple of hours, the yeasts very short lag time, the wort dropped a few degrees and then began to rise. Over the next 3 days wort temp was held around 93°-94° by the yeast. After that I applied insulation and ambient heat to keep the wort at 93°. Two days before bottling I raised the temp to 95°+ to consume any diacetyl that may have been present.

When happy, healthy and properly used the 3724 Dupont Saison yeast makes incredibly tasty beer. Although it can be tricky to work with, frustratingly difficult to get moving once it fails, and not always easy to find, the rewards are really worth it. The remarkably clean, spicy, fruity characters present in both the aroma and flavor are light and refreshing. If this has gotten the better of you in the past, dial it all in and give it another shot!

A trip to Philly sets in motion my seemingly inevitable souring on beer…

Towards the end of last winter I was in Philadelphia for a family wedding. Having never been, I scoured BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer for a good spot to try a few beers that aren’t available in Massachusetts. If you’ve ever been or are lucky enough to be from the area, you won’t be the least bit surprised that I ended up at Monk’s Cafe. The draft and bottle list was on par with any I’ve seen and I was able to sample a couple of IPAs from local brewers, Victory beers that don’t make it to Massachusetts, and one of my all-time favorites, Mongo from Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey. So how did this seemingly blissful hoppy experience sour me on beer? For the answer, we have to fast forward to last Sunday at Western Mass’ slightly superior, vaguely secret craft oasis the Moan and Dove in Amherst.

It all started innocently enough, a fantastic glass of Wormtown’s Be Hoppy a Baxter Brewing Stowaway IPA… good times. And then it happened. I noticed on the board there was a beer called Monk’s Cafe. I inquired of the barkeep, what is this beer and is it from Philly? The answers to both led me to immediately order a pint. It’s a sour beer, a Flemish Sour Red Ale brewed for Monk’s Cafe in Philly by a very well know Belgian Brewery Brouwerij Van Steenberge. I enjoyed it a lot. Having to this point avoided the building craze over the buzz words Sour, Wild and Brett, I now was getting a  sense of what all the fuss has been about. Which brings me to today and the moment I’m writing this piece. I’ve since hunted down this beer in bottles at Table and Vine in West Springfield and while there picked up two other higher rated beers of the same style and origin.

At this point in the sour experience I don’t feel ready to try to critique or really value the style as it relates to the building craze. I will however add a few more comments before delving back into my tasting. This style of beer is brewed with a wild yeast or airborne yeast as well as an acidifying bacteria that is primarily responsible for the sour factor. Nearly all available examples are blended meaning a very young beer was mixed with a fully aged version to produce the desired level of flavors, sourness, etc. They are all aged in wood barrels. This is primarily due to the barrels providing the seemingly perfect level of porosity providing the perfect levels of O2 over the long aging process. Most add copious amounts of cherries during the aging process though I don’t believe they are ever used during the brewing process. To be frank, I’m not overly fond of most Wild Ales or Brett creations that I’ve tried. All the more reason I was astounded to enjoy a Flemish Sour Red. If you’ve yet to venture into the world of sour beer or found it wasn’t for you, give Monk’s Cafe a try and be prepared to pucker a little and surprise yourself at how fast you drain your glass.



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