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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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.

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.



BREAKING NEWS! It’s Going To Be A Headier World!


Great news from The Alchemist:


New Retail Location Status

Posted on 1/21/14

Wow, the last two months have been a bit crazy around here. The following is an update on where The Alchemist currently stands in regards to a new retail location. Be warned—this is very dull. You may want to skip through to the end.

This past November, we closed our retail shop due to mounting pressure associated with poor traffic flow. This decision was not planned, and we didn’t have a clear vision of our future when this decision was thrust upon us. However, a few days after we announced the closing of our shop, we learned about some new legislation that just passed in 2013. This legislation allows for wineries and breweries to distribute their own product to an off-site retail shop. This was exciting news to say the least. Previously, it was illegal to sell…

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Epic hop blends flavor 2013 the year of Citra Simcoe and Mosaic

This was quite an amazing year for craft beer lovers. The growth of new breweries and novel brews from established industry leaders provided an unheralded bounty of hop forward masterpieces. Beer’s popularity has reached the point of supporting very creative experimentation, an increased focus on making use of fresh local ingredients and of course the ever-expanding hop footprint that now focuses more on flavor and less on IBU bragging rights. As I started to put together a list of my favorite new beers, ie those first brewed in 2013 that rated an A- or better, I noticed an obvious trend in the hops each brewer used. All but one is flavored with Citra hops and of these each contains some combination of Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic and Centennial hops. With some blending several strains and others using just a few or one, in each can be found an enjoyable pronounced peppery element very forward in the hop character. Kiwi hops, featured in Jack’s Abby’s epic DIPL Kiwi Rising, imbues a very similar aroma and flavor.

DirtWolf.CaseCard.2013.662x1024.000  Victory DirtWolf DIPA – “The aroma and taste are heady peppery hops with hints of pine resin. The malts and ABV nicely balance the pronounced bitterness. Almost too easy to drink.” (Hops: Citra, Chinook, Simcoe and Mosaic)

JAB.Kiwi.Rising.large  Jack’s Abby Kiwi Rising DIPL – “A masterpiece DIPL. The Kiwi hops add an absolutely delicious spicy aroma and peppery flavor. The palate and body are solid despite the beer looking very pale in the glass.” (Hops: Kiwi)

flipside2013_sellsheet_front  Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA – “Light floral aroma pairs nicely with very bold tropical fruit flavors and a solid bitter finish.” (Hops: Citra, Simcoe and Centennial)

GLOBAL.WARMER.e1378475708749.200x200  Sixpoint Global Warmer – “A novel winter seasonal IPA. Notes of watermelon, cherries and chocolate in the aroma and flavor, solidly bitter.” (Hops: Citra?)

TastingRoomBeer_Mid.CoastIPA  Boulevard Midcoast IPA – “The unique blend of hops gives this IPA diverse and complex flavors I’ve found nowhere else, with notes of earthy resinous pine blending nicely with just a touch of flowery citrus. Currently only sold in a mixpack, this beer warrants individual release.” (Hops: Topaz, CTZ, Centennial, Amarillo, Citra and Mosaic?)

With new hybrid hop strains being developed and tested faster than farmers can name them, it’s no surprise that what started as a Cascade craze has morphed into something more complex and epic. As hophead natural selection focusses more intently on flavor and less on overall bitterness, seemingly ideal blends and combinations of strains gain in popularity and deliberate use in brewing. Already at work on a new DIPA recipe, I’m excited to see how two of my favorite hops, Galaxy and Columbus, will play into the mix!

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