Visiting Tree House Brewing Almost everything you need to know to plan your visit.

Brew Kettles Tree House Brewing Charlton, Massachusetts

(C) 2018 popsonhops

Visiting Tree House Brewing…

Hours:

  • TUESDAY 4-8 PM CANS & Draft
  •  WED – FRI 12-8 PM CANS ONLY *
  •  SATURDAY 11-7 PM CANS & DRAFT PINTS (Last call 6:30 PM for pints).

What will be available: Tree House does a great job of posting what’s available at opening with quantities and limits on the “on tap” link on The Tree House Website. If you follow the Tree House Twitter Page they will post updates about the length of the line, as well as updates on limits and availabilityIf I’m planning a trip (say) on a Friday, I usually do the daily math. If Julius has 2,500 cases available on Wednesday at opening and they end the day with 1,500, I will guess that by end of day Thursday there might be about 500 left. Anything less than 250, I make sure I’m there at opening.

I’ll also note that Tree House will also have “unannounced” releases. Those are not detailed on their website and its usually a surprise on arrival. Someone will correct me, but I’ve seen these typically happening on Fridays.

Retail Can Area Tree House Brewing Company, Charlton, Massachusetts.

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Parking & Lines: The Tree House staff orchestrate your visit with complete perfection. If you arrive before opening, everyone will be directed into the lower lot. The staff will direct you to line up in the order you have arrived. When the upper lot is ready to receive you (about 20 minutes before opening time), you will proceed in single file to the top lot in the order in which you arrived in the lower lot. The line begins with the car in the upper left hand side of the lot and proceeds row by row from left to right. It’s very orderly. The upper lot is managed by staff and you’ll park in the same order.

If you arrive after opening, access to the top lot is managed by the staff, if there are spaces they will send you to the top lot, if not, you’ll be asked to park in the lower lot. Tree House operates a shuttle bus and moving from bottom lot to top lot is fairly easy (except carrying your haul). My suggestion is to have the driver of your car ride the shuttle and get the car.  You may have to ask to drive up to the upper lot.

At opening, there really isn’t a race to get in line and everyone pretty much ends up where they were in the queue of cars. About 15 minutes before opening, a member of the Tree House will make general announcements about what is available, the limits, rules, draft process (if available), food trucks (on Saturday) and more. Don’t worry, as they work their way up the line and repeat the announcements.

Choosing your beer: If you arrive at opening, someone will walk up the line with cards and pencils so you can make your selections. If you miss this part, the cards and pencils are usually positioned at the door at the front of the line. You present your card and your order is filled. You also have the option to add drink tickets if they are offering pours (Tuesday night, All Day Saturday and on some evenings when can sales are slow (check Twitter for these one-off draft announcements).

Tree House Brewing Company, Haze and Bright Citra

(C) 2017 popsonhops

Managing your haul: When visiting Tree House Brewing, the excitement of buying mass quantities of awesome beer soon turn into, “how the hell do I get this to my car?” I saw a number of people borrowing brewery handcarts. I bring a foldable luggage carrier that can handle about four cases (Walmart, $20). I’ve also seen people with foldable wagons. If you plan on buying more than you can carry for 100 yards, make plans.

Tree House Brewing Company, Tap List May 18, 2018

(C) 2018 popsonhops

On Site Drafts: This is a bit complicated. They put their beer in 3 different price classifications ($6, $7 & $8) and you can only buy two drink tickets per adult. So, if you want a beer in the lower price category and one on the middle category, you will be given two different color tickets. You can pay for your draft tickets in two different ways. One, you can add it to your can order or two, there is a person right at the entrance that sells drink tickets. There is a line that queues for pours. The bar will accept your tickets and mark your hand with an x for each drink ticket you exchange. I made a mistake in that I exchanged one of my tickets and one of my friend’s tickets for two beers while he was buying food. When the time came to get our next drink, the bartender almost refused as I had already had two x’s on my hand. I was lucky and got my Triple Shot. Just keep that in mind.

There are two main doors at the brewery. The can line enters through the right side door. If you are there for drafts or hanging out in the tap room, you can enter the door on the left.

Tree House Brewing Murphy's Food Truck

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Food & Music: On Saturday, the brewery has at least two food trucks with a variety of gourmet offerings. They park near the entrance and there’s plenty of picnic tables or seating outside. A recent addition is a wood-fired pizza oven just by the pavilion. They also have live music to add to the cool Saturday vibe.

Hotels: I usually drive to the brewery and back to New Jersey on the same day (about 2.75 hours each way). On the same road as the brewery, there is a Comfort Inn. It’s just a couple miles from the brewery. I’ll also note there’s a Cracker Barrel right next to the hotel.

Odds and Ends:

  • Make sure you bring a photo ID, they check everyone.
  • No growler fills.
  • Need Ice? – Stop ‘N Shop about a mile from the brewery.
  • No on-site consumption of canned beers (bring those home with you).
  • Kid and dog friendly environment.
  • Covered space
  • Retail space sells branded t-shirts, glassware, hats, frisbees, dog collars and more.

Some Recent Tree House Expansion News! 

Other Attractions (in case the wife and family don’t want to spend their whole time at the brewery) If you are looking for other things to do in the area Sturbridge Village is a colonial era. Nearby Brimfield is host to a huge antique fairs and numerous flea markets during the summer.

Please add your own advice on visiting Tree House Brewing  in the comments. Enjoy your trip!

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Ironbound Cider by Jersey Cider Works

Ironbound Hard Cider by Jersey Cider Works, Hunterdon County, NJ

(C) 2016 popsonhops

Ironbound Cider by Jersey Cider Works

A lot of my friends will drink a hard cider as a change of pace to craft beer. Typically, it’s skillfully placed near craft beer and hard to miss in better beer stores. I haven’t been a fan of cider because my experience to date has been with overly tart, artificially sweet and over carbonated ciders.

Of course by now, you are probably wondering why I have photographs of Ironbound Cider. No, I didn’t borrow the six-pack or the image from a website or someone else. I own this six-pack baby!…

Ironbound Cider by Jersey Cider Works, Asbury, NJ

(C) 2016 popsonhops.com

…My explanation? Recently, a friend offered me one at a barbecue. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying one and the appearance was invitingly golden and very still. It turned into a “why the hell not?” moment. A few sips and I realized that this wasn’t the cider of my past experience. It didn’t make my face grimace. This one was elegant and it was much more subtle and refined than I was expecting. I judge beer by its balance and I’ll do the same with this hard cider. I’d have to call Ironbound Hard Cider really well-balanced. There was no puckering tartness and the sweetness was genuine as the apple itself. Now, I have my change of pace cider…

Ironbound Cider

(C) 2016 popsonhops

…By now, you know that I am a fan of labels and I typically visit brewery websites for more information. Visit Jersey Cider Works This can’s label is chock full of tidbits and I’ll touch on just a couple items. First, let’s talk about the name. Say Ironbound, I think of the Portuguese neighborhood in Newark. It doesn’t make me think of the pastoral orchards of upstate New York. Rather, I’m hopeful the apples didn’t come from somewhere in Port Newark. However, I did learn that Newark has a rich history in cider since they claim that George Washington himself praised the quality of cider that originated in Newark. Next, I’ll note that hard cider is similar in alcoholic strength to a macro brew and Ironbound has an ABV of 5.2%.

The more I learn about Ironbound and its parent – Jersey Cider Works, the more there is to like. Jersey Cider Works and its sister company, New Ark Farms, focus on job-creation for the Newark’s “chronically underemployed”. The farm is located in northern Hunterdon County and they maintain 8,000 apple trees with varieties that originated over 250 years ago in and around Newark, NJ…

Ironbound Hard Cider by Jersey Cider Works, Asbury, NJ (located in Hunterdon County)

(C) 2016 popsonhops

…I’ll add one other note. When my kids were younger, we learned that much of the macro apple juice available was produced in China. We avoided this juice for fear that it was treated with unknown and possibly unsafe chemicals. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Read about their poor environmental practices and business ethics and that should be enough to turn your stomach. I like that this is locally sourced as I suspect many macro hard ciders also use the cheap and unsafe apple juice from China.

In conclusion, if you live in New Jersey and you like hard cider, there is no reason why you should not make Ironbound Hard Cider a regular purchase. Either that or continue to suffer the puckery face you get with commercially available macro ciders.

(C) 2016 popsonhops

(C) 2016 popsonhops

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Dark Rum Vanilla Extract & Bourbon Vanilla Extract

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

For every 8 ounce bottle of Vanilla Extract you’ll need:
– 4 Vanilla Beans (Madagascar or Bourbon)
– 8 ounces of Vodka, Bourbon or Rum.

Vodka:
I heard Vodka was too boozy and did not impart any character so, I went with the more complex-flavored liquors.

Rum:
After my in-depth (five minute) recipe search people said the sweet nature of rum vanilla would be good in sweets. I have plenty from the Duty-Free shops. I’m all in.

Bourbon:
Although I like bourbon-barrel aged stouts, I never came around to sipping on bourbon after work. To me, this is a perfect use for the bottle of bourbon I got when I thought drinking bourbon was a good idea.

Easy steps:

1. Slice open each bean lengthwise leaving one end of the bean intact. May stain your cutting board. Don’t show the wife.
2. Place beans in resealable container.
3. Fill with liquor until beans are covered with liquid
4. Seal container, then shake (yes, in that order)
5. Store in cool dark place shaking once per week

Ready to use after 4 weeks. Most say it’ll keep for 6 months. Me? I assume it will last forever. Add beans and top off with more liquor for an endless supply. I read on-line that people remove the beans after they’re spent and then use them in other recipes.

In the end, it may not necessarily be cheaper than buying Vanilla Extract from (say) William Sonoma. They charge $19.95 plus tax for 8 ounces.

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract

(C) popsonhops

I used four bourbon vanilla beans from Fairway Market. Cost: $8
In one bottle I used Woodford Reserve Bourbon. Cost of 8 ounces about: $9
Total cost: $17

I used four bourbon vanilla beans from Fairway Market. Cost: $8
In one bottle I used Myers Dark Rum. Cost of 8 ounces: $6
Total cost: $14

I guess you could find cheaper vanilla beans and use cheaper bourbon but that’s not my style.

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Ravioli Carbonara and Grains of Truth Ale, Ommegang, Felidia, NYC

Ravioli Carbonara Feledia, New York City

(C) 2016 popsonhops

Felidia, New York City – Ravioli Carbonara with Grains of Truth Harvest Ale by Ommegang.

When I mentioned to a friend that I going to Felidia in New York City for dinner, he told me to make sure that I ordered the “tiny pillows of heaven”. It seemed like an odd name to have on a menu but it made much more sense when I had the first bite of the Ravioli Carbonara. These really were heaven sent and they are forever etched in my flavor memory. The ravioli is filled with egg yolk and is topped with sharp grated cheese and bacon pieces in a flavor-packed creamy cheese-based sauce. I love sharp cheese and who doesn’t love bacon? Wow. Just wow.

The Felidia cicerone matched up with this immensely flavorful dish was a harvest ale from Ommegang called Grains of Truth. The Cooperstown, New York brewer is known for Belgian-style ales and this particular ale is brewed with four of the five major breakfast grains: rye, oatmeal, barley and wheat. No corn – at least no mention. The alcohol by volume jumps up a tick to 5.8%. Front and center is a pronounced spicy rye and caramel toffee sweetness over some mellow clove and surprising hop influence. The beer may have been a bit muscled out a bit by this full-flavored dish but certainly they were on the right track…somewhat sweet and spice of the beer with the savory and salty combo of the Ravioli Carbonara. Well done Felidia.

Spectacular dish,
Grains of Truth Harvest Ale – very good 89 points.

Ommegang Grains of Truth Harvest Ale

(C) 2016 popsonhops

Read more about Chef Nicotra

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