The 2010’s began with just over 1,600 independent beer brewing companies nationwide. The 2020’s begin with around 8,000.
I think I am safe in saying that we can now title the last 10 years The Hoppy Decade, because of the massive surge in brewery openings and IPA production. Worcester County alone is now home to some of the best breweries in the state. However, there is one that stands high above the rest. Can you guess what I’m on about? It’s in the name.
Here’s a little ironic hint: this brewery has recently been ranked No. 2 in Paste Magazine’s “50 Best American Breweries of the 2010s”, but you can drive right by them on Route 20 and not even realize it. Have you figured it out? I’m sure you have, so I’ll hold off on the suspense: it’s Tree House Brewing Company in Charlton. They’ve ridden the success of the IPA from their 2011 founding all the way to the tail end of the decade, where they now happily sit as the reigning king of the Massachusetts beer scene. They are a true New England success story.
My wonderful wife, Briana, made the journey out to Tree House on New Year’s Eve to buy some beer for us to toast the new decade. We’d canvassed what we might be interested in online, and she came home with, fittingly, New Decade Double IPA (for me), and And Miles To Go Before I Sleep Imperial Milk Stout (for her).
With a reputation built on deeply hazy beers, I was surprised to find New Decade a faint, misty yellow as I poured it into my glass. My nose was immediately hit with an amazing array of aromas: mango, orange, and stone fruit. Needless to say, in a world where beer isn’t reknowned for how it smells, New Decade is the best smelling beer I’ve ever experienced. Now this is a very alcoholic beer, with an 8.6% ABV. Essentially the brewers have pushed the malts further than they normally would in order for the hops to smack you in the face. In this endeavour, they have succeeded. However, New Decade is a surprisingly easy drinking, despite its hoppy punches. I took it slow, savouring the taste of each sip and delighting in the ladder of foam rings forming along my glass as I progressed closer to the bottom.
Tree House has intended for this beer to encapsulate their near decade of growth. From the can: “New Decade is a celebration of a decade of growth, evolution, and unrelenting dedication to fresh and progressive beer at Tree House.”
If intent can be boiled down and captured in a flavor profile, it’s here in the New Decade. You can taste the history in the glass; odes to Julius and Haze and Sap in every sip. For a company so set on looking forward, to progressing into new realms of beer making, New Decade is elegantly nostalgic while giving a subtle nod to the future ahead. It’s like Alfred nodding to a now anonymous Bruce Wayne at the end of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The past and the future, shaking hands in the present.
This was a truly unique beer drinking experience. They only brewed one batch of New Decade and have no plans of making more. So, my guess is, by the time of this reading, it will all be gone. But Tree House is coming up with something bold and new every day, so check them out. You won’t regret it.