Byline: Bill Janson
BRIMFIELD - Tree House Brewing Co. co-founder Dean Rohan of Ware rings a bell to signal his forthcoming announcement to the small group of patrons waiting for their bottle fills.
"Mary gets the long-distance traveler award," he says jovially, explaining that Mary originally hails from England.
While she, presumably, did not make a transatlantic journey for a growler's worth of beer, many from all over the Northeast have trekked out to the idyllic red barn on a hill overlooking the Pioneer Valley in pursuit of a cold one.
Tree House Brewing Co. was founded in May of last year by four friends who agreed they had something to add to the local beer scene. That something turned out to be a destination - a haven - for beer lovers far and wide to gather and swap tales of their eternal search for a new favorite brew..
"We like our space here, we think it's beautiful and we like it when people come and make a day out of it," said Nathan Lanier, of Ware, one of the brewers and co-founders of Tree House.
To call the space beautiful may be an understatement. There's a fire pit and a koi pond for visitors to enjoy while they wait for their bottles to be filled. The tree house from which the brewery gets its name is out back in a lightly wooded area that drops off to reveal a stunning view of the valley below. The rustic property looks as if it sprung, fully formed, from the imagination of Robert Frost.
Co-founder and brewer Damien Goudreau and his wife, Kim, bought the 3-acre lot in 2010. Their house sits across from the barn, which, along with the tree house, was there when they moved in. When it came time to figure out how to use the barn, a brewery was not Goudreau's first choice.
"I was going to build Harleys, I was going to build Jeeps," said the brewer, who also owns a health club. "I had all kinds of plans for man town. And before you know it, we're out here in the cold brewing beers out of Igloo coolers."
Lanier had been brewing at home for several years before the idea of selling beer cropped up. The hobby got a bit more serious when, through a series of blind taste tests with friends, he realized his beer could hold its own against those from renowned breweries.
"We were making beer for free and giving it away," said Lanier, who works as a project manager for a construction firm. "We realized we were giving away a lot of beer. And we thought, `Why we don't sell it?'"
It was the positive response from friends and family - those first patrons - that spurred the decision to expand, said co-founder Jonathan Weisbach, a freelance graphic designer from Sturbridge.
"It turned into this...