The photo, or one like it, shows up a couple of times a week when you are a member of a Facebook craft beer group in the Northeast. There's a countertop or table with someone’s “haul:” stacks of beer cans from a recent trip to Vermont, Massachusetts, or Maine. Near the center – because they are always near the center – are the trademark orange cans of Tree House Brewing’s Julius.
Julius is the new white whale, the Heady Topper of the next generation of New England IPAs, inspiring beer drinkers from across the country to converge on rural Massachusetts for the privilege of standing in line and buying their allotment.
The story goes that Dean Rohan, Jonathan Weisbach, Damien Goudreau, and Nathan Lanier began brewing in 2008 in Lanier’s kitchen. A few years later, the operation moved to a barn on the Goudreau’s property in Brimfield, Mass. Issues with zoning led to a third move, this time to Monson, Mass., on a farm owned by Goudreau’s in-laws.
While the story began on a kitchen stove, the Tree House legend began in Monson. Lines began forming for its ales, brewed on a five-barrel system. Beers were canned and kegged, and that day’s allotment would generally sell out early. Demand led to a fourth move in 2017. Tree House now brews in a 9,000-square-foot home in Charlton, Mass., 18 miles east of Monson and just off the Massachusetts Turnpike at Exit 9. The new facility features a 30-barrel system.
The lines have not gotten shorter.
Select your finest beverage vessel when enjoying this delight.”
Julius is part of the reason. It was the beer that put Tree House on the map, a juicy hop bomb that gets its name from the creamy orange drink once sold in malls across America. It such an important beer that components of it are incorporated into three other Tree House beers (Alter Ego, an IPA, and double IPAs Juice Machine and King Julius).
It’s a beer developed and nurtured by Lanier and one that he protects. Searching for clues as to what gives it the bold tropical and citrus flavor profile yields no details beyond the fact that each barrel is brewed with 3.5 pounds of hops and there are three hops used. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.
Select your finest beverage vessel when enjoying this delight; Spieglau makes the glass of choice around these parts. It’s a thick pour, hazy and opaque with a big, fluffy head. The creaminess that delights your eyes also influences the beer’s body, leaving behind an equally creamy coating in your mouth.
The scents and flavors are nearly identical. The semisweet orange complements the mouthfeel, deluding the brain briefly to believe that it is, in fact, drinking an orange creamsicle. Notes of mango and passion fruit are evident as the glass warms, but orange dominates the palate. Bready malts balance out the liberal hop usage so that the end is a clean, well-rounded and leaves you yearning for the next sip.
Other IPAs, including some from Tree House, feature more complex flavor profiles but few are as exquisite as the Julius. It absolutely, positively, without reservation earns a perfect score.