is a member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers. His blog
Adventures in Beerland
is now a regular feature of
|Think back to the greatest beers you’ve ever had. If your list includes a Michelob Ultra, Coors Light, or even that
Blue Ribbon winner then you might want to stop reading here. No, that’s not due to any beer snobbery but simply
because you might misunderstand the entire premise of my thesis which is some beers are so good they’re bad not
that some beers are so bad they’re good.
It all started when BeerNexus’ own Glenn “Big G” DeLuca invited me to join him on a trek to Brooklyn NY. I asked if
we were going to see the Dodgers play at Ebbets Field. Like you, he didn’t laugh. Glenn was going there to attend a
meeting of the alumni association of his alma mater, the University of Connecticut. Admittedly I’m geographically
challenged but I was at least 75% sure that Connecticut Isn’t in Brooklyn and about 55% sure it wasn’t the reverse
Not having gone to UConn or having any desire to see Brooklyn at 2 in the afternoon I politely declined. Well, that’s
true only to a point. That exact point was when Glenn explained the alumni association was run by a craft beer fan
who had arranged a special visit to the Other Half Brewery, one of the nation’s best and my personal favorite.
Since my alma mater, Wossamotta U., has no official alumni association other than an occasional get together at a
Rocky & Bull Winkle film festival I was duly impressive by the UConn group’s choice. Visiting the Other Half was a
long time goal of mine since their worst beer is very, very good and their best is significantly beyond incredible.
Admittedly if you don’t like New England IPAs you’ll disagree with my assessment but since one out of every four
beers sold in the US is an IPA and the majority of those are in that dank, juicy, unfiltered, cloudy style the odds are
you will be in my camp. Even more, the Great American Beer Festival has, for the first time, created a separate
category for NEIPAs and it already has more entries than any other style. So, if your local brewery doesn’t make
several versions of it by now it’s time for you to negotiate an early purchase of their equipment since their bankruptcy
is inevitable and immanent.
Glenn, ever the gracious and generous host volunteered to drive. The fastest way for us to get to Brooklyn was using
the Holland Tunnel. For those not familiar with New York, the term “fastest” is relative. Using the Holland Tunnel to
get to Brooklyn is fast compared to a herd of snails traveling through peanut butter, a octogenarian with 30 pound
ankle weights, or the cable company’s customer service. Time didn’t matter however since it was comforting to know
that each turn of the tires was bringing us that much closer to beer nirvana. We planned our departure time
carefully factoring in slow moving cars, red at every traffic light, overturned tractor trailers, and a predicted monsoon.
As such we considered leaving two days before the event. Eventually we left at 11 AM for the 2 PM start. Good
planning paid off. We arrived right on time. As the crow flies the trip was only 36 miles but as the car drives it was
three hours. So much for technology over mother nature.
We stepped into the brewery’s new, large but crowded tasting room but were quickly intercepted by a burly bouncer.
Being sensitive to the place’s protocol, we listened. The fact that he was taller than Glenn standing on my shoulders
and heavier than our combined weight had nothing to do with our rapt attention. “The UConn event is next door”.
How he knew we were there for this blessed event was a mystery until I noticed Glenn was wearing a UConn hat,
shirt, shorts, and socks. The bouncer didn’t ask about his underwear. Neither did I.
An area inside the actual brewery had been cordoned off just for the UConn group. There were multiple chairs and
tables, one of which was stacked with pizza boxes, each steaming fragrant goodness.. Impressive to be sure but no
taps were in sight. Then we saw it – a connecting door that opened to the brewery’s old tasting room. That hallowed
room was ours exclusively for the next three hours..
Ten taps and multiple bottles were flowing. Hand a glass to the jovial bartender and you were poured elixirs of the
gods. We had Double Dry Hopped All Citra Everything, Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream, Double Simcoe
Daydream, Double Dry Hopped Double Citra Daydream, Double Dry Hopped Hop Showers (w/ El Dorado), and a lot
more most of which were double double something or other. Interestingly there were no Double, Double, Toil and
Trouble ones. I guess they couldn’t get around Will’s copyright on that.
Our luck continued as we were able to each get a mixed case of beer to take home. I doubt if you’ll be surprised
when I tell you mine didn’t last long.
Three weeks later Glenn went to another alumni gathering in Charlton, MA. For most people there’s little reason to
go to this small rural hamlet but over 400 UConn alumni descended upon it just to visit the town’s main attraction, one
of the highest rated breweries in the United States and one of the most visited destination breweries in the world –
If you wonder how difficult it is to get beer from Tree House note that their retail shop is the only place you can
purchase cans of their beer to take home. If that’s not restrictive enough, direct from their website, (capitals are
theirs) – “WE ARE NOT CURRENTLY DISTRIBUTING ANY BEER TO DRAFT ACCOUNTS AS WE ARE UNABLE TO
KEEP UP WITH DEMAND.” That exclusivity comes from a brewery large enough to currently have fifty employees
and produce about a thousand barrels of beer a week. Rumor has it that all that Tree House grosses $500,000 a
week. Yes, $500,000 a week.. Anyone what to start a brewery with me?
All of Tree House was turned over to the UConn folks when it closed to the public at 6 PM. For the next three hours
they could party all they wanted as long as they didn't want that much. Unlike the all-you-want format at the Other
Half each person was limited to three pints on draft. That’s not even enough to put on my Cheerios in the morning.
Nonetheless Glenn said a great time was had by all.
Glenn was able to bring back a group of cans and decided to prove that the “G” in “Big G” didn’t stand for galimatias,
gammadion, gluconeogenesis, or gastriloquist as most people assume. No, he was going to show that the “G” stood
for generous as he invited a group of friends to taste some of the wonders wrought in the House of Tree.
Thankfully I was one of a hardy group of craft beer aficionados invited to his tasting. A spontaneous cheer arose
when he took out cans of Tree House Tornado, Eureka (with Citra), Alter Ego, Bright (with Galaxy), and
Doubleganger (my personal favorite). I know what you’re thinking. He probably drank all the cans of Julius himself.
You might be right. Well, it was either that or you can choose to believe Glenn’s story that Julius was not available
when he was at the brewery.
The beers were outstanding. It was easy to see why Tree House is held in such high regard. They were indeed
worthy of being mentioned in the same breath (and in this article for that matter) as the revered Other Half.
The next day I had cause to visit my local pub. The cause was they had beer. The draught lineup was particularly
strong. It featured two NEIPAs, one DIPA, a barrel aged stout,a gose, a pale ale, a stout on nitro, and a light lager
from Colorado. All were highly rated, except one that shall remain nameless. I ordered a flight of the very best of this
excellent group. I had enjoyed many of these beers before and was looking forward to drinking then again. I sipped
one, then another and another. Something was wrong. The taste was off. Maybe the beers were old, maybe the
lines were dirty, maybe the glass wasn’t clean, or just maybe the Curse of Great Beer had taken hold. While I’m not
sure about the truth of the curse of the Bermuda Triangle, King Tutankhamun's tomb, the Hope Diamond, or even
the Curse of the Jade Scorpion, I know this one is the real deal.
The curse takes effect when you drink beers that are underscored when rated 7 out of 5 stars, would win a Pulitzer if
they could write, would be the only reward that could get an old dog to learn new tricks, and are so good a Master
Sommelier would quit to become a Cicerone’s valet. Once that kind of beer crosses your lips the curse forces the
drinker to believe that anything else he drinks for the next 11 day, 19 hours and 2 minutes, regardless of quality, is
not good. It’s a beer drinker’s nightmare – every thing will taste like Corona mixed with Tang and Bud Clamato.
So be forewarned if you come upon cans from the Other Half or Tree House do not drink them. As a public service
you can send them to me for proper curse removal and beverage disposal. No need to thank me, it’s part of a beer
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