For better beer – Words and images by Mike V. Sardina
Walking into Tree House Brewing Company, I notice a strange sight. Slightly hunched over, sitting in a lawn chair, there is a man staring intent, rapt, into the glowing mouth of a domed “hut” of-sorts. A thin wisp of smoke trails off into the fading light of a summer sky. It takes me a minute to put it all together, but I see what’s going on here—or at least I suppose that I do.
Inside, I ask my friend, a cellarman at Tree House, “Why the hell is Nate staring at his pizza oven?” Mike just shrugs off the question and kindly pours me a beer.
The pizza oven, a beautifully tiled and logoed design and a lovely piece of functional engineering, is brand new. And before you use a brand new oven, your oven must be cured. The burn that Nate was watching was one of several necessary before any pies could be fired. And clearly, the man takes this hobby just as serious as his brewing.
As if Nate Lanier, co-founder, head brewer, designer, photographer, and jack of all things Tree House needed more on his plate (literally), Nate installed a wood-fired pizza oven on the Tree House grounds. Like most things that Tree House does, it’s pretty freakin’ cool.
It’s not really a new concept, food trucks at breweries have been a thing for a long, long time now. There are even wood-fired pizza oven food trucks, and they are quite popular. And Tree House regularly hosts other food trucks, as well. So why the pizza oven? Well, it’s just one in a series of deliberate and intentioned decisions aimed to enhance what could be called the Tree House experience. Pivoting from the line culture model, Tree House clearly doesn’t want to be a ‘get-your-beer-and-leave’ type of place.
The little things: the pavilion, the wood fire hearths, the lawn chairs, the picnic tables, the cornhole boards, the bands—as well as the intangible things, like the hospitality and service from staff—are all geared toward creating an elevated Tree House experience. Sure, the beer matters, and the beer is good, damn good. But surely there is more at work here than that.
The brewery brings in outside chefs regularly to man the oven for service. Even the Instagram-famous chef, @pizza_gut has done a residency there, mixing it up from his iconic square pies to fire some “rounds.” And, Nate himself takes turns firing pies for staff and guests, some fresh sauce, fluffy mozzarella, fresh basil, some cured and sliced meats.
So come to Charlton. Grab a few rounds—a glass of beer (I’d suggest Green) and a pie (stick with a classic)—kick your feet back and enjoy the entirety of the Tree House experience.