Here’s something that has proven itself true time and again in the news business: When you have a story about residents’ trash or taxes, it’s sure to make a splash.
But a story about beer? We didn’t expect so much hubbub.
Last week, The Enterprise broke the news that the owners of Tree House Brewing Company—a highly acclaimed brewer out of Charlton, Massachusetts—had purchased the old Horizons restaurant and an adjacent property on Town Neck, and plan to open a brewhouse and taproom there.
We reported that the owners of Tree House hope to open the new Sandwich facility next summer. The business will operate as a taproom, serving beer by the glass, and also offer retail sales of its product so customers can stop in to buy a six-pack to go.
“By summer of 2021…we will open this facility as a taproom with resident food trucks and fresh Tree House cans to go,” the company’s website states. “Beyond 2021, we are planning huge renovations that will transform this experience to something else altogether. Though we are not yet prepared to share those plans with you yet, we can assure you it will be something to behold.”
Within about an hour, the story shot to the very top of the most-read stories on our website and as of this writing, it’s still there.
But I guess the thing is that Tree House beer is not just beer. It’s exceptional beer. It’s won many awards and if we’re to believe what we’re reading online, it’s among the best beers not only in New England or the United States, but the world.
Since writing the story, we’ve spoken to Tree House fans who said they’ve been to the Charlton brewery (since Tree House does not distribute its product, customers must come to them) and waited in line to get their beer.
“This exclusivity, intentional or not, has created somewhat of a cult fanbase and turned the beer into a novelty among beer drinkers,” states one article we read about Tree House. “It’s not uncommon to see license plates from New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and other faraway places pulling up to the busy brewery.”
A few days after our story was published, we learned that there has been a small backlash against Tree House coming to Town Neck.
It seems some residents there are worried about the amount of people Tree House will attract to their neighborhoods.
Someone even went so far as to place flyers on cars in the area encouraging residents to “Say No” to Tree House coming to town.
The flyers included a photo from a 2017 Worcester Business Journal article showing a long line of customers waiting to get into the Charlton brewery. “Traffic Will Be A Nightmare!” is the message scrawled across the flyer.
Town officials say Tree House is sensitive to the fact that Town Neck is densely populated, that parking on the property is tight, and that traffic is a concern. But the business owners are coming up with plans for all that. Plans that will probably include off-site parking agreements and shuttles to the brewhouse.
The truth of the matter is that this bayfront property is zoned for business and has been for decades. It has been home to Horizons Restaurant, Hemispheres, and most recently The Drunken Seal. Tree House is just the next chapter. As long as they hold the proper licenses and stick to the town’s bylaws, they don’t need residents’ approval to move in.
Let’s give Tree House a chance. As a community, we should not let the kneejerk “Not In My Back Yard” reaction of a few sully the excitement about a successful business moving to town.
If the $18.5 million that the company spent to design and build its Charlton brewhouse is any indication of its willingness to invest in growth, they will do wonderful things with this site.