It started on the family farm just down the road, where Chuck Rhoades planted the seed that would grow into Beer Tree Brew Co.
It was his hop bines, which he affectionately refers to as “beer trees,” that sparked an obsession with homebrewing for his son Chris Rhoades and son-in-law Brendan Harder. The two engineers were soon using the homegrown hops to brew several times a week.
Back then, they were hustling over propane boilers and Igloo coolers in the garage. They’re still amazed by the leap they took from those humble beginnings. The instantly popular brewery drew thousands during its opening weekend and things haven’t slowed down since.
Their original obsession lives on in their brewing philosophy that fuels the success.
“We’re never happy with how the beer comes out, so we’re always changing things, so the new beers are just us fine-tuning the process or trying a different ingredient,” Harder says.
Those ingredients tend to be hyper-local like the hops from the family farm and a majority is sourced in New York state.
“Before we opened, we did a lot of testing with different malts and different hops and a lot of the malt we were getting locally was the best we could get our hands on and we really felt that that made the best beer,” Harder says.
It gives them plenty to play with recipe-wise. They produced more than 50 New England IPAs – and that was just over the first two years of Beer Tree’s existence.
“It’s endless. You can always create something new,” Rhoades says. “Our next steps are to always create something new, always have something different from the last batch.”
But, Rhoades and Harder always stay true to their roots. In fact, it’s part of their tagline.
“’Beer with Roots’ means we really have a strong tie with our community, whether it’s some of the farms we work with in the area or the community members that we actually bring to the establishment,” Harder says. “When we started this place, one of our main goals was to make a place that could really draw everybody together.”
On any given day, you’ll see friends, strangers, pets or families gathered. The Chenango River that runs through the spacious property even delivers kayakers and canoers to the tasting room.
“It’s a spot where the community can come,” Harder says. “Anyone can come here and everybody’s welcome.”
They’re also welcome at The Factory by Beer Tree in nearby Johnson City and Beer Tree Downtown in Binghamton.