Trouble brewing at Tree House Brewing

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Updated 2/1/24 – Since originally posted, a court date has been set and Tree House Brewing’s majority owners have responded to the lawsuit. You can read about those updates here.

By Kendall Jones. Originally published via The Taster Tray newsletter.

Your dad is not a superhero and neither is your favorite brewery

It’s normal for children to have starry-eyed opinions of their parents, but reality eventually creeps in and exposes that your dad is not a superhero. Imperfect like any human, our parents are flawed, blemished, and capable of foolish and sometimes unpleasant things. Grappling with that reality is part of growing up.

What does that simple observation about child psychology have to do with beer? Once upon a time, in the land of craft beer, the code of ethics was simple: “Don’t be a dick.” Craft beer fans often held the breweries they loved to unrealistic standards. Those were innocent, naive times. It was our craft beer childhood. No more fairytales.


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Trouble in the Tree House
A minority shareholder at Tree House Brewing has filed a lawsuit alleging that his partners behaved in a way that caused him and the business damage. The lawsuit alleges that, among other things, the majority owners (the two founders), concealed millions of dollars in real estate investments, overpaid themselves, withheld critical tax information, and otherwise conducted business in an unethical and potentially illegal manner.

The Clubhouse at Tree House in Tewksbury, MA.

Media outlets often mention the Massachusetts-based company in conversations about the nation’s best breweries. Tree House Brewing’s IPAs, in particular, attract a lot of attention and earn high ratings. It’s a non-distributed brewery, meaning you must visit one of Tree House’s five locations to get the beer. The lawsuit describes the brewery as “the largest direct-to-consumer on-premises brewery in the United States.” Whale hunters can expect long lines on release days. In addition to good beer, engineered exclusivity and a certain bit of mystery have helped drive Tree House’s popularity and success.


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Back to the lawsuit. Eric Granger, a 2 percent shareholder in the company, filed the lawsuit. Nate Lanier and Damien Goudreau, the brewery’s founders, own the other 98 percent of the company (49 percent each) and are therefore the main focus of the matter.

Recent releases. All images from Instagram.

On the surface, it sounds like sour grapes, but a deeper look at the lawsuit reveals what appears to be a pattern of shady behavior. Yes, it accuses Lanier and Gourdeau of living a life of luxury, with fancy cars and beach houses, but more than that, the lawsuit accuses them of eight counts of breach of fiduciary duty. More than sour grapes.

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Allegedly, the bad behavior involves things like the forgery of forms filed with the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Also, allegedly, Lanier and Gourdeau withheld quarterly estimated tax distributions to shareholders. On top of that, the lawsuit alleges that the two intentionally engaged in a scheme to purchase real estate and then lease it back to Tree House. All of this, and more, has caused financial and legal hardship for Granger, the lawsuit alleges.

According to Brewbound, which delved deep into the matter, investigators have discovered other improprieties. Remember, these are all just allegations at this point. Nothing has been proven. However, perception is everything these days.

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Once upon a time, in addition to making good beer, a brewery needed to behave with a certain level of decorum to succeed. Craft beer fans wanted to support a brewery not only because they liked it, but because they perceived that it was run by good people who behaved ethically. We wanted our breweries to stand in stark opposition to the big corporate entities where shade is the name of the game.

Do allegations like this, whether proven true or not, influence consumer choice? Is the beer all that matters? If you discovered that your favorite craft brewery was a bad actor, would you still buy the beer?

We should not pass judgment on Tree House’s majority owners until the courts have done so. In the meantime, we provide links to two news outlets that have covered the lawsuit in depth. We encourage you to take a look and learn more about the lawsuit.

Boston dot com

Brewbound



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