Jim O’Neil was standing in a parking lot, picking up his kid from school when he had a moment of nostalgia that reminded him of his college days.
O’Neil, director of operations at Canton’s Blue Hills Brewery, was wearing the T-shirt of one his favorite bands, Tree, a staple in the Boston hardcore scene for more than two decades.
“I went to BU in the ’90s,” says O’Neil. “I guess I’m an old school guy. I still listen to CDs of music from that era. Tree is a band that’s in rotation in my car once in a while.”
One of the other dads, who turned out to be the brother of longtime Tree band member Dave Tree, commented on the shirt. The two got to talking, eventually looping in Tree, a central figure in O’Neil’s college life.
The musician and the brewer met up for beers. A couple of New England bands, including Sam Black Church and Scissorfight, recently partnered with breweries on their own brews. O’Neil asked Tree if he’d be into a similar collaboration. He didn’t need much convincing.
“I’m a big beer fan, period,” says Tree. “I’ll drink hop beer, no hop beer, ales, lagers, Pilsners, stouts.”
Tree went to the other band members — the group still plays together about once a year, though the musicians have mostly moved on to other projects — for input on the brew.
“Originally I wanted to make an awesome Pilsner at like 9 percent alcohol,” says Tree, who soon found out that was pretty hard to do. “I said, ‘Let’s make our dream beer like back in the day, when it took a 30-pack to get a buzz.”
Working with the Blue Hills staff, the band settled on an imperial Kölsch, plenty strong enough to get that buzz but not hoppy or intense enough to turn off the band’s working-class fans.
“They want a beer for the common man,” says O’Neil. “They don’t want a basil-infused double IPA, But they want higher alcohol. He basically wanted a Pabst, but at like 8 percent.” In other words, a beer for having fun.
O’Neil recalls staying out till 1:30 in the morning at age 21 or 22, drinking and carrying on at Tree shows.
“They were a good time,” says O’Neil. “A lot of drinking. Loud. Mosh pit was always crowded. Cheap to get in.”
The band will reunite for a Tree Beer launch show on Nov. 28 at The Sinclair, Cambridge (617-547-5200, www.sinclaircambridge.com). The beer will also be on tap at Somerville’s Parlor Sports (617-576-0231, www.parlorsportsbar.com), and Highland Kitchen (617-625-1131, www.highlandkitchen.com).
Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.