Treetop brewery on TV show

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
Beacon Journal home writer

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Kevin Mooney shows off one his treehouses that was made into a beer tasting room on his 75-acre property in June 2013, in Jefferson Township, Ohio. Wood steps and a swinging bridge lead to the tasting room, a simple structure with dressed-up details such as a stained glass window in the shape of a Gothic arch and a polished bar top made from pine that was cut from the property. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal)
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jefferson twp., knox county: You don’t have to imbibe even a drop of Treehouse Brewing Co.’s beer to feel the room move.

That’s because the brewery’s tasting room is 22 feet in the air, nestled in a tree canopy near Mohican State Park.

The tasting room is a grown-up’s version of a treehouse, complete with a deck, a restroom and a swinging bridge for access. It’s part of a woodsy vacation complex called Mohican Cabins, which also includes rental cabins and a barn that houses the brewing operation in the basement and space for weddings and other events above.

The treetop tasting room, built earlier this year by renowned treehouse builder Pete Nelson, will be featured next week on the TV series Treehouse Masters. The episode will air at 10 p.m. Friday on the Animal Planet cable network.

The show will follow the construction of the treehouse by Nelson and his Seattle company, TreeHouse Workshop Inc., along with a local construction crew.

Except for the finishing details, the structure went up in just about two weeks. “We were on fire,” Nelson said.

It’s the second treehouse Mohican Cabins owner Kevin Mooney Sr. has had built on the 75-acre property. Mooney, a Walsh University graduate, earlier hired the Seattle-area company to build a treehouse cabin with a view of the Mohican Valley.

Wood steps and the swinging bridge lead to the tasting room, a simple structure with dressed-up details such as a stained glass window in the shape of a Gothic arch and a polished bar top made from a slab of pine that was cut from the property. A miniature treehouse carved by Mohican Cabins’ facility manager, Tony Saez, forms the handle of the beer tap, and locally made chainsaw carvings decorate the space.

The structure is clad with T1-11 siding — rustic plywood siding with vertical grooves — and topped with a metal roof. Inside, the walls are covered with burlap and rope.

Mooney’s son Colin, a recent Arizona State University graduate with a degree in sustainability, was instrumental in the decision to incorporate some environmentally sensitive features in the project. Among them was the use of reclaimed wood, including some plywood and the wood used for shelves, barstools and a table.

The structure was designed so the windows would admit the sun’s warmth in winter but be shaded by deep roof overhangs in summer, when the sun is higher in the sky. Mooney also intends to add a composting toilet to the compact restroom attached to the outside of the treehouse, which is still in the finishing stages.

Mooney envisions the space being a place for tasting Treehouse Brewing Co’s beers and developing recipes, perhaps in conjunction with corporate outings. But he’s flexible. If it turns out there’s more demand for overnight accommodations than beer-sipping, he may eventually turn the treehouse into another cabin, he said.

The structure is built on a flexible platform that allows the trees it encompasses to move, said Nelson, who has built more than 200 treehouses since 1992.

In Nelson’s system, the weight of a treehouse is supported by a single tree. The load-bearing beams are attached to that tree using a 3-inch-diameter pin called a treehouse attachment bolt, which reaches 9 inches into the trunk and is designed so the tree’s added girth can eventually envelop it. The platform moves only with that tree and slides around the other trees to allow them to move independently in a heavy wind, he explained.

The tasting-room treehouse involves only the supporting tree and one other tree, but Mooney’s first treehouse is built among seven trees, most of them oaks.

Those trees proved to be a bit of a challenge when they rubbed against the eaves, but that problem was resolved by cutting notches from the overhangs, Mooney said.

The snug treetop cabin sleeps six, two in a small bedroom and four in a loft accessible by a ladder with a railing made of simple metal pipe.

A combined eating and living area has a built-in couch with a rustic wood base and kitchen cabinets built from reclaimed barn wood. The wood floor was created by combining seconds of flooring made from seven wood species.

Vines that once hung from trees on the property were turned into deck railings, and trees protrude through openings in the deck that wraps around the treehouse. There’s even an outdoor shower, one of Mooney’s favorite features.

The structure is clad in pine harvested from the property and stained with a combination of used oil and transmission fluid.

The treehouse cabin has electricity, water, a septic waste system, heat and air conditioning. So will the tasting room when it’s finished, Mooney said.

The treehouse cabin will open to guests in the fall, and visitors who stay there will find plenty to do. Among the activities nearby are a zip line, canoeing, mountain biking, go-karts, horseback riding and fly fishing, Mooney said.

He had the treehouse cabin built a year ago after seeing the elaborate structures in Nelson’s book, New Treehouses of the World. “I said, ‘I’m in the lodging business. I have to have one of these,’ ” he recalled.

Nelson understands why.

Treehouses, he said, “are places for people to disconnect.” It’s probably deep in our DNA to feel safe when we’re sheltered in a tree, where we can see the ground and any potential threats below, he said.

Nelson said it’s even been shown that ascending into a treehouse lowers people’s heart rates.

“You’re back, really, in the arms of nature,” he said.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or mbrecken@thebeaconjournal.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.


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