First thing you need to know when you’re building a tree house for your kids, is that you’re going to fuck up. You’re not a carpenter. Unless you are. If you are a carpenter, stop reading. This doesn’t pertain to you. Go check out This Old House or something.

Good.

So, yeah, you’re gonna fuck up. Not every board will be level, corners won’t match, you’ll run out of screws and start using nails, which aren’t as structurally sound as screws, so you’ll go to the hardware store for the seventh time that day for more screws.

Second thing you need to know, is you need to settle down. Keep it simple. Yes, a series of tree houses throughout your backyard connected by ziplines, climbing walls and swinging bridges would be awesome. So would a big ship, perched 15 feet up in a tree with a rappelling station at the end of the plank. But let’s be realistic here, you should focus on just building a box that won’t fall down the first time your kids climb the janky ass ladder you put up hastily after your oldest stood next to you when you declared the tree house to be done, and was like, “looks cool dad, but how do we get up there?”

I know all this because I’ve built two tree houses, so I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I learned so much from my first experience building a tree house, I got to make an entirely new batch of mistakes on this second tree house.

Also, you should be drinking a good beer the entire time you’re operating saws and nail guns because this is America and it’s your backyard, so what’s it to you!? For me, that beer was Starr Hill’s Northern Lights IPA. Actually, I was drinking two beers, Starr Hill’s old Northern Lights and their new Northern Lights. Same brewery, same style of beer, but the new Northern Lights has a revised recipe for a totally different outcome. Kind of like my two tree houses.

If you have the chance to drink the old Northern Lights and new Northern Lights side by side, I highly recommend doing so. You’ll get a peek at the evolution of the IPA within these two bottles. Starr Hill started making Northern Lights in 2007, which in beer years, was forever ago. Back then, the idea with IPAs was to make them so bitter, they actually scarred the lining of your stomach and gave you heartburn. The modern IPA, on the other hand, employs a host of new hop strains and brewing technologies and comes across as more sweet and juicy than bitter. There’s still bite, but there’s balance and more complexity than just “hoppy.”

Both of Starr Hill’s Northern Lights are period-appropriate interpretations of the American IPA. The older Northern Lights is a touch bitter, with heavy notes of pine and a dry finish. The new Northern Lights is more balanced, and packed with citrus. It’s juicy and a hell of a lot more refreshing than its predecessor. I think the word I’m searching for here is, “better.” Yes, the new Northern Lights is better than the old.

Maybe, like me, they learned a thing or two over the years of building tree houses. I figure if I stick with it, by the fifth or sixth tree house, I might actually know what I’m doing.

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