If you build it, (they) will come. There is no greater proof of this message than in the fields of Greensboro, Vermont. Nearly one mile up a dirt road, sits an old farmhouse and a nondescript barn. Lush green fields surround the area, and the grass sways pensively in light breeze on this hot June morning.
Hill Farmstead Brewery is open from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Wednesdays – Saturdays. We left Warren, Vermont at around 9:00 am, meandering a mere 60 miles to Greensboro with a goal of not being the first ones at the Brewery. After several stops, we motored up the dirt road to finally reach eyeshot of the Brewery. A traffic jam ensued, with cars parked on both sides of the road, people walking through the fields. A large white tent sat at the edge of the parking lot. First thoughts were dire: a private party to which we were not invited or a special event requiring tickets which we did not hold.
After all, we had just arrived at Ratebeer.com’s 2013 “Best Brewery in the World”, as well as “Best Brewery in Vermont” and “Best Brewery in New England” (http://www.craftbeer.com/news/brewery-news/hill-farmstead-brewery-named-best-brewery-in-the-world-2013). We were at no ordinary place.
Fully expecting to be turned away, we were ushered to a parking spot and informed that this was a special bottle release which was originally scheduled for May 26 and was postponed due to weather. We lucked into the following:
Madness and Civilization #1: a special blend of various bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts and imperial porters. 500mL. Limit 6 per person.
Madness and Civilization #2: from a single bourbon barrel having held a unique blend of 6 different threads for more than 16 months. 375mL. Limit 1 per person.
Civil Disobedience #6: a blend of wine barrel aged and wild versions of Sankt Hans, Clara, Flora, and Juicy. 375mL. Limit 6 per person.
At 11:30 am, this Vermont field was abuzz with discussion of the unique liquids to be released shortly. “Crispy beer geeks” (I cannot take credit for that term…. See http://eviltwin.dk/) huddled together waiting until noon at which time sales would begin. Shaun Hill was busy in the barn, pacing back and forth, and wandered out at about noon. He was focused, and appeared to avoid much direct interaction with the line of the faithful. He instructed us to count backwards, in order to determine how many people had gathered and to gauge the appropriateness of the bottle limit.
We were 102 and 103 on line, and it seemed to end at around 150. So the fun begins. A makeshift plywood tent had been placed at the beginning of the line of the faithful, and we proceeded, one by one, to step up onto the platform and approach Shaun Hill. He was seated behind a table, greater than life. I admit, it was daunting to approach him. Preparing my order so that I did not babble, I was ready to order the full bottle limit. Hindered by the “cash only” policy, TheBrewSherpa and I had to revise our totals to allow for the growler fill part of our trip.
We were fortunate to have been selected to attend the Festival of Farmhouse Ales, to which Shaun smiled and seemed excited. Camping in Nirvana with 200 like-minded beer aficionados, tasting the some of the best beers on the planet, is an event to be anticipated with great joy.
The growler fill line was even longer. We hailed from New Jersey, and others near us on the line came from Scranton, Pennsylvania and Worcester, Massachusetts. Beer talk was free flowing, and the hours faded as we traded stories.
Growler’s filled, we headed to a local shop to pick up some Jasper Hill Farm’s cheeses (http://www.cellarsatjasperhill.com/). After all, Jasper Hill was one of Shaun Hill’s 20th century cousins, and beer and cheese pairings are an experience in themselves. Pairing Shaun Hill’s beer with local cheeses was an opportunity not to be missed. Shaun Hill and the Jasper Hill Farm have already collaborated on Jasper Hill’s Winnemere, a cheese washed in a Hill Farmstead lambic-style beer, and these friendly neighbors are likely to figure out more ways to collaborate (http://www.imbibemagazine.com/Beer-and-Cheese-Collaborations).
All in all, an amazing day, senses filled with beautiful sights, sounds, smells and tastes. Thank you, Shaun Hill, for all you have done for craft beer.