Recently in Hill Farmstead Category

Hill Farmstead Florence

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Breweries like Hill Farmstead represent a problem for us here at Kaedrin, and this is actually a microcosm of a more general problem. We rate beers here and we've been doing so for 4 years now, and I've been noting, especially over the past year, the toll of rating inflation and deflation. Put simply, beers that blew me away 4 years ago, while still great, don't always compare as favorably to what I'm drinking now. Unfortunately, this means that every time I have a new Hill Farmstead beer I find myself reaching for hyperbole and the "A" level ratings in my admittedly flawed grading system.

There are probably numerous reasons for this, chief among them is that I'm the worst. Seriously, this is one of the reasons I started the blog. I knew nothing of beer, and writing about a subject has always been a good way to learn for me. Along the way, I started to develop an actual palate and became more comfortable with my subjective tastes. For instance, we all know of my ambivalence to coffee in beer (I won't shut up about it), and at this point, despite the fact that there are some coffee beers that I appreciate, I have admitted that there is a genuine issue of taste there. But when you're still a fledgling beer nerd, unique experiences and flavors are exciting. Straight up Belgian styles like Dubbels and Tripels were my gateway into good beer, and my fondness for them is reflected in early ratings, even as I drink less of them today. It took me a while to get into stouts and sours, but now they're a mainstay of my drinking cycle. And so on.

I fully admit that Blogging is an ultimately selfish pursuit, and this learning process is one of the many benefits I've reaped from the process. Ratings are ultimately an arbitrary exercise, they're subjective and don't always make wholistic sense, but I feel like they're useful to me, and even recognizing that rating inflation is going on feels important. Perhaps even something that applies outside of the other things I frequently rate, like books or movies. I won't claim a universal truth or anything quite so profound, but as I grow older and my tastes (literal and figurative) evolve, I see this sort of process happening elsewhere in my life.

Expertise is a funny thing. You don't become an expert by being perfect. For anything I'm good at, there was a time when I was terrible at it. I made mistakes, learned from them, and moved on. Writing this now, it feels rather trite, but it's worth bearing in mind. Everyone is so impatient these days. With beer, you can't just work your way through the Beer Advocate Top 100 or whatever Best-Of list you've discovered, as that will give you a very distorted view of beer. True, you will probably drink some great beer, but if you don't have anything to compare it to, what is that really worth? There aren't any shortcuts. Indeed, my typical response to gaining a lot of experience is to continually feel like I know less about the subject as time goes on. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but it makes sense from a relative perspective. When I first got serious about exploring beer, I had a few tactics and strategies and after a bit of time I thought I had a handle on this stuff, but then I kept finding new areas to delve into. My perspective of what beer was kept growing, such that my actual beer knowledge, while also growing, simply wasn't keeping up with what I knew was out there. This isn't just a beer thing, it's a knowledge thing.

So we return to Hill Farmstead, considered by many to be the best brewery in America, and yes, I seek it out as much as possible. But in the grand scheme of things, that translates to a few opportunities a year. Whatever bottles I obtain (i.e. not many), I squirrel away for semi-special occasions (trying not to be too precious about it, but that's a topic for another post). Of course, I generally consider those to be blog-worthy beers to review, so perhaps even this blog might give a newbie the wrong impression. I don't crack open massive face melters at every opportunity, but it's not really worth blogging about the hundredth local pale ale I've quaffed either. Newbie advice might be it's own topic and I've blathered on quite enough for now, so lets get to it: If Florence, a wheat saison, was more regularly available, I would be crushing it at every opportunity. Look at this stuff:

Hill Farmstead Florence

Hill Farmstead Florence - Pours a very pale, almost radiant straw yellow color with a finger or two of fluffy white head and great retention. Absolutely gorgeous. Smells deeply of wheat and musky, slightly funky yeast, and hints of spice. Taste hits up front with wheat and some spicy yeast notes that very quickly transition into a tartness that further blooms in the middle, some vinous white wine and tart lemons, finishing with that wheat and both the spicy and tart notes. Mouthfeel is very light bodied, highly carbonated, crisp, refreshing, effervescent, and downright quaffable. This is straightforward and simple, in the best way possible. Overall, another winner from Hill Farmstead. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a glass on 10/19/14.

So this probably marks the last HF beer I'll try this year (certainly the last of the Operation Cheddar II spoils), barring the outside chance of a trip to Vermont (which I think may happen later in the winter). As per usual, I will usually seek out more when I can. In the meantime, I'll just have to settle for the world class beer I get at Tired Hands. Poor me.

Lemon Cello IPA

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Limoncello is a spirit of Italian origin that is made by steeping lemon peel in a neutral spirit long enough to extract the oils out of the lemon peel. The result is then mixed with some simple syrup and served as an after-dinner digestif. Clocking in at around 30% ABV, it's a sipping drink, but the bright lemony tartness gives it a more refreshing kick than your typical spirit. It's not my favorite thing, but it's definitely something worth trying after a hearty Italian meal.

The idea for this beer was to create a much more drinkable version of a Limoncello. It's kinda like a beer/Limoncello hybrid, with the tart and refreshing nature of the spirit mixed with the quaffability of beer. This is accomplished by doing a quick sour mash, adding lemon peel and juice to the mixture, and then adding lactose to sweeten things up*. Finally, they add a bunch of Sorachi Ace and Citra hops to the mixture, each of which contributes additional citrus notes. Despite the hop additions, I feel like calling this an IPA is a bit misleading. It's got some nice aromas and the balancing bitterness is there, but the beer is otherwise dominated by its tart, lemony character. This was the intention, of course, so I'm not saying its a failure or anything, but it feels more like a wild ale than an IPA.

This beer was a collaboration made at Siren brewing in the UK. I've never had any of Siren's beers before (they're a relatively new operation), but their collaborators are some of my favorites. Hill Farmstead is in the running for best brewery in the world, while Mikkeller certainly makes some of the best beer in the world, though occasionally he engages in flights of fancy and experimentation that don't always pan out. This beer seems like one of those flights of fancy, so how did they do? I don't really know.

Lemon Cello IPA

Siren / Mikkeller / Hill Farmstead Lemon Cello IPA - Pours a deep golden color with a finger of fluffy white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Smells of big citrus hops, with an herbal component, and what is presumably that lemon peel peeking through, melding with the citrusy hops and providing its own interesting character. Taste is, whoa, tart and lemony, almost like, well, lemoncello. Nothing in the nose betrayed this sort of flavor, but it's fine for what it is. It's very sweet, and the hops are there along with some bitterness on the backend. Mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth, well carbonated, a little acidic, medium bodied. Ah, yes, this is made with lactose, and that does come through in both the sweetness of the beer, and the mouthfeel. I don't normally go in for the hoppy sour beers, but this one is working well enough. Overall, it's a very interesting beer, if not something I'd really go out of my way for again. B

Beer Nerd Details: 9.1% ABV bottled (500 ml). Drank out of a snifter on 9/26/14.

Vermont beer treasures are rapidly depleting at this point, though there's at least one remaining Hill Farmstead beer coming up, so stay tuned.

* Most of the time lactose is reserved for Milk Stouts (the sweetness balancing out some of the bitter roasty character), but this marks the second time in just a few weeks that I've had a pale beer with lactose. Go figure.

Hill Farmstead Triple Feature

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We love Hill Farmstead here at Kaedrin, so when we took a slight, uh, 9 hour detour into Vermont to nab some of their prized beers, we availed ourselves of everything we possibly could. While I'm not a particularly huge fan of growlers, I absolutely had to fill up my limit whilst I could. Growlers are not known for their longevity but fortunately, these are beers that do not last long in this household. First up, Harlan, a beer I cracked open for a little scenic drinking just a few hours after returning from my trip.

Harlan IPA

Hill Farmstead Harlan IPA - A slightly bigger version of Edward Pale Ale that is dry hopped with additional Columbus hops. Pours a very pretty, cloudy pale orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy white head. Smells intensely of citrus hops, stone fruits, oranges, and your typical grapefruit notes along with a big dank note that isn't quite pine (I suspect the pine would be more prominent if this weren't so fresh). The taste follows the nose with tons of citrus hop flavors and that fresh dankness too. Light malt backbone, but not as bitter as you'd expect from such a hoppy beer. Mouthfeel is perfect, medium bodied, well carbonated, quaffable. Overall, this reminds me a lot of the type of stuff you see at Tired Hands, and I think that speaks well of both breweries. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV from a growler (fancy 2L swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/14/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

Society and Solitude #5

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude 5 - As of right now, this is the best received entry in this series of experimental DIPAs. This one features a rather fantastic blend of American and New Zealand hops. Pours a murky yellow color with a finger of white head that leaves lacing as I drink. Huge citrus aroma, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, mangoes, the whole shebang. The taste is dominated by those citrusy hops, with that same melange of tropical fruit notes. It got a well balanced sweetness to it, evened out by hops, but not bitter. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, perfectly carbonated, absolutely quaffable. Overall, a spectacular IPA, the clear winner of this trip so far (and that's saying something!) A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.4% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/16/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

Friendship and Devotion

Hill Farmstead Friendship & Devotion - Brewed in collaboration with Luc Bim Lafontaine, formerly of Dieu du Ciel! (and soon to be heading up some sort of special Japanese brewery), this is an IPA that is described as "citrusy, salty IPA with notes of grapefruit". Pours a very pale orange color with a finger of white head that leaves some lacing as I drink. Again with the big citrus hop aroma, tropical fruit, herbal and grassy notes, but also some sweetness... Taste goes along similar lines, lots of citrus hops, hints of pine in the background, and something else playing around in the middle. HF sez that it's salty, so maybe that's what I'm getting, but it's not like it's a gose or something - if its salty, it's tucked into the rest of the flavor profile pretty well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, and yes, quaffable. Overall, another winner, though perhaps not quite as much as the above two... A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.6% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a Hill Farmstead Charente glass on 8/16/14. Growler filled on 8/14/14.

So there you have it. I'm getting pretty close to exhausting Hill Farmstead's standard brews. Someday, I may have to fill a growler with something I've had before, like Abner. The horror! Already looking forward to it!

Operation Cheddar II: Sharp Cheddar

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Last week was my now annual trip to Adirondacks to join family and friends for lakeside merriment and generalized fun (incidentally, this is why there were no posts last week). As with last year's Operation Cheddar, I took a little day trip over to Vermont to secure hallowed libations from the holy trinity of The Alchemist, Lawson's Finest Liquids, and Hill Farmstead.

The plan was pretty much the same as last year, except that The Alchemist was no longer distributing direct from their cannery, instead distributing to a variety of local Vermont establishments. Alas, this little switchup would prove to be my doom. Or, well, just make it so that I didn't manage to procure any precious Heady Topper. I suppose I could have, but I opted not to wait the extra two hours. I've had plenty of Heady in my day, including a recent fresh 4 pack, so I didn't judge this to be a huge loss. I could probably have found the odd 4 pack around somewhere, but this whole distribution situation makes this sort of day trip a little inconvenient. I'll need to do a more dedicated Vermont trip to make this work. No big whoop, onwards and upwards.

In any case, Operation Cheddar II: Sharp Cheddar commenced on Thursday morning. First stop was The Warren Store for some Lawson's Finest Liquids (see last year's operation for more on this great little store). Unlike last year where I basically walked in and picked a few bottles off the shelf, this year was a bit more of a production. There was a line of about 20 people ahead of me, and they sold out 34 cases in about an hour and half. Fortunately, I got there in time to secure my three bottles of Double Sunshine. On the one hand, it would have been nice to have gotten a hold of something I hadn't had before. On the other hand, Double Fucking Sunshine. These three bottles will not last long. Whilst there, I snagged a few other locals:

Warren Store Haul

So aside from Double Sunshine, I grabbed a Foley Brothers Native IPA (I enjoyed their brown ale from last year's sortie), a Bent Hill India Pale Ale (dude at the shop said they're brand new and at the time, no reviews on the internets), a Crop Bistro & Brewery Idletyme IPA as well as their Crop Weizen (another brand new brewery).

Also procured at The Warren Store was some Vermont Maple Syrup and a wonderful breakfast sandwich, which I ate in peace out on their deck that faces the little waterfall and creek on the side of the building. Good times.

Next stop, Hill Farmstead!

Hill Farmstead Sign

Hill Farmstead Construction

Construction and expansion efforts are moving along, and the line was actually indoors this year. They seemed to have streamlined some of their process, but there was a pretty steady line of folks looking to score their Hill Farmstead bottles and growlers. I have to admit, I spent wayyy too much money here, but it's totally worth it:

Hill Farmstead Haul

Hill Farmstead other beer haul

Once again, I ended up buying some of the same beer as last year. But when that beer is Vera Mae, I'm not going to complain. Plus, I got my hands on an ample bounty of Florence (more than pictured), and growlers of Harlan, Friendship & Devotion, and Society & Solitude #5, so there is that. Also snagged some Siren / Mikkeller / Hill Farmstead Limoncello IPA and Crooked Stave Surette and Vieille. Oh, and they had glassware this year too!

The last stop was Winooski Beverage, where I had hoped to score some Heady Topper. Alas, I got there at 4, there was already a few people waiting in line, and they weren't going to start selling until 6. I still had a three hour drive to get back home, so I opted to grab a few shelf turds (that happened to all be Massachusetts beers) and leave it at that.

Miscellaneous Haul

Let's see what we got here: Mystic Saison Renaud, Jack's Abby Hopstitution IPL and Session Rye IPL, and something that looks like homebrew (seriously dude, it's got those Brewer's Best caps) called Billy's Pale Ale.

And just for fun, some other stuff I procured on this trip, including some great tasting Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar, along with that Maple Syrup that I mentioned earlier.

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and Maple Syrup

So yes, despite the lack of Heady, I declare that this mission has been accomplished. Until next year (though fingers crossed for a more wintry excursion in a few months).

Independence Day

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Every year, a local drinkery puts together a killer taplist on the 4th of July, and for the past two, I've tried to make it over there. Of course, it helps that they're pouring stuff like Hill Farmstead (insert stupid image of Wolverine pining after beer here), and this year there were 2 that I had not managed to wrangle before. In addition, I snagged my first Funky Buddha beer, and a little midwest coffee stout. Let's just say that it was a good day.

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison

Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison - Pretty excited to try this one, a collaboration with Kissmeyer and Cambridge brewing. Apparently we got some of this before it was even released at HF! Pours a cloudy golden orange color with a whispy layer of head on top that basically just disappears. Smells nice, Belgian yeast, light saison funk, almost fruity notes. Taste follows the nose, light funk, some yeasty character, fair amount of sweetness, a little balancing bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is lightly carbonated (generally a problem for me) and a little heavier than your typical saison. Overall, this is a fine saison, but coming from the likes of HF, I generally expect more (Arthur was on tap, and was far superior). B

Beer Nerd Details: ??% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Hill Farmstead George

Hill Farmstead George - This looks to be a pretty standard American Brown Ale style beer. It's not a style that you would expect to wow you, and it doesn't, though of course, HF's take is amongst the best I've ever had (if not the best). Dark brown color, solid finger and a half of light tan head. Smells about what you'd expect from a brown ale, mild, toasted malt, hints of coffee, chocolate, and roast, maybe a teensy bit of hops, but nothing dramatic. Taste follows the nose, mild toast and roast, well balanced sweetness and bitterness, and so on. Mouthfeel is fantastic, well carbonated, medium bodied, everything blends together well. Overall, this is an exceedingly well balanced, tasty take on the style. It's not going to melt your face, but it's really well done. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So I know what you're thinking, two Hill Farmstead beers and no A level ratings? Well fear not, Abner, Susan, and Arthur were also on tap and are all as fantastic as ever. But after the above two, I jumped ship for my first Funky Buddha beer. They're a Florida brewery that doesn't get much in the way of distribution, but Philly really is a wondertown in that respect, so a few kegs make their way up here from time to time. This offering was, by far, the weirdest thing I had all day.

Funky Buddha Last Snow

Funky Buddha Last Snow - This is a coffee Porter made with coconut, white chocolate and caramel, and it is weirder than it sounds. Looks like a typical stout or porter, half a finger of fluffy tan head. That coconut and coffee come through strong in the nose. I don't think I'd call it balanced, but it comes off as being toasted coconut or something, and it works. The taste perhaps features a little more of that roasted malt and coffee, but the coconut sweetness still pervades the taste and again, it works reasonably well. Mouthfeel is surprisingly light on its feet, well carbonated, pretty easy going. Overall, it's a really interesting, unique, complex beer. Not something that I'd expect to take the world by storm, but an interesting first impression. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

Perennial Sump

Perennial Sump Coffee Stout - A big ol' imperial stout brewed with coffee. I think we all know how I feel about coffee stouts (I like them, but am still mostly ambivalent about the coffee aspect), so I wasn't expecting much out of this sucker, and it was basically what I expected. My tasting notes are pretty sparse from this point on, so I'm just going from memory here, but this did have a nice coffee character to it, and a solid imperial stout base. It was not a super drinkable stout, and took my a while to work through. I liked it, but was not going as crazy over it as everyone else. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 10.5% ABV on tap (10 oz). Drank out of a snifter on 7/4/14.

So this was a very good day. Lots of new, interesting beer, and some real, genuine classics that I'd had before but will always jump to try again (looking at you, Abner!) Already looking forward to next year's 4th of July celebration!

Posting will probably be light this week, but never fear, we'll be talking great beer again in no time.

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae

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The spoils of Operation Cheddar are starting to dwindle a bit these days. This hard fought acquisition was one of my most prized, and while I've had many Hill Farmstead brews, this is my first actual bottle of the stuff. It's part of their Ancestral series, named after members of their apparently very large family (Vera Mae was one of 14 siblings, which means that Shaun Hill certainly has a lot of source material for his Ancestral series). This one is a saison brewed with Vermont spelt (which I'll guess is some form of wheat), wildflower honey, and Dandelion flowers from the Hill Farmstead itself. I could not think of finer beer to crack open in preparation for Thanksgiving:

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae

Hill Farmstead Vera Mae - Pours a slightly hazy straw yellow color with tons of head and decent retention. Smells very earthy and floral, maybe grassy, herbal too, and that Hill Farmstead farmhouse yeast is asserting itself too; it's a very unique nose, actually. It's hard to place a lot of these aromas (the label sez honey is involved, and perhaps the power of suggestion is leading me to pick that out?) Very nice, too... Taste has a nice fuity tartness to it, with all those hard-to-place notes from the nose also making themselves known, but not quite as prominently in the taste. There's a bready, not quite spicy yeast character pitching in too, and it matches really well with all those flowery, grassy notes. Mouthfeel is lower medium bodied with huge carbonation. Relatively dry up front and in the middle, but that juicy tartness hands around in the finish. Not really acidic at all, but crisp, dry, and refreshing. Overall, this is a really unique (even for a saison), super complex beer, and it's really delicious. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml capped). Drank out of my Tired Hands flute glass on 11/27/13. Bottled 07 2013. Batch 2?

Only two beers left from Operation Cheddar, one a Grassroots saison with Brett, and the final being a Bruery beer I got at Hill Farmstead (it's not something I've seen in the Philly area). Do you know what this means? Yes, I'll need to find another excuse to make the 7-10 hour trek back to Vermont. I'm not holding my breath, but it'll be fun when it happens.

Hill Farmstead Growlering

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Here at Kaedrin, we pine after Hill Farmstead like Wolverine, and I just got done explaining how I took a day out of my vacation to drive to Vermont and pick up some of their beers. Some of those beers were only available in growlers, which are not vessels to age in your cellar. Fortunately, it's not like we're going to slack off when it comes to Hill Farmstead beers, which don't last long in this household. So let's get this party started:

Hill Farmstead Susan

Hill Farmstead Susan - Another in HF's ancestral series, this is one I hadn't heard of, so I jumped on it. It's an IPA brewed with Citra, Simcoe (par for the course, everyone loves these suckers), and Riwaka (I'd never heard of this, apparently a New Zealand varietal) hops. Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and lacing out the yin yang. Holy mango nose, Batman! Huge, juicy citrus hops in the nose, grapefruit and mango, just a fantastic aroma here. Taste follows the nose, lots of that juicy citrus hop flavor up front, with a pleasant, well-matched bitterness doing its thing towards the middle to finish, but ultimately the fruity citrus returns in the finish. I'm actually guessing that the Riwaka hops are what's giving this that unique mango twist that isn't quite like your typical trendily-hopped beers. Mouthfeel is light bodied, smooth, and almost creamy, well carbonated with tight little bubbles that give it that smooth/creamy texture. Utterly quaffable, my first glass was gone before I finished the first draft of this paragraph. Overall, superb. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a flute glass on 8/17/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #7

Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #7 - The latest in HF's philosophy series of beers inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was apparently quite the hophead (the Society & Solitude series is all about experimenting with hops). This one is made with Simcoe and Amarillo, music to my tastebuds. Pours a slightly darker golden yellow color with a finger of fluffy white head and lots of lacing. The nose here is much more grapefruit-like, with some floral notes for good measure. Taste is sugary sweet, with those hops balancing it all out and plenty of those floral and grapefruit notes to keep things interesting and tasty. Mouthfeel is a bit heavier, medium bodied, same carbonation profile, ultimately still pretty quaffable for an 8% beer (not quite Heady Topper territory, but close). Overall, this is a delicious hop bomb, though perhaps not quite as spectacular as Susan. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of an Alchemist stemless glass on 8/18/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

Hill Farmstead Amarillo

Hill Farmstead Amarillo Single Hop Pale Ale - Another in HF's series of single hop beers, always an enlightening exercise, though it's more fun to try them side by side (I was limited to three growlers, otherwise, I would have also picked up the Nelson Sauvin single hop pale ale that was also available). That being said, I pretty much know what I'm in for with Amarillo, which is one of my favorite hops. Pours a yellower golden color with a finger of white head and again with the lacing. Smells of juicy citrus hops, and lots of them. Taste follows suit, lots of bright citrus notes from that Amarillo hop, with a sharp, astringent bitterness towards the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, light, and crisp. Not quite as quaffable as Susan, but perhaps moreso than S&S #7. This reminds me a lot of some of Tired Hands' Amarillo-based brews, which, uh, is a compliment to both breweries! Overall, yep, it's awesome. Duh. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.2% ABV from a growler (750 ml swing top). Drank out of a tulip glass on 8/19/13. Growler filled on 8/15/13.

The growlers held up pretty darn well, I think. The only one that might have really been impacted was the Amarillo, and it was still superb, so whatever. I'm already looking forward to my next irresponsible trip to Vermont to fill up on more HF growlers.

Operation Cheddar

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As mentioned recently, I was on vacation last week. I joined family and friends in the Adirondacks (upstate New York, for the uninitiated) for general fun and merriment. Upon noticing that Vermont was, like, closer to upstate New York than it is to Philly, I made preparations for a detour on my way home. Thus began what would become known (to, uh, just me and my 5 twitter followers, really) as Operation Cheddar, an incursion into Vermont to secure beer from three hallowed breweries: Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, and Lawson's Finest Liquids. I'm going to spend some time wanking about the planning process, but if you're not interested in that, there's plenty of pretty pictures below (just click for bigger pictures).

The original plan was to get up early on Saturday (the end of our stay in the Adirondacks) and make a detour into Vermont before returning to Philly. Truth be told, Vermont isn't that much closer, and with the stops I was planning on making, it would still be an all day affair, but totally worth it. However, as I started looking into each brewery's availability, I realized that Saturday might not be the best day for the trip.

I monitored Hill Farmstead's Retail page (which seems to be frequently updated and the best source on availability) and it looked like Saturday would probably be crowded, but fine. However, in looking at The Alchemist's Facebook page, I observed that Heady Topper was selling out most Fridays, especially during the summer months. Lawson's distributes out of a Farmer's Market that is held on Saturdays... but usually only one Saturday a month (and not the Saturday I was going). I emailed Sean Lawson, and he said that my best bet to buy bottles was to go to one of three places listed on their site. He also mentioned to go on the day of delivery, as they tend to sell out quickly.

Basically, if I went on Saturday, there was a pretty good chance of being shut out of Heady and Lawson's. That would suck, so I pushed Operation Cheddar up to Thursday, where unseasonably cool weather lead to a lull in our activity schedule anyway. I'm happy to say, this was most certainly the right decision.

First stop: The Warren Store for some of Lawson's Finest Liquids.

The Warren Store

The stream behind The Warren Store
(Click for larger version)

This was a cool little store, with all sorts of artisanal foodstuffs, a bakery, a deli, wine, and, of course, a small selection of beer. It was actually a gorgeous day in Vermont, and they had an outdoor eating area right by a small stream. It was around 10:30 am, so after securing my allocation of Lawson's Double Sunshine (!!) and some other random Vermont beer that looked good, I picked up what was quite possibly the best breakfast sandwich I've ever had in my life. A great way to start the trip, and I was quite happy with the haul:

Warren Store haul

That's Lawson's Double Sunshine IPA, Switchback Ale, and Foley Brothers Native Brown Ale. The guy at the store said he had received 19 cases of Double Sunshine that morning, and that all but 3 cases had sold already. So basically, really glad I made this my first stop.

Next up, just a hop and a skip away, was The Alchemist.

The Alchemist Cannery sign

Heady Topper Thingamagig

The whole place smelled like fresh hops and malt (clearly a brew day) and they were naturally doing a brisk business. In fact, I later intercepted communications from The Alchemist that they sold out their supply of cans on Thursday afternoon (and no more would be available to the following Monday), so Thursday was definitely the right day for this trip. I bought as much Heady as I could, and picked up some glasswales while I was at it:

The Alchemist Haul

The Alchemist Glassware

Finally, Hill Farmstead, which was a bit of a hike from The Alchemist... but it was a pleasant enough drive, and the resulting haul was quite worth the stretch!

Hill Farmstead Sign

Hill Farmstead Building

There was actually quite a line for growler fills, even with the (apparently recent) limitation of only 3 growlers per person. Bottles were limited as well, but I was pretty ecstatic with my haul:

Hill Farmstead Haul

The growlers were filled with Amarillo Single Hop Pale Ale, Susan, and Society & Solitude #7. Bottles of Vera Mae and Grassroots Arctic Saison (Grassroots is basically the collaborative arm of Hill Farmstead, where they go out and brew at other breweries), and while I was at it, I grabbed a bottle of The Bruery Sans Pagaie (HF always has a selection or two from their brewer friends, so this was a pleasant surprise, as I've never seen this one in the Philly area).

Overall, I was pretty damn happy with the trip. It took up most of the day, but I got everything I was after and more (and if I stuck to the original plan, it would have been quite discouraging). The drive was actually pretty easy and scenic (Vermont is truly beautiful, and in case you doubt that small-town America exists, you should head over to Vermont), I didn't even lose GPS coverage on my phone (but I was still glad to have backup printouts). I even got back right in time for dinner, and was enjoying the spoils of Operation Cheddar before the sun set:

Spoils of Operation Cheddar

I suspect a day-trip from Philly would be a bit much (looking at at least 14 hours in the car for a round trip, and when you add in time spent at each venue and other stops, you're up to 18+ hours), but an overnight would work nicely. I actually had a lot of fun on this trip, so I will almost certainly be doing that overnight trip sometime. So that's Operation Cheddar. Stay tuned for a closer look at those HF growlers... and more Vermont beer reviews!

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

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