Recently in Hill Farmstead Category

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!

I was a little surprised that there weren't any Hill Farmstead events during Philly Beer Week in June and perhaps because I've gotten a taste of this stuff before, I've spent the past few months acting like Wolverine here:

Wolverine pines for Hill Farmstead

The Philly area is still lucky enough to see the occasional keg of Hill Farmstead though, so when I spied the July 4th event at a local drinkery, I was all in. Tons of great stuff on tap, but how could I resist the siren song of Hill Farmstead? 5 were on tap, 3 of which I'd never had before. Let's get to it:

Hill Farmstead Edward

Hill Farmstead Edward - A 5.2% American Pale Ale, this seems to be one of their mainstay "Ancestral Series" beers. Hazy orange with a finger of white head... pretty stuff. Beautiful citrus nose, oranges and mangoes, some floral notes. Taste has a crystal malt component that provides a good platform for the bright, citrusy, floral hops, and a substantial bitterness follows you all throughout the taste. Surprisingly towards the upper end of medium bodied, but that doesn't make it hard to drink or anything (dude sitting next to me put down 5 in less than an hour.) Overall, well, excellent. Duh. A-

Hill Farmstead Clara Grisette

Hill Farmstead Clara Grisette - Saisons were brewed for farm workers, but Grisettes were made for miners (Grisette being French for Grey, a reflection of the uniforms and the stone being mined). The styles are very similar, though Grisettes usually incorporated wheat and were typically a little lighter. In this case, we've got a 4.2% beer, another in the Ancestral Series. Straw yellow color, finger of bubbly head. Smells peppery and lemony, maybe a little Brett funk for good measure. Taste has a nice, bright, lemony tartness to it (wasn't expecting that, but it works well), a little funk, and some spicy yeast notes to round it all out... Mouthfeel is crisp, light, and refreshing, highly quaffable. Tart, but not acidic. Overall, this is right up there with the funky saison standard bearers. Reminds me of the old-label Fantôme (none of the smokey, super earthy funk that hits the newer Fantômes). Great stuff. A-

Hill Farmstead and Alchemist Walden

Hill Farmstead/Alchemist Walden - This collaboration with The Alchemist (of Heady Topper fame; my first taste from them, though I've got a line on some Heady too) was called a sessionable American Blonde Ale, but it basically drinks like a really light pale ale. At 4% ABV, it's certainly sessionable, and I could have drank this stuff all day... if the keg didn't kick within an hour of opening ('twas the first to go). Open your Thoreau up to page 1 and get started: Straw yellow, pillowy head. Smells utterly fantastic, bright citrus, big citrusy Amarillo hop character (update: I was right about that, but there's also Simcoe and even some swanky New Zealand Motueka hops too), really great nose that just makes me want to sit a while and sniff my beer. Taste is even better, great, perfectly matched citrus hop notes, nice dry bitterness emerging in the finish. Mouthfeel is very light bodied, crisp, refreshing, and the most quaffable beer of the day. Just scarily drinkable. Overall, utterly fantastic, superb beer. A

Hill Farmstead Abner

Hill Farmstead Abner - Hot damn, so happy to be able to try this one again. This 8.2% DIPA is one of my favorite beers. Golden orange, cap of white head. Amazing sugary citrus & pine nose, lots of complexity. Taste has that perfect balance of crystal malt, sweetness, citrusy, piney hops, maybe some floral notes too, and a well matched bitterness in finish. Intense and complex, but not overpowering or sloppy at all. Mouthfeel is fantastic, velvety smooth, medium to full bodied, no hint of booze at all, well carbonated, just a joy to drink. Overall, as spectacular as I remember it. A (Hrm, potential A+ material here)

Hill Farmstead Everett

Hill Farmstead Everett Robust Porter - I generally find myself befuddled by how highly some porters are rated, but if they were all like this thing, I could get with that program. I've heard people say that Edmund Fitzgerald is just as good, but I don't think there's any contest here - Everette is clearly far superior. Nice roasted malt character tempered by big chocolate notes, especially as it warms up. There's a richness here that I just never get out of other porters. I had clearly underrated this last time (only a B+?), but I'll correct that to an A- right now.

So there you have it. Basically starting July 4 off with fireworks, if you know what I mean. One might think that being able to get this stuff occasionally would satisfy me, but no, I still want to get my but up to Vermont and visit. Seems worthwhile. In the meantime, I'll just stare at my photos of the HF logo with Wolverine. Anywho, stay tuned for some more Vermonsters in the next week or so.

Hill Farmstead Arthur

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In the great fetch quest of life, breweries like Hill Farmstead are a boon to beer nerds because when all is said and done, you've got your hands on really good beer (unlike most fetch quests, which normally result in the equivalent of 20 cases of flat Bud Light). Fittingly, fetch quests are also sometimes referred to as FedEx quests, which, given the distribution reach of Hill Farmstead, is quite appropriate for most beer nerds. Fortunately for me, I'm within that narrow window of distribution, so periodically scanning the taplists and following twitter feeds of local bars sometimes pays off:

Hill Farmstead Arthur

Hill Farmstead Arthur - Pours a hazy yellow gold color with a finger of white head that leaves tons of lacing. Smells of typical peppery saison yeast with some fruity notes, maybe lemon... Taste starts sweet and spicy, nice herbal character, eventually giving way to that lemony character. Just the faintest hint of funky tartness in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, smooth, the spice is there, and a very slight acidity that hits in the relatively dry finish. Overall, fantastic saison. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV on tap. Drank out of a goblet on 1/20/13.

One of these days, I'm gonna have to get me to Vermont and visit Hill Farmstead, Lawson's, and Alchemist. That or start engaging in more FedEx quests.

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA

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One of the beers I didn't get to try during the Hill Farmstead event during Philly Beer Week was the Citra Single Hop Pale Ale. As luck would have it, Hill Farmstead had another event at the same bar a few weeks later. This time, things were far less hectic, and one of the beers available was the Double Citra IPA... which has to be, like, twice as good as the regular ol' Citra Pale, right?

Funny thing about this beer: I've had it before. I didn't realize it until I started drinking, but something in the depths of my brain flashed recognition or something, so I looked in one of my old-fangled notes on my phone, and sure enough, I'd hastily tapped in some notes from that initial tasting. The freaky thing is that it appears that my previous tasting occurred exactly 1 year prior to this tasting (maybe a few hours difference, if the timestamp on my image is to be trusted). Now, one might be tempted to think that forgetting to post about this first tasting means that it was a lackluster beer (i.e. forgettable). But I had rated it an A- back then, and I'm pleased to see that the old tasting notes pretty closely matched these new ones. I won't claim to have a particularly attuned palate, but I'm apparently somewhat consistent.

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA

Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA - Pours a cloudy yellowish color with a finger of white head... Smell is pure pine and citrus, very... Sniffable. I feel kinda dumb doing so in public, but it seems worth it. Taste is very sweet, lots of that pine flavor giving way to light citrusy fruit hops as the taste moves into a light, well balanced bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tightly carbonated, and goes down real easy. Ok, this is superb. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/30/12.

Hill Farmstead has quickly ascended to the highest possible level of respect here at Kaedrin. I've pretty much resolved to buy as much of their beer as possible whenever I see it. Alas, I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of the stuff, and even kegs don't make their way down here that often. Hopefully that will change soon. Otherwise, I'll have to make the 9 hour trek to Vermont. Might even be worth it.

One of the great things about Philly Beer Week is that you can sometimes get a taste of beers that aren't really distributed around here. Hill Farmstead technically distributes to Philadelphia, but their production is so limited that this distribution is effectively limited to Philly Beer Week (with maybe one other event per year). And if Saturday was any indication, I'm guessing there isn't any Hill Farmstead beer left in the area...

I wasn't sure what to expect from the venue, but it was an absolute madhouse when I got there. I could barely walk in the place, but managed to get some beer (as per usual, beer nerds seem to be friendly folk, so it wasn't difficult). After a couple hours, things thinned out considerably, allowing me to get a seat and even order some food. Because this was likely to be my only exposure to Hill Farmstead, I ended up drinking more than planned, but I was fortunately able to spread that out over a long period of time. But I was really happy to get my hands on some of this stuff, and I'm pleased to report that Hill Farmstead's reputation is well deserved.


Hill Farmstead What is Enlightenment?

Hill Farmstead What is Enlightenment? - When I asked the bartender for this beer, he looked back at me with a quizzical look, as if I were hoping to ponder existential conundrums, but after repeating it a few times, I think he finally understood that I was asking for the beer, not transcendence. That's what Hill Farmstead gets for brewing a series of beers inspired by philosophy. Anywho, this is their second anniversary beer, a "simple" pale ale... brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo hops (in other words, my favorite hops). It sounded like the perfect start to the day, and I think I was right.Pours a cloudy golden yellow with a finger of white head... Smells of huge pine aromas with some citrus notes. Taste is lightly sweet with huge pine flavor hitting in the middle, followed by a mild bitterness in the finish. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, with ample but tight carbonation. Quaffable, well balanced, outstanding beer. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5.4% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass.

Next up is Hill Farmstead's most hyped and popular beer, the double IPA Abner:

Hill Farmstead Abner

Hill Farmstead Abner - Part of the Ancestral Series, this beer was made in honor of the brewer's grandfather, named Abner. Pours a darker golden orange color with a finger of white fluffy head and lacing abound. Smells of a more complex array of citrus aromas, with some pine. Taste is very sweet, but balanced out by those big, complex hop flavors of fruity citrus and pine, followed by a well matched dry bitterness in the finish. Really nice med to full body, plenty of tight carbonation... Not quite quaffable, but it goes down easy. Fantastic beer! A

Beer Nerd Details: 8.2% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass.

At this point, I was really hoping to sample the Citra Single Hop Pale, but the keg kicked just as I got to the bar (I believe it was the first to go). I suspect that after the previous two hop bombs, this one may have suffered from an over-hopped palate on my part, so I wasn't too upset, and drowned my sorrows in a glass of what turned out to be my favorite beer of the day:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 2

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #2 - Another from the Philosophical series, this is actually a sub-series exploring big, hoppy beers. They call this an Imperial Black IPA, and boy is it a doozy - certainly the best of the style I've ever had. Beers of this style usually make me crave a really good DIPA or Imperial Stout, rather than enjoy what's in front of me... but not here. This is exceptional. Pours a black color with minimal head. Smells of bright, citrusy hops. Taste starts very sweet and rich, with a really nice, well matched roastiness in the middle, followed by a strong chocolate note and lots of citrusy and piney hops emerging quickly and lasting through a relatively dry finish. Mouthfeel is full bodied, thick, and almost chewy... but that relatively dry finish is what really sets this apart. No booziness at all, though it feels like a big beer. Utterly awesome, complex, well balanced, amazing beer! A

Beer Nerd Details: 9.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass.

I figured I should continue with the series, and I drank this one slowly, whilst also taking in a meal. I was worried that my palate would be shot by this point, and I would certainly like to try this next one under better circumstances, but my feelings on this seemed to be in line with the beer dorks around me... Basically, I thought it was very good, but Abner was better:

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude 3

Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #3 - Pours a cloudy golden orange color (lighter than Abner) with a finger of larger bubbled head and some lacing as I drink... Smells of sweet citrusy hops. Taste starts very sweet, with those bright citrusy hop flavors (little bit of pine) coming through strong... Mouthfeel is a little lighter than expected... Having this after the complex flavor bomb of #2 was probably a mistake, but even compared to Abner, I found this a bit lacking. Well, still a great beer, better than most DIPAs, but if given the choice between this and Abner, I'd go for Abner. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV on tap. Drank out of a wine glass.

So I thought I was done at this point, and took a walk around the neighborhood to clear my head (another gorgeous day) and do some shopping, but I figured that these beers wouldn't be around again for a year and I was feeling ok, so I plopped down for another one - the only beer I had that day that wasn't assertively hopped:

Hill Farmstead Everett

Hill Farmstead Everett Robust Porter - Another Ancestral Series beer (I think named after one of Abner's brothers)... Pours a dark brown color with a lighting brown head. Huge roast in the nose. And the taste follows the nose - tons of roast from the get go. Very nice chocolate character opens up as it warms, even some caramel emerging as I drink more... Very well balanced flavors. Mouthfeel is deep and full, a slight richness, well carbonated but smooth. Exceptionally well crafted porter, a style I don't normally go for... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.5% ABV on tap. Drank out of a tulip glass.

Phew. It was a long day, but this was some of the best beer around and I had a pretty good time. Here's to hoping Hill Farmstead starts increasing their production capacity and distributing their exceptional beers more... I have to admit, at this point, I'm a bit beered out. I may take the drinking a bit easy for the next couple weeks, but don't worry, I've got quite the backlog of reviews built up...

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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.

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