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Hill Farmstead Brewery is the culmination of many years of travel and insight—of experience and education—of friendships and explorations. 

The brewery is the revival and continuation of 220 years of Hill heritage and hand crafted history in North Greensboro, Vermont. 

Its logo is retrieved from a sign that once hung in Aaron Hill's (our great(x3) grandfather) tavern, just up the hill, in the early 1800s.

Below you will find a collection of early posts and writing spanning the period before the opening of the brewery through the early years—a living document of our brewery's inception and shaping.

Friday
Apr102009

things falling into place: Barrels, Brewdown, and Brewery


Yet another much overdue post.  Things are falling into place for Hill Farmstead Brewery - after many years of visualization and concerted effort, it appears that momentum and rhythm are finally leading toward an epoch.  Whether or not this new era will see brewing activity at 403 Hill Road, is yet to be determined.  However, gauging by the last three weeks, I think it is fair to assume that I am moving forward... toward... something.

I have purchased six 7 barrels fermenters which should arrive in Vermont sometime within the next few weeks.  Thankfully, my father and brother will be there to receive them.  I am still searching for a 7 barrel kettle and burner - but, again, I am sure that things will continue to fall into place (can you sense the optimism?).  Here is a picture of one of the new fermenters:


Fortunately, I am also blessed with wonderful and ambitious friends.  Due to their ambition and generosity, there is also a 10 barrel Mash Tun, formerly belonging to my very good friend John Kimmich and his Alchemist brewpub, resting in my garage back home.  10 barrel mash tun, seven barrel kettle,... Nice.  Reminds me of Tom Baker and Heavyweight Brewing Company - Tom used to have a 15 barrel mash tun for a 7 barrel kettle. Certainly a great many options here.  Mike went into the Alchemist on a weekend morning and did the dirty deed of removal. Pretty awesome - that's Mike with the sunglasses and water hose:


I am still working on raising the remaining the capital (any takers?) and the business plan is polished, initial brewing and release line-up planned, and the financial projections actually show that I could earn a living!   Imagine...

In more news, I am continuing to place more beer into oak at Nørrebro.  Current oak aging includes Imperial Skargaards Porter in Cabernet barrels, Triple de Lente in Sauterne, CCC in Pinot and Merlot, Saison in Pinot, Oud Bruin, and SEVEN in Port and Bordeaux.  Within the next few weeks several more beers will be added to the mix. 

More pictures of the barrel aging room will be posted soon.  Some of these beers - especially the blended Saison/Drie Fonteinen beer, will debut at the Copenhagen beer festival next month.  I'm still trying to source 375ml champagne bottles for the bottling of the SEVEN and Oud Bruin.  

In other news - I will soon begin mailing out invitations to this year's Backwoods Brewdown. If you don't know what this is, or haven't heard about it, then perhaps you should come out and join us this year...the picture that opens this entry is a fantastic photo taken by Alex at last year's event.  

Lastly, for now, I'm going home next week and will be in Boston the following week for the Craft Brewer's Conference. My first Craft Brewer's Conference and I'm anticipating spending some evenings with my friends at the Publick House as well as attending a few great seminars and making more contacts with fellow brewers and industry suppliers.  Also, equally exciting, I'm going to be a judge at next year's GABF.  With my 30th birthday just six weeks away... things seems to be moving in the right direction.  


Monday
May042009

Vermont, Boston, and Copenhagen

Having just returned from the United States for a brief 10 day sojourn, I must admit that I am amazed by the transition that beer culture is undergoing.  My local bar, Parker Pie (yes, local, as in a 10 minute drive on pavement TO and a 20 minute drive on dirt FROM), might now possibly be the best watering hole in VT (based upon selection and pricing). The stores are beginning to carry a staggering selection of 22oz and 750ml bottles at affordable prices... all within the stream of my few months abroad.  BeerAdvocate shelf tags at Stowe Liquor store? Stone IRS on draft at several locations. Nice. Good work.  Then there was Boston...

Dieu Du Ciel's Aphrodisiaque and Saint Lamvinus on draft at Daniel Lanigan's "The Other Side." Pliny the Elder and Ithaca Brute on draft at Deep Ellum.  Witnessing the new beers from Dann Paquette (Pretty Things) selling at a staggering pace while I was visiting Julio's Liquors.  The time is right, I reckon... The time is right... I hope that Vermont will someday see such novelty in draft selection.  Better yet, I hope that Vermont will be responsible for creating such novel products...

The Craft Brewer's Conference was a social event, indeed.  Conference? Maybe. Social hour(s), moreso.  The highlights for me were the evenings spent at Deep Ellum with Anders, Greg Koch's keynote speech, and the barrel aging seminar with Tomme Arthur (even though Bourbon barrel aging is not my intended direction or foremost desire...).  Miraculously, I found my bed (a couch), most evenings, no later than 11:30pm and rose in the morning before 8am. Responsible in 29th year? Almost.  My greatest sense of satisfaction seemed to come from morning or early afternoon conversations with fellow brewers that were, seemingly, still intoxicated and beginning their hangover. Oh, Boston, I remember that feeling from too many BeerAdvocate festivals...

Most notably, while back in Vermont I spent nearly all of my time doing something brewery related (surprised?).  Darren and I hung some insulation and, by the end of the weekend, my entire family was participating in the activity... So, with funds committed by investors (all friends) and the still steady momentum of tomorrow... We continue to move toward opening day.  Indeed, I think we will finally open the 3 Liter bottle of 2003 Double Bastard at the Brewdown.  Who's coming?

Sunday
May312009

And so it goes…

And so it is.  This life is such that fleeting moments are oft overlooked. Unaware as we are, that distractions become the essence of living and, when we are not distracted, boredom settles into our bones... at a young age, I had established a vision of "what it is to be thirty."  As such, this imaginary dreadful vision proceeded as thus... that some mature level of cohesion and self-affirmed career obligations might be realized and achieved - with or without the hands of matrimony and child.  Closer to death. Accomplished. Aged. Removed from youthful tendencies... enlightened, even? The end of the 20s -  a decade of living that inevitably is defined, for me, by travel, adventure, honesty, love.  The pursuit of Hill Farmstead. Brewing. Airplanes. Painting houses. Dylan. Europe. Tom Robbins. An enthusiastic departure into a world of all things 'fine' and 'beyond' (beer, food, thought). Localization. Vermont. Obsession. Damon. Family. And a tendency to drown in the undercurrent of romance until finally I resurface for breath and life once again... only to be pulled down under.  


The 20s were perfect. And, at four days into 30, I am convinced that the 30s will be even better...


And, let me just state that I can't stop listening to Bon Iver... and I'm blown away, captured, can't put it down... Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts...


My fermenters are on the road from Seattle to Vermont - solenoids and temperature control panels included. 



My brother is remodeling our house and the former garage.  Funds from investors should be deposited in the coming month.  Wastewater permit will be in the mail within the next week.  Environmental permit not far behind.  The state of VT is going to allow me to have a small retail space at my brewery location - which will make the release of barrel aged and experimental bottlings much more enjoyable.


And, I may have even found a full time brewing gig to carry me away for several months while preparing and launching the farmstead.  An auspicious turn of events (for me, at least) has led to a change of plans for a new brewpub startup 'somewhere' in New England - and, accordingly, if all falls into place, shall allow me an opportunity for promised creative freedom and barrel aging... and an opportunity to be instrumental in the launching of a potentially premiere establishment.  More to come... 


Meanwhile, here in Bryghuset, coming up: the bottles have arrived for the barrel aged beer series and I will begin bottling these beers soon. Right after I call Peter Zien and ask him for advice on how to bottle condition my Imperial Stout.  The end of June should see the release of these beers - Funky Viking (sour brown), Saison Vermont/Lambic Blend, Port Seven, Bordeaux Seven, and three different versions of Little Korkney Barleywine - Cognac, Bourbon, and Port.  Several brews ahead of me, as well, throughout the summer.  Another batch of Hill Pale Ale, Skargaards Porter, and Brown Ale will allow me to prop the yeast necessary for brewing a small and very fresh batch of North Bridge Extreme, Triple Knot (bigger version of Double Knot - the collaboration with Nøgne Ø - only to be aged in Cognac and Port), another batch of Seven (to leave with Kasper and the gang here...) - potentially in a Bourbon edition, and a strong Sølbær (Black Currant) sour beer aged in Cabernet barrels.  I'll also be returning to Svaneke Bryghus, in Bornholm, sometime before August to brew a beer with my very good friend Jan Paul.  Perhaps one more brew with Jacob at Amager - a weekend trip to Cologne/Bonn - a weekend road trip to Belgium with some friends - and one more collaborative beer at Nørrebro and then... going away party on August 2nd at a secret location. Whirlwind. =) 

Monday
Jun152009

8 weeks…


8 weeks from yesterday I will set down upon American soil for the duration of what will likely prove to be a difficult and painstaking experiment in passion and dream fulfillment... and I can't help but wonder why we hold onto some dreams and allow others to fade... how it is that some dreams manifest our entire being, become our identity, our ontology - simultaneously limiting and freeing us all at once.  What would this Danish experience have become without Hill Farmstead?  


I gave my resignation more than a week ago and am now undergoing the process of preparing Nørrebro for my departure.  This includes a great deal of hand bottling, writing/documentation of processes, and training/questioning of what is to follow.  The highlight for me will be tasting the North Bridge Extreme Extreme (not a typo) in three or four weeks.  

Just Eight Weeks...


I spent most of yesterday in some sort of wilderness/deer garden/park 30+ minutes or so outside of the city. A picnic and a nap in the sun atop a hill beneath a grove of beautiful beech trees.  I felt at peace, once again.  Home amidst nature.  As if all of the chaos within me is unleashed within the city - psychological clutter and stress within the pavement  and unfamiliar faces of this unique culture... I feel more alone in the city, surrounded by a million strangers, than I do in the woods.  It will be beneficial to return to my own sanctuary.  A walk in the woods and chirping birds, a sunset over Barr Hill, and hay fields in August are meditative bliss...


I have also booked the tickets for Peter Sonne (my former assistant brewer and now the owner of Halsnæs Bryghus) and Kristoffer Wolff (brewer at Herslev Bryghus) to come to Boston/Vermont for 10 days during the time of the Backwoods Brewdown.  They actually arrive in the US two days before I do.  Alex will pick me up at the airport on Sunday night, and hopefully we'll meet Peter and Kristoffer that evening (in Burlington?) or the next day.  I'll be surrounded by a half dozen friends for an entire week, 200 friends by the following weekend... and then emptiness. And the weight and responsibility of preparing my brewery.  As all things contain their opposite, I can't deny that my fear/anxiety currently outweighs my excitement.


The fermenters have arrived and have been unloaded.  I've signed on to attend the Kennett Square Beer Festival in Pennsylvania on October 10th - I'll bring along some one offs - like a 2 year old Flemish Red, Fresh/Wet Hopped IPA, Smoked Sour Wheat beer (loosely based on a Lichtenhainer - a suggestion by Loren (aka Venom)) - 50% home smoked malt, fermented with Brettanomyces and conditioned with Lacto).  And a saison, of course... 


On another note, today Kasper and my new inter/assistant Simon and I hand bottled 1300 bottles of the Niepoort (Port) Barrel SEVEN Russian Imperial Stout.  All bottle conditioned in 375ml champagne Grand Cru bottles (think Russian River and Lost Abbey).  Tomorrow we'll be bottling the Bordeaux Barrel SEVEN, Wednesday we'll brew the North Bridge (NEX) and Thursday/Friday we'll brew a double batch of Skargaards Porter.  Busy week, indeed! But it feels great to take these beers out of their temporary home and commence their entry to the marketplace so that other folks can appreciate consuming them as much as I've enjoyed producing them... and... waiting... for... them...  Next week we'll try and bottle the Oud Bruin (Funky Viking) and also blend the Saison Vermont with more of the 2 year old Drie Fonteinen and bottle it off... Busy weeks ahead! And I'm glad that I'm not doing it all alone.  Hopefully some of these bottles will find their way to VT for the Brewdown...



Saturday
Jul252009


2 weeks... Into the Wild.


The hours are turning into weeks and my return to Vermont, my adventure into the folds of dream-destiny, is just two weeks away. My return to the wilderness with which I identify... the connection between place, spirit, and passion, is glowing like a beacon at the end of an exhausting journey. Some people follow their passion and allow things to fall into place...and others... just want to follow the sun. I'm no longer sure what I'm following - perhaps I'm lost in my own confusion, my crazy loneliness, and reuniting with my sense of place.  I miss living in Vermont (I do not miss living in the United States). The most organic farms, the most breweries, and the most artisan cheese makers per capita in the United States... The area in which I live has been named the #1 Food Town in America by Eating Well Magazine.  Is there any doubt as to why I would feel more connected to my landscape, more at peace with myself in Vermont, than anywhere else...? Considering more than two hundred years of heritage upon Greensboro soil... My forefathers (and mothers) are the very agrarian ancestors that settled (1781) and worked the soil that is now heralded...(by the New York Times, for example...)


Reflections upon time spent in Copenhagen - my tenure at Nørrebro Bryghus, enduring friendships, and impossible romance - shall never cease to find a place in my heart...


Best to enjoy my remaining moments...

Last weekend, Peter Sonne (Halsnæs Bryghus) and I guest brewed a Black Rye IPA at Svaneke Bryghus in Bornholm with brewmaster, Jan Paul. 70 ibus of Simcoe and Columbus in the whirlpool. To be named Black Hill IPA (the hills behind my home in Vermont are called the Black Hills...) Also, sitting in the fermenters in Ryesgade are Hill Pale Ale, Seven Russian Imperial Stout, North Bridge Extreme, Double Knot Brown, Skargaards Porter, Biere de Miel, and some misc. barrels - such as an american oak barrel with Skargaards Porter, cocoa nibs, and coffee beans...


Today I'm on the island of Fanø (just 10 minutes off the southwestern coast of Denmark and 3 hours west of København) at Fanø Bryghus - where I have assumed the position of "consultant" to their restructuring and launch of brewing operations. Kasper and I just finished drinking (well, taking a sip and then spitting out) an infected bottle of 2008 Alesmith Decadence. Strange. Very. In the meantime... 

I'll keep dreaming... Hoping that the glass will find its way to half full...yearning for peace of mind...tranquility...answers...(purpose). Anyone?