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SAT., OCT. 7

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Monday
Mar292010

Brewing…!

My friends and fellow readers - Today - Monday, March 29th, is our first brew day. I sit here, at 3:30am, drinking a draft Sixpoint Bengali Tiger with Dan Suarez, following a very long day of brewery preparation (including an excursion to the Alchemist to introduce Dan to Vermont's Finest...) Tomorrow we will brew an India Pale Ale... our inaugural ale, so to speak. Thank you, everyone, that has supported me on this journey - emotionally, spiritually, financially.... It is difficult to believe that "the Day" is finally here... Let's hope for a great fermentation and to many, many more flawless brew days. Pictures soon to follow!
Thursday
Feb252010


The first of March (my long envisioned "first brew day" date) is quickly approaching and the brewery is but moments from operational. By the middle of next week... the kettle burner will be fully functional and the cooling system will be virtually complete. All hoses, pumps, and fittings will be in house. We'll place our first malt and hop order. The bottle conditioning room will be insulated. Our barrels will be en route from the Russian River Valley. Our logo and design will be close to solidified. We'll have a 2 faucet draft system in place for retail/sampling (and post-work brewer libations). We will place our first bottle and growler order... and we'll contemplate our first brew day.

Postpartum depression? Likely. Perhaps I will be left with no other choice than to start another brewery in the near future... to keep reproducing. The top ten reasons why a brewery is or is not better than a girlfriend?

In Denmark and Europe, Grassroots Brewing remains active. Our Broken Spoke Blackened IPA will be on draft in Belgium at the Pre-Zythos festivities - Ryan is personally transporting a keg for the event. The first pallets of the beer have arrived in Italy and will be on draft at Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa' within the coming week. Pallets will ship to Copenhagen by the end of next week. Speaking of Italy - Mikkel, Ryan, and I are finalizing a Mikkeller/Grassroots Collaboration for the Ratebeer Summer Gathering in Italy. I can't release any details, just yet, 'cause it's a top secret mission, but I can tell you all that it is one of the most unique and thoughtful style bending beers that I have partaken in...

The Danish and Belgian flags are now hanging in the brewery. Works of art soon to follow.

Off this weekend to Montreal. Dieu Du Ciel! and Wilco - and one of my last weekends of perceived and relative "freedom." I'll now get back to dreaming... Shaun e.
Thursday
Feb182010

A fermented world view…


The to-do-list here at Hill Farmstead continues a steady path of consistency - evolve, dissolve... expand, contract. One surge forward, two days of setback. I could easily vault into a relatively cliche treatment on the nature of american bureaucracy and over taxation (which would be marginally more entertaining than watching the lackluster women's olympic snowboarding halfpipe finals...). However, in the spirit of productive rambling and megalomania, I'll proceed in an effort to entertain you with silly metaphors and delusions of grandeur...

I've spent the last 9 days avowing myself to a disciplined diet of strictly fermented food. It is no secret that a lonesome life in the country, with such an intently myopic ethos (ie. Brewery), can inspire creatively complex systems for maintaining one's (in)sanity. Case in point: my obsession with all things fermentation. With due respect to the progenitor of this new modality, Dave Brodrick (purveyor of fine New York City beer establishments and a most humble and worldly-conscious individual) - it was his visit to Hill Road last Tuesday, his words and notions, that incited this current infatuation. Tempeh, Beer, miso, tea, coffee, cheese, yogurt, sourdough bread, kimchee, pickles... now I'm fermenting rice, making a potent ginger juice elixir that is naturally fermented with the wild yeasts contributed by a single spoonful of Fanø Lyng (Heather) Honning (Honey). In a way, I suppose it is an experiment in discipline - simultaneously coupled with my belief that I should seek communion with the spirit and energy of fermentation. Bulletin: In case you hadn't made the leap of logic: I'm animistic (my mind immediately springs to Tom Robbins and the personification of spoon, can o' beans, dirty sock, painted stick, and conch shell in Skinny Legs and All...). I believe that every thing in this universe is alive with energy...




Back to the brewery... all of the equipment is in place. The pallet racking arrived today and Darren and I set the Buffalo Trace barrels into place.


The layout of the space is efficient and aesthetically sound - a visitor to the space will walk through Darren's Gaudi inspired, all cherry door frame and be confronted with a wall of bourbon and wine barrels. A draft system should arrive within the next few weeks to allow for freshly filled reusable 2 liter glass bottles... along with retail sales of bottled beer and merchandise (t-shirts and glassware).

Two nights ago and I christened the brewery with the first late night work mission: 1am, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Master of Puppets (I realize, just now, reading this, the irony in the title of the music selection! But who is the master and who is the puppet?), and some Acid washing of the Stainless Steel Fermenters.


WIthin two weeks, we shall finally claim direct fire beneath our kettle and glycol cooling connected to our fermenters. And then, my friends, we shall attempt to make beer.
Hoppy beers. Barrel aged beers. And Saisons. We shall make beer and, laboriously, bottle and package our beer - corking and caging and bottle conditioning each individual bottle of our Saison family... giving life to each bottle before sending it around Vermont, Maine, Boston, Rhode Island, New York City, and Philadelphia.

As written by Rainer Maria Rilke in one of my favorite collections of words (Letters to a Young Poet): "A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgment of it: there is no other." I have written W.W. Norton, holder of the copyright for this work, and expressed my interest in using these words in relation to my brewery. No response as of yet...

This weekend I am off to Ebenezer's Pub in Lovell, Maine to share a beer (just one) with owner Chris Lively. Next weekend, off to Montreal for a return to Dieu Du Ciel, to finally taste the Pionniere - our Blackened IPA - and to listen to Wilco. These two weekend journeys are likely to be my last holidays until the Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago. Spring and summer events are filling up quickly: Craft Brewer's Conference, a few days with Anders Kissmeyer, Brattleboro Beer Festival, our Grand Opening, Kennett Square for Philadelphia Beer Week, BeerAdvocate's American Craft Beer Festival (if we're invited!), Vermont Brewer's Festival, Vermont Artisan Cheese Festival, the HopHead Throwdown at the Publick House, the Backwoods Brewdown, guest/collaboritive brewing with Mikkel, and Ebenezer's Belgian Festival. Then - hopefully a visit to Denmark and Italy in the month of September or October. All of these frequent flyer miles and United Premier Elite status... and no time to fly! Thankfully, I'll have a Danish brewer interning with me for the summer!

I leave you with these fine and remarkable words from Brasserie Cantillon's patriarch Jean-Pierre Van Roy - words with which I could never argue, nor could I formulate better myself:
“It’s not because a beer is industrial that makes it bad. I’m not against industrial production. I would rather have a well-made industrial beer than an artisanal beer that tastes bad.”
Saturday
Jan302010

“Follow Your Passion…”



"Follow your passion, and everything will fall into place..."
Amidst the endless
chatter of our minds and the socially constructed world around us - once in a blue moon - the words of close friends, perhaps uttered but once, carry onward in our spirit, become mantras for our individualized revolution. "Follow your passion and everything will fall into place." Thank you Mateo. Apparently, as all of you may have noticed by now, this passion for launching the brewery has displaced my former fondness for the written word. I vow to you: more blogging. More meandering and rambling. More Hill Farmstead and Shaun e. Hill bullshitting... Well, after all, it shouldn't be too difficult to write more than once every two months! So... after a pseudo apology and introduction - on with the blog...

Busy as hell. Or heaven. Or life... just plain busy on a daily basis trying to coordinate the falling of things into their place (or, rather, into the place that I think they should go). Two months now since I joined the crew at Dieu Du Ciel and, within those two months, I can finally say that we have ourselves a brewery. Not just the idea of a brewery, the idée fixe that has dominated my being for 10+ years, but a real, tangible, physical manifestation of a brewery - the actual spawn, offspring, of the idée fixe.

By the grace of my brother's hard worn hands, the brewery building is a virtual work of art. Together, we hand sponged a plastered ceiling in a beautifully haphazard sky blue and readied the woodshed for the spontaneously fermented barrel room. While I've been idling many of my days before a computer, orchestrating the purchase of equipment and finalizing permits, Darren has, for example, trimmed out the entrance way to the brewery in 2 inch Cherry - reminiscent of, and no doubt inspired by, our time together in Barcelona and visit to Gaudi's Casa Mila. Thank you Brother - Couldn't do any of this without you.

Together, we also finished insulating and readying the mash/lauter tun. The old 10 barrel mash tun from The Alchemist is now outfitted with a manway and, after 14 cans of spray foam insulation, is properly insulated and waiting for production.



In the meantime, I've finally reached a conclusion, after weeks of research and deliberation, on the best and most affordable manner with which to heat ("fire") the kettle. Every week proves a different challenge and learning experience: insurance policies, cooling/glycol chiller, btu requirements, heat loss, ventilation, shipping rates, etc. Thankfully, after many moons and much frustration, I think I have finally assembled a great platform of companies and contacts that I shall continue to draw from over the years. An inordinate amount of time is wasted trying to find great people to work with - these contacts quickly become personable friends and, perhaps most importantly, they share in the enthusiasm for what we are trying to do here in North Greensboro - somehow, I suspect, and as I have written here before, positive energy and vision is infectious (equally, so is negative energy and vision), and creates new levels of consciousness and awareness. Thank you to the support unit!

This last week, alone, has been incredibly rewarding. Shall we recap? For example...
Firstly, and most importantly pertinent to the breadth of the projects at hand, Ryan has brewed the Grassroots Broken Spoke Blackened IPA (no, not a Cascadian Dark Ale!) at Fanø Bryghus in Denmark. 80 ibus of Citra and Centennial hops, dry hopped with the same, and balancing out at 6% alcohol - it just went on dry hops two days ago and should be ready for the draft market in 3 weeks. Some of this should hit Copenhagen around Valentine's Day and the rest will be shipped to Manuele at Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa' in Rome. Speaking of which, Maneule's pub (see: http://www.football-pub.com) has been named the #1 beer bar in the world by Ratebeer.Com. In celebration, he has informed me that he will be serving liters and liters of Free Grassroots Winter IPA. Wish I could be there!

Also on the Ratebeer.com Radar - Nørrebro Bryghus was ranked as #38 on the list of Best Brewers in the World - up from #68 the year prior (visit http://www.ratebeer.com/RateBeerBest/bestbrewers_012010.asp). My close friends and collaborators Dieu Du Ciel, Mikkeller, and Duck-Rabbit (Ryan's origin!) all making the top 50 and close friends (and fellow collaborators) Amager Bryghus, BeerHere, and Ølfabrikken all making the top 100. Thus, it is no surprise that our Nørrebro Bryghus SEVEN Niepoort Barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout made the Top 100 beers of the year - as 5 out of the 7 collaborators made the list of the top 100 brewers in the world.

Also, in the last week, Jasper Hill Farm's Winnimere, which is perhaps one of the most unique cheeses on American soil (no, really!), was featured in All About Beer magazine. This project began nearly 6 years ago, before my tenure at The Shed. The idea being that Mateo and Andy would fashion a cheese that would, in turn, be washed with my beer that had been spontaneously fermented with the micro flora from their cheese caves. Check out the magazine and the article to learn more. There are plenty of beer washed cheeses on the market, but how many of them incorporate the local wild flora of their environment in order to heighten their relationship with the local terrior? (Note: run to the best cheese shops near you and ask for Jasper Hill Farm's Winnimere...)

In fact, as I sit here writing this, my own batch of spontaneously fermenting wort is bubbling away. Half of it will be used for next year's Winnimere wash and, ultimately, this experiment is the predecessor of what shall become Hill Farmstead Brewery's Spontaneously Fermenting Barrel Room. No yeast added to the process - the wort cooled naturally to the Greensboro Air, beneath some maple trees in proximity to the cement ruins of my great grandfather's barn foundation - 5 days later - these saccharomyces cells have begun the adventure of their lifetime... settling into the most concentrated sugar solution that an airborne yeast cell could ever wish for... imagine their surprise? In exchange, I suspect that they will reward me with fantastic 1, 2, and 3+ year old sour beers... I mean, it couldn't really happen any other way, could it?

Speaking of barrel aging - the barrel project here is beginning to take shape. Yesterday, 8 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrels, that previously housed Sam Adam's Utopias, arrived on a -20º Fahrenheit, windy Greensboro afternoon. All told, we'll have sufficient space for 24 oak barrels in the brewery itself - a combination of French and American Oak wine barrels (Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Merlot along with several Chardonnay barrels for a future release of the reincarnation of the Annika Saison - my Sauvignon Blanc inspired beer for people that prefer white wine...). Also, a few Brandy and ice wine barrels will find way into the mix. Also, there is sufficient space for 12 'sour' barrels in the Woodshed and bottle conditioning room. In fact, the woodshed has enough space to house a 400 liter 'bottling' tank which will allow us to bottle our sour beers in a safely separate building...
Question: what should we name our spontaneous terrior fermented sour ales? Can't call it Lambic (and don't want to), nor Sonambic (a great name created by Brian Hunt and Vinnie Cilurzo)... certainly not Vermambic.

More than a month ago, I prognosticated that Vermont would see the opening of no less than 10 new breweries within the next 2 and a half years. As of this moment, the last weekend of January, I am aware of 4 new breweries opening in 2010! Vermont already supports, per capita, the most breweries in the United States. At which point will the market hit saturation level? I foresee a fall out within the next 2 years - an overwhelmed and bewildered consumer, faced with too many options and highly priced releases, abandons curiosity for convenience. In a battle for shelf space, consumer confidence, and bar draft line availability - will the cream necessarily rise to the top? Or will the ambitious and inexperienced startups, coupled with breweries of the large and overzealous type (those focused on growth, market share, and non sustainability), inadvertently dismantle the Hill Farmstead paradigm: sustainable farmstead brewery, able to cap its production size and growth (quality rather than quantity) in opposition to the confounded american 'ideal' of global domination, hell bent upon limitless and boundless growth at the detriment of the environment and our natural resources. To wit: How many breweries can the Colorado River support? When there is a drought warning, do breweries stop producing beer? Doubtful...
The bottom will fall out. Sadly. Where will Hill Farmstead Brewery be when the dust has settled? A Phoenix... ?
Progressive notion for current and future Hill Farmstead investors: Brewpub. Brewpub. Brewpub. The sooner the better.

So, all predications aside (for now), we still move forward, with a seemingly effortless grace...
Most Importantly:
Grand Opening: May 29th, 2010. Beer. Food. Music. We'll be serving pints and selling beer to go. Some special guest beers on draft, gifts from friends around the globe. Music: Rob Morse and PJ Davidian (two of Vermont's greatest jazz musicians and long time friends and Hill Farmstead supporters - from the early homebrewing days!) will piece together a trio to entertain the throng of gatherers. It also happens to be open studio weekend in Vermont - and my brother (a truly gifted carpenter and woodworker of some of the finest furniture in the world) will open his shop and his business, Leaning Maples Woodcraft (a true work of art in its entirety), to the public. Jasper Hill Farm cheese, music, food catered by Laura of Parker Pie.
Also - it's my birthday. Expect a bonfire. And camping. And pray for no rain.

World Beer Cup/Craft Brewer's Conference, Chicago - April 7th - 10th: I'll be in Chicago for two nights, along with Mikkel (Mikkeller), Jacob and Morten (Amager Bryghus), and Anders Kissmeyer (Nørrebro) - Anders has entered 7 beers that display some semblance of my fingerprint into the World Beer Cup competition and I'll be joining him for the awards dinner. Also, thanks to the Shelton Brothers, Hill Farmstead beers should be make an early debut alongside the beers of my Danish brethren in the Chicago beer scene. Following the conference, Anders is intending to join me for Collaboration #1.. I suspect a beer that involves smoked malt...

Publick House, Ebenezers/Lion's Pride, La Laiteria/Farmstead, and Blind Tiger:
Vermont's impending market saturation likely indicates the necessity that we abandon our idealized vision of being a "Vermont only brewery." Thus, by late April or Early May, anyone that may still be reading this blog update (have I bored you, indifferent?) can anticipate debut events at the above mentioned locations. Boston, Maine, Providence, and NYC. I'm still sitting on more than a hundred bottles of the Limited Release beers from my barrel aging project at Nørrebro Bryghus - and those beers will again greet the light of day (poor phrasing, perhaps, given UV impact upon beer!) yet again, at the above locations.

Brew Schedule, as intended as of today...

Brew #1 (March 1 target): Spontaneous Coolship project with guests (Aaron)
#2: Russian Imperial Stout destined for spent Utopias, Brandy, and Wine barrels (Damon)
#3: IPA (tentatively named Samuel)
#4: Farmstead Saison, Spring Variation (tentatively named Edward)
#5: Double IPA (tentatively named Abner)
#6: Anders Kissmeyer Collaboration

As you can see... all beers will be namesakes of my Greensboro ancestors... I hope that I have their blessing and that the beers are worthy of their names - perpetuating the connection to place and reviving their legend through the resurrection of their memory...

That's all for now. Keep the PMA. And always feel free to visit and lend a hand... Cheers from Hill Farmhouse.

Monday
Nov232009

A quiet return home…


A jet-set week ago, I was sitting in Burlington at Vermont Pub and Brewery, surrounded by Kimmich (Alchemist), JF, Luc, Stephane (Dieu Du Ciel) and drinking a glass of the original Vermont India Pale Ale. A farewell/rememberance event at American Flatbread for the late pioneer and friend Greg Noonan had led me across the street to abandon the camaraderie and sit in silent contemplation. Until I was joined by the aforementioned throng of brewing virtuosos. Alone or not, my reflection continued - what is 'a' life? what is important? an idea? It all keeps moving, and the overarching "why" keeps on... but, as Kimmich said to me, sitting at the bar, " 'it' is not gears in continual churning but clunking, like small train collisions that seem to form a cohesive 'whole' " Insightful words... like cars slowly falling off of the train and the chain keeps moving. What we created, idealized, is left behind - is its own entity. What will be the spawn of Shaun? Of John Kimmich? Of Greg Noonan? Do we leave there, behind us, the same energy that we ourselves emulated? Spawn...and spawn of spawn...and on and on.

Moments before the reflections noted above, I was in Montreal at Dieu Du Ciel spending a relaxing first weekend back 'home' in... Canada. JF, Luc, Stephane and I had pieced together a vision of an Imperial Black IPA (Black Hoppy Ale, perhaps, to avoid the paradox and contradiction of Black/Pale) that would serve as our own honorable tribute to Noonan.


Sensible, really. Just a few weeks back I was contacted by Mitch Steele (brewmaster of Stone Brewing Co.) because back in the spring of 2006 he had tasted his 'first' black ipa - Darkside from The Shed Brewery. He is conducting some research into the India Pale Ale category and I had to inform him that my own inspiration for the beer had come from Kimmich at the Alchemist... whose own inspiration had come from brewing Blackwatch IPA at Vermont Pub and Brewery in the mid 90s... a recipe that John had 'resurrected' from Noonan's archives from the early days at VPB. Three breweries in Vermont had created black IPAs by the end of 2005 - evidently a Vermont original.


And so an idea for our collaboration was born from humble Vermont roots... Simcoe, Amarillo, Cascade, and Columbus. Roasted and biscuit malts. A mash tun that would be virtually overflowing... the brew day began a bit later than I am used to - mashing in around 10 in the morning (Luc had managed to secure 4 hours of sleep before arriving at the brewery in the early morning in order to transfer a beer, harvest yeast, and clean the fermenter for us) - no doubt, partially due to a late night in the pub. Peche Mortel on Cask, Aphrodisiaque on draft... Does Montreal ever sleep?


We knocked out 550+ liters of 20.2º Plato wort - hopped in the range of 100 ibus - supposedly the hoppiest beer ever created at Dieu Du Ciel! A most noble effort, methinks, in crafting a tribute to a kindred soul and innovator. Thus, I suspect that the gentlemen of DDC will release a beer titled "Pioneer" Imperial Black IPA within the next 3 weeks...

On the home front and abroad, things continue to come together. Rather, are being placed together - equipment and layout at Hill Farmstead slowly falling into place. In Denmark, Grassroots has a VAT/CVR number (why can't US approval be as easy as it is in Denmark!?) is releasing its first IPA next week - with the first pallets going to Rome (Ma Che Siete Venuti A Fa) and Copenhagen. IPA Version 1.0 is also tentatively titled Winter IPA/HumleJul (more creative names to follow, I promise...). The next beer released will be in early to mid January - and will be....surprise... a Black Hoppy Ale - tentatively titled... Broken Spoke.

Today I am off to Three Penny Tap Room. There will be a series of beer tastings around New England over the course of the next few months. I've shipped home 20+ cases of my barrel aged Limited Release Beers from Nørrebro Bryghus and will do a promotional tour... a sort of "reflections upon Copenhagen" that will also feature a few of Mikkel and Christian's beers. If the timing is right (and, sometimes it can be...), this tour will also coincide with the arrival of draft versions of Mikkel's Beer Geek Brunch and Breakfast. Thus far, only two dates have been confirmed:

January 7th: Three Penny Taproom, Montpelier, VT (was held on January 10th)
February 14th: La Laiterie/Farmstead, Providence, RI (postponed until April)
(Tentative): January 17th: Blind Tiger, NYC (not going to happen!)

A location for a Boston (Deep Ellum?) or Philadelphia (Tria? Monks?) event are still up in the air. Since I have such a limited amount of beer (in 375ml bottles), attendance has to remain cozy and intimate (under 25 people)... in true Danish fashion...
Sunday
Nov012009

Departing Denmark: Nørrebro Bryghus/Fanø Bryghus, Grassroots Brewing, and Hill Farmstead Brewery...

This is likely to be my final writing from my 20 month tenure in Denmark as Head Brewer at both Nørrebro Bryghus and the relaunched Fanø Bryghus. One full week from this expatiation I'll be moving onward (both forward and backward, in a sense...) - returning to Hill Farmstead with an ever more worldly perspective and, perhaps, a more settled ability to continue the Hill legacy in Greensboro. This generation, however, as a brewer rather than a dairy farmer...

I'm sitting on the island of Fanø, listening to Wilco, and dry hopping my latest IPA. Fanø Bryghus is back on track - our Christmas Porter is receiving great compliments (Chocolate, Coffee, Cinnamon, and Vanilla) - and I suspect that an American Pale Ale will soon be added to the year round catalog. Ryan Witter-Merithew (formerly of Duck-Rabbit Brewery in North Carolina) seems to have settled into life on the island. His 'Chug" (Chihuahua/Pug mix) "Hamburglar" has been making rounds on the Copenhagen beer scene - and has gained a reputation as a magnetic force to the opposite gender... thus, earning him the nickname "P. Mag." Multiple visits to the island by Mike Murphy and Michael Jordan over the last month have brought much needed respite from a hectic work schedule and we all attended the Esbjerg beer festival together last weekend.



The fermenters at Nørrebro Bryghus are full of beer in the wake of my departure. Søren Parker Wagner (famed bartender of Lord Nelson and Orsted and creator of Croocked Moon brewing in Denmark) is going to be working part time at Nørrebro in order to keep the gears running smoothly and Rasmus Broge will effectively become the senior brewer at Ryesgade (while maintaining his position at Hedehusene's production brewery...)

So... what have I left behind at Nørrebro Bryghus? Many beers which, sadly, I'll never have the pleasure to consume! But, hopefully will be savored by the discriminating palates of the Copenhagen beer scene.
Over the last months, I've brewed a beautiful american pale ale called "Hop Something." 10 kilos of Palisade and Glacier went into the whirlpool of a 1,000L (that's 264 gallons for the metrically challenged) batch. I have teamed up with the pinnacle of the coffee craft to create two new beers - The Coffee Collective - located on Jægersborggade in Copenhagen: http://www.coffeecollective.dk/). Kasper from CC and I put together a wonderfully subtle beer - 4.8% and full bodied- called Kenya Coffee Stout. The next beer in the coffee series will be a new version of La Granja Stout - brewed with an abundant addition the Coffee Collective's Guatemalan coffee.

We were joined by Eric Wallace of Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado on October 17th. Eric shipped over 25kg of hackberry smoked malt (smoked at their brewery!) for our version of a Smoked Baltic Porter. The beer finished out at 7.2% abv, 35 ibus, and has a beautifully smooth and subtle smoke character the compliments the rounded malt character of the beer. This beer should debut sometime around Christmas and is tentatively named Eric's Smoked Baltic Porter. 200 liters of this limited batch will be aged in an Islay whiskey barrel throughout the winter months and hopefully through next summer... Hopefully someone can carry a sample to the states for Eric and I to taste?

Next week I'll be brewing an Oatmeal Brown Ale for the draft calendar at Nørrebro as well the new La Granja and a (now not so much of a) surprise "farewell" beer that shall rest nicely in the tanks for a month or two until a gap opens up in the draft list at the pub.

There are also at least 2 new IPAs ahead for Nørrebro. I brewed "Hoppier Something" (though the name is likely to change before it hits the draft lines) - a bigger, hoppier brother to Hop Something - mostly dominated by Simcoe hops.

And, lastly - next Saturday, November 7th, at 4pm, we'll debut a new Double IPA at Nørrebro Bryghus named Hill Spawn Double IPA. This is my reincarnation of a beer that I brewed at The Shed (in Stowe, VT and the brewery that first gave me creative freedom!) named Hell Spawn. I brewed Hell Spawn back in June of 2006 specifically for the Hop Head Throwdown at the Publick House in Brookline, Massachusetts. My attempt was 220 theoretical ibus and the beer finished out around 10.5% abv. Analyzed, Hell Spawn was 87 ibus. Hill Spawn is a bit more over the top. I wanted 300 theoretical ibus in hopes of breaking the 90+ *real* ibu level - the beer is finished nicely at 10.8% abv and required more than 20kgs of hops for a 900L batch. After dry hopping and kettle loss, I am hoping to keg 500 liters of beer.

On Sunday, November 8th, my last full day in Denmark as a 'temporary resident', I'll go to the Royal Danish Theater, sit in the 4th row, and watch/listen to Wilco play a fantastic set of music. Which will carry me home...

But not without leaving something behind.

For nearly a decade now I have been dreaming of starting my Grassroots Brewery - my original plan was to find a brewing space somewhere in Northern Vermont and conduct brewing operations long enough under the title of Grassroots in order to raise funds to move all operations to Hill Farmstead. At that time, I would have two brands or lines of beer - Grassroots and Hill Farmstead (this was several years before Tomme Arthur launched the Port Brewing/Lost Abbey brands under the same roof). I registered the tradenames, LLC, and bought the domain names for Grassroots Brewery nearly 5 years ago. Now, as I transition into my last days in Denmark - I have finally found a means of starting Grassroots Brewery here on Danish soil.

Last weekend, here in Fanø, I brewed my first American Pale Ale under the Grassroots name - I am contract brewing the beer (for now, myself, and after I leave, Ryan will take the reins) here at Fanø. The focus is American style IPAs, Pale Ales, and hop-forward beers. For now - draft only - and the first batch will be divided between Copenhagen, Sweden, and Italy. The first batch has been effectively pre-sold and tomorrow I'm brewing another 1,000L of this winter pale ale - here in DK - HumleJul (hoppy christmas). Each season will see a different variation on the IPA - whether more flavor forward or bitterness oriented - all beers will be round and elegant - with soft bitterness and flavor forward hop profiles. Look for them on draft in Copenhagen (at the usual beer bars) in about 3 weeks. Beer #1 is a Simcoe forward IPA - 5.5% abv and 120 theoretical ibus and predominantly late hopped. The bitterness is relatively unexpressive and the hop character builds on the aftertaste into a resiny and pleasant linger. It's quite dry and highly drinkable. Think 3 Floyd's Alpha King meets Hop Something meets Bell's Hop Slam...


Grassroots Brewery in Denmark means permanent ties for me in this country - and it will keep me coming back. Anders (Kissmeyer) and I have been steadily entertaining the notion of a yearly guest brew at Nørrebro - laying beers down in oak - and possibly coinciding my visit with the arrival of another American brewer for a three fold collaboration. Alesmith/Hill Farmstead (Grassroots)/Nørrebro, for example? (Damn, this IPA, that I am dry hopping, is almost too pleasant to sip...)
Grassroots is a subsidiary of Hill Farmstead in Vermont - a purposeful connection -in light that my friends and investors can never question my intention and focus...
Look for a sessionable stout in mid-winter and possibly some bottles of the IPA once the bottling line here in Fanø is up and running.

And Hill Farmstead? Almost immediately upon my return, my first weekend home, I am off to Montreal to brew with the crew at Dieu Du Ciel!... The style is still undecided but I can imagine it to be relatively hoppy and abundantly late hopped. As our great friend, and one of the most influential figures on my brewing career and understand of beer - Greg Noonan - passed away several weeks ago - I suspect that Stephane and JF and myself will want to pay some sort of tribute to the man that inspired all of us to brew better beer. In fact, it's pretty easy to follow the lineage of my brewing education and inspiration: Noonan --> John Kimmich (owner/brewer of The Alchemist, worked for Greg as a brewer for many years...) --> Me.

I'm leaving too many friends behind in Denmark. Every day I am divided - leave/stay... leave/stay... but I must continue to follow my passion and share my experience with the world. Annual returns to DK are certainly in the cards - and the future of Hill Farmstead remains to be written. I've assembled a pretty amazing support team to help me launch - between my investors (who may or may not want to be named... yet), my graphic designer, my distributors, my brewing colleagues, friends, family, ... We'll see how it progresses. Worst Case Scenario: I return to Denmark as a brewer and finally attempt to learn the language. Things could be worse, right?

There remains an uphill battle back in Vermont. But I have found my investors, the money, the equipment, and maintain the spirit. Hill Farmstead now... a brewpub in a few years... maybe a longer term return to Denmark...as long as the energy and the consciousness of those involved in this project (that has ever become greater than my microcosmic 'I' ) continues to grow and sustain, then I suspect that we can expect further projects to evolve...
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? 


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...