Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hill Farmstead Winter Festival

We've been having quite the winter here in the Upper Valley this year. Snow, snow, snow and more snow. Needless to say, I haven't been venturing out of the area too much, but Jen and I did get away last Saturday to the Hill Farmstead Winter Festival in Greensboro VT. The Hill Farmstead is a quaint little brewery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, but the brews coming out of this place are anything but. Ranked as the 34th best brewery in the world by Rate Beer and the best new brewery of 2011, the Hill Farmstead has been making quite a name for itself. In addition to the brewery's Rate Beer accolades, the Hill Farmstead currently has 8 beers in the 'Top Buzz Beers' list on Beer Advocate, which is more than any other brewery in the world. So you can see why Jen and I thought it was worth the 1.5 hour drive north to attend the festival.

We arrived at the brewery a few minutes before the fest and gladly took a stroll around the area to take in the beautiful scenic views. The brewery is quite isolated from the rest of world and every time I come I feel like I'm walking into a fairytale, where time moves slower, nothing is rushed and the beer flows freely. It's always worth the trip.

Once the doors opened, the beers started to flow as did the conversation and live jazz music. I don't recall the name of the band, but they did some great John Coltrane covers, including Giant Steps, which is one of my faves.

However, the best part of the fest was the tap list. Hands down, this is one of the best tap lists I've ever seen in one place. Check this out:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel
Mikkeller Beer Geek Bacon
Amager Rye Porter
Nogne Ø Imperial Stout
Grassroots/Mikkeller Limoncello
Cantillon Fou' Foune
Hill Farmstead Art (Barrel Aged Arthur)
Hill Farmstead Abner
Hill Farmstead Foster Black Rye
Hill Farmstead Flora
Hill Farmstead Iced Coffee Stout (15ish%)
Lawson's Finest Double Sunshine
The Alchemist Dark and Dank
Half Acre Daisy Cutter
Ballast Point Sculpin
Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial

Jen and I made our way through quite a few of the draft beers by sharing pours and I think we both agreed that the Hill Farmstead's Iced Coffee Stout, The Alchemist's Dark and Dank and Cantillon's Fou' Foune were the highlights of the day. The Iced Coffee Stout was so smooth and silky with well roasted coffee and chocolate, plus the 15% ABV was hidden so well you would have guessed it was 5% if you didn't know otherwise.

Iced Coffee Stout

Dark and Dank was a new brew from The Alchemist which turned out to be a delicious IPA brewed with dark malts and a large addition of hops. Lots of sweet caramel notes in this one. Hopefully it makes an appearance at the pub sometime in the near future. And of course Cantillon's Fou' Foune was just as tasty on tap, if not more so, than out of the bottle. The nose was filled with the classic Cantillon barnyard funk and the taste was laced with apricot and peach sourness throughout. One other interesting note was that this version on tap had a noticeable increase in grassy bitterness compared to the bottled versions I've had. I'm guessing it's due to the freshness of this keg or potentially batch variability. Either way, it did a really nice job of bringing out some of the earthier aspects of the beer, which I appreciated.

Fou' Foune

In addition to the delicious beers there was also a nice selection of food, including generously sized cheese samples from the cellars at Jasper Hill. One of the cheese samples, Winnimere, was actually washed in Phenomenology of Spirit (one of the Hill Farmstead beers) and paired excellently with a baguette and some dried figs.

To cap off the event, I splurged on a sample of 1998 Drie Fonteinen 50th Anniversary Oude Geuze. At $25 a pour, it was the most I had ever spent on a sample of beer, but was it worth it? Yes. One of the best, if not the best, gueuze I have ever had. Imagine beautiful, floral, citrus funk mixed with hay and oak while maintaining balanced acidity and sourness throughout. Perfect. One image that kept coming to my mind was liquid flower petals. Truly a work of art. Sad that there are so few of these left.

Anyways, Jen and I had a great time at the festival and I can't wait for the next Hill Farmstead event, which should be in June. It sounds like it will be an entire weekend of special beers on tap and possibly the release of Damon, the first Russian Imperial Stout from the Hill Farmstead. Also, I checked out this barrel in the back corner of the brewery before leaving. Not sure if it will ever be released, but a smokey version of Cab barreled Phenomenology with black currants sounds pretty tasty to me.

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