September 1st, 2014

A day trip to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, Vermont is a beer bonding experience. What else can you do when standing in line for three hours other than get to know the locals, other travellers, their kids and their dogs, who are all waiting patiently for a taste of this historic beer.

A journey for beer is never too far. We traveled 5,000 miles to get a taste of this small batch barrel-aged beer after taking note of much creative social media chatter about it. When people post about Hill Farmstead, they become poetic. A sign that this beer is art.

To us, Shaun Hill is an artist and his beer is an expression of himself, his environment and his ancestry. The farm where the brewery is located has been in the family for over 230 years. His mother serves you samples while you wait in line, named after dear relatives like Clara and Arthur. The beer is brewed with the homestead well-water and at times includes neighbouring seasonal ingredients such as blueberries.

Hill brings a Danish flourish to his creations having brewed in Copenhagen for Norrebro Bryghus for a few years. He maintains these connections through collaborations with his Danish brewing mentors and friends. He brews flagship beers like Edward (brewed in honour of their Grandfather) a highly drinkable 5.2% unfiltered and dry-hopped American Pale Ale, and many seasonals. In 2013 his beer topped the ratebeer charts at number one. In 2015 the brewery will expand to 5500 barrels/yr from the 500 produced when it started in 2010.

At the brewery we sampled a few beers from the Ancestral Series, in addition to Edward:

Susan (Grandfather’s sister) - India Pale Ale, aromas of citrus, pine and grass, beautiful mouthfeel of juicy citrus flavour with subtle sweet biscuit, hoppy, with a nice bitter dry finish.

Abner (Great Grandfather) - Imperial Pale Ale that is double dry-hopped with loads of citrus and pine aroma and flavour, sweet malt cuts into the hops for a nicely balanced and highly drinkable double.

Everett (Grandfather’s brother) - A robust American porter, made with American barley, English and German roasted malts and American hops.

We also sampled What is Enlightenment American Pale Ale and Grassroots Brewing Legitimacy IPA, which smelled like being out hop picking and tasted even more so.

We bought some fresh growlers of Susan and Abner along with the capped bottles of Nordic Saison and Peleg:

Nordic Saison - Nordic-inspired ale brewed with Heather and Honey, a collaboration with Anders (Kissmeyer Brewing) and Will Meyer (Cambridge Brewing) from May 2014. 

Peleg (Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather 1757 - 1831) - old ale aged in oak barrels. Notes of funky, dark fruit and wet wood, tart with flavours of sweet malt, tobacco, dark fruit and wood. Brewed with Rune and Per Olaf of Bryggeriet Djaevlebryg and Anders Kissmeyer of Kissmeyer Brewing.

We picked up some more of the Grassroots Brewing series (collaborations with Anchorage Brewing) at the Craft Beer Cellar in Waterbury to bring back home. Arctic Soiree, ale fermented and aged in oak tanks with brett, lime juice and hibiscus,  Arctic Saison, ale fermented in oak tanks with brett, and Brother Soignee, brewed with hibiscus, lime and blood orange.

Hill Farmstead is special beer and a special place, and why so many people travel far for it: The 500-mile beer run to Vermont

August 30th, 2014

Colour coded beer is fun at Four Winds Brewing. Luckily we are good with our colours! On the colour bar are these lovelies: IPA, Witicism (witbier), Saison and Juxtapose (Brett IPA). This is a delicious place.

August 30th, 2014

Swoon. In love with Four Winds Brett Pale. Dry-hopped with Galaxy, and magic. (at Four Winds Brewing Co.)

August 27th, 2014

Drinking @persephonebeer citra-hopped pale ale cask and discussing The Beachcombers. (at The Alibi Room)

August 24th, 2014

It’s no secret, Vermont makes great beer. An efficient way to confirm this is to attend the Vermont Brewers Festival. The recent growth in breweries has risen from thirty to well over 55, earning its tag-line of Small State Big Beer, and a reputation as the Disneyland of Beer. 

This gem of a beer festival is held at Waterfront Park in Burlington (July 18 - 19). As we approached the site we were struck by the spectacular Lake Champlain backdrop, the lush green, spacious and well-laid out grounds, and the natural stillness … just the happy sound of people talking about and drinking beer.

There are three sessions and $30 buys you 15 tickets (3 oz tastings) with 1 ticket for tastes under 8% and 2 for anything over. With an option to purchase 5 additional tickets, we found this plenty to explore the tastes of Vermont on our first day.

We looked for the longest line up and joined it for our very first taste of Alchemist and crushed (ha!) the Crusher American DIPA at 9% and Focal Banger an APA at 7%. (No Heady yet, but we would track that down later.) We then made a beeline to Hill Farmstead where they were pouring Edward a dry-hopped APA with beautiful floral notes and tastes of citrus and pine (just the way we love it) and Grassroots Brewing Brother Soigne (a collaboration with former Dieu du Ciel brewer Luc Bim Lafontaine) with hibiscus, lime and blood orange which was super refreshing. Another memorable summery moment was Otter Creek Fresh Slice White IPA with coriander and clementine. While chatting with others we learned that Fiddlehead Second Fiddle was one we had to try and we were not disappointed with this big juicy Double IPA. Just to compare we tried a Spruce Tip IPA brewed by Vermont Pub & Brewery with Lawson’s Finest Liquids and found it to be a touch more medicinal tasting than BC’s spruce tip brews. There was no shortage of big beers here so we went all in and indulged in Rock Art’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Wee Heavy Scottish Ale (at 10% it was big and heavy) and their Belvidere Big IPA (which later would end up coming home with us). To round things out we sampled the Trapp Dunkel, Four Quarter’s Fleur de Lis session saison and Opus Ferum Patersbier with Brett Bruxellanis (cask) and many more.

We were proud to see Canada well-represented by neighbouring Quebec breweries who were in such great company. It was nice to see several cross border collaborations with Vermont Pub & Brewery such as Lemongrass Saison with Hopfenstark, Sunset Vibrations an oak-aged Scotch ale with Dieu du Ciel, and Sour Rhubarb Saison with Le Trou du Diable.  Benelux, Dieu du Ciel, Dunham, Le Trou du Diable and Hopenstark breweries were all present at the festival so if you don’t have time to visit Quebec you can sample their finest here.

We highly recommend this one - it is one of the best beer festival experiences we’ve had to date. Thanks to the brewers, the volunteers and to the Vermont Brewers Association for giving us such a welcoming taste of Vermont.

August 23rd, 2014

Souvenirs de Montréal

Our summer travels this year took us east … and on a road trip for beer. Montreal was our first leg and our base camp was an amazing apartment on the Plateau. We met up with our local beer correspondent and friend Greg who proceeded to show us all Montreal had to offer.

On a hot summer day Vices & Versa Bistro du Terroir is the perfect place to enjoy lunch with a 32-tap beer selection on a beautiful terrasse. Here we sampled some of Quebec’s finest including Dunham, Dieu du Ciel, Trou du Diable, Bilboquet, Brasseurs de Temps,, Microbrasseries du Lac, Charlevoix, Achemiste and more.

Dieu du Ciel is a much loved local brew pub where we enjoyed 17 taps plus a cask. We have tasted Dieu du Ciel’s lovely beer before but drinking from the source and trying their special offerings such as the cask collaboration with Trou du Diable Divine Comedie Wit Pils, and Disco Soleil IPA with kumquats, was all new for us.

Benelux is another favourite beer spot serving its own creations. Here we enjoyed the Belgian and American style IPAs and Pilsners hopped with Nelson Sauvin with names like S.M.A.S.H and the favourite Sabotage IPA.

Other good beer spots we hit were Station (serving their own brew Hopfenstark), Reservoir Microbrasserie Artisinale serving bières & snacks, and Le Cheval Blanc.

There is no shortage of culinary indulgences in Montreal. We indulged at Joe Beef and Au Pied de Cochon (where you can have delights such as duck in a can and pig head for 2). We hovered long enough to score a table on the lovely roof top terrasse at Foodlab at Societe des Arts Technologiques. Of course no trip to Montreal is complete without a taste of Schwartz’s smoked meat.

We rounded out our sampling with sweet purchases from two craft-beer forward local depaneurs with Brasseur Illimité, Farnham, Boquébière, Mons and more. 

We love Montreal! From its beer to its Bixis, from its culture to its cuisine, it is a great city to bookend a visit to Vermont …. stay tuned.

August 21st, 2014

Aplausos! Enjoying a cervesa Agua Mala Marea Roja Amber Ale - a beer gift from Mexico. This ale has an incredibly rich burgundy colour, a pronounced malt character and is very bitter. It almost tastes of the red wine barrels of the Baja California coastal region where the microbrewery is situated. Thanks Carolyn!

August 17th, 2014

There’s nothing better than a Sunday evening sip on the deck. Today’s selection is local brewery Storm’s Plum Loco Sour. Seductive colour, soft touch of tart and some sweetness on the tongue and a lovely, lingering bitter finish. The perfect plum summer beer.

August 16th, 2014

Mikkeller Open Windows Open Hills Tiger Baby with mango and passion fruit. Pretty damn delicious.

August 15th, 2014

Furious Friar Belgian IPA. @DeadFrogBrewery knows what we need on a Friday. (at St. Augustine’s)

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We are two good friends who love beer and will travel far to find it. We make notes of the beer we discover and share our musings with others because we believe beer is a tradition that is best shared, and because otherwise we wouldn't remember them.