So I touched on it in the New England Beer Vacation thread but I thought my trip to Hill Farmstead deserved a thread all its own. It's a little long winded but please read on...
First off, when I originally started planning our trip to ME, NH and VT I had the intention of taking an afternoon to ride the Kingdom trails near Burke, VT with maybe the possibility of visiting Hill Farmstead if time allowed. I booked a one night stay at the Wildflower Inn (great place by the way) just outside Lyndonville, VT with this in mind. As the trip grew closer and closer I realized (A) doing a ride in the middle of the day while my wife and son waited for me was going to kinda screw our schedule up (I tend to try and pack too much in) and (B) if I was this close to Hill Farmstead, I had to go. I may never make it back to this part of the country again I figured so I guess the beer geek shot down the bike geek on this one.
I don't know if it's just me but the more I learned about Shaun Hill and his brewery, the more the mystique of this place seemed to grow. Amazing beers, property has been in the family for 8 generations, middle of nowhere Vermont, the thoughtful approach, etc. I'm not sure there is another brewery quite like it in the country.
Cut to last Thursday morning...we eat some breakfast, take some pictures of the beautiful Vermont countryside, check out of the Wildflower and we are on our way. 122N to 16S. Right at Taylor. Right at Jaffin Flats. I've got it memorized at this point. Oh, there's the sign! You are on a dirt road smack dab in the middle of the Northeast Kingdom and the only thing that says you are a mile away from one of the best breweries in the country is a humble little sign with the HF logo. That's it!
We finally get there and we're a couple minutes early (they are open Noon to 5pm, Wed-Sat). To kill some time, we had muled a bottle of beer out from our friends at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales to give to Shaun, so I had my wife pen the description of the beer on a "Hello my name is" sticker to put on the back of the bottle...Ok, they're open. We walk in and Shaun and crew are in the middle of a brewday. Zesting and juicing oranges for "Daybreak" (Imperial Stout with orange destine for Grand Marnier barrels). My wife and I split two tasters and settle in. What can I say, every beer is just mind bending and every beer shows so much finesse, beauty and restraint. With so many breweries these days trying to just overwhelm and berate your taste buds, Shaun's beers are the opposite. They lure you in with plenty of aroma and flavor but then sort of gently lull you into a beer nirvana. An amazing mouthfeel on every beer. Really just some of the finest beer I've ever had. True artistry and craftsmanship. The setting just adds to the overall experience. Were he inclined, I'm sure Shaun could set up shop in any city in the country and just absolutely rake in the dough, but he doesn't. In keeping his operations on the property, he has created a new legacy for his family that will endure for years to come.
As you can see I'm still on a bit of a high so to speak. I have had many beers and visited quite a few breweries in my days, but that hour at Hill Farmstead will always stand out. Should you ever find yourself in the North East Kingdom, you must visit Hill Farmstead.
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Thread: My pilgrimage to Hill Farmstead