Friday, April 16, 2010
Good evening folks. I'm finally resting here, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout before me, wood fire burning alongside, and trying to manage the multitude of information before me. Stacks of bills and catalogs, books and notes (I'm making 'to-do' lists out of 'to-do' lists...), and hundreds of photos, designs, videos, and choices to make. As the inaugural brew at any brewery should be a day of mild stress and relative excitement, I thought it best to attempt and share some of the moments, video, and photos from the first four beers and the last few weeks.
Piecing it all together, it grows ever more clear that Hill Farmstead Brewery is genuinely held together by the friendships and relationships, love and optimism, of every individual that comes into contact with the project. For example, without Mike, Darren, and Jim, this project never could have happened.
Also, without Mikkel, Jeppe, Brodrick, Jens, Anders/Marie, Kim, Peter, Alex and so many other believers - we never would have found our footing to build this foundation. Of the four brew days that we've had thus far, none has been in solitude - Darren (my brother) and Ben (a best friend from my high school days) have been present to assist every day - while my parents drop by to say hello. My neighbor Jim (who plumbed my entire cooling and water system) hasn't missed a chance to observe the process - but, we've also been greeted by many guests and gifts. For example, a box of beer happened to have arrived from Utah on the very morning of my first brew day... planned, as it were, perfectly, by the sender. Mike Ingrassia, who will help sell our beers in the Phiadelphia area, visited last weekend and helped us smoke malt and relax for a few moments; Anders Kissmeyer (my great friend and former boss in Denmark) has been here for the last 5 days; Paul Sayler (American Flatbread Burlington Hearth) came out to help us brew the Smoked Baltic Porter yesterday; Dan Suarez, who happens to be a brewer at Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, visited us for several days during the planning of our first brew.
(That's Anders smoking the malt for the Porter... )
Here is a poor quality video of Dan Suarez and me during our very late preparations, the night before the first brew:
And here is a poor quality video of the first brew day:
And the visits, and friendships and support, haven't stopped. Mitch Steele is coming through, while researching for he and Steve Wagner's "IPA book" and we're discussing an unofficial Black IPA collaboration. In Denmark, Ryan is hammering out the details of a Cigar City collaboration while we also finalize the details of a special Grassroots/Mikkeller collab for the Italian beer market. Our Grassroots Citra IPA and Double IPA will hit Copenhagen and Italy within the coming weeks. I'm also working on the details of the sour barrel project with Chad Yakobson (http://brettanomyces.wordpress.com/) and should begin brewing the first of that release series by next weekend. Glass companies (Thanks to Lorri of Saxco and Richard from United) are pooling incredible efforts. Søren Varming (Punktum Designs in Copenhagen: http://www.punktumdesign.dk/) has finished up the label and logo design - which we will unveil in the coming days - and Alex has manipulated it all into keg collars, t-shirts, and glassware designs. HoldFast Designs (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardwick-VT/Hold-Fast-Designs/122147006763) should have our shirts available within the coming weeks. Sigh. Endless, isn't it?
The Bird's Eye Maple Smoked Baltic Porter (smoked with our very own maple - courtesy of Darren) is fermenting away - happy lager yeast loving the sugary wort. Anders has just left me, returning to Boston, probably wreaking of maple smoke, where he will find a flight home to DK on Sunday. No doubt he is still flying high from our gold and silver medal wins in the World Beer Cup.
Amazing, really. To have crafted the best American style Imperial Stout and American Style Barleywine (both aged in Niepoort barrels )- in the same competition? When was the last time that this happened at a beer competition? When I realized the project that would come to be known as SEVEN - the goal was to pool together the best 'dark beer' brewers in DK and craft the perfect Russian Imperial Stout. Imagine that... and a Silver medal for the Viking Oud Bruin in the American Sour Ale category? Again, this is all so elating and unreal - that the barrel aged series of beers that I crafted while in Denmark would take 3 medals in the largest beer competition in the world. Kissmeyer and I raised our glasses several times in disbelief... Wow. Street credit, I reckon... and not such bad timing, either - just one week before releasing the first beer from Hill Farmstead.
The first batch of IPA will hit the streets of Vermont on April 20th (yes, 4/20!) - I highly encourage you to seek it out at better beer establishments. I'm very happy with the first batch produced from this brewhouse - soft, elegant, rounded - the result of our well's water and a great hop profile and yeast strain. It's 5.5% abv and hovering in the 85 ibu range. Draft only for now - Edward India Pale Ale (in honor of my grandfather) is our flagship and likely to be our only true year round beer. The Imperial India Pale Ale will be released and will likely debut, in triple dry hopped fashion (twice in the fermenter, once in the cask) at the Three Penny Taproom's Montbeerlier, first anniversary event (http://www.threepennytaproom.com/blog/?p=223). 8% abv, 170 theoretical ibus - Abner Imperial India Pale Ale (in honor of my great grandfather) will only be produced, in very limited quantities, several times a year. Frankly, the massive amounts of hops used to produce this beer (in the range of 70 pounds worth of hops for a 220 gallon batch of beer) prove difficult during clean up. I can only imagine what the brewhouse will look like after crafting Ephraim Imperial India Pale Ale (a triple ipa brewed in honor of my great great grandfather)... Anyway, check out Abner around the first week of May or come and fill up a growler at our brewery. The retail shop opens on May 1st and, karma-willing, we'll have growlers to fill with both Edward and Abner... along with glassware and t-shirts.
That's all for now folks. I'll leave you with a little information about our forthcoming summer events:
May 22: Brattleboro Brewer's Festival (http://www.brattleborobrewfest.com/)
May 29: Our grand opening. Please email me for details. Camping is available but please email ahead - it would be great to have a general idea of how many people will be attending/staying throughout the evening/morning. This is shaping up to be several times larger than the Backwoods Brewdown... Deep Breath. Hope we have enough beer, t-shirts, and glassware for the event. Shaun(at)HillFarmstead.Com or call 802 533 7450.
June 4/5: Philly Beer Week. Jeff Norman has invited us back to Kennett Square (after 2 epic years of participating in the Kennett Square Beer Festival and debuting beers like Annika and Hell Spawn...) and we'll be hosting a special event on Friday Night at the Kennett Flash (http://www.historickennettsquare.com/beers-on-broad.html). At my request, this will be catered by one of my favorite food establishments, Talula's Table. On Saturday, we'll be participating in the Festival itself - bringing along the usual family members, Edward and Abner, as well as Arthur (my grandfather's brother) Farmhouse Saison, and, all too likely, either an early preview of the Smoked Baltic Porter or our Black IPA... or maybe neither... or maybe Both... ? Hmm.
June 18/19: BeerAdvocate's American Craft Beer Festival. If the Alstrom Brothers invite us down to Boston (http://beeradvocate.com/acbf/) , we'll be pouring beers for the weekend and likely doing something special at either Deep Ellum or the Publick House.
Goodnight Folks. And thank you for supporting our vision.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Hey Folks - yet again a very late night here in northern Vermont... but just wanted to write a quick note before retiring for the eve. Tomorrow I'm off to the airport to pick up Anders Kissmeyer in Burlington - returning here to the Farmstead to plot out and brew our Maple Smoked Baltic Porter... However, having just received a dozen or more text messages (and a phone call from Anders) from Chicago - I had to take a few seconds to update all 37 of you followers that 3 of my Nørrebro Bryghus beers have taken medals at the World Beer Cup. Both our SEVEN Russian Imperial Stout aged in a Port Barrel as well as our Port Barrel Barleywine have taken GOLD medals at the World Beer Cup! Our Viking Oud Bruin took Silver in the American Style Sour category! It's amazing to win the American style Imperial Stout category... with a beer brewed in Denmark with 6 other Danes =) In fact, all of our categories were in "American" style beers, brewed or barreled in Denmark by an American =)
3 batches of beers in the fermenters. Cheers my friends - here is to a successful future!
Monday, March 29, 2010
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, February 25, 2010
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.
Friday, February 19, 2010
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, January 30, 2010
"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...
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, November 23, 2009
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...