Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Hill Farmstead Brewery is the culmination of many years of travel and insight—of experience and education—of friendships and explorations. 

The brewery is the revival and continuation of 220 years of Hill heritage and hand crafted history in North Greensboro, Vermont. 

Its logo is retrieved from a sign that once hung in Aaron Hill's (our great(x3) grandfather) tavern, just up the hill, in the early 1800s.

Below you will find a collection of early posts and writing spanning the period before the opening of the brewery through the early years—a living document of our brewery's inception and shaping.


October: The Usurper

“The new spirit, as it becomes more conscious, is increasingly capable of transforming the moments of contemplation into one moment, into a permanent vision.”
-Piet Mondrian

The feeling of winter is beginning to scratch at the surface of my skin, looking for entrance between the over-abundance of hair follicles, and hoping to take up residence amidst the whirlwind of travel and busy-ness that is becoming of my life. Even the frigid fingers of winter are in need of a warm residence and an occupation – time away from itself and the boredom that might ensue. Fortunately for mother nature and those windy, leaf blowing tentacles, my October is the perfect vehicle for inane antics and time away from itself.

Friday the 17th of October is Russian Imperial Stout Project Day. I have invited some of my very good brewer friends here in Denmark to each submit their ideal recipe for this particular beer style. I, in turn, will then synthesize the 7 recipes into one behemothrecipe which we will all brew together on Friday. The participants are myself, Michael Murphy [from Gourmet], Mikkel Bjergsø [Mikkeller], Christian Skovdal Andersen [Ølfabrikken], Rune Lindgreen [Djaevlebryg], Jacob Storm [Amager] and Peter Sonne [Halsnaes/Nørrebro]. Although I have not yet formulated the final recipe, it appears that it will be somewhere around a 12%abv Russian Imperial Oatmeal Espresso Stout – aged in both Port and Bordeaux Barrels and combining somewhere around 15 different ingredients. More to come on this…

Sunday the 19th of October is a fundraising event called Beer Drinkers for Obama and is going to be held at the Black Swan here in Copenhagen. Thus far both Murphy and I have donated beers for the cause – Mike his APA and I a blend of an APA and a bit of oak aged barleywine.. Details here.

The following week, we’ll be releasing one of my favorite creations here thus far - Mikkel’s Monster Barleywine at Nørrebro Bryghus on Tuesday, October 21st. A beast of a beer that was a collaboration between myself and Mikkel from Mikkeller – 14+% abv, a blend that was aged in Bordeaux and Port barrels. We'll have three versions on draft: Columbus Dry Hopped Version, Port Barrel Version, and the blend. 

Wednesday, the 22nd, I fly to Turin, Italy for five days to attend the Salone Del Gusto where I will be pouring beer for the American Craft Beer booth.

Lastly, and sadly (for me), my best friend here in Denmark, Michael Murphy, will be leaving the last weekend of October to move back to Italy where he has taken a job with Birra del Borgo. It seems fitting that a going away party will ensue – as will at least one visit to Rome prior to my own departure from Denmark.

And the quote atop this entry? I found it most fitting to my current state of mind – as I’ve been reading a great deal of Ken Wilber of late and recognizing the zeitgeist-consciousness at play in the world around. On a personal level, perhaps equally integral in its own right, this spirit o’ mine is becoming more conscious and, I hope, is finally beginning to transform all of these years of contemplation and foolishness into a unified and permanent vision: Hill Farmstead. As the battle ensues with permitting and my own personal struggle to leave Europe… Thus, each entry that follows is, in part, a member of my/your/our One Moment and a vision that may continue to evolve as does our consciousness…and Hill Farmstead lurks beyond the horizon.


Smashing Pumpkins…

Pumpkin Ale. The utterance of these three syllables is banned in most circles of beerdom. Or provokes puzzled, bewildered looks among Danes. The expression is prone to responses of moaning rejection – like suggestions of doing homework, taking out the garbage, or, worse, running for the sake of ‘exercise.’ The cause of this aversion…(which is how I feel about licorice!) this seemingly involuntary reaction and triggering of one’s gag reflex? Allspice. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. In Heavy Handed and non-rational quantities. Not so distantly removed from thoughts resembling ‘Christmas in a bottle.’ One must wonder how many brewers drink their own spiced ales? Admittedly, I am not a fan of this style – thus, when confronted with the challenge of creating a pumpkin beer for the birthday of a beer enthusiast (the first commercial pumpkin beer ever produced on Danish soil, I believe), I immediately contacted the one person that I know loves pumpkin season: Will Meyers. I think Will must brew 25 or so batches of The Great Pumpkin at Cambridge Brewing Company each Autumn. He probably even begins dreading the following year’s ‘Pumpkin Season’ before the current one has begun. “Do you have any advice for me on brewing a Pumpkin beer?” Will’s customary sense of humor could produce only one response: “Don’t.” Eventually, I was able to procure a few suggestions that would help me in my endeavor. My goal: A complex Belgian style pumpkin ale with little to no spicing.

Peter (Sonne), Rune (Restaurant Manager), and I spent 5 hours skinning, quartering, seeding, and julienning 70 or so kilograms of sugar pumpkins. The strategy would be to create a separate “pumpkin mash” and then add the pumpkins and the water into the lauter tun before sparging. Knowing the brewhouse all too well at this point, I was concerned with a stuck run-off and a 12 hour brewday. So, in order to ward off any evil spirits (the brewery surely seems haunted from time to time), Rune had carved a pumpkin and, on brewday, before setting foot on the platform, I lit the jack o’lantern and propositioned it to adorn the brewhouse for the duration of the brewday...

Well, the pumpkin spirit either sojourned with all of the existing tricksters, leading them astray for the day, or ravaged them into noncompliance with its haunting glow! We added 50kgs of julienned pumpkins (with a gravity reading of 5 Plato – that’s just 50 grams of sugar per liter of solution - hardly worth all of the work!) to the lauter/mash and began running off into the kettle.

Magically! It was one of the best run-offs I’ve had at Nørrebro Bryghus. A fair dosage of brown sugar. 12 IBUS of Northern Brewer. And 30 grams of Allspice. 19.4 Plato. Now, my 8.5% Pumpkin Ale is finishing up fermentation and awaiting my next dilemma: whether or not to add more spices?

This beer should go on draft during the week leading up to Halloween. It would also be perfect to place 250L into one of my barrels along with some Brettanomyces - but, I’m short on barrels. Next year, if all goes well, I’ll be brewing this with my own farm raised sugar pumpkins and some homemade maple syrup (wonder who will help me chop up all o’ those pumpkins?) And some of it will go into a barrel. I promise. Pumpkin in a barrel. Sounds wonderful. Or strange.

November – I’m late.

Our uninterrupted spinning around the celestial star has led us to the inevitable onset of November... well, it's almost December now but I've been meaning to attend to an update since November 2nd. One hour less of Daylight and I am now returning home from work amidst the cool wet wind and darkness of a Danish winter. The arrival of this eleventh month also ushers forth two unmistakable symbols of cultural triumph and/or decadence:
1. Election Day in the US – Obama wins and brings an intimation of hope to a certain segment of the global population.
2. Julebryg (Christmas Beers) in Denmark
3. The return of Murphy to Italy (and soon, another week, back to Denmark)
And, perhaps equally unforgettable, my first Thanksgiving not spent at home in Vermont with family and friends.
I’ll spare you three lone feed subscribers the emotional ramble about Thanksgiving, or the departure of my only fellow American Brewer friend (but it's ok, I saw him last night, and he's moving back in a week...), or of how much I despise spiced Christmas Ales…

Since last entry, I have released several new beers at Nørrebro Bryghus. Our Smashing Pumpkin Tripel, 8.4% abv and gently spiced with Allspice, is now being poured at the pub. I’m really glad that I went with my gut instinct on this and added just 30 grams of spice opposed to the 120 grams suggested by Will! Whew… this should be gone by the middle of this week.

Also pouring is a new batch of Golden Spike IPA (Ander’s name choice, not mine). I declare this as the best batch yet of the mighty Spike – 85 ibus, 5.7% abv, and wonderfully drinkable. I have also just brewed a new batch of American Pale Ale with Warrior, Chinook, Simcoe, and Cascade hops – this should replace the IPA in about two weeks. 6.4 % abv and 50 Ibus.

Still aging in a barrel with three strains of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus is a Belgian Brune… which reminds me to inform everyone (yes, ALL of YOU few!) that I have secured a location for a new barrel aging operation just across the driveway from the Bryghus. According to my measurements, it should be able to hold approximately 25 x 250 L Wine/Spirit barrels. Oh sweet heavens… still attempting to source a relatively large number of inexpensive spent wine barrels. The sooner I retrieve, the sooner I begin the project. Also, having just brewed a Belgian Dubbel (with Raisins and Figs!), wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 250L aging away in a French Wine Barrel with some Lactobacillus? These barrel aged gems will be the source of much creative effort and experimentation for me - as will they also be released to the public in small quantities, bottle conditioned, and hand labeled. Some limited edition draft, as well, and one can also predict that there will be some blending of multiple barrels...


The guest brewer day with members of the Russian Imperial Stout Project was, not surprisingly, enjoyable and inspiring. Despite two stuck mashes and 3-4 hour run-offs, we managed to hit our target gravity. After the brewday, all of us brewers and special guests sampled great versions of the Imperial Stout style – Dark Lord, Speedway, as well as an early bottling of the Amager MurpHill Bourbon Barrel Imperial Rye Porter. Lovely.

After a lovely fermentation, from 28.7 Plato to 8 Plato in just 4 days, the beer has rested for four weeks and has now spent one week in its Port and Bordeaux homes. The consensus, between Murphy, myself, and several other tasters, is that the stainless version has a certain ‘edge’ to it that is more 'characteristic' of the style than the early oaked counterparts (think Yeti vs. Oaked Yeti). Thus, this beer may forego its prolonged stay in the barrels and be packaged sooner than I had imagined. Possibly even be able to serve one 30L as a “sneak preview” on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. More to come… Does anyone have a 10 or 15L keg they would be willing to loan for a week or two?

More to come soon. I promise.

SEVEN Russian Imperial Stout Release

On Thursday, January 8, at Nørrebro we'll be releasing an early tasting (3 months) of the Russian Imperial Stout project.  Just a few days before I departed for a two week holiday in Vermont, Murphy, Mikkel, Jens Ungstrup, and myself sat down for beers at Ølbaren and, unintentionally, began brainstorming names.  Eventually I threw out the name "Seven Sins" and Jens countered with simplicity: Seven.  The name stuck. For obvious reasons - seven brewers, seven recipes... and all seven of these project participants are expected to attend on Thursday.  This current release is of the stainless steel version (my personal favorite). The picture shown here is me topping off the Bordeaux barrel. The oak aged version(s) will either be blended or released individually - hand bottled, bottle conditioned, with some limited draft (most likely at the debut at the brewpub).

In other news, the 2008 brewing of the Stevns CCC (originally a guest brew with Will Meyers of Cambridge Brewing Company, modeled after his Cerise Cassee) was nearly successful... A five hour sparge and less than expected yield and gravity. My first 48 hour sour mash.  It will be introduced to Pinot Noir and Merlot barrels in the next two weeks - where it will be blended, in each barrel, with the 2007 version and introduced, again, to Lactic bacteria and several strains of Brettanomyces.  


Onward into Spring…and Vermont?

Just returned from a 3 day adventure to Belgium with Peter and my new Alaskan brewer friend, Ben Millstein from Kodiak Island Brewing Company  (he and I brewed a 27 Plato Braggot together a few days ago...).  Look up Kodiak Island on a map and imagine what this guy must have to go through to produce beer... Managed to meet up with Urbain Coutteau at 't Brugs Beertje, sample some great lambics, and had an opportunity to taste and choose between barrels at Drie Fonteinen (hauled back a few kegs of 2 year old lambic that I will use for blending and serving later on. Possibly even a Backwoods Brewdown surprise...?)  Here is part of what I brought back with me:

In the fermenters right now, we have some particularly wonderful upcoming beers.  Two different versions of a Belgian Trippel (one brewed with Orval yeast, a la La Rulles, the other brewed with Rochefort yeast and Honey) - the La Rulles inspired Trippel is destined for Tokay barrels and a marriage with Brettanomyces.  We also, as I mentioned before, just brewed a 27 Plato Braggot - 200kg of Maris Otter/200kg of Orange Blossom Honey (Orval yeast and to be finished with Champagne yeast).  The intention is to barrel age a fraction of this collaboration as well.  Yesterday I brewed my Brettanomyces Saison - not that any of the followers of this blog will remember (nor have they ever attended...?) Belgium Comes to Cooperstown but this last batch of Saison is loosely based on my Substance D (from The Shed) as well as the Saison that I brought to BCTC in 2007.  And so forth... it is all too likely that I will blend a fraction of this Saison (aptly titled Saison Vermont, I think) with 3-8% of the 2 year old Drie Fonteinen that I just carried back with me over the weekend (think of the Saison from Yvan at De La Senne - which I tried at Poechenellekelder on Friday evening) and have it available at the pub and the Copenhagen Beer Festival in May...  also very likely that I will debut the Oud Bruin and the Barrel Aged versions of the SEVEN at the same festival and the pub (on the same weekend).

What else? Well, perhaps eve more importantly than all of this rambling, is the fact that I have finally come to terms with a feeling that I had upon returning to Copenhagen from Vermont at the end of December.  The feeling of which I refer is best expressed as a notion that "this is what it feels like before the storm..." or "this is what it feels like when you make the wrong decision to return to a location." I somehow knew that I would not be able to make the move back homeward to the country, to the bucolic woodland and serenity of lonely Northern Vermont and Greensboro until I had tired of population density - had my fill of asphalt, cars, foreign language, consumerism, absence of trees, the subtle tones of alienation, and the constant cough/congestion/and 'sickness' that has become so very characteristic of my stay here (indeed, the very opposite of my life in Vermont where health is normative).  

What does this all mean?  Well - I guess it means that, yet again, I am sincerely considering *the* departure. A real going away party. Listening and honoring those misanthropic tendencies within me that are discouraged here... and... working for myself.  Returning to the life of impoverished artist. Struggling cynic.  And, I dearly hope, the rebuilding of a once abundant farmstead alongside the motivation and vision of my brother.  Anyone have a 7 barrel direct fired kettle that they would be willing to part with?  Foolishly, I am ignoring the wisdom of my good friend John Kimmich (The Alchemist) and postponing any thought on opening a brewpub. Instead, I will launch head first into a barely profitable, ridiculously consuming life as a single employee owner/brewer/distributor.  Why not? 

Thus, onward with permitting and the remnants of work that needs to be completed. I'll be living off of pasta and 50 bottles of Drie Fonteinen (what is that? 2 a week?) for the next four months.  Feel free to send contributions in the form of solid foods, beer/libation, or surplus brewing equipment.  No licorice, please. 

OH! And I almost forgot - Tomme Arthur will be joining me here at Nørrebro for a guest brew the first week of March.  Not quite sure yet what we'll be brewing... but I'm pretty sure that it won't be too bad.  Only trouble with all of these barrel aged beers is that if I leave, I won't get to taste them... and... who is going to look after them?