Day with THE masters

4th April 

An overnight low of minus 6C, had us ready for The Old Stagecoach Inn’s breakfast.

The days first encounter with a master.  Omelettes and hot sauce, coffee and a juice that looks and tastes like an Aussie version of a NEIPA.

Following up on the invitation of The Alchemist’s Toby, we headed to the supposedly unvisitable Alchemist Cannery. 

They take their hops seriously at The Alchemist.

They take their hops seriously at The Alchemist.

Coffee anyone?

Coffee anyone?

After being greeted by The Alchemist brewers with open arms, Kenny toured us through the original production brewery, which is predominately tasked with supplying almost 9,000 barrels of Heady Topper all within a 30-mile radius. Watching with fascination as a limited release Witbier was bottled on a counter pressure hand filler. A seven person job for most of the day.

Ron Kimmich, ops manager (and brother of founder John) spent time talking all things beer business and then super kindly opened the merch cupboard. 

The one-hour drive to Hill Farmstead was broken by an inspired idea of coffee. Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co certainly fitted the bill. Maple latte? Local Vermont Maple and freshly roasted coffee. Delicious!

The beer lovers Mecca, Hill Farmstead, consistently rated as the best brewery in the world. 

Snow, icy and mud roads make it a challenge at this time of the year, a challenge we were up for. The brewery situated on Shaun’s family land, is a beautifully presented purpose built venue. Snow on the ground, surrounded by hills and mountains.

A 25 hL Braukon, 4 vessel brewhouse was proudly on show. Arriving before opening, (with the faithful already lining up). We were privileged to be escorted in to the brewhouse while we waited for Shaun Hill.

Spending personal time with Shaun was an incredible experience. One of the most knowledgeable, yet humble person’s we have encountered. Sharing some of his beers with him was certainly a rare privilege. A tour of the barrel room, discussions of hop selections, Czech pub brewhouses, his observations and knowledge were freely offered.

Inspirational conversation with the man himself.

Inspirational conversation with the man himself.

Barrel aged, Krausened pilsners were an amazing treat, followed by NZ hopped IPA’s, nitrogenated stouts and Barrel aged Imperials.

Ali on the bar, was a gracious, friendly and exceedingly knowledgeable host in the tasting room, and the knowledge was again on show with Phil in the bottle store.

If you are ever in Vermont, this is a must on any beer drinkers tour.

Leaving Hill Farmstead, knowing we had had such a rare experience was a completely humbling moment. 

The incredible energy and drive of Shaun and his team to search out depths of flavour is proudly evident. Not beholden to trends but making the beer they want to drink and be proud of.

Lawson’s Finest Liquids known predominately for “Lil Sip of Sunshine”, was next.

Shawn Lawson recently opened his tasting room and viewing area of his brewery.  We enjoyed a few beers, a tour, and chat with Shawn. 

Mik having a quick one.

Mik having a quick one.

Shawn sharing his time with us.

Shawn sharing his time with us.

The purpose-built tasting room has the feel of an alpine lodge. “Maple Nipple”, an interesting name for a rich Amber Ale, showcasing Vermont’s second-best product.

Dinner, following Ali from Hill Farmsteads suggestion, we headed a couple of blocks to the famous? Infamous? Mad Taco.

Greeted by the seemingly unflappable John, this dive bar provided an incredible array of tacos, sandwiches and smoked meats. 

Offered a beer with our meal choice, we were pointed to the blackboard list.

Four Hill Farmstead’s, a Lawson’s, Allagash & Saison Du Pont’s collab Saison amongst another half dozen choices, this should have been an early warning for what was in store for the rest of the night.

Meeting Pit master, waiter, chef, busboy Talmage was an experience for Mik. Taken to the smoker, then back of house, they shared ideas on how to use pineapple, whole hog, Frye Island Salmon and the custom-built smoker.

The food was delicious, then along came Joey. Joey, restauranteer, caterer, farmer, avid gun fan, and an incredible host.

We moved to the bar, where we shown off to the locals like prize cattle and primed with more beer.

The challenge of a shot of house made Ghost and Reaper Chilli Tequila was laid down. Bravely, Hamish and Mik succumbed to peer pressure and had a go.

Brave in the beginning.

Then it hits you!

The heat should only last for a few days, the tears and running nose stopped after an hour or so, and feeling is gradually returning to the lips. Both of them are particularly nervous of the next call of nature.

Day 4 of this trip, was certainly another great show of generosity, and a day spent with the “Masters”.

Mazen Hajjar