Every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving I get together with a group of my buddies from college for a guys night away. The trip revolves around the annual wild game supper in Bradford, VT, a church fundraiser that features a feast on wild game meat prepared in different ways. After the meal we stay in a nearby hotel and grab some drinks out. My buddy Mikey has been attending the wild game supper with his dad and brothers since he was young, he started inviting a group of college buddies when we were in school and we have kept the tradition going for over 15 years (PS, I am old). While the main parts of the trip have stayed pretty constant over the years (same meal, same hotel, same breakfast in the morning) some small details have evolved as we move into different life stages. This year we made a significant adjustment, working a trip up to Hill Farmstead into the itinerary. Mikey has become a big beer geek over the last few years (I take some responsibility for this), and managed to steer the group in that direction. The brewery isn’t exactly on the way, but it’s much closer than Boston, so it is a good excuse to make the trek. This was actually my first visit to Hill Farmstead, it had been towards the top of my must-visit list for a long time. I think everyone in the group enjoyed the stop, even some of the guys who don’t consider themselves to be “beer guys”, and I am hoping it becomes part of the annual festivities.
One interesting side note from our trip. Our group was in three cars heading up from Massachusetts, and I was riding with Mikey in his 2-wheel drive Volkswagon. As the name implies Hill Farmstead is up on a hill, and our trip was right after a substantial snow storm. The long dirt road up to the brewery was plowed but still pretty slick and Mikey’s car couldn’t make it up the hill. The other two cars made it with no issues, but they were ahead of us and we had no cell phone service, another fun part of being in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately for us a nice couple who lives on the road saw our predicament and let us park at their house and then gave us a ride up to the brewery. It was an incredibly nice gesture and totally out of nowhere. The couple mentioned thta they were friends with Shaun Hill, the owner of the brewery, and I am guessing this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There are clearly some very nice people in Vermont, and we were very appreciative of this random act of kindness. If we get snow next year I am driving in my 4-wheel drive SUV.
Hill Farmstead is as picturesque as any brewery I’ve been to, looking over the rolling hills of the Vermont countryside (and I don’t have any pictures that really do it justice). With the light snow-cover it was a perfect representation of a New England winter. The brewery itself occupies a few different buildings. The first we visited was for bottles and cans to go, where the beer geeks in my group grabbed a substantial amount of beer to take home. They had a couple IPAs and a pilsner in cans plus an impressive selection of their farmhouse ales in bottles. In addition to their own beers Hill Farmstead was featuring some guest bottles from acclaimed Belgian brewery 3 Fonteinen. The wait was short on a Saturday afternoon, there was a small line but we were in and out in about 15-20 minutes. I grabbed a whole variety of stuff, stay tuned later this week for reviews of a couple of my favorite purchases.
The taproom is separate from the bottle/can sales. I love this setup, the people enjoying a pint don’t have to contend with the lines of customers grabbing beer to go. My whole group enjoyed a few pints in the taproom. The beer menu featured a variety of hoppy beers on draft and bottle pours from a myriad of other releases. The decor is rustic, perfect for the location. There was comfortable seating and the taproom was busy without being crowded. There is also an extensive deck for outdoor enjoyment, it was a little chilly to spend much time out there, but I will definitely take advantage if I make the trek in better weather. Another nice perk to the remote location: the lack of reliable cellular service limited phone usage, outside of snapping a few pictures everyone at the brewery was relaxing, chatting and enjoying their beers without posting every thing online, a rarity these days. There are a few snack options, we sampled a cheese plate while we sipped out beers. On the way out we also grabbed a few growlers to go for later in the night.
Overall Hill Farmstead lived up to it’s reputation as a must-visit destination for craft beer enthusiasts. The location is remote but beautiful, the brewery is top-notch and the beer is delicious. I am glad that I finally made the trek up and hope it becomes part of the yearly weekend with my buddies!