Category Archives: Brewery Visits

Hill Farmstead Harvest Festival VIP Session

Well the weekend I have been waiting for since July finally arrived. On Friday I headed out to Vermont with my brother-in-law for Hill Farmstead’s Harvest Festival. I was one of the fortunate few that was able to purchase VIP tickets for this event as it sold out in about 60 seconds. The ticket price was $100 per for the VIP session but what I have learned from prior events is brewers really make sure you get your monies worth and Shaun from Hill Farmstead certainly did that.

We arrived at the brewery around 12:30 on Friday to get bottles and growlers filled before the event. With 500 tickets sold for the Saturday (non-VIP) portion of the event the lines were going to be long so getting most of our beer on Friday was a great idea. I ended up with 2 full sized growlers (Edward and Society & Solitude #5) and brought home another 15 – 750 ml bottles for myself and other beer lovers in Maine. The line was only 2-3 deep when we arrived but most people (including me) were filling 10+ bottles so it did take some time. In addition to the growlers and 750s I purchased 5 bottles of beer – 4 from Hill Farmstead and one from Grassroots Brewing. All will be reviewed here in the coming weeks as they are now at the top of my list of beers to drink.

After getting our fill of bottles we headed South to the Hunger
Mountain Co-op to find some Heady Topper and whatever Lawson’s Finest Liquids we could find.  The Co-op had a two 4-pack limit for Heady and the only Lawson’s was a 40th Anniversary Ale made specifically for the Hunger Mountain Co-op so I grabbed a bottle. We also grabbed some lunch at the Co-op and if you have never been you must go as they have some amazing sandwiches, a salad bar and even do growler fills. I wish there was something similar available in Maine.

After the co-op we headed back to Hill Farmstead and arrived around 4:00 with a few hours to kill before the event  which was scheduled to start at 7:00. After a bit of rest we ended up on a picnic table with a growler of Hill Farmstead Holger Danske and a couple of people from New York / New Jersey. This was their first time visiting Hill Farmstead and they had not tried any beer from Hill Farmstead until then. We ended up finishing the growler before the event even started but it was a great way to start the night.

As 7:00 approached the crowd started to arrive and the food from Mad Taco was cooking. Everything smelled amazing and was being prepared right there with fresh onions being chopped, multiple charcoal grills cooking the meat and lots of great bread. Also the music started and the beer started to flow. There were 2 taps that initially were dedicated to Hill Farmstead beer and at least 2 that were pouring beer from other brewers including a cider from Chicago.

My beer drinking for the night included;

  • Abner without Principle (blend)
  • Ephraim, Society and Solitude (blend)
  • Civil Disobedience 4.5 (blend of this summer’s saisons)
  • Simcoe Single Hop
  • Brasserie Cantillon – Rose de Gambrinus
  • The Alchemist – Heady Topper
  • Cigar City Brewing – Dirac

The beer was amazing and there were no tickets or other limits, basically as fast as you could make it through the line you could get refills. I had very little food but what I had was excellent and the remainder smelled excellent. While the event was going I met some people that follow my blog which is always a lot of fun. Some time after 10:00 they stopped pouring but many people continued to hang out talking beer and enjoying the evening.

Eventually we made our way back to the tent feeling good and full of plenty of great beer. Our plan was to make it out before the masses arrived on Saturday so we woke early, tore down the tent, packed up the car and had some breakfast on one of the picnic tables. They were selling 750s of Ephraim on Saturday which was the one beer we could not get on Friday so we expected to hang around until the bottle filling started at 11:00 for the VIP ticket holders. Around 9:30 the door to the brewery opened and we went in to chat with some of the employees/volunteers that we met the previous evening. Eventually Ephraim made it to the tap and we got our bottles filled around 10:00 just before they kicked everyone out of the fill area.

The ride home should have been about three hours however shortly after getting on Highway 91 in Vermont we had an issue with a tire and had to stop to change over to the spare and eventually found a tire shop in St Johnsbury to get a replacement. This delayed our return home by at least 90 minutes but we still made it home mid-afternoon on Saturday with plenty of great beer in the coolers and a day of rest before heading back to work on Monday.

I believe the next Hill Farmstead event is May of 2013 so keep an eye on their website and/or Facebook page for details. Provided I can score some tickets I will certainly be out there again and would love to meet up with more followers of my blog. In the meantime if you have the opportunity to go to Vermont be sure to plan a trip to Hill Farmstead or if you are bored on a Saturday and want to take a day trip it is only 3-4 hours from most of Central / Southern Maine. It is well worth the trip but be sure to bring cash as they do not accept credit/debit cards or checks. And if you go let me know as I may want to place an order.

All the people that I met at the event; Hill Farmstead employees, volunteers, other beer drinkers, etc were great and everyone I encountered was there to have  a good time and enjoy some World class beer. I posted some more photos to my Facebook page if you are interested click here.

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Smuttynose – Strawberry Short Weiss bottle release

Another stop on my afternoon/evening in Portsmouth and Hampton, New Hampshire was the bottle release of Strawberry Short Weiss at Smuttynose Brewing. This brewery is about 10 minutes from Throwback and located in an industrial park. The building looks a little tired as you can tell from the photos but that is soon to be remedied as Smuttynose is building a brand new facility in Hampton. The new facility will include the brewery and a 95 seat restaurant/pub. From what I saw during the bottle release the brew area is very cramped. The release started at 5:00 and I arrived about 20 minutes after the start.

The line was out the door when I arrived and I waited about 20 minutes to get to the front and get my 4 bottles of Strawberry Short Weiss. Bottles were $15 per and I will be exchanging 3 with some other beer drinkers in the coming weeks. I also purchased a bottle of their Farmhouse Ale from their Big Beer Series as I missed this one when it was released in stores. The employees were pouring samples of the Short Weiss as well as the other beers they had on tap. I only had a sample of the Short Weiss  as I was on my way out for the day.

The sample I had was very good and I will do a full review when I open the bottle in the coming weeks. This was a very straight forward bottle release unlike some I have attended by Allagash and others. Their goal was to get the beer out the door and I am pretty sure they were going to sell out of the Short Weiss that evening.

Website: www.smuttynose.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Smuttynose
Twitter: @smuttynosebeer
Location:  225 Heritage Ave – Portsmouth, NH
Hours: Thursday & Friday 4 – 7 / Saturday 1 – 4
Tours: Friday 5:30 / Saturday 11:00 & 1:00 – you must register online for tours. 
Packaging: 
A bit of everything
Distribution:
 Most states east of the Mississippi

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Blue Lobster Brewing

This is going to be a new segment on my blog with photos and details on breweries I visit. Most will be in Maine but some in New Hampshire and Vermont. The first brewery in the new format happens to be a brewery opening in North Hampton, NH. I met with the brewer David and we were able to talk beer in between an almost constant stream of people stopping at the door to ask when they were opening. David spent time working with Shaun at Hill Farmstead and there will be a lot of similarities in how these breweries operate. They will be offering both 750 ml and 2 liter growlers as well as some special bottle releases at the brewery. David also said most of their beer will be hop forward and should be consumed fresh.

One big difference is location; Blue Lobster is located in a strip mall on a very busy portion of Route 1 in Hampton, New Hampshire. This is a bit different than many breweries but it should work well with their plan to sell most of their beer directly from the brewery. They have  a beautiful tasting room that will seat approximately 40 and hope to have 6 beers on tap most of the time. I was not able to sample any of their beer while at the brewery but I am sure to be back when they open. Current plan is to be open mid-September,
check back here for more info and reviews of their beer when they do open.

Website: www.bluelobsterbrew.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/BlueLobsterBrew
Twitter:
Location:  845 Lafayette Rd – Hampton, NH
Hours:
Tours:
Packaging: 
Growlers (750 ml / 2 L), limited bottle releases, kegs
Distribution:
 New Hampshire only 

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Moat Mountain Brew Smokehouse & Brewing Company (4/16/2012)

After a few hours at Ebenezer’s Pub we headed out to North Conway so the wives could do some shopping while we drank beer. On the way we stopped at The Good Beer Store in Fryeburg because you can never have enough good beer.

Moat has a nice brew pub located on the main drag in North Conway. When we arrived just before 5:00 on Monday the place had plenty of available seating and the bar staff was attentive. We started with the 6- sampler including their; Hoffman Weiss, Violet B’s Blueberry, Czech Pilsner, Iron Mike Pale Ale, Bear Peak Brown and the Square Tail Stout. Of the 6 the only one that stood out was the Bear Peak Brown. The Weiss was light, cloudy and fruity – Violet B was better than many other Blueberry ales with only a very light fruit finish, not overpowering or terribly sweet. The Czech was a traditional pilsner and I do not like pilsners and the Iron Mike was a slightly hoppy pale ale but when you compare it to Maine Beer Company MO or the recently reviewed  Edward from Hill Farmstead this does not even come close.

Bear Peak Brown was a solid brown ale which according to the bar tender sells very well at the bar. Square Tail is a decent stout but the day we visited it was nearly 90 degrees and a stout just was not going to be a good choice. After the sampler I opted for a Matilda’s Red Rage while my brother in law had the Helles Lager. I sampled both and will do a separate review of the Red Rage but the Helles Lager was very simple and only slightly darker and more complex than the Pilsner. Overall a decent beer but not something to get too excited about. Ending the evening we shared a Vintage Triple which may have been the best beer we tried from Moat. Lots of spice, fruit and well balanced. Slight alcohol taste but that is to be expected from a triple with 8.9% ABV. Overall our visit to Moat was enjoyable and while the beer may have been fairly ordinary overall it was all quality stuff and worth trying if you are in the area.

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Maine Beer Company Visit (2/10/2012)

After visiting Allagash I stopped by Maine Beer Company to check out their small brewery. Dan Kleban was there with one employee that was working very hard operating a forklift and cleaning out brew tanks. This brewery is located at One Industrial Way which is the same building Rising Tide and Bull Jager are in. Maine Beer has a small greeting area with a kegerator, a couple of items for sale; glasses, beer and a few other things. I picked up a glass to ship out to Wisconsin for a beer trade I was working on. The brewery is not very exciting from the outside but once you make your way in you find the typical polished stainless steel, hoses, drains and plenty of kegs. The most exciting part of the visit was the announcement that a fifth Maine Beer Company option will be available later this month or very early in March. The new beer is named Mo and I am sure that has an interesting story behind it just like the others. For more photos click below.

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Allagash Brewing Visit (2/10/2012)

I visited the Allagash Brewing Company facility in Portland, ME on February 10th 2012. The building is located on Industrial Way which also has a number of other breweries which makes it easy for beer lovers to visit more than one in an afternoon. In addition to the brewing facility they have a warehouse located about one mile away where they store their beer prior to distribution. It is a modern facility that was expanded last year and continues to grow as Allagash expands their reach. The brewery grew by nearly 50% last year and expects similar growth in 2012.
They recently had to pull out of a few states as they could not meet demand. It is a nice problem to have but at the same time a very tough decision to make for a craft brewery. While waiting to take the tour you get to browse their retail shop which has hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts and of course beer. I was fortunate to visit on the day Coolship resurgem was released and was able to pickup a couple of bottles. In addition they have many of their awards on display

One thing that was kind of cool to see was the use of Doles Orchard boxes to display their beer for sale. I grew up in Limington, ME so it cool to see this in a brewery that many beer drinkers from around the country come to visit.

Before the tour of the brewery starts you get samples!!. What a great way to start a tour. The day I visited they started with Allagash White which is their flagship beer and I assume this is served at every tour. After the White we had the Tripel and then the Curieux which is the Tripel ages in barrels. The barrel aging gives this a completely different color, aroma and flavor profile. It also increases the alcohol content slightly.

Tripel
Curieux
White
After the tasting is done the tour starts and you get to see  all that shiny steel.

Probably my favorite part of the tour was the barrel rooms. Hundreds and hundreds of barrels full of who knows what. This includes Coolship, Curieux and many other test brews from employees. Also there was a barrel of Pleepleus from the day the guys from Drinking Made Easy visited the brewery.

Coolship Resurgem.

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