Tag Archives: The Alchemist

Bottle Releases & Craft Beer Pricing

There is no question I buy a lot of beer and attend a lot of bottle releases. Just take a look at the list of beer currently waiting to be consumed (link here) and you will get an idea of the depth of my beer buying problem.

AnnThis morning I awoke and checked in with Facebook and Twitter as I do most mornings. There were several posts with lots of comments about the lottery style release of Ann a barrel aged saison from Hill Farmstead. I have been waiting for months to learn the details of this release as it is one of the few Hill Farmstead beers I have never tried. I believe the first and only release of Ann was in 2012 and somewhere around 180 bottles were released making this more rare than even Double Barrel Damon.

The details of the release can be found on Hill Farmstead’s website (link here) basically you register in a lottery, if your name is drawn you get to purchase a bottle for that given day. You can register once for each day of the release and the total cost is around $55 between the bottle, tax and fee for the lottery site. If you do not win you pay nothing, the small fee for entering is returned to you.

If you have ever been to Hill Farmstead, especially one of their bottle releases like the release of Damon, Double Barrel Damon, Flora and Flora Satsuma on 9/26/2013 you know how crowded it can get and the crazy lines that form. My post of that release can be seen here. In an effort not to replicate the crazy lines of that day Shaun decided to do the lottery style release for Ann which I think is great even at $50+ per bottle and here is why.

My time is worth something. I have a very busy job, three kids, a wife and all the duties that come with homeownership. If I can enter into a lottery style event, be chosen for a bottle and know that on February 4th I can show up at 11:00, grab my bottle and leave that is a much better solution than driving to Vermont to arrive at 9:00 or earlier and stand in line for many hours for the chance of getting a bottle. I am sure there were many in September that waited for many hours to have the final bottles sold to the people in front of them.

GashDon’t get me wrong I have waited in line for beer and I will again. Each brewery has its own style and bottle/can releases are no different. Allagash has an event coming up that I will go to, wait in line to get in and then wait again to grab a couple bottles of their new release Emotional Honey and bottles of some older beers that are making another appearance; Old HLT, FV13 and Tiarna.

Allagash does a tremendous job with their bottle releases with lots of games, food and samples. Combine this with lots of friendly craft beer drinkers and you have the makings of a nice Saturday morning. The difference is Allagash has the space to accommodate hundreds of people and while parking is not the best between the parking lot and on road parking everyone will have a safe place to park. Allagash also has many more employees to handle the crowds and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Hill Farmstead does not have the space or parking for such an event and  when they do have an event they rely heavily on volunteers. Coordinating all of this for a weekday bottle release would be nearly impossible.

AlchemistThen there is The Alchemist and their truck load sales. Similar to Hill Farmstead they do not have a space to accommodate a large scale release so they do it in a public space in Waterbury. I have only been to one but it was lots of fun and you can read more about the trip here. I was in line at 6:40 for a sale that started at 9:00. There was a food truck, a band and again lots of great craft beer drinkers to chat with and pass the time.

There is no perfect way to release a beer. You have the retail version with the Bourbon County craziness on Black Friday, the draft only version with Pliny the Younger at Russian River and select bars, the brewfest version that almost ended in a riot at Cigar City’s Hunahpu Day in Florda and countless other beer events across the country with demand that far outweighs the availability of the beer.

In the end breweries have to do what works best for them. For Hill Farmstead, at least with Ann, that is a lottery system and for others it means lines of craft beer fans waiting and hoping the beer lasts long enough for them to score a bottle.

If the beer is good than I want to try it. If the beer has taken years to craft; brewed, aged, blended, bottled, aged again than I will pay more for it. I have yet to be disappointed by a beer from Hill Farmstead or Allagash or The Alchemist and when you have a reputation of creating exceptional beer the beer buying public will pay. I don’t think any of these breweries are pricing their beer artificially high or limiting production to increase profits. Space and time are expensive which causes beer to be expensive. Yes there are plenty of great craft beverages out there that are less expensive but you are not going to be drinking $50 bottles of Ann or $15 – 375 ml bottles of Allagash’s Coolship beers everyday. It is a luxury item, a special treat and one that I am happy to pay for.

Is the beer worth $50+, I don’t know but I hope to find out. I will be submitting a lottery pick for each day, if I am chosen for a bottle then I will gladly pay the $50+ drive to Vermont and pick up my bottle of Ann. If the planets, stars and cosmos align and I am lucky enough to have my name drawn for more than one day than I will make multiple trips and tuck one away in the cellar for a special occasion. I will also be at the Allagash Wild Beer Round Up waiting in line on a cold January morning in Maine and if my schedule and time allows I will attend future truck load sales at The Alchemist. Chances are better that you will find me at one of the many other breweries that are making exceptional beer in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts.

Cheers to all and feel free to share your comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

686. The Alchemist Rapture

The Alchemist RaptureI finally made it to an Alchemist Tent Sale in August and picked up the mixed case of beer including; Rapture, Focal Banger, Crusher and even scored the two 4-packs of Heady. You can read about my trip and see some pics here

Rapture was the only beer of the bunch that had not been released previously so it was the first beer I opened when I got home. This beer was brewed with the same recipe as Crusher however they used 35% more hops and dry hopped with Mosaic instead of Citra. 

Appearance is darker than Crusher and Heady but still a nice color for a DIPA. It does have some floaties which you can see in the photo. Some people may not like this in a beer but I don’t mind it. Nice white head that left a lot of lacing on the glass. Aroma is not as big as  the other Alchemist beers and certainly has more malt coming through. Some citrus, pine and also a bit of alcohol. Taste follows with a nice mix of tropical fruits that quickly give way to those sweet malts. As it warmed the malt became more prominent and the alcohol also started to hit a little harder. 

Overall this was a very good beer but when I read the description of Crusher with 35% more hops I was really hoping for a bigger badder hop character instead of a larger malt bill to attempt to balance things out. If you can find a can of this give it a try as it is an excellent beer but I will take Crusher or Banger over this one. 

Alcohol Content: 9.6% ABV
Calories: ???
IBU (Bitterness): ??
Brewers Website: The Alchemist
Brewers Description: Rapture was brewed with 35% more hops, and was dry-hopped exclusively with Mosaic, as opposed to The Crusher , which was dry-hopped with Citra.

Vermont Trip August 15-16 2014

When Hill Farmstead announced Festival of Farmhouse Ales (FoFA) was going to be held at the brewery on August 16th I started making plans. Fortunately I got tickets through the lottery and we finalized the plans for a short overnight trip to Vermont with my wife, her sister and my brother in law. The week prior to FoFA The Alchemist announced a tent sales for that Saturday morning. Every time they have had a tent sale I had other plans so this was my first chance to experience the craziness of an Alchemist tent sale.

IMG_20140815_124455We left on Friday the 15th and made our way to Vermont via Littleton, NH so we could have lunch at Schilling Beer. We sat on their deck that overlooks the Ammonoosuc River and enjoyed a couple flights of beer and some great brick oven pizza. The favorite beer was Clervaux although they were all very good and the pizzas were both excellent. My brother in law bought one of their double walled stainless steel growlers full of Clervaux for the first beer purchase of the weekend.

After lunch we finished the trip to Vermont and arrived in Montpelier just as Hunger Mountain Coop was releasing Heady Topper and bottles of Double Sunshine from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. We knew the weekend was going to involve standing in many long lines so we decided to skip the lines at the Coop and just headed to the hotel. Capitol Plaza Hotel is located right in the heart of Montpelier and is walking distance to most shops including Three Penny Taproom. Rooms were affordable, up to date and it worked well for our overnight stay.

That evening we walked the streets of Montpelier visiting the local shops and eventually made our way to Three Penny Taproom for drinks and dinner. The food there was great and my brother in law and I enjoyed several beers including; Hill Farmstead Abner and Edward, Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine, Otter Creek Overgrown Pale Ale, Zero Gravity Sim City, while our wives enjoyed some cocktails. All around a great time was had by all and Three Penny should be on your list of places to visit if you ever find yourself in Montpelier.

Line 640Our initial plan was to arrive at the tent sale in Waterbury at 7:00 however we were up and ready to go earlier so we arrived around 6:40. The line was only about 35 people when we arrived, there was plenty of parking and everyone was just hanging out in the parking lot. By 7:00 the line was close to 100 and by the time they moved us to the area the sale takes place at 7:40 there were easily 200 people in line. We grabbed some crepes from the Skinny Pancake food truck and waited as the line grew. There was a band to keep people entertained and lots of talking with the others in line. Around 8:40 John Kimmich thanked everyone for coming and explained that all money from the sale of merchandise was being donated to a school in Rwanda. He also announced they would start selling beer a bit early.

CoolerFortunately we were near the front of the line and we had our beer and were heading out by 9:00. The sale was very well organized and I would recommend anyone interested in The Alchemist beers make the trip to Waterbury to experience the event and buy some great beer.

Due to the early exit from Waterbury we had some extra time between the truck load sale and leaving for FoFA so we hit the farmer’s market in Montpelier, made another trip to the Coop for some snacks and then eventually made our way to Greensboro for the start of FoFA.

Upon arrival at Hill Farmstead we found another extremely well run Fieldevent. A tent was setup to check in with your required designated driver and grab your Hill Farmstead branded tasting glass. The lines had already formed for Flora from Hill Farmstead and Paraguesia2 from Tired Hands. I opted for the Flora line and that was the last line I waited in all day. The remainder of the festival was walk up, grab a beer and drink. There were a couple of times when Hill Farmstead started pouring La Sarrasin and a couple of others that the lines swelled to 20+ people but it went quickly and plenty of great beer was consumed.

FoFAI got to talk to Shaun, Phil, Bob as well as Dan Suarez formerly of Hill Farmstead and currently working towards opening Suarez Family Brewery in New York. The weather could have been better but it did not take away from a great day for a great event.

Based on the success of both the tent sale and the new setup for events at Hill Farmstead; no camping, required designated driver, etc I hope both breweries continue to hold these events as I will certainly be back.

The final haul from the weekend included;

– 2 mixed cases from The Alchemist; four 4-packs of Focal Banger and a 4-pack of Rapture and Crusher
– four 4-packs of Heady Topper
– 8 bottles of Vera Mae and 4 bottles of Florence

Unfortunately we missed out on Lawson’s as we did not want to wait in line at the Coop on Friday but we still came home with plenty of beer.