Hill Farmstead Festival of Farmhouse Ales

Ya know what? You can save yourself the next 45 minutes of your wasted existence on this Earth and not read the rest of this post because, you know what? I LOVED this year’s collected works. There. Close the window and go back to drinking Sculpin (which is a great beer actually)..um, go back to drinking Plineeeeey? Ah, well yeah never mind on that as well.

I was afraid of revealing that I was in Collected Works for the introductory season. The reason is that the amount of Internet hate would spray upon me like…well like not something good or desired and I”d be sitting here covered in “hate” and you all would just bask in how corrupt the system is, how broken and pointless life is and how much Shaun Hill sucks for making people write essays.

The Essay was essential. If you don’t understand why, then once again, please stop reading.

It’s so difficult to explain Collected Works without explaining why I fell in love with this part of America. I graduated high school with a 2.4 GPA. The School was half white and half everything else and everyone I knew was a racist. I went home to a farm where we had dairy cows and a few illegal mexicans working for us. This was Florida and we were in the country but it wasn’t beautiful. It was flat, smelly and smogged. I thought California was beautiful so I moved there. While on the west coast I traveled from Mexico to Vancouver, all over the west coast enjoying every major city with a few weekends in Vegas and, after 3 years I was unhappy. The sky was boring, the people moved fast and life was expensive. I didn’t want to go back to Florida farm life…I wanted something more. An opportunity came.

“You should come work in New England for our company” I flew to Boston from SFO, lied to my boss at the time that I was sick and called in sick  from Boston at 11AM EST on a Thursday and got on a bus which took me 3 hours north to central Vermont. When I left SF for this job interview, I had no idea that the job was in Vermont..just that I should board this bus and head north.

Since arriving, I’ve fallen in love with this part of the country to the point that I can’t imagine ever leaving. It’s not the vast sky, spacious land, gorgeous mountains or amazing winter coated fields of white that have kept me here. It’s the people. The makers. Not the makers who run MakerBot but the makers who pass on their family traditions to do something amazing and give back to their communities, to build and create and give back. “Made in Vermont” is something I never knew of until I moved here and it has a huge meaning to the people who create in this great state. It’s said, there’s more cows than people and there are more breweries per capita than any other State. Those may be proven facts but it’s the people, heritage and love of the craft that keeps me here never wanting to leave.

In late 2011, I attended a beer tasting where a local “Wally” messaged me on Beer Advocate. He lived a few miles from me and invited me over. I met John, Jen, Dave and Wally along with a few adorable dogs. Dave who is now at Blue Lobster was an apprentice at Hill Farmstead. He poured me my first Hill Farmstead beer. I can’t remember what beer that was but it was Edward or George. In early February, I went to the Hill to buy some beer. Damon, Flora and Mimosa. We drank all of these beers within a couple of weeks and I remember falling in love with Damon which, 1 month later would become my kryptonite after selling a bottle on eBay or $250. Shaun emailed me and even though I was not a friend to the brewery yet, my connection to Dave and Wally had him very upset. I tried to come clean on these mistakes and I promised to myself and the beer community that I’d make good on these mistakes. Some would say I’ve redeemed myself but only in their eyes. What matters to me is that my friends and the local breweries I frequent forgive me. They have and I’m very appreciative of that.

I’m the #5 rater of Hill Farmstead beer on Ratebeer which is just a byproduct of being a local. The important thing is that I believe in the vision that Shaun has for the land his ancestors settled and developed. It’s the vision many Vermonters have and it’s a vision that I respect.

Hill Farmstead Collected Works 2013

Despite assumptions, my girlfriend and I applied for Collected Works and I was one of the 50 picked for the program.

At 10AM on March 5th, an email came to my Inbox: “It is with great pleasure and open arms that we welcome you into the inaugural publication of Hill Farmstead’s Collected Works.

In no way was acceptance any sort of validation of my character or good-doings in the beer community. The shadow of my eBay fiasco will forever be a cloud over my head. There are very few people that don’t know of that incident and I don’t concern myself with karma despite believing in it but I’ll just continue to do the right thing in hopes I one day feel that people have moved on. I don’t think we’re there yet, though.

The joining of Collected Works has actually been greater than my joining RateBeer or the short-lived time on Beer Advocate. It has been an experience that has greatly exceeded the price of entry. Take away every perk and I’ve loved the experience. First and foremost, I’ve been surrounded by a group of individuals who align with me on the vision and path that Shaun Hill and his team are taking this very tiny farmhouse brewery in northern Vermont. Second, we have access to what I would say is a direct communication to the team at HFS and finally, we have access to beers that are publicly released but presented to us in a way that reminds me of how a family would be treated. The hand-made crate from Darren HIll and the time and generosity Shaun and Bob have shown us all has given me the feeling of not only being a part of this vision but also as a part of the family. I chatted a lot with CW members this past weekend and many of us agreed. We are close to this brewery and its connection with the land. Beer may have been our jumping off point but that was the start of a relationship that is beyond beer. If I stopped drinking beer tomorrow, I could still visit the Hill, toast ice-water or coffee with Shaun and enjoy a meal with him and be content to talk about life without alcohol. Beer is great but it’s more important who you share your beer and time with. Relationships matter.

and that’s what most people don’t understand. You think that Collected Works is an overpriced beer club, a group of people who just wanna “kiss shaun’s ass” and “pay their way to beer hype-dom”. When the hype train rolls on, I’ll still be at Hill Farmstead every 10 days to get my growlers filled. I go to HFS for the love, the feeling of respect, heritage and understanding that when the beer geeks move on, the land that the Hills built will still be there resting peacefully in Greesnboro.

It took a long time to get to this point but CW is a group of people who respect and admire the vision. If you don’t, just join Bruery’s reserve society.

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Hill Farmstead Collected Works 2013

The individuals in CW are great people. There are very few of us and most don’t live near me.. There’s just good vibrations and a lot of these guys came up to Vermont throughout the year and I get a chance to hang out with CW members outside of the Hill Farmstead brewery both virtually and in person.

Then there’s automatic admission to the Festival of Farmhouse ales which was a lottery and $100 per person but included in the $350 and then there’s the amazing beers in our box, including quite a few that haven’t been released yet this year. Finally, there’s that connection to the brewery that I outlined above.

My review of the first version of Collected Works is that I feel more connected to this brewery now more than ever before. The monetary transaction covered the labor and time Darren Hill put into making these custom crates and for everyone at Hill Farmstead to create these beers for us and put on the Festival of Farmhouse Ales and for Bob to run CW and keep everything organized for us. That was what I paid for but what I got was much more valuable. I received a lot of closeness to this brewery.

Not a day goes by that I don’t want to move even closer to Hill Farmstead, beg for a job washing kegs or work the land, do anything to support the revival of this place. Greensboro is a magical place full of wonderful and kind people, artisans that love their craft and picturesque views in all directions. It’s a place I want to retire to at the very least. Shaun Hill brought this feeling to so many of us and I certainly owe him a huge thanks.

I’m not a pro-brewer or professional world traveler or philosophy major but via Collected Works and my time spent at the Hill, I consider Shaun a friend and Bob a Friend and Phil and Kerrie and Shaun’s mom and dad (dad who pulled me out of the mud literally) and Wally and Billy and everyone working toward this vision.

and you know what, screw the haters! You can call my reviews of Hill Farmstead skewed or lies, you can make fun of my open expression of appreciation for the love of craft and say many bad things about me but I know how I feel and I’m proud to be a supporter of this brewery.

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Hill Farmstead Collected Works 2013

I’m not involved with HFS professionally so I don’t know what’s going to happen next with the next round of Collected Works. Some things I’d love to have available to us in the next round

  • Pay for extra allocations…nothing crazy but ordering a second bottle of things would be really cool.
  • An Online site for managing what allocations we get, choosing, picking and scheduling pickup
  • Volunteer days. List to CW members days that we can help out whether that be watching a brew day, dipping bottles in wax, tasting cellared beers or milling grain. Give us a list of days available to help out and let us volunteer
  • Brewery Discounts on Growler Fills
  • Merch Discounts
  • Keg Privileges – I’d like to explain this one. I love HFS in growlers and stop by twice a month and stock up with growlers to last me over a week and I know kegs are hard to come by. This is something that would be nice to have. Of course none of this is required but I’d love to get a keg option if it was a keg that didn’t affect retail / bar accounts that need these more than CW people.

To reiterate, I think the CW program was great, perfect and awesome! These are only suggestions but I think things like ordering extra allocations or growler fill discounts are hard to really manage day to day but would be pretty cool. Most importantly, I’d love to see the program opened to more people who have the same outlook and understanding on the vision of this brewery. Another 10-15 people would be awesome. Among the existing CWs, I’m trying to make sure we don’t get a “old timers” vibe where year one CWs bond together and act weird to new joiners. We’re all in this together and I welcome more people joining.

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2,000+ words and I think I’m out of things to say. Thanks to everyone at Hill Farmstead for making CW a reality and being the best money I’ve spent in a long time. It was the cheapest and most rewarding beer club I joined in 2013. I’ll certainly be renewing when the next round is live.

Hill Farmstead Collected Works 2013