There are plenty of bars and places that I’ve visited and really want to write about over the past couple months – I’m actually in a backlog – but I really wanted to write about this recent event because it was such an experience.
Hill Farmstead turned three years old this past month and held their anniversary party at the brewery again. I went to this party last year and it was such a good time that I decided to grab some tickets for the festivities. I had it all pictured in my head – a beautiful Vermont landscape, friendly people, and some of the best beers on the planet being poured outside on a nice spring day. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans.
I was working in Portland Maine the week preceding the anniversary party and kept an eye on the weather channel each day to see how things would pan out for the weekend of the party. I knew it would be cold, but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced when the day came. The drive from Portland to Vermont is roughly 3 hours and throughout the ride I watched the temperature gauge of the car I rented continuously go lower into the 30s as I approached my final destination at the hotel in Waterbury. When I woke up the next day to leave for the Anniversary Party, the temperature was in the high 30s/low 40s and it was windy.
The drive from Waterbury to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro Bend is approximately an hour. Once again, the temperature gauge kept showing the temperature drop as we approached the brewery until we hit 28 degrees upon arrival. It seemed that as soon as we turned onto the long dirt road where the brewery is located, the gusts of wind became even stronger, the rain froze and it started to snow. I couldn’t believe that it was snowing in the middle of May. What shocked me more was the contrast of the previous years conditions which were 75 degrees and sunny – literally the polar opposite of this year. We parked the car and took it all in –but not for too long since it was snowing sideways and it actually hurt to stand outside without cover for too long.
We approached the tent to present our tickets and checked in. The event was similar to how it was last year in the ways that you were required to drink from the Hill Farmstead glassware and a ticket system was used to distribute beers. The purchase of the $40 ticket gave you 5 tickets and the tasting glass, but you can purchase more tickets for $5 each. I always thought using actual glassware adds a bit of class to the event and it certainly beats drinking out of a crappy plastic cup. Checking in went smoothly and we were able to walk right into the tent to start tasting.
The first tent was one of the most crowded – not because they were selling bottles or the constant supply of Double Citra – but because there was a space heater directly in the middle. Loads of people were holding their beers and crowding around it to keep warm. The most remarkable thing that I saw was someone that took their shoes and hat off to watch the steam come pouring off while holding it to the flames. Yeah, it was THAT cold. Surprisingly, even though everyone was frigid and wet, we were still able to have a good time. It became humorous and we all joked around as we huddled around the flames to keep ourselves warm.
Although it was warm in the first tent, I knew that there were other beers being poured in the other tents out in the distance. Curiosity got the best of me and I gave up my spot near the heater to venture off to the larger tent. I was pretty glad that I did, because the other tent was pouring some great beers. Ephraim, Birth Of Tragedy, Earl, Everett and some others were all being poured. The line was huge, but I was fine with standing in it for a while. I really enjoy Hill Farmstead’s IPAs, pale ales and saisons but the cold weather was really making me crave something dark and roasty.
I was next in line for Earl (coffee oatmeal stout) and was about to get a pour when the servers were given orders to take the entire table and jockey box outside. “WHAT?!” was pretty much everyone’s immediate reaction. The entire line of 50+ people followed the Hill Farmstead staff outside into the cold. After getting outside, I realized the reasoning for this decision. There were bands playing on the stage set up. Everyone was so occupied with keeping themselves warm that they were neglecting the bands playing.
The jockey box was set up facing the stage with the hopes that people would stick around and take a listen. It actually worked to an extent. I looked over at one point and there was a heavy metal band all decked out wearing gauntlets and leather pants shredding to a group of people head banging. I’ve been to A LOT of metal shows (I used to write and edit a metal magazine for 10 years), but I never saw anything like this. Snow was falling, yet the band was still killing it. I can appreciate them putting this outside. I used to play in a couple metal bands for a few years and know the pain of playing a concert that no one is watching. It was a nice move by the HF staff to bring it outside. It also caused that line to drop down to only a 5 minute wait. No complaints from me.
We hung around the party until the end and continued to talk to new friends that we made throughout the day until we decided it was time to head back to the hotel. It was cold, we were soaking wet and I feared getting sick. A lot of those who were planning to camp at the brewery gave in and decided to head back into Waterbury. Those who came back to the Best Western in Waterbury held a huge bottle share and made the best of the situation. We continued to have a good time throughout the night at the hotel and make new friends.
That Saturday was a real eye opener as to why I continue to go to these events. It’s not so much about trying new beers. It’s the experiences while there. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would have been drinking beer outside in a snow storm in rural Vermont while listening to a metal band playing, but there were a couple hundred of us there sharing that experience and having a good time. The combination of incredible beers, awesome people and crazy weather made this a truly memorable event. I’ll definitely be back again next year. Heck, maybe it’ll snow again. I’ll bring a sled just in case.