After a quick trip up to Hill Farmstead for the PBS Weekends with Yankee shoot, it was back on the road home. My friend had an early day the next day, so he was a sport in agreeing to a quick stop at the Alchemist in Stowe. I wish I thought to take some pictures but it really was a quick grab and go. Next time. My haul was some Heady Topper, The Crusher, Focal Banger and a four pack of Skadoosh and Alena.
Beer #: 1,121
This nonsensical word was used by Po, the main character in Kung Fu Panda. Apparently, it means “goodbye” or “peace”. On-line references say that this term is often used right before you beat someone’s ass. So, I assume the assaulting bitterness of this brew are appropos. There are progressive versions of Skadoosh, I believe this is version 12 as I see some on-line commentary about number 12 at the same time this was purchased. I’ll give Skadoosh 88 points.
Neighborhood complaints shut down foot traffic to The Alchemist’s Waterbury, Vermont in 2013. A series of tent sales followed but The Alchemist consequently began planning a new facility. On June 30th, Stowe became the new retail home of The Alchemist. To no one’s surprise, the opening has been hugely popular. While Heady Topper for local stores and restaurants will still be produced in the Waterbury location, the Stowe location will solely be for walk in business.
Before the Stowe opening, the brewery boldly claimed that a customer would be able to buy two cases per visit. The forecasted limit called for one case of Focal Banger and a mixed case of Heady Topper and probably a rotating seasonal offering. Since the opening, it seems that the limits have been half or less than promised. I suspect they will ramp up production and begin to deliver on promised limits. The beer must flow.
Crusher was a customer favorite at the Waterbury pub before it got destroyed by a flood and it’s the first of the seasonal offerings of the new brewery. It’s exciting to think of the other beer that will see distribution from this new facility. I got two cans from a friend.
I expected some resin but this is more than I expected. Candy sweet in addition to being balanced off by an assertive bitterness. Not really crushing. I’d say Juicy. Citrus. Rich. As a result of its high gravity – somewhat boozy. Other Half All Green Everything comes to mind but that’s just from tastebud memory. In conclusion, Crusher gets 95 points.
Focal Banger and Heady Topper are past favorites and here are my thoughts on the other offerings from The Alchemist…
The original thirteen colonies became the first thirteen states to form our union. Vermont became the fourteenth state and I’ll assume that since there is a star on our flag for each state, that 14th Star Brewing is a tribute to Vermont’s place on our flag and in US history.
I love the serendipitous nature of writing this blog – in researching the source of the name – I got an education on Vermont and their entry into statehood. Even though they sent troops to fight in the Revolutionary War, Vermont was not recognized as a state or colony – rather, it was land that fell between the British provinces of New York and what was known as the New Hampshire Grants. For fourteen years, Vermont was known as the Vermont Republic. Their ultimate entry into statehood in 1791 was contested by land and jurisdiction claims by New York and New Hampshire.
Another story worth sharing is the creation of 14th Star Brewing by founder Steve Gagner. Their website says that while Gagner was deployed in Afghanistan he dreamed of two things – beer and getting out of the Army. Now located in St. Albans, Vermont, Gagner hasn’t forgotten his Army roots as a portion of the proceeds of 14th Star’s flagship beer – Valor – goes to Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization that returns lost or stolen medals of valor to those that earned them. I think that’s a cause that we can all get behind – cheers.
I had targeted a list of beer to find on my trip to Vermont and Tribute proved to be an evasive target. Even though I had been more than a dozen beer stores, I hadn’t come across a single can. While picking up my case of Heady Topper at Hunger Mountain Coop, the trolley cart filled with these bright green cans was almost as exciting as holding my case of Heady Topper.
Had this for the first time in group while sharing some Heady Topper and some Sip of Sunshine and frankly, Tribute can proudly stand up in that crowd. Enjoyed another sole and I describe Tribute as having a rich mouthfeel, nice solid malt backbone. It isn’t as bitter as Heady and has a bit more sweetness and that might turn some people off. I think it has just enough bitterness to balance it out. I enjoyed Tribute to the tune of 94 points.
Every beer geek dreams of traveling to Vermont to participate in the hunt for the craft beer triumvirate – at least it was on my bucket list. This past week, a family vacation to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe provided me with the opportunity to participate in my own pilgrimage…
There is the Alchemist’s Heady Topper – 97 points – long held as the best beer in the world but only available at a specific time window at a small number of places in a very small area in northern Vermont (specifically around Burlington and Stowe). It disappears quick and has strict limits. I think the pressure from craft beer fans can really test the friendly attitudes of store clerks in typically laid-back Vermont. There are currently only four places where you can buy it by the case. While my wife and kids slept, I waited an hour at the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier for a case and found another case in bits and pieces by stopping in a number of places in Stowe and Waitsfield.
Lawson’s Finest Liquids and their Sip of Sunshine – 97 points have the same evasiveness. I was lucky to have showed up at a place in Waitsfield just minutes after their delivery. I was somewhat disappointed to see that the canning date on this “fresh” delivery was July 21st for something purchased about three week later on August 11th. However, I was thrilled to find two fresh Hopzillas at the East Warren Community Market on Thursday afternoon.
Last, but certainly not least is probably the most difficult jewel in the triple crown. Located an hour plus northeast of Stowe in Greensboro Bend is Hill Farmstead. I swear on the drive up we drove through areas without seeing a home or person for 20 miles. I certainly doubted my GPS until we made the last turn onto the dirt road. Seeing the familiar wooden sign and the crowd of my fellow zealots – I realized we were in the right place.
It was a little confusing at first. There were multiple lines but we figured it out. On one line on the left (by the wooden framed doorway) you fill out your order for bottles and growlers on a slip and you can also prepay for your glass for drinks or for a flight of four smaller servings. Another line (on the far right) is strictly for bottle sales and the third line (center) was for people refilling their drink glasses while they waited for their orders to be filled.
We turned in our slip on the far left of the counter and asked for an approximate wait time. According to an employee, it takes about three minutes to fill each order. We were number 108 and they were currently fulfilling number 50. We were prepared to wait about three hours but it turned out to be a little over two hours. We hung around sipping beer on a mostly beautiful 75 degree summer day.
I came home with a number of beer and I’ll try to group them together. This segment is dedicated to the growler fills. You’ll pay $10 for the two liter glass bottle above and beyond the cost of the beer and you’ll pay $3 for the 750 ml glass bottle. There is a five container limit per person.
Nelson Sauvin Tasting: August 15, 2015 Style: Pale Ale Beer #: 784 ABV: 5.2%
From one of two 750 ML growler filled two days ago at Hill Farmstead. This is part of a series of single hop ales and this offering features New Zealand’s native Nelson Sauvin hop. Pours a cloudy straw yellow. Overall, very crisp beer. Has a refreshing grassy, lemon flavor. It is somewhat mellow but very drinkable. A very solid 95 points.
On our balcony at the Trapp Family Lodge, I poured from one of the two-liter growlers just hours after it was filled. I was totally blown away. This is simply the best porter I’ve ever had and the one every one else should aspire to make. Distinctively different from a stout, Everett’s flavors come in distinct waves, rich chocolate, roasted coffee and well-balanced sweetness and bitterness. Decadent and rich – an easy 97 points. Wow.
Edward August 11, 2015 Style: Pale Ale Beer # 786 ABV: 5.2%
While we waited the two hours for our order to be filled, we passed the the time by enjoying a few beers by the glass. They take your driver’s license as the glass deposit as I’m sure a few people have tried to walk away with the souvenir. You can either pay for a small sampling of four or a single larger tasting. We opted for the full-size servings and one of the beers we had was Edward. This was really nice. Well-balanced and very drinkable. What struck me at first was the potentcy from a pale ale as compared to my experiences with an IPA. Smooth with bright citrus. Edward is a standard offering for Hill Farmstead and completely worth seeking out. 94 points
Society & Solitude # 5 August 11, 2015 Style: Pale Ale Beer # 787 ABV: 8.1%
One of the other glasses I had while waiting was Society & Solitude # 5. It certainly has that distinct Hill Farmstead saison yeast flavor of clove, pepper tucked under bright citrus and grassy notes. Wonderfully chewy and full flavored. I enjoyed sipping this one while watching my kids play with a bunch of other kids at the farm. I think the bliss might have influenced my score but I’m comfortable with 96 points.