copyright the Chronicle January 8, 2014
by Bethany M. Dunbar
GREENSBORO — Hill Farmstead Brewery’s expanded space is open to the public for retail sales.
The expansion is not completed, but the space allows customers to wait inside for tastes of beer, to buy bottled beer, and to buy or fill up growlers, which are big, reusable beer bottles. Waiting lines will probably be just as long as before because the new space has the same number of taps as before, six.
An ell off the new space is so far just a foundation, but eventually it will hold a new brewery with a mezzanine area and windows so people can see production. Once the expansion is finished, which is expected to be in October, retail space will exist in the end of the ell. It will include a rest room for the public.
“The plan is to serve bread and cheese,” Mr. Hill said.
Meanwhile, a portable toilet is available outside.
The new space allows Mr. Hill and his employees to store much of their equipment and supplies inside.
“We were in here on the eleventh,” Mr. Hill said in an interview Monday as he moved some barrels inside and checked on beer he was brewing. The December 11 move was just a week later than planned, which Mr. Hill seemed satisfied with.
“This stuff wouldn’t have had a home even a month ago,” he said about the oak barrels and bags of grains.
The little brewery has quickly gained a huge reputation, especially after Hill Farmstead varieties of beer were named by a beer enthusiasts’ website, Ratebeer.com, as the best in the world. The brewery has been written up and filmed and photographed by all sorts of media outlets, including Vanity Fair and Bon Appetite magazines.
When the expansion is complete, Hill Farmstead Brewery will have a capacity double or triple its current production. Right now Mr. Hill and a few employees make 60,000 gallons a year. When the expansion is complete there will be space and equipment to make 150,000 gallons a year.
Mr. Hill says he hopes demand — which has so far been unceasing — will continue.
“I hope it doesn’t change any time soon,” he said.
As part of the financing for the project, Hill Farmstead Brewery was loaned $350,000 from the Vermont Economic Development Authority’s Small Business Loan Program.
The contractor for the project is E.F. Wall of Barre, and two architects are Dan Henderer and James Coe.
Mr. Hill is the seventh generation on his family’s farm, which is why he named the brewery Hill Farmstead. His brother Darren’s touch can be seen in many places. Darren Hill is a woodworker and created a frame for a big doorway connecting the old space — formerly a garage — to the new space. He has built tables and shelves and sells small wooden containers for individual beer bottles. Mr. Hill’s mother, Denise, helps out at the brewery as well.
Many of the beer varieties at Hill Farmstead are named after ancestors of the family, including Edward, which Shaun Hill was brewing on Monday.
“Today is Edward, then Norma, and Genealogy of Morals is Wednesday,” he said. Mr. Hill was a philosophy major in college. The oak barrels at the brewery are not just there for looks. Mr. Hill buys ten-year-old barrels from wineries and whiskey makers. In some cases a bourbon barrel is used to add a slight bourbon flavor to a beer, and Genealogy of Morals is a prime example. Black as ink, this variety has a slight sweetness. Even though it is a beer, described as an “imperial coffee stout,” it is higher than usual beer in alcohol content, and tastes a little like port wine.
Even though Mr. Hill is expanding, his philosophy is always to put quality first over quantity. Some of the Hill Farmstead varieties are quite expensive, and Mr. Hill said Monday that’s because there is a lot of work involved in making them perfect. As he conducted the interview, he rinsed barrels with hot water, then checked the staves with a hammer and cooper’s tool to make sure they were tight.
“You put it in there, it doesn’t mean it’s going to come out the way you want it to,” he said. If it’s not right, he can’t sell it.
Some of the new equipment Mr. Hill is buying for the expanded space will allow the beers to be more consistent, he said.
Asked if he will be creating any new varieties, Mr. Hill shook his head. “We’ve created 100 different beers at this point,” he said. He will focus on refining and implementing the recipes he already has for a while.
Hill Farmstead Brewery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Plan to wait in line for a while. The beer is also always available on tap at Parker Pie in West Glover.
contact Bethany M. Dunbar at [email protected]