Positioned atop massive rolling hills in Greensboro Bend, Vermont, the no-frills Hill Farmstead Brewery is challenging to get to. It’s surrounded by dirt roads, requiring sturdy wheels to carry you there, but unless you make the trek and mule down the hillside, you can’t haul an armful of Hill Farmstead’s suds back to Boston.
Hill Farmstead was ranked as the number one brewery in the world by Ratebeer.com in 2013 (and number two in 2014), and beer acolytes from as far as New Zealand wait in line for hours to score bottles and two-liter growlers of the brewery’s highly decorated beers, many of which are named for owner and brewmaster Shaun Hill’s ancestors—Edward (Pale Ale), Abner (Double IPA), and Everett (Porter). As a testament to its popularity, they once sold an entire batch of hooch—500 gallons—in just one day.
The isolated brewery is currently undergoing a massive expansion that will double its current production of 60,000 gallons of beer annually. But “massive” is relative in the craft beer industry. Hill says that after several buildings are made more spacious for the new equipment being installed on site, he will be on pace to produce 5,000 barrels (roughly 150,000 gallons) of suds a year (for context: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware produced 6.3 million gallons last year). And the plan is to cap production there.
While increased capacity will help supply the local community with sought-after brews on draft (thus avoiding the bummer that is waiting in line), Hill Farmstead is one of only a few Vermont craft breweries churning out small batches of highly coveted beers while maintaining plans to keep the operations small.
“The goal for 2015 is to make our core ancestral beers more readily available at our taproom and around Vermont, and eventually open up to other parts of New England in small amounts,” says Hill. “There are no plans to make new beers or styles, but rather to focus on refining and improving our current portfolio.”
From the start, Hill’s philosophy has been to make the best possible beers without chasing the idea of becoming some mass-produced beer conglomerate with boundless growth. He operates with the understanding that beer is perishable, just like foodstuff plucked from a local plantation, and should be consumed as close to the source as possible, without suffering the impact long-distance shipping has on the brew.
So rejoice: Construction on the space is wrapping up, and new brewing equipment will arrive soon after. Installation is happening throughout December, and Hill anticipates that he will be making the fermentable sugars used in brewing, a liquid extract called wort, by mid-January of 2015.
HILL FARMSTEAD BREWERY. 403 HILL RD., GREENSBORO BEND, VT, 802-533-7450.