It’s been 11 years since the first “unofficial Festival of Farmhouse Ales (FoFA).” Back then, in 2006, before Hill Farmstead was officially open (opened in 2010) it was known as the Backwoods Brewdown: a festival hosted by founder Shaun Hill and his friends in which brewers would come for a day of live music and barbecue. In 2011, the Brewdown transformed into the first festival geared towards celebrating “Farmhouse Breweries,” and from that FoFA was born. An intimate event with friends to celebrate the craft beer community.
For craft beer enthusiasts, FoFA has become one of the few bucket list festivals. Unfortunately for me and I’m sure many of you, the timing and the fact you have to win a lottery held each spring to purchase a ticket has kept me from attending the event up for the past several years. But this year, I scored a ticket and spent the weekend reveling in great beer. More important, FoFA proved that the craft beer world is still a strong and close-knit community. Here’s a quick run-down of the festival.
For this year’s event, the weekend officially kicked-off for me with Brewer’s Night at Parker Pie Co., a small pizza place connected to a general store in West Glover, which had tapped several guest lines as well as some fresh Hill Farmstead brews. Individuals driving up to Hill Farmstead usually stay in Waterbury, gathering with friends to host Friday night beer shares and hit up the iconic trio of pubs, some of which hold kegs for the pre-FoFA weekend crowd.
Being that Parker Pie is over an hour from Waterbury and Stowe, it created a more relaxed environment for those who attended (other than the karaoke). It’s one of the few events you’ll see at festivals where you can actually witness the comradery not only between brewers but between festival goers as well. Brewer’s night isn’t just about celebrating the brewers, it’s about celebrating the people that make this community what it is and catching up with each other. It’s a time when we step away from the lines, the trading, and the other bullshit that sometimes gets in the way of allowing us to remember how and why we got here.
Saturday is festival day. For those who were lucky to be selected into Hill Farmstead’s Collective Works Program, the day started early, as Hill provided a breakfast for program members and brewer’s that included vintage pours, including my favorite, Hill’s maple imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels, Beyond Good and Evil from 2014.
At 12:00, the Festival officially kicked off as people lined up for their first pour as the brewers stationed themselves in a line along the back-end of the tent. As most people started in the Side Project line, others found the opportunity to check out some of the shorter lines, all of which were pouring incredible brews. As each attendee got their pour they were usually welcomed by the founder of each respective brewery, most of whom took the time to chat to attendees about what they were pouring, the weather, or just to thank them for trying their beers.
Throughout the day, the intermittent burst of rain dampened some of the longer lines, as attendees came under the tent briefly for cover. However, throughout it all, one thing was consistent, and that was the deep pipes from The White Buffalo, who killed the performance even when people scattered away under the tents.
Unfortunately, as the rain pushed attendees under the tent, brews began to kick a little quicker than some might have anticipated. But Hill Farmstead held strong for festival attendees that were still thirsty. During the last hour of the fest, the Hill Farmstead line split, allowing those who wanted a break from Farmhouse Ales to get a pour (or several) of their Munich Helles Lager, Marie. For me, it was my first chance trying Marie, which was on-point and had me lining back up after each pour magically disappeared.
The festival closed out as it does each year with a raffle of magnum bottles, donated by the breweries in attendance. All of the money raised from this year’s raffle was used to give back to the local community, specifically for the Four Seasons of Early Learning, a non-profit educational organization.
As the clouds began to break, the sun peaked its way through. Another Festival of Farmhouse Ales (FoFA) was in the books, proving to be one of the few great weekends of the year that reminds us of how strong this craft beer community still is.