Please be advised, if you don’t like limes, you won’t like this beer because there is a lot of lime zest and lime juice in Farmer Wave. Best that you leave it for somebody that likes limes. There isn’t that much to go around as it is.
Farmer Wave is a beer brewed in the New England Farmstead style at Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro Bend, Vermont. It is largely the design of the head beverage provisionary at Good Life Provisions, in collaboration with the experts at Hill Farmstead. Farmer Wave uses lots of lime zest and lime juice (something like 100# or so of limes gave of themselves for this beer to exist). Everybody at Good Life shares a love of limes, especially when mixed with tequila and maybe even gin or vodka. So, when Shaun Hill offered to let me do a beer I could sell in my native Nebraska, a bright mildly acidic and subtly salty real farmstead ale was the obvious choice.
Farmer Wave is a bit of a riff off a beer I brewed with Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales back in December of 2014. It was called Fistful of Limes and appeared in draft form only, mainly at the Jolly Pumpkin pubs in Michigan and various festivals around the country. Fistful of Limes was intended to be a “small” beer…maybe 3.5% ABV…maybe 4%. It used a few different unmalted grains (whereas Farmer Wave uses only oats), a much different hop bill…plus the last minute addition of agave nectar which Ron just happened to have sitting around. That helped push the gravity up a bit. After fermentation, it was aged in Tequila barrels which made quite an impact on the little beer. But, the notes from that brew were consulted while building Farmer Wave and it seems not only appropriate but necessary to give a nod to Ron. I did ask him if it was cool that we riff on it, and in fact invited him to come out to Vermont for the brew…but alas the timing did not work.
Fistful of Limes itself was a bit of a riff off a beer I helped design and brew at Arizona Wilderness Brewing in Gilbert, AZ. Nebraska Knife Job was a low ABV hoppy beer that used a lot of unmalted grains and just a bit of brett added late into the fermentation. Farmer Wave is its own man though, no doubt about that.
I am honored to present it to the people of Nebraska, and proud of my role in creating it. At present, Farmer Wave is the only beer bottled at Hill Farmstead available for sale outside the brewery’s own retail shop and the amazing general store down the road in Greensboro called Willey’s (which also serves as the de facto retail shop for the amazing cheeses made by Jasper Hill also right in the area).
The reason the beer exists is simple: friendship. I first met Shaun Hill on a hazy night at the great neighborhood bar Deep Ellum in Boston’s Alston area. Shaun was then brewing at Norrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen and I was working for Shelton Brothers Importers, the company that imported the Norrebro beers into the US. That night at Deep Ellum was a big bash with brewers from all over the world being as the Craft Brewers Conference was being held in Boston at that time. I’m pretty sure that’s the night we got Vinnie from Russian River to send a keg of Pliny that got poured in about 5 minutes. I recall the evening ended somewhat fittingly with me standing out back by the diesel fumes with another Vermont beer “legend” the late Greg Noonan. Shaun and I did not talk much that night but I kept a watch on Shaun as he made plans to move back to Vermont and start his own brewery on his family’s land. The official start of Hill Farmstead came right around the time I left Nebraska to move east to Western Massachusetts, were Shelton Brothers main office was located. This put me 2 hours and 55 minutes (weather permitting) from 403 Hill Road (aka Hill Farmstead Brewery).
My first visit to Hill Farmstead came in May of 2010, for the Grand Opening party. There would be many more visits over the next 4 years. I made one last visit in May of 2014, just a few weeks before my wife and I planned to return to Nebraska with our newborn daughter, The Radical. Shaun and I needed to drink some champagne and I also needed to collect the amazing wood chest I had commissioned his brother Darren to make for our daughter. Darren works under the name Leaning Maples Woodcraft and does absolutely amazing work.
From that point in May 2014 it was a long 18 months before I would get to come back to visit Shaun again. It was his offer to let me do a beer there that ultimately made the trip irresistible.
In January 2016, we brewed the pilot batch of Farmer Wave on the 3 HL system. This was fermented in a wood puncheon and then sent to oak wine barrels for further aging. I returned in March to brew a version on the larger system. After tasting barrel samples, we tweaked the recipe a bit and I got to work zesting while getting some juicing help from Witter (a member of the Vermont chapter of the I’ve Seen A Catamount Club and somebody who has been to a museum of penises—The Icelandic Phallological Museum—in Iceland where he saw Rasputin’s penis).
Shaun often talks about a sense of place. In my many visits to his place, I’ve come to have very fond feelings for it myself, and indeed when I taste his beers I do feel like I am taking there. Of course I can’t help but to think of Shaun every time I drink a Farmer Wave or any of his beers. I am extremely happy to be able to share a bit of that place with Nebraska. Thank you, Shaun!
Bob Montgomery has some great pics from the brew sessions on the Hill Farmstead Instagram page:
The text I wrote for the Farmer Wave bottle follows in bold. There are subtle references in those words that have great meaning to me. One way to look at it is that it is important to be present where you are. This is not an easy thing to do at all, but we have to keep trying!
Hugs feel great. But when you find yourself behind the wheel of a 4,000lb truck rumbling over the gravel, hugging each person you pass just isn’t in the cards. So you raise your finger off the wheel just enough to acknowledge your neighbor. The Farmer Wave is a completely legitimate and wholly appreciated acknowledgement. It really is the least you can do to recognize that fleeting moment you share with another person. It is simple, but meaningful.
Farmer Wave exists as its own sort of acknowledgment. The brewing brought together friends separated by the evolution of life. The process was a reason to reunite and the product is a gesture from one friend to another. There are simple ways we can share our worlds with each other. Farmer Wave is one of those ways.