Indulgent Beer Series | Hill Farmstead Samuel
Everyone has their own definition of indulgent. It could be a decadent chocolate cake that pushes the boundaries of your sweet tooth and your waistband. It might be a 5-star spa day or a vending machine that distributes gold bars. There may be no clearer measure of an indulgent purchase, however, than seeing the facial expression of a beer non-connoisseur when you tell them you have spent $50+ on a single bottle of beer. Hill Farmstead Samuel becomes the latest release to stress-test the wallet, especially in the midst of a pandemic that is making us reevaluate our financial priorities.
Combining wine-barrel aged Farmhouse Ale bases featuring buckwheat, spelt, and Vermont wildflower honey, Samuel is a humbling expression of what can be achieved through patient aging and expert blending. Hill Farmstead is known for producing excellent beers of this ilk, and bottles like Samuel provide ample evidence for the many who claim Shaun Hill’s catalogue to be the best in the world. We live in a world now where triple figures are commonly dropped on concoctions loaded with artisanal ingredients and aged in notable barrels, so how does a beer like Samuel crash the pastry party?
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Starting with the pour, this beer radiates a heavenly golden light. The only thing missing is an ancient knight who will assure you that whatever stemware you have chosen for this occasion, you have chosen wisely. It’s not guaranteed to provide eternal life, but the long-lasting, dense eggshell head is a sustaining beauty of its own kind. A potpourri of grass, citrus, Brett, and lovely feat sweat wafts north, and like hugging your perspiring sports hero on the field immediately after a stunning victory, you can’t help but jump in and celebrate.
There is a chewy wheat body that is cut with a perfect tartness and carbonation that would meet even Aristotle’s lofty standards. The wine barrel acts like the host at the party who confidently answers the door when the police show up, keeping not only the other revelers in check, but dealing with any of the usual negatives influences that would ruin the night. This is buttery, citrusy, clean yet complex, but dense enough in flavor that you resist chugging despite the crispness. It’s a truly extraordinary accomplishment, highlighting the craft aspect of “craft beer” over the cheap thrills of added ingredients.
In proper Hill Farmstead fashion, Samuel finishes so clean you’d think you just bought and slept on these 800-thread-count-sheets of flavor for the first time. In one word, this beer is soft, like a funky Snuggle bear cuddling your tongue with a touch of white wine and tart lemon candy finish. The problem is, unlike most BA Stouts that leave you full and satisfied with your investment, and maybe even a little palate fatigued, you finish your bottle of Samuel and immediately want more. This is of course what every brewer should strive for, but can be problematic in this case when you take into account aspects like scarcity, price, and general economic principles.
Is It Worth It?
The not-quite million dollar question here, is it worth the splurge? This is like asking if you need the AMG package on your Mercedes SL550. For the majority of people who don’t feel that need for speed or appreciate the nuanced tuning of the high-priced sport package, the $30 BA Dorothy, or a number of other similar options, would provide you with a stellar entry experience, and you’d wonder without direct comparison what possibly could be missing from that beer. For the true believer, for someone who loves the style and wants to summit the pinnacles of wild ale production, this is a journey to seek out, though maybe that journey is best completed by saving up and (post-COVID) visiting for an on-site taste rather than navigating the high-stakes tables of the secondary market.