In the initial planning stages of this trip, there were some restaurants/breweries that we had to stop at. Why? Sometimes, it was because a place had reached out to us, or that we had too many people recommend the same place, we had no choice but to visit. The last restaurant we worked at, usually had a Fox Farm beer on tap, generally their Ashlawn Coffee Stout. This was always my go-to beer at work, it’s what got me into stouts in the first place. I NEVER would have drunk a heavy beer before. But once I got this beer to my lips—I was in heaven. Light and velvety, with robust coffee aromas, toasty, very lightly carbonated, with a clean chocolatey finish, almost like I was drinking the best, refined, (and alcoholic) Dunkachino in the world. I was such an avid fan on this beer. Most nights at work, my boss would have one of these waiting for me when we closed. It was that good. So I had no choice, I had to stop by Fox Farm and see what else they had in store.
As we’re making our way to Fox Farm, we were dripping with anticipation. We’re driving down wicked hilly backcountry roads. Closer and closer we get, and we have no idea what to expect from this brewery out here in the middle of the woods in Salem, CT. Finally, we arrive, as we head up the driveway the trees open up, and an impressive barn & silo rise up from the top of the hill. The barn was originally built in the 1960s to house cows on a dairy farm. Eventually, the dairy operation failed, leaving the barn and the rest of the farm to decay. After lying abandoned for decades, a dream took root in this old barn. After years of hard work, the barn was rebuilt into its current glory, and Fox Farm opened its doors for the thirsty masses.
We smelt the fresh pine right as we walked inside. And the first thing you see is the eight massive brewing tanks that fill the back end of the barn. In the front half where you first enter, they have a wide-open space, with the bar to the left complete with shovel handles on each tap. Opposite the bar, the walls are lined with standing counters, with tables and chairs scattered about. They even have a second-floor balcony that wraps around the walls and overlooks the brew tanks and warm cozy bar below. You really felt the history of the working barn in the space. Giant wooden beams stretched out in all directions over the polished concrete floors. They even used rebar as fencing on the balcony railing—I wouldn’t be surprised to see a tractor pull in. Fox Farm even had a cute little outdoor patio area to take your beer outside and appreciate Mother Nature and the beer she grew for you. Like their motto says, from the soils, comes the spoils. But before I get too wrapped up in the space- let's get some beer, please!
Now, obviously I love their stout, so I was itching to sample the rest of their portfolio. First up, Hearthbound Robust Porter. It was very similar to the Ashlawn Coffee Stout, like its smoky cousin. It was a denser drink than the stout, medium to full-bodied. I tasted more hops than with the stout, and the porter had a stronger flavor of toasted malt & dark chocolate. Robust & toasty, just as a porter should be. Feeling the nip in the air, Chris cozied up with me in the dark beer camp and got Fox Farm’s American brown ale (Scatter). This beer is definitely one for the malt & coffee lover's. Its a pretty deceiving brown ale for sure—I would’ve guessed it was a stout—not to mention, the nose was as smokey as they come. I had visions of myself sitting in a big leather chair, drinking my bourbon with a cigar in hand. Did I say it was delicious? …because it was delicious. The way it leaves a smokey coffee taste on your tongue, I was torn whether I wanted to sit and enjoy the aftertaste, or keep drinking this malty masterpiece.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention their Annata. This was definitely a funky beer—you might even call it wine. It’s a farmhouse ale, made with locally grown malts, and St. Croix wine grapes, grown on the Fox Farm family farm. I just devoured it. People tend to stay away from funky & sour beers, and that’s fine (more for me). But if you enjoy beer, I really feel you should give funky beers a chance. It's good to try all the different styles, and taste the scope of flavors that can be made from essentially the same four ingredients. It also helps you really understand what a particular brewery is doing, and the boundaries their trying to push. The Annata is blurring the lines of wine & beer. Tart, bright red in color, with flavors of red wine & lemon dancing in harmony on your palette. As soon as you swallow, the funky flavors typical of farmhouse styles come out, along with a hoppy tannic finish like a dry red wine. Chris had to reach over and try a sip, since I was keeping quiet (which usually means SOMETHING is up). I was hoping if I didn’t say anything, he wouldn’t try and steal my beer! I just shot him a couple of looks (with my ‘hairy eyeball’ as my mother calls it), and I had my drink to myself again.
The funky & fruity Annata is just the tip of the sour beer iceberg here at Fox Farm. Upstairs on the balcony, they have a viewing window of their ‘coolship’, a stainless steel vessel used to make spontaneously fermented beer. In the typical beer brewing process, the wort (the sugary liquid from boiling malted grains & hops) is pumped into a tank where it’s cooled to a specific temperature, then yeast cultures are added to convert the sugar to alcohol. In traditional Belgian Lambic beer, the wort is put into a ‘koleschip’, exposed to the open air, where it is left to cool and ferment with the natural yeast in the air, creating the fruity & funky brews they became famous for. This process has inspired Fox Farm to experiment with spontaneous fermentation. They’re currently building another facility in an adjacent shed, where they’ll start making these wild ales. This kind of beer isn’t sold to the public yet, but I’ll be hopping on my bus to check them out as soon as they release.
With ‘Night Moves” playing in the background, shovel handled taps pouring earthly ambrosia, and people congregating to share good times together—this farm definitely knows what's up. This isn’t just your ordinary brewery, they're trying new things, and even the ‘norm’ beer they provide all have a complexity unlike any other. When I took my first sip of Fox Farm beer, I was hooked. But now that I’ve had all of their other beers? Well, let's just say I’ll be clawing my way to be the first in line when they release their wild new project!
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