Biere De Norma
Hill Farmstead Brewery

Biere De NormaBiere De Norma
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Farmhouse Ale - Bière de Garde
Ranked #1
Ranked #408
4.41 | pDev: 7.48%
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States
Biere De NormaBiere De Norma
Notes: Brewed on the day of my grandmother’s passing (Norma), this is an inspired Biere de Mars fermented entirely in oak and soured with our house spontaneous culture.

Norma (1939 - 2011) was my maternal grandmother, my Guardian Angel, and the woman that nourished the laughter and innocence of my youth. In her honor, we craft this Bière de Mars each February and condition it in oak barrels with our resident microflora, allowing it to develop indefinitely until it is ready for release. We realize the influence of those closest to us only after having left their presence. At Hill Farmstead, our spirit is forever defined by Norma and the memory of our loved ones.
Reviews: 75 | Ratings: 644 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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SierraNevallagash from Maine

4.54/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle - 2018 vintage
Split with jrc1093 in the car in the woods at a lake in the middle of nowhere Western Massachusetts.

The waxed cap is a project, and it took about 3 hours to open, involving a bait knife, a hairbrush, and some tenacity. Upon finally freeing the cap, that shiny aluminium bastard came flying off with a most impressive percussive *BANG* before travelling at a high rate of speed on a direct route to my forehead, drawing blood upon impact. Some very prolonged, but mimimal foamy gushing - perhaps a tablespoon of ale was lost.

Norma poured the most impressive deep reddish-goldish-amber colour, with a silky head of unevenly tan foam. Some lacing did cling. Streaming effervescence is very visible. 4.5

Nose: The deep, cavernous, complex aroma of this ale is hard to describe. Pale, slightly toasted crackery malt lays a subtle foundation for the explosion of aroma. Tons of fermented honey, waxy honeycomb, brown sugar, musty, old, wet wood, lemon zest, green apple, pear, ancient stone cellar, composting stone fruit flesh, a little apple cider vinegar, and some serious, serious wild bacterial funk. The funk is so intensely deep, earthy, musty, and wild, yet elegant and graceful. This is one you could nose for hours. 4.75

Palate: Biére de Norma greets the palate with a rush of intensity, and a level of acidity slightly above what I'm used to from Hill Farmstead, yet still very balanced and not at all sharp or acetic. Tons and tons of honey influence - fermented honey, honeycomb, raw honey, and what I would image ancient black honey dripping down cliff walls would taste like. This does lend a touch of sweetness, and hints of caramel, toasted sugar, and a whisper of molasses, all perfectly balanced out by the tart, apple cider vinegar zip. A very interesting savoury note appears - not allium, but like soil, sweat, and even a slight...saucy note? This ushers in a sharp turn from honey and tartness, to serious mature funk, with marmite, black truffle, way overripe cherry, and a hint of washed rind cheese, before pulling away, bringing honey back into focus, along with tons of old wet oak, leather, wildflower, lemon zest, apple, and white grape, finishing with perhaps just a touch of leafy hop character and lingering vinous tarntness. 4.5

Mouthfeel/Body: In line with the style, the beer is slightly more full-bodied than one may expect at 7% ABV, and the honey does a nice job of lending some roundness as well. The tartness just keep everything snappy, crisp, and insanely drinkable. Effervescence is racy, lively, and on-par with a good champagne. The oak lends a woody dryness, and the balanced acidity leads to a clean, dry finish. 4.25

Overall: This is simply a beautiful biére de garde. One of those rare beers that just has everything perfectly dialed in and rounded out. Like a stone smoothed over by years in the running river, there are no edges, and every element is flowing and seamless, with unfurling complexity and bold character. Do not hesitate to seek this one out.

Sep 23, 2020
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Hyptochrons from Massachusetts

5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

beautiful looking beer. opens up with an awesome cherry flavor reminiscent of cherry sweet tarts and musty cherry skin, complimented by red apple and grape, there is a pleasant sweetness with hints of honey and vanilla dancing in there to balance things out. some funky hay and spice characters rounding this one out. excellent offering here - zippy level of tartness cut just perfectly by some mellow sweetness - complex and funky throughout.

Mar 14, 2020
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.21/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

really unique example of the style here, generously shared for a special occasion this past weekend. i believe the bottle had a couple of years on it, and the maturity here was insane. i didnt expect this to be sour, as the style rarely is, but this ended up being one of the more acidic hill farmstead beers i can recall. medium amber in color with a rising and settling into patchy tan head, decent clarity until the bottom of the bottle, and an amazingly dynamic nose. i get the sourness right away, a little red wine vinegar, brown sugar and toffee sweetness from the malt, chestnut and almond earthiness, huge vanilla and tannins from the oak, some of the usual hill farmstead funkiness in the yeast profile, and fruity layers of raspberry, red apple, tart cherry, and even cranberry. the sourness is striking on the first sip but my palate gets used to it pretty quickly, i just didnt expect the sharpness. definitely has some of that flanders red vinegar character to it, which i think kind of pushes this more into that style realm than a traditional biere de garde, but its a cool fusion of saison, red malty beer, and sour. some biscuity notes to the grain, a honey character, big vinous elements and a lot of wood, this is really well developed and rather rustic and complex. a fun one to share, especially with long lost friends and family in celebration. thankful to have had this shared with me, its another very unique beer from these guys and really unexpected!

Aug 01, 2019
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jhavs from New York

4.37/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Crisp and clean flavors balanced nicely with earthy wood. Nice tartness level with flavors or sweet and zesty citrus and white grape.
Moderate carbonation and just under medium body.
Fruit flavors balanced nicely with some light grain and tiny bit of bready dough.

Mar 10, 2019
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EMV from Pennsylvania

4.46/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a wax-topped bomber into a Dogfish Head tulip. 2014 vintage.

L: Cloudy golden chestnut pour. Two fingers of fizzy white head. Great lacing.

S: Oak and funk... tart unripened fruit and chardonnay.

T/F: Tart up front... some lemon and green apple. Grape must and dry white wine... lots of oak/barrel character shines through. Mild honey sweetness mid sip with a crisp tart dry finish. Acidic/apple cider vinegar. Medium bodied... sticky and coats the tongue. Leaves you wanting another sip.

O: A complex and delicious Hill Farmstead Saison... outstanding barrel character... a gorgeous sipper, and on par for Hill Farmstead's expected level of excellence.

Jan 13, 2019
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JLK7299 from North Carolina

4.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just had a few hours ago on site at the brewery. They were out of Ann which I was dying for so I went with this. One of those first world problems for sure as this is a winner ALL day!

Jul 21, 2018
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GreesyFizeek from New York

4.69/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2018 release.

This one pours a mostly clear medium amber, with a small head, and lots of lacing.

This smells like bready malt, light caramel, grape, berry, wine, spicy oak, and honey funk.

Like most Hill Farmstead beers, this is unique and thoughtful. The malt character is nice, and becomes a stronger flavor component as it warms. There's warm toasted bread and a just a hint of caramel, with some dark fruit and a bit of grape character. The oak character is also great, with a bit of spice and woodiness, and a nice honey sweetness. It's a bit less funky than most Hill Farmstead, but that citrusy Farmstead funk is still present.

This has a moderate acidity that slightly lingers on the palate, with a good level of carbonation, and a high level of drinkability.

I imagine this would age very well, but I'm also happy I had it so close to the release. It's a supremely well-crafted beer, and probably the best Biere de Garde I've ever had.

Apr 24, 2018
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BeerLubber63 from Vermont

1.92/5  rDev -56.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

At 30 dollars a bottle this is pissing money down the drain. If you filled a beer glass with 1/2 apple juice 1/2 cheap champagne and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar you would have a cheap alternative to this anything but tasty beer.

Mar 24, 2018
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yasky from Canada (ON)

4.46/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2012 bottling. Red pour with a larger head, specs of lacing around the glass. Mild funky aroma, tart berries, oak, yeast, spices. Lightly sour taste, underripe berries, oak, yeast, lighter caramel sweetness. tart yet very approachable. Medium body.

Jul 04, 2017
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PHBoiler from Illinois

4.13/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A blend of malty body and dry finish. Interesting beer and style. Fairly tart with a bit of funk as well. Similar to a dry cider. Almost a spontaneous type of tart flavor. The body gives hints of honey and fruit.

Mar 13, 2017
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gcamparone from Rhode Island

4.55/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

March 2015 Release. 2014 vintage. Poured from a 750mL bottle into a hill farmstead tulip glass. Purchased at the brewery during the release, refrigerated since purchase.

Pours a muddy brown, pretty hazy body with an orange tinge. Small one finger off white head rises and reduces slowly, leaving a good amount of lacing and a layer of retention. Gusher, -0.25.

Aromas are potent and inviting, heavy oak dominates with a definite acidity present - lactic and light vinegar, musty, old basement, hay. Can't wait to sip this.

On the tongue, a delicious sweet and sour medly is present intermingled with a wild funkyness and delicious oak. Light lactic, sour apple, caramel, toffee, finished with drying wood notes. Medium body with low carbonation.

Overall quite an enjoyable beer. Great sweet and sour notes, lots of funk, lots of oak. Very nice.

Jul 11, 2016
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Phyl21ca from Canada (QC)

4/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a brown/reddish color ale with a small foamy head. Aroma of tart notes with light fruity undertones is pleasant. Taste is also a mix of tart notes with light fruity undertones and some light caramel notes with some oak notes also clearly identifiable. Body is about average with good carbonation. Not bad but I would say that the vinous and tart level is quite high for the style.

May 18, 2016
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rodmanfor3 from Vermont

4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This is one of those, "I want it once a year," type beers, especially at $30 per bottle.

Very unique flavor profile that exhibits oak barrel characteristics, earthy notes, subtle fruit, and a combination of bitterness from the hops, a touch of leather and tobacco, and a slightly sour finish.

With so many other great offerings from this brewery, I may not seek this out again, though I would certainly never turn it down.

Mar 08, 2016
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AMCimpi from New York

5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

L: A dark amber, with a white head that dissipates quickly, but leaves a nice ring around the outside. S: Oak, damp basement funk and musty. Honey sweetness and a little lemon zest. T: Oak upfront with the lemon zest, followed by the honey sweetness that creates this cherry like flavor on the mid palate...finishes with an oaky dryness that leaves you wanting more. M: Carb is on point, just dances on the tongue. Just a nice drinking beer. O: This is unbelievable...just blown away by this beer. I don't think a Biere de Garde can get better than this. Hill does it again

Jan 10, 2016
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mdfb79 from New York

4.42/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

From 11/28/15 notes.

Very fruity, and lightly sour. Fruity malts, tropical notes, oak, light funk. Medium body and moderate carbonation.

Had never had this and thought it was great; hope they make this one again.

Dec 04, 2015
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Myotus from Texas

4.22/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A huge thanks to Pearpicker for this bottle!
Poured from a 750ml bottle (2014 vintage) at
46°F into a tulip.
LOOK: Pours with a half finger's worth of off-white foam that shrivels into a line after 10 seconds. A beautiful dark amber in color (leaning more towards red than orange) with an extreme amount of cloudiness. Rising bubbles are small in size and very subtle in quantity. Lacing is thin and very subtle, also.
SMELL: Mild aromas of sour green apple acidity, tobacco, oak, and bittersweet red wine are backed by hints of toasted malts and honey.
TASTE: Strong sour green apple and oak flavors enter initially and are immediately followed by strong tobacco flavors. Mild bittersweet red wine, subtle toasted malt, and hints of honey flavors enter lastly as all previous flavors persist.
FEEL: Medium-bodied and subtly carbonated. Goes down smooth. Sourness from the somewhat aggressively agitates the tongue. Finishes with a moderate dryness.
NOTE: As beer warms, red wine and honey flavors grow slightly stronger. Still, the honey wasn't strong enough. I would have also like to have had more sweetness from the red wine.

Nov 27, 2015
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Zaximus from Colorado

4.14/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 Vintage - Dated 1/2015

L- Pours a very deep copper with modest head and excellent lacing.

S- Fantastic. Very funky. Dark fruit.

T- Tart but not overly sour or funky. Some dark fruit. Sour apple. But overall the flavors are somewhat muted. Misleading considering the nose.

M- Very, very dry. Wine-like. Lot of carbonation.

O- I was very excited to try this one but it was somewhat of a disappointment. Definitely solid but I felt like it lacked an identity as it fluctuated between a tart saison and a mild sour without really delivering a memorable experience on either front. Perhaps it's just te stud in general. Still worth trying.

Nov 04, 2015
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markgugs from New Jersey

4.35/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 vintage. Funk, funk & more funk, dayum. Apple skin tannic, dragged through the hay and grass. Caramel and earth. Fantastic. Now to track down a fresh one...

Sep 05, 2015
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TampaRainman from Florida

3.79/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

What can I say. Normally I dig everything HF puts out. Not much has been a real miss with me, but I just didn't like the way this tasted. Perhaps I'm not a fan of the style--haven't had many--but this was not particularly pleasant from a flavor standpoint.

Aug 15, 2015
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kevanb from Illinois

4.36/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle, marked as 2014 vintage, but packaged 1/2015, poured into a Hill Farmstead oversized wine glass. Enjoyed on June 13, 2015, reviewed from Tasting Journal.

The beer pours a dark amber color, hazy and opaque, burgundy and maroon hues with a bone colored head, about a finger or so high, decent retention and lace. The aroma is pleasant, stone fruits, red wine tannin, oak, leather, pinot noir definitely comes to mind, green apple, crusty bread, wildflower with mild tartness. The flavors are great, loads of pitted stone fruits, perhaps even some blackberry, very, very fruity, but with nice underlying complexity, oak, leather, toasted oak, musty red wine acidity, a bit of raw and earthy honey with a nice backbone of darker malts, chewy, sturdy, bready, with just a touch of bitterness and that signature light tartness from Hill Farmstead that is in all their farmhouse beers. The mouthfeel is very nice, coating, moderate carbonation, gentle and smooth as always, the finish is a bit dryer than I'd prefer, a touch of sharpness that almost goes from tart to full on sour.

Verdict: A very nice annual release from Hill Farmstead, perhaps not the truest to style, but unique and interesting. The prominent cherry/stone fruit flavor blended with the red wine-esque flavors, on a darker, more amber/brown malt base, really reminded me at times of Supplication from Russian River. While not nearly as sour, this had a lot of similar flavors and complexities and was not a comparison I expected to see myself making.

Jun 17, 2015
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Jugs_McGhee from Colorado

3.49/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

BOTTLE: 2014 vintage. Bottled 01/2015. 750ml brown glass. Maroon wax-ed over pry off cap.

Expectations are relatively high; I've enjoyed the few beers I've had from this brewery, but I'm not big on biere de Mars as a style.

Served cold into a tulip and allowed to warm over the course of consumption. Reviewed live as a biere de garde per the label.

No bubble show forms as it's poured.

7% ABV.

HEAD: ~.25 inches. Recedes almost immediately, lingering as a floater ring for a scant 20 seconds. It was white, but I had no time to note any other characteristics. Leaves no lacing.

BODY: Translucent copper. Nontransparent. No yeast particulate or hop sediment is visible. Average vibrance.

Appears aptly carbonated. It's a nice looking biere de Mars, but isn't unique or special.

AROMA: Brettanomyces funkiness. Muted dampened oak. I'm not getting as much farmhouse character as I anticipated; there's no straw or hay. Some green apple. Other fruit too - maybe some depleted plum? Seems a biteen on the sweeter side for a biere de Mars. I do find the honey when I look for it, but it's not prominent. Mild clove. Hop presence is minimal, bringing complementary floral hop character into the mix.

Aromatic intensity is average.

I find no booze or off-notes.

Suggests a well-balanced but middling brew.

TASTE: A kiss of sourness - maybe a 2/10 in terms of intensity. Green apple makes an appearance, but it isn't an off-note. Copper malts, grassiness, Belgian pale malts. The honey is subtle and nicely integrated, but does drive the sweetness up. Still, the bitterness/sweetness balance is well handled. Has a European hop profile with complementary grassy and floral hop notes. Some dried lime. Lacks a spice profile or a guiding yeast presence. Cohesive, definitely. Musty throughout. A biteen tannic, even.

It's not gestalt, nor is particularly deep or expressive. I do like it, and the yeasty funkiness is nice, but this isn't a world-class example of the style.

Average duration and intensity of flavour.

The oak needs to be played up; it's muted and reticent. This is nicely built overall, but leaves much to be desired in terms of intricacy and layering of flavour. There's some nice subtlety and nuance to the flavours (especially the honey), but as a whole it's just not more than the sum of its parts.

TEXTURE: Oddly dry, parching the palate somewhat and restraining its ability to refresh. Medium-bodied, lightly smacky on the palate, and smooth. Adequately thick and weighty on the palate. Carbonation is about right, but not perfect. Has a pleasingly crisp finish.

Could be softer. That dryness needs to be curbed.

There's no harmony of texture to taste, but this mouthfeel does a decent job at complementing the flavour profile. Doesn't help accentuate any specific notes.

OVERALL: Drinkable, absolutely. Hides its ABV well. It's not a mind-blowing brew, and doesn't live up to its impeccable reputation, but it's nice work, sure. I wouldn't go out of my way to nab a second bottle. Glad I got to try it.

High B- (3.49)

May 08, 2015
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Sarge3130 from Pennsylvania

3.19/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

really don't understand the hype here. Appearance is similar to a Barley wine. Ton of wet oak on the aroma followed by a slightly apple sour taste. Struggled through a 5oz pour.

Apr 29, 2015
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rhong187 from Pennsylvania

2.82/5  rDev -36.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

murky, reminds me of creek water, smells a bit sweet, probably its best attribute... Sweetness and oak up front, but not much of anything else. I'd like to call it one dimensional, but not sure what dimension that might be. Love HF, but this one was quite disappointing.

Apr 29, 2015
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Resuin from Massachusetts

4.47/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750 mL bottle into an enlarged snifter. This is the 2014 vintage, bottled 01/2015.

Appearance: Pours an opaque raspberry red and leaves a couple of fingers of off-white head that fade to a white layer atop the beer. The bottle gushed upon opening. (4.5)

Smell: Green apple, white grapes, mild cheesy funk, wine oak barrels, cranberry. Nice, delicate aroma. (4.25)

Taste: Apple skins, white grapes, light hay funk, mild oak, light cheesy funk, tart cranberry. Nice and balanced with some subtle, interesting flavors. (4.5)

Mouth-feel: Medium carbonation with a medium, slightly spritzy, acidic body. Finishes a tad dry but quite smooth all the way through. Nice feel. (4.75)

Overall: This is a really nice, balanced, drinkable saison. The oak barrels give it some nice oaky and dry characteristics, and there are lots of tart fruit flavors as well as some nice light funk. (4.5)

Apr 20, 2015
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Jwale73 from Rhode Island

4.15/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours the color and clarity of cider. Nose expresses cider vinegar and vanilla notes. Taste consistent with nose - I feel like I get a distinct wine barrel presence. Mouthfeel is light-medium in body with an even carbonation and a kiss of astringency. All and all, the first time I had this beer I found it a little watery; however, this time around I have to say that I was pretty blown away.

Apr 03, 2015
Biere De Norma from Hill Farmstead Brewery
Beer rating: 97 out of 100 with 644 ratings