Vanity Fair interview with Shaun Hill, Hill Farmstead

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by BT_Bobandy, Apr 25, 2013.

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  1. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    In my experience, the average rating is almost always lower over there than it is here (e.g. Pliny the Elder averages 4.26 over there and 4.65 on here). That's why some of my friend's joke around and call it HateBeer. :wink:
  2. patkorn

    patkorn Initiate (0) Aug 30, 2007 California

    I have met Shaun and found him to be a really smart,honest,passionate guy. In today's society those attributes are looked down upon by many people. He does what he does for a great quality of life. Why hate on him. As long as the beer is good,it's really good,who cares if he might come off as a douche. Most great brewers have a little DB in them anyway.
  3. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Pliny is a 100 overall here to. What is your point? The overall scores are relative to other ratings on each site. They are calculated mathematically. Do you not understand simple math? You said
    In fact, they are underrated, in comparison to this site. Ratings and scores are different. The ratings on that site are much lower than on this site. I have no idea how you could argue against that.

    They have two scores over there. One is relative to all beers and one is relative to beers within that style. They do have scores that fall in the middle, as well.
  4. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Because most people over there rate lower than most of the people over there.
  5. SaisonFest

    SaisonFest Initiate (0) Aug 6, 2012 Washington

    He makes SAISONS, he is the single best thing since sliced Jesus.
  6. darkandhoppy

    darkandhoppy Aspirant (297) Dec 26, 2008 Connecticut

    I also studied Philosophy in school and I appreciate how the drippings of existentialism permeate his words and his outlook on life. The things he says and the way he says them are very thoughtful to me. He sounds very disciplined to me. Existence precedes essence....

    Shaun sounds like he's exactly where he wants to be. He makes really great beer, too! I would never wish that he move his operation, or wish he made his beer more accessible to me, or that he'd change his life to satisfy my interests. Instead, I only wish I didnt live so far away.
  7. Stevedore

    Stevedore Poo-Bah (4,171) Nov 16, 2012 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    Well put it this way, lets take you doing your day job, whatever that is. And you have a captive audience who come from all over New England, watching over your shoulder in everything you do, for 5 hours every day. During this time, they want to take pictures with you, hang out with you, ask you questions about what you're doing and all of that. Day after day, more people keep coming and asking the same questions. Some days are worse than others, but every day there is always a gaggle of people watching you work. How long would you be ok with that? There are people who can handle it well obviously, but there's probably a point for most people where you just would rather work in peace.
  8. RBassSFHOPit2ME

    RBassSFHOPit2ME Meyvn (1,126) Mar 1, 2009 California

    You had instant credibility at "Rad Dude."
    4kbrianb and DaveHack like this.
  9. miketd

    miketd Zealot (535) Mar 2, 2006 Ohio
    Beer Trader

    He lost me at the dreaming about brewers part. Hill seems like a smart, thoughtful guy, but he's just a brewer.
    jjpm74 and cg123 like this.
  10. Kinsman

    Kinsman Champion (873) Aug 26, 2009 California

    This pretty much explains why I sympathize with Shaun. I have a job that many would consider to be a dream job. I live on a mountain in the woods and take care of a camping facility, and get paid to do it... it's a pretty sweet gig. Anyone who recognizes my avatar knows where I work and knows why it's so famous. This coming weekend alone we are looking at possibly upwards of 1500 people passing through to ski the ravine and they're all going to stop by and ask me the same questions that I've answered a thousand times already. "Do you live up here?" or "How long do you stay up here?" or "How do you get all your food up here?" or "Is your cabin heated?"... and the list of FAQ's goes on and on. So, It's not that I don't love my job and it's not that I don't want to talk with them, I just get a little annoyed when everyone wants to chat with me and I just want to sit quietly and eat my lunch.
    Rochefort10nh and penniwisdom like this.
  11. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    Exactly. Even the most self-absorbed egomaniac gets tired of this sometimes. I am by no means calling Shaun a self-absorbed egomaniac. I think he seems like a cool guy and gives his honest opinion in his responses.
  12. Brad007

    Brad007 Poo-Bah (3,422) Mar 28, 2007 Vermont

    Not to me.
    VonZipper likes this.
  13. Brad007

    Brad007 Poo-Bah (3,422) Mar 28, 2007 Vermont

    Property is quite expensive in certain parts of Vermont. Any town surrounding a ski area is going to have property values through the roof. That is primarily why many of those residences are owned by 2nd homeowners who need more of a place to chill for apres ski than anything else.

    I think many people are mis-interpreting the interview in a variety of ways. I admit that sometimes, I pull that hero worship crap on brewers that I like. It takes time and experience to realize that said people are not rock stars. They have lives. They have interests other than their chosen profession.
  14. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    I find it more useful to look at the average ratings. It is equally quick to look at the average ratings. If you don't understand how a score is calculated, then why would you give it any credibility? It is very easy to understand how an average rating is calculated.

    I also enjoy drinking beer and am drinking one as I type this. Trust me there is much more than 2 oz in my glass. I am not a ticker, if that is what you were trying to imply. I like to think of myself more as a functional alcoholic with exquisite taste. :wink:

    Finally, you were incorrect in your original assertion and that is all I was commenting on. If you had said that you like this site better or the way things are done here better, then I would have agreed with you. No hard feelings, bro.
  15. FiddlersBrew

    FiddlersBrew Initiate (0) Oct 6, 2011 New Jersey

    I haven't made the trip up to VT to have any of Shaun's beers, but I did get a chance to try Everett and it was pretty impressive. I'm also a huge fan of the business strategy, and I think it's an approach we're going to see more and more of in the coming future. It's a strategy that, to me, makes the most sense. We see a ton of breweries expanding to meet demand, and also being pressured by distributors to fill orders. This leads to decisions that, usually, have a huge impact on the overall product. A lot of it comes down to business, who's behind it and who are the brewers answering to? In this case, Shaun answers to himself.

    So, what's so wrong with being quaint? With a background in philosophy, it's extremely apparent that he's not in this just to turn a profit. Shaun's in this because it makes sense to him in how he wants to live his life. Who wouldn't want to own and operate a small brewery, in a remote location, living only a few feet from the brew house, while making small batches of whatever your heart desires? Oh, and lets not forget, debt free. I know I would.

    As for him coming across as a douche, take a second and step back and really look at what he's doing. The amount of employees alone should scream how hard Shaun has worked to get this far. Ambitions to have a stone bread oven, raising chickens, as well as operating a brewery, are just a few entries mentioned from his journals. Think about what else could have possibly gone through his mind; this guy has been around the spectrum with his thoughts. Then, to have people asking you to create a recipe for them to sell at their own brewery is just downright insulting. Insulting enough to question humanity and desire that cabin in the woods.

    I, for one, love what Shaun's doing and hope he doesn't change much. I'm very excited to take the trip up there sometime soon and get a real, first hand, perspective on what he's accomplished.
    VonZipper and grassrootsVT like this.
  16. danieelol

    danieelol Savant (957) Jun 15, 2010 Australia

    As if if you were in his position you would pretend to be fake-modest.

    Obviously knows his shit, and has a healthy scorn for the church of capitalism.
    vonnegut21 and Retail1LO like this.
  17. CelticAleMan

    CelticAleMan Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2010 California

    I agree that there are more things that get scores of 100 and the high 90s on there. Scores are calculated differently on both sites, that's why I look at average ratings. I take into account that people rate lower over there. The scores here haven't always been the same as they are now. Not long ago, this site had letter grades instead of scores. The changeover is what made me pay more attention to average rating than scores.
  18. unibroue4ever

    unibroue4ever Initiate (122) Oct 20, 2010 Quebec (Canada)
    Beer Trader

    Right on! Nice beers, but nothing epic!
    ShogoKawada likes this.
  19. hinemk76

    hinemk76 Initiate (0) Feb 6, 2012 Pennsylvania

    It sounds to me like he should scale down production and cut back on the hours for the retail shop. Seems like a win-win from his perspective. Less people showing up, and more time to be left alone. It's simple. In reality, I think he wants to profit, as all business owners do, and that is why he doesn't do this.

    He comes off as a bit whiney, if you don't like the way things are, change them. Take on some debt and build a seperate retail store. So many ways to fix what he complained about, but whatever. I don't plan on ever meeting the guy or going to Vermont, just seemed he was whining about lying in the bed he made.

    He has total control over his situation, something most of us do not have. He should make it satisfactory to his self.
  20. Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Initiate (0) Jul 24, 2008 Wisconsin

    The guy has hour and a half lines at his door. You don't think he can't remodel, add on, or make some changes to give himself some privacy? I doubt the guy needs to rent a hole in the wall dump to get away for a bit. What about building a wall between the retail shop and brewery? I'm sure the guy is stressed out with all the frenzy going on at the retail end of things while trying to manage the brewing operations, but I can't believe there isn't a solution to the madness. I'll never make it out there, but would hate to see a brewer with his talent stress out over something like this.
  21. VTMoondog

    VTMoondog Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Vermont

    It's definitely hectic at the brewery to get beers, however, the socializing in line both outside and very pleasant. They also offer flights of the beers on tap. It can take up to 2 hours to get through the process, but, it's both worth it, and fun... as well as an enjoyable road trip through some beautiful, remote areas of Vermont.
  22. ehammond1

    ehammond1 Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008

    It’s just too much. I wish it wasn’t like that. My driveway is completely full. Man, success is fucking stressful . . . ” -Shaun Hill, Hill Farmstead Brewery

    Is this real life?

    If that were my son, I'd say "You pipe down, boy. Put your head down and get back to work. And next time you feel like complaining about the amount of attention you're receiving, DON'T DO THE INTERVIEW WITH VANITY FAIR!"
    AleFredO, tzieser, Ledunt and 13 others like this.
  23. VTMoondog

    VTMoondog Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Vermont

    easy buddy....easy. You are talking about a fellow vt'er here.
  24. ehammond1

    ehammond1 Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008

    You'll have to elaborate.
  25. VTMoondog

    VTMoondog Initiate (0) Apr 14, 2013 Vermont

    As a Vermonter, I take offense when someone takes umberage with another Vermonter..particularly when it is missing context. While i have never met Shaun, but suspect I will at some point, as friends of mine know him well, I think his take on his sudden fame is justified. Everyone and their brother wants his beer, and an interview. I'm sure he grants them, with some trepidation. To blast him for taking on Vanity Fair (which for fairness, he should know has WIDE circulation) and telling them honestly how he feels about this sudden fame, is unfair. Give the man time to adjust...both his sense of the fame, as well as his business model if need be. It seems to me, that Shaun IS into his work, and not the therefore...lighten up.
  26. ehammond1

    ehammond1 Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008

    I lol'd.
    Is it not missing context. The context is the Vanity Fair article, and the Vanity Fair article only. That's the subject, and context, of this discussion.
    No, the only thing I will give Shaun Hill is my money in exchange for his beers.
    Disagree completely.
    AleFredO, atone315, Rempo and 7 others like this.
  27. lhteacher

    lhteacher Initiate (0) Jan 20, 2013 Massachusetts

    If it were my son I'd say, "son, I get first dibs on all of your beers." He's in his 30s and wildly successful. You really think he needs his parents to give him a hard time for a VF interview?
  28. BT_Bobandy

    BT_Bobandy Defender (646) Feb 20, 2011 Ohio
    Beer Trader





  29. crushedvol

    crushedvol Initiate (0) Jan 29, 2008 Illinois

    I stopped reading right here
  30. RichardMNixon

    RichardMNixon Zealot (515) Jun 24, 2012 Pennsylvania
    Beer Trader

    Have you ever talked to a philosophy major before?
  31. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Meyvn (1,057) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    "A lot of brewers now go straight from home brewing into making a chili-chocolate-chipotle porter or whatever, and it’s like . . . well, just fucking make a good porter first, and understand what a porter is instead of trying to re-invent it."

    The man spits cold hard facts.
  32. 4kbrianb

    4kbrianb Initiate (0) Jan 2, 2013 California

    haha thanks man... it's the little things I guess.
  33. duchessedubourg

    duchessedubourg Aspirant (240) Nov 2, 2007 Vermont
    Beer Trader

    My niece works for VF in NYC and told me that the writer is the son of one of the editors, and a real beer-geek. It was his idea to go up and interview Shaun for a lifestyle piece, and I think he did a fine job, given Shaun's insular (by choice) lifestyle.
  34. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Insular, except when just about anyone from the press comes calling.

    The irony is strong with this one.
  35. t8000shx

    t8000shx Aspirant (210) Mar 2, 2004 New York
    Beer Trader

    Eh. Seems like a lot of folks here are are displeased with the guy speaking his mind, but I'm not sure any of us would feel any differently if our lives went from 0-60 at the same rate that Shaun Hill's has in the past 3 years. Going from a relatively remote lifestyle, handling a steady flow of customers 4 days a week, to hosting swarms of people 4 days a week from which there's literally no escape is a pretty surreal change. And then there's the publicity that comes with it...

    I get that complaining about success is rubbing some people here the wrong way, but at the same time it's difficult, if not impossible, to plan for this level of success, and more importantly it's definitely impossible to plan for the level of publicity that has come with it. Maybe I'm being overly generous, but I don't think 3 years is a very long time to figure out how to restructure and re-scale your entire existence, personally and professionally. As he mentions in the interview, he needs to physically build out the property a bit so he can separate his personal life from the business. I imagine that would be good for both him and his customers.

    To a large degree, this has nothing to do with beer. This is a guy managing a small but explosively growing business as best he can and frankly doing a pretty good job satisfying his customers - I can't bring myself to level too much criticism at him for complaining about growing pains.
  36. WeymouthMike

    WeymouthMike Devotee (460) Jun 22, 2004 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    There is a listing for 167 acres in Greensboro for under $400k and another 120 acres for 144k, I don't believe the price of property applies here.
  37. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    That's an easy fix: don't open 4 days a week, and don't give interviews to national publications.
    tzieser, ShogoKawada, sliverX and 5 others like this.
  38. ElGallo

    ElGallo Champion (824) Sep 26, 2009 New Hampshire

    THIS. I'm glad somone else sees between the lines and recognizes that Shaun's business strategy is an important one when it comes to quality beer. Several years ago - when Hill Farmstead Edward was Shaun's only beer on the market, and hard to find at that - a friend of mine (who coincidentally lives in Vermont) said his vision of the future for well made beer was go to small - beyond the notion of nanobrewery - to brew good beer for the people who live in your immediate area. My friend was likening his strategy to what Sean Lawson was just starting with Lawson's Finest Liquids: brew small batches, sell bottles at one or two accounts or the farmer's market, or just do growler fills on-site on the weekend. Low overhead. Make it fun. Provide something tasty for the community. I smiled and called it (with a nod to Mr. Lawosn) "Liquids for Locavores."

    But this is exactly where a lot of brewers are going. Shaun Hill says right in the interview, "From day one I’ve been saying that we are part of a neo-American ideal, which is the opposite of infinite, boundless growth." Hill Farmstead, Lawson's Finest, and The Alchemist are the three most popular breweries in Vermont, and all three brewers have made it very clear that they will expand to a certain point (or not expand at all) because they are sticking to running their businesses on their terms, and the see the inherent issues with rampant growth.

    Look around New England and you will quickly find a handful of breweries started over the past few years that (for now) are following this mantra of staying small and making a quality product: Oxbow in Maine, Blue Lobster in NH, and Tree House in MA, just to name a few. Twenty-first century consumer entitlement will always be the antagonist of these small breweries, but if more continue to pop up, then the needs of many drinkers of well made beer will be met. Just my two cents.

    And as for Hill Farmstead being "the best brewery in the world," give us a break with the arbitrary ratings. Every BA will say without question that - from the perspective of overall portfolio - there are several dozen breweries across the globe that brew "the best beers in the world"... and Hill Farmstead is definitely one of them.
  39. t8000shx

    t8000shx Aspirant (210) Mar 2, 2004 New York
    Beer Trader

    That's a valid point, but consider that there's a natural tension between wanting to grow/maintain your business to the level desired and wanting to maintain a lifestyle. Giving interviews and being open 4 days a week drives sales and growth, but obviously this has come at the sacrifice of a lifestyle. This goes back to what I said originally - the guy is learning on the fly how to manage explosive growth, and I struggle to criticize him for voicing complaints about growing pains when he's overall been very successful.

    Not to mention that even without nationally distributed interviews, the beer-geek word of mouth was sending droves of customers to Greensboro within 18 months of opening, although granted it seems that has accelerated in the last year. For better and worse, I suspect the quality of the product was going to cause this to happen regardless.
  40. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (203) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    This is probably the crux of it. The tone in the article though is easy to interpret as "woe is me" as opposed to "I'm trying to improve." The vignette at the beginning sounds like "ugh--they damn customers keep showing up." The author or the medium may be to blame for that, and it may not be reflective of Shaun's feelings, but (imho) it's definitely present.

    To me, struggling with growing pains is complaining about difficulties finding good employees, or getting financing, or dealing with zoning, or keeping customers happy. Griping that your growth is cramping your style feels...different, somehow. Plenty of brewers talk about 18 hour days as a labor of love. Shaun comes off talking about his success strictly as a burden. I don't think he's a bad guy--by all accounts he's really nice--but the article doesn't really do that justice.
    jloomis and JuliusCaesar like this.
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