Beer nerds enjoyed a rare treat on Saturday morning when one of the world’s most celebrated brewers, Shaun Hill, addressed a crowd at Armsby Abbey in Worcester. Tickets for the restaurant’s annual Stoutfest Breakfast sold out immediately with no indication as to who the special guest would be. The appearance of Hill, who remains notoriously private, surpassed attendee’s wildest expectations.

Hill Farmstead has become a fixture of Armsby Abbey over the last two years thanks to the integrity and devotion of owners Alec Lopez and Sherri Sadowski. Lopez and Sadowski’s promise to preserve the virtues of Hill Farmstead on site in Worcester has fused one of the most important relationships in the industry.

Hill, Lopez, and Executive Chef Damian Evangelous took turns speaking to the crowd throughout the three course affair. Evangelous’ remarks emphasized local farms tapped for the event, including the introduction of a dish prepared with Crystal Brook Farm’s last remaining goat, Nellie. The coffee roasted goat was served with charred coffee cooked carrot over a risotto compiled of triticale, rye, and oats grown locally at Four Star Farms.

The Armsby Abbey girls during Stoutfest.

The Armsby Abbey girls during Stoutfest.

Hill spoke about his time in Copenhagen, where he paid daily visits to The Coffee Collective. At the time, he was inspired by the serious culture built around coffee and the intense precision of its participants. Before Leaving Denmark, he asked six other brewers to share their own fundamental guidelines for brewing stouts in addition to a recipe. “I combined our recipes and divided by seven,” he explains. Hill’s formative experience in Copenhagen continues to influence many of his award winning stouts.

Although the public won’t be able to sample most of the exclusive releases poured for Stoutfest, one of the day’s special selections will remain available at Armsby Abbey for the foreseeable future: Shirley Mae.

This American porter was brewed in honor of Hill’s cousin, Shirley Mae. Shirley Mae marked the last of Hill’s ancestors, for whom his beers are named, to pass away. The brew carries light, malty sweetness typical of a higher Alcohol by Volume than Shirley Mae’s 4%. Poured on nitro, it offers a creamy mouthfeel elevated by the spirit of chocolate, coffee, and Shirley Mae herself who was described as both “ebullient and generous.”

Hill explains that he generally only drinks low ABV beers like Saisons and Pale Ales. “In Vermont, we have to drive long distances to socialize,” he explains. He adds that Shirley Mae is a, “Refreshing treat.” The same could be said of his presence in Worcester.

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