Fox Farm Brew­ery

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By Tyler Plourd

Best known at the mo­ment for their hoppy IPAS and pale ales, Fox Farm Brew­ery in Salem, Con­necti­cut, is us­ing lo­ca­tion to its ad­van­tage. The em­pha­sis on sourc­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and tak­ing a culi­nary ap­proach to beer-recipe de­vel­op­ment trans­lates to a true farm-to-glass ex­pe­ri­ence.

FOX FARM BREW­ERY RE­SIDES on a thirty-acre par­cel of farm­land in Salem, Con­necti­cut. A beau­ti­fully re­stored 1960s dairy barn serves as the epi­cen­ter for the brew­ery and houses a two-story tast­ing room equipped with a mez­za­nine. Zack Adams and his wife, Laura, bought the home just a few hun­dred yards be­hind the barn with dreams of one day build­ing a brew­ery with a sense of place. Af­ter years of plan­ning and with the help of fam­ily and friends, Fox Farm is now a re­al­ity.

Al­though best known at the mo­ment for their hoppy IPAS and pale ales, it is their em­pha­sis on sourc­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and tak­ing a culi­nary ap­proach to recipe de­vel­op­ment that trans­lates into a truly unique ex­pe­ri­ence, set­ting them apart from be­ing la­beled as just an­other brew­ery.

“With IPAS and hoppy beers, the se­crets are out. Peo­ple are mak­ing those beers all over the world. The farm­house beers are some­thing that we think are truly unique, [some­thing] that we can bring to the ta­ble,” says Zack Adams.

These beers are fer­mented with their house yeast cul­ture that takes a lot of the con­trol out of the hands of Adams and his brew­ing team. In a craft where re­peata­bil­ity and pre­ci­sion are highly lauded, Adams en­joys the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion that comes with farm­house and bar­rel-aged beers.

Sourc­ing lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and for­ag­ing the prop­erty, which is home to heather, tart cherry, and Myrica gale (or bog-myr­tle, an in­gre­di­ent mostly found in gruits) are points of em­pha­sis for Adams and his team when sculpt­ing new recipes. Laura’s fam­ily owns a vine­yard (mostly St. Croix grapes) just down the road, and it also serves as a color pal­ette of sorts when craft­ing new beers. The tra­di­tion of home wine­mak­ing in Laura’s fam­ily plays a big role at Fox Farm.

“Tra­di­tion has al­ways been im­por­tant in our fam­ily, whether it’s food, wine, or beer. There’s some­thing spe­cial about pass­ing down these mo­ments from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, and it cre­ates a sense of con­nec­tion to where you’ve come from. Just as I can re­mem­ber back to the wine­mak­ing in my par­ents’ base­ment, our kids will re­mem­ber pick­ing and crush­ing the grapes,” says Laura Adams.

Ital­ian Grape Ale

Those grapes can be found in sev­eral Fox Farm beers, such as Near & Far, a dou­ble IPA that fea­tures 1,000 pounds of Fron­tenac and Mus­cat grapes paired with Nel­son Sau­vin and Motueka hops from New Zealand. Pantry Party, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with fel­low Con­necti­cut farm brew­ery, Kent Falls Brew­ing Co., used more than 200 pounds of St. Croix grapes for a pleas­ingly tart farm­house ale; and most re­cently, An­nata, a grape-har­vest ale in­spired by the Ital­ian grape ale, was brewed in mid-septem­ber of last year, shortly af­ter the an­nual har­vest.

An­nata is born out of a mixed-cul­ture fermentation in stain­less steel, then dosed with al­most 800 pounds of those very same St. Croix grapes sev­eral months later, in­tro­duc­ing a new wave of fermentation and com­plex­ity. When work­ing with St. Croix, Zack Adams ad­mits most brew­ers blend the grape with oth­ers due to its highly acidic na­ture, but he en­joys the up­front punch of such a com­pelling in­gre­di­ent. “It’s nice to layer in that acid­ity to com­ple­ment what­ever was al­ready go­ing on in the be­gin­ning of fermentation,” he says.

An­nata was a fea­tured beer at this year’s WOODSCRAK 18, a fes­ti­val hosted by CRAK brew­eries—other Brew­ery in Italy. The fest fea­tured two other United States Half Texas)—along Brew­ing Co. (Brook­lyn, New York) and Jester King Brew­ery (Austin, with an as­sort­ment of brew­eries from around the globe that de­scended on Padua, Italy, for a two-day fes­ti­val in the woods.

For Zack, be­ing able to visit a place that is be­com­ing known for Ital­ian grape ale, a style the BJCP placed in the ap­pen­dix of their 2015 re­vised style guide­lines, and pour­ing An­nata, which stems from this beer/wine-in­spired cross­over, was a truly in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. The ex­po­sure is

some­thing he can hang his hat on, but get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­stand where this beer comes from was im­mensely valu­able for him and his team.

Hos­pi­tal­ity: A Key to Suc­cess

Zack Adams’s brother Dave is the gen­eral man­ager and a prom­i­nent pres­ence in the tast­ing room. Hos­pi­tal­ity has been a mon­u­men­tal part of Fox Farm’s early suc­cess, which is due in large part to Dave and the tast­ing-room staff.

“We try to fo­cus on the beer and the ser­vice we pro­vide to the peo­ple that we’re stand­ing in front of. We try to give them the best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble,” he says.

As part of an ef­fort to keep the farm­land lo­ca­tion warm and invit­ing, the tast­ing room hours are trimmed to­ward the lighter side (2 p.m.–7 p.m. on Fri­day; 11 a.m.–5 p.m. on week­ends), and there is a sam­ple limit dur­ing your visit. Guests can choose be­tween four 7-ounce pours or two 13-ounce pours in an ef­fort to keep things tame out of the re­spect for their neigh­bors and the san­ity of Zack and Laura, who, as men­tioned above, live a mere 200 yards away.

“Brew­eries mean a lot of dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and we just want to guide peo­ple to­ward treat­ing this as a place to en­joy a beer or two. We’re a fac­tory, and the tast­ing room is this won­der­ful re­tail com­po­nent that we have, but we’re not try­ing to be a bar. We’ve been re­ally for­tu­nate where it’s fallen into this won­der­ful groove that we’ve been able to main­tain by just be­ing our­selves and run­ning this place the way we want to. We haven’t had to go to ex­ces­sive lengths to bring peo­ple here,” says Dave Adams.

Tran­quil­ity can be found in grab­bing a half pour of Gather, their Keller Pil­sner, and sit­ting on the sec­ond-floor mez­za­nine that over­looks the brew­house and des­ig­nated cool­ship room. There is out­door seat­ing and enough shade to throw a pic­nic blanket un­der if need be. The at­mos­phere that has been cre­ated at Fox Farm is hyp­notic, just as much as it is vi­brant.

“We’ve done every­thing we can to man­age this in a re­spon­si­ble way. We try not to drum up ex­ces­sive hype. We have a good vibe here, and we seek to pro­tect that,” says Zack Adams.

Ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and Col­lab­o­ra­tion

On top of the tra­di­tional styles found at Fox Farm, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion all come to­gether in a beer like Żyto, a Kvass-in­spired farm­house ale fea­tur­ing the use of 200 pounds of rye bread from Farm to Hearth Bak­ery (Haddam, Con­necti­cut) in the mash, along with Con­necti­cut-grown bar­ley, rye, and trit­i­cale. First Fur­row, a foeder-fer­mented Czech Pil­sner brewed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Counter Weight Brew­ing Com­pany (Ham­den, Con­necti­cut) is a feather in the cap. Round­ing things out is Fox Farm’s first bar­rel-aged sour beer, Aval­o­nia. Named af­ter the Pa­le­o­zoic mi­cro­con­ti­nent re­spon­si­ble for the geo­graphic sim­i­lar­i­ties shared be­tween New Eng­land and North­ern Europe, Aval­o­nia is a white wine bar­rel–aged mixed-cul­ture beer that was re­leased in June of this year.

But if one of­fer­ing ex­hibits Fox Farm’s ethos on lo­cally sourced in­gre­di­ents, it would be their up­com­ing Nor­we­gian­in­spired farm­house ale. Yet to be named, the beer fea­tures Myrica gale from the prop­erty; spruce tips from The Tiny Acre farm (Wood­stock, Con­necti­cut); bar­ley and wheat from Thrall Fam­ily Malt (Wind­sor, Con­necti­cut); hops from Fox Hol­low Hops (Colch­ester, Con­necti­cut); and it’s fer­mented with Kveik, a Nor­we­gian farm­house yeast. Ev­ery bit of this beer could be found within a fifty-mile ra­dius. It will spend sev­eral months in stain­less, be trans­ferred to oak, and then be bot­tled for nat­u­ral car­bon­a­tion and mat­u­ra­tion.

When asked what the brew­ery will be like in five years, Zack and Dave both agree on one thing in par­tic­u­lar: do­ing a lot of the same things, just bet­ter.

“Brew­eries mean a lot of dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and we just want to guide peo­ple to­ward treat­ing this as a place to en­joy a beer or two. We’re a fac­tory, and the tast­ing room is this won­der­ful re­tail com­po­nent that we have, but we’re not try­ing to be a bar,” says Dave Adams.

Left » Brewer Stephen An­drews is swelling bar­rel heads with hot wa­ter in prepa­ra­tion for an up­com­ing recipe. Below » Sam­ples are lim­ited but fla­vor­ful when vis­it­ing Fox Farm. This is done to help keep the neigh­bors happy.

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