For better beer – Words and images by Mike V. Sardina
A Slice of Heaven
According to the United States Census, the population of Greensboro, Vermont was 762 in 2010. Think about that a brief moment… A Boeing 747 aircraft seats about 500 people aboard, so to say that the little town in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is a small town, the middle of nowhere, so to speak, has a definite sense of veracity to it.
But, if you also think about all that you can find there, in Greensboro, it’s actually a big place. There’s the Willey’s Store. There is Caspian Lake. There is the brewery, Hill Farmstead. And there is also Jasper Hill.
To imagine that (arguably) the world’s best brewery is located just up the hill from (arguably) the world’s best dairy farm and creamery, in Greensboro Bend of all places, might be a stretch of the imagination. But it is exactly that—your imagination—that is captured if you ever are lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the Barn and the Cellars. And just wait until you taste the cheeses (and the beers up the hill are pretty special, as well)…
Driving slowly up Garvin Hill Road to meet with Zoe, an impressive force of a woman responsible for some of Jasper Hill’s sales and marketing, you pass the Barn and the Cows on your way to the Cellars. Passing that painted Barn, you smile immediately and recount childhood tales of a moon made of cheese, easier and simpler times.
Inside a 22,000 square-foot, underground facility, you put on a lab coat, beard and hair net, and scrub down a pair of rubber boots. You walk into the Cellars, and it’s a veritable cave, an expanse of tunnels running out from a central connection point, almost like your fingers extending from the palm of you hand. You step into one of these cellars, and it’s an olfactory and visual overload. The smell of the cheese, in all stages of affinage, is pleasantly assaulting, and your eyes struggle to find where the walls and walls of cheese wheels come to an end (there’s no photography allowed, so you start taking mental snapshots).
Zoe pulls a sample from one of the wheels, and you close your eyes as you drop a crumbly piece of young, fresh, slightly funky cheese onto your tongue. There, it melts across the palate, and you are suddenly tasting the place you are standing in. Surreal.
Alpha Tolman, Cabot Clothbound, Harbison, Bayley Hazen Blue (my favorite accoutrement to the “Mike Salad” that I most always order at Parker Pie). Kinsman Ridge, Oma, Willoughby, Winnimere, Weybridge, each cellar a new discovery, another place to be.
It might be out in the middle of nowhere, in Greensboro, Vermont, but there’s a little slice of heaven—and a whole lot of cheese—to be found in the Cellars at Jasper Hill.