In the beer world, there are tiers of rarity. You have your macros and your craft staples—Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Brooklyn Lager, etc. These beers can be found at watering holes and liquor shops nationwide. You have your seasonals and offerings from breweries without huge distribution networks. In 2015, most beer drinkers have at least tried a couple of these. Dig deeper and you reach your Heady Toppers and your Pliny the Elders—beers that launch roadtrips, online one-upmanship, and chuckles from the guy happy with an easily accessible case of the High Life. Rare but, in the grand scheme of things, obtainable. Then you have your whales. Often hand-dipped in wax and sold at exclusive engagements, these are the bottles some fawn over, tracking down a sip like an elixir for a patchy beard. This should be where it ends. But it doesn’t.
There’s one more level, a tier filled with hush-hush one-offs, ghost bottles, and cherished concoctions never available. These pop up and disappear, with most drinkers none the wiser. It is here, among these crazy bottles, where you’ll find Flora Cuvée.
The story goes like this: Hill Farmstead, the world’s best brewery—at least according to RateBeer—brews a beer named Florence. Florence, like most of the Ancestral Series, is occasionally bottled and put on sale at the brewery. It’s really good. Not our favorite Hill Farmstead beer, but a really nice wheat saison. Occasionally, Shaun Hill and company age Florence in wine barrels, and what emerges is known as Flora. If we’re being honest, Flora is much better than Florence. Flora, as you might guess, is put up for sale far less frequently. Which brings us to Flora Cuvée. In the words of the folks at Hill Farmstead:
“On occasion, some portion of Flora exceeds even our highest expectations; Flora Cuvée represents a singular moment, a true zenith of Flora.”
So, it’s Flora, perfected.
Now, acquiring any bottle of beer from Hill Farmstead is a challenge. First, you have to make the trek to Greensboro Bend, Vermont, a secluded area filled with vast fields and small roads, on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. Then, of course, you can only choose from the small selection of bottles they have available at the time. Want a bottle of Everett? Don’t just assume there will be a bottle on the day you go. Special releases are a zoo, and lines form long before the taps start flowing. It stands to reason, then, that getting your hands on a bottle of Flora Cuvée: 2012 would be challenging, to say the least. And it was.
The Flora Cuvée: 2012 release was done as a lottery. If you won said lottery, you were required to pay $42 for the bottle and pick it up in person on a pre-selected date. You could not send someone for you. Win one and you’d have to get your ass to Vermont. And, while it’s not confirmed, it’s rumored only 300 bottles exist. That’s crazy limited; that’s crazy expensive; that’s, well, just plain crazy. So we tasted one.
Flora Cuvée is, as you might expect, spectacular. It’s tart and sweet, earthy and bright, funky and citrusy fresh. It’s complex and balanced. There’s a depth to it that even Flora, a beer with layers of complexity, doesn’t possess. Lemon, white wine, oak, pepper—lots of things come through as you sit with a glass. The time in the barrels really transformed Florence into something special.
While most of the beer drinking world isn’t ready for a $50 beer—especially one you have to roadtrip just to get—consider Flora Cuvée a fine Bordeaux—appreciated by some, snickered at by others. All we’ll tell you is it’s damn good.