Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Farmer Walks Into a Bar Part 2

"May I help you sir?" asks the maitre'd. The farmer is led to a stone terrace overlooking an expanse of green. The farmer sets up a table with bottles, herbs and tattoos. Golfers clomp up in their cleats. He hands one of them a drink with a sprig of basil.

“What’s this?” says a guy in yellow pants.

“Greylock Tom Collins,” says the farmer.

“What’s in it?” says a guy in green pants.

“We have basil, lime juice, club soda, Greylock Gin,” says the farmer.

“Free?” says the other guy, this one in green pants.  

The farmer is a 26-year old guy with a bushy yellow beard.

“You’re tasting orris root, you’re tasting juniper, you’re tasting basil from the garden.”

The golfer in green pants picks up one of the tattoos and squints at it, “Summer of Greylock,” he says and peels off the plastic and slaps it on a sweaty forearm. 

It's late in the day in early June on the first day a summer and the cocktails are on the house for guests at Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox MA. Mike Sherry is farm manager and event manager for an 8-year-old distillery in Sheffield MA. Summer of Greylock was created to promote a line of gin made by Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Inc.

At Berkshire Mountain Distillers in Sheffield, I encounter farm stand at the entrance followed by a drive lined with passing corn stalks and sunflowers that leads to the distillery, a large, pine green metal structure. Beyond the distillery are raised beds and a hoop-house.

Mike meets me out front and holds a tiny clover in his large hand.
“Welcome. This is where we’re growing gin,” he says with a sweep of his arm. We enter the metal building’s tasting room where owner Chris Weld leads visitors on a tour explaining that water used to proof the gin comes his farm a few miles away.

“The water is almost sweet,” says Mike. “It comes out of a granite fed spring house which has been producing bubbly water since the 1860’s.” At that time, people visited the Berkshires for healing waters. We head out to the garden. Mike stoops to pick up a small weed.

“It’s my next ingredient for bartenders. It's a garnish...” he says clutching a tiny clover.  

We examine a spray of lemon grass destined for next year’s batch of tonic water destined for tonic water, also made at the distillery.

“We grow gin here. It's made of seven botanicals," said Mike.

We proceed past healthy looking juniper, coriander, licorice, angelica and a blossoming white iris, also known as orris root.  The scent of the juniper and licorice are sharp and bright.  Missing in the garden is cinnamon and orange peel which must be sourced from tropical climates. 

Inside at the tasting room an array of bottles with foil labels model the company's Ethereal Gin product, a limited edition of ranging from #1-12 with an alcohol content of 47%. It’s 11 in the morning when I sample batch #12, described in the tasting notes as having hints of citrus, berry, spice, hibiscus, lemon grass, elder berry flower and black pepper. The sensation of attempting to discern and learn each flavor is intense. The room, a beautiful sun-lit place with glittering bottles, is made more beautiful after each sip. Mike's voice becomes a gentle humming noise in the room and time slows down. 

Luc Sante, the author of “The Other Paris,” said that the past, whatever its drawbacks were, was wild. By comparison, the present is farmed. The experience of drinking hard liquor infused with local flora lies somewhere in between wild and farmed.

The Summer of Greylock will conclude with dinner and drinks at in the tasting room at Berkshire Mountain Distillery in Sheffield, MA. Guest bartenders will serve craft cocktails made with the company’s gin and vodka line-up. The public is invited to this benefit for Berkshire Farm & Table. If you go, expect to get a taste of the place.

Farmer Walks Into a Bar Part 1

First there was coffee made from sustainably grown beans served right where the beans were roasted and after that came places where a burger could be enjoyed along with a taste of the newest IPA right there in the brewery. Taste of place is not a recent phenomenon. 

Eating a home cooked meal offers a taste of a place called home.  Except for a place in the bowels of the New York subway system where a sign reads “donuts made on the premises,” taste of place offers another layer of experience…..but can you really taste a place?