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James Black Ale - Hill Farmstead Brewery

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James Black Ale
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BA SCORE
94
outstanding

358 Ratings
THE BROS
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Ratings: 358
Reviews: 56
rAvg: 4.23
pDev: 7.57%
Wants: 30
Gots: 7 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Hill Farmstead Brewery visit their website
Vermont, United States

Style | ABV
American Black Ale |  6.80% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: SFLpunk on 06-27-2010

James was our Uncle (Edward James Hill Jr.). Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his four siblings. In his honor, this Black Ale is dutifully crafted from American and German malted barley, American hops, our ale yeast, and water from James’ well. It is unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and dry hopped. Roasty and smooth, with accents of chocolate and a balanced hoppy finish, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with James.

Pale and Caramel Malt; Roasted Barley; Centennial and Columbus hops; Ale Yeast, and our Well Water.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 358 | Reviews: 56
Reviews by The-yetti:
More User Reviews:
Photo of kingcrowing
4.12/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

64oz growler poured into a Hill Farmstead wine glass.

Pours dark, dark black with a small brown head that quickly fades, thin lacings starts to slowly form. Nose is awesome, it's hoppy and fruity, wild fruit and pine nots come through strongly. There's a bit of maltiness but it's not over the top which is good.

Right off the mouthfeel is really nice, it's light and sharp and quite creamy, very similar to a good American IPA, with a nice sharp finish. The taste is quite roasty and a bit grainy - I get this from all Black IPAs, and I'm not a big fan of it, but it seems to just be inherent in the style. There hop flavors are well balanced with the dark malts, and the citrus and mango flavors come through well. I think this is one of the best examples of a Black IPA that I've had to date.

Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed on tap at the Black Back Pub. An IPA that happens to have a shwartzbier element,resiny,piney, chocolate stoutish and grapefruit. Dark body and some lace.Hops and some roast aroma. The roast was lightly done which was nice to drink. Average mouthfeel.

Photo of Alieniloquium
4.09/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 mL growler poured into a snifter.

Appearance - Big khaki head. Eternal retention. Great lacing. Very nice looking beer.

Smell - Really citrusy. Some of the roast comes through, but it's mostly citrus hop.

Taste - Bright citrus hop and roasted malt blended with the hops. Grapefruit hops. Roast is very strong, but the hops never let up. Lends a nice complexity. Slight bitter finish.

Mouthfeel - Medium body. Very carbonated.

Overall - Excellent. Love how hoppy it is. Really impressive.

Photo of Phyl21ca
4.69/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Growler: Poured a clear deep black color ale with a large dirty brown foamy head with good retention and some good lacing. Aroma of piney hops is incredibly intense with great floral qualities. Taste is a mix between roasted malt notes with light bitter and dry notes submerged by a huge amount of piney hops with some citrus notes. Body is average with good carbonation. This a great demonstration on how dry-hopping should be done to limit the bitterness of hops but ensure floral piney notes are prevalent.

Photo of smakawhat
4.12/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured on tap into a solo clear plastic cup, at the Celebrate Vermont Fair outside Stowe VT.

Black walnut brown body, no head given, barely a tan collar, with some light rising carbonation. Kind of boring and ordinary, but sometimes you get what you are given.

Great hop and malt nose on the brew. Charing coffee roast with some light carbon and simple profile. Hop action seems pine like on the nose but fairly mild on the nose.

Palate hits nicely with a great mouthfeel of mixing creamy character of playful carbonation. Coffee and chocolate, with a real lingering hop and bitter dark chocolate finish. Hop angle seems a little bit hard to pinpoint along all the roast flavor.

Overall a real fun beer, perhaps not my favorite but a really well made.

Photo of GreesyFizeek
4.38/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Blackback Pub and Flyshop in Waterbury, VT.

Pours a creamy looking dark black into an oversized Hill Farmstead wine glass. One inch tan colored head, with sheets of lacing down the glass.

Smells include dank resinous pine hops, roasted malts, and chocolate.

The hop flavor is a bit more complex in the taste- there's the dank/earthy/leafy/piney hop flavor of the aroma, but also some great citrus grapefruit flavors as well. The roasted malts play out on the back end, creamy and bitter. Nice lingering bitterness.

Medium bodied, dry but creamy mouthfeel, low carbonation.

Glad to catch this on tap at the Blackback as Hill Farmstead had kicked it by the time I went.

Photo of oline73
4.24/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a growler into a snifter.

Pours a dark brown color with a layer of off white head. The nose is full of citrus peel hops. There is just a touch of roast. The flavor has a nice balance to it. Just a touch of roast with a nice citrus peel hop note. The finish is bitter but smooth. The finish is quite dry.

Photo of cbutova
4.29/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Last growler from my recent visit to HF. Never tried this one at all and always pumped to try new brews from Greensboro. Best by December 14th on the tag.

A- Snifter pour from the 750ml growler with a black body all around. Head forms to a finger high, a nice sight for a growler being in the fridge for seven days, no difference here from the wait. Puffy head recedes to a small, fizzy ring at the edges and small clouds on the top. Lace starts thick with rings at each sip and falls off as the glass gets wide.

S- The first black IPA I can think of having where I might not even know it was black from the aroma. Hops are packed in here in the same manner as many other HF IPAs with fresh citrus and floral notes mostly coming to mind. Slight black roast malts but hops are dominant.

T- Follows the nose with some minor differences in hops and malts opening up just a bit. The malts are still super clean and refined but there is a bit of sweetness, caramel and general roastiness here. Hops are once again bright with fresh notes of grapefruit, orange zest, stone fruits, pine and slight floral hints.

MF- Moderately thick body with a nice creaminess when agitated on the palate. Carbonation somewhere between a medium and high level but super smooth. Ends with a clean low-moderate hop bitterness on the palate.

Good to see that in the fridge the HF 750ml lasts at least a week. I wouldn't push it after their best by date (7 days) but I don't see much changing for even a few days past it. Shaun's system of fresh, hoppy growlers always produces great results. If I was blindfolded I would be thinking great IPA first and then the black malts secondly. Keep up the good work.

Photo of rfgetz
4.37/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark charcoal color with nice cap of dense khaki brown froth, good retention and lacing. Scent is a perfect balance of roasted grain and piney and fruity hops, nose brings out more fruit towards the end with some tropical notes present. taste begins as scent did with bitter roast and light char with a resin and grapefruit profile, mellows into a fruity mix of tropical and citrus notes. medium bodied, a touch grainy and dry on the tongue. Fantastic bIPA that doesn't allow the malts to overshadow the hops or vice versa.

Photo of Thorpe429
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Hill Farmstead on November 4, 2010. Served in a Hill Farmstead wine glass. Thanks to Shaun for his incredible generosity for spending a good deal of time with us.

Pours a deep, dark color that verges on black. A single-finger tan head and some nice lacing. The aroma hits the parameters of the newly-formed style head on with some really resinous piney hops as well as some roasted malt. The taste is pretty hoppy with some mild roast. The feel has a great combination of roasted malt and pine-based hops. This drinks quite well and is a really well done hoppy black ale.

Photo of jlindros
4.05/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tap at the Hill farmstead tasting room.

Dark almost black color, hint of ruby light coming through, creamy head with lacing.

Nose great spicy earthy hops, light citrus, some pine, dark caramel malts and molasses, chewy malts and hops.

Taste chewy spicy earthy hops, bit of pine, creamy dark malts, caramel, light roast, fairly bitter. Dry very bitter finish, bit of darker creamy malts.

Mouth is creamy med bodied, good carb.

Overall pretty good, less of the darker malts and more of the big bitter hops, not quite what I was expecting but maybe what I should have expeccted from Hill Farmstead. A taste drinkable beer but less dark malts than I expected.

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at Hill Farmstead

Dark brown-black pour, looked to lack most haze, but was still nearly opaque; a small beige head sank to a small ringlet leaving streaks of lacing on the glass. Piney hops dominant in the nose, mixed with some chocolaty malts, touches of citrus zest. Pretty typical of the style. Similar taste, plenty of hops, mostly pine, some citrus, roasted dark malts, cocoa, toasted grains. Medium body, decent balance. It's hard to get too much variety with this style, but that doesn't mean there aren't good ones and bad ones. This one was pretty good. It is HF after all.

Photo of Davepoolesque
4/5  rDev -5.4%

Juicy, a little roasty, great smell. This tops Blakkr as my favorite ipa. Usually not a huge fan of these. This is good.

Photo of WanderingFool
4.67/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

James pours black into the glass with some brown highlights around the edges. A creamy tan head forms on top. The foam dissolves slowly to a thin sheet on the surface and leaves behind a coating of lace on the glass.

The aroma is hoppy with orange citrus notes and pine. Some chocolate and roasted malt notes and a touch of bread are also detected.

Each sip of this medium to full bodied beer is smooth, creamy with moderate carbonation. The flavor is well balanced between citrus & pine hops and dark malts. It begins with orange citrus and pine. Soon, sweet flavors of chocolate and pale malt appear along with a touch of roast malt. It finishes dry with a hint of ripe fruit and moderate bitterness. Once gone the pine and chocolate flavor lingers on the palate.

This is one of my favorite Hill Farmstead beers. It's very well balanced and easy to drink. I had this on tap at several bars in Montpelier when I was there a couple months ago. This pint was poured from a growler a friend got me on a recent trip to the brewery.

Photo of FosterJM
4.46/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

1073rd Review on BA
Growler to HF Pint
750 ml growler

Thanks to CliffBrake for this one!!

App- A very deep rich brown with lots of density leaning towards a black color. The tan head on this one is amazing. 1st it just fell as a giant clump of foam. On a repour it was huge lines of sticky cling. One of the best looking beers I have seen in a 1000+ reviews.

Smell- A pretty straight forward Black IPA. It starts off with a little bit of a citrus punch and then slowly moves to a little malt and even gets a touch of chocolate in there. Very smooth on the aromatics and for almost 7% no trace of the booze at all.

Taste- I think the reason I am rating this one so high is the balance between layers its showing. Most black ipa's try to come across as a assertive roasty kind of note and then counter with some bitter. This was very delicate and balanced. The malts are a bit smoother with a velvety note and a bit of a orange/lemon/pine taste behind them.

Mouth- A very creamy medium body with this beer feeling out of the growler like it was on nitro. Super smooth and very creamy. A low carbonation level with enough bubbles to last for days if that makes sense.

Drink- Overall, this beer really was amazing. The appearance was magical and the feel was the stuff of legend. A truly great black IPA. This is what brewers should strive for.

Photo of mountsnow1010
4.15/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Mount Snow 1/02/11

A - Hazy dark brown to black with a tan/caramel creme head. Some lacing but not much
S - Pine and toast with a citrusy kick.
T - The smell all over again - quite resiny and citrusy, loads of hops crammed into this with a nutty toasty malt backbone. Bit of a bite.
MF - Crisp and clean - refreshing after skiing all day. Goes down pretty smooth.
D - Could have 2-3 but the subtle hops flavors would be dominated by the bitterness at this point.

Very nice beer with some very interesting and complex flavors. Would definitely seek out again.

Photo of jrenihan
4.28/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Ginger Man.

Beer is black, with a moderately sized tan head. Retention is mediocre, excellent lacing.

A nice hoppy scent, orange and grapefruit. Some roasted malt and chocolate behind that.

Taste has more of the roast- lots of roasted malt, coffee and chocolate. Strong hop flavour as well- citrus, orange, grapefruit. Citrus comes out more as time goes om, roast comes out first. Bitter.

Medium bodied, high carbonation. Tingly. Too much.

Overall, a great Black IPA. My first beer from this brewery and I was impressed.

Photo of Pinknuggets
4.19/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

750 to HFS sniffer

A: Very dark but more brown then black and mostly opaque if the head was not light and fluffy tan colors then this thing could pass for a stout to the untrained eye but it does retain some IPA characters.

S:Dark malt smells mix with distinctively pine/resin line hop smells I am always thrown off by black ipas but this seems to have a nice balance though neither is too powerful of a smell and there is also a hint of alcohol.

T: A lot of fresh hops upfront similar to other HFS ipas and pretty powerful for a black ipa as they are resinous. though that said there is a presence of malt sweetness and a bit of smoked flavor in the aftertaste so there is some balance with the darkness but not perfect.

M: There is a oily resinous feel that clearly comes from the hops it is sticky but not overwhelming. There is a thick heavy body but it is very drinkable and the alcohol is completely hidden

O: I like this beer but it doesn't live up to most of the other hill farmstead beers as I feel like its too hoppy for a black ipa but maybe thats my taste. Its worth a try but would not be a go to for me as someone who gets to try a lot of HFS.

Photo of cosmicevan
4.31/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

huge thanks to baconsausage for an array of hill farmstead goodies in the Growler Plus BIF (round 2).

a - this 32 oz growler had some minor leakage in transit, probably lost about 4 oz or so, so figured the time is nigh to consume this. poured a pretty lifeless brown/black. some swirls of the glass drummed up some bubbling, but nothing much and nothing that hung out.

s - really unique. strong sweet citric hop with a roasted malt. nutty, grape, candy. very nice.

t - the nose is there but assaulted by bitterness at first. nutmeg. a bit burnt on the finish. as i drank more and more of this brew, it just became more and more tasty. the hop and malt are so nicely intermingled in the beer.

m - cooling and biscuity. bitter. a bit watery but also silky. easy drinker.

o - overall, very solid black ale. quite delicious.

Photo of Chico1985
4.03/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

The Hill Farmstead spoilage continues. Currently in the process of taking down a 2-liter with the help of Kevin and Scott...

Drinking it out of a newly acquired Rock Art mason jar. Black beer, beige head. Retains well as a thin cap for most of it leaving some lace.

Pretty much full-on hoppy scent, but good in that sense. Loads of orange, grapefruit, earthy pine resin. Only some toastiness otherwise.

Taste brings on some very light roasted malts, chocolate, and toasted malts, but still very much leaning more towards IPA. Nice citrus fruits, pineapple, tropical fruits for sure, underscored by resiny+earthy hop oils.

Smooth mouthfeel with medium amount of carbonation, hops are quite bitter which hinders the palate, but otherwise quite quaffable. Nothing noticeable for alcohol presence.

Reminds me alot of their other black IPA (Foster), just enough 'blackness' to let you know it's there accompanied by loads of great hops, this one is probably even hoppier. It's good but maybe would've liked to see something different/more balanced with this time around.

Photo of 321jeff
3.7/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

750ml Growler provided by Michael, thanks!

Pours a dark brown that is lighter around the edges with just a bit of tan head.

Aroma is bright and hoppy with mostly piney hops but there is a nice roast note in the background. The hops really dominate here, surprising for an older growler.

Bitter pine hop resins hit up front before the roast takes over. Pretty mellow flavor profile that is brought together nicely.

I think the time in the growler has hurt the mouth feel in this one, it comes across aa little flat. Still very nice overall, and I'd love the chance to try this fresh out of the tap.

Photo of cpetrone84
4.04/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pour is creamy black with a very tight light caramel head that just doesn't move. Huge roasted malt presence with light notes of citrus behind. Taste has a rich malt balance with strong roasted flavors. Hops aren't a huge centerpiece here at all. Some citrusy hops through the finish. Not acrid or bitter at all, good soft feel, a touch of creaminess to it. Carbonation is fairly strong with a good clean finish.

Photo of Brad007
4.28/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a color blacker than night with a thin brown head.

Nose is greeted by grassy citrus hop aroma. Certainly a hallmark of the style. I would expect no less.

Visceral, hoppy and chock full of flavor. Hops have just a light touch of citrus. Lots of flavor from the malt. Do I detect a bit of toastiness?

Mouthfeel is kissed by lingering citrus and buttery malt. Mmmmm.

A toast to ingenuity of Vermont brewers is necessary. If not for folks like Greg Noonan and Glenn Walter, this style would have never come about. Cheers to a happy 2011!

Photo of Franck
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

Nose of fresh hop, chocolate and hazelnuts. In mouth, it's so well-balanced. Great hop taste with roasted malts aroma. Final of chocolate, nuts, wood. Very refreshing. One of my best black ipa so far

Photo of Hojaminbag
4.22/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

James has a body that borders on black, but I would still call a very dark brown. The tan head is solid looking, and showcases pretty good retention and lacing.

The aroma is straight hops, with all kinds of fruit and some resin. The malt barely makes an appearance, contributing perhaps a hint of both sweetness and roast.

The flavor certainly showcases a little bit more malt, but James is still one of the most hop-dominated American Black Ales that I have come across. Loads of hops, with some citrus and tropical fruit, but lots of earthy, grassy and resinous flavors as well. The bitterness is only moderate. The malt isn't completely shut-out, as it adds sizable flavors of caramel, chocolate and roasted malts.

This one feels creamy and smooth; both the body and carbonation as quite well-done.

Every hoppy beer that I have tried from Hill Farmstead has been phenomenal, and James proves that statement true regardless of what malt is used.

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James Black Ale from Hill Farmstead Brewery
94 out of 100 based on 358 ratings.