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James Black Ale - Hill Farmstead Brewery

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James Black Ale
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56 Reviews
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Reviews: 56
Hads: 360
Avg: 4.23
pDev: 7.57%
Wants: 28
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.
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Reviews: 56 | Hads: 360
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.

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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.

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Photo of Knapp85
4.13/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured out as a rich looking deep brown color what essentially looks black in the glass. There is a very nice creamy tan head on top that leaves a great lacing and a pretty strong retention also. The smell of the beer has a really nice balance of roasted malts and aromatic hops. Very nicely done. The taste of the beer is also quite good, the malts again balance out flawlessly with the hops being used in this one. Chocolate roasted flavors with the subtle bite of pine in the finish. The mouthfeel of the beer is pretty smooth, it's medium bodied with a healthy carbonation. Overall this beer is very good, Can't find much to really complain about here.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.39/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Sean for sharing this growler. Served in a Cigar City snifter.

A - A finger of tan foam settles to some wisps, a thin collar, and minimal lacing. Very dark brown body.

S - Aroma is great! If I were blindfolded I'd *almost* be fooled into thing this was a regular IPA (or at least a hoppy amber). There's a faint hint of chocolate and roast character in the periphery, but this is heavy on the citrus, tropical, and lightly herbal hop flavors.

T - The taste tends a bit more towards the balanced side of things, although there's still a ton of hop character. Juicy citrus, earthy hops and roasted grains, and a touch of tropical fruits. Pleasant moderate bitterness in the finish that stays at a manageable level.

M - Medium body, moderate carbonation, lightly chewy texture, with a dry finish. Some resinous hop oils linger on the palate.

D - This is exactly how I like my Black IPAs. Hopefully John Kimmich makes El Jefe again so that I can do a side-by-side showdown between these two beers. I'll probably trade for this one in the future, as I really enjoyed it.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.06/5  rDev -4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On draft at the Blind Tiger in NYC.

The beer appears black with a thick, tan head. Long lasting retention with copious lacing. Hill Farmstead beers are beautiful. The aroma brings roast, pine, a hint of chocolate. Nice flavor. Well balanced, with a healthy pine bitterness on top of a roasted malt bill. Medium bodied with lingering chocolate in the finish. A solid beer.

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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.

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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.

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

750 mL growler.

Pours a clear dark brown, near black with a bubbly tan, ruby tinged head. Aroma is resin, pine, roast malt, and light citrus hops. Mouthfeel is suffering a little from sitting on this growler for too long. Light carbonation on a medium thick body with a slightly watery finish. Much less roast in the flavor than the nose, pine hops dominate, bitter and resiny with light citrus in the finish. Aftertaste lingers more malty than the body with soft roast and light chocolate. Having had this fresh, I won't ding the mouthfeel from this sample; one of my favorite Black IPAs.

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Photo of corby112
3.88/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled on draft at Capone's.

Pours pitch black and almost complety opaque with only the slightest hint of deep, dark mahogany edges when held to a light source and a one finger beige foam head that settles into a lasting ring. Sporadic chunks of lacing left behind.

Interesting aroma with hints of roasted malt as well as some sweet citrus and earthy pine hop notes. Slightly roasted with hints of chocolate and caramel but not as malty as I expected.

Medium bodied with a nice bitter blast of earthy hops up frotthat is immediately coutered by sweet citrus and tropical frut notes. The roasty malt is minimal and is actually used to counterbalance the hops. Subtle toasty bread, chocolate and caramel but this beer is all about the sweet citrus and tropical hop flavor. Only slightly bitter with some earthy pine as well as some grapefuit, lemon, pineapple and orane peel. This was a really interstig beer and one of the better black IPAs ibe had.

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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!

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

Enjoyed on tap at the brewery in their tasting room.

A - Poured a rich dense black with a nice small creamy mocha head.

S - Mostly consists of dark roasted malts and some nice chocolate notes. Some light pine/citrus from the hops.

T - More of the same with nice roasty, dark malts that give way to good dark chocolate flavours. Its rounded out at the end by some light, but definately present pine and grapefruit rind bitterness.

M - Mouthfeel is good with some nice creamy carbonation.

O - Overall this was a tasty black ale. I would have liked a bit more dark roasted malts though as opposed to the hops.

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Photo of Jwale73
4/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Served in a Hill Farmstead tulip at the Blackback. Pours an inky black with a half-inch light tan froth embedded with tiny ringlets. Delicate spots and sheets of lacing are revealed during the tasting. Nose is reminiscent of french roast coffee with some earthy bitterness also present in the mix. Taste follows nose; however, the flavor profile comes off a bit thin and watery. Mouthfeel is light-medium with an even carbonation, but it comes off a little on the thin side. Overall, a solid example of the style, but not as robust as it could be in my opinion.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of mltobin
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on-tap in Putnam County, New York.

The appearance is a dark brown color with a short tan head. Its` nose has grass, roasted malts, some light fruit. Sipping this and it tastes of big roasted malts, followed by chocolate and and a small amount of bitterness. Mouthfeel is nearly medium, a fairly crisp finish. It drinks very easily and makes for a great growler fill, especially with being under 7% abv.

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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.

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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.

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Photo of Stevedore
4.22/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

James on draft at Blackback Pub in Waterbury, VT. 12oz poured into a Hill Farmstead stemmed glass today, 2/11/2014.

App- dark black body, two finger white head, good retention, solid lacing that looks like specks of sugar.

Smell- juicy citrus, earthiness and a bit of chocolate. Really smells like a hoppy IPA here.

Flavour- more of the roast malts show up here. Some espresso, roast, milk chocolate. Combine this with the juicy citrus hops and it's a fairly good combination.

Mouthfeel- medium bodied, creamy and rich. Good carbonation. Not a particularly bitter aftertaste, fairly sweet and dry on the finish, actually.

Overall- one of the better black IPAs I've had but certainly nowhere in the upper echelon of Shaun Hill brews.

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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.

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James Black Ale from Hill Farmstead Brewery
93 out of 100 based on 56 ratings.