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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: 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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 56 | Hads: 360
Photo of Bierman9
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

My nightcap at The Reservoir on 02SEP12. Got a 10+ oz snifter for $6.50.

Poured a verry dark, near-opaque brown. Topping was a thin, rim job of light tan foam, with a touch of lace. Nose was a combo of rindy, resiny, toasty notes, which was inviting. A solid, medium body and a smooth feel helped things along.

Had some roasty coffee and chocolate at the start. Soon after came some rindy citrus, with bitter, piney, pithy characteristics. Quite flavorful; a solid BIPA! Zum Wohl!

4.33/5 rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5


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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 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 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 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.

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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 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.

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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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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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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 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 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.

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Photo of silentjay
4.45/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750 ml growler...

pours deep brown to black with a sizable light mocha head that retains very well and leaves behind tons and tons of lacing.

hoppy aroma of pine, fresh cut grass, a touch of citrus, with an earthy quality as well. the dark chocolate aromas come in after the nose gets used to the hops. also a bit of coffee and maybe some molasses.

starts off with deep roasted bitter coffee before the hops quickly and completely take over providing some pine and citrus, a bit of tobacco leaf. chocolate malts come in to play for a bit and there is some caramel sweetness. finishes with some resiny hops.

light/medium bodied with an extensive carbonation level with a resiny feel left behind.

wow. another masterpiece by Hill Farmstead. Reminds me of Dark Element from Element Brewing, but teeters more to the hoppy end of the spectrum.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.27/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks, Bob! 750ml growler split with the fiancé.

A - Pours black, light khaki-colored head, thin ring, some spotty lace, no cap.

S - An excellent balance of roast and hops. Citrus, pine, caramel, toasted bread. Again, the aroma on this is just outstanding. I don't really like my Black Ale's/IPA's with an overload of hops, but a balance of roast/malts in there really do it for me.

T - Not as roasty as the nose. Bitter hops, citrus notes, pine, light chocolate, caramel, roasted malts. Really nice and easy to drink. Finish is light chocolate and bitter hops.

M - Light, good carbonation, refreshing (for a black ale), oily finish.

O - Really enjoyed this one. I can't emphasize enough how I enjoyed the balance between hops and roast. It really makes this Black Ale easy to drink and that much more enjoyable. Recommend.

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

Growler fill picked up at the brewery this past Saturday at the Thanks Given event.

Appearance: Pours a deep brown to black, opaque, and slightly murky. The crown is 1 finger, khaki, shows little retention, and good lace.

Smell: Chocolate, moderately roasty, some grapefruit, pineapple and pine resin.

Taste: Same as the nose but bigger flavor and good hop bitterness. A touch of caramel malt but mainly a bready / biscuit charge.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Really solid black ipa

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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 greenmonstah
4.23/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 mL growler purchased in early October and shared with GarrettMD a week later.

A - Black with brown edges. Mocha head, half a finger, and average retention.

S - Huge pine aroma. Not much else. So thickly resinous.

T - Bitter pine flavor throughout. Finish has some considerable roast flavor along with bitterness. Pine resin is the dominant flavor here.

M - Medium body with above average carbonation and a drying finish.

O - Brilliant Black IPA. Could use more roast character, but I love the hop profile.

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Photo of GarrettMD
4.32/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Black as a moonless sky. Half a finger of off-white head that stays around for a bit. No visible carbonation.

S - I am almost positive they dry hopped this beer with Chinook hops, either that or Northern Brewer and maybe a bit of Cascade, that's pretty much exactly this smell. This smells exactly like opening a fresh bag of whole leaf hops and nothing more. No malts, no roast, no sugars, just hops.

T - Still mostly hops. So much bitterness from the hops it's amazing. This is what a black IPA should be. Tastes like an IPA but with a roasted twist, but still very slight. Same hops as the aroma with a little more bittering hops than the piney flavors.

M - Medium bodied, low carbonation. Starts off bitter and wet with mostly bittering hops, flows into bitter and sweet with pine hops notes and some slight dark malts, and finishes bitter and slightly dry with chocolate, roasted malts, and a wallop of pine and earthy hop notes.

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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 celticfutblclub
4.37/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

from a 2L growler poured into a pint glass

A - nice pitch black body with good head nice small bubbles sticks wonderfully and is slowly to settle.

S - big pine resin hop notes here hint of roasted coffee malts in the back.

T - taste is very similar to the nose with the roasted malts taking a more pronounced presence. great balance in this beer. pine hop taste with roasted coffee and a bit of chocolate in there for the malt side. great great beer.

M - good amount of carbonation with nice twinge in the back of the mouth from the hops and a good alcohol feel to it for the ABV.

O - superb beer from hill farmstead. can't wait to start seeing this on tap in boston.

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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 ffejherb
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured via growler procured at the Hill Farmstead brewery on 6/19/11. Thanks to FooFaa for sharing.

A - Milk chocolate brown with deep amber and burgundy hues around the bottom edges and a finger's worth of creamy beige foam that reduced, leaving thin, delicate lacing all over the sides of the glass.

S - Wonderful melange of dark chocolate and coffee malt at the forefront, although the hop character is equally as impressive, imparting notes of citrus rind, earthy dankness and leafy, green fresh hop cones.

T - Opens with plenty of coffee bitterness and a hint of dark chocolate malt paired with an abundance of earthy hop bitterness and some citrus attributes. Finish is extremely dry and bitter, giving the overall flavor an intensely earthy, leafy character.

M - Medium bodied with a creamy texture and modest carbonation, giving the mouthfeel an exceptionally smooth character overall. Finish is dry and bitter, though the bitterness doesn't linger on the palate for too long.

D - Awesome black IPA... or whatever they are calling these nowadays. Plenty of dark malt goodness without compromising the hop character. Delicious!

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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 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.

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