Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine and select auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

Birth Of Tragedy - Hill Farmstead Brewery

Not Rated.
Birth Of TragedyBirth Of Tragedy

Educational use only; do not reuse.

161 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 161
Hads: 1,056
Avg: 4.37
pDev: 9.15%
Wants: 1,043
Gots: 196 | FT: 22
Brewed by:
Hill Farmstead Brewery visit their website
Vermont, United States

Style | ABV
American Porter |  9.00% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: s1ckboy on 11-20-2011

Birth of Tragedy is the imperial and oak barrel-aged version of our annual winter porter, Twilight of the Idols. Brewed with locally roasted coffee and Vermont honey, we age this beer for a year in personally selected bourbon barrels from our favorite distilleries.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 161 | Hads: 1,056
Photo of caskstrength
2.31/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

2nd batch. Pours a flat black. I was hoping holding off for a while would result in some bubbles.

Smells are vanilla, chocolate. Barrel not that strong. Lack of bubbles leads to lack of aromatics.

Heavy and dull on the palate. I'm being harsh here, had a GI BCBS before drinking this, and this paled in comparison. Would have had a hard time standing up if carbonated. Without carbonation, this beer fell flat.

Mouthfeel sucked. Needed some bubbles to move things around.

Twilight of the Idols was much better. Everett rocks. This batch of beer was a failure.

 565 characters

Photo of eyeenjoybeer
3.3/5  rDev -24.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

2012 bottle.

This bottle poured essentially flat and had a good bit of residue in the bottom of the glass.

The nose was nice barrel notes with hints of coconut. Really nice here

The taste was cloyingly sweet. I got nice, light barrel notes and next to no coffee. The sweetness, which tastes like unfermented priming sugar, was quite a distraction.

This beer had next to no carbonation, so the mouthfeel was a drag.

I loved, loved, loved the first batch of this beer, but this one is not nearly as good, imo. Last year's bottles had a nice level of carbonation for the style. Having read other reviews of low carbonation, I can't help but wonder if this was a widespread issue.

 681 characters

Photo of Pinknuggets
3.53/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at three penny taproom

A: dark dark brown but not quite black with literally no carbonation

S:reeks of bourbon very strong smell that pretty much over powers everything else

T:lots of bourbon there is some malt there but basically all I can taste is the whiskey which really isn't my thing there is no other porter flavors a little but of dark chocolate that complements well but still over powering

M: thick oily and very heavy definitely a sipper not super drinkable for sure

O: I don't like bourbon so my opinion is skewed but there isn't much porter to this beer not well balanced first hfs beer I didn't love and for that matter I have been less impressed withe their darker beers (accepting Everett) especially in comparison to their hoppy beers and saisons but ill blame it on the style this time.

 820 characters

Photo of johnnnniee
3.54/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.5

Brought back from the north by a friend, thanks for the hookup Matt.
Pours a solid black color with about forty bubbles eventually making their way to the surface. Yup this one is flat. Smells of chocolate brownie batter, coconut, light bourbon, coffee, a bit of oak tannin and some sugary sweetness to tie this all together. The flavor is sweet and chocolatey with a bit of coconut, caramel, roast, warming alcohol, tannin, and earthy hop to provide some balance. This tastes like an alcoholic mounds bar really. Medium to thick body with a non existent level of carbonation and a sweet syrupy sugary mouthfeel. This honestly smells wonderful, tastes good, but the lack of bubbles messes with the mouthfeel a bit leaving a syrupy feel to it. I'd love to try this with bubbles.

 777 characters

Photo of macrosmatic
3.64/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 3.25

Thanks to ActonBrewer for this one. Reviewed from notes. Poured from 16.9 oz. bottle into a Cigar City snifter.

NOTE: The problems here started early. Upon removing the bottle cap, there was no noise, no "pfft" of releasing carbonation, nothing...

A: Dark - essentially black - and opaque. Other than a few stray large bubbles that formed briefly on the top, there was no head, and no visible carbonation at all.

S: Here's where the bottle really shined. Bourbon, roasted sweet malts, dark fruit, candied raisins and plums, chocolate, leather, oak barrel tannins, and an overarching coffee aroma that still let the other notes have their places. Very nice.

T: Bourbon, roasted malts, and barrel in a nice balance. Sweetness from the bourbon and dark fruits, coffee and cacao. Some hop bitterness mixed in with the rich mocha hang.

M: Body seems thinner than the other Hill Farmstead porters I've had. Alcohol seems well-integrated into other flavors. But the big loser here is the complete lack of carbonation.

O: I feel like this could have been a sample of a beer pulled of the tank, and I would have said, "Wow, that's going to be a really good beer when it's finished." Unfortunately, this was what made it into this bottle. I'd love to give it another chance, and if so I will update these scores. But the total lack of carbonation killed the mouthfeel, and didn't let the flavors come through as they should have. I guess this may have been a bad bottle? But I'm very disappointed.

 1,493 characters

Photo of alcstradamus
3.65/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours black with a thin cola-like head. Aroma is vanilla, toffee, alcohol, and sweet fudge. Flavor is dominated by the barrel flavor although not overpowering in booziness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and appropriately carbonated.

My overall feeling about this beer is one of severe disappointment. I feel that Twilight of the Idols is probably the best porter I have ever had, and this barrel aged version is a clear departure from that wonderfully nuanced flavor and it is not a positive change at all. The barrel flavor here is not powerful like..say..a Bourbon County Stout, but it still masks almost all the underlying complexity.

It is a good beer when judged on its own merits, but it is not one I would ever want again.

 728 characters

Photo of BarrytheBear
3.66/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of GoGriz..thank you Cody! According to my notes I received this bottle in our trade last November. I am tired of looking at beer in my cellar, so here goes.

Dark black pour with an oily sheen across the surface and a few tiny rogue bubbles along the edges. Nary any lacing or head to speak of. Harrrumph!

Bourbon and honey play a prominent role on the nose. Neither are massive, but the bourbon imparts a spicy heat that reaches into my nostrils to fizzle any hair that may dwell within. Underlying dark chocolate is rich along with a drying bark quality I also found in Daybreak. Hops perhaps?

Rich melted dark chocolate truffle and warm butterscotch up front. Middle displays the rough and leafy bark from the nose. The coffee presence is light and mellow, whether from time passed or intention is uncertain. If pressed to hazard a guess, I'd choose the former. The finish is dry, tannic, and shockingly harsh.

The mouthfeel here is a real letdown. I always find myself frustrated when supposed, or actual, world class beers fail spectacularly to support the nuances and effort taken to create their beer. Adequate carbonation would do this a world of good.

This is a meaty stick to your bones porter that shockingly fails to hide any of its 11 percent. A bump in carbonation would certainly help, as the structure for a really nice beer are in place but a few support beams are shaky. It's hot as hell.

Having now dabbled more extensively in the HF portfolio, I'm left with mixed feelings. So far I have enjoyed their hoppy offerings more than their stouts and porters. I would think long and hard before trading away what this beer might command. Please don't sit on this beer any longer if you've got it.

 1,733 characters

Photo of Goblinmunkey7
3.74/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to bilco for acquiring the bottle. Split with angrybabboon.

Appearance: Near black with a dark khaki head. Solid retention starts with a small head dropping to a constant small creamy cap and collar. Spots of lacing, but it's minimal. Moderate carbonation on the pour.

Smell: Deeply roasted and mildy burnt malts. Raw honey coupled with vaguely nutty coffee. Fresh coffee bean and some slightly burnt malts. Honey builds as it warms. Roasty. A touch sweet with some caramel and caramelized malt. Some char and a hint of smoke. Minimal hopping, adding a touch of an herbal finish. Bourbon barrel is a nice addition adding some vanilla, a hint of coconut, and some toffee almost butterscotch. A ton of cocoa and bitter chocolate.

Taste: Honey bourbon. More cocoa than I've encountered in a porter. Bitter baker's chocolate and some sweeter milk chocolate. So much cocoa. A hint of vanilla, coconut oil, and toffee. Some caramel sauce with a nice compliment of caramelized malts. A touch of butterscotch and alcohol. A touch grassy with some herbal elements. More and more honey as it warms. Boozy with some mild alcohol esters. A touch of vague alcohol spiciness. Sweet sweet sweet.

Mouthfeel: Mostly creamy medium leaning to full body. Moderate carbonation.

Overall: Tragic sugar fat.

Sweet, too much so. Everything else is solid, but I has diabeetus.

 1,367 characters

Photo of stakem
3.74/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle into a couple of snifters. The brew appears black in color with a line of brown around the edges. Little to no head formation but a few bubbles make their way to the surface. Instead of lacing effect, there are some legs of alcohol noted that droop down the edges of the glass.

The aroma has some hints of cocoa minorly reminescent of brownie batter. A light touch of honey sweetness blends into some roasty grain quality. Some suggestion of coffee, solvent alcohol, vanilla, oak and a spicy hint of cinnamon.

The taste is boozy with a solent alcohol touch that blends into a roasty grain flavor that is akin to strong coffee. A trace of honey flavor without any residual sweetness. Somewhat musty that transitions into more fusel alcohol. The aftertaste is both roasty and nutty.

This is a medium bodied brew with a modest to lighter level of carbonation. It is a boozy sipper that is unique. Big alcohol impact and minor barrel influence. I am glad to have tried this but wouldnt go through the trouble to have it again.

 1,038 characters

Photo of Levich
3.75/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 500mL into a goblet.

Birth of Tragedy pours a deep brown with almost no effervescence. Even with a relatively aggressive pour, there is virtually no head. The aroma is sweet caramel and dates. There is a hint of vanilla as well. The flavor follows suit with the aroma. There is caramel and dates with hints of vanilla and coffee. There is almost no pronounced bourbon character with only a lingering booziness at the finish. The mouthfeel is where this beer really lacks. There is virtually no carbonation as foreshadowed by the lack of head, leaving this syrupy and relatively thick.

This beer would rate much higher if it just had a touch more carbonation. The flavor and aroma are there, but a bit of effervescence would really enliven this one.

 766 characters

Photo of angrybabboon
3.79/5  rDev -13.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Cheers to Bilco for acquiring this for both Goblinmunkey7 and me, cheers to Goblinmunkey7 for sharing this particular bottle

Appearance: Dark brown, pours with a light tan head, keeps a small cap, leaves some nice spots of lacing

Smell: Chocolate in abundance with a hint of bourbon - dark chocolate, cocoa, and milk chocolate - chocolate and caramel malts - roasty coffee in the aroma, but the honey is even more obvious - very sweet smelling, with milk chocolate and honey - bourbon rounds out the aroma - some dark fruits and vanilla as well

Taste: Big chocolate with some bourbon - almost like some kind of artisan chocolate bar - dark chocolate, fudge, cocoa, semisweet chocolate - sweet malts with a serious honey component - coffee and roasted malts, but these flavors are mostly overshadowed by the honey - bourbon flavor is quite potent without being overly woody, boozy, or intense - lots of malt sweetness with some vanilla

Mouthfeel: Somewhere between medium and full, smooth, nicely carbonated, finishes and clean

Overall: Birth of the Beetus

As one would expect, Hill Farmstead can make a great imperial porter. This has some remarkable chocolate notes, with some equally remarkable honey notes. The coffee is pretty nice, but overall it's a bit too sweet. This may improve substantially over time.

 1,318 characters

Photo of Bferber
3.8/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Flavors were balanced but very muted. Hardly any signs of the coffee, bourbon notes present but muted. Most pronounced influence was the honey. Honey really came through. Alcohol hidden and Mouthfeel was smooth but lacking in volume compared to typical HF. Overall solid but didn't live up to the hype for me.

 309 characters

Photo of spicelab
3.81/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

500mL bottle with props to MrKennedy. 2012 I think. Reviewed from notes.

Inconspicuous black with a small mocha head that animates nicely with agitation.

Nose has a quite delicate bourbon canvas supporting notes of fennel, liquorice, rich molasses, tar and some mild phenolics.

Similar but sweeter from the honey and appreciable vanilla barrel contingent. Choc-caramel slice, cola, maple syrup and dried figs.

Light to medium with restrained carbonation and slight booze warmth on the back end. Would barely have guessed this was 7% let alone 9%

This is really well crafted, but lacks a little punch and complexity for a large-ish BA stout/porter.

 652 characters

Photo of scottfrie
3.81/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle into Block 15 snifter. Thank you for giving me this, Michael.

A: Well, there’s no head. I get a few bubbles, but even those quickly disappeared. The color is a deep dark woody/raisin brown.
S: The nose makes up for this beer’s meager looks. The coffee really shines through and mixed well with spicy scents of bourbon and oak. The coffee is fresh and roasted smelling unlike some stouts that smell like burnt coffee ground. I detect some sweet vanilla as well.
T: Follows the nose with rich notes of roasted coffee and dark roasted malts, vanilla and moderate bourbon. Flavors are smooth and syrupy. Finish is full of dark chocolate, and the aftertaste and a few notes of roasted coconut and caramel.
M: Flat as hell but the thick body helps it out. Man this is flat. The mouthfeel is very slick and greasy, so at least the beer isn’t watery.
O: This beer would kill if it had a few bubbles. Flavors were rich and well integrated. A roasted bal-aged porter all around. The flatness saddens me, and I knocked the score because of it. Thanks again, SneezyAchew.

 1,084 characters

Photo of Ahappyhiker2
3.82/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.75

Batch 1.

A- Dark brown/black in color. Thinner than expected, almost no carbonation present. The appearance is pretty cool though, there's a shade of red on the outside of the glass. The only other beer I remember having a similar effect was Hunahpu's.

S- Cinnamon, honey, a hint of coffee, molasses, smoke, some booze. Nice, complex aroma.

T- A lot of flavors come through in this one. Bitter dark chocolate, coffee, sweetness from the honey, smoke, cinnamon, coconut. It's very, very smooth. Aftertaste is espresso/coffee and roasty flavors. Not much barrel character.

M- Very flat, almost no carbonation.

O- This beer has lots of complex flavors in the taste and the nose, but it falls short because of how flat it is. Also, it has such a lack of barrel character. I was expecting more of a bourbon/vanilla taste and it just isn't there. Honestly I like Everett so much better than this. I've read that batch 1 blows away batch 2, so I'm not going to try to hunt down another bottle or vintage. The complexity is there, but it is a bit of a letdown in my book. I'm glad I got to try this, but I'd recommend going after other beers if this is a whale for you.

 1,166 characters

Photo of cpetrone84
3.84/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Batch 2 (flat batch). pour us jet black with no head even with a vigorous pour. The nose is very nice, rich chocolate cake with a strong bourbon note and lightly scorched barrel. Taste has all the chocolate cake, dry chocolate through the finish, faint bourbon much less than the nose, virtually no carb with a burnt finish and a medium silky body.

 348 characters

Photo of callmemickey
3.85/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Koopa

A: Dark black with a minimal brownish head. A few stray stands of lacing.

S: Bourbon, caramel, molasses, honey sweetness.

T: Like the nose there is a healthy dose of bourbon and sweet malts. Definitely some caramel, dark fruits, and a little smokey/roasty malts.

M: Medium-full bodied. Light carbonation. A tad too much residual sweetness in the finish.

O: An interesting effort, but a bit too ambitious.

 432 characters

Photo of Chico1985
3.86/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

First choice at Stoutfest 2013, Armsby Abbey. ~10 oz. pour into a tulip glass.

Pour is black with a thin bubbly tan ring for a head, sticks around as such.

Smell is good - chocolate and bourbon forward, with roast and vanilla there as well. Not extremely potent, but definitely a nice scent.

Taste is a slight improvement, opens up more with warmth. Chocolate brownie, bourbon oak up front with light vanilla, roasted malts, toasty malts. Just a hint of spices here. Sweet and kinda boozy.

Carbonation is pretty low, feels a bit thin and boozy for 9%. Not bad, but could've used some more heftiness.

Good beer, nothing that blew me away though- felt a little disjointed. I actually wound up enjoying the base beer (Twilight of the Idols) more, the spices here were a little too smothered by bourbon and sweetness.

 819 characters

Photo of afksports
3.9/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Nails the porter side, but the bourbon barrel is very weak. It's messy, the oak doesn't come through as strong as you'd hope, and the final product seems a little thin. Especially for an 11% beer.

Looks great though, and it smells on point. But ultimately it was a little disappointing. Especially when 2010 Olde Hickory Imperial Stout was opened on the same night and absolutely blew it out of the water.

Reviewed from notes, shared with alalvarez75 before Birth of Tragedy hit the hype machine!

 498 characters

Photo of Florida9
3.9/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

A: Bottle opened with the faintest hiss. Poured into a tulip. Forms a few big bubbles and the slightest hint of a head, but in reality this one just looks flat. No lacing. Very dark brown or black in color.

S: Well the smell is pleasant. Dark roasted malts, oak, vanilla, chocolate. Damn, smells like freshly baked brownies.

T: Didn't think it was possible, but the taste is even better. Sweet, chocolately brownies. Mild oak. Lots of vanilla. A touch of coffee. Some dark fruits, like plum and raisin, but the sweet chocolate flavor dominates.

M: Fucking flat. There's no carbonation here. And thats the problem. Slick, oily, and viscous with a chalky finish.

O: Apparently the carbonation isn't allowed to leave VT. This beer truly has the potential for greatness, but it should be properly carbonated. And it's not. There is nothing there leaving a sweet, chocolatey liquid to swirl around the mouth.

 911 characters

Photo of KickInTheChalice
3.9/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From notes. Poured from a 500 mL bottle into a snifter.

Birth of Tragedy pours a mahogany, nearly black color with a small tan mocha cap.

Lots of espresso, somewhat bitter and a bit creamy, dark bitter chocolate, sweet milk chocolate, roasted malt, and a bit of spicy hops in the nose.

The flavor is full of a ton of espresso, a bit of cream, dark, bitter chocolate, deeply roasted malt, and a bit of spice toward the finish. There is a sweetness to some of chocolate notes, but overall it is fairly bitter. There is not very much bourbon character coming through.

The mouthfeel is fairly full, there is a creamy carbonation. It is a bit acrid in its bitterness, with a dryness toward the end. Even without the bourbon flavor coming through, it feels like the dryness from the oak barrel came through fairly strongly.

It was fairly nice, but I really noticed the acrid nature of it, which detracted from the experience.

 927 characters

Photo of hillvt4me
3.92/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- darkest of brown and blend of black with tinge of red. Minimal head with little lacing.
S-toffee, coffee, waft of cherry bourbon; sweet/honey aroma throughout.
T-Sugar laced Coffee, the cinnamon is fairly present. Minimal bourbon on back.
M-Low end of a medium thickness.
O-solid brew, complex flavor, balanced; though a bit sweet for my preference.

 353 characters

Photo of SpeedwayJim
3.95/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Josh for this one. 500ml bottle poured into a Founders snifter. Shared with schen9303.

Pours pitch black and viscous with no head. Very sparse, spotty lace and oily, thick legs. Average for the style.

Nose is booze, honey, molasses, roasted coffee, and fudge. Pretty subtle. Leaves me wanting a bit more here.

Opens sweet honey and molasses. Fudge, chocolate, and booze with some sweet prunes mixed in. Coffee presence is noticeably missing probably because of the age of this one. More booziness floats around at the end, complementing the robust honey, molasses and fudge flavors. Finishes sweet and bourbon-y. Aftertaste of sweet roasted malt, chocolate, and fudge. Tasty but a bit one-dimensional without the coffee.

Medium bodied and nearly flat. Viscous, slick, and oily in the mouth and warm and smooth going down. Messy finish with a long, lingering aftertaste. This might not be for everyone but I like my heavier beers a bit flat and this fits the bill for me.

Pretty sure this one is past its prime at this point. However, that doesn't mean its not good. Flavor is decidedly a bit one-dimensional but its still everything you could want from a barrel-aged porter. Warming and delicious. I'd love to revisit this fresh if its ever made again.

 1,269 characters

Photo of harrymel
3.95/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 2 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage

Dark brown, flat appearing beer. Smells decadent: vanilla, oak, nougat, more vanilla, bits of graham, some cocoa, a hint of dark fruits. A really nice nose. Flavor follows suite - really fine dark chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, oak, bits of minced licorice, some leather. The flavor is really nice also. Mouthfeel: this is where the beer falls apart. While full bodied with a silky feel, not even a swish through the teeth makes this bubbly, slightly wet. A real treat - with carbonation this would be hard to beat, honestly.

 537 characters

Photo of chinchill
3.97/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Hill Farmstead Birth of Tragedy - bottled Oct. 2013.

Opaque; near black with a modest, sudsy head that has good retention.

Overall nearly on par with FW Parabola consumed just beforehand. Compared to Parabola, this was sweeter, had less coffee, and was smoother.

O: Rich but easy to drink and very well balanced. Tastes and feels more aged than just 1 year.

 364 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Birth Of Tragedy from Hill Farmstead Brewery
96 out of 100 based on 161 ratings.