Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you 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.

Birth Of Tragedy - Hill Farmstead Brewery

Not Rated.
Birth Of TragedyBirth Of Tragedy

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
96
world-class

164 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 164
Hads: 1,078
Avg: 4.38
pDev: 9.13%
Wants: 1,050
Gots: 197 | FT: 22
Brewed by:
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States | website

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
Reviews: 164 | Hads: 1,078
Photo of afksports
3.9/5  rDev -11%
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 andrewinski1
4.48/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a wine taster. the color is very dark brown and appears black. There is no head, and a couple bubbles appear from a bit of agitation.

The aroma is full of vanilla, raisins, fig, chocolate, with a touch of bourbonesque booze. Pretty much the perfect barrel aged beer aroma.

The taste is sweet vanilla and chocolate, with a nice bitter chocolate finish that leaves a lingering bourbon sting. This is the only barrel aged Hill Farmstead beer that picked up a strong component of the barrel, most are a bit more subtle. This makes me happy.

This is thick and heavy. This is probably undercarbonated by most people's standards, but I don't think it lowers the drinkability at all if any. I enjoy the smoothness.

Another top notch beer by Hill Farmstead. I'm hoping my other bottle at least pours a bit prettier.

 822 characters

Photo of rodmanfor3
4.6/5  rDev +5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is a fantastic beer that delivers simplicity in an otherwise complex barrel aged porter.

The flavor is full of chocolate, vanilla, barrel, and honey, with everything blending together nicely.

Nothing is overdone with this beer.

 235 characters

Photo of fdig23
4.5/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle purchased at the brewery December 2012. Consumed in August 2013.

Appearance: Deep dark black and a really tiny khaki head.

Nose: Super rich dessert. Almond liqueur, sweet vanilla oak, rich milk chocolate, frothy latte. Delicious.

Taste: Sweet and intense. Coconut milk, almonds, chocolate, frozen coffee drinks. Candied, luscious, delicious.

Mouthfeel: Silky smooth and perfectly thick.

Overall: This is great. A big improvement over an already excellent beer. This is an ideal dessert beer for me.

 511 characters

Photo of DaveHS
4.7/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-Pours pitch bloack with a thin, bubbly coffee colored head. Sticky lacing.

S-Big roasty coffee aromas, followed by bittersweet chocolate, toffee and toasted marshmallow.

T/M-Exceptional on every level. Thinner bodied than the base beer (Twilight of the Idols) with a concentrated, thin caramel sweetness. Round, oaky bourbon goodness washes over the palate, fading softly into a slightly phenolic, dry warming finish. For a beer with such a nice bourbon character, it's not all that sweet.

O-Every aspect of this beer is harmonious. Wouldn't change a thing about it. I don't even know that aging would do anything for it, as it is drinking perfectly now. Another winner from Hill Farmstead.

 695 characters

Photo of Ilovelampandbeer
4.79/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

What a treat
Look: oil black with a tan head...a peeve of mine is when you pour a porter out and can see how thin and watery it is...this doesn't happen with this beer..pours pretty thick
Smell: extra sweet bourbon in the forefront, chocolate and some coffee
Taste: bourbon, chocolate, coffee, and it's all presented extra sweet which I assume is the honey, but I can't actually pick out honey flavor
Feel: literally at the border between porter and stout...chewy
Overall: second best porter I've ever had, right behind Everett, and that's saying something

 556 characters

Photo of gueuzedreg
4.04/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Had Twilight, this one maybe better; I feel like the nuances are not as pronounced through the barrel aging.

A- Dark, nice dark look to this porter. Thin lacing, nothing too special for me on the A

S- Charred dark fruit/ pretty standard for a HF dark brew here. Lots of belgian dark qualities. Fig, etc. Barrel is way in the back but more forefront than tiny microbrew's attempts.

T- Follows the nose with dark fruit and fig combined with barrel aging. It is a great porter; I gave it great grades, but nothing mindblowing. Pretty standard to HF belgian dark qualities

M- Mouthfeel is the highlight for me. Nice and smooth and creamy. Just the right touch of carb in this.

O- A great BA porter, but nothing that made me inch closer to me bowing to HF, which a few BA friends are nudging me to do.

 804 characters

Photo of tewaris
4/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

After drinking Twilight of Idols, this came as quite a pleasant surprise. For one, the carbonation was spot on. Others said that there was *no* carbonation, but that works extremely well for this fudgy, creamy, chocolaty beer. Roast but with notes of honey?! Very nice. Coffee in the finish completed it for me. Very glad to have had it and will drink it again anytime.

 369 characters

Photo of Gushue3
4.64/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A Pours dark ark brown into my Hill Famestead big bulb glass. No heat at all and no lacing to speak of. but I can already smell it.

S The majority of the smell I get is bourbon but doesnt kill everything. Some chocolate and a tiny roast but I'm getting bourbon. nice scent

T Wow.. bourbon is present upfront but somewhat subdued. Light vanilla, chocolate, and sweetness from the malt? Lots of stuff going on and this beer is nice and complex. very well done.

M Medium mouthfeel with small carbonation which makes this really smooth and easy to drink.

O I cant take it, this is so good. Taste is perfectly balanced and so easy to drink. I wish I grabbed more of this. Thank you Shaun.

 689 characters

Photo of aleigator
4.7/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Birth of tragedy '15 vintage

Pours a night black color, with a decent beige head, which collapses to formable swirls of lacing, coating up the side of the glass.

Consists of a nose, which comes beautifully together, defined by earthy coffee, toffee malts, coconut and oaky, warm Bourbon. All the different aromas stand out on their own, while blending flawlessly together, with wild honey on top, adding a glazed, sweet aspect to the mix. Bourbon is certainly noteable, while not over the top at all, accentuating the other aspects of the beer.

Drinks amazingly smooth and fairly easy, based on its actual abv, while its lower carbonation opens up the palate to sweet honey very effectivly. Doesn't have a thick mouthfeel as bcbs, while it drinks almost smoother.

There is toffee, earthy, bitter coffee, gently wrapped up by wood embraced Bourbon, coconut and wild honey to complete the taste. I am honestly blown away by the outstanding balance of this, while every flavor is easily recognizable on its own, they all seem to benefit from each other, by enhancing each others appearance on the palate. The Bourbon provides a pleasant warmth during the beers finish, easily balanced by slick honey, producing a melting caramel, glazed sugar impression, adding to the toffee, creating the most enjoyable, natural sweetness you could ever wish for.

A real treat, much more than I expected it to be. The flavors come beautifully together, tied together by a balance and smoothness which almost puts Bourbon County to shame, and that at a considerable lower abv. Honey and Bourbon create a incredibly synergy, making up for the lack of roastieness by providing the most enjoyable sweetness I experienced in a beer so far, which makes this perfect for a cold winter night, as well as for every other night in which you want to drink an exeptional beer.

 1,852 characters

Photo of JAXSON
4.62/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Robert! Pours black with a medium, sticky mocha foam head. Nose is roasted malt, lightly charred, with a strange sweet liquor that's pretty interesting, blackberry like. Light coffee and bourbon, vanilla. Pretty tight and integrated with that weird spirit edge. Mouth is pretty thin, opens with dry cocoa powder, light char, unfolding into vanilla, this very unique fruity liquor quality, and a long finish with alcohol and vanilla. Soft up front with a sharp dark fruit quality as it lingers. Very unique brew here, the barrel treatment is awesome.

 556 characters

Photo of claaark13
4.6/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Brought this to a tasting and got to try an ounce. Intrigued, I was able to track down more. Thanks to the guys that have provided these bottles. Poured slightly too cold into a HF tulip. Warmed and consumed with happiness.

A - Very dark with a very, very slow rising low head. Slight lacing remains. Decent, certainly not spectacular. It sticks well to the side.

S - Coffee, a slight amount of sweetness, likely from the honey. The coffee is a smooth aroma, nothing burnt/harsh. Pretty well rounded. I can't tell if I am smelling the honey or faint vanilla.

T - Coffee, very light yet smooth vanilla. A little bit of dryness tries to come out towards the end but is subdued so well. The finish provides for the sweet coffee to return. There is almost a cocoa or cinnamon poking through the backbone. Chocolate comes out more as the tongue gets coated after a few sips. The barrel is pretty faint and seems to add a couple favorable notes. Great balance.

M - On the thicker side of medium. There is pretty low carbonation, but I somehow still really enjoy the feel. Any heaviness on the tongue seems to be due to the very low carbonation.

O - I love this beer. It presses the barrier between a Porter and a RIS. The barrel seems to be there just complementing and guiding along the base flavors. Very well crafted. I can't imagine a Porter getting any better.

 1,365 characters

Photo of s1ckboy
4.62/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Very dark body, 1 finger head from aggressive pour that stuck around for a while

S - Oak, A lot of bourbon, a bit sweet, a touch of coffee.

T - At first a lot of bourbon, cinnamon, a touch of coffee and honey. A lot of roasty flavors. Reminds me of KBS, but I think this is better.

M - Medium to thick, with some nice carbonation.

O - An exceptional beer. My favorite so far from Hill Farmstead.

 404 characters

Photo of jkrug5
4.75/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2/15 bottle date. This isn't fair, they've already nailed the saison, and IPA styles up there. Add another notch to their belt, this is such a great beer. The honey, and coffee work wonders together, not too big of a beer either. I could enjoy this year round, time to go all in for HF offerings, you can't go wrong with anything from those VT boys.

 349 characters

Photo of ScotNH
4.58/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

A - Pours a very dark brown, nearly black, with a half a finger of a fine mocha colored head that dissipates to a beautiful light swirl.

S - A slight hint of alcohol, very sweet, slightly roasty, and a very faint smell of honey.

T - Extremely well balanced. Begins with a very sweet and smooth coffee flavor, with a hint of honey. Finishes with a roasty, chocolate flavor with a very mild alcohol heat.

M - Medium-full bodied, with light carbonation. Perfect.

O - This is a fantastic bourbon barrel aged porter. It is so well balanced, there are no overpowering flavors. A very mild and smooth alcohol "burn", just enough to remind you this is a serious beer.

 664 characters

Photo of prdstmnky
4.29/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Been really lazy and slacking on written reviews, so figured why not start here!

500 ml bottle into a tulip, aggressive pour yields a finger of creamy mocha head. Some light lacing on the glass. Very dark with some auburn hues when held up to the light. Big alcohol aromas when I popped the cap, which was a bit worrisome but after pouring the smell was much more pleasant in the glass - a nice combination of bourbon, coffee, hints of chocolate, and some honey / vanilla sweetness.

Taste is pretty much inline with the nose, definitely opens up as it warms. Bourbon is certainly prominant but balanced nicely by the coffee, and sweeter notes on the back end - tasty. I really like the mouthfeel of this beer, its not quite like a thick stout, but certainly coats the tongue. Carb is a bit low, but not to the point of taking away from the experience.

Another solid offering from the Hill. Dont think I like it more than Everett, and haven't reviewed Twilight yet (coming soon), but very enjoyable on a cold night!

 1,017 characters

Photo of auroracrisis
4.44/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml into two tulips.

Silky black on the pour with a head that dissipates into a ring of foam around the edges after a big, frothy head.

Soft baker's chocolate and bourbon on the nose, with fudge, heavy roasted espresso, and vanilla. Plenty of oak.

Big roasted notes on the tongue with vanilla and coffee. Fudge, and more roast. Awesome balance between the coffee and bourbon.

Heavy medium on the tongue with a silky body. No carbonation to make note of.

Plenty of barrel in this with good coffee, vanilla, and baker's chocolate. Reminds me of KBS with no oatmeal. Would recommend.

 587 characters

Photo of spicelab
3.81/5  rDev -13%
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 Luk13
4.47/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Harvest festival. Pitch black with small mocha bubbles as foam. Rich chocolate, coffee aroma with some strong bourbon vanilla notes. Some spices too. Very sweet but the roastiness from the coffee makes it more dry and drinkable. Low carbonation. This is a decadent beer, a sipper for sure.

 303 characters

Photo of TheBronze
4.38/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

2012, 500ml bottle
Poured into a Hill Farmstead raised snifter.

A - Pours with slight bubbles forming and no head.

S – A very pleasant aroma with soft notes of coffee, honey, and carmel.

T - Very nicely integrated coffee, slight sweetness from the honey, and a light roastiness. A very light barrel presence of wood and bourbon. Overall, a very delicate yet fulfilling taste.

M - Medium body with very light carbonation – just enough to not be considered flat. A very clean feel for this style of beer.

O – I really enjoyed this. Another example from Hill Farmstead of a well integrated beer that is complex yet immensely enjoyable and easy to drink. The only thing holding this back is how lightly it is carbonated. I’d like to try a new release sometime to experience it properly carbonated.

 809 characters

Photo of nkeckhar
5/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

thanks to dtmets84 for bringing this to a bottle share - 2011

Appearance: Pitch black oily, small brown head

Smell: Absolutely beautiful with some spice, vanilla, dark chocolate, sweetness, and barrel.

Taste: Roasty, coffee, vanilla right away...well hidden alcohol. Sweetness from the honey is there.

Mouthfeel: Silky and smooth...good body and round mouthfeel

Overall: Easily a standout in its style, but moreover a standout for me against anything I've drank. We tried this against Black Note, King Henry, and BA Blackout and this one was a consensus winner. I will seek out another bottle of this so more people in my circle can wonder at this marvel.

 663 characters

Photo of Psychmusic
4.7/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Bottle purchased 12/20/12 after a somewhat stressful 4 1/2 hour drive through often treacherous snow covered roads.

Appearance: Pours a deep black... somewhat shiny and oily looking. No trace of a head at all, some bubbles around the edges from a relatively vigorous pour, but they disappear fairly quickly. Some dark brown around the edges of the glass.

Smell: Sweet chocolate, vanilla, coconut, complimented by nice warm round coffee notes. After a few whiffs I started getting excited again despite the apparent lack of carbonation- the smell is incredibly enticing.

Taste: Much as the nose would suggest, the taste starts with sweet milk chocolate and coconut, fading into a smooth bourbon followed by roasted coffee and darker chocolate. These flavors are precisely what I'd hope they'd be. The already incredible base beer is completely elevated by the barrel aging, and in the taste category this is one of my favorites.

Mouthfeel: There is some very slight carbonation here, but I think it's fair overall to say this is flat. The body is relatively light given the hefty flavors, not syrupy as I would have expected given the smell. Overall, I'm conflicted about the mouthfeel. The flavor profile can definitely stand up to very light carbonation, but I think I'd like more in the end.

Overall: If this beer had very slightly more carbonation, it would be in a league of it's own as far as I'm concerned. As it stands the aromas and flavors are such that it is still one of my very favorites regardless of the carbonation issues.

 1,543 characters

Photo of kels
4.16/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to my fiance for bringing this home with him. Good man. 2012 vintage.

Pours a super dark chocolate brown, nearly black, only given away at the edge of the surface where the light can actually get through - barely. A little spittle of bubbles washes the side of the glass when tipped, but it disappears immediately into nothingness in the void where at least some sort of head or skim - nowhere to be found - is expected to be present. In fact, it looks almost flat and watery, with enough alcohol to leave what looks like an oil skim on top.

Fantastic aroma. Rich, creamy vanilla and a hint of earthy honey is nicely offset by a dry, roasted grain. Only a hint of the bourbon barrel. Just simple, straightforward, and delicious.

Taste is delicious, but walking the line on the cloying side sweet. Vanilla, honey, molasses all hit the back of the jaw a little hard, and the only thing offering relief is the roasted malt. It's dry and hearty and contends well with the sweetness.

The feel of the beer falls flat, and recalls milk stout or RIS more than imperial porter. It's thick, sticky, and viscous, like a syrup in the mouth. Carbonation is nearly undetectable, and everything coats the palate, sticking around for quite a while. It works, but it's heavy.

Overall, nice beer. Hard to drink, but that's okay, right?

 1,333 characters

Photo of pmlondrigan
4.4/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

2012 bottle. Black, very black...and flat....very flat. Essentially very little to no carbonation. No lacing, some kind of ring around the glass. Disappointing. Vanilla, oak, bourbon, booze, chocolate....honey. Real nice, very aromatic even for a flat beer. Honey up front, vanilla and bourbon barrelesque flavors, a fair bit of chocolate. Very woody beer. Oily, fatty, rich and thick...but flat. A little cloying, just a little. As tasty as this beer is, and man it does taste good, it is sullied by the lack of prickly bubbles of CO2 escaping from this liquid elixer. I get it though, it is hard to bottle condition a barrel aged beer.

 637 characters

Photo of sleuthdog
4.17/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

This one courtesy of franklinn
2012 vintage poured into Bruery tulip

Pour: Pours a deep black that a mirror like reflection in the glass. There was no head formation but there is a ring of small to medium bubbles along the edge of the glass. I have struggled to see alcohol legs on on other beers but let me tell you the legs on this were absolutely there! No lacing but wow the alcohol legs cling to the glass!

Smell: Bourbon and inciting vanilla jump up to my nose first. There is an obvious oak, subtle coffee and I do get the sweetness from the honey. Dark chocolate truffle candies drenched in sweet bourbon is the best way I can sum up this one.

Taste: A big sweet vanilla forward bourbon bomb and I'm loving this! Dark chocolate and roasted coffee noted as well. Some smoke and roasted malts mixed in with the background the honey creates is amazing. Alcohol is there but not overpowering at all.

Mouthfeel: As is known this one has little carbonation and this is the only place this beer lets me down a bit. I would appreciate some more carbonation as it feels too flat but with the flavors this beer has I don't give a shit! It is flat but smooth with a medium body.

Overall: This is my first non IPA from HF and my first that has gotten the barrel
treatment and despite the lack of carbonation this is one enjoyable drinking experience. The flavors are all in perfect balance and perfectly complement each other.

 1,429 characters

Birth Of Tragedy from Hill Farmstead Brewery
96 out of 100 based on 164 ratings.