James Black Ale
Hill Farmstead Brewery

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IPA - Black / Cascadian Dark Ale
Ranked #9
Ranked #1,882
4.22 | pDev: 7.35%
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States
Notes: 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.
Reviews: 67 | Ratings: 425 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of Sabtos
Sabtos from Ohio

4.02/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Coffee black-ish brown with a short, fuzzy tan blanket settling to thin wisps.

This is a very measured, crushable black IPA. Characteristics of roasty stout and toasty brown ale pair with hints of coffee--all of which are mild and not overbearing--while the hops have a brightening, semi-bitter presence, becoming zesty and zippy in just the right balance. The body is crisply medium and finishes semi-dry.

Much more enjoyable than I was expecting.

Apr 16, 2019
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Luscious_Malfoy from Illinois

4.3/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

poured from a 12oz can into a rastal tumbler. pours a weird brown. almost like coffee that didn’t have enough grounds in the filter. smell is a nice mix of piney hops and subtle chocolate and caramel. taste is similar although it doesn’t work quite as well as it does on the nose. feel is a little bit thin and watery. nothing terrible though. pretty solid black ale. preferred S&S#2 over this but this is a much lighter, more approachable version of that beer.

Apr 14, 2019
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VelvetExtract from Massachusetts

3.95/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Growler. Surprised I haven't had this before. Pours dark, muddy brown. A Black IPA done right. Nice mixture of bitterness and dark ale elements. Pleasant fruity hop notes mixed in. Flavors balanced well in a style that isn't easy to nail.

Mar 25, 2019
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FriedSlug from North Carolina

4.6/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark with caramel, char, grapefruit, floral notes and pine. Tastes lightly sweet up front with a lot of citrus and pine. Finished with some char and pine resin. Nice carbonation and good mouthfeel.

Mar 21, 2019
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angrybabboon from Massachusetts

4.23/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Consumed 3/15/19

A: Dark brown with some medium brown around the edges - clarity around the edges as well, not exactly opaque - pours with a small tan head, maintains a small collar and leaves some streaks of lacing

S: Nice balance of chocolatey and hoppy aromas - citrus, with some orange and grapefruit juice and zest - floral citrus - herbal notes and some soft pine - nicely roasty with some hints of burnt, some semisweet and dark chocolate notes - notes of caramel as well - nothing aggressive

T: Maybe even more balanced than the aroma - tangerine and orange juice, notes of grapefruit zest - floral citrus - herbal notes and soft pine - moderately roasty, lightly burnt, lightly toasted - dark chocolate - medium low level of bitterness despite bitterness coming from both the hops and the roasted malt burnt bitterness - some slight caramel and pale malt at the base, finishes impressively clean

M: Medium body, medium-low carbonation, smooth

O: Damn it, Jim

If more Black Ales/Black IPAs/Cascadian Dark Ales/whatever.jpg were made like this, the style wouldn't be essentially dead. Some have the subtlety of a chocolate orange blasted with a flamethrower. James is so impressive because it's so impressively balanced.

Mar 16, 2019
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sulldaddy from Connecticut

4.24/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Sampling a cold 12 oz can from 8-20-2018. The beer is poured into a snifter and exhibits a dark coffee colored brew that allows some light to pass through my glass, but not much. A creamy khaki colored head foams up about 2 cm and fades slowly to a tight clingy edge layer and one large wispy island in my glass. The foam leaves dense lattice after each sip.
Aroma is a little bit of dark malt and caramel and then pine sap and a little grapefruit note. Nicely mixed and balanced nose. First sip reveals a smooth textured average thickness body with fine tingly carbonation that stabs my palate as it glides across on each mouthful.
the flavor is similar to the nose with some roasted malt notes and caramel, but isnt sweet at all. This gives way to some pine sap and resin hops and finishes fairly dry with a bit of grapefruit rind astringency that lingers long after the swallow. I dont get any hint of alcohol which makes sense at only 6.8%. The beer is very easy to drink and an enjoyable mix of malt and hop profile. I finish this can very quickly and Im glad to have had a chance to try this one.

Nov 02, 2018
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kevanb from Illinois

3.85/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

750ml growler, poured into a Hill Farmstead etched Rona wine glass.

The beer pours a dark cola brown color, nearly jet black but with nice bits of garnet and ruby red when struck by the light. A foamy head appears, about two fingers tall, khaki color that has incredible retention and yields plenty of sticky lacing. The aroma is nice, lots of resinous and piney hops, dark roasted malt, light chocolate, mild citrus peel. The flavors echo the nose nicely, lots of pine and resinous hop flavors, grapefruit peel, lightly floral before the dark grains really take over. Almost chocolatey but with a nice roast and toasted biscuit quality. The mouthfeel is good, coating, lively and crisp, medium body with a very dry finish.

Verdict: A nice Black Ale/IPA from Hill Farmstead. Hoppy, crisp, earthy but nicely balanced with dark malts that offer some nice counterbalances and aren't too sweet or out of line. There is a nice harmony and cooperation between the flavors.

Sep 22, 2018
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TheDoctor from Canada (QC)

4.18/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving: Can
Canned: Aug-20-2018

It pours dark mahogany with a couple fingers of fizzy tan head. Good retention and rings of lacing.
Citrus and juniper hit the nose right away. As it warms a little there is a background of maple and toffee.
In the flavor department, the malt holds off at first letting a biting, resinous snap of grapefruit pith hops take over and then there is a rush of rich chocolate in the finish.
This is a soft-feeling beer with moderate carbonation and a hop-shellac finish.

This beer is about as balanced as could be. Both sides are assertive, but neither ever fully takes the wheel. There is probably more hop presence since there is a lingering hop oil presence, but the malt side is very nice as well with rich chocolate and caramel notes.

Sep 16, 2018
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Lone_Freighter from Vermont

3.03/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The appearance was a dark brown to black color with a thin off white foamy little head that quickly dissipated. Lacing was few and far between (barely there). The smell started off with grassy bitter and hop indulgent citrusy notes rolling into a light bitter cocoa and coffee bean, it’s good. The taste was mainly the same with the bitterness really taking the lead and amplifying the dryness rolling into the aftertaste and finish. On the palate, this one sat about a medium in body with a nice sipping to almost sessionable sort of feel to it. Carbonation feels good allowing the bitterness hitting my tongue appropriately. Overall, Black IPA, well, it works, but it’s not the best one of the market, better ones.

Jun 08, 2017
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Hootie159 from Massachusetts

4.31/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

On tap. Looks just like a porter. Dollop of foam just sits. Beautiful lacing. Smell is a bit fragile but nice. Mostly getting the toasted malt. Taste is nice but a little maltier than I'd like, even for black ipa. Presence of some coffee and a hint of chocolate. Smooth and creamy but carb is a touch high. Black ipas might never be my thing, but this is a good beer.

Feb 20, 2016
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jmdrpi from Pennsylvania

4.1/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

on draft in a snifter glass

jet black, small head that fades. nice earthy hop aroma. good blanced in the flavors - the slightly roasted malt flavors work with mild hop bitterness, and hop flavor. medium bodied.

Feb 14, 2016
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Franck from Canada (QC)

4.5/5  rDev +6.6%

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

Oct 26, 2014
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durlta from Iowa

4/5  rDev -5.2%

My least favorite from a recent Hill Farmstead growler party. A good beer, but seemed more of a smoked black ale than the black ipa style printed on the growler tag.

Oct 25, 2014
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Davepoolesque from Massachusetts

4/5  rDev -5.2%
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.......................................

Oct 09, 2014
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Resuin from Massachusetts

4.44/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750 mL growler into a stemmed glass. This was filled a week ago today (stamped best consumed by 10/31/14 - today).

Appearance: Pours very dark brown/black and leaves a light tan head of a finger which fades relatively quickly to a tan layer atop the beer. (4.5)

Smell: Light coffee, earthy hops, light citrus, peach, grapefruit - not as in your face an aroma as other HF's I've had but not exactly light. Subtle and pleasant aroma. (4.25)

Taste: Piney hops, citrus, peach, chocolate malts, mild coffee. Nice and balanced. Very interesting mix between the juicy hops and the deep, roasty malts. (4.5)

Mouth-feel: Medium carb with a light to medium body. Finishes smooth. (4.5)

Overall: This is a really nice black IPA - I really enjoy the mix between hoppy and roasty and James does it well. Very drinkable. (4.5)

Oct 08, 2014
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Stevedore from Oregon

4.22/5  rDev 0%
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.

Feb 12, 2014
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cpetrone84 from Pennsylvania

4.04/5  rDev -4.3%
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.

Feb 10, 2014
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Hendry from Vermont

4.35/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Opaque motor oil appearance,1 finger of khaki head, good retention.

Aroma is slightly roasty, slightly hoppy and relatively subtle.

Flavors are deep and roasty with a dank hop finish. Improved flavor spectrum as it warms, take your time.

Mouthfeel is medium, glides over the palate delicately, nice body, very round.

Another solid effort from HF, quality black IPA well worth trying.

Jan 22, 2014
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BoldRulerVT from Vermont

4.58/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed this on draft at Farmhouse in Burlington.
Poured into a snifter glass.
Oil dark with minimal caramel colored head.
Smell was hoppy, cloves and molasses.
Tasted great! Deep roasted malts with cloves, floral hops, molasses.
Mouthfeel was clean with a much cleaner finish than I was expecting.
A wonderful black IPA.

Dec 16, 2013
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cbutova from Massachusetts

4.29/5  rDev +1.7%
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.

Dec 15, 2013
Photo of Chico1985
Chico1985 from Massachusetts

4.03/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 09, 2013
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Skrip from New Jersey

4.27/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

on tap at Hill Farmstead poured into a HF tasting glass.

A~ as black as could be with a nice fluffy tan head and a good amount of lacing.

S~ tons of dark, roasted malts, a little fresh coffee along with grass and fresh hoppy earth.

T~pretty much follows the nose with a lot more hop presence which brings out some nice citrus aspects. also a little bitter chocolate on the finish which was a nice surprise!

M~ super smooth and refreshing! i could drink this all day!

O~ definitely more of a black IPA than just a black ale but definitely ok by me! if you read my reviews you know thats one of my favorite styles. i'm really glad they brewed this again! now lets hope for another batch of Jimmy!

Dec 06, 2013
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GreesyFizeek from New York

4.38/5  rDev +3.8%
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.

Mar 29, 2013
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oline73 from Maryland

4.24/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

Mar 28, 2013
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Alieniloquium from Florida

4.09/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

Mar 12, 2013
James Black Ale from Hill Farmstead Brewery
Beer rating: 93 out of 100 with 425 ratings