James Black Ale | Hill Farmstead Brewery

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Brewed by:
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.80%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by SFLpunk on 06-27-2010

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Reviews: 58 | Ratings: 399
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 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 Willytee3
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the Blackback in Waterbury, VT, poured into Hill Farmstead stemware.

Pours a dark chocolate black with rich cappuccino color head. Incredible lacing clings up and down the side of the glass for the entire drink!

Smells of apple pie and light spice, the strange richness of kiwi fruit comes to mind. A nice variety of lightly roasted malts complements well the hop esters.

Tastes of mild bittersweet chocolate, light and complex roasty malts with a pine hop character. I would say the middle is made up of a kind of tropical fruit but on the darker side, the hops and malts blend well in a complementary way. The pine hops contribute to an overall bitterness throughout the drink and brighten a bit on the finish.

Feel is medium body, on the lighter side and ultimately quafable, this one goes down easy.

I was pleasantly surprised, this is truly an IPA character with a mellowing light black maltiness.

Hope this one makes sense cause it was a pleasant surprise to drink an delicious IPA without all that hop bitterness. And I do appreciate the hop side of an IPA.

Incredibly well balanced and very drinkable, I would definitely recommend trying this one.

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Photo of BoldRulerVT
4.58/5  rDev +8.3%
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.

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Photo of stephenjmoore
4.54/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A- Very dark brown body with a bubbly tan head. Tons of lacing, head stays around and leaves some bubbles after a while.

S- Huge herbal hop aroma along with somewhat of of a floral hop aroma. Hops come through in a big way with a smooth, roasty malt aroma in the back.

T- Lots of herbal hops balanced out by roasted malts. Some piney, earthy hops come through towards the end. Very interesting hop variety that changes the notes that come through.

M- Medium bodied, medium carbonation, smooth and drinkable with a big hops that wear out the palate.

O- Great beer. The mix of hops is unique and the smooth roasted malt makes for a great balance.

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Photo of Franck
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

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

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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 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 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 Resuin
4.44/5  rDev +5%
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)

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

Growler courtesy of Glouglouburp- huge thanks again to Dany my HF mule. Appearance- murky brown cola, nominal head, some light lacing. Nose- pungent dank hops intertwined with nuts and slight roast. Taste- very hop forward- solid bittering hops, citrus, then a back end wave of medium roast, caramel and dark chocolate. Lingering grapefuit pith leads a nicely drying finish. Carbonation is spot on and hasn't suffered from travelling all the way to Winterpeg. Very balanced hop forward beer if that makes any sense. Excellent stuff and another winner from the good people at Hill Farmstead.

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Photo of SFLpunk
4.42/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington 6/16/10.

This is a Black Ale, but there's no such BA category, so I put it under American Strong Ale.

Quick review: Poured into a 12oz tulip. Pitch black with tan head standing tall. Aroma is dominated by hops and pine resin. Some charred wood notes come through a little and maybe a note of roasted coffee, but it's all about hops and it's bright as hell! Palate is super crisp and bright for being so dark. Hops again dominate but some of that tasty black malt slides through a few notes of toast and coffee grounds. Bitterenss wins out.

A superbly crafted Black Ale. Hoppy as hell and eyes closed you might be hard pressed to say it wasn't a straight IPA.

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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 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 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 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 Hendry
4.35/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

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Photo of jaasen64
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml growler filled at the brewery on Saturday (2 days ago). Poured into a HF stemmed glassware. Split bottle 2-ways. Also had it on tap at Prohibition Pig while I was in VT.

A- Pours a completely opaque dark black with about a two finger thick creamy yeasty brownish head that has decent retention, but slowly fades away to leave lots of spotty lacing. Nice carbonation.

S- Piney citrus hops, notes of pine, grapefruit, some light lemon, baker's chocolate, subtle spices, definitely slightly above average aroma strength.

T- Piney hops with a light grapefruit flavor and a not too overpowering pine presence, finishes with a nice baker's chocolate with a bitterness from the hops which is at the perfect level (not too bitter, but definitely present). Awesome balance between all the flavors.

M- Medium bodied, decent carbonation, easy drinking, abv very well hidden, fairly smooth.

O- I'm beginning to think HF can do almost any style of beer almost perfectly. This is definitely one of the better black IPAs I've had. Nicely balanced between all of the flavors that a black IPA should have. I could easily knock back a few glasses of these. I definitely recommend trying it.

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Photo of NoLiberty
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Great to see the Black IPA style gaining popularity and serious attention from brewers. Thanks to GrassrootsVT for brewing and sharing.

James pours completely black into my Euro pint glass. A thick, creamy head builds from the depths of the beer into a solid 2 finger oozing, cream-colored cap on top of the beer. This mellows into a persistent cap with sticky lacing dripping down the edges of the glass. James is completely black allowing no light through but clearly has a lighter, more athletic body.

The aroma is a wonderful blend of sticky, resinous hops - pine tar, ripe tropical fruit, citrus oil - with a backbone of mahogany - trim but deeply rich. There's a light alcohol kiss and subtle sweetness that softens the edges and entices a sip.

This is a completely hop-forward version of the black IPA, bordering on double IPA. Wonderfully clean, fresh, ripe, resinous, and addictive. Flavors of charred pine logs blend with ripe tangerine, grapefruit and Greek retsina wine. The hope forward biting front moves to a slightly more sweet middle that leads to a more roasted end that finishes clean with subtle lingering bitterness.

Carbonation is great, clean and effervescent. Body is light to medium with structural strength to mirror the dark complexion but light enough to make for an extremely refreshing and drinkable beer.

I would come back to this again and again, as long as it's available.

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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 Hootie159
4.31/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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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 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 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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James Black Ale from Hill Farmstead Brewery
4.23 out of 5 based on 399 ratings.
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