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Birth Of Tragedy | Hill Farmstead Brewery

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Birth Of TragedyBirth Of Tragedy

Brewed by:
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: American Porter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by s1ckboy on 11-20-2011

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Reviews: 170 | Ratings: 1,116
Photo of Alieniloquium
4.08/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

500 mL bottle poured into a snifter. 2011 bottle. Reviewed from notes.

Appearance - Viscous black with brown edges. No head. Big mocha bubbles, though.

Smell - Bourbon and coffee blend nicely. Vanilla. The coffee has a nice earthy character. Not a lot of porter comes through, but it doesn't matter much.

Taste - Nice bourbon and vanilla. Lots of coffee. Reminiscent of KBS in its earthy coffee flavor. Milk chocolate with a slight winey finish.

Mouthfeel - Heavy. Viscous for a porter, although that's arguable. Very low carbonation.

Overall - So it isn't as magical as I had hoped, but it's still damn good. Remarkably good, but the bar that Hill Farmstead has set for itself makes me feel the slightest disappointment when the beer isn't perfection.

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.27/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle. 2012 vintage (9.0%) that I got from gn0sis. Thanks!

Pouring black with a slowly rising reverse-cascading head that falls off to a thin but choppy bubbly dark brown head, this looks pretty good. The nose is very, very good. Honey, caramel, dark chocolate and fresh coffee form the bulk of what this beer expresses on the nose. A moderate bourbon character is present with a blend of vanilla, coconut and a boozy accent. The base porter, which is an imperial version of Twilight, seems rich and strong enough to stand up to the adjuncts. The dark chocolate complements the vanilla, the honey complements the bourbon, and the medium-roasted coffee is wholly pleasant. I can see why people compare this beer to Eclipse.

The palate opens with a big, boozy, bourbon dark chocolate bite. Despite the fact that this is quite sweet with caramel and honey and without enough roast to temper the sweetness, the complexity and layered flavors do make this beer very enjoyable. Some molasses, some toffee, a little bit of brown sugar and buckwheat honey are layered here. There is, of course, chocolate and coffee. While the nose suggests dark coffee, the mid-palate brings to mind medium-dark chocolate. Faintly spicy, and while it isn't wholly clear that the spice character isn't from the alcohol, there's just a hint of cinnamon. With the sweetness and slight oiliness that the chocolate character has, it brings to mind a ganache. Medium in body with light carbonation, this beer is rather excellent on the palate. The finish is long and delicate, with a blend of honey, chocolate and coffee. Alcohol is well-hidden.

In short: imagine if Deschutes brewed The Abyss with an Eclipse-like base - rich, delicate and nuanced, but sweet. Highly recommended.

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Photo of AlexFields
4.34/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Nose is all sweet bourbon, with some sugary sweet chocolate and vanilla and other rich maltiness. This is obviously going to be very sweet, smells delicious.

Taste is extremely sweet, huge bourbon again, chocolate and lots of vanilla and caramel. I didn't know when I was drinking this that it was brewed with honey but I'm not surprised as it is very very sweet. Delicious.

Pretty drinkable for such a sweet beer but the mouthfeel could be slightly more robust.

Great beer, definitely the best of the darker HF beers I've had.


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Photo of kawilliams81
4.34/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 vintage. Poured from bottle into glass.

A- pours lack with almost no head, except a small tan ring. No lacing on the glass.

S- huge bourbon nose, at first I thought of scotch because of a peat-like aroma, but then I realized it was just the cinnamon and bourbon.

T- cinnamon, bourbon, faint vanilla, and sweet chocolate

M- medium body and low carbonation. Light and smooth, very drinkable.

O- very good beer. Nose implies a very bourbon forward beer, but the flavors meld very well together.

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Photo of GonzoHomebrewer
4.72/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

One of my favorites...

A- Jet black, but no head whatsoever, a few bubbles...maybe something you could call in passing, a "thin lacing" but no, no head.

S- Epic richness. Gobs of various layers of vanilla followed up by deep roasted coffee notes, some sweetened mocha...just fantastic

T- Doesn't seem quite as well rounded as the nose just yet; dominated by the bourbon vanilla sweetness with some signs of the coffee poking through

M- this is pretty flat and some bubbles would help make this more drinkable...but why would you want to drink it any quicker? Sip and Savor. I honestly think it doesn't detract really, just makes all the flavors stick to your palette.

O- I never get tired of this beer. I could drink it all day

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Photo of jvillefan
4.66/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Very black body with an extremely minimal mocha colored head that disappears very quickly.

S: Sweet roasted malts with notes of bourbon running throughout the aroma.

T: A dark chocolate flavor starts off the flavor nicely. It then transitions to a sweet bourbon flavor then finally becomes the flavor of deeply roasted malts.

M: Perfect viscosity and creaminess but this beer is under carbonated.

O: Amazing beer. My one problem with it is that it is not a porter. It's a stout.

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Photo of rlee1390
4.47/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

A-Black in the glass, deep clear amber when pouring, brown head that barely lasts.

S-Bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, roasted malt.

T-Starts with bourbon, vanilla, rich chocolate, slight coffee, roasted malt. Great balance.

M-Medium bodied, no carbonation though. Still smooth but needs some carbonation.

O-An amazing beer. Some carbonation, might make it one of the best.

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Photo of jsm1289
4.83/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Well wouldn't you know it, i had finally got my hands on an HF . Funny how these things tend to work out. One day I don't even know anything about HF, the next day I dream of acquiring any and all HF goodness. So after a lovely trade with a very nice fellow, I held in my hands BOT. Now to me, a 9% barrel aged porter is going to have very similar qualities to so called imperial stouts, so i am writing this review wholeheartedly comparing this beer to the likes of kbs, parabola, bcs etc.

There was absolutely no head upon pouring, and it poured so thick i thought i was drinking bcs for a moment. Smell was godly, huge bourbon, honey notes, rich chocolate/coffee aroma, only negative here was I kept detecting a sharp alcohol note, but im not sure if my mind was playing tricks with me here and it was actually the bourbon, so i wont deduct points here. Funny thing is I kept smelling it and sometimes I would get a nice fresh coffee note and no alcohol, sometimes i would get the alcohol with no coffee, go figure.

the taste is where this really sets itself apart. massive complexity, smooth as a baby's butt and as delicious as gods nectar. It was really amazing . Huge huge flavor and as drinkable as water. I cant believe how awesome it was.

for those who can visualize it, i will say it tasted and smelled like bcs crossed with a solid hint of KBS. ....mmm !

I will say, of all the stouts/porters/whatever you want to call it, only KBS can stand up next to bot, and I will say kbs is slightly better in my opinion. Everyone other stout bot wins no question !

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Photo of rodkin
4.54/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark, dark brown, small tan head, dissipates pretty quickly, minimal lacing.

The nose on this thing is phenomenal. Honey, chocolate, coffee, oak, vanilla, toffee, whisky, all melded together into this wonderful blend. Each sniff produces a new note.

Taste is big on honey upfront, followed by some coffee (though not overly bitter), oak, vanilla, chocolate. Really well done.

Mouthfeel is smooth, creamy, a little low on carbonation.

Wonderfully drinkable. Excellent.

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Photo of Vonerichs
4.06/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pitch black color. There's a gathering of a dozen large bubbles in the center, but otherwise no trace of carbonation whatsoever. I'm a little concerned about the flat appearance.

Ok, aroma takes it up a few levels. Robust scents of vanilla, oak, tobacco, leather, and coffee. I'm more encouraged now.

The flavor is vivid and displays good bourbon qualities of charred oak, vanilla, and leather. Coffee and chocolate, but...

Very flat. The consistency is right where it should be but there's no carbonation.

Wow, what a roller coaster. I guess they got it right in the two most important categories, but the mouthfeel is a bummer. This is a really, really good beer that could be great with just a little carbonation.

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Photo of Treebs
4.31/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

500 ml bottle shared by cosmicevan. Served in a HF wine glass.

A: Pours an opaque deep brown color with some clearer edges. A thin tan head forms on the pour and recedes quickly to a thin ring. A few splotches of lace are left down the glass.

S: Smooth bourbon up front with a ton of fudge. Heavily roasted malts with a light chocolate sweetness. Besides the smoothness and lightness of the bourbon the barrel isn't all that noticeable.

T: The taste just took on a complexity that wasn't found in the nose. The smoothness of the bourbon carried over and blended wonderfully with some ground coffee beans and espresso notes. The bourbon took a sweeter turn mid palate and balanced the heavy roasted malt body. A little oak barrel shows up and blend nicely with a rich and lush chocolate on the finish.

M: Low carbonation here with a medium to light body. For hour luscious the taste was I would have liked a little more body to this.

O: Absolutely delicious. I like Twilight of the Idols, but I like this even more. If they would beef up the gravity a bit I bet this would be able to hold onto the barrel a little better and get a better mouthfeel. Still, I'm just nitpicking here. A great beer.

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Photo of kidkarma1971
4.67/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

This brewery simply has the most elegant and well proportioned beers, I have not had better stouts and porters anywhere. This one even in a bottle delivers essential expectations on what an American Porter needs to be. I love the way the deep undertones of malt and sugar linger, plus gorgeous smaller bubbles.

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Photo of Levich
3.75/5  rDev -14.4%
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.

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Photo of CADMixes
4.09/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.75

Hill Farmstead is great at porters in general, and 2012 BoT follows the template. The barrel effect is really nicely done--very evident on the nose, and a big part of the overall taste without overpowering the base beer, which still tastes as fresh and lively as a nice bottle of Everett.

All this is why it's such a shame that the carbonation isn't there. It's a well-known fact about this beer and despite my respect for what HF does it's not really something I can look past. 500 ml of flat beer, no matter how good it tastes, gets tedious over time.

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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.

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Photo of eyeenjoybeer
3.3/5  rDev -24.7%
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.

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Photo of inlimbo77
4.31/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

500ml, Winter '12
HF wine glass

A: Pours almost pitch black. Didn't get much head, even after an aggressive pour. Only a little layer of light/dark tan head. Formed into only a ring of big bubbles around edges. Definitely some alcohol feet. No lacing.

S: Lots of vanilla right away. Caramel and toffee. Some roast coffee. Not as coffee forward as twilight.

T: Up front you get dark roast coffee. Dark bitter chocolate. Can't get past the lack of carbonation. Really sits heavier than it should. Getting that vanilla from the bourbon barrel and vanilla beans after the coffee. The finish linger and is long. Lck of carbonation makes it stick around for a while.

M: Full bodied. Carbonation would really help. It's basically flat. Docking a couple points because of it.

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Photo of stx00lax
4.23/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Thanks Kevanb!

A- Pours fairly flat without any lingering head or lacing

S- Smell starts off with light booze and fudge. Sweet coffee notes and a bit of woodsiness.

T- Fudgy, boozy with obvious honey sweetness. The coffee is subtle but good. This beer advertises three flavors. Bourbon, coffee and honey. I taste all three and they are well balanced and work nicely with the porter.

M- The lack of carbonation is there. As a positive it allows for more subtle flavors to shine, hence the taste scores well. But it ultimately hurts the mouthfeel as it comes across a bit thin. Some say the lack of carbonation is perfect, but I think some more would help a la 2012 cherry adam compared to previous "flat" vintages.

O- A very nice and challenging beer. It has a lot of great things going for it and I cant wait to try again in the future.

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Photo of yourefragile
4.51/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap at 2012 Harvest Festival.

Pours an opaque, still and ominous motor oil black with a trace mocha head that quickly dissipates. Aroma has a strong bourbon presence, blending with chocolate, molasses, vanilla, roast coffee, raisin, plum and cocoa (basically everything wonderful). Syrupy, oily thick body with gentle carbonation, little alcohol presence or cloying sweetness. Flavor of a robust porter, roast and chocolate malt, layered with molasses, burnt sugar, vanilla, bourbon. I've had good to great experiences with this (in bottle and draft) and this was one of the great ones.

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Photo of axeman9182
4.27/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.25

500 mL bottle, 2012 vintage. Big thanks to notjustgc for bringing this back from VT for me. It was poured into my Brooklyn Brewery tulip.

Birth of Tragedy pours completely black, with caramel colored foam topping it that struggles to reach a finger in height. Head retention is decent, and lacing is somewhat spotty. The nose is very chocolaty, with vanilla is a strong secondary aroma. Honey and bourbon are both barely appreciable. The flavor profile is a bit more nuanced. It opens with a rich chocolate maltiness. Slightly woody bourbon notes come next, before a brief slightly fruity honey presence (which I'm shocked manages to come through) bridges to a subtle coffee finish. Meanwhile, a vanilla sweetness lingers throughout. The body, noticeably lightened by the honey, isn't too full. That's especially good given that the beer is essentially flat. The mouthfeel is still a little bit syrupy though.I absolutely love the barrel character Hill Farmstead got into Birth of Tragedy, if they tightened up the carbonation it would probably be pushing towards my top 10 beers.

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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.

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Photo of davey101
4.12/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2012 Vintage - 9% abv. 500 ml bottle into a tulip glass. Thanks so much cfrances33!

A - Pours a very dark brown body that lets very little light through, not quite black. A small half finger of mocha bubbles forms and dissipates quickly. Some random edging but this beer sits mostly still. A swirl coats the sides of the glass with a staining brown coating and some very minimal lacing.

S - Fudge and bourbon heavy. Very sweet vanilla, chocolate ganache and some subdued coffee beans. A touch of woody oak on the finish.

T - Very fudgy and rich. Dense dark chocolate cake, sweet natural vanilla, smooth oak, and espresso beans. Finishes buttery and oily like a bourbon. A very decadent dessert beer. Seems to muddle the flavors of Twilight a bit.

M - A touch above flat. Does it hurt the beer? A little. I expect a lighter body in a porter and this one is coming off almost syrupy and thick. Its not a huge setback but a bit of carb would help this one out for sure.

O - An extremely decadent and tasty desert beer that's a bit too flat. I really liked this one, but its not as great as Everett or even Twilight.

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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.

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Photo of kevanb
4.11/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle. 2012 vintage poured into a stemmed Hill Farmstead.

The beer pours a very viscous motor oil texture, jet black in color, massively opaque, touches of dark brown around the rim of the glass, no head, only a few bubbles, and no lacing to be found. The aroma is really amazing, big notes of bourbon and charred barrel, bitter baker’s chocolate, vanilla, some slight roast, hard to believe coffee is in this beer, alcohol is definitely present as well. It’s a very intriguing nose, heavy on the barrel and bourbon but the bittersweet chocolate and sweeter alcohol and rich notes play so well together. The flavor is wonderful, balanced to perfection, bourbon, charred oak that lends some sweetness, toffee, bitter dark chocolate, vanilla, roasted coffee definitely has a bigger presence here which really lends a hand to balance this better than the nose, rich malt and smooth warming sweet alcohol at the finish. The body is a bit thinner at first, carbonation is much lower than many other barrel aged stouts or porters, but it is certainly full bodied, thick, viscous, a bit syrupy with a nice smooth finish.

Verdict: A really delicious barrel aged porter from Hill Farmstead. It is certainly on the lower end of the carbonation spectrum, but it is by no means flat or still. A little bit more carbonation would definitely help prop up the flavors and help with the body, but it’s still quite creamy and the balance of flavors is tremendous.

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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.

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Birth Of Tragedy from Hill Farmstead Brewery
4.38 out of 5 based on 1,116 ratings.
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