Hill Farmstead Brewery

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American Black Ale
4.31 | pDev: 9.51%
Hill Farmstead Brewery
Vermont, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Notes: Imperial Black IPA (Society and Solitude #2) aged in French oak wine barrels for four months.
Reviews: 32 | Ratings: 129 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of bylerteck
3.76/5  rDev -12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle shared on Canada Day. From notes.

A - Poured black with one finger of tan head. Good lace and film retention.

S - Strong roast, sweet chocolate, vinous, citrus.

T - Vinous, dark malt, chocolate, some alcohol, obvious wine notes. Complex.

M - Mild carbonation, full body, sweet then vinous finish.

O/D - Nice. Not hoppy enough by any means, but tasty. Wine character really takes over though. Would have liked to see more of the base beer shine.

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Photo of jerrytodd
2.57/5  rDev -40.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.5

Drank from bottle (thanks Dave!)

I'll just say I'm a huge HF fan but this is the first beer that really missed the mark for me - I didn't get any notes from the CS barrel, nor any hoppiness. It drank more like a massively sweet and thick Imperial Stout rather than a black IPA. I dunno, a glass of molasses is not my thing I guess!

This beer aside HF is amazing.

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Photo of Lledd
4.92/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer is nothing short of phenomenal. Considering the variety of flavors and alcohol content, this beer is incredibly balanced. There is a considerable amount of aroma which is always attractive in a beer. It has an aroma of bourbon which is strange since it is aged in oak wine barrels.

The taste is just pure perfection. As a black ipa, it has more of a porter body and taste. The wine flavor is so balanced and plays beautifully with the oak and malt flavors. The aftertaste from each sip evolves over the course of a minute if you allow it. The mild sourness of the wine fades into a sweet oaky malt profile. Simply unbelievable.

Overall this beer almost couldn't be any better. I didn't even want to drink it, it was THAT good. Thanks to Dan for sharing.

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Photo of Skrip
4.49/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

500ml bottle poured into a Hill Farmstead oversized wine glass.

A~ dark as night just how it should be! nice tan head with a good amount of lacing.

S~ lots of wine barrel funk, roasty dark malts, and slight citrus notes from the hops.

T~ holy shit this is nice! this is about a year old now so theres a lot more wine funk coming out and over powering the hops slightly. which i don't mind at all, its very complex yet still very balanced if i do say so myself. bitter chocolate and roasty malts up front. followed by some nice, what seems like simcoe hop bitterness and a tiny bit of coffee. lots of red wine funk on the finish that just keeps on giving! the after taste lingers for a while, like a tart glass of red wine.

M~ smooth and thick! pretty syrupy, with medium carbonation.

O~ one of my favorite black ales for sure! not saying much caused it was aged in wine barrels. i love everything in a wine barrel put some prune juice in a wine barrel and hell, i'll drink it haha. i would really like to try Jim to see how it is before the funk. so you know... ISO!

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Photo of jvillefan
4.61/5  rDev +7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: It has a black body that light has some ability to pass through. There is a one finger mocha colored head.

S: There is a simultaneous bitter hop bite with a sweet red wine aroma that come off throughout the nose of this beer. There is hint of roasted chocolate in the background. Very unique.

T: Very complex. It starts with a deep roasty chocolate and then transitions into a very oaky red wine flavor. The hops creep up at the end so it finishes with the tannins from the red wine and the bitter pine bite of hops. Well done.

M: Great body but it could be a little heavier. The carbonation is a little low.

O: Great Black IPA. One of the best I've had to date.

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Photo of largadeer
4/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes. Drank this one summer of 2012 when it was fresh.

Pitch black viscous body topped by a lasting tan head. Pine, resin, roasted malt on the nose. A little tar and ash, too. Palate is full, somewhat viscous, big resinous hop flavors with a touch of citrus, though it leans greatly toward pine. Dark cocoa and vinous barrel notes. More barrel aged stout than DIPA to me, but a good beer nonetheless.

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Photo of oline73
4.13/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured from the bottle into a goblet.

Pours a dark mahogany with just a small amount of head. The head disappears rather quickly. I'm getting a sweet wine note in the nose along with some roast and maybe a little oak. The sweetness has a dark fruit component to it as well. The taste is quite sweet with the dark fruit and wine notes standing out. There is an oaky quality to this beer as well. The beer is a bit flat with a very dry finish. Overall I'd say this is a very complex beer and I can't think of anything else I've had that I could compare it to.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
4.06/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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

Appearance - Pours black with a nice mocha head. Excellent retention.

Smell - Simcoe hops are prevalent. Some citrusy hops. A touch of vinous notes, but not really a heavy barrel character.

Taste - Much better than the aroma. Hops first, less simcoe and more centennial-type hops. Good chocolate roast followed by vinous wine barrel. Oaky in the finish. Fascinating combination of flavors.

Mouthfeel - Well carbonated. Maybe too much, really. Not heavy. Lingering bitterness and wine flavors.

Overall - Really good flavors. Harsh and astringent, but the flavors are great.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.2/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Huge thanks to yourefragile for sharing. Served in Hill Farmstead stemware. Pours near black with a good beige head and nice lacing. Some roast followed by great wine barrel character. Hops come through in bitterness and flavor. Some resin and fruit. Pine. So smooth.

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Photo of cfrances33
3.43/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Batch 1 bottle shared thanks to bstyle. Poured into a Hill Farmstead stem.

Pour: A nice very, very dark brown. Almost black. Two fingers of sticky, fluffy khaki head leaves great lacing, and sticks around for a while.

Smell: Some roastiness and chocolate. A light oak. That's about it... nice, but where are any hops or barrel character?

Taste: Ugh. Stale roastiness and dark chocolate. Old hops that just taste off... I can't really put my finger on it. No barrel character, and no hoppy brightness. This just tasted old and stale all around.

Mouthfeel: Nice on the palate, medium to heavy bodied, and the carb was nice. The taste was just so off that I didn't want to drink it.

Overall: It would seem that I met my first big disappointment in craft. After seeing this hold up very well for others, I expected at least some hoppy brightness, but got none. At all. No barrel character to speak of either, and the even the roastiness tasted stale. Bad bottle, considering other have had great recent experiences? I look forward to trying this from the next batch when it is fresh.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.4/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from gn0sis. Served in a Hill Farmstead tulip.

A - Generous tan foam slowly settles to a thin cap, thicker collar, and splotchy lacing. Very dark brown body.

S - Baker's chocolate, oak, lingering tropical hops and citrus from the base beer, some molasses, dark bread, and a very mild and complementary vinous flavor from the barrel-aging.

T - The taste is quite similar, with a hefty dose of chocolate and dark bread malt flavors, some tropical fruit sweetness, as well as mild grapefruit and herbal hop bitterness. Wine barrel flavors shows up in the finish, but they're fairly mild.

M - Smooth, soft, medium-full body, with the typical Hill Farmstead creamy texture and soft carbonation. There's a hint of oak dryness and warmth but nothing excessive for the listed ABV.

D - I could have used a bit more wine barrel presence, as I think I liked the hop character of the base beer (Society & Solitude #2) better when it was fresh. Still, another excellent offering from Hill Farmstead - just maybe not in the exact flavors proportions to match my personal tastes. Curious how this will age.

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Photo of jlindros
4.21/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Just finished a terrible beer review, so now the other direction to what I expect to be a great one.

Pours a huge thick creamy rich looking cocoa colored 1.5 finger head that fades, or I should say doesn't fade and just sticks around forever, and leaves lots of nice notched lacing.

Nose is pretty much as I expected, starting with some roasted malts, a nice roasty quality with hint of coffee and cocoa, and a light creamy milk chocolate. That goes side by side with nice hops, a bit of pine and spicy hop, but also some light citrus and fruity hops, with a nice bitterness even on the nose. A light toasted malt and caramel. The aromas never seem to fade.

Taste starts rich and creamy again, bit malty base with lots of milk chocolate and creamy cocoa goodness. A light roasty quality with some roasted malt and coffee, It brings a bit more of the toasted malt and caramel, as well as a slight vanilla like taste. The malts are quickly overpowered by a myriad of hops, starting with a big spicy and piney bitter hop kick. Eventually even that gives way to the citrus and little tropical fruity flavor. The crazy bitterness of the hops combine with the light roasty bitterness to get just slightly astringent, but it's balanced fairly well by the big creamy lush malts. The fruitiness ramps as it finishes, but then the hops really kick back in with spicy and a bit piney hop flavors. Quite bitter on the finish, and not really dry but a bit creamy still which helps it from getting too astringent actually, and a bit of cocoa and slight metallic from the roast.

Mouth is fuller bodied, rich and creamy, good carb, just a touch of warming booze.

Overall, good, but no matter how good you make it, it's still a black IPA. The roasty chocolate malts are nice but never play well with hops, despite the nice blend of spicy, piney, citrus, tropical fruit, etc, etc. It's a well done beer but nothing can really save a black IPA I think, the style is just not designed to be great. All that said, it might be the best you can get for a black IPA, or at least up there.

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.8/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottle, 2012 release, gifted to me by huhzubendah. Thank you, Matt. starrdogg was also kind enough to share a bottle with me at his birthday party last weekend. Thank you, Matt.

The pour is black, and the beer is capped with a dense, brown head with excellent retention and lacing. The nose is excellent. I'm bummed I didn't get to try the base beer (S&S #2), but its contribution is evident. A very fruity hop character is present, juicy, mildly tropical with some stone fruit as well. Along with it is a fantastic roast character, potent, dark, but not acrid or burnt. The wine barrel character rather *perfectly* bridges the gap between the two prominent notes. A bit of a big, brooding red wine character, a little fruity, mildly jammy, and a little sweet, this is a wonderfully well-structured nose.

If the nose gave a sense that this was well-structured, the palate cements it. Exceptionally harmonious, the dark malt base, the red wine barrel expression and the fruity dry hop character span the flavor continuum in a breathtaking way. A blend of roast, a little bit of burnt malt and red wine are most noticeable up front, before the fruity notes come through. Juicy, fruity, there's ripe yellow nectarines, a little bit of mango and some buckwheat honey flavors present. The wine picks up again immediately after, with the fruity, jammy notes melding well with the hops. No oak tannins are noticeable, but there is a soft oak flavor present. Roasty on the finish, with a little sweetness, this beer is medium in body, medium-low carbonation, and has a fantastic blend of flavors, especially with the wine and the roast coming together particularly well.

This is, IMO, the best beer I've had from Hill Farmstead. Arguably questionable in conception but near-flawless and remarkably cogent in execution, this beer is simply marvelous. Well done, Shaun, well done.

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Photo of ehammond1
4.33/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle (2012)

Acquired via trade
Thanks, AdamJackson!

Black throughout with a moderately sized, persistent dark brown head. This leaves irregular sheets and webs of brown stick down the glass. Gorgeous black IPA.

An interesting, complex aroma for a black IPA: the typical roast, some coffee, and piney hop notes are there, but they're nicely accompanied by mild wine and definite oak. I like it a lot.

The oak and wine characteristics are more present in the flavor than they are in the aroma, balanced nicely with big notes of roast, mild coffee, some chocolate, and piney hop notes. Complete.

Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Very drinkable.

Very good. Complex, as opposed to in your face.

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Photo of Sean9689
4.28/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into HF wine glass. Pours black, tan head, nice cap, and spotty lacing. Nose is chocolate, roast, oily hops, light citrus. Taste is more sweet then bitter, which I prefer. Still a nice dose of bitter hops with some citrus peel kick. Lots of roast, bakers chocolate, and oak. Medium body, good carbonation, creamy finish.

This beer was super-enjoyable. The hops & sweetness were just right for me and I was easily able to finish the entire contents of the bottle with zero help. Not sure how this would get any better, so I suggest drinking while there's lots of hops & sweetness.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
4.85/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle to HF stemmed tulip glass.

A - Black with half a finger of medium brown head that reduced to a thin layer.

S - Big bitterness up front with some citrus and pine aromas that gives way to roasted malts, oak and dark fruit. Very complex.

T - Bitter at first with grapefruit and pine flavours coming through. The middle adds a completely new layer to the palate with dark fruit, some oak and a slight tartness. The finish is where the roast shines, adding a nice sweetness with it. So may different layers to this one.

M - Medium, almost full body. Creamy and silky. Light carbonation.

O - This is an amazingly complex beer. The dark fruit and slight tartness that the wine barrels add to this really make it shine.

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Photo of xenjoiii
4.67/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I figured that this would be the best way to celebrate #IPADay.

500ml poured into HFS Stemware.

A: Poured black with about a finger of off white head that faded to about a CM of thick film that hugs the walls of the glass.

S: The aroma reveals notes of oak and pinot noir sweetness from afar. As I bring the glass closer to my nose, I am picking up roasted malt, chocolate and faint notes of tart cherry. Upon plunging my nose into the glass, I am greeting by a fortified aroma of juicy hops. There is a lot going on here.

T: Upfront in the taste there is a bunch of chocolate and touch of toasted malt character that is followed by a pleasant tartness; the tartness gives way to a balanced bitter caused by a piney hop character. Balanced, complex and delicious.

M: Silky smooth. Light carbonation and a medium body.

O: The best example of the style that I have come across to date. The French oak and wine really add a wonderful layer of depth to this beer.

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Photo of jmarsh123
4.73/5  rDev +9.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to jsilva for the bottle!

Pours very deep brown with a wonderfully sludgy coffee colored head. Excellent lacing and retention.

Roasty and chocolately malt along with some earthy hops and just a hint of cherry which I'm assuming comes from the wine barrels.

This one is amazingly complex. Big roasted malts hit up front. Good chocolate present throughout along with a ride along bitterness from the hops. Almost more a hoppy porter than black IPA. That cherry vinous quality kicks in a bit on the back of the palate. Not so much sour, but just providing some deep red wine flavors of leather and fruit.

Medium mouthfeel with spot on carbonation.

I feel I say this in every HF review, but masterfully done yet again. Black IPA isn't a style I'm usually fond of, but there is so much going on in this one and the wine notes are the perfect counterbalance to the roast and hops.

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Photo of brystmar
4.48/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Mac, you're the man!

Gorgeous pour, black with tons of tan head. Good lace too. Super roasty aroma with plenty of hops in support. Fresh and intriguing!

Whoa... I've never experienced tartness in a Black IPA before. The wine barrel character is impeccably balanced, providing just enough complexity to turn your head without being invasive. Layering this sensation atop the roasty malts and juicy hops creates a unique blend of flavors that I absolutely love. Huge body, bold roast, (mildly) tart, and utterly delicious.

Among the best Black IPAs I've tasted, and certainly the most interesting. Can Hill Farmstead do no wrong?!

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Photo of Verecund
4.5/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2012 release. Opened on July 27, 2012.

Pours halfway between buffalo brown and black with a thick, creamy tan head. Sticky layers are left as the beer disappears.

Aroma bursts with toasted oak, roasted malts, chocolate malt, pine, cherry, and grilled plums. As it nears room temperature, revisits yield a stronger red wine vinousness. Remarkably balanced, rich, and intriguing.

The same complexity is found on the palate, and this is a case where listing adjectives can confuse how subtle and wonderful this wine-barrel aged black ale is. But: just-sweet chocolate, roast, oak (with a hint of spice), restrained-but-evident pine and citrus bitterness, and a full dose of juicy red grape on the mid-palate. Lightly vinous.

Creamy. Full of finesse.

SS2 was fantastic, so there's no surprise this works as well as it does. I prefer this to Jim by a good bit.

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Photo of rudzud
4.08/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a bottle of this at the latest release.

A - Poured into my Duvel tulip a thick deep light black with a nice half a finger mocha head that left light side lacing down the glass.

S - Heavy on the roasted malts here with lots of nice wine notes. Not getting a whole lot of hops though.

T - Well, this is a taste experience thats new to me. Starts off with lots of roast, ALOT of roast. Light chocolate with lots of almost burnt roasty malts. The finish is nice and bitter pine and light caramels. The win though, thats something special. Nice barrel notes and the vinous qualities that are added to this are really unique. Lends a rather nice fruitiness to the beer.

M - Mouthfeel is nice for a black IPA, good carbonation. That 10% is hidden very, very well.

O - Overall this is a solid beer from Hill Farmstead. I think I prefer the base beer (SS2) a little bit more than this. Still, a tasty beer.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
4.42/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle pour courtesy of Wowcoolman at Woodshop 7 held at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing in Long Beach, CA.

Pours an almost opaque super dark brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form all around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, and some slight wood and wine aromas. Taste is much the same with a medium amount of roasty and hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a very good beer that is super tasty and easy to drink.

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Photo of DaveHack
4.15/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poures jet black with a thick, brown, 1 1/2 inch head. Head settles nicely and leaves some heaving lacing behind.

Smells strongly of hops with a touch a roasty scent. Once the head settled, the roasted flavors are more pronounced.

Initial taste is roasty and lightly bitter. The bitterness lasts through the swallow. This is also where you can feel the 10% abv...as it goes down your throat there is a little warming.

Upon looking at this beer it looks deceptively thick. As my girl said...looks like motor oil. It actually came off a little less than medium bodied.

This is yet another win for HF. It isn't particularly my favorite style, but it is done well and very enjoyable.

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Photo of Huhzubendah
4.58/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottles acquired from the release last weekend. Couldn't wait any longer. Shared this with Brad while watching Le Tour de France.

Served in my new Hill Farmstead wine glass.

The beer has a beautiful appearance. Dark brown with a thick, lasting, oily beige head. Seemingly everlasting retention with a thick sheet of lacing on the glass.

The aroma offers roast, pine, malt, caramels, wine, oak. Fabulous.

The flavor is fabulous as well, imparting an elegant sour and tart character. Gracefully balanaced. Oak, pine, hops, caramel malt, wine, sweet and sour.

The feel on the palate is ridiculous. Alcohol...where?!? Silky smooth and wonderful.

Overall, this is without question the best black IPA I have ever had, although this is a bit of a diversion from that style. Regardless, a phenomenal brew. So glad I made it to this release.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.45/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle shared by yourefragile, thanks. Served in a snifter. Beer is black and has a nice brown head of small and medium bubbles, some lacing, aggressive carbonation, nice retention.

Aroma is oaky with a sweet roast malt and piny / earthy hops. Smells nice, mild alcohol.

Beer is sweet and medium to light in body, hoppy but not hop bitter. It is oaky on the finish, mild vanilla, nice malt body, a little boozy but not distracting. I really enjoyed it and look forward to my bottle of this soon.

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Jimmy from Hill Farmstead Brewery
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 129 ratings