Butchertown Black Ale | Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

very good
66 Reviews
Butchertown Black AleButchertown Black Ale

Brewed by:
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
California, United States

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.00%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
Butchertown Black Ale celebrates the long forgotten neighborhood of San Francisco, Butchertown, where our brewery stands today. The nearby creek was once the home to over 16 slaughterhouses and was a thriving neighborhood till shipbuilding took over the waterfront in the 1930s run up to WWII.

This beer is a play on the senses: black as night, but with a deceivingly light body and a bold dry-hopping regiment more akin to an IPA. Butchertown pours black/brown with a thick, lasting toasted marshmallow head. It has aromas of pine, orange, tangerine, pink grapefruit, & light coffee. Flavors of grapefruit, pine, currants, and red wine come through before overturning to a malt depth intricacy of dark toasted bread, pumpernickel, subtle notes of dark fruits and hints of dark chocolate, tobacco and leather.

Added by capra12 on 09-04-2009

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Reviews: 66 | Ratings: 195
Photo of Sammy
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at The Cannery. Its the way they make the style, a very good aroma of hops and roast .Black with a big head and lots of lace. The taste does not deliver, its muted,herbal but it is a smooth mouthfeel. Chocolate malt. Not the bold taste I have come to expect in the style.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.67/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

First thing I have to say is that this is the coolest Speakeasy bottle I have seen thus far. Nice design and graphics.

8.2% ABV per the label.

Pours an almost opaque super dark brown with a 1 inch puffy khaki head that settles to a thin cap. Foamy rings of lace line the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark malt, chocolate syrup, and some citrus zest hops. Taste is of dark roasted malt and herbal hops. The chocolate and citrus zest aromas I was getting don't make an appearance in the taste. There is a mild bitterness on the palate each sip. This beer has a crisp level of carbonation but finishes smooth. Overall, this is a pretty good black ale but the smell is a bit misleading in terms of how it actually tastes.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a really nice black ale, I wish there were more of these around. my second beer from speakeasy in as many days, both impressive in some fashion. this one pours inky black with a brown tinted soapy white head. looks like a bubble bath on top, almost 3 inches tall and sticking tightly to the edge of my English bubble pint. the nose is dark barley, char, bitter chocolate, and hops. west coast in nature, the hops here are dank and oily, pungent, and offer a fruity element to contrast with the really dark roast on the malts. bitter hints of coffee on the finish of this one, and a round almost oatmeal body on it gives it a silky smooth feel. its a bigger beer, maybe unnecessarily strong in alcohol content, not that you can taste it, but just that I want to drink more of this stuff than my limits will let me before being wasted. a bomber is plenty, but if this were closer to 6%, a sixer would not be too much. overall a nice brew, expertly crafted, and perfect for the fall season. I will continue to explore the speakeasy lineup new to Colorado.

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Photo of metter98
3.89/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is clear but very dark red in color (black when viewed from afar) and has a moderate to high amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high beige colored head that died down but consistently left a thin head covering the surface and lots of lacy rings of bubbles down the sides of the glass.
S: Moderate aromas of roasted malts are present in the nose along with hints of pine resin hops.
T: The taste has bold flavors of dark roasted malts and is accompanied by a moderate amount of bitterness. Burnt and roasted malt flavors are most prominent in the finish and linger through the aftertaste. Hints of pine resin hops also become noticeable once the beer warms up.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation; the hops don't feel crisp but these and the roasted malts give this beer a "bite" that leaves your mouth tingling.
O: This is a nice Black IPA if you're looking for something that has lots of burnt and roasty flavors. It's not too difficult to drink and no traces of alcohol are perceptible.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.67/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

22oz bottle, @8.2% ABV, with an ambiguously creepy American gangster backstory for this one's name depicted on the label text. How very Christmasy!

This beer pours a clear, dark brown colour, with prominent orange cola highlights, and three fat-ass fingers of puffy, rocky, and mildly bubbly beige head, which leaves some splotchy and chunky streaked lace around the glass as it very slowly sinks away.

It smells of musty roasted caramel malt, acrid coffee (the sort with stale cigarettes sitting in it), inexpensive bittersweet chocolate, untethered phenolic yeast, some muddled citrus and pome fruitiness, a further free-range campfire ashiness, and more leafy, weedy, and faintly piney hop bitters. The taste is gritty, rather grainy and toasted caramel malt, dusty dime-store chocolate wafers, a bit of edgy umami, generic coffee, and more hard to really get a gauge on leafy, piney, and herbal green hoppiness.

The bubbles are adequate in their supportive and tacitly engaging frothiness, the body a solid medium weight, and more or less smooth (ok, emphasis on the latter), with an oh so subtle airy creaminess arising from someone's latent Yuletide wishes. It finishes off-dry, the coffee and cocoa-flecked roasted malt still duly offset by the well lingering, if still indistinct leafy, piney, and dry citrusy bitterness.

For the style, this is generally all right, the juxtaposition between the two conflicting beer endpoints providing a so-called balance that lovers of such things use to justify its otherwise ill-conceived existence. So, bully for them, I'm done here, and so looking forward to that order of best of local breed Chinese food waiting for me upstairs. Happy Holidays, all!

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Photo of kojevergas
2.82/5  rDev -25.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Served on-draught into a plastic cup at Speakeasy's decrepit warehouse - I mean - brewpub. Reviewed from notes.

Presentation: I couldn't be turned off to a beer more. When a brewer sees no issue with serving beer into plastic cups, there's a big problem.

A: Pours a 1.5 finger head of nice cream, fair thickness, and decent retention. Colour is black.

Sm: Hops - that's it. A moderate strength aroma.

T: Hoppy, but with an unnaturally strong malt and barley foundation. It's very simple to the point that there's little to describe. I won't pretend to know what hop variety is used merely by the taste. Simple but decently built. Largely imbalanced. Fortunately, no alcohol comes through.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Standard fare. A touch too thick. Meh.

Dr: Drinkable but unremarkable. I won't have it again. Maybe fans of the style would appreciate it more. It does hide its ABV well, but there's nothing unique or inspired going on here.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a very dark brown, nearing black. Creamy off-white head.

S: Lots of resinous piney hops and some roasted malts in the background.

T: Pine galore. The pine aroma leads into a quite strong bitterness with not much else making its way out. A good representation of a growing style.

M: Medium bodied and well-carbonated. Somewhat dry.

D: Quite drinkable--had no idea the abv was so high until I looked this one up on BA this morning.

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Photo of mactrail
3.05/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.75

Pours quite a dark, near black color in the tall Stella glass. Handsome off-white foam. Winey nose with a hint of hops. Carbonation and foam last well.

Not very sweet, but plenty of malt flavors. Even fuller bodied than what you'd find in stouts. It's just a big strong ale that happens to be black. Some burnt flavors but the hops take over with a lot of herbal bitterness. Very bitter aftertaste that borders on the medicinal. Better than some of the Speakeasy brews. However, that dank flavor with the murky burnt taste keeps this from being much of a pleasure.

From the 22 oz bottle bought at Coit Liquor in San Francisco.

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Photo of Jason
4.07/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

22oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

Towering head drops a near perfect lacing on the glass, black nearly all the way. Pungent hops, piney, minty, faint tobacco, dark berries, burnt toast, resiny, slightly dank and floral alcohol in the nose. Smooth, deep creaminess, semi-thick body. Very pungent hoppiness, bitterness is less assertive in comparison but still tackles the palate. Growing warmth, mildly boozy, grapefruit rind, hemp seeds, peppery, floral, roasted bite, currants. Semi-dry hoppy finish.

There is a whole lot going on here, a lovely mashup of flavors which in the end all seem to work together. When I think of bigger American Black Ales this is what I am looking for ... Speakeasy should re-think the limited release on this one.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.63/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Beer Revolution

The beer is nearly black in color with a tan head. Herbal and piney hops with a bit of roasted malt and maybe a hint of licorice. A little bit of grapefruit peel and pineapple on the back end. The flavor is slightly sweet with only a moderate hop flavor to it. Some herbal and pine notes, but it's not super hoppy, though. Medium bodied with sort of low carbonation.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.43/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I really enjoy both the concept behind Speakeasy's beers and the beers themselves. I am currently reading Akashic Books' "San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics" so this was perfect. A high school classmate and contemporary drinking buddy, Mike, came over last night and we laid waste to a bunch of bombers. Bombers are a real sticking point in my backlog as I do not like to drink them by myself. I could, but I like when others help me to do so. This one came from The Fridge and went into my fridge.

From the bottle: The cow's ear has a tag reading "94124", which is the brewery's zip code. Ha!; "Limited Series"; "This black ale beguiles you with its light body and soft maltiness - just before it unloads the hops and finishes clean. Butchertown commemorates the district of old San Francisco where the water ran red and the tide carries its secrets out to sea. It's where Speakeasy Ales & Lagers now stands today."; "Legit since 1997"; "Independently owned & operated".

The top was popped and glasses were made at the ready. The pseudo-cascade settled into a finger of deep-tan head with limited retention, quickly fading to wisps. Nose had a smoky sweetness, almost like maple syrup or maple-cured meat. Color was a deep-brown with ruby highlights (SRM = > 34, < 44) and NE-quality clarity. Mouthfeel was medium. Taste was slightly minty, but the prevailing flavor was its charcoal smokiness. Finish was dry, but I just found myself shaking my head at the (mis)use of hops in this style. I was happy enough to have drunk it, being from one of my favorite breweries, but I will not be returning to it.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.35/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Nose is all piney citrus. Flavor is like cold black tea mixed with beer. Ick. Hopefully that is going to change over time. It doesn't seem to be. And if it stays that way, it makes this a pretty weak black ale. Can't really say that I suggest this one.

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Photo of tempest
3.99/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had a glass at Oliver's in Astoria. My big complaint with black ale is that they're usually just hoppy porters—thick and roasted with vague hops buried under the malts. No so here. In fact, I'd call this my favorite Speakeasy beer. There are a clean, clear dark chocolate and roasted grain flavor next to, and complementing, the big citrus hop character. The body is no thicker than a pale ale, making this a little dangerous, but very tasting and pleasing. Give it a shot.

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Photo of DoubleJ
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

22 ounces are in my hand, thanks to my co-worker Tina! Let's go on to the beer:

The head forms two finger's thick on top above a body that is obsidian colored. As the beer's level drops, creamy and spotty lace sticks around the glass. The straightforward aroma of sharp bittering hops make their mark from the start. Subtle notes of cocoa and vague fruits offer a second dimension to this hoppy dark ale.

Sticking to the theme of the India Black Ale, Butchertown is strong, roasty, and bitter. The hops bring a side of grapefruit and strong piney and bittering flavors. A little dark cocoa and roasted malt brings this beer together. Despite its listed 8% ABV, I can't find the alcohol. The beer is nearly full bodied with a smooth body and a lingering mix of biiterness and chocolate in the aftertaste.

Don't mess with Butchertown. This is not only flavorful, but strong enough to knock you down. Aficionados of the style should seek this out.

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Photo of plaid75
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a deep black hue with a one and a half finger frothy off white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured a serious dry hopped citrus.

The taste was a full citric hop experience.

The mouthfeel was light considering the ABV.

Overall a nice hop driven hefty IPA.

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Photo of Zorro
3.41/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Clear dark brown colored ale with a small light brown colored head.

Smells strongly of English style hops. Mild smell of patent malt. Smells of coffee and smoke and a little toffee. Slight amount of leather smell.

Starts out mildly sweet with the tastes of coffee and toffee candy. Not strongly flavored at all this is very mellow for the style. Mild carrot taste. After a while this tastes mostly like highly hopped porter.

Mouthfeel is good.

Overall an OK ale, but sort of boring.

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Photo of FLima
3.82/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Deep black color with red highlights and a thick caramel head with medium retention and leaving laces and a constant plate.
Aroma of coffee, roasted malt, caramel, faint dark chocolate, some citrusy and melon. Dry hop was lost at this point.
Hoppy and roasted flavor with notes of coffee, charred wood, some pine, herbal, earthy and floral hops, grapefruit, lemon peel, caramel, dank tobacco, resin, spices, cocoa powder and charcoal. Very dry and bitter aftertaste.
Medium creamy body with appropriate carbonation. Alcohol of 8.2% abv is well hidden.
Black IPA with a clean bold bitterness and strong roasted and burnt character. Good layered complexity. It felt a bit like a hoppy Foreign Extra Stout with American flavors.

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Photo of cpetrone84
3.22/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

pour is black with red hues, creamy light brown head with some larger bubbles. Nose is milk chocolate, tobacco, butterscotch, and faint herbal hop. Thick and creamy with roasted malts, faint chocolate and vanilla with a fair amount of butterscotch. Tinge of herbal hop and bitterness, very creamy but flavors are surprisingly light. Assertive carbonation.

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Photo of Fatehunter
3.9/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a finger and half of tan head on a black body. Looks great.
The aroma is pine, spruce and some caramel candy. Enjoyable.
The taste has nice roasted malt with a big dose of pine bitterness. I like it.
The texture is crisp with moderate carbonation.
It's the best of roast malt and bitter.

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Photo of argock
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served on-tap in a Shaker pint glass at Mellow Mushroom (Charlottesville, VA).

A: Black with chestnut brown edges and short cap of off-white head with nice shades of lace.

S: Light nutty roasted aroma with modest citrus note

T: The flavor has much more teeth than the aroma with a dark but not black maltiness with no acrid elements, light caramel, and a citrusy hoppy note in the finish.

M: Relatively low carbonation with moderately dry finish and minimal aftertaste.

O: A solid black ale that could use a little more roast and citrus hopping but overall quite good and enjoyable.

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Photo of illidurit
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at The Red in Santa Cruz. Pours a really dark ruby brown but not quite black. Not difficult to see through it with some backing light. Head is creamy and tan. Aroma is graham, bread crust, and a fat dose of piney hops. Flavor is similar but the emphasis is even more hop-focused. A touch of dark wheat bread crust gets steamrolled by big herbal resinous hop flavors, with piney and citric accents. Nice solid bitterness with no astringency. Pretty significant alcohol burn. Mouthfeel is nice with a medium body and great carbonation. The only flaw here is the booziness. This is the west coast version of a black IPA for sure: just enough malt to contribute to the complexity, but not so much that it turns into a cloying undrinkable mess.

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Photo of arizcards
3.86/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Picked up a bomber from TW Arrowhead the first of May for $5.99. Bottle received at TW on 1/17/15. Availability per the Speakeasy web site is October thru December.

Beer poured black with a beautiful tan head that is leaving lacing behind.

Nose is a nice citrus hop.

Taste is a heavily roasted malt backbone that melds well with the citrus hops. Malts are a tad bit over-roasted.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and fairly smooth.

Overall this is a pretty decent brew. I can handle a highly roasted highly hopped beer but this one uses too much of a roasted malt that detracts and creates a slightly ashy flavor. Definitely not for everyone.

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Photo of CHickman
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Pours very dark brown that borders on black, with the brown color only showing around the edges when the light hits it. The tan head was 2 fingers, very thick and foamy, leaving excellent foam lacing coating the sides and rings as it went down; an outstanding looking beer.

Smells of sweet malt, coffee, caramel, toffee, roasted grains, bakers chocolate, grapefruit, floral hops, herbs and cocoa powder; the sweet chocolate notes stand out the most and the ending citrus and floral hop aroma mix well with the malts and roasted grains, which smell like charcoal or burnt wood. A great smelling nose that is very complex and full of everything that makes beer enjoyable.

Tastes like it smells, but more rich and full of flavor, with sweet malt, coffee, caramel, toffee, cocoa powder, roasted grains, bakers chocolate, grapefruit, citrus hops, lemon zest, floral hops, flowers, herbs, pine cone/piney hops, brown sugar and spruce tips or some other spice like tea leaf or pepper; the sweet chocolate notes start things off, followed by herbs and floral hops and then some more sweetness like caramel, vanilla or a Frappuccino. The hops let this brew end bitter and still sweet, completely hiding the ABV.

Mouthfeel is creamy and very smooth, with a medium chewy body, mild carbonation and a nice sweet bitter finish.

This is what a craft beer is all about: the total beer experience that smells good, looks good and tastes great. Factor in that the price ($8 for a 25 oz bottle) was reasonable and I will seek out the beer again and suggest everyone tries it.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Tried this from the bottle and thought there were enough differences as to make it worth revisiting.
Appearance-wise this has a creamy foam head atop a thick black ale, with a lightly perceptible roast aroma and a pinch of hops. The real difference comes across in the taste and body. For starters I feel like it pours out maltier, thicker, and richer from the bottle, although it’s lacking as strong a hop presence as you might find on tap. The roast profile is rounded with some blunted edges to it. Still enjoyable, don’t get me wrong.

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Photo of david18
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

When I bought this beer I totally misread the IBA, just thinking it was another IPA from Speakeasy. It was odd when I got it and it was as dark as it was but Southern Tier does it with their Iniquity, so what the hell. This was a very good beer but I thought it could have been a little more hop forward than it was.

Very dark color, ok aroma, good flavor. This is one to get if you see it.

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Butchertown Black Ale from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
3.8 out of 5 based on 195 ratings.
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