Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Tasting : Hicken (Hill Farmstead James clone)

This has to be a record for me, posting tasting notes for a beer less than 2 weeks after it's been bottled! Of course, this should always be the case when I'm reviewing a beer that has a big hop-component, but a) I sometimes get a bit lazy, with other things going on, and b) I'm hesitant to rush into it, until I'm sure how I feel about a beer. But with this, a clone recipe of the Black IPA, James, from Hill Farmstead that I brewed last month, I wanted to get this down immediately. I opened the first bottle only 5 days after it had been bottled, and it blew me away.

This beer was all I hoped it would be, and more. As I mentioned in the recipe post, it's been over two years since I tried James in Vermont, so I wasn't really sure what to expect - whether I successfully cloned it or not. I'm assuming that I HAVEN'T (based on the huge success of Hill Farmstead's beers), unless I completely fluked out. Whatever, this beer is delicious! Definitely one of the best beers I've brewed, and one of the best Black IPAs I've had, commercial or homebrew. The hop aroma is HUGE, flavor is fantastic, and it's creamy while still finishing fairly dry. The roast/chocolate character is JUST there, but the hops clearly dominate - exactly what, I think, a good Black IPA should have.

Of course, the first time I brew a batch smaller than 5 gallons (with all the hop sludge and such, I bottled just about 3 gallons), it would result in a great beer. I will definitely brew it again. There's a slim chance I'll be in Vermont in the fall, so maybe I'll be extra lucky and get to try some HF James again. In the meantime, if you're looking for a great Black IPA recipe, I recommend giving this one a try. Thanks again to Mitch Steele for writing the IPA book that provided the bulk of this recipe!

Appearance: Poured with a moderate-large, light tan creamy head that shows excellent retention; eventually fades to 1/2-finger. Sticky lacing left on the sides of the glass. Body appears black at first glance, but when held to the light you can see it’s more of a very dark brown. Opaque.

Aroma: Strong aroma of citrusy, dank hops. There’s a bit of chocolate in the background, but the hops stick out the most, with a hint of pine in there as well. As it warms, the alcohol comes through slightly.

Taste: There’s just a small bit of roast/chocolate that hits at first, but like the aroma it gives way to a big hop flavor. While you can definitely get the citrus in there, I’d say the dank aspect comes out ahead. Finishes with a firm, moderate-high bitterness. Creamy and easy-drinking.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, with moderate, maybe even moderate-low carbonation.

Overall: Very delicious. I think the first bottle I had three days ago actually tasted and smelled fresher, however. Too early to really tell that, though, as I’m not 100% sure the beer is done conditioning. I’m ok with the carbonation where it is, however, and I think I prefer it this way. The more I drink this, the more impressed I am with it... certainly can’t remember if it’s even close to James, but I’m really happy with it overall.


  1. Hi, I enjoyed reading this tasting post as well as the recipe post. The dates posted indicate this tasting was ten days after bottling, is that true? How warm of an area did you keep these in to achieve some carbonation that quickly?

    1. I remember this beer as being a bit odd, in that it tasted fully carbonated and ready for drinking the first time I cracked one open... which was 5 days after bottling. I was a little impatient, but for once didn't waste the first bottle by opening it early!

      The bottles weren't kept in a really warm room or anything, just room temp, maybe 21 C or so? I've always had really good luck with most of my beers when bottling; they're usually ready to drink within 7-10 days.