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Four - Surly Brewing Company

Not Rated.

Educational use only; do not reuse.

267 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 267
Reviews: 142
rAvg: 4.34
pDev: 10.6%
Wants: 448
Gots: 49 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company visit their website
Minnesota, United States

Style | ABV
Milk / Sweet Stout |  10.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: pdoran10 on 02-24-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
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Ratings: 267 | Reviews: 142 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of t0rin0
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of spycow
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

Photo of djrn2
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

Photo of zestar
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

Photo of acurtis
4/5  rDev -7.8%

Photo of nmann08
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%

Photo of Thorpe429
3.91/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to two generous Minnesota traders for getting me out bottles of this.

A: Wow! Pours very dark with a huge, billowing cream-colored head that lasts for quite some time and leaves behind multiple rings of sticky lacing.

S: Very nice dry roasted malt scent comes up behind an overwhelming force of espresso. Some creamy sweetness in the background, but the espresso beans really just take this one over.

T: Similar to the nose, although the lactose definitely makes a bit more of an appearance here, lending some sweetness behind the competing sources of roasted character.

M: A bit too dry and harsh, something which I would think the lactose could lighten up a bit.

D: Not the best, as the flavors don't really work together. This is certainly a coffee bomb, which I ordinarily like, but think it pales in comparison to some of the best I've had. It doesn't quite have the expressive hop character of fresh FBS, nor does it have the smooth creaminess that comes alongside the coffee character with Bullfrog's Double Coffee Stout.

Photo of ygtbsm94
3.5/5  rDev -19.4%

Photo of brentk56
4.38/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: A very nice pour, with the requisite black color and a massive tan head that sheets the pint glass

Smell: Dark chocolate with mocha undertones; lactose character, as well

Taste: Dark fruit, at the outset, followed by the chocolate and mocha elements, with a tart, blackberry aspect developing by mid-palate, as the hops begin to strutt their stuff; after the swallow, the pithy hops and coffee flavors join together with the vanilla cream finishing things off; a bitter espresso character lingers for quite some time

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Leave it to Surly to come up with a hoppy milk stout with double espresso, to boot; congrats on four years

Photo of BEERchitect
4.03/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The sweetness of Four along with the aggressive roast of Four makes me think Tropical Stout as much (if not more than) Sweet Stouts.

An impressive dark brown pour, gives a nearly black appearance along with extremely impressive roast-stained head formation, retention, and lacing. A most gentlemanly look.

Aromas of sharp roast give and acrid deep toast, burnt grains, and coffee grinds aroma. Quite bold but not a smooth and as rounded as I'd expect from sweet stouts, but fine for most other Stouts.

Robust roasted barly dominates the taste. A quick rebuttal of malt sweetness and milk sugars are hardly enough to round out the big charred grain flavors. Burnt, rather than espresso, cocoa flavors and sweeter milky tastes are a bit disjointed; instead of balance, we get a bit of competition between the malt/sugar sweetness and the big roasted quality of the beer.

The body of the beer is solid with a creamy and sweet feel early. But when the roast takes hold, the beer takes a harsher- more acrid and ashy feel that hurts the drinkability just a bit.

Realizing that the criticism here is harsh, the beer is a very nice beer- I'm just expecting more from a finess style of Stout, but Four gives me an aggression that doesn't fit the style. The espresso takes away from the Milk Stout creaminess.

Thanks again Chicksdighops!

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.53/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

"Sex is a three-letter word that needs some old-fashioned four-letter words to convey its full meaning."


Valrhona dark chocolate brown with a tiny glimmer of maraschino cherry red when backlit with the blindingly bright sunlight blasting through my front window. The fudge milkshake colored crown was a cascader immediately after the pour and looks incredible now that it has settled. Thick blankets of finely stippled lace put the finishing touches on the best looking milk stout in the history of milk stouts.

The nose is a wonderfully aromatic combination of roasted malt, espresso beans and milk sugar... just as was intended. If this beast tastes like it smells, then I'm in for a tasty treat of epic proportions.

Surly beer (most of it anyway) is dialed directly into my flavor preferences for each particular style. I can't be considered a homer if I live in a neighboring state, right? Four isn't the grand slam that is Darkness, but it's clearly a home run with men on base. Since freeze-concentration was used, maybe it's really an eis-stout.

The flavor profile is right on the money thanks to what tastes like a generous amount of tangy milk sugar. That quality is beautifully balanced by malt sugar and an ideal amount of hop bitterness. Oh yeah, 10 months in the bottle don't seem to have hurt it one bit. Alcohol... what alcohol? This might be the best milk stout... ever.

Specific flavors include Oreo cookies soaked in espresso and a large splash of buttermilk. Warming emboldens everything across the board. You have to love milk stouts to love Four, because it takes the style to the absolute full-blown extreme. These guys simply aren't capable of doing anything halfway.

The mouthfeel is big and silky-creamy without being ponderous, heavy or sticky. Pretty much what a double-digit stout ought to be. No worries about the understated escape of CO2 on crown cracking because plenty of bubbles have hung around and are doing what they need to do.

It is a testament to Todd's brewing skill that a beer as delicious as Four has a hard time cracking my top-5 Surly beers of all-time. The biggest reason is that milk stouts are way below IPAs/DIPAs and RISs when it comes to my favorites styles. Thanks a few hundred million to the felonious one for the bottle.

Photo of westcoastbeerlvr
3.25/5  rDev -25.1%

Photo of mikesgroove
4.63/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thrilled to start off my bday night with a bottle of this bad boy. After cutting my way through the wax I decanted into a pint glass and enjoyed for the next couple hours. Consumed on 06/11/2010.

The pour was huge, honestly one of the best i have seen in a long time. Dark as night with a towering head of tan that came up and over the top of the glass and coated everything with a thick, sticky layer of brown lacing that was not going anywhere.

Aroma is filling up the room with huge notes of coffee, chocolate, touches of vanilla and a warming, boozy note. Bringing it up to room temperature really starts to bring these out even more. Huge notes of roasted and lightly smoked notes coming up towards the surface. Rich, creamy and full bodied feel dump into the wonderfully large stout. Huge notes of coffee, cocoa, roasted malts, some light boozy notes, hints of vanilla and touches of oak and almost bourbon like booziness. Warming brings hints of light molasses and cookie dough to the equation now. Really just a great beer.

Overall damn drinkable and solid as hell. Maybe my favorite of the Aniiversary beers to date.

Photo of womencantsail
4.42/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: The pour is a dark, dark brown color with a finger's worth of khaki colored head.

S: This beer certainly lives up to the description on the nose. Lots of rich coffee and sweet lactose on the nose along with chocolate and great roast quality.

T: The combination of coffee and lactose is probably the best of any of this style of beer other than perhaps (non-infected) Cup a Joe. Just a great blend of rich roasted coffee with hints of chocolate and a smooth creaminess.

M: The body is medium with a really smooth, pleasant carbonation.

D: Another hit from Surly. A really well done coffee and cream stout that highlights both flavor components and makes for an enjoyable beer.

Photo of largadeer
4.13/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle from mully. Thanks! The beer is an opaque dark brown with a solid leather-hued head. Looks appetizing.

Intense espresso aroma, almost to the point of being one-dimensional. There's a little dark chocolate, cream and earthiness.

Bitter chocolate and coffee with cream. Pretty rich, the lactose provides a lot of body and sweetness. Moderate alcohol presence around the mid-palate, along with slight tartness and ashy bitterness. Finishes sharp and roasty, fruity, mildly tart. The strong roasty bitterness does a good job of balancing the sweetness, though it wears down the palate after a while. Very enjoyable beer, though I couldn't drink much of it in one sitting.

Photo of emerge077
4.43/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a tulip. Inky black with burnt mahogany edges. Tobacco stained striated foam, the top layer was slightly darker than the first somehow. Extensive webs of sticky lace formed and covered the entire glass. Retention was good, a thin layer of skim rested on top for the duration.

Deep espresso notes in the aroma, rich and roasty, hints of sweet chocolate around the edges. Soft yet pungent, definitely a premium roast, nothing acrid or acidic at all.

Silky and smooth, very easy to drink despite the 10% abv. Huge espresso presence, firmly bitter and roasty, with a rich complexity. Tobacco, plum, raisin, oats, melted fudge brownies. Extremely smooth, yet full bodied. Zero trace of alcohol. Not especially sweet, as the coffee dominated, but there were elements of sweet chocolate and milk sugar present. Slightly dry aftertaste of roasty espresso and milk chocolate that linger nicely.

Photo of TMoney2591
3.41/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served in the trusty Devil's Backbone willibecher.

Big thanks to dzyneguru for this bottle!

The epic 600th review of my illustrious career. And, of course, such milestones cannot come easy: Whoever started dipping bottles in wax needs to be killed painfully. Honestly, these bottles are almost never "easy" to get open, and this one was no exception. Once I move the heavens themselves to pry the cap off, it pours a deep black-brown topped by over a finger of nearly frothy beige foam. A relatively thick residue is left on the glass as the head dissipates. I can't call it "lacing", as it exhibits no real characteristics of lace, per se. Pretty pretty, though. The nose is surprisingly (to me, anyway) packed with coffee beans. Behind that lie hints of graham crackers, corrugated cardboard, milk, vanilla, charred chocolate, and roasted malts. Something about this aroma does not sit well with me. The taste is similarly off-putting. Notes of darkly roasted malts, coffee, charcoal, bitter dark chocolate, sourdough, and mint compose a strange tapestry from the Codex Gigas: mostly bitter and charred evil, with some artistic sweetness and spiritually smooth teases. Like the Codex, though, the balance is like Laurel and Hardy on a see-saw. Too much is going on, all of the pieces trying to be the alpha dog, and no cooperation is attempted. Imagine a drunken and mentally unbalanced meeting of the General Assembly. The body is a heavy medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a gooey feel. Overall, I think this one missed the mark a bit. I'd be interested to see it in a few years, to see if continued proximity is enough to allow some sort of peaceful, collective voice to emerge.

Photo of Kegatron
4.05/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml purple was topped bottle into a couple of snifters. Big thanks go to Stakem for sharing this guy.

Pours black, with 2 fingers of rich dark mocha head. This maintains a sudsy ½ finger or so of froth, leaving back a robust cascade of rich spotty lacing. Espresso jumps right out in the aroma, with some definite backing lactic character and more malty notes of cocoa and some sweeter molasses. There is just a touch of light ripe citrus here as well which helps round out the nose.

The taste is flavorful mix of coffee, green citrus (with maybe even a smidge of darker fruit as well), and then both cocoa and lactic flavors that really give this a smooth milk chocolate feel. This malt, lactose, citrus, and coffee flavors are all in balance and combine to give this a rich twang on the finish that lingers with a dry roasted feel and some lingering stickiness. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, maybe a touch fuller; with a soft creaminess that puts just some light sharpness on the tongue during each sip. For 10% ABV this is just ridiculously smooth and I never would have guessed just how high this was while we were drinking it. Fantastic!

This was nice, being a big and chewy Imperial Milk Stout with a lot of delicious character to it and a super smooth drinkability that really kept this accessible for the size. I’m glad I got a chance at this one. Thanks again Adam!

Photo of XmnwildX12
4.5/5  rDev +3.7%

Photo of oline73
3.95/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a Colossus snifter. I had this the other night during a tasting at finewinemike's place.

Appearance: Pours a very dark brown with a finger of creamy tan head that fades to a small layer on top of the pour.

Smell: Very roasty and a bit ashy. Sweet and mildly creamy with a strong coffee presence.

Taste: Sweet up front with a bitterness in the finish. Lots of roast and coffee with a hint of dark fruits. There is a mild nutty taste in this one as well.

Mouthfeel: The body seems a bit thin given the abv and style. There is tingly carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: This was a very good milk stout. I may have liked it better fresh, if the coffee was a little bit stronger. I would have another given the chance.

Photo of MasterSki
4.28/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at Jake Melnicks. Served in a tulip glass.

A - Pours with a finger of light mocha foam that dissipates to a thick cap and leaves lots of lace. Black body with a hint of brown at the fringes. Pretty impressive for the ABV.

S - Coffee, lactose sugar, bitter dark chocolate. Took a bit of time to warm up, but when it did it was a pleasant blend of bitter dark roast coffee and espresso, earthy hops, and the aforementioned flavors. Not much obvious booze.

T - The taste is also better on this brew, with more balance between the lactose sugar sweetness and the bitter espresso, cocoa, and earthy hops. The bitter aftertaste mounts over time, but never gets overwhelming.

M - Smooth, some light tingliness, sticky chewy finish. Medium-full body that is appropriate for the high ABV. Right-on for a milk stout.

D - This gets a bit bitter and diabetic by the end of the glass, but it's significantly better than Surly Three. The high ABV would also impede numerous pours, but it's not obvious in the nose and flavor profile.

Photo of drabmuh
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a shaker pint. Beer is black and thick and forms a giant head of brown tiny bubbles that leaves a ton of lacing on the glass. Carbonation is moderate to high. Looks good.

Aroma is strong with coffee and some sweetness. Smells good, just about what I expected from the description on the side of the bottle.

Beer is medium body and pretty sweet up front. Quite a lot of sugar in this beer and there is a big coffee bitterness and roast in the back half of the mouth. I actually make a beer at home that tastes very similar to this beer. I like them both.

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

In a Darkness tulip, solid ebony, with a slim roasted tan head. Perfect. No light escapes this...

Aroma: coffee comes first, then the creamy milk, bittersweet and roasty below that. Love it.

Taste: deep and dark, full and rich, massive mouthfeel, fairly clinging to every surface available, hanging long in the finish...espresso remains foremost in the flavor, with creamy lactose still shining through, some chocolate, as well..little hops to be counted in this cavalcade, but they're masked by the mountainous mass of malt.

An immense beer, a conundrum, a certain circumspection of quizzical circumstances...when have I ever tasted the coffee and the milk and the ice? In this way? When have you? When has anyone?
Each next sip brings more of the bitterness, the roast, the rich malt, some cocoa, some bitter coffee, then the milky cream, then...boom, you realize how strong it is... too drinkable, and delicious for the reported 10% abv.

What a treat, this Surly Four. And the more I think and drink, the more I think, what a drink, what a match of the yum, and the mmm, and the hmm, and the ohhh.

Pity this didn't last long on tap.

Photo of wethorseblanket
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%

Photo of mdfb79
4.17/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From 08/26/10 tasting. Had at a local Dc tasting thanks to Kevin (MrChopin); thanks man!

a - Pours a dark brown color with one to two inches of tan head.

s - Smells of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, dark fruits, roasted malts, cream/milk. Very enjoyable.

t - Tastes of coffee, cream, vanilla, and chocolate.

m - Medium body and low carbonation. Smooth and creamy, very easy to drink.

d - I enjoyed this stout quite a bit. I thought it was well balanced and smelt great. Would love to try again.

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Four from Surly Brewing Company
96 out of 100 based on 267 ratings.