Four | Surly Brewing Company

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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States | website

Style: Milk / Sweet Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by pdoran10 on 02-24-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 143 | Ratings: 276
Photo of GregBlatz
3.73/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Can't get this in Ohio. Friend visited Minneapolis and sent me a bottle. This was around 6 months ago. Waiting for a special occasion.

A - Black as black gets. I held mine up to the light and could not see anything through it. Head is very big for a high ABV beer. Tan in color with a rocky appearance and tan color.

S - Dark coffee. Strong alcohol heat. Makes me think of an oatmeal stout but no mention of oats.

T - Sweet chocolate. Strong alcohol warmth. Chocolate powder texture? Maybe that was the coffee but I taste chocolate. Maybe because the lactose makes it taste sweet. Very sweet in fact, but the finish is bitter enough that I don't notice any sweet cloyness. Basically I know that it is flavored with espresso, but with the lactose, I think more of chocolate.

M - Carbonation is mild despite the head. Alcohol warmth builds after a few sips but seems appropriate. Thick mouthfeel due to the lactose.

D - Deceptive. It should not be this drinkable.

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Photo of Dreadnaught33
4.52/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Chaney (Brandon) for bringing this rare bottle over to my house for a tasting!

A: Black with brown highlights and awesome lacing, tan ring of head.

S: Awesome. Huge gourmet roast with lots of gourmet creamer added maybe with some mocha chocolate flavor. Baconish salty smoke flavors come through also.

T: Really nice coffee and milk stout mix, was amazed at the balance of two distinct stout styles. Coffee is there but not too bitter, the milk lactose is there but not too sweet. Nice roastiness also. Dark succulent fruit and chocolate hit the palate as well.

M: Awesome level of carbonation and VERY smooth and smoky without showing alcohol at all. Milky silk feel.

D: Lucky to try this great stout achievement of Surly. Look forward to trying Darkness soon!

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Photo of koopa
4.15/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle received in a trade with a generous BA thanks!

Appearance: Pours near black and opaque with a 1 finger off white (khaki) crown that displays good retention and lace.

Smell: Nice amount of sweet milk chocolate with supporting notes including coffee over deep roast espresso.

Taste: Same as the nose but not as pungent. Most of the flavors are well blended at this point rather than distinctive.

Mouthfeel: Just fine but a bit uninspired.

Drinkability: Pretty good despite the abv.

I'm a bit underwhelmed but this is still a tasty brew.

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Photo of Chaney
4.45/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A special thanks to biglobo8971 for knocking this major want off my list in an awesome monster box trade. You rock Brandon!

I brought this to a tasting and the other guys seemed really stoked to try this sought-after brew.

A: Dark, dark brown, almost abysmal even, with about a two finger beige head that stayed whip cream-like for a brief period. Surly "Four" - 20, Passing Light - 0!

S: Whoa!... very potent indeed! It had an amazing candy coffee scent, with a substantial caramel scent (I think there was a Starbucks "Caramel Macchiato" buried in there somewhere), and even some fruity and hoppy overtones, with a tinge of salt. Smoky...

T: I had coffee breathe long after my session here. The lactose sugar balanced out the coffee amazingly, catapulting its content into the gourmet realm, as opposed to the "Maxwell House" one. Smoky and candy-like, almost like a chocolate "Payday" bar with milk and espresso.

M: Thick and creamy, with the booze being totally hidden. I mentioned candy as a descriptor, but I never found it to be overbearingly sugary or syrupy in the slightest.

D: Hmmm.... Who would have thought that milk and coffee could go so well together (sarcasm intended).

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Photo of Jmoore50
3.63/5  rDev -15%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This coffee stout pours a very thick black, impressive if I might say so. With a vigorous pour it produces a light tan head that doesn't stick around for long. Light lacing on the sides of the glass.

It smells like chocolate, lactose, and lots of coffee. Not really strong in any flavor and the smell of the coffee makes me think of an incredibly bitter type coffee bean. Some of these coffee beers smell and taste almost sour, this one is borderline.

At room temperature this has a decent taste. Some light hints of chocolate, lots of milk and/or lactose flavor that gives this a fuller body. Not as much coffee flavor as I was expecting, still lots of flavor. This actually reminds me of coffee con leche, which is not bad for a beer. I think they did a good job with this one.

A very nice and creamy mouthfeel paired with good coffee and chocolate. The lactose in this really smoothes the beer out in a Baileys creme way. A good beer that was enjoyable.


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Photo of yeahnatenelson
4.4/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Imbibed at the Bavarian Lodge in Lisle, IL on 11/18/2010.

Appearance -- Pours jet black, not an iota of highligt, with a slim finger of sudsy khaki head.

Smell -- Coffee with cream, dark chocolate, rich roast malt, and a hint of woodsmoke. Surprised how strong the coffee is given how much time this has been sitting around.

Taste -- Coffee with cream and sugar, chocolate-covered espresso beans, well-roasted malt, burnt bread crust. Finish is coffee, cream, and lactose sweetness. Again, I'm blown away at how strong the coffee still is.

Mouthfeel -- Medium-full in body, smoothed out by the lactose, with milder carbonation. Incredibly smooth.

Drinkability -- Again, I can't believe how strong the coffee is nine months after it's release. Also, the lactose sugar really shines in the taste and mouthfeel. This is a milk stout well worth going out of your way for.

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Photo of AleWatcher
4.29/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Mmmm... This is tasty. A chocolate, espresso, fresh coffee, and pure liquid awesome. The nose fits and complements the flavor. Just incredible.

The dark brown body shows some reddish hints in the legs-- tan head... Decent retention and lacing.

Body is good. Not blowing my mind-- but certainly not a problem. Solid carbonation, medium body is on the light side, but it isn't a real problem.

This is an amazing beer. Absolutely awesome. The coffee melds perfectly and creates am amazing character and experience. Just terrific in terms of drinkability.

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Photo of AgentZero
4.2/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - An imposing black stout with a brown head that left the sides of the glass clean.

S - Nice coffee smell on this, bit of sweet milk and unsweetened cocoa as well.

T - Tastes pretty good, although sweet/milk stouts are not usually my thing. A bit of nice roasted malt and some bitter espresso. Some cream, sugar, and mily sweetness. Very good portrayal of this style.

M - Quite full bodied, with nice carbonation. Very smooth.

D - Pretty drinkable for something that is 10%. Although it is quite heavy, it goes down easy.

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Photo of gford217
3.87/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml bottle thanks to Brian.

Pours a deep, deep brown that settles in almost black in the glass with a thick mocha head that leaves very little lacing.

The aroma has some bitter espresso beans and lactose with some roasted black malts in the background. Plenty of chocolate as well.

The taste is sweet chocolate malts, lactose and a little bit of coffee. There is a roasty bitterness underlying everything. Dry, almost chalky bitterness to the finish.

The feel is light to medium bodied, dry and maybe a little thin for the style.

I'm a huge Surly fan but this is not one of my favorites from them. That said, it's better than most stouts out there just not quite up to my lofty expectations. Really pumped to try it.

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Photo of Bombers4Benedict
4.82/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Dark with a light brown head that vanishes quickly. No lacing to really speak of which is the only reason this didn't get a 5.

S - Chocolatey covered in expresso and vanilla. There is definately a fullness to the body that is apparent at first inhale.

T - At first touch it starts with a semi sweet dark chocolate, and then continues to hit you with taste after taste: vanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee, and a smokey grapefruit intermission taste to aftertaste.

M - Thick and encompassing yet not overwhelming. This immeditaly sticks to your inner cheeks and throat but fades to an wonderful aftertaste.

D - This is a truly a relative thing. This beer tastes so good I don't doubt I could drink this all night. However, I have a feeling after a couple I might be looking for a little relief. To be determined....

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Photo of tewaris
3.9/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

"Double Espresso Milk Stout"
On tap at Stub & Herb's in a 10 oz glass.

Appearance 4/5
Clear, very dark brown with garnet highlights, with a tiny bit of brown collar for head that manages to leave some lacing.

Aroma 4/5
Dark roasted coffee and clean, sugar like, sweetness.

Taste 4/5
Sweet from start to finish, with coffee presence building up into a massively roasty, bitter, coffee flavored finish. Pretty smooth for the most part but astringency from roast is very noticeable in the the end; roast, coffee flavor and bitterness, and alcohol warmth linger afterwards.

Mouthfeel 3/5
A wee bit thin for the sweetness, with over roasted coffee and high-ish carbonation, its mouthfeel could be called average at best.

Drinkability 4/5
Alright, but I can't see myself drinking too much of this beer.

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Photo of Jeffo
4.4/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottles of this gem provided by thetomG and Oakbluff. This was one I'd been excited about since its release date. Thanks heaps fellas!

From a 750 into a snifter

APPEARANCE: Pours out black but not quite opaque. A cascading effect produces a two-finger, thicker looking, fluffy, tan head with great retention. Black body with zero carbonation evident. Head is very persistent, but eventually fades to a thick cap leaving lots of lacing down the glass. A good wisp and ring remains the entire way leaving lots of nice lacing down the sides. A very good looking stout, and an opaque pour would make it perfect.

SMELL: Roasted malts, burnt coffee beans, black coffee, and some pure chocolate in there. A bit of cream and some evident lactose sugar poke their way though as well, though it is obviously heavier on the espresso notes. Medium strength nose that is enticing and certainly fits the bill.

TASTE: Roasted malts, black, burnt coffee beans and a good dose of sweet cream and lactose sugars. Some sweet vanilla icing too. The taste showed more sweet cream and milk sugars than the nose had indicated, though it's still well balanced and very tasty. A mild and lingering aftertaste of roasted and bitter coffee balanced with sweet cream and lactose. A sweet stout for sure, but well controlled and enjoyable.

PALATE: Medium body and carbonation. Creamy and velvety soft on the palate, goes down smooth, not bite at all, and finishes slightly mouth-coating. A nice, velvety soft body, but could be thicker and fuller.

OVERALL: This is definitely a big, sweet stout, but with enough bitter coffee and roasted flavors to balance it out very nicely. Very flavorful and enjoyable, and surprisingly drinkable as well; I could have easily had more. When this first came out I thought it sounded like something I'd like, and it definitely was right up my alley. Hope we meet again at some point. Thanks again for making this happen gents.

EDIT: Drank another bottle with The Dooper on 17 September 2013. Smelt of tomato soup and tasted of slightly rotten vegetables. Not at all the beer I remember back in 2010 and definitely not worth tracking down again. Drain seemed to enjoy the last bit.

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Photo of andrewinski1
3.98/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Thanks to Bendurgin for cracking this one! Poured into a tulip with a very large two inch mocha head. The body on this one is pitch black.

This smells mostly of roasted malt, followed by nice fruity yeast aromas of cherry.

This flavor starts with nice fruity malt flavors and finishes with bitter, roasted malts. The roasted character dominates mostly, with a nice smoothness in the middle that I'll attribute to the use of lactose.

The mouthfeel on this one is very light and creamy; aiding in the drinkability. Very nice.

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Photo of Bendurgin
4.08/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Got this one courtesy of the generous Translucent. Thanks again Andrew! This one pours black with a big foamy mocha colored head. This one has good retention but soon enough shrinks down to leave sticky lacing along the glass. The smell is very rich, bitter espresso to start with a bit of hops in the background. Roasted barely and semi-sweet bakers chocolate meld themselves into the mix to compliment the flavors. The nose isn't quite as sweet as I'd imagined, it's subtly sweet but the roastiness comes to be more predominant. The flavor follows the smell nicely, it's only slightly sweet and finishes with bitter espresso and semi-sweet chocolate. This is roasty as all hell, lots of roasted barley in this give it kind of a grainy flavor to throw into the mix. The mouthfeel is nice and silky with relatively low carbonation. The alcohol peers through a bit on this, but given the abv, this one is pretty drinkable.

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.17/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

scoobydank sent me a bottle of this in our last trade. Thank you, Bill!

Jet black with a dense, dark brown head that slowly falls off to a thin disk, and there is pretty solid lacing. The nose is pretty excellent. Big coffee character is present, rich espresso and dark chocolate. There's a solid roasted malt character as well. The lactose really ties it all together very well, providing a nice creaminess.

The palate opens with a rather big bitterness, roasted malt and espresso present, the balance leaning toward the espresso. The lactose is present mid-palate, mostly as a sweetness that just barely balances the roasted malt character. Moderately fruity as well, it really works beautifully with the coffee character. The fruit is more plum and raisin like.As it warms up, a little alcohol appears too. Mildly sweet on the finish, there's lingering coffee and and some roasted malt. Medium in body with low carbonation, this beer is creamy and smooth on the palate. It takes a while to get used to the bitterness, but once I do, this is an enjoyable and quite drinkable beer. Towards the last 3/8ths of the bottle, my palate has completely acclimatized to the bitterness, and the sweetness is really noticeable.

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Photo of woosterbill
4.11/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Waxed bomber into a Weyerbacher tulip; shared at a tasting.

A: Black body with a perfect inch of creamy brown foam; awesome, especially for 10%.

S: Dry oak and sweet, malty goodness. Great balance.

T: Super sweet, super malty, and totally delicious. The booze is well hidden, but there's no doubt that this is an Imperial milk stout. I love it.

M: A little light on body, and a little weak on carbonation. Still, not unacceptable in this kind of beer.

D: It's an amazing brew, but doesn't do especially well in this category. While the sweetness really works for the aroma and flavor, it's just too much to be really drinkable. Great beer to share, though.

Notes: Huge thanks to Chris for busting out this exciting treat. I've yet to have a beer from Surly that was less than stellar, and that's especially great news since 08 Darkness looks to be on the menu for tonight. I'm so happy.


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Photo of mdfb79
4.17/5  rDev -2.3%
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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Photo of dogger6253
4.24/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pitch black, completely opaque. A black hole that draws my every thought into it. A mocha head on top, three fingers deep. As it falls it leaves giant globs behind on the edge of the glass.

The nose is full of coffee and chocolate, hints of tobacco too. A sort of boozy smell hangs in the back.

Flavor is really smooth for what I taste, mostly coffee and chocolate. There is a sort of vanilla and caramel sweetness to it as well, perhaps where the balance comes from.

The mouthfeel is, for the most part, what you'd expect; slightly on the heavy side, quite creamy. Even though a little uncharacteristic, I think this beer would benefit with a little more carbonation. Regardless, it's quite pleasant. The balance of flavor makes this a more accessible "dark" beer for those who might normally be turned off by the style.

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Photo of womencantsail
4.42/5  rDev +3.5%
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.

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Photo of Viggo
4.08/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle, big thanks to oakbluff for sharing this one.

Pours an opaque black, a touch of red in the edges, huge and thick foamy tan head forms, slowly settles down to a thick layer, drops a ton of lacing, great retention, looks good.

Smell is nice, huge espresso roastiness, chocolate milk, toffee, vanilla, a bit musty, some raisin and dark fruit, alcohol, lightly sugary, nice aroma.

Taste is similar, dark and roasty up front, like raw coffee beans, big chocolate, milky sweetness, sweet fruit, raisin, toffee, big and sweet, but balanced with the coffee roast, a bit of biscuit, some alcohol in the finish but well balanced.

Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with low carbonation, very smooth going down, ABV is well hidden. A pretty damn nice beer, and it was in good company. Thanks Scotty!

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Photo of rudylaw
3.45/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap @ Binny's SL

Served in a 10z goblet with a tiny head. Very dark but not 100% opaque.

Tons of toasted malts and coffee in the nose. Quite obviously a coffee bomb.

More of the same in the taste although it the roastiness is almost too much. Burned coffee bean/brownie. Lessens as you work your way through, but it's a palate destroyer.

Thin body with low-medium carbonation. In no chance can I attempt another pour of this. It's just not balanced enough to make me come back. Way too much of a charred character for my liking.

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Photo of tigg924
3.2/5  rDev -25.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Had on tap at Binny's Tap Room--Chicago

Appearance: black in color with minimal head, opaque

Smell: coffee and roasted malt

Taste: toasted malt and deep roasted dark coffee..the sweetness is more caramel like and appears at the end.

Mouthfeel: light body, low carbonation, sweet start--then the coffee tastes bitter followed by a really sweet end

Drinkability: Not as sweet for a milk stout as I am used to. The sweetness at the end is nice to ease the taste back from the really strong and bitter coffee taste--almost comparable to Bells Java. Not a bad beer, but I have had much better in the style. Worth a try if you are more looking for a regular stout.

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Photo of joshuaseresse
4.52/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Have had this a few times, but now its time to give it a review. Drank with brian23456. Poured it into a Dogfish Head snifter:

A - black with tan foam head that dissipates but keeps a ring of light foam around the edges. Some lacing retention, but not much.

S - milk chocolate, sweet milk. "Darkness with a bit of milk added to it" as Brian put it. Maybe its just me, but it kind of has a hint of chilies. Not hot or spicy, just a peppery flavor that mixes with the chocolate and milk. Perhaps its just the sweetness and the milk flavor.

T - milk chocolate up front, burnt malts and espresso middle and end. Very sweet in the beginning but toward the middle and end its kind of burnt, as in coffee and a bit bitter, as in coffee. I don't drink coffee, but for some reason I love coffee brews.

M - carbonation is perfect. Creamy and smooth.

D - IMO, this is an end of the night beer or after dinner beer. It leaves a lingering espresso flavor and sort of injures the palate, but only temporarly paralysis' it. For 10% it goes down pretty easy, but you can feel it after a few drinks.


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

A gift from drabmuh. Thanks Matt! Split with my wife last night.

A: Near black shade and dark brown at the crest of the beer. Small beige head that leaves a crema layer resting atop the liquid. There are random spots of lacing noticeable on the glass.

S: Heavily roasted malt, coffee, bitter chocolate, cocoa

T: The beer tastes pretty decent and has a few different nice flavors happening. The coffee aspect tastes a little too bitter to me. I wonder what kind of coffee was used in the brewing process. Nice notes of chocolate throughout the taste. There is not nearly as much of a lactic presence as I was expecting. Perhaps the roasted malt and coffee flavors have masked the milk portion of the beer.

M: Decent feel, though a bit too bitter. The bitterness continues into the finish and through to the aftertaste. Alcohol is hidden well.

D: A good beer and worth trying. Decent stuff.

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Photo of emmasdad
4.3/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Meghan for sharing this one the other night. Pours a nice black color, with some good tan head. Big espresso nose, along with dark chocolate. On the palate, more espresso, milk chocolate and cream. Very, very good. One of the highlights from a very nice tasting.

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Four from Surly Brewing Company
94 out of 100 based on 143 ratings.