4 Calling Birds - The Bruery

Not Rated.
4 Calling Birds4 Calling Birds

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very good

555 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 555
Reviews: 189
rAvg: 3.81
pDev: 13.39%
Wants: 51
Gots: 372 | FT: 29
Brewed by:
The Bruery visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Belgian Strong Dark Ale |  11.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: Thorpe429 on 10-25-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Spiced Strong Dark Ale. The Twelve Days of Christmas series continues! We took inspiration from the traditional winter warmer for our fourth verse, integrating gingerbread spices into a robust dark ale. Notes of licorice & banana bread mingle with dark fruit, molasses and bitter chocolate for a perfect cold weather sipper!
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 555 | Reviews: 189
Reviews by lanamj:
Photo of lanamj
3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Out of a bottle served into a pilsner.

A- Nice dark, dark ruby-black color. Thick foamy egg shell head that hold well with heavy lacing.

S- Ginger spice, dark fruit, nutmeg, vanilla and raisin. You can smell the booze but the sweet dark fruits and hot spice blend well with the alcohol heat.

T- Nice ginger spice with a sweet finish. I get some yams and vanilla as well as graham cracker. Some yeast and molasses lingers on the tongue. Dark fruit and booze generate the sweet back bone. Very good flavor and with age should be very good.

M- Medium- heavy carbonation, which for a Belgium style beer is expected, with a smooth flowing feel. For the high alcohol on this its rather easy to drink. I feel with age this one will become o so chewy.

O- A decent beer with lots to look forward to with age. I feel it was very creative for the style. I could only drink one of these although its rather approachable. I really look forward to drink an aged one.

More User Reviews:
Photo of NWer
4.65/5  rDev +22%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served on tap at the Elliott Bay Pizza & Pub in Mill Creek in a Duvel tulip.
Appearance is dark brown smallish head.
Take a basic Belgian Strong Dark Ale and spice it up for the holidays and you have 4 Calling Birds. Ginger on the nose and ginger in the taste. Sweet. Very sweet in the aftertaste that makes you aware of the upcoming holidays whether you're ready or not.
A fantastic job in my opinion. A great seasonal that blows your typical winter warmer away.
Buy this.
By the way, the 11% ABV is well hidden so be careful with this one.

Photo of Billolick
4.2/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

32 ounce growler filled at DeCicco's in Ardsley, NY

The pour is pretty much basic black, under a dark tan head that lasts a bit then goes to a tiny bubble film, and respectable low sheeting and some bits of lace.

Burnt malt, licorice, ripe dark fruit in the nose.

Full flavor BSDA, loads of ripe figs, raisins, dark malts, licorice, bitter chocolate. Dense, flavorful and complex. Alcohol well hidden. Quite enjoyable winter sipper/nightcapper

Photo of ehammond1
3.97/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On Tap

The Bruery Provisions
Orange, CA

Dark brown with ruby edges and a thin khaki colored head--lines and dots of lacing left down the glass.

The best part of this beer is its aroma, and it's superb! This is one of the most successful "specialty" aromas I've experienced: fresh gingerbread cookies, cinnamon, brown bread, and all-spice. This reminds me, literally, of my grandmother's Persimmon cookies she bakes every Christmas.

The flavor is disappointing after such a wonderful aroma. The ginger/bread is quite muted, and while still tasty, the flavors seem hollow and lacking: brown bread, a touch of spice, and a moderate level of bitterness.

Medium mouthfeel with ample carbonation, and zero alcohol presence. This beer does not drink like an 11% ABV beer.

A lovely Christmas ale. I can't wait to open a bottle of this on a cold night.

Photo of pwoods
3.35/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks Kels for the sharing the bottle.

750ml capped Belgian bomber poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a deep dark brown and sits nearly black in the glass, no light getting through. Moderate head on the pour with only a bit of retention and not much lacing.

S: Very subtle aroma, even after letting it warm up. Some of the ginger bread aroma with some light black licorice. Light malt and yeast. Very subtle overall.

T/M: More of the ginger bread spice and black licorice. Some caramel and brown bread malts. The yeast is slightly bigger, but still not huge. Body is medium to medium full with good carbonation.

D: Tasty holiday seasonal but leaves a little something to be desired. Myabe just more depth.

Photo of Brenden
3.62/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a viscous, heavy black beer. A tan head almost a finger tall fades somewhat quickly but leaves a steady foam. Lacing is a little light, not quite patchy but almost and in a pretty good quantity.
The nose is lightly spicy, both nutmeg/allspice and lightly peppery, with a heavy molasses note under a big malty foundation.
The taste is heavy, not overly sweet but with a huge cloying molasses. Raisin is evident alongside the molasses and, not to disappoint, a light gingerbread flavor lies underneath. Spices pop up in the finish. The molasses really blankets some of the other flavors and makes it a sipper, also adding a touch of a metallic tint. With that and an accompanying anise note, it's hard to believe this isn't a doppelbock.
This one feels as thick and viscous as it looks. There's only the very faintest crispness, but it flows smoothly. The only thing is that, for how this beer is constructed it should be thick but is extremely heavy.
I like this beer, but it's a gentle sipper and probably needs to be split.

Photo of mdaschaf
3.82/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Review from notes. Thanks to Scott for this one!

A: Pours a dark brown with some ruby highlights. A one finger, tan head forms upon pouring with decent retention. Some lacing forms briefly, but does not last.

S: Lots of holiday spices, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and a lot of gingerbread. There is a little bit of Belgian yeast and some bready malt.

T: The gingerbread comes through on the flavor profile, not really cookie like, as some people had described it, but more like actual gingerbread. A little bit of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and chocolate.

M: Medium bodied with active carbonation, rather bubbly.

O: I was hoping for gingerbread cookies, and was slightly disappointed. I liked 4CB a good bit, but am fine drinking a bottle and saving the other. Not something I am going to run out and get more of. Will be interesting to see how it holds up.

Photo of MrVonzipper
3.05/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Rtaps for sharing this bottle.
Pitch black with a 1cm tan bubbly head. Short retention. Spotty lacing. 

Big spice on the nose. Predominantly allspice and a touch of ginger. That's pretty much it. 

Flavor is again full of spice. Allspice mostly. Very spice dominated. Dark malt and Belgian candy sugar show up a little bit too.

Medium bodied and high carb.

Overall ok. IMO too Heavy on the spice. Just one note.

Photo of GilGarp
3.65/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750 no capped bottle served cool into a goblet.

Deep brown color with good clarity and thick head. It settles quickly and leaves no lacing.

Aroma is sweet but with unpleasant undertones of spice and medicine.

Flavor isn't much better. The malts seem to be pretty solid but the spices and yeast to overpower everything.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and the carbonation is a little too high.

Overall disappointing considering the Bruery's reputation and the price. Should get better with age though.

Photo of Metalmonk
3.96/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Damn this beer looks amazing. Color is the abyss where black and darkest brown fight it out. The head is a foamy, creamy toasty tan color. It doesn't last long, no doubt in part because it's an 11-percenter, but it sure looks good while it's there.

Interesting aroma, a tough one to call. Some generic holiday spicing that defies easy description, it's herbal, a bit minty, kind of candy-like, and doesn't offer much in the way of the big malt presence that surely has to be here (given color and ABV).

While the aroma seems a bit elusive, 4 Calling Birds lays down a decisive flavor. Not a normal one, but a decisive one. There are definitely elements of gingerbread here, as promised on the label, and a wide variety of spices emerge too, including anise, clove, and allspice. Candied fruit and honey are detected in the sweet layer that dominates this beer, but thankfully it just escapes being overly sweet. Definite chocolate vibe throughout. Overall this beer is like a liquid interpretation of the German holiday dessert bread, Lebkuchen.

Luscious in feel. Absolutely luscious. A smooth, velvety, totally fantastic texture that I'd rather sink into and enjoy than try and describe further. It just IS. Oh yeah.

I've liked all the Bruery holiday beers...too much to cellar them for a decade or so, as the series is designed. C'mon, seriously, who's got that kind of time? I'm no believer in Mayan prophecy or other such nonsense, but seriously, it's about the present tense, and this one tastes really good, right now.

Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at The Bruery Tasting Room. Light brown coloured body with generous 3/4" retained head. Dry, average mouthfeel. Astringent and dangerous kick of alcohol not felt by the spice. Smell is like a sour brown Belgian.cola,Licorice, ginger. Sour and spice and nice, a sipper.

Photo of tdm168
4/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jtd1969 for sharing this one.

A - dark blackish brown with a thin brown head that has little retention

S - funky Belgian yeast, dark fruit, faint sugar, faintly tart

T - dark fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, faint roasted malts, bittersweet, faint burnt sugar, faint bitter finish

M - full bodied, a bit warm, some alcohol, well carbonated

This is a nice beer. It has some unique qualities and the use of spices was well done. At times it was a bit sweet and sugary and the alcohol was noticeable in the finish, but otherwise it was a nice sipper that is definitely worth a try.

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Bruery "4 Calling Birds"
750 ml bottle, capped.

If there's a bottling date I can't find it, but let's face it, we know that it's at least eight months old, if not more. It was stored upright, and gently moved, and the first pour was spectacularly clear.

In the nose it's softly chocolatey, a touch fig-like, and gently spicy with notes of ginger, probably cinnamon, and what seems like nutmeg but might not be.

The mouthfeel is creamy, even silky, but also with a gentle bristle of carbonation that comes on with a light bit of energy but then fades readily away.

Not surprisingly, the flavor echoes what the nose has suggested. The malt is a bit more caramelish, and also even slightly fudge-like... ... still there's a bit of actual golden grain flavor to it too. Regarding the fruitiness, there is a little bit of fig, but there's also some raisin as well, both dark and golden. I love that kind of dried-fruit sugariness, and the spices work really well with it.

So here's where the aging comes in. I had this several times on tap when it was first released, and I wouldn't say that it's really changed that much. It's pretty much the same beer, but the spices are slightly softened, and I think the alcohol is even more subdued. I remember it having just a slight bit more zest and zing. And I think that the fruitiness has softened a touch as well, becoming more like dark dried-fruit than it initially was (possibly because an anise-like character has risen a little bit).

So was aging it a bit a success? Yes, I think so... it's certainly not a failure, but at the same time I don't think I would age it any more. On the other hand, you never know what's going to happen (absolute greatness?), but I sense a little hint of oxidation sneaking in and I'm not sure where that might head to with another quarter year or more on it.

Overall I thought it was a remarkable beer. I shared a few bottles with a table of friends during the 2011 holiday season, and (with the exception of the Lagunitas Sucks, which was great as well, but completely different) everyone felt that this was the best seasonal beer we'd tried because it offered all of the spice that a beer like this needs without going too far.

Photo of dirtylou
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle, split, served in de koninck chalice

Dark, murky and full of floaters. Spicy, rich dark fruit, booze-forward. Nothing particularly interesting about this beer - the previous beers in this seemed better. A little medicinal in the finish - this one is only going downhill from here, drink up.

Photo of RickS95
4.38/5  rDev +15%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's almost as black as night, much darker than most beers of the style I've had...looks like a dark porter or stout. The head is fleeting, but while it's there, it's a light brown, leaving an attractive ring of contrasting white film on the perimeter.

Molasses, cinammon and ginger dominate the nose, all in a good way. Only as it warms do you pick up the chocolate and alcohol.

Dark rich fruits, molasses, and even a cola-like caramel on the tongue, with a slight hop note and alcohol warmth in the swallow.

Really creamy up front. A gentle sweetness as the beer moves from front to back. Some spices in the middle, with a gentle hoppy bitter in the finish, along with some heat from the alcohol. Medium- to heavy-bodied with just the right amount of sweet, spice, bitter and alcohol.

Overall, this is a really mild beer for such high ABV. The flavors all work very well together. The sensations are great. I'm glad I purchased this.

Photo of Heatwave33
3.68/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle to my custom Duffy Pint Glass.

Color: Black with a brown head.

Smell: Allspice, Ginger, caramel malts, coffee, sugar and pine.

Taste: Caramel malts, Ginger, allspice, coffee, pine and sugar.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, coarse and dry.

Overall: reminds me a little bit of a Gingerbread cookie. They definitely captured a little bit of Christmas in a bottle. Cheers.

Photo of russpowell
4.11/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked this up in North Carolina in Hickory or Asheville... Drank this about a week ago, review from notes

Pours mahogany with a thumb of mocha colored head. Some lacing &head retention

S: Plums, cherries, cinnamon & ginger bread

T: Follows the nose up front along with dryness. Dryness, gingerbread & molasses as this warms. Finishes with gingerbread sweetness, a touch of herbal hops & molasses

MF: Chewy with restrained carbonation

I love gingerbread, so I really enjoyed this one

Photo of WestValleyIPA
4.4/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Stone IRS tulip. Incredibly dark, looks like espresso. Very dark roasty brown with a light brown, thin head that rests on top. Lots of roast on the nose. Belgian yeast spiciness, not to mention actual spice. Cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg definitely. Has quite a nice subtle licorice hint. Sweet candied sugar. Tastewise, more of the same. Incredibly rich. Beyond full flavored. A touch of roast and more of that Belgian spicness. The licorice is more pronounced and the sweetness that permeated the nose comes through. More cinnamon. The mouthfeel is perfect. Maybe the creamiest beer I've ever had. The bubbles are tiny, no prickles. Fan-freaking-tastic beer.

Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown color with a small yet dense light brown head that settled into a solid ring.

The aroma is quite spicy with nutmeg and ginger. There is a sugary fig sweetness, perhaps plum, to go along with a pumpernickle bready malt. Some noticable alcohol vapors that were not all that pleasant.

Lots of alcohol flavors hit pretty hard and when added to the sharp spice, it is a bit unpleasant. The ginger and nutmeg are sharp but does go well with the rich brown malt. Definitely some nuttiness and candied fruit, like a fruitcake. A nice roasted malt, perhaps chocolate, sneaks in at the end.

The feel is moderate with very fizzy carbonation, which masks the flavors some. A bit of a malty bitterness on the palate but is much needed to offset the sweetness. A tad sticky and the ABV is out in force.

Disappointed in this beer. It has the making of a good beer but its too boozy and too carbonated. Really does need some aging.

Photo of scootny
4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is the first of the series I have had on tap and it is by far the best of them to date. Dark brown fluid with head the color of espresso foam bur much thicker. Decent lacing and retention. Smell is sweet and holiday spiced with a yeast note that is definitely a house trademark as it reminds me of Autumn Maple. Dark fruits and light Belgian funk. Some roasted grains and caramel give a warmth to the aroma and some dinner roll breadiness. Taste is sweet burnt caramel and spices. Mild licorice, figs and toffee notes combine with a faint mochachino. Some nice bitterness has a hint of metal that betrays the high abv as it goes lightly fusel. Dry finish leaves a bit of gingerbread dancing in your mouth. Feel is creamy and thickish with the perfect carbonation balancing the sticky light syrup that sits in my glass. Supple on the tongue in spite of the weight. A super brew that makes an excellent holiday sipper on this New Years Eve. I find myself sipping a little quicker than I otherwise would because it is so delicious and delightful to the mouth. The alcohol is so well integrated that you just go for it in spite of what you know because it doesn't really show itself. nice job Patrick and Co.

Photo of bum732
3.3/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

S: Dark fruits, raisins and brandy, some all-spice and gingerbread, raisin bread, cinnamon.

L: Very dark brown, tan head that dissipates to a ring of foam.

T: Christmas spices up front with some dark fruit. Second phase of cola-like sweetness with some brown sugar. Finishes semi-dry with some cinnamon and ginger. Some roast as it warms. Spicing a little out of balance to the malt.

M: Alcohol fairly well hidden, slightly warming. Medium bodied, a little light for the style. Medium-light carbonation.

A little too spicy, dries and lightens the beer too much. I think i prefer the previous years version to this.

Photo of nimrod979
3.78/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750ml bottle. I usually save them for a year and crack em open when the new year's beer comes out. I was a little later getting to this one.

Appearance: Very dark brown with a thin beige head. Almost no retention and no lacing.

Aroma: Non-descript spices, perhaps ginger and nutmeg. dark fruit, estery belgian sugars, chocolate and an interesting sourness.

Taste: Dark fruits, plum and raisin, figs, sweet malts, some caramel. Hints of nutmeg and ginger. A slight sourness going on. Lingering chocolatey finish. Plenty of interesting flavors going on. The beer is a tad sweet with a little bit of a boozey presence, and I think one pour is certainly enough, but still enjoyable.

Mouthfeel: Slick mouthfeel, medium-full body with very very soft carbonation. Some booze, but no burn. Interesting. Decent.

Photo of claaark13
3.49/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was pulled from next to the cooler component of the cellar, so I'm guessing it was 50 degrees once opened. Poured into a DFH snifter/tulip.

A - Pours fairly dark brown with a thick, foamy off-white head that keeps better than lacing.

S - Nutmeg and cinnamon. Some bread reluctantly comes through. Seems odd unless you love gingerbread.

T - Much like the aroma. Lots of nutmeg, some cinnamon; basically gingerbread with the finish of a typical quad. There is almost a bite at the end, but not quite.

M - Medium body with a noticeable amount of carbonation.

O - Ok....it is an above average and unique flavor. It reminds me of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. ABV% is well hidden. Spices are in shape. But, I just can't appreciate this one. I can't wait to hear how all of these turn out when everyone does the 12yr vertical (sarcasm). Bruery impresses me, but I just don't see a benefit of aging this.

Photo of beerthulhu
3.88/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: A two finger butter-scotch head has a bready cake like texture with a good stay of retention. A murky English red pour appears coal black in the vessel. Light carbonation beads rise and fuel the head which leaves a respectable half coating of lace.

S: Mixture of black and chocolate licorice on the nose. Fennel, dark fruit, oats with some ginger and caraway spicing.

T: The flavor holds sweet dark malts and dark fruit with licorice, figs and a smooth dark roasted barley and oats backing. Sweet creamer and vanilla highlights has some dark buttery caramel sweetness and a silty bitterness with a hint of ginger alcohol spicing. A touch of fruity yeastiness, plums rounds things out.

M: silty smooth, warming with an alcohol spiciness with dark fruit lining the tongue with a dark malt bitterness being left behind.

O: Overall a really nice flavor, smooth, complex, very polished and cleanly brewed with a dark fruit and spicy nature and glow of alcohol that hits it just right.

Photo of bluejacket74
3.92/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle. Served in a Unibroue tulip, the beer pours very dark brown with about an inch tan head that stayed around a little while. However, there isn't much lacing at all. Aroma is fruity and spicy, the brew smells like molasses, ginger, cinnamon, dark fruit, cloves, and a bit of licorice. Taste is pretty much just like the aroma, it tastes like dark fruit, ginger, cinnamon, chocolate, molasses, dark bread and some licorice. There's also a lingering spicy finish. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a little bit slick and is well carbonated. I think this is a good overall brew, it's a nice spicy holiday beer that I might pick up another bottle of (it was $10.99 a bottle where I bought it at). Definitely worth a try.

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4 Calling Birds from The Bruery
86 out of 100 based on 555 ratings.