4 Calling Birds - The Bruery

Not Rated.
4 Calling Birds4 Calling Birds

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BA SCORE
85
very good

189 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 189
Hads: 557
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 11.08%
Wants: 53
Gots: 373 | 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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 189 | Hads: 557
Photo of Sammy
3.73/5  rDev -1.6%
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. (275 characters)

Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.77/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at The Bruery Provisions in Orange, CA.

Pours a clear dark reddish brown with a khaki head that fades to a film on the top of the beer. Small dots of lace slide back down into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of malt, dark fruits, and some spice aromas. Taste is of malt, dark fruits, and the spices with ginger coming out as a main flavor. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a prickly mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with lots of spices. Nothing too great though. (507 characters)

Photo of kylehay2004
4.22/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: almost no head on a deep dark amber brown body.

S: lots of dark fruit including raisin, plum, fig and cocoa with a nice dark chocolate and vanilla presence. hint of gingerbread and roasted malts.

T: dark chocolate, vanilla, dark molasses, light peppers, dark fruit mostly plum and strawberry, roasted malts, well hidden booze, tart and as usual very complex

M: fairly thin for what I was expecting. moderate carbonation. not very dry for the style.

Overall: this one is really drinkable, more so than I would think. Definitely very complex (546 characters)

Photo of metter98
4.17/5  rDev +10%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is very dark yet clear mahogany in color and poured with a thin dark beige head that quickly faded away, leaving only a thick ring of bubbles on the surface around the edge of the glass.
S: Aromas of spices really stand out in the nose.
T: Quite complex, the flavor is rather malty with notes of spices and a hint of licorice. There is a bit of sweetness.
M: It feels slightly more than medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation with a bit of smoothness.
O: The alcohol is well masked considering this beer’s strength. (560 characters)

Photo of Thorpe429
3.63/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from the October Rare Beer Club shipment. Served in a Bruery tulip.

Pours a very, very dark brown that is bordering on black. Initially foamy light mocha head rises high but falls fairly quickly, leaving a nice collar behind. The nose brings forward a bit of molasses and toasty gingerbread. Light sweetness and a touch of clove.

The flavor fits the holidays quite well. Lots of gingerbread spices with clove and a faint bit of cinnamon, allspice, or something like that. A bit of dark molasses is there along with mild sweetness. I doesn't quite come together all the way, though it is promising. Medium body with low-to-medium carbonation. No indication that this one is 11%. Quite tasty, but didn't quite meld. There are some slight plastic notes to the nose and finish that take away from what is otherwise a nice spiced beer. (844 characters)

Photo of brentk56
3.52/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a cola color with a very modest head that quicly becomes a ringlet, leaving very little lacing behind

Smell: Gingerbread soaked in molasses, with undertones of dark fruit and burnt bread

Taste: Molasses flavors dominate the front-end, overwhelming the gingerbread, though the spice cake flavors do emerge by mid-palate; rather sweet, after the swallow, with berry and sweet cherry flavors as well as a hint of banana

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: Interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying, as the sweet flavor dominance on the finish and the molasses, up front, provide a rather un-balanced character; not really a BSDA - more like an Imperial Winter Warmer (714 characters)

Photo of Knapp85
4.15/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer poured out as a really nice reddish brown color with a decent foamy head on top. There wasn't much in the way of lacing or retention here. The smell of the beer had some really nice herbal notes to it along with a touch of what I think smelled like mint. The taste of the beer gave off some Christmas berry notes along with some spices and again some light flavors of mint. The mouthfeel of the beer was soft, gently carbonated and drinkable. Overall I thought this beer was better than the 3 French Hens I had last year. I would probably drink this one again. (570 characters)

Photo of largadeer
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle aged for 1 year. As a gingerbread inspired beer, this more or less hits the mark. The body is a hazy dark brown topped by two fingers of dense, clinging froth. The nose is heavy on molasses, tart dark fruit and caramelized banana, with an undertone of spice. A year of aging has caused the spices to drop off considerably; I remember them being almost overwhelming when the beer was fresh. Nutmeg seems the dominant spice now, with a touch of ginger. On the palate it's still somewhat boozy and could probably benefit from another year of age. Banana and dark fruit esters wash the palate first, followed by rich molasses and a slightly astringent and bitter kick of nutmeg and allspice. Sweetness is moderate, not cloying by any means, and there's a sturdy dark malt backbone that does taste a hell of a lot like gingerbread. The finish grows a bit harsh after a while, making it a chore to drink more than one pour. Further aging may improve this. As it stands, it's a solid but flawed beer. If I had any more bottles, I'd give them at least another year. (1,070 characters)

Photo of zeff80
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a dark, dark burgundy color with a one-finger, tan head of bubbly foam. It had nice retention and left thin rings of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled of nutmeg, licorice and some dried fruits. There were mild notes of biscuity malt.

T - It tasted of black licorice, Christmas spices -like nutmeg and cinnamon. Nice bready malt backbone with a touch of dried fruit flavors.

M - It was crisp, sharp and smooth. A medium bodied ale with a dry finish a subtle alcohol warmth.

O - This is a really complex beer with good flavors. Nicely done. I'd like to try more from the series. (595 characters)

Photo of womencantsail
3.11/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On-tap at the Bruery

Almost black with a dense khaki head. Smells roasty and mildly acidic. A little bit of fruit, mostly prunes and some raisins. Roast, char, and burnt sugar. Maybe a bit of licorice flavor. Heavy on the prunes and raisins. Medium bodied and high carbonation. (278 characters)

Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

750ml bottle - $10.49 at Olde Crabapple Bottle Shoppe in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Appearance: Pours out a very dark brown, roasted walnut-toned body with a medium-sized, khaki-colored head.

Smell: Roast and a heavy scent of toasted pumpernickel bread dosed with star anise, burnt almonds, fennel seed, and ground mace. And a further hint like they snuck in a small splash of Jäger. For a second, it makes me think of a bigger, emboldened Anchor OSA at an exorbitant cost.

Taste: Sweetish roasted malts, toasted malts, and with an unforgiving, and good on it dark breadiness all the while. Slight bitterish chocolate. As with the nose, it's got me thinking of that perennial favorite, Anchor Christmas ale, just decidedly bigger and with a noticed Belgian kick to it. Rich blend of spice character pairing with some slight dark fruits and larger touch of bruised, brown bananas. Picks up some black pepper alongside the heated, belly-warming alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation. Smooth mouthfeel.

Overall: Pumpergingernana bread! Would prefer a little less heat and a little more carbonation to keep things moving along, but 4CB is fairly decent all around. As it is, it's a beer that has me ready for a looonng winter's nap. (1,247 characters)

Photo of nickfl
4.29/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours with a small head of light tan foam on top of an opaque, dark brown body. The head settles fairly quickly but leads decent traces of lace on the glass.

S - Graham cracker and chocolate, with some roasted nuts, caramel, and ginger.

T - Spicy chocolate up front with caramel and bready malt. Some clove and ginger in the middle with a bit of vanilla, and more chocolate in the finish.

M - A moderately thick body, average carbonation, and a reasonably dry finish.

D - Nicely done, this beer doesn't sound good to me when I read the description, but it is actually very good. The spices and malt blend better than I would have ever expected and it is oddly drinkable for a beer of this strength. (706 characters)

Photo of TMoney2591
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Dirty John's tulip pint glass.

The way things are going with me, I might be stuck with just the even-numbered entries in this series... Anyway, this one pours a very dark brown topped by a finger-and-a-half of bright tan foam. The nose comprises cocoa powder, black pepper, nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, toffee, Belgian candi sugar, and light roasted malts. The taste brings in more of the same, with the spices really taking center stage: It's like liquefied gingerbread dipped in chocolate to a major degree. Good times. The body is a straight medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a sorta/kinda dry finish. Overall, a very enjoyable brew. 'Nuff said. (683 characters)

Photo of oline73
3.13/5  rDev -17.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had this on-tap at Max's. Poured into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours an opaque mahogany with a layer of creamy off white head that fades to a ring around the edge of the glass.

Smell: Spices and dark fruit dominate up front. I think this one smelled a bit like tomato. Some dark malt as well.

Taste: Sweet and malty with some Belgian spices. There are some Christmas spices in there as well, picking up anise. The finish is sweet with some of the spice lingering.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side of medium. The carbonation is tingly with a dry finish.

Overall: I was a bit disappointed with this beer. I wanted the spices to be a bit more prevalent and balanced. Not a huge fan of anise. (700 characters)

Photo of NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
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. (2,219 characters)

Photo of jlindros
3.67/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Had at Armsby Abbey Ho-Ho Belgian Christmas.

Creamy decent head with nice lacing, murky super dark brown iced tea color.

Nose is an interesting blend of reddish malts, caramel and molasses, candy and toffee, nutty with spices like nutmeg and ginger, licorice, plenty of gingerbread and banana bread, hints of dark fruit as well.

Taste is rich, toasty malts, caramel and reddish brown malts, molasses, caramel, candy syrup, dark fruits, ginger spice but less bread, little juicy, some estery booze that borders fuesel, nutty malts, hint of licorice and anise, and light banana bread. Hints of tart fruit towards the finish as well as a little chocolate. Finishes bitter, sticky and but syrupy, bit more booze, nutty spices, bit more boozy esters, tannic. Interesting flavors but all over the map. This really needs a few years for all the various flavors to settle and meld.

Mouth is med to heavier bodied, fairly boozy but not too much, nice carb.

Overall not bad, nice spices, ginger and banana bread, dark fruits and syrupy sweetener additions, bit of booze, a bit too sweet as well. The biggest mark against this is the various contrasts of many different flavors. They would all be decent if balanced well and melded well, but instead it's all over the map and needs some time to settle. (1,296 characters)

Photo of mactrail
3.45/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Huge spice and dark fruit sloshed with alcohol. Sounds better than it is. Very sweet, lots of plune flavor. You can pretty well go through the spice cabinet on this. Cinnamon bark is dominant with charred raisins and a woody taste. Big malt but the barley is lost in the fruitcake. Red brown in the tulip glass as Local Habit in San Diego. Decent carbonation. Nose is spice and wine barrels.

I taste just a little plastic in this but maybe it's an overdose of some spice. Not exactly drinkable but certainly interesting for the ridiculous stew of flavors. (556 characters)

Photo of russpowell
4.11/5  rDev +8.4%
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 (488 characters)

Photo of Rifugium
3.53/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Teresa's, Wayne, PA

Served in a tulip glass, a dark brown color, nearly opaque, with a small ringlet of bubbles for a head. Aroma isn't quite full, but there were still definite notes of coffee, chocolate, molasses, and light spice. Taste follows the nose, coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, molasses and burnt sugar, Jager-like licorice essence, lighter hints of spicy gingerbread and fruitcake. Medium body, fairly chewy, a bit artificial and candyish all over. Not bad, but not really something I'd go out of the way for. Aka, a typical Bruery beer. (569 characters)

Photo of kojevergas
3.07/5  rDev -19%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Served on-draught into a beerflute at The Bruery's tasting room in Placentia. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours a half finger head of nice cream, good thickness, and bad retention. Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Heavy wood and spice. Bretts and yeast. Chocolate. A mild strength aroma. Not as good as it sounds to describe.

T: Spice. Badly handled caramel. Some chocolate. An awful wood undertone corrupts it. The spice feels very muted, making it bland and boring. Some licorice is present, especially on the finish. Balanced but restrained, like it's held back.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Pretty thick.

Dr: An easy to drink high ABV beer that falls short of its potential. I wouldn't have it again. I feel bad for anyone that pays the bottle price for this.

C+ (760 characters)

Photo of MasterSki
3.75/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On-tap at Bangers & Lace. Served in a weizen-shaped taster glass.

A - Finger of foam settles to a thick collar but minimal lace. Very dark brown body.

S - Roasted malts, dark chocolate, candi sugar, light Belgian yeast presence, and a light amount of Christmas spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice.

T - Taste is heavy on dark chocolate, roasted malts, licorice, candi sugar, and lightly phenolic Belgian yeast. Christmas spices are far more present in the taste than in the aroma. Finish is quite bitter, with heavy black licorice present. Alcohol is quite well-hidden.

M - Creamy, full body, with lower carbonation, and well-hidden alcohol. Sufficiently hefty for the style and ABV. Quite easy to drink.

D - Not my favorite type of beer, but pretty good at what it sets out to do. I think this will actually be quite good when barrel-aged, as the spices should fade out and be replaced by bourbon and barrel goodness. Two Turtle Doves is still my favorite from the 'standard' series. (998 characters)

Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The Bruery 4 Calling Birds, Dark Ale Brewed With Spices. Alc 11% by Vol.
"The fourth verse of our "Twelve Beers of Christmas" saga incorporates gingerbread-like spice into a a rich and robust dark ale. Happy Holidays!"

wait, there's more! "4 Calling Birds is suitable for aging up to eight years (soon after the release of Twelve Drummers Drumming") when cellared properly…and blah, blah, blah…I'm not waiting 8 years, I'm drinking it now. Eight years. Never done that. Maybe someday. But, not now.

Pours a dark brown, with a bustling tan head that zips down to nada in no time.

Nicely spiced aromatics, some cinnamon, clove, ginger a little. Okay, maybe a lot. With sweet malt, lightly roasted, below. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Tasting it, spice notes rank highest on the palate, ring loudest, and start out hot. Fairly bristling in the mouth, some pepper playing around, clove ginger, etc. Solid malt holds steady below. Mighty malt, thick in the mouth, turning cool and mellow. Mmmm, I'm liking this one better. Seeming one-dimensional and blase at first, it's growing in complexity now. Not quite as rich as an Imperial Stout, but lots of molasses, dark rum, cocoa. Malt and spice mix well, now.

Alcohol is hidden for the time being, but it won't be long before it comes ring-ding-dinging on down. …yep, it's happening. We're down to the last couple ounces, and the clanging chimes of doom are ringing.

Beautiful birds, these, dark and spicy. Very satisfying. Not sure if I could, or would…or anyone should, sit on this for eight years. Go for it, though, guys. Sit on it like hens. Wait, that was the last one, right? (1,634 characters)

Photo of mdfb79
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 12/25/11 notes. Opened this on Christmas after a 2 Turtle Doves and a 3 French Hens. Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Duvel tulip.

a - Pours a dark mahogany brown color with one finger of tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Some spotty lacing left on the glass and head lasts for about a minute.

s - Smells of gingerbread, spices, nutmeg, Belgian yeast, and bready malts. Gingerbread dominates, but I like it quite a bit.

t - Tastes of gingerbread, spices, Belgian yeast, light dark fruits, toasted malts, bready malts, and nutmeg. A tiny step up from the nose.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation. Quite smooth and creamy. Very nice.

o - Overall a very nice beer. I think I liked 2TD slightly better, but liked this more than 3FH. Lots of gingerbread which I enjoyed and remidned me of pumpkin beers, though I'm not sure how this one will hold up for 8 years...I'm going to guess not as well as the other two. Have one bottle left, will probably open in the next 2 years. (996 characters)

Photo of drabmuh
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The latest in the Twelve Days of Christmas series, served from a bottle into a Bruery tulip.

Beer is black with a thin tan head, small bubbles, some lacing, low carbonation.

Aroma is sweet with hints of allspice and ginger.

Beer is medium in body and sweet throughout. Very spice forward, very flavorful. An enjoyable beer. Although this is a rather simple tasting one, it will be interesting to see what it is like in 8 years. (430 characters)

Photo of superspak
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle into tulip glass, bottled in 10/2011. Pours dense pitch black color with a 1-2 finger fairly dense tan head with decent retention, that reduces to a thin lace cap that lingers. Minimal spotty foamy lacing clings on the glass, with some light streaming carbonation. Aromas of raisin, prune, caramel, molasses, licorice, dark chocolate, roasted malt, toast, light char, light coffee, gingerbread, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, pepper, allspice, dark bread, herbal, and roasted/yeast earthiness; with some very slight booze. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/roasted malt, spice, and yeast ester notes; with solid strength. Taste of big raisin, prune, dark chocolate, cocoa, molasses, caramel, toast, dark bread, nutmeg, roasted malt, light coffee, gingerbread, clove, cinnamon, licorice, allspice, light char, herbal, and roasted/yeast earthiness. Lingering notes of dark fruit, dark chocolate, cocoa, caramel, molasses, toast, dark bread, light coffee, roast, gingerbread, licorice, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, light char, allspice, herbal, and roasted/yeast earthiness on the finish for a while. Damn nice complexity, balance, and robustness of dark/roasted malt, spice, and yeast ester flavors; with a great malt/spice balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and fairly full bodied; with a creamy, moderately slick, and lightly chalky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a small warming present after the finish. Overall this is a very nice spiced Belgian dark ale. All around good balance, complexity, and robustness of dark/roasted malt, yeast, and spice flavors; and very smooth to sip on for the ABV. A very enjoyable offering. (1,726 characters)

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4 Calling Birds from The Bruery
85 out of 100 based on 189 ratings.