Four | Surly Brewing Company

148 Reviews
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Brewed by:
Surly Brewing Company
Minnesota, United States

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: 148 | Ratings: 308
Photo of ktrillionaire
1.88/5  rDev -56%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Big thanks to HeyOhh for sharing this

A - Stout.

S - Ewww. Foul. Disgusting. Unless you like your stout augmented with spoiled milk. How about I brew a stout with rotten eggs, they are in the same ballpark as spoiled milk. And while I'm at it, why don't I just go and brew a stout with some damned oysters. Oh yeah, some people already do...

T - This further cements my opinion that beer is best-off being as devoid of animal-derived products as possible. It seems like the base beer is pretty decent, but still not up to par with any Surly I've had thus far. Other than the dairy aspect, mostly I am getting a lot of alcohol and espresso. The inclusion of lactose takes a perhaps middling effort and turns it into a foul mess. It smells and tastes like its infected, but those filthy-kitchen and rancid-garbage elements were purposefully inflicted upon this brew. Count me out! Drain poured mine.

M - Umm how good does it feel to have your mouth violated by vile liquid?

D - This beer tasted worse than an infected Sexual Chocolate that it unfortunately was sampled with. Tremendously epic fail in my book.

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Photo of Reagan1984
2.86/5  rDev -33%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Again, big thanks to Patrick (Jctribe25) for bringing this beer to our tasting.

I am coming to the realization that Milk stouts are not my favorite style within the stout family. While I enjoy some, there are others that have a distinctive flavor that I can only attribute to the presence of lactose.

Dark in color with a more of a flat finish to the color. Tan head had decent retention and the foam was less than creamy. The head also had the dull finish. Lots of lacing left behind.

Aroma was coffee grains along with sweetness and some smoke. A malt graininess here as well.

The flavor here was a real disappointment. Two of the three flavor components didn't work for me. First was the coffee flavor. When it's done right, it's awesome, when it's not you get this. The coffee tasted like spent coffee grounds which seemed both burnt and grainy. The sweetness seemed out of balance and had that distinctive lactose negative flavor. (not always present) There was a sense of smoke here that was nice, but overwhelmed by the burnt coffee.

Mouth feel was smooth and slick and familiar vs. other milk stouts. Slight carbonation.

Well, I didn't really enjoy the flavor so that certainly didn't help my view of the drinkability. Very glad I had the opportunity to try this, but was a bit underwhelmed.

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Photo of BarrytheBear
2.99/5  rDev -30%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Reviewed from notes

This is my second time drinking this beer. The first go around was a big league disappointment and I decided against reviewing it. This time, I had it during a blind tasting and, regrettably, my initial feelings on Four were verified.

Black pour with a puddled carbonation cloud this hovers to the side of the glass

The smell of this beer is certainly not a strong point. Strong acetone, very much like nail polish remover, is the predominant scent. Couple that with a generic sugared and creamed coffee, and you have an off putting initial salvo.

The taste is considerably too sweet for my tastes with a pummeling of lactose. So...very....sugary. Iced coffee and lactic sweetness border on cloying, with only a thankful dark chocolate wave on the finish to carry away the initial blasts. There seems to be a Frankensteinlike quality of mashing some Coffee Bender with the hop presence of Darkness that does not work here. Another brewery that I really typically enjoy, but not this time around.

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Photo of gatornation
3.06/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

nice looking wax bottle with retro artwork it poured jet black as night with a delay on the head but it showed up just right with a very nice black cherry head and lots of sticky lacing..smell is burnt toffee ,bitter coffee/espresso and semi sweet chocolate...taste was the same it was really burnt in all listed was bitter with not much sweetness to balance out the espresso taste for me..the mouth feel was thick and astringent ..this is the only surly product i can truly say i did not care was one dimensional and not well balanced for me just bitter toffee and coffee and bitter chocolate and did not change in the flavor profile as it warmed.. not one for me

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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 biglite351
3.28/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A - just a touch of red around the edges with a creamy tan head.

S - mild coffee, dark chocolate, milk chocolate and malt. A hot of smoke after a bit.

T - more smoke than anything else, but like the scent each piece is mild enough to not overwhelm. Coffee, chocolate and plum.

M - heavy coating with a mild tingle all over, including the throat.

D - probably just one.

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Photo of ChrisPro
3.34/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Draft at Jerry's sandwiches on 8/7/10.

(part of a day of drinking some incredible brews, so this might have downward bias in the presence of such other great beers)

Pours dark black, with hints of brown in the light. Very little head.

Because of the head, I couldn't get much aroma. There was definitely some cofffee and chocolate, and then a strange fruity note that I usually only get in baltic porters.

Flavor has some solid sweetness, but then a really off bitter coffee flavor. I am not a coffee snob by any means, but this was not good.

Carbonation was okay for the style, but I kind of wanted a little more. Other than that, it was med-heavy bodied and very smooth, not oily.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for the second coming of Depth charge (one of my favorite beers of 2009), but it didn't live up to my expectations.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.41/5  rDev -20.1%
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.

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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 caskstrength
3.58/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I had this a year or so ago when released. Now trying again, a year after sitting in the basement. (the beer, not me)

Pours dark with ruby edges. Good off white carbonation.

First thing I notice on the nose is smoke, which surprised me. Then the expected coffee. Vanilla next. Looking for the lactose, maybe a little, but more roasted things here.

I remember this being so much about the coffee, rich coffee, with coffee notes and hints of coffee. A year later, it's still pretty coffee forward, but more smoke this time. Astringent, mainly because the coffee has lost much of it's richness. Some dark fruits way in the back. But it's a roasted/bitter coffee stout with lots of smoke. I'm forcing myself to find some milk stout sweetness mixing in with the vanilla on the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is a bit thinner than you'd think it would be, which worked fine. Carbonation appropriate.

Repeat after me: coffee beers are better fresh.

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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 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 herman77
3.77/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

On tap at Pracna On Main. They were giving away free Furious and Mild from 2-4 today,but they just ran out of Mild when I got there...bummer.

Poured into a brandy style snifter.

A: Very dark brown, pretty much black with dark brown at the edges. No light gets through or at least from what I could tell. Nice light brown head. Good amount of lacing.

S: Coffee, roasted malt. Some sweetness to it as well.

T: Coffee up front that is very well balanced with sweet roasted malt.There is some hop bitterness too. Something about it reminds me of a chocolate milkshake with coffee/espresso. Maybe from the lactose, if there is any in here? Very long coffee finish. A lot going on, but nothing too complex.

M/D: Thicker, medium to full body, but not as thick as an oatmeal stout. Drinkability is not high for me as I'm not a coffee drinker, but the 10% abv is very well hidden!

This is really well done, but I'm not a big coffee fan. Doesn't seem as coffee/espresso forward as Coffee Bender.

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Photo of Bighuge
3.85/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Inky black body with a thick crop of bubbly brown head. It's quite sticky as it coats my glass rather completely as I drink. Aroma is rich with mocha, java, chocolate, roasted malts and caramel. Very Nice. Fairly omplex combination of all the previous stated aroma characteristics on the palate. Roasted bitterness. Coffee. Caramel. Black malts. Baker's chocolate. The lactose doesn't come through much though. The alcohol is not very noticeable. But there is a titch of astringency in the aftertaste. From the roasted malts? Black malts? Spent coffee grounds? Something. In any case, this is pretty good. I had a similar style beer (Imperial Coffee Milk Stout) from Moosejaw Brewpub in Wisconsin Dells a few months ago (Betty's Black Ale) and I much prefer that one to this one. That one was one of my all time favorites. This one is not. But it is pretty good.

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Photo of ottovon
3.85/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to ejyoung for sharing.

A: pours out dark with a brown head.

S: coffee, chocolate, sweetness. dark fruits and some alcohol and burnt sugar.

T: lots of coffee. lactose and some dark fruit. candi sugar, roasted malt, and chocolate. starts out with some sweetness from the lactose and then ends with coffee and bitterness.

M: medium and a good amount of carb.

O: this is a good beer for sure.

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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 bound4er
3.88/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Jet black appearance with a tan, frothy, two finger head that looks like the surface of our moon.

Smells semi-sweet with roasted chocolate, vanilla and coffee taking center stage. I can tell by the smell that this will be a very rich tasting beer.

Yeah, very rich tasting. Lots of chocolate, roasted malt and espresso upon entry. Warming alcohol hits you next followed by some hop/roasted bitterness that lingers nicely.

Full bodied with good creaminess. This almost borders on being too heavy - call it a meal in a glass.

I should have split my 750 with my wife - this is just way too big and rich to drink in large quantities. Very glad to have tried this beer but it isn't something I need to drink again.

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Photo of Parrotbeak
3.9/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Black with a light tan head that thins out, becoming patchy.
Smell is coffee and sweet espresso, with some lightly smoked malts lurking underneath. Caramel comes in as well. Faint, sour milk aspect and some vanilla beans.
Smokey malts laced with espresso comes first in the taste. Faint coffee bean aspect, with some sweet vanilla beans and caramel. Some bitterness near the end. Finish is slightly sweet and malty.
Mouthfeel is velvety and smooth. Low level of carbonaton, and medium-heavy body. Sticky on the finish.
Drinkability is decent, due mainly to the superb concealment of the alcohol. A tad bit off-balanced, being a bit too much on the sweet side. Not saccharine, but not very far from it.

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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 Thorpe429
3.91/5  rDev -8.4%
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.

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Photo of Florida9
3.92/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Served in a snifter with only a small bit of bubbly tan head. Surprisingly little retention, but lots of lacing. Black, but not "jet black" or "motor oil black" Maybe a very dark brown.

S: Heavily roasted malts. Coffee. Sweet licorice.

T: More heavily roasted malts, roasted almost to the point of being charred. A faint smoke flavor. Coffee. Rounded out with a malty, raisin sweetness. Leaves a long roasted malt finish.

M: Think with lower carbonation levels. Covers the tongue then seems to linger there.

D: Good, though I felt as if something was off. Also, a little too sweet for my preference, but I do understand it is the style. I also felt the sweetness and the char helped to temper each other, but they also seems to be battling for supremacy.

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Photo of oline73
3.95/5  rDev -7.5%
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.

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Photo of Sean9689
3.95/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at my neighborhood bar, Four Moon Tavern. Poured into tulip/snifter.

A - Pours black, tan head. The head sticks around for a bit and then vanished into a thin ring along the sides of the glass.

S - Sweet milk chocolate, roasted malts, and expresso notes.

T - Like dessert. Chocolate milk with a hint of alcohol. For 10%, it's hidden very well. A nice bitter finish that goes nicely with the sweetness.

M - A little too light for me, light to medium, but not way off. Creamy finish.

D - I drank my pour easily and could have had another but decided not to overload myself this session. One of the better versions of this style I've had.

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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 Tripphop
4/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

100th Review!!

Pours a reddish brown color, looks dark but light shines through as the glass is emptied. A tan head quickly appears and fades leaving no trace behind. Aromas are of stale coffee, burnt malt, and carmalized malt. Flavor is nice, lots of roast, coffee flavor is strong but not acidic or overpowering. Malt profile is very dry and burnt, the lactose lingers on the finish with coffee and a mild bitterness. Solid brew, glad I drank it now, this one won't age for much longer.

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Four from Surly Brewing Company
4.27 out of 5 based on 308 ratings.
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