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 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 hardy008
4.7/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark black, allowing no light to pass through. Has an impressive 3 finger tan head with good retention, which reminds me of the color of a chocolate milk shake. The smell is espresso and chocolate.

The taste is espresso, chocolate, and sugar. Has a nice mixture of coffee bitterness and sweetness from the chocolate and sugar, with the coffee bitterness being the strongest flavor.

Surly Four is so smooth and easy to drink, and the alcohol is well hidden for 10% abv. Medium bodied, and properly carbonated. I am glad I was able to purchase several bottles of this.

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Photo of Mdog
4.26/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Black, big brown head, coats the glass with foam as I drink.

Smell: Kind of odd, the first thing I smell is black olives, eventually a little coffee aroma shows up.

Taste: Big coffee taste, transitions to more of a milky mocha. Relatively sweet, a little dark fruit in warmer sips.

Mouthfeel: Very smooth.

Drinkability: Very easy to drink for a stronger beer.

I really like milk stouts, so when Four turned out to be a big milk stout, I was happy. A very nice beer, gives everything I want from a milk stout plus some big coffee flavors. Drinks a lot easier than the ABV would suggest. Congrats to Surly on another year of beer!

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Photo of Buebie
4.15/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A very nice brown 750 ml bottle. Purple wax dipped with an also, very nice looking label.

Poured from the bottle into an oversized snifter. A somwhat hard pour produces about an inch of dark brown foamy froth. Many assorted sized, long lasting bubbled hold steady ontop of the froth.
Leaving a thin cap with a generous thick collar.
Color is black, no light penetration. Lace is thin with streaks and blotches of lace.

Aroma is very malty with dark bitter chocolate and burnt toffee. Not too sweet at the nose, as its mostly overrun with bitters and robust coffee. Its definatly on the dark side of the moon. A bit of malted milk balls, with a mild spiciness hiding in there somwhere. The aromas do not overpower each other, the espresso is subtle, noticeable though but does not ruin the other aroma's.

Mouthfeel is slick and velvety, creaminess plentiful with a full bodied feel. Carbonation is modest, present but not biting. Feel on this is a gorgeous texture. Not too heavy either, just a slick full bodied feel.

Taste contains loads of malt, dark mildly bitter chocolate, kind of sweet upfront. Chocolate does not veer away from the bittering semi sweet bakers type either. Sweets drop out giving way to a robust espresso flavor. I cant compare it to coffee either. It really does taste like espresso with cocoa and whipped milk.
Finishing quite bitter, espresso mostly as well as some cereal grain, bitter chocolate, a touch nutty. The roast flavors providing mild smoke and not of the smoked beer kind. More of the burnt toast wafting smoke into the open your mouth and taste it...that kind of smoke.

Alcohol for me cannot be detected in either aroma or taste, but the esophagus is warming slightly.
For me this is very drinkable. But the robust dark bitters 'could' be cloying for some and drinkability, to be fair lowers my rating a bit. Sorry.

Very good brew. I needed a bit of a pick me up after only getting Four hours of sleep last night....whats more fitting then drinking a Four? Awoke to helicopters and sirens.

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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 blackenmn
4.07/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a small snifter:

Appearance:Poured like thick, strong, black coffee that's been sitting in the pot all day. Left about a 1/4" exceptionally bubbly head which dissipated into a constant film on the top of the brew.

Smell:This definitely smelled of expresso bean, smoke, a bit of noticeable sugar like aroma, and some feint caramel malt. Very stong smelling beer which I could smell while pouring at an arms length away without much effort.

Taste:Primarily expresso came through here. Not nearly as sweet as I was expecting. This tasted like expresso, very smokey caramel malt, and very feint but pleasing vanilla like sweetness which kept the coffee flavor from being too overwhelming. Not alot of noticeable hop presence.

Mouthfeel:This was a pretty medium bodied brew. Thankfully there was enough going on in this concoction to make for a fairly complex mouthfeel none the less. It was very velvety feeling as stated on the bottle, and left a noticeable aftertaste of clinging coffee bitterness along with a very subdued sweetness.

Drinkability:I was able to conquer a bottle of this without to much effort considering the well hidden ABV. This had more coffee flavor than anything I've experienced. I personally wish a bit more of the sweetness came through. None the less this was a very unique beer which is kind of what I think they were going with on this one.

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Photo of jjanega08
4.42/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A= pours a nice black color in the glass. The pour makes it look like coca cola falling into the glass. The head is similar in color to a coca cola head but is a nice two finger in height holding some nice retention and lacing on the side of the glass. The pour made it look sort of thin in body.

S= Smells like coffee! There's a little bit of a smokey smell to it and a nice roasty malt deeper into it. The dominate smell is coffee for sure.

T= The taste is coffee again. Really nice coffee taste. Super nice beans. There is also some really really nice stout taste under it. The coffee flavor dominates the taste but gives way to some smokeyness and a lot of delicious roasty malts. There is a good nice chocolaty taste to it as well as some delicous sweetness. You can taste the milk sugar in it. Really nice for a milk stout. If this were a Impy stout it wouldn't be as good. In the milk stout category it's great though.

M= The pour make it look like it was gonna be thin and watery but it's got a nice heavy feel to it.

D= This is a really nice Milk stout. If it were an Impy Stout I would call it average at best. I went into this expecting a Impy Stout taste and was confused at first. This beer is a great example of the differences in stout styles. A wonderful milk stout. Great coffee flavor and awesome sweet flavor. Great brew and another home run from Surly.

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Photo of Penguin3200
4.75/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

First taste of the Four, which I have been eagerly anticipating, and also making this my first beer review. Served in a tulip at 58 degrees from the cellar.

A - 4.5 Pours dark pitch black with an inch foam and great lacing that remains throughout. Sets the stage for what's to come.

S - 4.5 Smells of the expresso, smoke, and hops come through, with a hint of the milky goodness.

T - Mouth fills initially with sweet caramel and smoke, which is then hit with espresso and finished with the milky sweetness. WoW!!!

M - For the appearance, it is very light in the mouthfeel, but the finish on this beer just goes and goes!

D - Off the charts if you are a coffee and sweet stout lover. Glad I bought a good bunch of these to enjoy, and maybe trade.

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Photo of jera1350
4.5/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours into a Darkness tulip a jet black color with a nice creamy light brown head. Nice lacing around the glass.

The nose is quite robust. Nice light hop scent with a big smokey coffee and toasted malt smell. A creamy almost cola like scent too. One of the more complex noses I've experienced in a while.

The taste mirrors the nose nicely. Sweet, smokey, toasty, creamy and complex. Awesome array of flavor that just compliment each other perfectly. Almost like a Smoke meets Darkness taste. The smoke works so well with the sweetness of the beer. Nice hop presence to finish it off. A vast array of pleasure to be found here.

I guess I would call this close to full bodied, but it is really pretty light on the palate. Lightly creamy carbonation with a dry finish.

Drinks so unbelievably well for a 10 percent beer. I don't know how they keep doing it, but Surly hits another home run. An awesome beer that I want more of.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.25/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

Pity this didn't last long on tap.

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Photo of jrallen34
4.35/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I drank this on tap at Whole foods into a tulip glass.

The beer pours blaci with a nice two finger medium tan head, great retention and lacing.

The aroma is all coffee but its sweet but smooth.

The taste is also tons of coffee. However, its easy to drink, very smooth.

Overall, one of the best coffee beers around.

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Photo of msubulldog25
4.67/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Found this on-tap at Hopleaf Bar; it capped a wonderful afternoon of exploring and imbibing in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood. 12 oz. pour to a tall and rather slender cylinder (pints were $6, but we asked for a smaller pour - a regrettable choice...but read on).

A: Dark, dark chocolate, deep as a starless sky - might as well call it 'black'. Thin head of sudsy cinnamon, a gurgling wide-bubbled froth ring and a twirl of film.

S: Not-too-sweet aroma of cocoa nibs, dark chocolate with a twinge of tartness. Loads of husky grain, burnt yet sugary. Caramel reduction mixed with ample mocha/coffee roast. Aroma rolls, wave after wave.

T: Oh, good lord, this is tasty. Starts with a huge 'coffee' roast, dark and dry. That bitterness yields to sugared-cream sweetness before oscillating back to the bitter side. Tick-tock, tick-tock, back and forth these flavors go. Interspersed are caramel and lighter fudge, even tropical bits like coconut and melon. Just when the coffee seems to growing acrid, the pendulum shifts and sweeter malts recover. It all works exceedingly well and develops into something as magical as either the wife or I have tasted in a long time.

M: Thick without seeming 'sticky', full-bodied without seeming 'heavy'. Velvety feel, ultra-smooth carbonation. Lasting bitter-sweetness that lasts, thankfully, many minutes after finishing. Alcohol warming embraces, rather than attacks.

D: '10%' means that Surly Four deserves respect, but it is tough to stop at one. A couple of previous session pints and an impending dinner made ceasing a necessity on this night, but we (guldengirl and I) could have kept going. Highly recommended if you can find some on-tap. I'd LOVE to have this again.

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Photo of TastyTaste
4.92/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A Served in a darkness tulip, which seems apt since it is indeed as dark as that more famous Surly stout. Head is off-white, not too prominent at the time of serving.
S. Sweet espresso, caramel, molasses, dark roasted malts.
T Initially too cold for proper enjoyment from the tap, but the flavors sure come out as the beer warms. Chewy and rich, big coffee flavors abound. A very sweet beer, but it works in harmony with the bitter shot of hops on the back end. Not cloying, no off flavors, this is a well-constructed beer.
M Thinner than most in the imperial stout family, but it works very well with the big flavors that are present.
D Happy 4th Surly, I have been drinking your great beers from the start and this is an appropriate celebratory ale.

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Photo of MasterSki
4.28/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of camp0474
4.4/5  rDev +3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap into a Darkness 10oz tulip at Cafe 28

A: Pours a solid black with nice thick tan head. Lots of lacing.

S: Smells of roasted malts and coffee, maybe some notes of chocolate too. The coffee doesn't overpower as much as you would expect.

T: Like it smells. Roasted malt and coffee. I think this beer taste less like coffee than the Coffee Bender. The coffee flavors is more of espresso and not of a fresh cup of joe. Espresso flavor adds some bitterness which is countered by sweet vanilla/lactose flavor from the milk sugars added during brewing. After the coffee flavor subsides, begin to pick up some hops (no surprise). Alcohol extremely well hidden.

M: Thick body, very chewy stout. Medium amount of carbonation, perfect amount.

D: Very drinkable for a beer with such strong flavors and a reasonably high ABV. A touch on the bitter side for me too have a lot of this beer. But very well done for this unique beer.

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Photo of younger35
4.4/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Stopped by Lake Street Bowl early one morning with the little lady for breakfast and a beer. Drank from a generic tulip.

Appearance- Pours a pitch ass black with a one finger light tan head. A decent cap and collar remains along with a bit of spotty lacing.
Smell- The coffee isn't as crazy intense as I expected but there's still a good dose. Milky and creamy smelling along with a touch of chocolate and caramel. Can't really add much more to that, coffee and chocolate.
Taste- Now here's the intensity I was expecting. A big bold bitch slap of coffee to my tongue. The intensity of the roast combined with the bite of alcohol makes for an intriguing combination at 9am. A bit of lactose adds some creamy sweetness and perhaps even a touch of vanilla. Fleeting moments of toffee or caramel but for the most part this is a super intense, highly roasted coffee experience.
Mouthfeel- Fucking amazing. Creamy and full yet airy with a super light tinge of carbonation.
Drinkability- I love coffee beers more than the average BA, that's for sure. This one is definitely on the better side of the spectrum but I'd still rather have a coffee bender or Peche Mortal if the coffee bug bit me. Negativity aside, this is a super tasty beer and a great concept. Iced Double Espresso Coffee Stout, only Surly :)

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Photo of objectivemonkey
4.41/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I've had a few of these now, will finally write this down.

Pours a deep dark black with a nice creamy tan head. Gives a lot of lacing too. The aroma doesn't seem to strong, but is quite nice, lots of coffee and roasted malts and chocolates, not too much for hops, maybe a hint of vanilla. Very big taste, lots of malt, very sweet and malty, a good hop load and lots of coffee/espresso, that smidgen of vanilla is here too. Reminiscent of Darkness, but with its own identity. Mouth is smooth, creamy outstanding, not quite top notch but close. In all, a delightful beer.

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Photo of mothman
4.55/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a Darkness snifter and enjoyed on the patio at Cafe Twenty Eight on a gorgeous spring day (sounds amazing, right?).

Served with 1 finger of thick, creamy mocha tan colored head. Decent retention with some very nice lace walls. Color is a dark black.

Aroma: Tons of coffee flavors, with a large amount of hops. Big roasted malt profile with some rich chocolate. Vanilla notes in the background.

Taste: Tons of espresso and coffee flavors with roasted malts up front again. Huge earthy hop profile really balances this beer out, but still it is big. Very typical of Surly to hop the hell out of their beer. I like it. Big chocolate flavors with a light amount of vanilla. Well done.

Mouthfeel: Roasted, creamy, smooth, and bitter Medium (very nice amount) of carbonation with a medium to full body. Ends roasted and very clean.

Overall, extremely drinkable. It was hard to set my glass down. I really enjoyed this beer and I think it was well done for the style. I am glad I got to drink it. I hope I can find more of it around. This one is a must have!

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Photo of mnstorm99
4.55/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Nice beautiful looking pour at Grumpy's NE, black with a great thick tan head, the only complauin might be that the head didn't stay long enough (but for a while). Lacing down the glass was very nice for the first half.
The aroma is coffee first and formost, and the billing of it being an espresso comes through well. There is a nice dark sugary malt touch to the aroma as well.
Taste is much more malty, with a touch of earthy hops. Sweetness is first and formost from the caramel malts and probably lactose. The coffee is very subtle, which is a preferance for me as I like it better in the aroma.
Mouthfeel might be my favorite part of this brew, not too thick as many big stouts are, but not thin at all. Carbed perfectly, and just an all around good experience. This beer is almost too drinkable for a 10% brew, scary.

Easily the best anniversary brew yet IMO, and this one could compete with some of the best big coffee stouts out there easily for me.

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Photo of pmccallum86
4.77/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours a deep dark viscous motor oil appearance with a mocha colored head.

Smell is of massive coffee/espresso and huge roasted malts. Very pleasant in aroma.

Big espresso flavors and lots of hops. The hops create a nice grassy bitterness in the back of this beer behind the coffee. Huge malt backbone with a sweet milky finish.

Mouthfeel is super smooth and silky. Medium carbonation with a creamy finish.

Very drinkable beer, I could probably session a trillion of these.

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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 kbutler1
4.35/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Attended the release party at the Blue Nile on 2/23.

Poured into a pint glass about 3/4 of the way full with a nice tan 1 inch head. Color is dark brown/black. Smells of dark coffee, bittersweet chocolate, and sweet roasted malts. The first taste is pretty in your face with the coffee very pronounced but slowly smooths out. In true Surly fashion you also get a nice hoppy taste. Medium to heavy mouthfeel which I thought really complimented this beer very well. The alcohol is well hidden and I didn't even realize it was 10%.
A friend and I sat and had 2 each, so I would say this is a very drinkable stout.
Well done Surly.

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Photo of pdoran10
4.8/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Going to go ahead and review this one right away as I just got home from the release party tonight. There was quite a crowd at The Blue Nile tonight. Way more packed than the Darkness release day at Hell's Kitchen last fall.

I had a spot at the bar, and got many looks at the pour of this beer. It pours out a surprisingly dark thick blackish dark brown with a luxurious 2/3 inch of head that some of the bartenders had to scoop away with spoons to ensure they could get this beer served quick enough for all the people waiting for it. Good lacing was left on my glass when I finally got a pour of this and sipped on it. The smell wasn't anything amazing for a stout I get a bit of espresso up front with a bit of strong roasted malt. Still very inviting. The taste is amazing! Right away I get roasted malt, which is quickly blended with artisan quality espresso. This coffee flavoring works even better than Founder's Breakfast Stout for me. Really great flavor. It finishes very clean and crisp as you get a hint of milk and even perhaps a slight hop presence. The mouthfeel is very impressive for a big stout. Substantial, but not watery. Very high quality. Not overly syrupy. This is one of the more drinkable big stouts I have tried. It almost feels like a sessionable beer at 10%, even more smooth and crisp than many other stouts that aren't imperials. Overall a really impressive beer. Looking forward to picking up a bottle or two when the bottles get released.

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