Four | Surly Brewing Company

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312 Ratings

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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Ratings: 312 |  Reviews: 148
Photo of washburnkid
4.2/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes.

Lower carbonation is apparent upon pouring. Dark black with lighter edges when held up to the light. Aromas are super burnt coffee. Flavors are the same, but add layers of complexity on top of the coffee that's promised by the aroma. Sugar and caramel come to mind as the sweetness lingers heavily on the palate. While the ale is clean and light on the nose, the flavors reveal a deep burnt flavor, but also fruit. Currants, berries, and then a wave of chocolate. This stout is really well done, and considering the ABV, balanced enough to hide the heat of the alcohol. Well done, Surly.

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Photo of JackieTH
4.48/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured directly into a chilled pint glass from the wax-sealed bottle. The custom artwork on the bottle deserves a mention here, it's quite striking.

The pour is a lovely dark brown, more black that brown, really. No light penetrates or escapes, for that matter. There is a finger of dark mocha head that dissipates leaving a espresso froth.

An immediate blast of espresso on the nose, yet there are some subtle roasted malt and chocolate undertones coming through once the barista has finished brewing and leaves the room.

The palate is of course espresso throughout yet there is a delicious interplay of roasted malt, subtle chocolate, lactose?, sweetness, all balanced by a perfect degree of grounds or hops I don't know or even care at this point, as this is an excellent brew.

So I've been very fortunate to continue to find scattered bottles of this liquid gold hidden througout the city. She isn't cheap, but good beer isn't.

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Photo of EwaldEichstaett
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Alright, this is my first review so here we go.

First I would like to say I was fortunate enough to get myself two bottles of this. They ran about eighteen dollars a piece. Surly's prices may be ridiculous, but their beer is excellent.

A: The beer was very dark brown perhaps black. It did not pour with much of a head but a brown lacing remained throughout.

S: This beer had a strong espresso smell containing all the chocolate and roasted goodness I expected.

T: Wonderful balance and complexity. I was easily able to pick up the sweetness of the lactose as well as the bitterness of the hops. The roasted malts and espresso flavor were very strong while pleasant. I would like to note that the coffee taste was quite different from the Surly coffee bender. As implied by the beer's name: It tasted much stronger like espresso.

M: Medium body with a light carbonation.

D: I would drink this beer all day; unfortunately, my caffeine tolerance is not that high. Also, I feel that this beer is something to be cherished as opposed to a session beer.

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Photo of ktrillionaire
1.88/5  rDev -56.7%
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 wagenvolks
4.07/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

750ml purple-wax bottle into a snifter. Split five ways at thickerfreakness' tasting. Many thanks to ballz50401 for the trade!

Pours with a nearly black cola color that lets in hints of auburn at the edges of the glass. Frothy sandstone head retains well but fails to leave much in the way of lacing. Aroma is musty with soil and coffee grounds, while sweet milk chocolate and espresso notes entice the nose with ease. Equal parts boozy and roasty.

The flavor is predominantly hot with booze, but it's not too distracting. Dark chocolate nibs, smoke, and earthy hops balance with a slight lactose sourness on the finish. Coffee flavor is there, but out-muscled by the rest. Mouthfeel is chewy, spicy/hot with alcohol, and a little on the over-carbonated side. All in all, Four is a tasty release from the ever solid Surly. It'd be interesting to see how this beer gets with age--my guess is the lactose sourness will pick up while the booziness subsides. The tricky thing will be finding this beer's sweet guess is between 1-2 years.

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Photo of CosmoHopHead
4.2/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: pours very black with a thick, brown full finger head. thick, sticky lacing coats the glass

S: first thing I picked up was strong roasted coffee beans mixed with lots of dark chocolate and burnt malts

M: very heavy roasted espresso beans and bitter bark chocolate malts. Some undertones of sweet vanilla cream

M: medium feeling body with relatively low carbonation. smooth on the tongue

D: was pretty easy to drink considering the high abv which was very well hidden. as it warmed up the alcohol became a bit more hot and noticeable but not over powering. more than a glass or two might get to be a bit too much due to the sweetness but overall very drinkable a glass at a time.

Overall, yet another beauty from Surly. Being a huge coffee lover I really enjoyed this beer. Maybe just a touch to sweet but I would certainly never pass it up if offered to me again.

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Photo of GeezLynn
4.45/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.75

A: Huge, frothy camel colored head atop a dark brown, just barely transparent body. Great retention that eventually results in a goopy collar.

S: Unique. Sweet, with espresso, milk chocolate, a little roasted barley and the strongest lactose smell I have experienced in a milk stout. Smells a little like heated milk before you add the cocoa mix.

T: Roasted malt and sweet milk sugars are the big players. Lactose is a little overbearing at first, but malt and espresso really come together as the beer warms. Flavor is little bitter, but chocolate comes through more as powdered cocoa than dark chocolate. Slight alcohol bite.

M: Light and a little sticky, with moderate carbonation. A little dead for such a big beer, but this is pretty standard for the style.

Nice for something different and definitely worthy of the Surly label. In comparison to Depth Charge, the other big coffee sweet stout I've had, this one is much sweeter with less coffee character. If you're sitting on a bottle of this and are a big fan of espresso, I wouldn't wait too much longer to drink this.

Thanks for the bottle Meagan and Nick!

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Photo of wisrarebeer
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Prachna's in Minneapolis.

A: near opaque - great lacing, served in a snifter
S: roasted, cold-pressed coffee quality but not over the top
T: very good, nice balance between malt and coffee - not bitter, chewy, vanilla, very well made,
M & D: easy drinking, great, very drinkable for the amount of EtOH

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Photo of Bighuge
3.85/5  rDev -11.3%
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 dbossman
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pretty black with a subtle red tint; fast forming brown head that dissipates rather quickly

S: Roasted malts that smell slightly burnt; coffee/espresso and subtle chocolate aromas are present underneath; a subtle hop presence

T: Milky and creamy espresso; rich maltiness is also prevalent; coffee, vanilla; this is rich and delicious

F: So creamy; a perfect mouth coat

D: So delicious and drinkable; this goes down like chocolate milk; high alcohol is not noticeable at all

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Photo of dpnelson1978
4.15/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served: 750ml bottle into Duvel tulip.
Temp: 55°F

A: Opaque black body topped with a big brown head of medium retention that left little to no lacing, and a light cover.

S: Strong coffee scent (as one would expect) and not much else. That said, the scent is terrific and I would only wish for a tad more complexity.

T: Again, coffee notes dominate over a chocolate backbone. A nice sweetness remains, courtesy of milk sugar (lactose), and a mild hop character balances almost perfectly. Ideally I would like to see more chocolate and a bit less bitterness, but there isn't much to improve on.

F: Medium body and low to medium carbonation. Coats the tongue a bit, but that isn't a distraction with this beer (such a wonderful taste can stay as long as it likes).

D: The alcohol is well masked and the beer goes down like a dream. I could easily drink this beer until I passed out on my face, but at 10% abv that just wouldn't take very long.

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Photo of drabmuh
4.35/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a shaker pint. Beer is black and thick and forms a giant head of brown tiny bubbles that leaves a ton of lacing on the glass. Carbonation is moderate to high. Looks good.

Aroma is strong with coffee and some sweetness. Smells good, just about what I expected from the description on the side of the bottle.

Beer is medium body and pretty sweet up front. Quite a lot of sugar in this beer and there is a big coffee bitterness and roast in the back half of the mouth. I actually make a beer at home that tastes very similar to this beer. I like them both.

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Photo of hooliganlife
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

pours jet black with a creamy mocha head

quite bitter with lots of chocolate and dark roasted malts

again, quite bitter. i was expecting this to be sweet however i found this quite bitter. lots of dark chocolate, espresso coffee, and roasted malts just dominating.

nice full body, bitterness through out, and moderate to mild carbonation

this was not what i had expected but worked out to be even better. this was a chocolate and coffee stout through out.

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Photo of gatornation
3.06/5  rDev -29.5%
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 BarrytheBear
2.99/5  rDev -31.1%
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 CaptinRedBeard
4.08/5  rDev -6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Poured from a 750ml waxed bottle into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass. Pours borderline black with a huge mocha colored head and phenomenal lacing, coating the glass.

S: Chocolate, burnt malts and heavy espresso

T: The first thing that seems to hit you is a bitterness from the dark roasted malts and the espresso. This is followed by a nice coffee flavor with hints of chocolate and vanilla. On the back end there is a touch of sweetness from the lactose.

M: Medium bodied, smooth and well carbonated for the style. I'm finding a lot of coffee stouts to be more carbonated than your normal stouts.

D: Pretty good I suppose, since I finished off the bottle myself with no problem. I don't think I would want any more in one sitting though. It's not really a heavy beer but it is a little bit on the rich side.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.63/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thrilled to start off my bday night with a bottle of this bad boy. After cutting my way through the wax I decanted into a pint glass and enjoyed for the next couple hours. Consumed on 06/11/2010.

The pour was huge, honestly one of the best i have seen in a long time. Dark as night with a towering head of tan that came up and over the top of the glass and coated everything with a thick, sticky layer of brown lacing that was not going anywhere.

Aroma is filling up the room with huge notes of coffee, chocolate, touches of vanilla and a warming, boozy note. Bringing it up to room temperature really starts to bring these out even more. Huge notes of roasted and lightly smoked notes coming up towards the surface. Rich, creamy and full bodied feel dump into the wonderfully large stout. Huge notes of coffee, cocoa, roasted malts, some light boozy notes, hints of vanilla and touches of oak and almost bourbon like booziness. Warming brings hints of light molasses and cookie dough to the equation now. Really just a great beer.

Overall damn drinkable and solid as hell. Maybe my favorite of the Aniiversary beers to date.

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Photo of jobcrackerbah
4.4/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

thanks Andrew, split with a friend.

A: dark black with a nice head for an imperial milk stout

S: deep rich espresso that blends nicely with sweet roasted malt and cream.

T: The taste is what I expected from the bccs hype, a nice balance of flavors. The espresso is the primary flavor but doesn't overpower the subtleties of the beer. There is also lactose, roasted malts, some hops, slight smoke, and a nice sweetness that balances the beer. A slight acidic flavor appears late in the flavor profile but doesn't hurt the flavor too much. Hops are also tasted in the very end of the flavor profile. Alcohol is non existent until warm.

M/D: The mouthfeel is moderately carbonated and very creamy. The acidic bite and sweet creamy flavors prevent drinking large servings of four. The alcohol also slightly hurts the score as the beer warms. Split with a companion because finishing a whole bottle would be a chore.

Best milk stout by far I've had to date. Four sits head and shoulders above its competition.

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Photo of boothbeer
4.62/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Durty Nellies in Palatine.

A: Pours a dark black color with thin tan head that quickly becomes a thin ring of tiny bubbles around the edge of the snifter.

S: Coffee. All I can think of is sweet sugary coffee.

T: Tastes like it smells. A blend of milky sweetness and roasted coffee with a touch of chocolate and even a little smoke. I really enjoyed the flavor of this beer. Its very sweet, but I think the espresso flavor helps balance that.

M: Nice smooth, creamy body. Light carbonation.

D: Very drinkable and very good beer. Love the coffee added to this milk stout.

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Photo of Reagan1984
2.86/5  rDev -34.1%
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 bound4er
3.88/5  rDev -10.6%
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 bsp77
4.63/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bottle into Snifter.

Appearance: Pitch black with thick tan head, leaving lots of lacing behind.

Smell: Espresso beans, molasses, chocolate, cream and a nice whiff of alcohol.

Taste: Dried out molasses, roasted barley, coffee, cream, chocolate and a light touch of citrus hops. There is also a nice level of smokiness and it almost seems as if it was barrel-aged, but I do not believe that it was.

Feel: Extremely smooth, lush body with low carbonation. Highly warming. Quite silky overall.

Drinkability: Just incredible. This gives KBS a run for its money. It may not have the Bourbon flavors, but it is just as rich, complex and delicious (if not more so).

Shouldn't this be classified as an American Imperial Stout, regardless of the Milk Stout base?

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.03/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The sweetness of Four along with the aggressive roast of Four makes me think Tropical Stout as much (if not more than) Sweet Stouts.

An impressive dark brown pour, gives a nearly black appearance along with extremely impressive roast-stained head formation, retention, and lacing. A most gentlemanly look.

Aromas of sharp roast give and acrid deep toast, burnt grains, and coffee grinds aroma. Quite bold but not a smooth and as rounded as I'd expect from sweet stouts, but fine for most other Stouts.

Robust roasted barly dominates the taste. A quick rebuttal of malt sweetness and milk sugars are hardly enough to round out the big charred grain flavors. Burnt, rather than espresso, cocoa flavors and sweeter milky tastes are a bit disjointed; instead of balance, we get a bit of competition between the malt/sugar sweetness and the big roasted quality of the beer.

The body of the beer is solid with a creamy and sweet feel early. But when the roast takes hold, the beer takes a harsher- more acrid and ashy feel that hurts the drinkability just a bit.

Realizing that the criticism here is harsh, the beer is a very nice beer- I'm just expecting more from a finess style of Stout, but Four gives me an aggression that doesn't fit the style. The espresso takes away from the Milk Stout creaminess.

Thanks again Chicksdighops!

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Photo of Florida9
3.92/5  rDev -9.7%
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 rye726
4.25/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This was a very nice suprise from my friends Andy and Natasha. Pours a dark, oily black with a nice tan head. Nose has loads of fresh roasted coffee, peppery cocoa, roasted molasses, sweet oats, milky malts, caramel and vanilla. Taste is also powered by espresso but still well balanced. Medium to full body drinks well.

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Four from Surly Brewing Company
Beer rating: 4.34 out of 5 with 312 ratings