3 French Hens | The Bruery

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3 French Hens3 French Hens

Brewed by:
The Bruery
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Three French Hens is the third in the 12 Days/Years of Christmas Series. We again drew some inspiration from the name and decided that at least a portion of this beer had to be aged in French oak barrels. What we came out with is a bold and spicy Belgian Dark Strong Ale, 25% aged in oak. This beer is designed to take the journey through time until 12 Drummers Drumming, but is a delightful holiday treat right off the shelf.

Added by claspada on 10-08-2010

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 229 | Ratings: 401
Photo of corby112
1.68/5  rDev -56.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

My wife surprised me with this one for Xmas.

Pours a very dark chestnut brown color with deep, dark amber/mahogany edges when held to a light source and a two finger frothy yellowish beige head. Decent retention, only slowly fading into a lasting ring. Minimal lacing.

Slightly vinous aroma with hints of zesty spice, medicinal syrup, dark fruit and citrus. I'm picking up lots of pepper as well as hints of dark fruit and a very prominent cough syrup character. Subtle earthy oak in the nose as well.

Medium bodied with a huge, harsh blast of peppery spice up front that lingers throughout over the funky fruit, earthy oak, robitussin and burning alcohol heat into an awfully astringent warm finish. The spice is overbearing and the medicinal flavor is horribly overpowering. The ABV is not well masked at all with lots of alcohol flavor and heat in the finish. This beer has a lot of bad flavors bouncing off each other and is kind of a mess really. Very tough to drink. I couldn't even stomach more than a few sips before dumping it down the drain.

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Photo of craytonic
2.51/5  rDev -34.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Appearance: Dark mahogany brown pour, decent head and lacing

Smell: Boozy and medicinal, with dark fruits, pepper and cough syrup

Taste: Similar to the above, booze and medicine. Very hot with alcohol and the spices are not integrated with some dark fruits like prunes, raisins and figs. Very messy and overtly sweet.

Mouthfeel: Big body, but felt thin due to the alcohol heat

Drinkability: I had a taster pour on tap and didn't even finish it.

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Photo of Wisconsinality
2.53/5  rDev -33.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Bottle poured into Delirium tulip.

A- Pours a deep molasses brown that lets a small amount of light in around the edges. A small half finger worth of head dies down quickly and leaves no lacing.

S- The Belgian yeast is pretty dominant. There is a bit of a tart note hiding in there to go with some candi sugar. I seem to pick up a little bit of cotton candy and that is about it.

T- The Belgian yeast isn't nearly as dominant but still on the forefront. The malt comes in and again, the little tart note. The alcohol never appears.

M- A little thinner than I like for the style, medium to lighter bodied. Some crisp carbonation but it just feels watered down.

D- This one becomes really sweet to the point where it is hard to drink more than a glass, which is unfortunate because it comes in a bottle that is more than 12oz. Not impressed with this beer at all. Not even going to bother getting another bottle to age.

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Photo of julian
2.7/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

It has honestly been quite awhile since I've had a strong dark belgian ale. I didn't even realize that till now. Also this is the first Bruery beer I've rated.

A: pours a dark, dark amber perhaps brown, with good clarity despite it's darkness. Hints of crimson when it hits the light. Aggressive pour yielded a nice 1 finger almond head that quickly disappeared. Absolutely no lacing.

S: This smells really sweet. Lots of brown sugar, dark malt, holiday spices (nutmeg, clove, coriander) some fruit (raisin, plum), and booze. Hint of cold mud (earthy) aroma.

T: Sweet, earthy, some almost saison like funkiness going on too. Is there Brett in this? Almost a wine like essence present. Were the French Oak barrels, wine barrels? I'm not so sure about this. This is a poor representation of the style, IMO.

M: Very decently carbonated, a little thin in body.

D: Meh...not the best belgian strong dark. Alcohol limits consumption rate, and well, it's just average. Like I've said before, it's hard to beat Unibroue in terms of belgian style representation, quality, availability and price.

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Photo of cpetrone84
2.71/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A-pours a somewhat cloudy deep red, almost merlot color with a bubbly light brownish head.

S-the nose has hints of yeast, light clove, a bit of raisin with sweet plums behind. there is a strong metallic note in the back with an unapealing twang.

T-the taste has a much strong malt presence, roasty with notes of black malt. rum soak raisins, plums, more booze, and that same metallic twang in the back.

M-medium body that is slightly thin on the back end. slightly grainy up front but smoother in the back with a semi dry finish.

D-not aweful but there are definintely some unattractive flavors. typical bruery beer with a strong booze presence and off-putting flavors.

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Photo of hippityhops85
2.8/5  rDev -26.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a beautiful 750 ml bottle into a St. Bernardus goblet. Pours a brown/amber with slight ruby/orange highlights and a spotty off white/light tan head that dissipates and forms spotty lacing on the glass. Alcohol legs visible.

The nose definitely has fruits on it but they smell more like strawberries and other red berries rather than the dark fruits I'm used to from Belgian Strong Darks. I don't really get any of the oak. There's definitely an almost "fake" sweetness going on here. It still holds a lot of the Belgian Yeast character though. Interesting.

The taste has a lot of that fake sweetness but the beer definitely finishes mostly dry. Lots of alcohol still on the taste a year later on this beer. It's seriously distracts from the brew especially at mid palate. This beer just starts a mess and totally falls apart. There's also a weird metallic "twang" right at the end of the sip. Bummed.

The mouth feel is medium bodied but again the alcohol just tears it a part.

Really not a fan of this beer at all which bums me out because I generally am a big fan of The Bruery. Can't win 'em all I guess. I don't see this getting any better in the cellar either.

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Photo of axeman9182
2.85/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750mL bottle, allowed to warm a bit before serving, poured into my Duvel tulip.

The beer pours a burnt brown color, one could almost call it black. Faint hazelnut streaks appear around the rim of the glass when properly backlit. The light tan crown is decent sized, three plus fingers, but the retention and lacing are both subpar. The nose is lacking many of the standard BSDA traits, in fact I can't get anything besides a heavy vinous note (I gave my father a sniff and he told me it smelled more like wine to him), as well as a bit of oak. It's not awful smelling, but I certainly hope there's more to this beer than that. Each sip seems to rush through what seems to be a pretty tasty BSDA to get to the barrel influences. A nice swirl of milk chocolate is a welcome addition to the plums and figs to lead things off, before some peppery, spicy belgian yeast notes show up. All of that passes rather quickly though, and 3 French Hens finishes with some almost tart acidic and overly tannic notes from the oak barrels. I had the same problem with Loakal Red, so I don't know if maybe there's a problem with some of the oak barrels The Bruery is using, or maybe they just tend to leave their beers in there a bit long for my taste. The mouthfeel is a bit better, but still easily a step below being top of the class. The body is nice, a bit light and nimble, but not to the point of becoming thin for the style. This impression is probably helped by somewhat subdued carbonation that, again, doesn't cross the line into too light. All in all I'm not a big fan at all of 3 French Hens right now, so hopefully some time in the cellar will let the over-oaked nature of the beer mellow out.

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Photo of jrallen34
2.91/5  rDev -24%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

750ml bottle poured into my Rodenbach Grand Cru glass... Dark brown look, but in the light there is tons of amber, so-so. A light tan head, ok retention and lacing... Damn it, I'm infected too. Right away lactic grape juice notes that just ain't right. Trying to finding something else in here but infected, unsuccessful... The taste is terrible, infected and skunked, leather, sour grapes, light oak. Total drain pour sadly.

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Photo of litheum94
3/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Aged a year.

Very dark brown, with copper highlites. Tan head settles to a small cover with a good amount of lacing on the glass.

The nose presents a ton of oak, to the point where that's almost all I smell. Some dark wine grapes, with a salty sweetness, akin to ketchup. Not a lot going on here.

Again, a ton of oak in the flavor. Some spicing and a vinous quality. A little bit of vanilla. A slightly cheesy and earthy flavor starts to come out, but again, it's a little one dimensional.

This is a somewhat bland beer, with the oak really dominating everything. I'm a little disappointed, especially since I've aged this a year. My first let down for the Bruery.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.01/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Wow, what a beautiful looking bottle. Ive always been a fan of The Bruery's labels and bottles but this might be my favorite so far.

A- Poured into a Duvel tulip. The head is pretty big but very short lived. There is no retention of lacing to speak of. If it werent for the laser etching in the glass this beer would appear stagnant. The color is a deep type of brown with shades of purple, maroon and root beer.

S- It seems essential to allow this one to warm adequately to the recommended 50 degrees. A slight warming brings forth lots of Belgian candi sugar sweetness in the aroma that coats the deep, rich fruits. New oak is not timid here, it proves itself in a creamy, woodsy way.

T- This beer's two main points are reiterated in the taste. Woody and sweet. This is in no doubt a Belgian style. Its filled to the brim with rich fruits. Figs, plums, raisins, prunes, and that coating sugariness. There is a nice roasted nuttiness but the sugariness is a bit too much. The finish is nearing sugar bomb territory with a spike of alcohol. I can only hope this calms down in years to come.

M- The carbonation, thankfully, calms down after about half a glass. At first its much too lively for this type of beer. Once it calms down a little bit the fullness of the body becomes apparent. It has a slick, oily feel that creates a long, slick finish.

D- Eh, I was excited for this. Its a pretty decent beer and part of a really awesome vertical. Ill tuck one away, but I might not necessarily be jonesing to drink it.

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Photo of Mooch273
3.03/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

A: Amber brown body with slight head with fine bubbles. Looks inviting.

A: Smells like Rugbrod. Sugary sweet and a bit grassy.

T: Rye hits immediately with a hint of some unidentifiable spice. Not boozy at all.

M: Way too dry to be enjoyable. It's like instant cotton mouth after each sip. Not what I expected.

D: It was alright, but really dry and not refreshing.

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Photo of donkeyrunner
3.05/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Nearly opaque burgundy to oxblood color. Thin head begets thin retention which begets a collar with a bridge in the middle like a frowny face. I like their bottle caps.

Acidic...something dominates the aroma. Green apple Blow Pop with dark fruit underneath.

Taste is the acidic twang of a green apple Blow Pop but with a grape Blow Pop. Highly carbonated with thin bubbles - sprightly. There's some caramel coated dark fruit in there too but it's utterly obliterated by the acid.

I'm not sure if I like or not. I don't think I do. My girlfriend and I have a Christmas tradition where we drink the previous year's 12 Days beer and exchange gifts. If 4 Birds doesn't knock my socks of we're giving up.

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Photo of nickthetick
3.08/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: held to the light it pours a very dark brown with some ruby sparkles and a finger of dirty white head.

S: ugh, I thought this was the first skunked beer I've ever had. Wet leather, earthy and... Well skunky.

T: this beer shines through here. Deep roasted malts, sweet caramel, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bitter pine like hops that balance out the sweet. There is a leathery note but its a good one unlike the nose.

MF: full body and effervescent, a tad astringent.

D: I would pick this up for the holidays but wouldn't actively search or trade for it.

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Photo of Krakistophales
3.16/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Pours burgundy with a bit of off white head that disappears quickly

S: Lots of tart fruit. Cherries, grapes, and some spice like clove and other strong spices. Also some berries, like currants, but overall has a briny sort of smell, too.

T: Again, lots of tart fruit at first, followed by a slight shift into some malty sweetness, though very little and pretty hard to describe what kind, which then finishes with a puckering, sour sort of finish and a touch of sherry booziness.

O: I don't like tart belgian strong darks. I'm looking for creamy sweetness with berry, dark fruit and other elements in there, not a sour puckers ale. Still, it's not bad, it's just not good either.

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Photo of JLeege
3.17/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured into a large snifter. Merry Christmas to me!

Appearance- Pours a very deep amber almost brown color with a 2 finger just off white head. When held to the light it is almost ruby red, crystal clear, with lots of active carbonation streams. Decent head retention, though no lacing is left behind at all.

Smell- Purple grapes right up front, a bit tart in the aroma. Under there is some dark malts, getting a hint of chocolate. Some belgian yeast and a bit earthy as well. No alcohol is noticed on the nose, a welcoming sign.

Taste- Pretty good, but there is almost two completely different things going on here. The "25% ale aged in french oak barrels" is noticed right on front of the pallate. Sweet and vinous and a tad oaky. Then after the swallow the "75% dark ale" shows up. Chocolate and bready notes, and some very subtle belgian yeasty notes. The flavors are all there, but they really don't seem to be coming together all that great. With some age I feel this beer would get much better (which is intended by the brewer). Big boozy warming on the finish, which seems to be masking some of the flavors, still "hot".

Mouthfeel- High carbonation and a tad syrupy. The 10.00% is warming the cheecks.

Overall- Glad I tried this now, have another bottle to age. With some time on it, I feel this beer will really start to come into its own and be much, much better. I think a rereview is in order a couple of years down the road, or atleast look at this one and note some hopefull improvements.

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Photo of rowingbrewer
3.17/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Had this at a recent tasting, poured from the bottle into new belgium glass.

The appearance is dark brown with little head.

The smell was the best part of this beer, strong spice smell, and some dark fruits as well.

The taste followed the smell with a strong almost overpowering spice upfront, followed by the dark fruit and a noticeable alcohol presence.

The beer had medium carbonation and due to the strong spice taste was not very drinkable. not saying it was a bad beer, the experience was not bad, but i can see this one being a lot better at the end of the series.

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Photo of ehammond1
3.18/5  rDev -17%
look: 2 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Bottle (2010)

Churchill's Pub & Grille
San Marcos, CA

Somewhat lifeless murky brown with amber and orange edges. Thin khaki head that doesn't last long and doesn't leave much lacing down the glass either. This beer looks thin, lifeless, and oily.

Sweet aroma primarily of toffee and caramel, some sourdough bread, and a mild inclusion of dark fruits.

Very sweet flavor, namely of caramel and sticky toffee, a touch of nuttiness and some mild dark fruit flavors. Very little hop presence in the way of either bitterness or flavor. A sweet, malty, yeasty BSDA.

The mouthfeel is too thin, though heavy and oily, and somewhat under-carbonated.

I'm glad I got to try this BSDA, but it doesn't rank as one of my favorites. I won't seek it out again. Perhaps it was significantly better when fresh?

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Photo of Murchmac
3.18/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

So far two turtle doves was the only one of the days i've liked so far.

This one looks fine, dark brown and red, with some carbonation and a white head.

Smells of some dark fruits, raisins mostly, some spice. not much

Too hot, too much raisin taste, not any balance. Not enjoyable.

Wouldnt drink a whole lot of this beer, hope it improves with age.

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Photo of DaveHS
3.18/5  rDev -17%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

opened about 8 months after its initial release.

A-Pours deep mahogany with ruby highlights and a huge foamy khaki/yellow head that reduces quickly. Leaves no lacing.

S-Raisiny, almost like a dubbel. A suggestion of oak, but nothing too extreme. Reminds me of Pannepot. A tart fruit flavor that suggests possible oxidation.

T/M-The first thing I pick up on is sharp flavors of oxidation. This is already going south. The French oak is oppressive in the flavor profile, dominating all other flavors. An all around generic Belgian dark strong ale. Papery booziness and oxidized acidic flavors kill the finish.

O-Wow. This isn't very good at all. Expected more from this series. This is already past its prime, which is going to be a huge disappointment for anyone thinks this is going to make it for the vertical.

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Photo of JohnGalt1
3.23/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Inflatablechair brought this one over tonight after he spent a long day brewing... Thanks Sam.

Bam... big neck fizzer immediately upon cracking.. Sammy got most of it into his glass. Pours a cloudy deep walnut... definitely not clear.. descent foamy tan head... This brew is gonna have carbonation issues.

Nose shows mainly caramel and minor real Belgian qualities.. a bit toasty too with subtle clove and a little raisin.... the estery notes are almost none existent.. the phenols are also off.

Flavor is a tad bit better up front and seems moderately authentic.. more of a rich malt character that still sorta relies on caramel.. still the fruity esters just aren't there... the oak is nice.. sorta refined but doesn't add too much to the overall brew. There was a real metallic component for most of the palate... think "shiny new pennies".. coppery notes seem to leap from the clove on the finish.

Body is about right, but the carbonation never came into par.. waaay too fizzy up front and didn't really get any better.


I will paraphrase another buddy's review for my overall impression of this bottle... "To insinuate that this bottling is going to be 'good' in 9 nears is idiotic... it is marginal when fresh and for the Bruery to add to to the hype should be criminal."

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Photo of bierguru
3.28/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A -
head poured thick laced out to pretty much nothing within a mintue or so boady was darkish brown

sweet malty fuitiness up front with a finishing spice alcohol backend

T -
sweet vanilla malt up front mild of fruit dates/figs in the middle finishes witha slight spice nd smoothness from the oak

M -
very smooth and well balanced however kind of dry

D -
very tastey worth a try thinking about getting another bottle

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Photo of PEBKAC
3.28/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Half growler from New Beer. Cheaper then the bottle. :D Golden Carolus Goblet. Love the thin lip on this glass.

Filled almost to the brim. Sounded intact. Filled about a week ago.

Straight down the middle pour. Half inch of bubbly, tan head. Clear, ruby/russet body with plenty of activity. Blanketed lace.

Alcohol, macerated dark fruit, caramelized grain, candy.

Am I wrong when I say I taste a little smokiness in this? Macerated raisins/prunes(sharp), candi sugar, some odd bay leaf thing? Oxidation is big on the back. This "spiciness" this beer is advertised to have is lost to me, unless that word is code for "I sat on a yeast cake & all I got was this off flavor".

Feel is very light, carbonation: fluffy. Alcohol melds & is nondescript. A Strong Dark Ale that comes off easy, but noticeably watered down.

Fucking odd beer. Seems so easy at first, but you really have to love the particular combo of flavors to keep going. Touch too pricey.

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Photo of 1Adam12
3.3/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Decided to open this because there is no way I will ever go after the first 2 of the series. Dark ruby red appearance when I hold it to the light. Smells of oak, vanilla, figs, alcohol, burnt sugar, and maybe a bit of cherry. Taste is oaky, with some vanilla and sweetness. Tastes messy though, it all kind of runs together. Also get a numbness to my tongue. Almost peppery, but there is a numbness. No finish really. Flavor hits the tip of the tongue and just stops dead in its tracks. Nothing towards the back of the throat. Overall, disappointing. This is my first time trying this and even though it is "supposed" to be aged for some years to come, I'm wondering if this is already going downhill. I'd like to try another one eventually to see if I just caught this during a rough patch of the aging process.

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Photo of justintcoons
3.33/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

Aged 1 year. Poured into a snifter.

A: Pours an extremely dark ruby red tinted purple appearing almost black at first glance. 1 finger of off-white head, moderate carbonation and good clarity. Has a thin layer of very fine lacing that trickles down the glass.

Second pour is a murky opaque copper.

N: Red wine, black cherry, plum, cinnamon, currants, a hint of clove and maybe a touch of apricot. Interesting.

T: Red wine/grape, apricot, grape juice, figs, currants and perhaps some blackberry upfront. Mid-palate brings in candy sugar, biscuity bread and ginger along with hints of black cherry and lemon citrus. Finishes with toasted grains, subtle notes of earthy oak, barnyard, leather, clove, coriander, peppercorn, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

M: Light bodied, very dry and spicy with a bit of stickiness.

O: Sweet, complex, spicy and interesting. Has a lot of red wine characteristics and a good blanket of Belgian funk and winter spicing. A nice sipper that transforms over time giving me some mixed feelings. I'm giving it a bump up based on complexity but the spices are a tad too much for my palate.

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Photo of xnicknj
3.33/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

750mL bottle poured into snifter glass and shared with tasting group

Pours a copper with light orange hues, a lighter head fades to cloudy film and some spotty lacing.

The nose is an assortment of dark fruits with dates and a slight yeasty spice.

Nice progression of dark fruit and roasted malt from the get-go. Sweetness is mellow but well done. Interesting hoppiness towards the end with some boozyness throughout. Some pine stickiness during the finish.

Fuller medium body, carbonation is a little too high and very sticky feel. Drinks nice, but this is definitely a good one to share. The hop bitterness was somewhat unsettling and seemed to throw off the flavors, but this could be really tasty with some age on it.

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3 French Hens from The Bruery
3.83 out of 5 based on 401 ratings.
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