4 Calling Birds
The Bruery

4 Calling Birds4 Calling Birds
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Belgian Strong Dark Ale
3.84 | pDev: 12.76%
The Bruery
California, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
4 Calling Birds4 Calling Birds
Notes: Spiced Strong Dark Ale. The Twelve Days of Christmas series continues! We took inspiration from the traditional winter warmer for our fourth verse, integrating gingerbread spices into a robust dark ale. Notes of licorice & banana bread mingle with dark fruit, molasses and bitter chocolate for a perfect cold weather sipper!
Reviews: 196 | Ratings: 586 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of IvoryFoxhole
4.23/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2019 rebrew poured into Trillium The Six States goblet and allowed to warm.

L: 1F or so fizzy light brown head with poor retention, leaves only a ring. Beer is very dark brown.

S: Banana bread and cloves. Gingerbread, dark fruits. We've got ourselves a winter warmer here, I think.

T: Incorporates a lot of the smell into the taste. Gingerbread and raisins, winter spices, banana.

F: A tad light for the style in terms of what you might expect, but only a tad. Little carbonation. Construction and balance pretty good. A tad watery, perhaps some aging would help.

O: Might be the best of the 12 so far.

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IvoryFoxhole from Virginia, Feb 24, 2020
Photo of brycemc
4.57/5  rDev +19%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

Look: Deep brown almost red, fine head, bubbles. In a tulip out of the fridge.

Smell: Spice and fruit (dates, raisins). Smells like a fruit cake. Amazing.

Taste: Spices are dominant at first sip, but not overpowering (somewhat cold still). Dry chocolate notes on mid and finish. Some bread too, but dark dark bread (pumpernickel or spice bread). Malt on the lighter side but perfectly balanced.

Feel: dry and light bodied for 11%. Great spiced dry finish.

Overall: very good, maybe my favorite of the 12 so far (drinking in order). 1 and 2 were solid belgian styles, 3 was just mediocre, but this is special. I like it!

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brycemc from California, Dec 30, 2019
Photo of rodbeermunch
3.47/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I need to get my shit together and organize all these beers in the cellar.

Anyways, another Days of Christmas beer I wasn't fond of. Pours a dark brown color but without the heavy viscosity of a porter/stout. 1/2" of beige head on it, decent retention. Aroma was of holiday bread. Nutmeg, gingerbread, raisin, prune notes in the aroma. I like the smell, but am wary that these smells generally translate into a taste and mouthfeel that is less enjoyable than the smell.

And there it is. All the spice rack and fridge drawer things I dislike. Bitter dark fruit, an alcohol stab that actually is less damaging than I expected. Could actually say this hid the alcohol decently. A mix of raisin, prune, stronger than expected bitterness, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, sherry, brandy, dark licorice, clove, mild brown sugar, just not my jam man. Where I could get into this beer is if I had like 6 people splitting it, but drinking more than 10oz of this in a sitting is a challenge. They do seem to get better with age though as the spice rack chills out more.

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Photo of REVZEB
4.08/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

With the series at fruition, got to go to an event featuring all 12 in the series so I could fill in the first four I missed out on. Dark brown mostly opaque body with a tan cap. Gingerbread and holiday spice lead the nose, with brown sugar, biscuit, caramel and cinnamon. Taste is equally festive, but the spices dominate more, cutting out nuance. Some dark fruit survives to compliment. Feel is spiced, warm, somewhat boozy, and full. Good for Christmas time, but otherwise no need to seek out.

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REVZEB from Illinois, Dec 27, 2019
Photo of macrosmatic
3.08/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Reviewed from (long-standing) notes. Poured from a 750 mL bottle into a Russian River snifter glass.

A: Dark brown, and stops just short of being opaque. Forms about a finger of tan head that fades quickly over a low amount of visible carbonation.

S: Dark sweet malts, sweet fruit - raisins and some tart cherries. A bit acetic, and some minerally dryness.

T: Dark sweet malts, dark fruit (raisins, plums), and still a touch of acetic acid, cherries, and vinegar. Allspice, ginger, and cinnamon on the exhale. The spices and sweet malts last in the hang.

M: A thick sticky body with low (but fitting) carbonation sensation. The alcohol is apparent but not obnoxious.

O: Well...spiced = not my favorite. Acetic = slightly infected (?? ). Either way, this was weird. It doesn't seem intentional, but it's not horrendously strong or anything. Though the weird flavors do increase as the beer warms. I'm not sure this bottle is quite right. If the second bottle I have is any better, I'll update this review.

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Photo of WickedBeer
4.11/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Wades Wines 12 Days of Christmas Tasting. 12/22/17. Agoura Hills, CA. This bottle was a 2011.

Pours a deep raisin brown. Nearly free of lace, no head.

Aromas are full of dark fruit.. raisins, plum, sherry... a lot going on but really good.

Again tons ignore dark fruit.. caramel, molasses, slight booze, prominent sherry flavors. Complex and really nice.

Super smooth, sticky, and a nice burn on the way down.

I think time did this beer wonders.. with a profile similar to a braggot, the overwhelming sweetness I’m sure it had back in 2011 has been mellowed out and well balanced with prominent booze, molasses, and caramel.

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WickedBeer from Alabama, Dec 23, 2017
Photo of mwilbur
4.39/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from 750 mL bottle into snifter. Cellared and served at 50 F.
A: Pours a thick, dark brown with 1/2 inch dark mocha head. Decent retention (which is surprising given the age of this beer). Settles down to a thin skim. Faint lacing.
S: Whoa...loads of spice! Cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, all spice, and a hint of clove. Smells festive! Dark dried fruit (more prune than raisin), sweet caramel malt, dark honey, molasses, and alcohol soaked vanilla beans.
T: Follows aroma fairly closely. Loads of spice (see above) and a note of cola too. Prunes, thickly sweet caramel malt, molasses, honey, bourbon, and oaky vanilla.
M: Medium-heavy body. Drinks a tad lighter than ABV (but not much!). Darkly sweet and spicy. Thick feel and a bit of creaminess. Lingers fairly well on the palate, but you can tell it has weakened a bit here over time.
D: For a festive dark ale, this really hits the spot! And it has held up much better than I had anticipated (although it really should if it is supposed to last another 4 more years when the series concludes). A nice winter sipper.

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mwilbur from Minnesota, Dec 06, 2015
Photo of stephenjmoore
3.7/5  rDev -3.6%

Pours a very dark brown, settles into the glass as a cola-colored body with a very thin tan head. Aroma is that of an old spice kitchen, lots of licorice, nutmeg, cinnamon, prunes. Taste is much of the same, a lot of licorice, lots of bitter and earthy spices, lots of bready malt sweetness present too. It's a big, bold, spice-filled beer, a little too overwhelming as far as the spice and sweetness for me to enjoy it, but the alcohol is barely noticeable for a 11% beer.

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Photo of cosmicevan
3.5/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks for tossing this my way scottbreaks! Split with the mrs into 2 bruery snifters. Had the BA version not too long ago and dug it.

a - brew pours dark purple/brown with a nice light brown head with really nice retention.

s- nose is fairly festive with gingerbread and old spice over plum.

t - leads with the belgian dark and finishes with the spices afternthey wash over they flavor mid sip.

m - a bit heavy handed on the carb for a bruery beer which aren't usually this fizzy. That said, this is way lighter than your average 11% brew.

o - overall not quite as nice as the BA version, but not bad. Happy to finally pick up where I left off in trying the beers from this series, but aside from the series, these are fairly run of the mill beers from an otherwise phenomenal brewery. I wouldn't hunt it down for any other reason.

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cosmicevan from New York, Jan 19, 2014
Photo of superspak
3.88/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

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superspak from Michigan, Nov 21, 2013
Photo of CuriousMonk
4.44/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark mahogany with a touch of ruby around the edges along with thin lacing that lasts well throughout. Aroma is full of rich sweet dark fruits with raisin and prune, with some Belgian yeast, spices, gingerbread, caramelized malts, and a touch of booze. The flavor starts off with rich sweet dark fruits, raisin, prune, and caramelized malts. There is also a bit of spice and Belgian yeast flavor supporting the style. Through the middle, some more gingerbread spices come through with a touch of cherry. The finish is a mix of sweet dark fruits and caramel malts, with some Belgian candi syrup, spice, and hints of booze. Full bodied with mild carbonation. Finishes off smooth and syrupy with a sweet, warming, and lightly spicy finish. Overall, a solid and amazing beer. I will take the opportunity to drink this and they have a bourbon aged version of which I’m always on the look out for.

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CuriousMonk from District of Columbia, Jul 22, 2013
Photo of mentor
3.3/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Pours a thin layer of tan head that quickly fizzes away and is fed by a massive set of streamers. Liquid is very very dark brown and the edgings are clear, but not brilliant. Smells nutmeg, allspice, chocolate, candi-sugar, wheat, scorch. Sweet nut bread (lacking the banana). Clean alcohol sting. The aroma gives me some concern about clovey phenols, which I hate.

Tastes allspice over malt sweet. The beer dries in the finish in a woody holiday-spice astringent way. Aftertaste is allspice powder on the back of the tongue that won't go away. I gotta tell you, I'm not impressed with the special-release beers from the Bruery. With searching, I get medium-dark caramel, mild chocolate, rummy holiday bread. Pear esters, amber candi-sugar, and cheap cinnamon. I'm not able to pick out any hops. Cream thick mouthfeel that coats the mouth in the after-taste, but is surprisingly not sticky. So dry from the spice and clean alcohol that the mouthfeel comes off quite well. Too bad the spice kills the flavor. Md-light carbonation is a surprise considering the streamers that have been running this whole time. Overall, meh. Not bad, but not good.

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mentor from Colorado, Jul 19, 2013
Photo of alexgash
3.9/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle.

Dark cola brown body. Solid finger of dense, khaki brown head. Nice lacing. Big, bold nose. Lots of sweet, candied fruits mixed with chocolate licorice, gingerbread, root beer, and Tootsie Rolls. Hints of various spices as well. Very Christmas-y.

Sweet, fruity malt up front. Caramel and gingerbread sweetness fill in. Maybe a little cola. Becomes a little more chocolate-y with notes of licorice, root beer, vanilla, and maybe cinnamon. Rummy, warming finish, with light roasted malt and dark chocolate bitterness. Full-bodied, syrupy feel. On the sweet side, and definitely more appropriate for cold wintry nights!

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alexgash from Connecticut, May 19, 2013
Photo of Etan
3.59/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

750ml into a snifter.

A: Pours a blackish-brown with a small head of coarse light tan bubbles.

S: Charred ginger, heavy all-spice, licorice, dark bread. Smells like a slightly burnt gingerbread cookie.

T: Cola, gingerbread, cinnamon, slightly astringent roasted grain, molasses, warming booze (slightly fusel), dark chocolate, banana-like esters.

M: Thick-bodied with very light carbonation. Very syrupy.

O: Definitely reminiscent of gingerbread, but the roasted malt could be toned down a bit. This beer is just too syrupy, sweet, and spiced to handle more than a few ounces of.

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Etan from Wisconsin, Apr 18, 2013
Photo of johnnnniee
3.52/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a solid dark brown with faint garnet highlights at the edges and a huge fluffy tan head that recedes to lace on the sides of the glass. Aroma's of holiday spices, thick caramel and molasses with a slight fruity twang. The spice character for me is quite strong and overpowers most of the nose, but I actually think it is starting to tame a bit from the first time I had this brew. The flavor is sweet and malty up front with lots of thick sugar, caramel, and molasses. The spices and yeasty flavors provide a nice balance midway through before a shot of ethanol hits that I can trace moving down my throat. Sweet lingering sugary gingerbread house sits on the palette like gum drops long after every sip. Thick body with a sweet somewhat syrupy mouthfeel, and a light to moderate level of carbonation. I think I enjoyed this a lot better than when this was fresher, I think the flavors have come together a little bit better. This is no two turtle doves, but I enjoyed sipping on it for a while.

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johnnnniee from New Hampshire, Apr 11, 2013
Photo of LiquidAmber
4.22/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a Gulden Draak tulip. Pours a very dark russet amber with a one finger fine tan head with great retention and lacing. Inviting aroma of molasses, dark fruit, bready malt and cinnamon. Flavor of dark fresh and dried fruit, molasses, nuts, sweet and a touch of toasted malt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Medium bodied with some creaminess. I did not review this fresh, but now it has taken on a mellow, well integrated flavor that is very nice. The spicing is very winter holiday, but done with just the right touch. I liked the balance of dark fruit and malts. This Is my favorite so far of this series, and of course I only got one bottle this time. Figures.

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LiquidAmber from Washington, Mar 18, 2013
Photo of Huhzubendah
3.83/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The beer is chestnut brown with a thin beige collar. The aroma offers brown bread, yeast, holiday spices, cinnamon. Thinner than I expected. Slightly sweet with notes of molasses, hints of dark fruit. A touch of alcohol in the finish. Lingering bready yeast. Pretty tasty.

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Huhzubendah from District of Columbia, Mar 16, 2013
Photo of yamar68
3.52/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pretty damn dark for the style - a frothy finger of pale brown head retains well, leaving its mark above and beneath.

Root beer, ginger, birch syrup, caramel spice, molasses, brown sugar... meh...

Tastes like an xmas beer. Figs or dates with some of that root beer and molasses. Belgian yeast buried in here somewhere. Nutmeg... cardamom... shit like that.

I'm all for the long term vertical idea but why not release tried and true cellar beers instead of awkward spiced Belgians - Stone, Bruery, let's do BA stouts or sours or something from now on.

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yamar68 from Minnesota, Feb 28, 2013
Photo of ThickNStout
3.34/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

750mL bottle from Luekens Liquors online. 14.99. Bottled late 2011. Served in a Wild Heaven snifter.

Pours deep chestnut hued brown with one and a half fingers of ecru head.

Smells tart and funky with a strange note of decay and more subtle sweet hints of nutmeg, ginger and bran muffins.

That tart/sour note is still pretty big in the taste but doesn't cover underlying layers of gingerbread, plums, currants, nutmeg, raisin bread, cinnamon, caramel and an almost chocolate sweetness toward the finish. A healthy dose of booze but not quite as much as I'd expected. There is a whole lot going on in this beer.

Medium full feel and approaching creamy with mild but fizzy carbonation. Long semi sour, chocolatey gibgerbread funk finish.

An interesting brew for sure. I think I'd have rated it much higher if not for the strange sour aspects (particulary in the nose) and the almost too thick aftertaste. Despite it's faults I enjoyed it and think it might even continue to age well as long as the sour doesn't take over.

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Photo of nimrod979
3.78/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750ml bottle. I usually save them for a year and crack em open when the new year's beer comes out. I was a little later getting to this one.

Appearance: Very dark brown with a thin beige head. Almost no retention and no lacing.

Aroma: Non-descript spices, perhaps ginger and nutmeg. dark fruit, estery belgian sugars, chocolate and an interesting sourness.

Taste: Dark fruits, plum and raisin, figs, sweet malts, some caramel. Hints of nutmeg and ginger. A slight sourness going on. Lingering chocolatey finish. Plenty of interesting flavors going on. The beer is a tad sweet with a little bit of a boozey presence, and I think one pour is certainly enough, but still enjoyable.

Mouthfeel: Slick mouthfeel, medium-full body with very very soft carbonation. Some booze, but no burn. Interesting. Decent.

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nimrod979 from Maryland, Feb 15, 2013
Photo of HuskyinPDX
3.82/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Bottle opened on 1.14.13

A - Pours a dark cola brown with a huge 2 and a half inche light brown-tan head that fades slowly.

S - Ginger bread cookie, cloves, cinnamon.

T - Booze, oak, ginger bread, chocolate.

D - Good carbonation with a medium body with a bitter finish.

O - Very Christmasy, a boozed up ginger bread man.

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HuskyinPDX from Washington, Jan 23, 2013
Photo of dirtylou
3.5/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle, split, served in de koninck chalice

Dark, murky and full of floaters. Spicy, rich dark fruit, booze-forward. Nothing particularly interesting about this beer - the previous beers in this seemed better. A little medicinal in the finish - this one is only going downhill from here, drink up.

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dirtylou from District of Columbia, Jan 02, 2013
Photo of tdm168
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to jtd1969 for sharing this one.

A - dark blackish brown with a thin brown head that has little retention

S - funky Belgian yeast, dark fruit, faint sugar, faintly tart

T - dark fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, faint roasted malts, bittersweet, faint burnt sugar, faint bitter finish

M - full bodied, a bit warm, some alcohol, well carbonated

This is a nice beer. It has some unique qualities and the use of spices was well done. At times it was a bit sweet and sugary and the alcohol was noticeable in the finish, but otherwise it was a nice sipper that is definitely worth a try.

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tdm168 from Pennsylvania, Dec 31, 2012
Photo of dbrauneis
4/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a clear very dark mahogany in color with light to moderate amounts of gentle visible carbonation near the surface of the beer and a fair amount of garnet red highlights. The beer has a finger tall dark tan head that quickly fades to a small patch of very thin film and a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Minimal amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of dark fruits and malts with a bunch of spices - licorice/anise really stands out but there are more subtle aromas of nutmeg and cinnamon.

T: Upfront there is a malty flavor with more than a touch of dark fruit flavors followed by a light amount of sweetness. There are moderate amounts of spices including anise/licorice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

M: Slightly heavier than medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth.

O: For as big a beer as this is, the alcohol is really well hidden. This beer is pretty easy to drink and there is a good amount of complexity to the flavor and smell.

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dbrauneis from North Carolina, Dec 29, 2012
Photo of largadeer
3.65/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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

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largadeer from California, Dec 26, 2012
4 Calling Birds from The Bruery
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 586 ratings