4 Calling Birds | The Bruery

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4 Calling Birds4 Calling Birds

Brewed by:
The Bruery
California, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
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!

Added by Thorpe429 on 10-25-2011

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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Reviews: 190 | Ratings: 576
Photo of nrpellegrini
4.78/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours black with a thin tan head. Laces slightly. Pours with some carbonation.
S: Sweet malts, cinnamon spices, sugar.
T: Smooth caramel and molasses. So much malt and sugar sweetness.
M: It has some body, silky smooth going down.
O: For a Belgian Strong Dark Ale this is exactly what I want. I'm confused why this beer is only a B.

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Photo of NWer
4.65/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served on tap at the Elliott Bay Pizza & Pub in Mill Creek in a Duvel tulip.
Appearance is dark brown smallish head.
Take a basic Belgian Strong Dark Ale and spice it up for the holidays and you have 4 Calling Birds. Ginger on the nose and ginger in the taste. Sweet. Very sweet in the aftertaste that makes you aware of the upcoming holidays whether you're ready or not.
A fantastic job in my opinion. A great seasonal that blows your typical winter warmer away.
Buy this.
By the way, the 11% ABV is well hidden so be careful with this one.

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Photo of vicsju1991
4.6/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A - strong pour results in jet black body, and two finger, slightly tan head decent retention and lacing
S - all the different spices, but I cannot distinguish them
T - delicious, again i cannot distinguish the different spices, but they are amazing
M - very smooth and creamy, very easy to drink
O - amazing beer, i love everything about it

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Photo of Trueant1
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark brown with a half inch light brown head that dissipates quickly. Decent lacing. All the spices combined are very nice together. Not one sticks out. Overall a cinnamon ginger like smell. Nutmeg also comes through. The alcohol is hidden.
Taste is spectacular! HUGE in your face brew. Alcoholic and phenolic flavors up front. A little sour note along the alcohol. Next, the spices all complement this huge beer. The spices are more pronounced in the smell but in the flavors they just add more complexity. Almost an upside down pineapple cake like flavor and texture in this chewy brew. This is one of those huge brews you would love to age and savor again 10 years from now. I love this brewery! If you ever have the chance go visit them on weekends in Orange County go and try all there fantastic beers!

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Photo of brotherloco
4.45/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml capped. Served in a tulip at 50 degrees.

Pours a dark brown with ruby red highlights. Three fingers of pillowy dark beige foam, takes a nice long while to settle. Moderate amounts of broad lacing left in glass.

Aroma of sweet chocolate malt, Belgian candi sugar, and dry Christmas spices. Some fruits. I definitely get the gingerbread note, but also some vanilla and pepper. Has a root beer float quality.

Flavor starts out soft and sweet like spiked hot chocoloate, but slowly transforms into a more creamy, but bitter coffee. Roasted coffee really emerges in the finish and aftertaste. Flavor evolves at a nice moderate pace, and sweetness sticks around the whole time. Spices are really well blended. Big 11% ABV is very well buried in this flavor.

Medium bodied with medium and very soft carbonation. Feels a little thin, but creamy, and quite drinkable for the strength.

I really like this beer in its year of production. Got another tucked away in the cellar that I hope to sample in 8 years.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.44/5  rDev +16.8%
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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Photo of codsmith
4.44/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours jet black with a very slight light tan head that dissipates quickly and only leaves a ring around the edge

S: It has a nice mellow spiced eggnog, graham cracker & ginger bread aroma

T: A nice dark balanced malt bill with a good ratio and mixture of spice. It finishes off with a good amount of bitterness.

M: A fairly thin and light mouth-feel. Carbonation is low.

O: A very unique and interesting beer. It seems to have a great grasp on aroma and taste for a holiday beer. Nothing is overdone and there is a nice ratio of ingredients.

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Photo of ikantspel
4.44/5  rDev +16.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml served into a duvel tulip

pours an almost pitch black with a small head that has a reddish hue to it

too much spices. i can make out a nutmeg and clove. really sweet though like ginger snaps

this is beyond complex. hits right away with the spices, kinda turns sweet from the belgian yeast, then cinnamon kicks in a little, finished off by a coffee swallow.

this is one helluva beer, would buy it again to age for about 5 years. would love to see how the flavors turn out

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Photo of TheHoppiest
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Merry Christmas everyone!!! I've sat on this for over a month, and am excited to try it. Thought I'd have some adventurous souls to help me with this, but alas, no such luck.

Poured from a 750 ml bottle into an oversized snifter. Pours a dark, dark brown, almost black, with a thin ring of tan around the edge of the glass. Looks like a stout, though I'm sure it won't taste like one.

Smells sweet and spicy, with a barrel-aged creaminess to it that makes you want to inhale more. Cinnamon, ginger, bready biscuit, and honey combine for a very tasty smelling brew.

There's a sweet orange that you don't get from the smell that first presents itself to you. Molasses, figs, candied fruit, raisin and dark sugar all combine for a very tasty, complex brew. I'd expect nothing less from this outstanding brewery.

Medium to full bodied, with an upfront tang and a mild hop finish, this feels like a good Christmas beer should.

Excellent, perhaps the best Christmas beer I've had yet. Sweet, complex, tasty and thoroughly enjoyable. If I can find one to cellar for the future, you'd better believe I'll be doing so. Ho-ho-ho!

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Photo of John_M
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Max's today.

The beer pours a root beer brown color with good head retention and lacing. On the nose, this is just great stuff. The complex nose offers up brown sugar, pumpkin, all spice, nutmeg and light vanilla. This beer smells very reminiscent of anchor's x-mas beer, except with just a "tad" more alcohol. As good as this beer smells, it tastes even better. The flavor profile replicates the nose, but is a bit richer than I was expecting. There is something of sherry, nutty flavor in the finish, that along with the considerable chcolate and vanilla, leads one to believe this beer has spent some time in an oak barrel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied to full, with a long, rich, spice infused finish.

I'm not sure anyone is doing a better job with this style of holiday ale spice bomb. This is just flat out delicious.

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Photo of Gosox8787
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 750 mL capped bottle I picked up across the border in Massachusetts this week. Served in a Cigar City tulip glass and enjoyed at just below cellar temperature over the course of about an hour.

Appearance: Dark brown with a nice fizzy beige head that recedes quickly. Almost resembles a more syrupy coke.

Aroma: Fresh cut ginger notes upfront. Molasses, brown sugar, and dark fruits all provide a nice sweetness. A touch or rum and heat, but nicely balanced overall.

Taste: Again, ginger and some holiday spices add a nice spice note upfront. Lots of molasses and dark fruit notes some in after and provide a good balancing sweet note that doesn't become cloying. Touches of rum, roasted pecans and coffee beans in there as well. Some heat, but for the most part really balanced. Drinks very easily.

Mouthfeel: Really full bodied, but the carbonation keeps it light enough tocontinue drinking.

Overall, a really great holiday type beer. The ginger and spices don't overwhelm the base beer, but compliment it nicely. Really warming, complex, yet easy to drink. I am glad to have another bottle to let sit for a bit.

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Photo of ngeunit1
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Pour a dark mahogany with a touch of ruby around the edges and a thin finger of frothy chocolate head. The head fades down fairly quickly leaving behind some light lace.

S - 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.

T - Starts off with rich sweet dark fruits, raisin, prune, and caramelized malts. There is also a bit of spice and Belgian yeast flavor. 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 candi syrup, Belgian yeast, spice, and some booze.

M - Full bodied with mild carbonation. Feels smooth and syrupy with a sweet, warming, and lightly spicy finish.

D - Very drinkable. The gingerbread spices are a nice addition here and balance really nicely with the BSDA base.

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Photo of WestValleyIPA
4.4/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle into my Stone IRS tulip. Incredibly dark, looks like espresso. Very dark roasty brown with a light brown, thin head that rests on top. Lots of roast on the nose. Belgian yeast spiciness, not to mention actual spice. Cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg definitely. Has quite a nice subtle licorice hint. Sweet candied sugar. Tastewise, more of the same. Incredibly rich. Beyond full flavored. A touch of roast and more of that Belgian spicness. The licorice is more pronounced and the sweetness that permeated the nose comes through. More cinnamon. The mouthfeel is perfect. Maybe the creamiest beer I've ever had. The bubbles are tiny, no prickles. Fan-freaking-tastic beer.

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Photo of mwilbur
4.39/5  rDev +15.5%
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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Photo of RickS95
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

It's almost as black as night, much darker than most beers of the style I've had...looks like a dark porter or stout. The head is fleeting, but while it's there, it's a light brown, leaving an attractive ring of contrasting white film on the perimeter.

Molasses, cinammon and ginger dominate the nose, all in a good way. Only as it warms do you pick up the chocolate and alcohol.

Dark rich fruits, molasses, and even a cola-like caramel on the tongue, with a slight hop note and alcohol warmth in the swallow.

Really creamy up front. A gentle sweetness as the beer moves from front to back. Some spices in the middle, with a gentle hoppy bitter in the finish, along with some heat from the alcohol. Medium- to heavy-bodied with just the right amount of sweet, spice, bitter and alcohol.

Overall, this is a really mild beer for such high ABV. The flavors all work very well together. The sensations are great. I'm glad I purchased this.

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Photo of alpinebryant
4.34/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark cola brown into a Bruery Tulip with a massive head and some chunky stuff that settled on the edges of the glass after the foam settled.

S: Pungently spiced belgian dark ale with cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, dark fruit and a strong roasty aroma.

T: Holy spiceballs, this is flavorful. Slightly too flavorful even with the spices to drink more than one or two of unless you like that type of thing but delicious. I was first hit with a fruity belgian ale, bordering Imperial Brown ale with char flavors hinting in below the spices that are all over. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Christmas in a bottle with extra caramelized sugars and allspice? There are a lot of different spices in here and they are welcome for this time of year IMO.

M: Medium to thick in mouthfeel, slightly syrupy but dry/ not cloying with a kick of booze at the finish. The carbonation is medium although seemed over-carbonated upon opening. The booze will clearly straighten out with time. I can dig it.

O: This is my second favorite of the series so far. I really enjoyed 2 Turtle Doves and this is very close behind it. I was excited that this had some of the similarities and hope that the Bruery continues the tradition of brewing BSDA's for Christmas rather than using bspa's and adding spices or other flavors to them... This is at least where I think the Bruery excels.

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Photo of Duhast500
4.3/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from s 22oz. bottle into a Chimay chalice.

The color is a dark black with a finger of brownish head and some slight lacing left on the glass.

The smell is malty with some nice Belgian yeast flavor there in the nose. Some nice dark fruits are there in the nose as well.

The taste is toasty with some nice chocolate flavor in the dark malts with some nice spices. This is sweet all over with some nice dark fruit flavor with some banana peel and some nice fig flavor that is steady throughout this beer.

The feel of this beer is a bit medium bodied but is trying to be a little heavier than it is. The alcohol is just the thing to push it over the line too. Big with this 11% punch it is sweet then hits with a bit finish. It is a really nice seasonal beer.

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Photo of nickfl
4.29/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours with a small head of light tan foam on top of an opaque, dark brown body. The head settles fairly quickly but leads decent traces of lace on the glass.

S - Graham cracker and chocolate, with some roasted nuts, caramel, and ginger.

T - Spicy chocolate up front with caramel and bready malt. Some clove and ginger in the middle with a bit of vanilla, and more chocolate in the finish.

M - A moderately thick body, average carbonation, and a reasonably dry finish.

D - Nicely done, this beer doesn't sound good to me when I read the description, but it is actually very good. The spices and malt blend better than I would have ever expected and it is oddly drinkable for a beer of this strength.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a tulip glass.

Woah this is one heck of a BLACK body going on here perhaps a hint of brown... however, a simple foamy nice light brown coffee tan head in appearance.

Nose is gingerbread. Truly. How does that happen? Brown spices of nutmeg, and sweetness abound. Behind that a nice biscuit like feeling of graham crackers. This is impressive.

Chewy dark malts, mixing in with gingerbread. A good pleasing simple mouthfeel, lots of molasses that are tolerable on the finish without a sweet sugar rush. Not too dry either. A nice quinine like finish towards the front of the palate that lingers. No sense of alcohol heat or booze.

Overall as described this beer delivers as it mentions which is very impressive. Have to score it high. Liking this ginger angle, and it's not a sugar sweet bomb, I call drinking win.

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Photo of FosterJM
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

897th Review on BA
Bottle to Bruery Snifter
750 ML

2011 Vintage

Thanks to Gurudel for sharing.

App- A dark crimson pour with some dark brown highlights. A one finger fast receding head with some great cling and lace.

Smell- A good spicy yeast note with more ginger vs. spice. A little bit more of a liquid cookie.

Taste- Same as the nose with more spice on the taste than the nose. A good bit of a thin booze flavor but the 11% is well hidden. Not "hot" or too overdone.

Mouth- A bit medium bodied with a good medium/high carbonation level. Residual ginger and spice.

Drink- I think this one is probably my favorite. A bit more out of the box holiday witht some spice and nutmeg.

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Photo of bamadog
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Went shopping the day before Thanksgiving for beer and only beer, and saw this across the river in Cinci -- happy to pick up a couple of bottles -- one for now, one for after the 12 Drummers Drumming. Review is from notes taken on 11/30/2011 and poured from the bottle to a tulip.

Appearance: Pour is a dark brown, kind of like a really dark cola or even coffee; starts with a two finger tang head that becomes quite pock-marked and rocky as it dwindles rather quickly to a thin cap; body is opaque, and I can only see into the very near edges where there are many streams of tiny and quick moving bubbles -- about what I would expect in terms of appearance for a BSDA;

Smell: Warm spiciness that reminds me a lot of ginger is right up front, and comes out pretty strongly front the glass, and possibly hints of anise in there as well; a bit of a toasty/bready maltiness with a touch of sweet caramel underneath; alcohol is really just about entirely masked in the nose.

Taste: Nice set of flavors, and I'm really reminded of a gingerbread man cookie with a slightly sweeter caramel backing; alcohol is noticeable on the breath, but still pretty well masked; bit of a Belgian candi sugar/beet sugar sweetness becomes apparent as it continues to warm.

Mouthfeel: Body is of medium weight and there is a moderately thick and sticky coating left at the back of the roof of the mouth; belly is left quite warm from the 11% ABV; carbonation is strong and prickly, but avoids being sharp -- I wouldn't mind it being just a touch mellower, but it's really just about spot on in terms of the mouthfeel.

Overall: I really like this beer and think it's solid -- it'd be cool if something like this was available on an annual basis from The Bruery for Christmas. I didn't get a chance to try the 3 French Hens yet as I only came across one bottle and I'm going for the complete collection (with the exception of PiaPT), and it's not quite as enticing to me as the 2TD was, but this is definitely a great addition and The Bruery has yet another winner on its hands. Definitely more of a beer to share considering the format and ABV, but I've got no problem sipping it down by myself over the course of an entire night.

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Photo of BigB415
4.23/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours black with huge head into my Bruery snifter. Heavy retention when I swirl and tiny white bubbles climbing the side of the glass sticking to it like if they fall off they'll drown when the beer is perfectly still.

S: Spice, figs, alcohol.

T: More spices, figs, and alcohol. Dark fruit like dark oranges. This pretty much reminds me of what a holiday themed beer should taste like.

MF: Lingering notes of what I described in the T above except for the alcohol. I do not taste any alcohol after. This is a very smooth beer.

O: This is my first 12 Days of Bruery Christmas and I didn't know what to expect but it didn't disappoint. It's very smooth and the spice goes very well since it is well balanced. This is actually the one of those 12 beers that I've seen in my area. I would love to get my hands on the previous 3 so I can compare.

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Photo of LiquidAmber
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
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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Photo of AdamBear
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A-pitch black with a nice tan head that thins

S-chocolate, red wine, licorice, and black pepper. strong and complex! possibly some ginger in there too.

T-comes in with a boozy taste of pepper and licorice. then comes a heavy underlying bitterness with an after-taste of slightly dark roasted belgian malts with some ginger. definitely a boozy and complex beer

M-heavy, thick, and syrupy. low carbonation. dry finish

O-i love this beer. as big as it as, I enjoyed all 750mL to myself. definitely something I'd buy again if given the chance. i think next time, i would like to share it though

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Photo of kylehay2004
4.22/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: almost no head on a deep dark amber brown body.

S: lots of dark fruit including raisin, plum, fig and cocoa with a nice dark chocolate and vanilla presence. hint of gingerbread and roasted malts.

T: dark chocolate, vanilla, dark molasses, light peppers, dark fruit mostly plum and strawberry, roasted malts, well hidden booze, tart and as usual very complex

M: fairly thin for what I was expecting. moderate carbonation. not very dry for the style.

Overall: this one is really drinkable, more so than I would think. Definitely very complex

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4 Calling Birds from The Bruery
3.8 out of 5 based on 576 ratings.
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