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 donkeyrunner
2.04/5  rDev -46.3%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Dark brown. Head is quick to fizzle out into an amoeba shaped skim.

Smells rancid. Slightly rotten, fermenting dark fruit to be exact. Very potent nutmeg and cinnamon on top of that trash heap.

Brute force, Ronnie Coleman strong gingerbread spices with that same fermenting dark cassis, elderberry and soggy tobacco in back. Yuck.

A double drain pour. My wife and I have a tradition of drinking the previous years Christmas Bruery offering while opening gifts. After dumping 3 French Hens we said 4 Calling Birds would be our last if it went down the drain...

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Photo of cpetrone84
2.36/5  rDev -37.9%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

pours a very dark mahogany brown with a tan head and tight little bubbles. The nose is a mess. Spicy phenolic mess with tons of candied sugar, banana, and a toasted to burnt malt underbelly. The taste is much of the same with unintegrated messy malt backbone. Roasty burnt chocolate and brown malt, candied sugar and banana. Light phenolic twang. The body is slick and oily, a touch thin with moderate carb. This is tough to drink, definitely will not finish 12 oz let alone a the entire 750.

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Photo of cnally
2.66/5  rDev -30%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A nice little pickup from my favorite store, Stoney's, to cap off a night where we put up our XMas decos.

A deep dark sludge of a brew, totally opaque, more like a imp stout than a bel dark. Tan head.

Aroma comes off excessively woodsy. Certainly a little off, just kind of ascerbic and overly spiced.

The flavor wavers between being too bitter and too sweet. There are slight nutmeg--cinnamon type flavors but are wholly drowned out by the cloying finish. Imagine woodsy eggnog.

Oh yeah, speaking of eggnog--the mouthfeel is creepily similar to it. Too thick. Seriously did they add egg whites to this?

OK. Did I make a mistake buying this? Here's my problem. This is definately not ready for consumption. It needs a year, two, maybe three before some of these agressive characteristics blend together, the feel mellows...but then why rush it to public fresh? If it's on the shelf, it should be drinkable. And this one isn't.

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Photo of MaxSpang
2.7/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Enjoyed on Christmas Eve. Served in a Chimay goblet.


The beer pours a deep, dark reddish brown - almost black. It had a mocha head with large bubbles, and disappeared quickly. As I drank, there was no head and no visible carbonation. Large alcohol legs grab the edge of the glass. Not a bad looking brew.


Slight booze hits the nose at first, but isn't off putting at all. There is a ton of spice character, including ginger and perhaps allspice. Lots of dark fruits come through, and there's even some roasted malt character. Chocolate even comes through, making this beer have a complex aroma. Lots of stuff going on - all of them nice!


Whoa, what a crazy beer. The first taste I get is a pure molasses flavor, and not really in a good way. I taste some ginger, and the beer has some slight tartness, and lots of Belgian spice character. I definitely taste ginger which gives it a slight kick at the end of the tongue. Booze comes through, but for the most part the alcohol is pretty well hidden. I hate to say it, but there's a hint of "soy sauce" in this guy...


There's a tiny bit of carbonation in this brew. The body is medium, and it finishes slightly dry. It's not as thich as I expected, and is fairly drinkable for a beer with such high ABV.


I'm pretty disappointed in this one. It's not bad at all, but it just doesn't work for me. I'm curious how this will age for the next 8 years, and I can only assume it will smooth out and not be as all over the place as it is now. Is it worth buying? Maybe for the collection aspect, but I would recommend aging this bad boy for awhile.


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Photo of bigaltemple
2.88/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Pours dark brown, and appears almost black in the glass. Two-finger, dark tan head becomes a thin cap, but shows good retention. Hit and miss spots of lacing.

S - Plenty going on here, but it just comes across a little too jumbled for me. Heavy dosing of spices, with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and lots of malt.

T/M - Much like the nose, a lot of spicing that just doesn't come together for me. The aftertaste is the same, and lasts way too long. Mouthfeel is actually decent, with a full body, and just prickly enough carbonation.

O - Don't plan on drinking again, unless all twelve are in front of me.

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Photo of Goblinmunkey7
2.93/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Deep dark mahogany. Dark red/brown. Head is fluffy with a loose structure. Solid ring and thin cap at edges. Stronger carbonation than expected. Slightly hazed.

Smell: Bruery Belgian yeast. Candi sugar and gingerbread cookies. Ginger is actually nice and slightly earthy and used in good measure. Sine hints of caramel, but it really smells like a cookies. Sweet and gingery. Other spices from the yeast, clove and allspice, round it out. Malts are on the sweet side.

Taste: Oh hi, candi sugar. Ginger assault. Yeast is spicy and drops some clove. Very yeasty. So much ginger and yeast. Complete lack of balance. It's all spice and candi sugar. Not cloyingly sweet, but super clean sweet. Almost no aftertaste. Definite lack of depth.

Mouthfeel: Full body and a touch dry on the finish. Carbonation is definitely too high.

Overall: I'm really curious to see where this goes in the next 8 years. Maybe it will develop some depth. Maybe.

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Photo of beerandcycling88
2.96/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Poured from a 750ml bottle into a snifter

A Pours a dark brown color topped with an off white head. Also this one seemed to be very well carbonated as it exploded out of the bottle all over the kitchen.

S Some gingerbread and a bit of molasses, Also a slight medicinal/plastic note is present.

T More gingerbread, some allspice and clove. However there is more of that medicinal/plastic note.

M Full body with lots of carbonation.

Overall this would be better if it wasn't for that plastic note.

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Photo of Jeffo
2.97/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The Dooper pulled this one out for a random beer night a while back. Thanks for sharing man!

From a 750 into a snifter

APPEARANCE: Pours a fizzy, two finger, medium looking, light tan head with decent retention. Fizzy and noisy, which is annoying. Bistre brown body with lower levels of carbonation. Head fades to a splotchy wisp and ring leaving no lacing down the glass.

SMELL: Smells like a Belgian strong dark ale. Caramel, toffee and dark fruits on the nose. Raisins, dates and some spices, with light hints of molasses as well. A nice nose, though not quite bold enough to be really enticing.

TASTE: Follows the nose. Caramel and toffee sweetness along with dark fruits up front. Mostly raisins and dates. Spicy middle in the finish, with notes of ginger bread at the swallow as well. Milder flavors up front, though the aftertaste is somewhat bolder. Sweet dark fruits, caramel, spices and a hit of molasses linger on the palate. Very sweet with very little bitterness as balance. Alright, but not impressive.

PALATE: Medium body and medium carbonation. Semi-cream on the palate, perhaps a touch watery, goes down fine and finishes very, very sticky. A touch of heat lingers on the palate as well.

OVERALL: I’ve had a few interesting beers from this brewery, but this was the first Belgian style beer I’ve had the chance to try. Compared to brews on this side of the pond, this one was unfortunately quite average. Besides the off-putting head on this one, the flavor, while nice, is simply too mild to be memorable. I would chose a Belgian strong dark from the Low Countries over this every time. Fine to drink, but just nothing special. Thanks again for sharing Doops. Another successful beer night.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
3.01/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Dark brown with a tan head. 1 finger of lace.

A - Spices, and lots of them. Alot of sweet fruit flavors. Brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, etc.

T - Like it smells, lots of sugar and spices going on here. Very sweet.

M - Medium bodied, and not too carbonated.

O - Too sweet for me. Maybe I just don't like the style, but too sweet and strong for my preference

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Photo of baseball1976
3.03/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Maybe I purchased a bad bottle of this beer, but I was not overly impressed. I was hoping that there would be more spice to it. The one that I received was more sour, leading me to believe that it was not a good bottle.

Overall, it was not bad, but it was not what I was expecting.

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Photo of MrVonzipper
3.05/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Rtaps for sharing this bottle.
Pitch black with a 1cm tan bubbly head. Short retention. Spotty lacing. 

Big spice on the nose. Predominantly allspice and a touch of ginger. That's pretty much it. 

Flavor is again full of spice. Allspice mostly. Very spice dominated. Dark malt and Belgian candy sugar show up a little bit too.

Medium bodied and high carb.

Overall ok. IMO too Heavy on the spice. Just one note.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.07/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Served on-draught into a beerflute at The Bruery's tasting room in Placentia. Reviewed from notes.

A: Pours a half finger head of nice cream, good thickness, and bad retention. Colour is a solid black.

Sm: Heavy wood and spice. Bretts and yeast. Chocolate. A mild strength aroma. Not as good as it sounds to describe.

T: Spice. Badly handled caramel. Some chocolate. An awful wood undertone corrupts it. The spice feels very muted, making it bland and boring. Some licorice is present, especially on the finish. Balanced but restrained, like it's held back.

Mf: Smooth and wet. Pretty thick.

Dr: An easy to drink high ABV beer that falls short of its potential. I wouldn't have it again. I feel bad for anyone that pays the bottle price for this.


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Photo of womencantsail
3.11/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On-tap at the Bruery

Almost black with a dense khaki head. Smells roasty and mildly acidic. A little bit of fruit, mostly prunes and some raisins. Roast, char, and burnt sugar. Maybe a bit of licorice flavor. Heavy on the prunes and raisins. Medium bodied and high carbonation.

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Photo of oline73
3.13/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

I had this on-tap at Max's. Poured into a goblet.

Appearance: Pours an opaque mahogany with a layer of creamy off white head that fades to a ring around the edge of the glass.

Smell: Spices and dark fruit dominate up front. I think this one smelled a bit like tomato. Some dark malt as well.

Taste: Sweet and malty with some Belgian spices. There are some Christmas spices in there as well, picking up anise. The finish is sweet with some of the spice lingering.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side of medium. The carbonation is tingly with a dry finish.

Overall: I was a bit disappointed with this beer. I wanted the spices to be a bit more prevalent and balanced. Not a huge fan of anise.

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Photo of jayhawk73
3.13/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark, dark brown in my CBS snifter. Nice one finger chocolate head, which has quite a few larger bubbles on top. Almost a black hole of a beer. The nose seems very weak to me. I get a little molasses, ginger, and spices- but all very faint and weak. This beer really needs a kick in the pants nose-wise. The taste is marginally better. You get the molasses and spices, with a touch of the 11% abv on the backside. Not nearly as complex and tasty as the best in style. Feel is somewhat thin and dry. I want more malt presence in this beer. It feels like I'm drinking a 5% lager. Slight improvement with warming, but not much. Overall, a decent brew- but a very disappointing BSDA for sure. There are a lot better brews for this ultra competitive style. Cheers.

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Photo of bump8628
3.18/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark molasses brown, thin head of tan. Mildly malty, smooth brown sugar, pipe tobacco, cinammon, clove, and molasses. Decent enough flavors but the whole beer is closed and muted. Worth a try, but probably not a second. And I don't think laying down a bottle and trying again later would help much.

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Photo of keanex
3.19/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from a 750ml into a Duvel tulip glass.

A: Deep opaque brown with a thin creamy flat head.

S: Mostly spices and some dark fruits, there's some ginger hints as well, but it's mostly spices.

T: Overload of spices and a dry ginger finish. I expected more out of this to be honest, what I got was a spice-bomb I could barely finish a glass of.

M: Thick with good crisp carbonation.

O: Not worth the price, it was one of the few beers I've just given up on and poured the rest of the bomber of. I couldn't push myself through drinking it, too much spices.

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Photo of nataku00
3.2/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

On tap poured into a snifter glass. Beer pours a dark brown, with some lighter browns at the edge of the glass with no head. I could swirl up a thin tan colored collar of small bubbles though. Some carbonation visible at the edge of the glass, a few bubbles clinging to the glass, but not too active.

Nose is some milk chocolate malt, dark fruit in raisin and dark cherry, some light clove. As it warmed a little, there was a bit more spice to it, but not really the gingerbread that it claims. Fairly underwhelming.

Taste follows the nose, with milk chocolate, and some dark fruit flavors. That's pretty much it though, chocolate and lightly toasted malt through the middle of the tongue, finishing with some light sweetness and some light clove and nutmeg. Again, not much ginger in the flavor.

Medium bodied with some decent carbonation, lightly tingly on the tongue. Alcohol is well hidden, but the beer itself was a bit bland for a strong dark ale. These Christmas releases from The Bruery haven't been very impressive.

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Photo of angrybabboon
3.23/5  rDev -15%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Review adapted from notes taken 12-11-11

Appearance: Dark, dark brown - beige, light tan head - nice lacing

Smell: Dark, cooked malts, and some Belgian aromas - sweet malts, a ton of candi sugar - some spices, with ginger taking center stage

Taste: Certainly matches the aroma - cooked, caramelized malts, ginger - like a tart, overcooked, weird gingerbread - way too sweet, too much candi sugar, molasses - spices, yeasty flavors, kind of acidic - the problems with this beer only become more apparent as it warms, but there is some definite potential that this could improve over time

Mouthfeel: Medium to heavy, sticky, good carbonation

Overall: I don't need to have this again anytime soon

Last year I was unimpressed with 3 French Hens. And this year I am afraid that I have the same reaction to 4 Calling Birds. It's not a bad beer, it's just not exceptional in any way. However, I can see this getting better if the sweetness drops and the other flavors meld together... in like 10 years.

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Photo of rand
3.26/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

From tap to tulip

A: Dark brown in color, opaque, virtually no head or lacing.

S: Raisin, cherry, non-descript ripe fruit. Alcohol swarms, warms.

T: Cherry phenols up front, the raisin is somewhat lost. Touch of holiday spice, lots of alcohol warming. Flavor profile is fairly simple, finishes how it starts - cherry-sweet with bitter phenols and an alcohol bite.

M: Medium-to-heavy bodied, relavitively light complexion for the 11%.

4 Calling Birds is highly drinkable for the style, but unremarkable. Nothing is off-putting but I expected something
more layered and interesting. Other than the phenolic bitters mellowing, I don't see how this will get better with age, we'll see.

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Photo of ppoitras
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

750ml bottle received via Growling at the Moon from jmarsh123. Thanks Jeremy!

Poured into a DFH snifter with a 1 1/4" orangey tan head, over the opaque dark brown brew.Dense head collapses like a crappy souffle, with a thick coating of froth coating the sides. Aroma is tons of spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, almost like Christmas in a bottle.

Taste starts with a pumpkin sweetness, spice overload in the middle, which cruises through the close where alcohol comes on strong. Mouthfeel is smooth but also jaggedy from the alcohol, and drinkability is eh. Maybe it'll grow on me.

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Photo of Murrhey
3.28/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had on location. 5 oz in a tulip glass. Reviewed from notes.

A- Transparent dark brown color with watery legs on the lacing. Good carbonation throughout though.

S- Wine notes. Some light coffee and vanilla.

T- Wine and brandy sort of flavors. Has vanilla and coffee that hide the booziness.

M- Heavier, syrupy texture and a bitter linger. No real carbonation in feel.

O- Nice, boozy winter beer. I like it, but might not splurge again.

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Photo of bum732
3.3/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

S: Dark fruits, raisins and brandy, some all-spice and gingerbread, raisin bread, cinnamon.

L: Very dark brown, tan head that dissipates to a ring of foam.

T: Christmas spices up front with some dark fruit. Second phase of cola-like sweetness with some brown sugar. Finishes semi-dry with some cinnamon and ginger. Some roast as it warms. Spicing a little out of balance to the malt.

M: Alcohol fairly well hidden, slightly warming. Medium bodied, a little light for the style. Medium-light carbonation.

A little too spicy, dries and lightens the beer too much. I think i prefer the previous years version to this.

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Photo of mentor
3.3/5  rDev -13.2%
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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Photo of Reagan1984
3.3/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

My Gosh, the aroma is so thick and spicy. Screams gingerbread and also some burning rubber. The rubber aroma continues to come forward as it warms. Some thick sweetness as well with brown sugar taking the lead. Some cherry and/or stone fruit aroma as well.

Chocolate, black cherry for a moment, then spicy gingerbread smacks you. Just beyond that you get the flavor version of the burnt rubber I described above. In this form it’s slightly medicinal. Tons of spice here. I get some additional herbal flavors that didn’t present themselves to me in the aroma. At this point, I can’t decide if I like this or not. Leaning towards a negative as I continue to work through my glass.

A touch powdery on my tongue. Smoothens out after this initial feeling. Fairly bold body here, but not quite sticky. Close though.

In the end, I am not a fan here. While there is a lot of complexity, I would rather call it confusing at this point. Not sure the elements work together. Given that this was made to age for 8 years, there is hope it will come together. We’ll see. For now, not a great beer.

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