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 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 stephenjmoore
3.7/5  rDev -2.6%

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 -7.9%
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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Photo of superspak
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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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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 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 alexgash
3.9/5  rDev +2.6%
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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Photo of Etan
3.59/5  rDev -5.5%
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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Photo of johnnnniee
3.52/5  rDev -7.4%
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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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 Huhzubendah
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
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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Photo of yamar68
3.52/5  rDev -7.4%
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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Photo of ThickNStout
3.34/5  rDev -12.1%
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 -0.5%
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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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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Photo of dirtylou
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
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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Photo of tdm168
4/5  rDev +5.3%
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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Photo of dbrauneis
4/5  rDev +5.3%
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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Photo of largadeer
3.65/5  rDev -3.9%
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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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 brewdude1982
3.98/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was a 750 ml poured into a snifter.

It pours a dark brown with a tan head and tiny bubbles. Good carbonation. Decent lacing. It smells sweet with a figs or cantaloupe. It tastes malty which immediately dissapates into sweet and then finally into some of the spices. It has medium body. I would recommend to anyone into darker belgiums.

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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 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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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 jsanford
3.87/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very dark mahogany with a dense ivory head that settles to a thin haze with a thick ring and soapy lacing. Nice aromas of dark fruit, Belgian yeast, raisins, red wine, and French oak barrels. Taste is really close to the nose, more dark Belgian flavors backed up by a sizeable amount of oak and red wine. Surprised by the wine character, but it's certainly pleasant. Mouthfeel is fairly slick, with a medium-full body and lowish carbonation. Solid addition to the Christmas beer line-up, but nothing too crazy.

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