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 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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Photo of draheim
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750mL into a tulip. Pours a deep cola brown w/ a thick oily head that settles like root beer foam.

Aroma is fruity, malty, spicy with an oaky tartness in the background.

Taste is rich and dense. Gingerbread spice, sweet dark malt, fermented fruit, oak, molasses, brown sugar, and warm booze.

Mouthfeel is thick and chewy, sticky.

Overall a dense, complex holiday brew.

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Photo of russwbeck
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyed directly after having it on-tap at the Rusitco Festivus event.

Less head than the tap version, still no lacing. The aroma is a bit more balanced. Sweeter, less spicy. The taste follows the smell in being more balanced. The cask makes this a lot better, my guess is the barrel aged version would actually be pretty good as the barrel effects seem to curb the sub-par taste of the beer. The body is heavier, with less carbonation. Something I would expect from a cask offering. I enjoyed it a lot more this way, which surprised me. Still a bit disappointed overall.

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Photo of liamt07
4.02/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bottle shared by Pino, 750ml into some tulips.

Pours almost black with a purplish tinge. Tan head, light retention and some good lace. Nose is fairly typical of a dark Belgian ale, along with some nutmeg, cinnamon (gingerbread-y as the label suggests). Loads of aromas that remind me of Christmas. Taste has some dark fruits, more nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon and Christmas cookies. Good mouthfeel, filling. Minimal alcohol. A very nice beer.

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Photo of peensteen
4.09/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle from ladyofmuchbeer

Deep brown colour, ring of off white head, some lace. Smell is spicy with liquorice or more specifically nibs candy, gingerbread and nutmeg, some darker fruit and touches of yeast, a fairly big malt presence is there as well, very much a christmas beer. Taste is also quite spicy, gingerbread and big dark malts, cinnamon, nutmeg, belgian yeastiness mid palate, fruit and liquorice finish and aftertaste. Lightly carbonated, full body, good feel. Nice spicy belgian here, not over the top but super well done, alcohol nowhere to be found in this on either.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Teresa's, Wayne, PA

Served in a tulip glass, a dark brown color, nearly opaque, with a small ringlet of bubbles for a head. Aroma isn't quite full, but there were still definite notes of coffee, chocolate, molasses, and light spice. Taste follows the nose, coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, molasses and burnt sugar, Jager-like licorice essence, lighter hints of spicy gingerbread and fruitcake. Medium body, fairly chewy, a bit artificial and candyish all over. Not bad, but not really something I'd go out of the way for. Aka, a typical Bruery beer.

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Photo of VncentLIFE
3.79/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A bit beyond its prime, but oh well. The first thing I notice is that initially it smells like Great Lakes Christmas Ale. Lots of ginger and cinnamon upfront, but I get strong notes of dry woody oak as well. For a winter-type beer, I want sweet and spice, but its just not enough. I get a good bit of Belgian yeast, but that doesnt help it out. Theyve got the foundation for what should be a fantastic beer, but they need more oomph. it gets better as it warms; becomes more sweet and palatable.

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Photo of Pahn
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

750ml bottle into Duvel tulip.

Appearance: Free pour yields a 1 inch light tan, frothy, Guinness-like head that dissipates slowly and without lacing. Pours a solid black and leaves a few short lived lacing streaks.

Smell: From the bottle: A-1 Steak Sauce. In the glass: cocoa, some wintery spices. Estery BSDA aromas and creamy coffee as undertones. Some prune-y dark fruit comes out with time. Wasn't too impressed at first, but comes together really well, complex and balanced.

Taste: BSDA flavors up front (sort of dark fruity, sweet Special B flavors), with spicy highlights. Finishes hot, with a long coffee and chocolaty roasted malt aftertaste.

Spices get more pronounced in the next few sips. In some ways this is good, but it seems to be emphasizing the more phenolic elements of the flavor, unwelcomely. Spices also seem to tease out a caramel and molasses flavor up front that I really like, though.

There's a lot of good happening here, but I think the spice blend is holding it back from greatness. Roasted malt is a bit harsh too... everything happening in the flavor is brasher than the aroma, and not for the better. A few steps over the "too boozy" line as well. Still, some nice, unique flavors and decent complexity.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, a little on the full side. Very creamy. Mild carbonation. Hot.

Overall: If 3 French Hens was a small step down from the greatness of 2 Turtle Doves (for me it was), 4 Calling Birds is several steps below both of them. Each one is less balanced than the previous.

This is an above average BSDA (I wouldn't expect less from the Bruery), but it's not what it could be, and not great. I think even the exact same recipe minus the spices would be a better beer.

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Photo of BostonHops
4.18/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle served in a snifter.

pours a deep, dark mahogany tone while yielding a good finger of tan head. nose is heavily malty and quite spice-laden. notes of ginger, cinnamon, and maybe allspice. a touch of chocolate in the background. nothing otherworldly but definitely compels me toward a sip.

more of the same follow in the flavor. again, very malt-forward with the aforementioned spices all in attendance. really pretty tasty. a bit hot but considering the 11% ABV not too bad. medium-full bodied mouthfeel with average carbonation.

overall, i was pleasantly surprised. probably the best i've head in the series (did not try PiaPT). the perfect beer to nurse on a cold Christmas night... going to put some age on my second bottle.

(originally reviewed: 11-30-2011)

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Photo of rudzud
3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Split this bottle with JLindros. Reviewed from notes

A - Pours a dark brownish hue with a mocha head that leaves a thick, creamy halo.

S - Aromas of winter and Christmas spices here, similar to a winter warmer. Light caramel malt sweetness.

T - Alcohol, burnt sugars, winter warmer spices. Ginger, cloves, nutmeg...ehhh. Nothing special.

M - Boozy, nice carbonation but waaaay too sweet for my liking.

O - Overall this one was nothing to write home about. Slightly above average belgian strong dark ale.

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Photo of beerthulhu
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: A two finger butter-scotch head has a bready cake like texture with a good stay of retention. A murky English red pour appears coal black in the vessel. Light carbonation beads rise and fuel the head which leaves a respectable half coating of lace.

S: Mixture of black and chocolate licorice on the nose. Fennel, dark fruit, oats with some ginger and caraway spicing.

T: The flavor holds sweet dark malts and dark fruit with licorice, figs and a smooth dark roasted barley and oats backing. Sweet creamer and vanilla highlights has some dark buttery caramel sweetness and a silty bitterness with a hint of ginger alcohol spicing. A touch of fruity yeastiness, plums rounds things out.

M: silty smooth, warming with an alcohol spiciness with dark fruit lining the tongue with a dark malt bitterness being left behind.

O: Overall a really nice flavor, smooth, complex, very polished and cleanly brewed with a dark fruit and spicy nature and glow of alcohol that hits it just right.

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