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 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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Photo of raffy313
3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

750 ml bottle poured into my "The Bruery" tulip(finally got the chance to use it!). Aquired through an awesome IP trade with crusian. Thanks again, Seth! No bottle/best before date, so assuming this is from the last '11 release.

This Belgian Strong pours a dark, dark brown with only a bit of visability coming through, but only when held up to light. A dark tan 2 finger head, which dissapates to a small ring rather quickly and leaves behind little to no lacing.

Aromas are dark fruit(raisin, plum and some fig), with a good amount of clove, almost pumpkin beer-like spiciness. Assuming this is from Belgian yeast. Also some hints of dark roasted malts. Quite abit of complexity coming from the aromas.

Tastes follow the nose almost to a "T", with the spiciness coming through abit more than what I'd prefer. Not overpowering at all, as the other flavor are still present.

Medium body with a very disappointingly low carbonation feel, which obviously take away from the overall drinkability.

This was my first ever Bruery offering and very glad to have had the chance to trying it, but because there are so many other great Belgian strongs available to me... I probably won't be seeking this one out again.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Bruery "4 Calling Birds"
750 ml bottle, capped.
$12.99 @ State Line Liquors, Elkton, MD

If there's a bottling date I can't find it, but let's face it, we know that it's at least eight months old, if not more. It was stored upright, and gently moved, and the first pour was spectacularly clear.

In the nose it's softly chocolatey, a touch fig-like, and gently spicy with notes of ginger, probably cinnamon, and what seems like nutmeg but might not be.

The mouthfeel is creamy, even silky, but also with a gentle bristle of carbonation that comes on with a light bit of energy but then fades readily away.

Not surprisingly, the flavor echoes what the nose has suggested. The malt is a bit more caramelish, and also even slightly fudge-like... ... still there's a bit of actual golden grain flavor to it too. Regarding the fruitiness, there is a little bit of fig, but there's also some raisin as well, both dark and golden. I love that kind of dried-fruit sugariness, and the spices work really well with it.

So here's where the aging comes in. I had this several times on tap when it was first released, and I wouldn't say that it's really changed that much. It's pretty much the same beer, but the spices are slightly softened, and I think the alcohol is even more subdued. I remember it having just a slight bit more zest and zing. And I think that the fruitiness has softened a touch as well, becoming more like dark dried-fruit than it initially was (possibly because an anise-like character has risen a little bit).

So was aging it a bit a success? Yes, I think so... it's certainly not a failure, but at the same time I don't think I would age it any more. On the other hand, you never know what's going to happen (absolute greatness?), but I sense a little hint of oxidation sneaking in and I'm not sure where that might head to with another quarter year or more on it.

Overall I thought it was a remarkable beer. I shared a few bottles with a table of friends during the 2011 holiday season, and (with the exception of the Lagunitas Sucks, which was great as well, but completely different) everyone felt that this was the best seasonal beer we'd tried because it offered all of the spice that a beer like this needs without going too far.

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Photo of brentk56
3.52/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a cola color with a very modest head that quicly becomes a ringlet, leaving very little lacing behind

Smell: Gingerbread soaked in molasses, with undertones of dark fruit and burnt bread

Taste: Molasses flavors dominate the front-end, overwhelming the gingerbread, though the spice cake flavors do emerge by mid-palate; rather sweet, after the swallow, with berry and sweet cherry flavors as well as a hint of banana

Mouthfeel: Medium to full body with moderate carbonation

Overall: Interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying, as the sweet flavor dominance on the finish and the molasses, up front, provide a rather un-balanced character; not really a BSDA - more like an Imperial Winter Warmer

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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 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 craytonic
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: dark brown/mahogany pour with a small head that quickly disappears.

Smell: Molasses, cinnamon, clove, allspice, cardamom. Smells like the holidays.

Taste: Simlar to the head, molasses, gingerbread, clove, allspice, cardamom, brown sugar, cinnamon. Slightly boozy.

Mouthfeel: Heavy but the carbonation is too low.

Overall: Not that impressive, needs more carbonation, less booze, and some part of the flavor is lacking.

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Photo of KAP1356
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle I opened a few days before Christmas to keep up with my Christmas tradition of drinking The Bruery's latest Christmas beer while decorating the tree. Poured into a Delirium Noel snifter...

A - Pours a deep, rich brown color that borders on being just shy of black. A loose, bubbly, foamy, tan colored head forms about .5 fngers thick. It recedes quickly, but there is some lacing.

S - The aroma definitely reminds me of Christmas. Notes of molasses, dark fruits, some cherries and baked gingerbread cookies all come out front. The smell is awfully reminiscent ofAnchor OSA but with the addition of dark fruits and some sweet molasses.

T - The flavor profile has the dark fruits and cherry from the smell. There is also a caramel flavor I attribute to the malts. Hints of chocolate mix well with the molasses and gingerbread that really round this one out. The spices add nicely and make this one pretty enjoyable.

M - Medium bodied beer with about moderate carbonation. As it warms it gets a bit creamier and smoother on the tongue. Slightly sticky after a while from the sweetness of the gingerbread.

O - Pretty nice beer and one of the better of the series so far. REALLY reminds me of Anchor OSA which I liked. Not really sure how this one will hold up for another few years, but I guess we will see!

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Photo of claaark13
3.49/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was pulled from next to the cooler component of the cellar, so I'm guessing it was 50 degrees once opened. Poured into a DFH snifter/tulip.

A - Pours fairly dark brown with a thick, foamy off-white head that keeps better than lacing.

S - Nutmeg and cinnamon. Some bread reluctantly comes through. Seems odd unless you love gingerbread.

T - Much like the aroma. Lots of nutmeg, some cinnamon; basically gingerbread with the finish of a typical quad. There is almost a bite at the end, but not quite.

M - Medium body with a noticeable amount of carbonation.

O - Ok....it is an above average and unique flavor. It reminds me of Great Lakes Christmas Ale. ABV% is well hidden. Spices are in shape. But, I just can't appreciate this one. I can't wait to hear how all of these turn out when everyone does the 12yr vertical (sarcasm). Bruery impresses me, but I just don't see a benefit of aging this.

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Photo of arizcards
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a 750ml bottle from Total Wine on Camelback in late November for $9.99.

Beer poured a brownish black with a pretty nice tan head.

Nose is ginger and molasses.

Taste is pretty much gingerbread cookie with some hints of dark fruits. No signs of alcohol which is surprising given the abv.

Mouthfeel is the best part of this brew, heavy viscosity makes this a fun sipping brew.

Overall this is a well put together brew that is an easy sipper. Definitely a fun one to try!

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Photo of cvm4
4.02/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A - Pours a liquidy dark brown with a lovely 2 finger tan head. No real lacing to speak of.

S - You definitely notice the ginger bread. Aside from that, molasses, roasted malts and orange peel. Spices abound!

T - Loads of ginger bread cookie upfront with sweet prunes/figs/dates midway followed by a little alcohol burn and orange zest. Roasted malts are present throughout.

M - Medium bodied and velvety... Coats the palette just right.

O - What a ginger bomb of a beer! The malts and dark fruit really balance it out. It's a sipper and needs to be enjoyed slowly.

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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 wvsabbath
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type - 25.4 oz bottle

Appearance - Dark tan/brown, red tint, Creamy thick 2 inch head and some nice lacing.

Smell - Ginger, cherry, dark fruits like plum and prune. Added sugars and molasses. Fruits, malts, yeast, loads of spices.

Taste - Much like the smell, loads of ginger, cherry and spices. Malts are present and add flavors of caramel and nut. Theres even some cocoa, chocolate and slight coffee flavor mixed in. Plenty added suagrs, molasses espically. This is like a fruit cake with a alcohol burn. Yeast adds a little earthy/grainy feel.

Mouthfeel - Malts hit tounge with all the fruitness and coat, numb and work it over big time. Palette gets the cherry/ginger kick along with malts and some heavy booze at the end. Finish is sweet, fruity and dry.

Overall - Big, intense and flavorful beer. The flavors involved are typical winter warmer flavors, mixed in with belgium strong ale malt/yeast/booze. This is really tasty but the large bottle and high booze is a bit much for just me and the real drawback imo. Truly a big beer, great for a split between friends, a holiday occassion or for a change from a typical stout, ipa or such.

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Photo of justintcoons
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter.

A: Pours a deep purplish red that appears black at first glance. Has 2 fingers of khaki colored head that dissipates slowly leaving a foamy topping. Has moderate carbonation and a good layer of tight lacing.

N: Cherry, prune, molasses, dates, gingerbread cookie, black pepper and some faint orange notes.

T: Prune juice, banana bread, some peppery phenols and light notes of orange juice upfront. The middle of the palate is sweet with sugar coated figs/dates, molasses and chocolate. Finishes with cherry, horse blanket, burnt candy sugar, hay, earth, notes of nutmeg and of course gingerbread cookie.

M: Medium bodied, soft, silky, sticky, warming and dry.

O: This is like drinking candied dark fruits with X-mas spicing, most notably ginger. Big, spicy and sugary sweet. Very warming with just a ping of pleasant alcohol fumes. Nice complexity and overall a very good BSDA.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.76/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

750 mL capped bottle

appears almost black, very dark brown. nice 1/2" creamy tan head. great head retention.

tons of gingerbread in the aroma, but it's more subtle in the taste. dark caramely malt pairs with the spices. no booze to hint the 11% abv. body is extremely smooth and creamy. medium thickness.

overall - a good Christmas spiced beer that doesn't over do it.

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Photo of Brenden
3.62/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a viscous, heavy black beer. A tan head almost a finger tall fades somewhat quickly but leaves a steady foam. Lacing is a little light, not quite patchy but almost and in a pretty good quantity.
The nose is lightly spicy, both nutmeg/allspice and lightly peppery, with a heavy molasses note under a big malty foundation.
The taste is heavy, not overly sweet but with a huge cloying molasses. Raisin is evident alongside the molasses and, not to disappoint, a light gingerbread flavor lies underneath. Spices pop up in the finish. The molasses really blankets some of the other flavors and makes it a sipper, also adding a touch of a metallic tint. With that and an accompanying anise note, it's hard to believe this isn't a doppelbock.
This one feels as thick and viscous as it looks. There's only the very faintest crispness, but it flows smoothly. The only thing is that, for how this beer is constructed it should be thick but is extremely heavy.
I like this beer, but it's a gentle sipper and probably needs to be split.

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