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 SHODriver
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep brown, almost black with a half inch of tan head that recedes quickly
S: Smells of dark fruits, some spice, molasses, some alcohol and kind of woody
T: Dark malt flavors, some plumb as well, a little spice. fruit and spice on the swallow with warming alcohol on the way down
M: The Bruery has mouthfeel figured out pretty well and this beer is no exception. Full bodied and adequate carbonation
O: A solid belgian strong dark. Not the best ever but still pretty good.

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

750mL bottle poured into a tulip.

(A)- Pours a very dark brown; almost black color. Produced a nice tan head. Some lace.

(S)- A rich body of a brown ale with cinnamon, spice, gingerbread, sweet potatoes, and subtle cocoa. Very festive.

(T)- Very similar to the smell. A rich, but festive profile full of roasted malts, spice, gingerbread, and cinnamon. Finishes with a smooth underlying sweetness.

(M)- A good carbonation level and balance to it. Smooth, but rich and malty.

(D)- Overall, a solid christmas ale. Better than some of the others in this lineup so far. Though, I do not see how this well get any better with time, let alone last 8 more years for the full "Vertical."

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

Sampled December 2011
A steady pour into my large Tripel Karmeliet tulip that got a little more aggressive b/c it seemed nothing was happening all of a sudden produces a dense, initially three-finger thick, pale brown to amber tinged dark tan colored head. The nose smells of ginger, molasses, perhaps some cinnamon like spiciness (though this is likely more of the ginger than actual cinnamon), turbinado sugar, lots of caramelized spice cookie like notes and perhaps a hint of woodiness towards the finish.

Sweet molasses flavor temper notes of ginger, lots of toasted / caramelized sweet bread-like notes and a dark and a concentrated fruitiness that smells like molasses soaked raisins. The finish has a touch of licorish, a nice ginger bite, but really there is still a lot of rich, chewy, caramelized sugar notes. General, subtler notes of allspice, woody almost oak, hints of cedar and perhaps a touch of myrrh add to the complexity, underneath the, at times, aggressive sweetness. This is most definitely a sipping beer, thick, rich, almost cloying, most certainly viscous, but also fairly thick (though thankfully not negatively so). While this is fairly sweet, the malt and dark sugar character has enough complexity that there is also a backing savory and toothsome quality to this beer that suggests at a smokiness, perhaps a touch caramel saltiness, some bitter roast malt character, a toasted-whole-grain character

Despite being quite sweet, there is just enough spice and dark malt character to make this beer work; it is definitely a sipping brew, but it hits the spot on a cold, damp, December evening here in Tucson. With all the strength, caramelized sugar and dark malt character this will definitely be a beer that can age for quite some time. There are a lot of things I shouldn’t like about this beer (the candy sweetness being the chief antagonist), but for some reason I can’t help but enjoy this beer. In the end this is sort of like a Christmas dark-sweet bread / cake liquor; definitely evocative of the holiday season & it certainly hits the spot for those with a sweet tooth (without the over the top, gross approaching sweetness of Southern Tier). I can’t help but feel guilty for liking this beer, as I usually prefer beers that aren’t anywhere near cloying, but for some reason the entirety of this beer just works.

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

A: Pours a deep brown, almost black, with about a half finger of puffy beige head. The foam settles slowly, and there is a small bit of lacing as it drinks.

S: This beer smells of brown sugar, molasses, plumbs, raisins, some sort of spice. I want to say it's cinnamon, but I can't pick out the scent directly.

T: This, beer starts out with a touch of sweet raisins. However, the spice is also immediately evident. It sweetens up on the middle with some dark sugary goodness. The finish is back to plumbs and more spice. The spices in this beer linger on the palate for a bit.

M: Medium bodied beer. The flavors don't exactly coat the palate, but some of the aspects of this beer tend to linger for awhile. It's smooth but not exactly creamy.

O: I think this beer is better than some of the reviews have previously mentioned. It's not something I'd want to drink everyday, but I'd grab a bottle from time to time. The only drawback is the the price point on this beer is too high.

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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 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 ChainGangGuy
3.78/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

750ml bottle - $10.49 at Olde Crabapple Bottle Shoppe in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Appearance: Pours out a very dark brown, roasted walnut-toned body with a medium-sized, khaki-colored head.

Smell: Roast and a heavy scent of toasted pumpernickel bread dosed with star anise, burnt almonds, fennel seed, and ground mace. And a further hint like they snuck in a small splash of Jäger. For a second, it makes me think of a bigger, emboldened Anchor OSA at an exorbitant cost.

Taste: Sweetish roasted malts, toasted malts, and with an unforgiving, and good on it dark breadiness all the while. Slight bitterish chocolate. As with the nose, it's got me thinking of that perennial favorite, Anchor Christmas ale, just decidedly bigger and with a noticed Belgian kick to it. Rich blend of spice character pairing with some slight dark fruits and larger touch of bruised, brown bananas. Picks up some black pepper alongside the heated, belly-warming alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Medium-full body. Medium carbonation. Smooth mouthfeel.

Overall: Pumpergingernana bread! Would prefer a little less heat and a little more carbonation to keep things moving along, but 4CB is fairly decent all around. As it is, it's a beer that has me ready for a looonng winter's nap.

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

Served on-tap in Putnam County, NY.

Appearance is dark brown, a very small head. Its` nose nutmeg, cinnamon, raisin and cloves. 4 CB tastes of some roasted malts, along with more of those winter spices. Mouthfeel is rich, booze certainly hit in the finish. A good strong dark ale, but not placing it in the top section of this category. Curious to see how the bottles of this age.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The Bruery 4 Calling Birds, Dark Ale Brewed With Spices. Alc 11% by Vol.
"The fourth verse of our "Twelve Beers of Christmas" saga incorporates gingerbread-like spice into a a rich and robust dark ale. Happy Holidays!"

wait, there's more! "4 Calling Birds is suitable for aging up to eight years (soon after the release of Twelve Drummers Drumming") when cellared properly…and blah, blah, blah…I'm not waiting 8 years, I'm drinking it now. Eight years. Never done that. Maybe someday. But, not now.

Pours a dark brown, with a bustling tan head that zips down to nada in no time.

Nicely spiced aromatics, some cinnamon, clove, ginger a little. Okay, maybe a lot. With sweet malt, lightly roasted, below. Lovely, lovely stuff.

Tasting it, spice notes rank highest on the palate, ring loudest, and start out hot. Fairly bristling in the mouth, some pepper playing around, clove ginger, etc. Solid malt holds steady below. Mighty malt, thick in the mouth, turning cool and mellow. Mmmm, I'm liking this one better. Seeming one-dimensional and blase at first, it's growing in complexity now. Not quite as rich as an Imperial Stout, but lots of molasses, dark rum, cocoa. Malt and spice mix well, now.

Alcohol is hidden for the time being, but it won't be long before it comes ring-ding-dinging on down. …yep, it's happening. We're down to the last couple ounces, and the clanging chimes of doom are ringing.

Beautiful birds, these, dark and spicy. Very satisfying. Not sure if I could, or would…or anyone should, sit on this for eight years. Go for it, though, guys. Sit on it like hens. Wait, that was the last one, right?

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

Pours dark brown with red highlights. The light brown head is small and bubbly and dissipates rather quickly.

Smell is dark spice bread, molasses, and booze.

Taste is big spice, clove, allspice, brown sugar, roasted malt, and alcohol.

The medium body is bubbly and has an alcoholic burn. Definitely a sipper.

My first Breuery experience, bold and strong, I definitely liked the huge spice flavor. Though there is a big alcohol aspect, it doesn't feel like the 11% that it is...

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.77/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at The Bruery Provisions in Orange, CA.

Pours a clear dark reddish brown with a khaki head that fades to a film on the top of the beer. Small dots of lace slide back down into the remaining beer on the drink down. Smell is of malt, dark fruits, and some spice aromas. Taste is of malt, dark fruits, and the spices with ginger coming out as a main flavor. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a prickly mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer with lots of spices. Nothing too great though.

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Photo of Heatwave33
3.68/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 750ml bottle to my custom Duffy Pint Glass.

Color: Black with a brown head.

Smell: Allspice, Ginger, caramel malts, coffee, sugar and pine.

Taste: Caramel malts, Ginger, allspice, coffee, pine and sugar.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, coarse and dry.

Overall: reminds me a little bit of a Gingerbread cookie. They definitely captured a little bit of Christmas in a bottle. Cheers.

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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 rtaps
3.8/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

pitch black about a half finger khaki head with decent retention leaving spotty lacing around the glass.

ginger bread like aroma. all spice and some dark fruits

the flavor is nice and it does remind me of the holidays. really get all spice with some dark fruits but it leaves a ginger bread like after taste

viscous, mildly creamy, medium bodied and carbonation.

overall it's a nice beer in moderation glad i tried it and glad i had people around to share it with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On tap at The Bruery Tasting Room. Light brown coloured body with generous 3/4" retained head. Dry, average mouthfeel. Astringent and dangerous kick of alcohol not felt by the spice. Smell is like a sour brown Belgian.cola,Licorice, ginger. Sour and spice and nice, a sipper.

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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 ocelot2500
3.73/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep garnet color with a cascading, tight tan head that leaves a ring of lacing.

Smells of molasses and dark fruits. While I don't find it offensive, I do not particularly enjoy molasses.

Tastes of the deep roasted notes with some fruit and spice layered on top. Molasses notes accompanied with chocolate and a bit of acidic coffee come through. The acidity in the coffee blends well into the fruits that come through and complement the figs and raisins quite nicely. Sweetness feels quite restrained and I would like a bit more presence to cut the molasses notes. Ends with light spice notes of cinnamon and clove. Alcohol is only slightly noticeable with a little warming of the palate.

Mouthfeel is full with a creamy amount of carbonation.

Overall, I do find this to be quite enjoyable, but it does not earn a 4 because I feel the molasses is too prominent.

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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 DovaliHops
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brownish-black color that has a hint of ruby-red when held up to the light. Large, creamy tan head that takes some time to go down. Scent is heavy with figs and other dark fruits. Hints of gingerbread and other spices. Some cinnamon. I'm digging the aroma on this. Taste is very winter-ish. Immediately my tongue is attacked by winter spices and roasted malt flavors. Much more roasted than I was expecting. Nutty, spicy, and rich. A bit of booze as well. Mouthfeel is full-bodied with creamy finish. Drinkability is fairly high for such a big, bold beer. Overall, this is a damn tasty beer for a cold winter night.

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

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

S: Spice, figs, alcohol.

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

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

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

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Photo of Metalmonk
3.96/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Damn this beer looks amazing. Color is the abyss where black and darkest brown fight it out. The head is a foamy, creamy toasty tan color. It doesn't last long, no doubt in part because it's an 11-percenter, but it sure looks good while it's there.

Interesting aroma, a tough one to call. Some generic holiday spicing that defies easy description, it's herbal, a bit minty, kind of candy-like, and doesn't offer much in the way of the big malt presence that surely has to be here (given color and ABV).

While the aroma seems a bit elusive, 4 Calling Birds lays down a decisive flavor. Not a normal one, but a decisive one. There are definitely elements of gingerbread here, as promised on the label, and a wide variety of spices emerge too, including anise, clove, and allspice. Candied fruit and honey are detected in the sweet layer that dominates this beer, but thankfully it just escapes being overly sweet. Definite chocolate vibe throughout. Overall this beer is like a liquid interpretation of the German holiday dessert bread, Lebkuchen.

Luscious in feel. Absolutely luscious. A smooth, velvety, totally fantastic texture that I'd rather sink into and enjoy than try and describe further. It just IS. Oh yeah.

I've liked all the Bruery holiday beers...too much to cellar them for a decade or so, as the series is designed. C'mon, seriously, who's got that kind of time? I'm no believer in Mayan prophecy or other such nonsense, but seriously, it's about the present tense, and this one tastes really good, right now.

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Photo of claspada
3.92/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours out a dark, dark burgundy color with a one inch tan head of bubbly foam. It had nice retention and left thin rings of lace on the glass.

Aromas begin with nutmeg, ginger and a great deal of dried fruits. Throughout there is a strong backbone of toasty, biscuity maltiness.

The tastes begin with a great deal of Belgian estery, yeast flavors.. Clove, nutmeg, and lesser cinnamon. Nice bready malt backbones with a touch of dried fruit flavors. Spicy yeast flavors are quite dominant and really overpower any other complementary flavors. Unfortunately the tastes aren't as nice or blended as the aromas led you to believe. Unbalanced spice from the added additions, plus the normal Belgian yeasty spice become a bit rough on the palate.

The mouthfeel is medium bodied with medium to high carbonation; appropriate for the style. The finish is crisp, yet sharp and smooth.

Overall this is a nice addition to the Days of Christmas series but bu no means my favorite. Spices are a little too dominant at this stage, so cellaring until next year may be a good idea for this beer. done. This series is more of a novelty if you ask me but this beer is another drinkable, tasty offerIng. Nothing revolutIonary here, just a good Belgian style ale from a reliable American brewery who is quite talented at making any and all beer styles in my experience.

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