Madagascar | 4 Hands Brewing Co.

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Brewed by:
4 Hands Brewing Co.
Missouri, United States

Style: Milk / Sweet Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 9.30%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
This Imperial Milk Stout was aged in bourbon barrels with whole vanilla beans. Madagascar pours a dark black with notes of bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla.

Added by ThePorterSorter on 02-15-2014

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Reviews: 67 | Ratings: 626
Photo of fireazzi
4.35/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Not a super dark look on the pour. The vanilla comes off very strong but not overpowering. Not to thick on the pour. Light chocolate aroma coming through as well.

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Photo of rodmanfor3
4.48/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I think that this beer is unfairly pitted again Vanilla Rye and Fundamental Observation, which is where it draws its criticisms. On its own, this is a very good barrel aged vanilla stout, perhaps the finest use of vanilla flavor in a beer that I have had (even above more hyped beers.) There are some nice chocolate and sweet vanilla notes with a mild touch of bourbon from the barrels.

The viscosity of this beer is the only reason why it is not a more sought after release.

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Photo of wulfie85
4.22/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Really great vanilla flavor, but the mouth feel was not where I wanted it to be. Compared to some of the other BA vanilla stouts it was thin, but it is also lower ABV so it was to be expected. Still delicious vanilla flavor

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Photo of danh53
4.04/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown, almost black. Nose is chocolate fudge, booze, licorice, subtle vanilla bean, and banana. I get more from the taste. Waves of chocolate including dark chocolate, coffee roast, cola, and more vanilla. Subtle oak dryness and not too many bourbon notes. Fruit shows up as it warms. I get dark fruit, but also some berries and spiced apple. Mouth feel is smooth and full. Need to let this warm up. It's good, but it's not a top 250 beer.

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Photo of ragnar3
4.49/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap - huge vanilla notes in this one in addition to nicely integrated barrel notes. Rich with a smooth mouthfeel that compliments the vanilla well. Highly impressed with this one!

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Photo of Lochnessmonster
4.69/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

I can still smell it now...super rich vanilla flavors (I'd be really disappointed if there weren't), but they lingered longer than probably any other beer I've ever had. A tiny bit thin, but that's a minor complaint. And the barrel was pretty subdued, making this extremely easy to drink for being almost 10%.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

yeah, this is about as good as anyone has done one of these vanilla bourbon huge stouts. its so much more vibrant on the vanilla, less boozy on the whiskey, and not anywhere near as sweet as a lot of them, despite intentionally being a sweeter stout, it has balance and resolve, and i loved every drop of it. not quite black on the pour, but a very dark almost inky looking brown, shiny and viscous, with red wine legs on the edges of the glass and a short mocha colored head. it has an intense vanilla aroma, fresh beans, like sliced and scraped pods, almost like it was added to an already finished beer, its first for sure. the oak and bourbon come next, really complimenting that vanilla aspect, but adding a little corny sweetness, toasted wood, caramel, and nutty properties to this. the roast of the malt brings coffee elements, bakers chocolate with bitterness, and finally back to the fresh vanilla, its pungent and intense and amazing. the even cooler thing as that this evolution of flavors is exactly the same in the flavor as it is in the nose, driven mostly by vanilla, intense, but oddly balanced. the wood is strong, the whiskey is flavorful without being hot, and there is a great low end here with coffee notes and balancing bitter roast and char. its also not too strong, sometimes these work their way up into the 12% abv and above range, and in my opinion thats just too much most of the time. smooth in feel, very little carbonation but none is needed. its nice to slow this down not speed it up. let in linger. an amazing complexion of flavors, huge vanilla, absolutely incredible beer. when do the bottles come out??? id love to acquire one for the cellar and share this with my friends here. tip top!

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Photo of LambicPentameter
4.06/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Enjoyed out of a 22 oz bomber from Batch 3 (2016) and reviewed from notes after drinking it on 5/4/2016. Poured into an oversized brandy snifter.

Appearance (4.0) - A pitch black body topped by a fleeting half finger head that disappears almost immediately. Just pinstripe-thin ringlet of tan suds around the edge of the glass and a single dollop of film in the middle of the surface of the liquid. No lacing or legs to speak of.

Smell (4.25) - Pretty nice aroma wafting out of the glass, with the sweetness of lactose and vanilla beans hitting my nose first, followed by some bittersweet chocolate and light bourbon caramel sweetness shortly thereafter. As it warms, the vanilla and bourbon become a little more prevalent, creating a nice sweet aroma with a pinch of astringent booze on the finish.

Taste (4.0) - I have to admit, I'm a little underwhelmed here. I know this bottle is now about four months old, but it's just not as decadent or rich as I was hoping/expecting. The flavors are all there--vanilla, chocolate, bourbon, light bitterness--but in the end it's just a good barrel-aged stout with vanilla bean. On the taste, the vanilla isn't quite as dominant as it was in the aroma, which allows the base milk stout to come through a little more, and gives the barrel-aging a little more leeway as well. Slight alcohol astringency on the finish, but overall, the taste is sweet.

Mouthfeel (4.0) - Medium body, although it seems light to my palate, given the style of beer. Carbonation is moderate to light. I think the body may be where my issues with this beer are rooted.

Overall (4.0), it is a very good beer, but I can't help but feel that it fell short of what I was looking for. I'll fully admit that my disappointment may come from chasing this beer for a year before finally happening upon a bottle in a pretty easy trade, but there are simply other vanilla bean imperial stouts (and no, I'm not talking about VR) or even porters that I'd take ahead of this one. I can think of about three off the top of my head. That said, I do want to reiterate that this is far from a bad beer. It's actually quite delicious and if someone offered me a pour or bottle in the future, or I randomly came across it on tap, I'd drink my fill and enjoy it immensely.

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Photo of stortore
4.53/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 ounce bottle into a snifter.

Pours very dark and opaque, thick looking, with a short head and minimal lacing. Wow. This smells incredible. Cocoa, vanilla, malt, light bourbon- more as it warms, chocolate. Smells like malted milk balls. Taste follows the nose with the cocoa and vanilla, more chocolate than the nose, malt, light bourbon, a little oak. Pretty much tastes like malted milk balls. Smooth, creamy, great body, well carbonated.

This is one to look for. The vanilla is outstanding, the rest of the flavors are intense and well blended. The bourbon was subtle in this bottle, but it still had a positive impact. Price point was reasonable for the quality. Will definitely buy this again.

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Photo of Kramerbarthomer
4.28/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Nice vanilla and barrel notes here. But the body is so damn thin for what I was expecting. Definitely a great beer, but i'm not sure I'd put it into the world class vanilla stout category...

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Photo of Stevem68
3.7/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours a dark chocolate color. Aroma is terrible, it's baby diapers with a touch of vanilla. Flavor is vanilla with some roasted malts. Drinks very smooth. Overall this is disappointing, it has nice points but it's aroma is bad and flavor doesn't match the description.

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Photo of YodersBeerEmporium
4.5/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Madagascar Batch 1 - A very nice BA Stout! A little vanilla may have faded but was still present as were the barrel notes. Overall a wonderful beer that lived up to the hype for me!

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Photo of Mar02x
4.52/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

What in incredible smell. If you know Madagascar Vanilla then you know this is real. Amazing. Unfortunately I am missing bourbon. I could have been aged a while longer to pick up some more barrel tones.

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Photo of tywhite
4.25/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This is one of those beers that you'd buy 3-4 of each year if it were a shelfie at your grocery store, not a world-class stout. A tad thin (really not bad in that department), very oily, and wound up tasting more like cream soda than a stout. Enjoyable, but not worth seeking out.

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Photo of yankeepride
3.96/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Really disappointed in this, given the hype. Got big vanilla on the nose, and it was very smooth to drink, but the barrel was very faint and it didn't have a lot of pop to it. Did I enjoy drinking it? Yes, but considering what it takes to get one second-hand, it'll likely be the last time I do. This was batch 2, so maybe it's gotten too mellow since then?

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Photo of Treyliff
4.44/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours a deep black color with a bit of light creeping in on the edge, small foamy white head that leaves a few patches of lace behind

S- charred malt up front brings aromas of chocolate, followed by burnt marshmallow, vanilla bean & sugar cookies. Barrel notes are subtle but give aromas of bourbon, vanilla & toasted oak. Slightly smoky close with milk sugar sweetness

T- marshmallow and vanilla open up followed by dark chocolate and vanilla whipping cream and milk sugars. Light barrel character gives hint of bourbon and toasted oak in the mid-palate, along with a trace of coconut. Finishes with more marshmallow and chocolate with a sweet linger

M- medium body and low carbonation leads to a slightly foamy mouthfeel that continues to the finish

O- the sweetness of the base milk stout compliments the vanilla addition very well, with the barrel character balancing the sweetness. One of the best milk stouts that I've had to date.

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Photo of Gambyt20
4.87/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

No doubt bourbon and vanilla on the nose and taste. Great balance. So smooth. Vanilla is the dominant flavor. Great beer and sipper! Had on tap, now must find a bottle.

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Photo of W_Des
4.28/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours black from the bottle. Has a lot of vanilla in the nose but it seems to be one dimensional lacking barrel characteristics. The body is again full of vanilla with very subtle bourbon and oak. A bit unbalanced in my opinion. The feel is great though with a light silky mouth feel. Underwhelmed from the hype.

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Photo of Hootie159
4.76/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

From bottle. Pours an oily black. Good retention on head. Holy Madagascar vanilla bean. What a smell. Bourbon shines as it warms. This is fantastic. Vanilla bourbon excellence. Like a fancy dessert. Make this an ice cream. Good level of carbonation but this is straight velvet. Wow. This is an incredible beer. Unlike most milk stouts it's sweet but not overly so. Bourbon reins it back and the quality vanilla likewise provides a great flavor rather than an extracty sweetness.

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Photo of costanzo_mike
4.71/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a dark oily black with a light brown foamy head that dissipates quickly, some lingering on top. Smell is fresh vanilla and some bourbon. Taste is chocolate, bourbon, vanilla in that order. Medium mouthfeel with some sticky vanilla feel to it. Whoa, loved this one

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Photo of Fireman_RK
4.77/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Deviating from my normal review notes because I was so captivated by @smakawhat's review - this awesome BA captured the essence of everything I thought. Batch 3 is a decadent treat and infinitely complex with its depth of vanilla, bourbon, cocoa, and marshmallow flavors. It feels lame mailing in a review like this, but I read that review and found myself agreeing with every sentence - 4 Hands should pay royalties for tasting notes!

For what it's worth, I thoroughly enjoyed this beer. Too many bourbon barrel-aged stouts get overpowered by a jarring alcohol taste and this batch of Madagascar deftly avoids that and presents a refined and nuanced flavor profile that keenly plays on a rich milk stout complemented by robust chocolate and vanilla notes. A phenomenal brew for sure.

TL;DR: This is a glorious bourbon-soaked s'more replete with milk chocolate and sweet marshmallow flavors. Do everything in your power to get a bottle!

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Photo of pbgnar
4.95/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Very sweet on the nose. Tons of vanilla

Taste is full of vanilla and sugar but is perfectly balanced by bourbon flavors. Vanilla and bourbon combine in perfect harmony

Full bodied but could be a bit thicker

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Photo of smakawhat
4.83/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass. Vintage 2015.

Deep walnut brown body with a hint of clarity around the edges. Small basic tan head, with little retention and can't quite make a finger. Settles to a creamy but even bubbles collar, and a little bit of lacing.

Aroma is quite impressive. Huge thick chocolate notes, and Duncan Hines cake batter. There's a hint of coffee roast in here, a bit of char as well as the roast character really pipes out just a little bit as well. Extremely impressive nose, with a bit of powder cocoa mixing in as well. Like a warm inviting bakers chocolate cake even with the matching icing, and a small cup of coffee. Very impressive.

One word. Wow. Where do I start? For a brew that seems to be fairly straightforward this is incredibly diverse on the palate. Thick rich and balanced, the light bodied quality opens up tremendously on first sip. Coffee light acid then a thick mixing cake like milk chocolate and vanilla sweetness fills the palate. Blasting char roast on the finish, and even in the mid palate as well, with some great amounts of dry roast porter like tones, and coffee bean grinds. Nice wonderful toned lactose sweetness with cream and vanilla complimenting perfectly, each of these roast, dry, sweet, and chocolate notes are just all paired together wonderfully. Aftertaste takes more of the sweetness away perfectly, almost cigar breath and coffee like quality. Oaky whiskey notes really seem to have just sat in the dust and given all their power to the other elements in sweetness and vanilla. There's no booze on this whatsoever either.

This doesn't even taste like a milk stout, and it's absolutely flooring. Drinks so incredibly easily, a great creation.

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Photo of eifster82
4.63/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

On draft, into snifter.

Dark (but not pitch black) appearance, no foam head. Just a nice ring around the edge as you drink. Load of vanilla smell. Very vanilla forward and loads of marshmallow beat up the palate with a smooth ending. Bourbon note is there but not overpowering. The taste and feel is really dominated by vanilla. Overall a great stout, and one of the better vanilla ones out there. Would happily drink again, if I could ever find it.

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Photo of RAlmeida77
4.58/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: Not the darkest stout....was able to see through the pour.
S: Heavenly...vanilla, vanilla, and more vanilla. Some nice bourbon notes as well.
T: Huge vanilla with subtle bourbon notes. Delicious beer.
M: Super smooth. Very drinkable. Med mouthfeel with med carbonation.
O: Finally, a beer that lives up to the amount of vanilla I want! Not as much as VR but this still has a lot of vanilla. Excellent beer!

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Madagascar from 4 Hands Brewing Co.
4.47 out of 5 based on 626 ratings.
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