4 Hands Brewing Co.

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English Sweet / Milk Stout
Ranked #7
Ranked #251
4.46 | pDev: 7.4%
4 Hands Brewing Co.
Missouri, United States
Notes: Imperial Milk Stout aged in bourbon barrels with whole Madagascar vanilla beans. Madagascar is full-bodied with strong notes of vanilla, marshmallow, chocolate, and coffee.
Reviews: 118 | Ratings: 919 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of maxpower
4/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear dark reddish-brown, small light tan head that doesn't last long, not much lacing either, aroma of dark chocolate. Medium bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Smokey coffee, Vanilla and chocolate flavors, finishes a bit sweet, damn good!

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Photo of Pinz412
4.33/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Look - Pours a jet black color with absolutely no head on a rather aggressive pour. Small bubbles of carbonation meander to the surface, but don't collect.
Smell - In order of intensity: bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, roast.
Taste - The bourbon is very forward in this beer. While sweet, it is not cloyingly so. Intense vanilla is present throughout. More subtle notes lean towards chocolate and roast with maybe a touch of marshmallow(as indicated in the description).
Feel - Madagascar is rather thin, but nicely carbonated. It's slick and smooth going down, but doesn't really compare to the body of many other BBA stouts.
Overall - This was a delicious BBA stout that did not lack in the promised vanilla. The bourbon barrel took center stage to accompany that sweet vanilla flavor, but was balanced by some deeper notes of chocolate and roasted barley. Nice to check this classic off the list, and I'd happily have another.

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Pinz412 from Pennsylvania, May 17, 2020
Photo of maximum12
3.85/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the fridge comes a 22 oz. bottle that, I swear, has been ducking in & out of the bottom of the top 250 for years. Split with my wife as we begin to ration our stash.

Quarantine diary day six: the chosen beer is dark, which is confusing, since it’s titled a milk stout. Nice nose: vanilla, roasted malt, bourbon, chocolate, perhaps in that order, perhaps in another.

Madagascar must have been soaked with chocolate beans as well as vanilla beans. Chocolate ascending with a moderate shot of vanilla, followed mid-palate by light roast, a touch of char, wrapped by the promised flecks of marshmallow. No bourbon; disappointing. Creamy, smooth, which makes for a nice drinkability.

Interesting beer: the two primary advertised components are missing & secondary, but the chocolate covers for them. Very good beer that would rise in esteem if there were evident bourbon. Now, where is my last roll of TP…

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maximum12 from Minnesota, Mar 22, 2020
Photo of matts2896
4.2/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Wonderful vanilla character: spring flowers, milky sweetness, sauteed figs, pie crust. Unfortunately, however, the big vanilla presence up-front suggest a more decadent, roasty base than this beer ultimately provides. Smell and vanilla character are top-notch, but feel/body and base malt flavor leave a little bit to be desired.

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matts2896 from Connecticut, Mar 06, 2020
Photo of wmscottsimpsonjr
4.59/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Black with one finger tan head. It lives up to its commercial description, with a strong toasted marshmallow accompanying the dark chocolate, coffee, vanilla, wood, and burnt sugar. Just a hint of bourbon. Fantastic. Not too sweet for the style, with a luciously thick mouthfeel.

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Photo of MikeWard
4.35/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle into a goblet. "19" is stamped on the label, so will assume this year's release.

Pours brownish black with a small dark tan head which fizzes out quite quickly. Carbonation bubbles can be seen popping on the surface, but no lacing.

Molasses, coffee, and dried fruit on the nose. Also, oddly, a little winey

Upon tasting, this beer is a tightrope walk between warmth and sweetness. There is a lot going on here. Vanilla comes through well, with light chocolate and coffee notes. Good pleasing warmth from the barrel aging and the abv. Some dried fruit and molasses. Seems stronger than the 9.3abv, but it's smooth, not harsh. Very drinkable, so best be careful here.

Mouth between medium and full, but as usual with milk stouts, seems thinner. Finish a sweet dried fruit treacly warmth spreading through the chest.

Overall, a really well made bba vanilla milk stout. Smooth, warm, and goes down (too) easy.

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MikeWard from Pennsylvania, Nov 03, 2019
Photo of russpowell
4.41/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 2 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked this up in Jenks, OK; thrilled to find it...

Pour an effervescent ebony with a thumb+ of caramel colored head. Visciuos, zero head retention & lacing

S: Dark fruit, woody notes, cola scent, subtle booze notes, caramel & vanilla late

T: Vanilla, marshmallow, coffee, chicory, cola & dryness up front. Dark fruit,faint dark chocolate, a little more vanilla, & woody dryness as this warms along with Dark Rum. Finishes a little dry, figgy, with vanilla & cola

MF: Medium body, subtle carbonation, warming

Sublime BA Stout, drinks great for the ABV, thrilled I finally stumbled into one

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russpowell from Arkansas, Oct 20, 2019
Photo of colts9016
4.47/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A barrel-aged milk stout is piqued my interest. The beer is 50 degrees and served in a tulip glass. The beer produced a one-finger dark brown head. The beer's head was airy and creamy. The retention on the head was feeble. The color of the beer is SRM 36 a deep brown nearly black. The clarity of the beer is opaque. The head dissipated to a ring around the glass.

The aromas of the beer are molasses, caramel, toffee, dark roasted malts, medium roasted coffee, milk chocolate, cinnamon, earthy, anise, nutty, milk, bourbon, vanilla, oranges, oak, oats, and bready.

The flavors in the beer are molasses, caramel, toffee, dark roasted malts, milk chocolate, cinnamon, earthy, oranges, anise, nutty, bourbon, vanilla, oak, bready, oats, raisins, and dark stone fruit like cherries.

The mouthfeel of the beer is creamy and chewy.

The body of the beer is full, low carbonation, and full finish.

This beer is awesome. The barrel comes through in perfect harmony. The balance in the beer is incredible. The beer is super tasty. I wish I had another bottle.

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Photo of GuyFawkes
4/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled January 2017; drank 2/4/17 @ Golgi Apparatus.

Black/brown appearance.

Minimal dark tan head; no lace.

Vanilla, milk chocolate, cream & faint bourbon heat notes in the nose.

Smooth, medium thick mouthfeel.

Vanilla & milk chocolate flavors up front; cream & mild bourbon heat notes on the finish.

A bit too boozy for me to truly love, but a fine vanilla-forward treat.

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GuyFawkes from Illinois, May 06, 2019
Photo of cbutova
4.49/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.75

A- Pitch black as the Night King's soul pour with a tan-brown cap. The head has a creamy and foamy texture and peaks at about 2 fingers high with good retention. A ring at the edges leaves a few webs of lace.

S- The beer's name is 100% appropriate as vanilla beans really pop off in the aroma but don't overshadow the great stout beneath and it comes off as high quality and authentic. Luscious vanilla bean leads into dark chocolate, fudge, milk chocolate, licorice, burnt barley, coffee, marshmallow and suggestions of a moderate sweetness. The bourbon barrel melds with the vanilla here but some spicy whiskey hints here and there.

T- Gains some traction in terms of balance compared to the aroma as the underlying grain bill and the barrel gain strength in comparison to the huge vanilla beans. The beer is fairly sweet but nowhere near cloying and again balanced overall. Fresh vanilla bean, brownies, dark chocolate, toasted marshmallow, espresso and roast barley lead into caramel, spicy bourbon whiskey, booze, raisin, toast, toffee, fig and slight licorice hints. Complex and balanced despite having a ton of vanilla flavor radiating throughout.

MF- Medium-heavy bodied straying toward the former. Definitely on the thinner side for a stout with a ton of rich dessert-like flavors but steady enough to support them. The texture is creamy and silky and it ends fairly warm for the ABV.

If you like vanilla beans you should go out and find this beer ASAP. This beer captures a massive amount of vanilla bean flavor while still showcasing great roast grains and a bourbon barrel underneath. A wonderful compliment to the battle for Winterfell.

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cbutova from Massachusetts, Apr 29, 2019
Photo of Holderness
4.36/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

L -- 1,000 lumens passed through the glass reveals a very dark brown body with total clarity. Scant half finger of mocha colored head produced with moderate pour. Minimal retention or lacing
S -- Vanilla, milk chocolate, boozy bourbon, oak, toffee, fruity coffee
T -- Largely follows the nose, although not really getting any coffee. The vanilla is definitely front and center here, and it works quite well. Bourbon barrel character becomes more apparent the more you drink and discern.
F -- Medium+ mouthfeel, medium- carb. A little limp around the edges and the carb is a hair on the prickly side, but nothing much to complain about here
O -- If you like vanilla, check this one out. Unlike most BBA stouts, this should be served at near-fridge temp as opposed to near-room temp.


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Holderness from Massachusetts, Apr 23, 2019
Photo of Sandis
4.15/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Tasted from a KBBS teku on 4-7-19. The booze in the aroma was stronger than the booze in the taste. The vanilla flavor was nicely prevalent. Medium carbonation. I think with a bit more bourbon heat this would be even better.

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Sandis from Minnesota, Apr 09, 2019
Photo of jheimbigner
4.19/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Let this guy warm up.
L - pours black with a one finger tan head that leaves minimal lacing around the circumference of the glass. Decent legs.
S - sweet vanilla, bourbon, milk, dark chocolate. Secondary aromas if berries, and molasses, and mild ethenol.
T - very well blended vanilla that does not overpower the slight bourbon, chocolate, or milk. In a world of sweet stouts, this stands out as a lactose stout that is nuanced and the adjunct does not take over the base beer.
F - I think the weakest part of this beer. It is over carbonated that leads to a thin BA stout.
O - this stands out as a well blended stout that show cases the vanilla

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jheimbigner from Washington, Mar 22, 2019
Photo of Livyatan1996
4.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

man oh man have i been wanting to try this one. finally grabbed a bomber of the most recent batch, poured into a tulip a dark, dark liquid with a brown little ring of a head that is now just a slim bit of bubbles on the edge. the first sniff of this i know there's something special. bourbon, vanilla, chocolate and toffee all blend together beautifully. just the right amount of sweetness, absolute heaven. flavor is more subdued, with vanilla powering in over a chocolate milk base, with a swig of bourbon making its way in from time to time. sweet but never overwhelming, making it smooth enough to drink as fast as you want. its full bodied but thin at the same time, drinks not too much different from the rest of their stouts. but the overall experience here is something to be cherished. happy i've enjoyed this one finally

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Livyatan1996 from Missouri, Feb 17, 2019
Photo of Frus77
4.1/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Finally got to try this. Good amount of vanilla in this, with hints of chocolate. My old complaint with it is that the body is a bit weird. I think maybe because it's a milk stout instead of a RIS? Also, there's quite a bit more carbonation than I normally like.

Also, I think maybe the lactose in this is
throwing me off and giving me a weird kind of aftertaste. Although, it seems characteristic of 4 Hands stouts. I guess it doesn't help that all their stouts are milk stouts.

That being said, it's still really good and not overly sweet. Glad I got to pick it up

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Frus77 from Illinois, Dec 10, 2018
Photo of Roguer
4.59/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Absolutely beautiful right from the pour. A solid finger of dark brown foam sits atop an inviting, ebony black brew. Head retention is very good for the style.

Very sweet on the nose, with bourbon, vanilla, and cream really dominating from the outset. Deeper inspection yields brown sugar, oak, molasses, and chocolate. Very smooth aroma; not the slightest bit overpowering or intimidating - likely owing to the relatively low ABV for a BBA imperial stout (sub-10%).

Flavor follows, with tons of vanilla nearly overwhelming a creamy, smooth roasted malt base which itself yields tones of chocolate, coffee, and toffee. Bourbon right on the front edge manages to get its foot in the door before the vanilla rudely shoves it away - I love vanilla, so I don't see a problem there! The bourbon occasionally makes recurrences, with notes of sweet mash, and to a lesser extent, coconut and oak.

Very smooth on the palate. No heat; slick but with a reasonable amount of liveliness. Long, wet finish, with a bit of lasting barrel influence.

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Roguer from Georgia, Oct 13, 2018
Photo of JLK7299
5/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I should start by admitting that I am a vanilla junkie. There is a perfect amount of vanilla flavor In this and it perfectly balances the bourbon barrel flavor from dominating. Great job!

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JLK7299 from North Carolina, Sep 01, 2018
Photo of Seeker_11
3.75/5  rDev -15.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This beer was a let down. I went to the brewery in Missouri and was so excited for the "copius" amounts of Vanilla. The flavor did not come through. This beer should not be on the top 500 let alone 200

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Seeker_11 from Indiana, May 21, 2018
Photo of thebeers
4.07/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a very dark chestnut brown with two-and-a-half fingers of mocha-colored head. Sheets of lacing.

Delicious aroma of cocoa, brownie batter, vanilla, leather, toffee and bourbon in the nose. Really great.

Lighter tasting than the nose suggests. Chocolate, vanilla and milk are the most prominent, with a little nuttiness, leather, tobacco and earthy hops behind to balance out any sweetness. Slight alcohol behind.

Appropriate feel for a the style, but, IMO, it's thin against all these flavors. Also a bit sticky, with modest carbonation.

A little more heft in the body and barrel heat would make it better, to my taste, but this still has a really nice balance of flavors -- especially in the aroma. As a milk stout, it's excellent.

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thebeers from Pennsylvania, May 14, 2018
Photo of Furlinator
4.15/5  rDev -7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Vintage 2018
Heavy booze aroma with vanilla accents. Bourbon is less prominent in the flavor with milk chocolate, toasted malt and vanilla taking charge. Thick texture and low carbonation.

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Furlinator from California, May 12, 2018
Photo of Huhzubendah
4.21/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Opaque, near black body, with a frothy, cola-like beige head that dissipates with a hiss. Vanilla scents leap out, followed by lovely milk chocolate notes. Lactose and vanilla extract are prominent. Sweet, with a thinner than expected body. A delicious dessert kind of beer.

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Huhzubendah from District of Columbia, Apr 13, 2018
Photo of Damian
4.61/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Drank from a 1 pint, 6 fl oz bottle purchased at Craft Beer Cellar, Belmont, MA

Review #1525

Dark brown/black appearance. The inky looking liquid was topped by a two-finger tall, super tight and frothy, tan colored crown that fell to a small collar. A few thin streaks of lacing stuck along the glass.

The aroma contained notes of vanilla but came across as a bit strange and artificial initially. There was a dry, powdery, almost plastic-y quality. As the head dropped, the vanilla really came forth, but it seemed more akin to artificial vanilla extract than high quality vanilla beans. Some brown sugar sweetness was also apparent. Subtle roasted malt notes. Touch of boozy, bourbon vanilla as well. As the beer warmed, the vanilla really intensified and seemed to transform into something reminiscent of high quality vanilla extract. More brown sugar. Bit of semisweet chocolate too. Amazing.

The flavor profile mimicked the nose pretty closely. The beer tasted a bit artificial and plastic-y initially but improved notably as it opened up. Strong roasted malt notes on the front end. Somewhat milky. Loads of punchy vanilla extract. A nice brown sugar-like sweetness was also apparent. Bourbon vanilla notes appeared mid-palate. Strong semisweet chocolate presence as well. The booziness increased slightly as the liquid moved along the palate. More vanilla, brown sugar and bourbon on the finish.

Outstanding mouthfeel. Super fluffy and smooth. Medium bodied for the style. The liquid contained a fine, zippy effervescence that frothed up really nicely on the palate. By the beer’s end, the liquid left a slightly sticky film on my lips.

Madagascar is one of the most vanilla-forward beers I have ever tried, and one of the most impressive of this style. Unlike most vanilla-infused stouts, which are often sweet and boozy, this was surprising balanced. If you own a bottle, be patient with this beer and give it some time to warm because it gets remarkably better as it opens up.

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Damian from Massachusetts, Apr 07, 2018
Photo of Harrison8
4/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with an eggshell thin layer of khaki fizz. Aroma is strong vanilla, with bourbon, char, and roasted and toasted malts. It smells like a vanilla Coca-Cola. Flavor profile is vanilla bean, milk chocolate, bourbon, char, and roasted and toasted malts. Bourbon is certainly present, but is balanced well enough to keep from being boozy. Really, the bourbon just adds a little extra character and depth in an otherwise thin flavor profile. All total, it tastes like Vanilla Coca-Cola, with emphasis on the vanilla. Mouth feel is thin, fizzy and harsh - it drinks like a soda pop, albeit a little smoother. Fortunate note here is that it thickens up just a bit as the beer warms, but it is still barely scraping "medium-thin". Overall, it's thin and harsh, which isn't good for any beer especially a stout. Vanilla notes are strong and refrain from coming across as artificial, which is a plus, but beyond that isn't much.

Served in a 12oz snifter from a 22oz bottle.

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Harrison8 from Missouri, Mar 25, 2018
Photo of StealYourFaceStout
4.43/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Wow. This is what I've always wanted in a vanilla stout. Aroma has tons of vanilla, some bourbon, roasted malt, caramel, chocolate. Smells like vanilla extract. Very nice. Taste follows with lots of vanilla, roasted malts, brown sugar, a little chocolate and just the right amount of barrel presence. Impressive how much they nailed the vanilla in this one.

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Photo of kevanb
4.08/5  rDev -8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

650ml bottle, undated but assumed to be fresh from the 2018 release, poured into a 12oz wine glass.

The beer pours a deep jet black color, thick and viscous with a finger of caramel head, moderate retention that yields some wet lace. The aroma is pleasant, lots of vanilla bean and marshmallow fluff, dark chocolate, fusel alcohol and underlying bourbon character with some nice charred wood, roasted grain and stone fruits. The flavors are very nice, lots of vanilla bean, marshmallow fluff, smooth bourbon, dark chocolate, roasted grain, charred wood, lingering alcohol heat and smooth stone fruits with a bit of caramel and brown sugar. The mouthfeel is very good, thick and viscous, coating with a heavy body and a soft but warm finish.

Verdict: A nice barrel aged adjunct stout from 4 Hands. The vanilla is nicely integrated, not overly cloying and the beer offers some nice depth to balance things out.

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kevanb from Illinois, Feb 24, 2018
Madagascar from 4 Hands Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 98 out of 100 with 919 ratings