4 Hands Brewing Co.

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Stout - Sweet / Milk
Ranked #7
Ranked #273
4.45 | pDev: 7.42%
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: 121 | Ratings: 928 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by Fahmie25:
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Fahmie25 from New York

4.03/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Apr 01, 2016
More User Reviews:
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drmcleod10 from Missouri

4.71/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Was really excited to get to try this new batch. Bought several bottles of this and boy am I glad that I did.

22oz bottle poured into a Jester King Teku

A - Shiny black color, minimal white/tan foam head, minimal to media lacing, good ring retention

S - Huge vanilla nose upfront followed by milky chocolate and hints of coffee and bourbon on the back end. Really decadent vanilla and chocolate though

T - Taste follows the nose here, huge amount of vanilla chocolate and coffee up front, highly drinkable with a touch of bourbon on the back end. The 9+% makes this relatively easy to drink and crushable. Vanilla is definitely the dominating taste here.

M - Mouthfeel is actually pretty full, smooth creamy light mouthfeel that drinks smooth

O - 4 Hands hit a homer with this beer. Really nailed what a vanilla stout can be, there aren't too many vanilla BA stouts out there that go toe to toe with this one, looking at you 2010 BCBVS. Cant wait to do a side by side with this and 2014 Vanilla Rye

Dec 31, 2014
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Smakawhat from Maryland

4.83/5  rDev +8.5%
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.

Feb 05, 2016
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Kurmaraja from California

4.43/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The comparison to Vanilla Rye is inevitable but I think a bit misguided. We're talking about a 9.3% milk stout versus an almost 14% imperial stout. Cue up the comments of "Madagascar is too thin" ... absurd considering the impressively creamy, almost marshmallowy body, close to perfect for the style. And, again, comments "needs more bourbon" ... when the bourbon marries perfectly with the beer and serves to highlight the incredible vanilla flavor rather than overwhelming it, which would turn this into a souped up version of vanilla extract.

If there is one "critique" I have it's that the base beer does get a touch lost under the vanilla. But, then, perhaps it's just married so closely that the two become indistinguishable. The purest expression of real vanilla I've come across in a beer. I'd love to see them amp up the base a bit to an imperial version and give it the same treatment.

(B1 review; subsequent batches haven't quite impressed me as much.)

Feb 21, 2015
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LambicPentameter from Nebraska

4.06/5  rDev -8.8%
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.

Jun 09, 2016
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OompaMentor from Georgia

4.49/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle poured; very little head and carbonation. Subtle hint of bourbon, no hint of vanilla. First sip - vanilla and chocolate pronounced on front followed by coffee and bourbon on back. As it warms, the vanilla notes begin to release. Silky smooth on palate.

Feb 10, 2018
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Sabtos from Ohio

3.51/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Stark black with a vibrant mocha foam that fizzles out to a thin ring.

Smell is waxy, bourbon soaked wood, roasted walnut, vanilla-sugared strawberry, and sharp, stinging cola, with a hint of maple emerging as it warms.

Vanilla drenched brownie flavor comes out up front, but is quickly cut by peppery and sharp bourbon that, when paired with the sweetness, translates to a very distinct Vanilla Coke flavor, with a maply finish.

Feel is thin and crisply carbonated with a sticky, semi-dry finish.

Okay, this really does taste like Vanilla Coke. I should know, I spent my entire high school job drinking them left and right. I thought maybe letting it warm would improve it, but ultimately it's way too sweet.


I had a 2019 bottle, and it was actually even less enjoyable than the above experience. The vanilla was floral, but there was a toasted brown sugar and unpleasant PEEPS character to it that was a little acrid and even burnt tasting. I was never really a huge fan of Madagascar by 4 Hands, but now instead of simply not recommending it, I recommend against it.

Sep 06, 2017
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StoutSnob40 from California

2.8/5  rDev -37.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I've had hundreds of barrel-aged stouts, and it's probably my favorite style.. But this was definitely off in some way. There is no way they intended for this to taste like an old, boozy Jack and Coke. It had no richness, and no depth of flavor. If was sharp, boozy and really bad to smell and drink. I'm going to go out on a limb and say my bottle was off. I'd definitely try it again, because over 700 ratings at an average of 4.45 can't be totally wrong, but my bottle was screwed.

Sep 02, 2017
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LloydDobler from Indiana

2.67/5  rDev -40%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.75

2015 vintage bottle

Tart cherry on the nose as well as the taste. I had a velvet merkin that tasted the same a couple years ago. Same cola type head that dissipated very splotchily. Just bad for the style, but if you were expecting this in a beer it would be ok. This was an all time want for me so it was a HUGE letdown.

Oct 01, 2017
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roger617 from Indiana

4.53/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Batch 2 bomber poured into a BCBS snifter.

A: Pours a rich black color with over a finger of khaki head that reduces slowly and leaves a thin collar. Lacing is minimal. Viscosity seems right no par at just below 10%.

S: I get vanilla up front as the most dominant. Bourbon next, with just a slight bit of coffee. The chocolate gets lost in the mix. I'm a huge vanilla anything fan, so I really enjoy the aroma of this beer.

T: Vanilla up front which drives a very sweet flavor, with the bourbon coming in right at the end to leave a semi sweet and semi dry after flavor. Again, coffee and chocolate are more afterthoughts. As the glass warms I pick up a bit more chocolate notes, but not it is still a complementary flavor to the vanilla.

M: So creamy. Carbs is low, which lends to just how creamy this beer is. Slightly dry on the end, attributed to bourbon. Yet enough sweetness that the dryness is very mellow.

O: Granted not a lot of Milk Stouts are barrel aged, this is easily the best Milk Stout I've had to date. The vanilla and bourbon additions are very welcomed, I only wish that the coffee made it through more - a possible sign of not having fresh. I love this beer, and love even more that a fairly unknown brewery can nail a style like that and redefine what a Milk Stout can be.

Mar 12, 2015
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StonedTrippin from Colorado

4.5/5  rDev +1.1%
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!

Jun 23, 2016
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RobinLee from Wisconsin

4.34/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Jan 31, 2016
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BWCampbell from Ohio

4.7/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Near perfect - could benefit from maybe another month in the barrel.

Jan 01, 2015
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Pound from Illinois

4.58/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dec 03, 2015
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penguinBOMB from Ohio

4.45/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dec 25, 2017
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Lochnessmonster from Florida

4.69/5  rDev +5.4%
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%.

Jul 02, 2016
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kyleryan from Missouri

4.46/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Nov 02, 2015
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chippo33 from Vermont

4.16/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Mar 23, 2015
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Getalegup from Texas

4.5/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This is batch 2 done at the end of 2014. Not retired! Vanilla Rye wins a head to head vs Madagascar but this is very very good. Not enough bourbon and kind of thinner than I expected. Lots of sweet vanilla smell and flavor. This would be fantastic if bourbon barrel aged for a longer time to give it more barrel flavor.

Feb 17, 2015
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beefbucket from Missouri

4.74/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Sep 15, 2016
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TheBeerTruck from Michigan

4.54/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Oct 16, 2016
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mwbbq from Texas

4.52/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Sep 15, 2017
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Burgh1328 from Arizona

4.64/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Jul 01, 2016
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Lamnic from Connecticut

4.54/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mar 23, 2015
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Biff_Tannen from Missouri

5/5  rDev +12.4%

Mar 03, 2014
Madagascar from 4 Hands Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 98 out of 100 with 928 ratings