El Cuatro
The Ale Apothecary

El CuatroEl Cuatro
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American Wild Ale
Ranked #230
Ranked #2,211
4.24 | pDev: 9.2%
The Ale Apothecary
Oregon, United States
El CuatroEl Cuatro
Notes: EL CUATRO is made of barley and caramel malts co-mingling with lactobacillus and brettanomyces. After brewing and conditioning, the beer is transferred into brandy & whiskey barrels to age for over a year during an extended Brettanomyces Lambicus fermentation. Prior to bottling, the beer is blended with a small portion of year-old SAHALIE. The only hops added to this beer arrive from the aged SAHALIE. 
The brandy barrels and wild yeast fermentation give EL CUATRO a plum & cherry fruitiness balanced by the slight toast of the malt body.

ABV varies by batch:

5/2/2015 = 8.79%
Reviews: 22 | Ratings: 132 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of StonedTrippin
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

definitely a one of a kind strong ale here, open fermented and very wild tasting to me, aged in both pinot noir and then brandy barrels, its crazy complex and refined, and although its quite sour, it has a ton of layers to it, especially as i let it warm up in the glass. like all the beers these guys make, its stupidly expensive, but again, we get what we pay for with this one, and the process intensive nature and use of cool local ingredients seems to justify it. one thing about this beer, and a lot of their stuff really, is that the bottle conditioning with the honey is so on point. they end up dry but with just the lightest essence of the honey at the end, and so fizzy and lively, it makes it seems almost impossible for this to be as strong as it is, i love the high carbonation with the fuller body on these, its really an important detail, and it makes the beer for me. that was also true with their sahalie. the sourness is high here, and i do think it interferes a little bit with the flavor depth, like it cuts itself off at times, but the brandy is obvious in here still with some cool rich and regal sweetness in the middle, real nice with the heavier grain base. some fruitiness from the pinot noir as well, but its subtle in comparison, blackberry and cherry maybe, but well behind the brandy and oak for me. it could be a little less acidic to pick up more nuance from the grain, but even still this isnt hurting for complexity. really cool wild yeast profile to it. it sounds like maybe some of the barrels have changed from batch to batch on this, but i like this current combination a lot. fun to get to drink a few of these beers side by side, they have always been so cost prohibitive. tasty and unique!

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Photo of REVZEB
4.28/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A very nuanced beer with layers of dry wine and grain, wet, sour and tart fruit, and a constant but subtle funk with hints of pine. The fruits of cherry, plum, melon, elderberry, and apple, really are beautifully incorporated into the rest of the beer. Sneaky sweet with a kiss of honey too. Nice barrel character through out the taste and feel

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Photo of jvillefan
4.5/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Amazing beer. A little more sour then farmhouse. Some sweetness from the barrels. The flavors mix perfectly. There is a touch of heat in the back end of it. A must have.

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Photo of MonkeyBread
4.21/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Sour cherry, green apple, red grape skins and white plums supported by a sweet brandy character. The whiskey sits in the background. Finish is tannic and biting sour. Quite an experience and glad to have tried it. Worth almost $50 per bottle? No but I can't think of a beer that fits that bill.

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Photo of Zythophile
4.52/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottle Date: 8/11/16
Palate Contaminants: none

The look is an opaque, dark amber. Lots of head for a not-so-vigorous pour.

The smell is really pungent, super rich. It's mostly fruit and funk, with a tinge of soap. Floral honey, too. The fruit scent is actually an amalgam of a few. Sweet pit fruits like apricots and nectarines, then dried fruit like raisins. It's a little lactic, too, after everything else has mostly volatilized.

The taste has a lot more of the lactic slant, and it's mostly butter, although it could fairly be called soft cheese. It's sneaky sweet. The dairy and funk lead the way, and it never tastes super sweet, but it hangs around like a tawny port. Apricots and nectarines are there, but I'll call them under-ripened. One of the richer wild/sour brews I've had. Alcohol is well hidden for a tenner.

Lots of pillowy carbonation, at least it's not coarse. Aftertaste is in line with everything else: a bagel with apricot jam and cream cheese.

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Photo of MalarkeyMcGee
4.42/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

L: Somewhat of a muddy brown, but a fascinating one. I would say this is a weaker point of this beer but it barely matters. Good lacing. Not much retaining head.

S: Wonderful dark fruit. Hint of booze from the brandy. Tons of funk.

T: So many layers of flavor. It's really something to savor. Dark fruit, leather, tons of brett and souring elements.

F: Just ever so slightly thin and heavily carbonated. It goes down very very easily for a 9.19%.

O: Really really solid. Reminiscent of Supplication, but with a stronger wine/brandy character. Loved it.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a light copper color with a fizzy head. Good clarity, head dissipates quickly. Aroma of tangy farmhouse funk, lemon, apple cider vinegar and sour fruit. The taste had oak, cherry, lemon and stale funk. Light hop notes, waves of sour and funky flavor, some tannins too. Full bodied, smooth drinking wild ale. It is quite a treat. Wild ale, aged in barrels picking up all kinds of flavors. This is a nice beer from an obscure brewer.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

750ml, foiled and corked bottle, shared courtesy of doktorzee at his (ok, sour-only, essentially) tasting party a few days ago. From surprisingly thorough notes - uno, dos, tres, cuatro!

This beer pours a glassy, medium bronzed amber colour, with two fingers of puffy, finely foamy, and yet fizzy tan head, which leaves a bit of peninsular outcrop lace in places around the glass as things very slowly dissolve away.

It smells of acrid red apple core, further tart apple vinegar, some cherry-forward Pinot barrel notes, slightly separate generic vinous and spirituous Brandy essences, a hard to really give a shit about gritty and grainy mixed malty thing, subtle peppercorn spices, a touch of indistinct funkiness, and verdant hops that might have seen better days. The taste is lightly sour cherry, apple, and red wine grape fruitiness, a muddled bag of wooden stave characters (vanilla and spice, really), sneaky bready caramel malt, more thankfully ethereal earthy spiciness, subtle lactic beasties, a weird and almost medicinal chalkiness, and some still strangely understated leafy, weedy, and not even perfumed floral green hoppiness.

The bubbles are typically supportive in their genial frothiness, the body a solid middleweight, and mostly smooth, the sourness really only of the fruity sort, and I am totally freaking ok with that! It finishes trending dry, but still rather frooty, the mixed orchard character really still running the show here.

Overall, this is certainly another crazy and wild and 'what the hell were they thinking' brew, but in the end, it somehow just works out. As is patently obvious, I am not a fan of this style of beer, for myriad reasons, but every once in a while, the stars align, and I can see what all the bloody fuss is about. Sort of - the stupidly well-obfuscated 20 proof booziness here might have something to do with that.

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Photo of DefenCorps
4.32/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Thanks! I finally get to try something from these guys.

A clear ruddy brown with a beige head that falls off to a ring rapidly. The nose is pretty excellent. Plenty of fruit, complex sweetness, barrel character and funk, this has great structure and balance. Plums and cherries, pomace and brandy, a little vanilla, some coconut, a dark caramel and some buckwheat honey. On the palate, this is remarkably well-integrated with a wonderful blend of barrel and funk. Bright and fruity cherries and plums, rich and vinous with big red wine notes to go with brandy and with vanilla from the bourbon and with a mildly sweet but fairly deep malt backbone, this is impressive. Rich, layered and well-structured, this beer has a mild funk, rather earthy and mildly mushroom like with some woody notes. Mildly sweet on the finish, this full bodied beer has a blend of honey, barrel and funk that lingers on into the finish. Impressive stuff, I'd like to revisit this at some point.

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Photo of Pauken
5/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Batch: 4/7/16

I know it may be slightly shallow of me to go with a 5 rating across the board, but I'm no stranger to sours or farmhouse ales.

This beer is one of the best sours I've had. Hands down. Right up there with a few of my favorite Side Project brews. The batch I had was not overwhelmingly sour which is fine with me. Absolutely a perfect balance between the brandy barrel, pinot barrel, oak, sour and funk. Everything worked so well in a delicious harmony. Yes this is pricy but what "whale" sours aren't? If the price bothers you then your probably not that interested in great sour beers. It's the same price as the other whales. Did this back to back with Cascade Manhattan NW and while that was fantastic as well (and more expensive mind you), this won. Good beers to do a back to back with as they're similar in style. The Cascade funk/sour took over a little too much. This beer was perfect.

Also, to back up what others have said about Ale Apothecary every batch does seem to be distinctly different. My tag on the bottle says brandy barrels for 1 year and pinot barrels for 6 months which differs from the description here slightly.

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Photo of MLDucky
4.49/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Very interesting beer. Pour was much darker than I expected. Smell was tartness, dark fruit and a bit of vinegar. Taste was very very unique, plum, fig, a bit of sweetness and sourness, a slight vinegar taste, but I felt it was balanced with the barrel nicely. I had a Beatification the night before that was much more vinegary without anything to balance it. I quite enjoyed the tartness and sourness of this.

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Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Thanks to Bill for sharing this one!

Poured a hazy darker orange tone, ample foam that was loosely textured and sudsy. Spotty lace in the glass. Soft aroma of musty oak, Brett yeast, and acidic apple. Taste was similar, not over the top sour, more of a moderate tartness and mild fruity funk. Dry tannic aftertaste, some apple based malic acid impressions. Light to medium bodied with ample carbonation. Overall this was a nice cohesive wild ale, a touch mellow.

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Photo of Lucnifter
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

One of the most unique beers I have ever tried. So incredibly complex and all over the place in a good way. Carmel and brandy, wood and mushrooms, lactic yet sweet. All in all, delicious.

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Photo of draheim
3.85/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

750mL (bottled 5/2/2015) into a tulip. Pours a clear amber w/ a thin off-white head.

Aroma is a blend of sweet and sour, with the sour aspect just shy of vinegary. Reminiscent to me of a Flanders oud bruin.

Taste is tart and crisp. Sweet caramel and pale crackery malt. Slightly vinous. Dry oak. Green apples. Lactic sourness lingers on the palate, along with a touch of crushed aspirin. Again, I'd say this is more Flanders oud bruin than saison.

Mouthfeel is balanced, crisp, semi-dry finish.

Overall, I have to say this isn't as good as I hoped it would be, especially considering the price. Comparable to some beers I've had from Cascade or Almanac. I'm probably rating it a little tougher just because of the cost of a bottle (more than $30), but I think that has to be a factor when reviewing these more expensive beers.

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Photo of MitchB2
4.7/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Went to Bend to mtb and drink liquid perfection during the central oregon beer fest.

AA had a tasting night at Crows Feet Commons.

We had the free samples of La Tache and Sahali.

They also had El Cuatro for sale.

$6 for a sample.

What the hell, we're on vacation.

I sipped the El Cuatro. The first thing that popped into my brain was:
"This is the best beer I have ever had"

I said nothing.

I slid it over to my GF.

She sipped it.

She said, with no hesitation whatsover, "This is the best beer I have ever had".

Enough said.

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Photo of Kurmaraja
4.31/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Batch 1: boozier, spicier, heavy brandy notes.

Batch 2: more restrained, a fruity sweetness, more integrated in terms of barrels blended, but a bit too much nail polish remover.

Something to note here that's critical for all reviews of Ale Apothecary is that batch and batch date are INCREDIBLY important. Where most brewers are going to strive for consistency batch to batch within a beer "name", Ale Apothecary uses the "names" as more ideas ... identities that change and express themselves differently in each iteration.

For example, some batches of Sahalie are aged in different barrels, hopped differently. Some batches of La Tache are dry-hopped and aged in pinot barrels; some aren't. Some batches of El Cuatro are in Brandy barrels only, some in Brandy and Pinot. Furthermore, they transform quite a bit in bottle over time (and are probably not really ready to drink for at least 3 months after bottling date).

With that said, all reviews / ratings are either a rating of a particular batch at a moment in time or an aggregate rating based on multiple experiences with different batches over time.

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Photo of HuskyinPDX
4.3/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle opened on 10.29.13
Batch: MAR 23 2013
11.12 ABV

A - Pours a hazy medium orange with a fizzy and foamy off-white head with great retention.

S - Funky, then sweet fruit, peach, apricot, wine grapes.

T - Like the nose, but much more subtle and soft.

D - Tons of carbonation with a light and soft body.

O - Smells great, tast is subtle and soft. Greet beer. I wish I had more!

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Photo of Rutager
3.81/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Big huge thank you to Steasy66 for scoring this one for me while in Oregon.

Appearance. Pours a hazy orange-gold with a finger of bubbly white head that quickly settles to a skim.

Smell. Sweet red apples, fresh oak and light funky yeast, yellow grapes, and some light citrus and floral notes.

Taste. Sweet white grapes, oaky white wine and brandy, some citrus fruit and red apples. Fairly sweet and quite fruity with a dry finish.

Mouthfeel. Medium body, strong but soft carbonation.

Overall. A very nice nice beer but probably my least fav of the 4 AA beers I've tried.

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Photo of Sarlacc83
3.93/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

750mL from Corvallis. WARNING: This one may blow up on you. My bottle was more than happy to gush over.

A: Darkened orange with a fluffy, lasting white head. Some yeast floating around in this one, which is probably a result of the turbulent opening.

N:Well integrated funk and ample white wine grape, oak, lemon zest. Getting some of the brandy with a nice sweet overture. This smells very inviting.

T: Slightly soured, very oaky, and quite sweet. This has a lot of interplay between those elements with some nice cherry and wine grape to add some fruitiness/citrus. Slightly earthy.

M: Medium bodied/slightly full with a round mouthfeel.

O: Overall a really nice addition to Ale Apothecary’s lineup. While not quite as strong as the regular Sahalie I’ve had, this is still worth seeking out. Though it does have a scary high ABV so be warned.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.41/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle shared by Todd.

A - White foam settles to wisps, a thin collar, and specks of lace. Hazy dark golden body. Could use more foam for the style, but not too bad considering the high ABV.

S - You can definitely smell the brandy. Quite boozy, with spicy oak, and funky brett. Gets a bit rough as it approaches room temperature; barrel seems to have overwhelmed the base beer here.

T - The taste is also quite sweet in a brandy sort of way. Less oak, thought there's a light vinous tartness. Again, brett presents in a funky, musty sort of way, but otherwise the base beer doesn't seem to contribute much depth.

M - Surprisingly high, harsh carbonation, medium body, soft texture, and a bit of alcohol warmth to it.

D - The base beer didn't really stand up to the brandy barrel, and as a result there's a lack of depth here. Unlike the other Ale Apothecary offerings the alcohol also makes an appearance. Definitely my least favorite offering from this brewery, although it's still palatable in small quantities.

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Photo of ccrida
3.65/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Batch Mar 23 2013 bottle poured into Bier Stein snifter, El Cuatro is hazy burnt gold with slow spritzy bubbles forming a medium bubbled head leaving foamy lace.

Smell is boozy, sweet. Green apple. In line with what I expected, good, quiet, in-spite of the strength, no burn.

Taste is fruity, the wine and brandy are pretty evident, calvados. There's an acridness to it that I don't love, earthy, like wood / stem - not the same as vanilla and coconut notes from barrel, which I don't get, maybe a *touch* of coconut.

Mouthfeel is dry, medium bodied, a little oily.

Drinkability is OK. It's a strong beer, but the alcohol character has lots of depth, and is clean. The biggest problem is that acrid, woody taste, almost like eating peanut shells or something. Overall, disappointed enough that I will think carefully before dropping another $25 on one of their beers. Digging the smell, but taste is king.

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.9/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

750 mL bottle poured into a snifter. Bottled March 23, 2013.

Appearance - Slight haze to the orange body. Nice white head, with discrete bubbles. Settles to a collar and a few wisps.

Smell - Fascinating aroma. Pale malt. Sweetness. A bit of oak. Some acids. Fruity apples and grape.

Taste - Apply acids. Like a granny Smith. Sweet pale malts. Oak and light bitterness. Some yeasty esters. A hint of that brandy in the back. Booze lingers.

Mouthfeel - Heavy and a bottle sweet. Well carbonated.

Overall - Always a fascinating beer from Ale Apothecary. No exception here. The Brandy barrel keeps this interesting,.even if it's subtle.

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El Cuatro from The Ale Apothecary
Beer rating: 94 out of 100 with 132 ratings