The Twelve Days of Christmas series continues! So far, each year’s beer has been a strong, dark ale. In the initial years of the series, the brewers worked some ingredient(s) into the recipe that suited the verse—last year, it had French hen feathers in it. Just kidding… it featured French oak, so, there’s your verse lingo tie-in. But we were advised by the brewery last year not to expect future releases to integrate ingredients that have anything to do with the verses—this was never part of The Bruery’s original concept. If it happens, so be it, but they will not be bound by such limitations! That being said, we like creating myths that will fill the internet and beer blogs, so this year, we’re making the completely unfounded and unsubstantiated claim that the “4” in 4 Calling Birds refers to the use of four spices: nutmeg, allspice, star anise and sweet orange peel. Yes, all four of those are indeed in the beer, but they have nothing to do with the name… or do they? (beer bloggers, run with it!). The beer is a rough combination of two recipe ideas, one a black beer with coffee, chocolate and almonds, and the other a Christmas-spiced Belgian dark strong. Somewhere in that mix, the mad crazies at The Bruery decided to malt bomb the hell outta this one, throwing eight different types of malted barley into the mix (and, for the beer bloggers again: eight is 4 times 2, and the square of 2 is 4, so, it all makes perfect sense!). The beer pours a mocha-brown color with deep red hues around the rim and an inviting tan head which is rather substantial given the sizeable 11% ABV. On the nose, expect notes of gingerbread and mulling spices, especially anise & licorice, as well as some ginger and suggestions of eucalyptus. This beer uses a different yeast than The Bruery’s own house strain, which is one of those magic little strains that helps to cover up alcohol presence in many of their colossal sized brews. But in this one, some boozy character along the lines of dark rum and mulled red wine emerge. Look for notes of banana bread, brown sugar and dried figs/dates as the beer temperature rises. On the palate, the massive malt bill dominates, offering notes of bitter chocolate, spices (much the same as the aroma), pumpernickel bread, roasted barley, molasses, burnt caramel and marzipan. We also got some oaky characteristics, which were unexpected because there's no wood used in this beer, but seems to be a conspiring of the spices and yeast. Overall, the beer is exceptionally smooth, rich and warming, with a slight tannic/astringent character from the spices and a tingle of anise in the finish. Another lovely Brue to complement the series. This bottle-conditioned beer will dry out as it ages, so check in on it anywhere from 6-months to 8 years out when all verses have been sung. But be careful—a vertical tasting of such big beers is certain to render you horizontal if you don’t divvy up the bounty.