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Dark Horse 4 Elf - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dark Horse 4 ElfDark Horse 4 Elf

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
87
very good

191 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 191
Hads: 770
Avg: 3.87
pDev: 23.51%
Wants: 55
Gots: 151 | FT: 8
Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States | website

Style | ABV
Winter Warmer | 8.75% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: granger10 on 11-27-2003

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 191 | Hads: 770
Photo of woodychandler
4.16/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am continuing to eradicate the Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody while alternating with The CANQuest (tm). The forecast snowstorm may be helpful in my being successful in this endeavor!

I Pop!ped the cap on the Bottle & utilized a gentle pour as is my new wont. I am coming to realize that I may have been doing even the freshest of beers a disservice with my heavy-handed pours & inverted Glugs, so I am backing off. If the idea was to raise head, I can accomplish that with a swirl once the beer is in the glass. Having done so, I had a finger of fizzy, foamy, light-tan with low retention. Color was Dark Brown to Very Dark Brown (SRM = > 27, < 34) with NE-quality clarity & ruby highlights. Nose was heavy with cinnamon, but there were other spices in there, also, just none that I could easily discern. It also had a dark bready maltiness so that it smelled like spice cake. Not space cake! That is for later. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, not quite full, but close. It was a thick beer on the tongue, as though a dollop of something had been scooped onto it. The spices were just what I needed on a cold winter's day in January in advance of a creeping snowstorm! It definitely had a warming quality without being overwhelming, or worse, making me feel that it was oversaturated with spices. The prevalent taste was cinnamon, but the hops seemed to impart a cool wintergreen/peppermint flavor, also. The finish was quite dry, as you might imagine, thanks to all of the spices involved. I was really happy with this warming up my winter's day!

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.58/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours chestnut brown with a cream colored almost beige 3 finger head. Light accentuates cranberry hues around the sides of the body.

If there were a festive smelling beer, this is it. Cranberries, holly, nutmeg, pecans, cinnamon, gingerbread, Red Hots, peppermint, hot cocoa...there's no better smelling holiday beer, I guarantee you.

The flavor starts out slightly piney, but quickly develops into banana nut bread, gingerbread with red hots, prune, cinnamon, nutmeg, followed by slight baked brown sugar and molasses. It's just so incredibly festive I can't help but rate it so high.

Buzzing carbonation, alcohol heat, and a dry rubbed finish.

Overall, as a Christmas/Holiday ale, 4 Elf NAILS it. I mean just NAILS it. Nothing better captures the aromas, flavors, and warmth of the holidays. Best holiday beer, and beyond impressed.

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Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.62/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a color somewhere on the fence between deep, dark brown, and pure black. A decent head sits atop as well. The beer is pretty darn dark for a christmas ale, and that is all good in my book.

The aroma is hoppy and spicey with notes of pine, nutmeg, and cloves. Some roasted malts appear in the background the more the beer warms.

The flavor is also big on both cloves and nutmeg, but with a strong malt backbone that really beefs this up compared to other christmas ales. Chai tea is present, as well as some faint hints of ginger.

Mouthfeel is a well carbonated medium bodied beer. Exactly what you'd want this one to be.

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Photo of delta490
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a really deep brown with a little tan head that just won't quit. Leaves spots of lacing. The aroma is like a spice cookie, mostly cardamom. The taste has more going on with the addition of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. The body is lighter, slick and smooth.

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Photo of smcolw
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep mahogany brown. Only the brightest of lights pass through the brew. Modest head which leaves a lattice lace on the glass.

Spicy as if there is black and cayenne pepper in the brew. I detect vanilla and oak as well. Nice complex nose.

Dark malt start with a biting peppery bitterness. The swallow is dry and staying to be bitter. The aftertaste is surprisingly brief considering the biting finish. Neutral body with an elevated carbonation level.

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Photo of biegaman
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Christmas is the time of lights and yet this holiday seasonal is completely black. Well, not quite. 4 Elf does have flashes of clear, twinkling garnet that give it a slightly lighter air than, say, a porter or stout. Nonetheless, it shares most of their visual characteristics including the creamy, brown-tinged head.

That is most certainly the smell of the holidays - holidays, plural, referring to both Christmas and Thanksgiving. This heavily seasoned bouquet has layers of spice - cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, allspice - that cover everything from pumpkin pie right up to tourtière and gingerbread cookies.

Frankly, it's actually a bit much. Google the 'cinnamon challenge' to see reactions to too much spice. Granted, this is nowhere near that bad. The fact remains, however, that this over-stepped chai-like concoction is almost itchy in the throat and leaves a long-lasting, heavily peppery sensation.

What it needs, if you ask me, is a little more body and roast from the malt to help mellow it out. For such a dark beer there's little by way of flavour - no chocolate, coffee, or toasty nuttiness (or perhaps there is but one can't detect it behind all the fiery ginger, fragrant clove and nutmeg, or zesty orange peel notes).

That abundance of spice and the sufficient alcohol (8.7%) makes stashing a few bottles in the cellar for next holiday season an option. I'm unsure the beer would improve over an additional 12 months (again, it's not terribly malty) but it shouldn't have a problem enduring it if you're curious about a vertical tasting.

4 Elf drinks like a pumpkin ale on steroids and resembles some kind of holiday cheer distillate. I found it a little too thin for its over-the-top spice profile but still managed to enjoy it just fine. It won't be at the top of my list to Santa but I'll still be happy if a few bottles find their way into my stocking again next year.

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Photo of martinpfal
3.61/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

Not too bad. Surely not my fav from dark horse but during the season it works. Clove and nutmeg spice do come through and actually surprising to be at 8.75% abv. Too many other good beers this time of year to really pursue this one.

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Photo of Evilyak
3.71/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

not a favorite style of mine, but this was a good representative.

dark brown, thin head.

like the other folks said, there's lots of nutmeg in here. other spice, too, but that's the one that pops out. anise or licorice in there, too.

lightly carbonated. pretty clean mouth.

overall, a decent beer - not one i'd grab again but could work nicely in the right environment.

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Photo of 20holmbrew
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Smells and tastes like Christmas. Lots of spices including cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and nutmeg. High carb with medium mouthfeel. This is my first beer from the brewery, but pretty impressed. I will seek them out again.

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Photo of dar482
3.77/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The beer comes in a rich brown color.

The aroma offers some raisin, licorice spice, toffee, caramel, clove.

The flavor follows with more spice and earthiness. Clove, cinnamon, lots of nutmeg, a brown sugar sweetness onto a earthy bitterness on the finish.

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Photo of WoodBrew
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Dark Horse 4 Elf is quite decent. It poured an opaque black with thin white head that left a spotty lace. The scent was spice and nutmeg. The taste carried clove and spice. The mouthfeel was medium in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this was a decent Xmas beer that was certainly drinkable after the first few sips.....once the pallet was adjusted....good.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

On draft, served in goblet

Dark brown in color, fairly clear, foamy head. Very herbal spicy aroma. Ginger, cinnamon, spice. Heavy on the spice flavor - a bit too much for me. Medium bodied.

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Photo of Hesscabob
4.16/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Really, really love this brew. Fits the example of the style perfectly. HInts of clove/nutmeg in the aroma followed by a porter'esque taste/mouthfeel. Had it with about a year on it. Loved it!

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Photo of mlockman
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A good winter warmer in its own right, but definitely doesn't hold a candle to the others in its class. Be warned however: I had this a few months out-of-season once and it was abysmal; really must be drank fresh.

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Photo of orcrist_cleaver
4.07/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark chestnut, a little muddy. Khaki Head and garland rings of lacing.

S: Toffee, brown sugar and ginger. Light amount of crystal malt and cocoa. Dried figs and raisins.

M: Medium body with medium carb. Very slight warmth. Would want to let this sit a little more.

T: Gingerbread cookie with some espresso dusted dark fruit. Slight floral pine and citrus. Roasty, cocoa finish. Tastes like Christmas.

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Photo of 57md
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown with a thin layer of head. The nose is full of Christmas spices. The flavor follows the nose and the finish is semi-dry with even more spice. The body is not super hearty but it certainly holds up to the heavy spicing of this beer.

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Photo of Brew_42
3.97/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet black with very little head or lacing.

Smells of roasted malts, toffee, and dark fruits. Taste follows the nose closely with a little chocolate in the mix as well. Tastes like a barley wine more than anything.

Mouthfeel- medium with low carbonation.

Overall- Decent winter warmer. I like the taste and the fact that they hide the ABV well. Will revisit

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Photo of cmf
4.09/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz to becker. Foamed up and out of the glass - two pours were required. Chocolate dark with just a little light getting through. Ok, chocolate, coffee taste aroma. What's different - aroma is a little yeastier. Head is still high with a mountain shape in the middle. Pretty strong alcohol flavor. Feels smooth almost like a barley wine. Overall a good beer to have in the dark winter months.

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Photo of Gobearswalter34
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with a thin, tan head. Smells of chocolate malts with clove and spice dominant. Maybe a slight coffee smell. Taste follows the nose with the coffee more prevalent. He clove and spices dominate. Something in here I'm not sure what it is. Very unique. Better as it warms.

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Photo of ClavisAurea
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 version in a tulip glass.

Appearance: dark chestnut with a nice off-white head and a nice body when poured.

Nose: chocolate, cinnamon, roasted malts, caramel, toffee, raisins, prunes, figs and other dark fruits, very pronounced Juicy Fruit gum character, grainy on the back end

Taste: follows the nose perfectly but with a huge chocolate hit in the front followed by those dark fruits and spices. The finish is roasty and lingering with some spicy character that makes me want to keep drinking this beer.

Overall: I'm really impressed with this beer. It's my first from Dark Horse and I really liked it. The 4 pack was on clearance for $5 and I really regret not buying 2 more. This is really a great beer. It's almost like a combination of a barleywine, old ale and stout all in one. Great beer.

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Photo of alarmclock314
4.3/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I've bought several 4-packs of this beer. Pours somewhat opaque brown with a medium-sized tan head. Some yeast is leftover in the bottom of the bottle, but doesn't carry into the glass when poured. Smells of malt, ginger, and clove with some allspice and caramel. The taste follows very closely, kind of a gingerbread vibe. Fairly creamy mouthfeel. The alcohol is well hidden. It's great both cold and at room temperature. Fits the style very well. Buy this beer if you like malt, spice, and a little alcohol kick. I find BA reviews to be pretty accurate, but I'm surprised this is rated an 86; it deserves a 90 because it fits the style so well.

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Photo of Warren2621
2.81/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Too bland for me. Nothing holds this beer together. The spices, while ok, arent complimented by many other flavors. Too thin of a body. To me it was water with spices added. Could be the style, I dont know. I dont enjoy Christmas Ales much

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Photo of Jeffreysan
4.55/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle, poured into a goblet

Appearance: Pours a beautiful, completely opaque, pitch-black color with an eighth of a finger of white-colored head that quickly dissolved away into a thin halo of foam that gripped the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Nice aromas of toasted malt and spices, such as cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, star anise and licorice. I also get notes of brown sugar, dark molasses, toffee, and roasted nuts. Smells great!

Taste: Really, really good! Lots of roasted malt flavor up front, flowed by lots of dark chocolate, clove, nutmeg, brown sugar and a touch of dark cherry. Very interesting and delicious.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied and nicely effervescent as there’s quite a bit of carbonation. With an ABV of 8.75%, there is surprisingly, no alcohol on the palate.

Overall: This is a delicious beer! I love the spices, dark chocolate and dark cherry! I see why this has an exalted reputation! If it’s available next year, I’ll certainly get a few bottles to enjoy over the holidays!

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Photo of paco1029384756
3.63/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Scent of rich nutmeg, cinnamon, dark fruit, brown sugar and bread with a touch of clove. More cinnamon in the flavor, but the rest lines up pretty well. The body is a little thin, but it's an easy beer to drink and one of the better beers for the style.

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Photo of tigg924
3.57/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Taste is cinnamon, clove, and dark roasted malt. This one hits all of the expected notes in a winter warmer. While I have others I prefer in the style, I certainly would not pass this up.

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 191 ratings.