Dark Horse 4 Elf - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dark Horse 4 ElfDark Horse 4 Elf

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

690 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 690
Reviews: 180
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 11.87%
Wants: 54
Gots: 111 | FT: 7
Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company visit their website
Michigan, United States

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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 690 | Reviews: 180
Reviews by reebtaerG:
Photo of reebtaerG
3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured 12oz into new Belguim glass

A-pours a brown color with a beige thin head with good lacing

S-aromas of sweet roasted malt, licorice, caramel nutmeg and cinnamon spice

T-the taste is the same as the aromas with a hint of vanilla and brown sugar

M-mouthfeel is well balanced dry up front but with a sweet malt finish

O-overall a great winter warmer I would be interested what the bourbon would taste

More User Reviews:
Photo of majorbase2
3.81/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark brown color with a huge foamy off white head. Good retention. Leaves a lumpy, uneven head with spotty lacing.

Aroma is heavy on spices, ginger, molasses, graham cracker, cinnamon, and a hint of caramel. Very pleasant.

Tastes like a porter. Lightly roasted chocolate and nuts. Brown sugar. A small amount of hops. Gingerbread is still there, though not as strong. Very faint cinnamon. A little too heavy on the spice, though. There's really not much going on in the taste, unfortunately. It just kind of lacks character, if that makes sense. A little more hop bitterness than expected here.

Medium bodied. LIttle carbonation. More of a sipper at 8.75%.

Overall, started out with good potential, even after the first sip, but really faltered from there. Still a solid brew, but not DH's best, so don't go out of your way for this one.

Photo of oberon
3.81/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours into a becker a deep roasted walnut brown with a creamy half finger tan colored head atop,great color and love the creamy head.Winter mulling spice and sweet alcohol in the nose,alot of nutmeg is detected.Lower carbonation with a creamy feel,it slides down easy.Spicy to the hilt on the palate with some cake-like notes,like a CHRISTmas spiced cake,the alcohol sweetness gets bigger as it warms.This a winter sipper,like others have noted, you can't drink to much of it,a full on spicy winter warmer here.

Photo of BubalooBrewMaster
3.31/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle

A: Dark brown almost like a really dark tea.

S: a hint of vanilla ,nutmeg,malts and cinnamon.

T:roasted malts,cinnamon and nutmeg.

M: very smooth and lightly carbonated.

O:it's a nice one for these breezy nights.Not my favorite winter warmer but not my least favorite.Worth a try.

Photo of orbitalr0x
4.14/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2008 release. Deep murky opaque dark brown pour with a quarter inch of tan foam on top. Aromas start with roasted malts entwined with a bold mix of spices. Clove is upfront with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and holiday bread baking spices. Notes of chocolate and some fruit accents. Reminds me of baking Christmas cookies and of rich spice cakes.

First sip brings smooth semi-sweet roasted malts wrapped in a warm blanket of spices. Clove, nutmeg, ginger and some cinnamon. Tastes like a spiced dark rye bread. Flows down with a bit of sweetness and lots of lingering spice. I can see how some may find it overly spiced but to me it was very enjoyable.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, creamy and smooth. The malt body here is well placed and the alcohol is never too much in the flavor. This ends up being quite warming in the end and the mix of spices really work. I personally enjoy the forward clove aspect. A stellar spiced brew from Dark Horse. Paired well with some Carr Valley Menage cheese and fun to drink in the summer. Thanks hoppymeal!

Photo of Billolick
3.99/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle w/o bottling/vintage dating.

Pours dark and murky, slight darker head, leaves fine scattered lace bits.

Dark chocolate nose.

Flavorful. with more chocolate, dark caramel malty notes.

Pleasant and warming winter warmer.

Photo of tigg924
3.57/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

Photo of bsp77
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Pint.

Appearance: Very dark, chocolaty brown with decent light tan head.

Smell: Nutmeg, clove, allspice and an undefinable sweetness.

Taste: Some spice upfront, but a very sweet core of fruit (plum, cherry, berry), chocolate and even light coffee. The spices are evident and lingering on the finish, with nutmeg, clove and allspice. There may be some English-style hops as well, but it could be mainly the spices.

Feel: Medium to full body with moderately low carbonation. Finish is more sharp than truly dry.

Overall: Some Porter/Stout notes with this Spiced Winter Warmer. It actually reminds me of a ramped up Anchor Christmas Ale, which is mostly a good thing, but this beer is not quite as harmonious. Still, this is a good choice for the Holidays.

Photo of MattyG85
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice.

Appearance: Pours a dark blackish brown with a moderate amount of rising bubbles. About one finger of tan head that quickly fades into a thin patch. Leaves a decent amount of lacing on the glass. Some sediment settles around the bottom.

Smell: A toasty, bready, and fairly sweet malt forward aroma with a big presence of winter spices. Toasted and roasted malts with big hints of biscuit, chocolate, toast, sweet caramel, toffee, cream, grains, nuts, and yeast. Big scent of winter spices including hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and ginger. Sweet hints of brown sugar. Dark fruit hints of raisin, fig, and prune. Subtle hints of earthy hops. A pretty solid aroma.

Taste: Like the aroma hints at, a toasty, bready, and fairly sweet malt driven taste with lots of winter spices. Toasted and fairly roasty malts with notes of biscuit, toasted bread, chocolate, sweet caramel, toffee, cream, yeast, grains, and nuts. Big presence of winter spices with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. Also some sweet notes of brown sugar and syrup. Dark fruit undertones with notes of raisin, fig, and prune. A pretty nice taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy and fairly slick and syrupy. Pretty smooth.

Overall: A pretty solid take on a winter warmer. Good spice presence with the sweet dark malt.

Photo of WVbeergeek
4.03/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Dark porter-esque appearance light khaki tan head, fine speckled lacing sporadic yet satisfying in it's look. Aroma has a dark cola like sweetness, blended with candy cane and other assorted spices, honey, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Flavor dark chocolate creamy lactose, a barrage of spices, provides bitterness and balance it's like pureed candy cane and Christmas tree pine in an imperial cream stout form. Mouthfeel is fuller bodied carbonation is creamy smooth with lingering spices between sips, overall the type of winter warmer that is so different it's actually a joy to experience.

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

12 oz 2013 bottle served in a Belgian snifter.

Pours dark brown with a short-lived tan head. Looks like a porter.

Aroma: complex and lightly spiced compared to the flavor.

Flavor: spicy with an iverload of clove. Allspice and nutmeg in more moderate amounts. Dark malts are largely masked by the spices. Dark bread with plenty of "holiday" spices in the aftertaste.

O: a very spicy winter ale with well hidden ABV

Photo of FrognutUnl
4.42/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - dark brown with an off-white head.
S - The nose is of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice with very little hop character to speak of.
T - Very similar to the nose with the addition of some chocolate malt. The alcohol begins to poke through as the glass warms.
M - Medium bodied.

Overall, this is what every winter warmer should be. Another hit from Darkhorse.

Photo of glid02
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle via a trade with GCurlow – thanks!

Pours a dark brownish-amber color with an off-white head leaving decent lacing.

Smells of deep toasted malts with good amounts of nutmeg and lighter cinnamon. Also present are slight amounts of lighter caramel malts.

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Smooth toasted malts up front are joined by good amounts of heavy spices – nutmeg, allspice, and hints of cinnamon and anise. The flavors sweeten midway with lighter caramel malts. The ending is mildly bitter. Mouthfeel is good, with smooth carbonation.

Overall this was a solid beer for the style, and the alcohol was hidden remarkably well. Worth a shot.

Photo of degerbah
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep cloudy brown with very little head. The aroma is very spicy with a quantity of cinnamon and maybe cloves. The taste us way spicier than the aroma would make me think. Extremely thick, I think that it might be better if I were to drink it in a colder clime. It just tastes overly thick and boozy for me.

Photo of Brenden
3.99/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

4 Elf is very dark brown, nearly (but not quite) as thick and dark as a stout or a strong porter. From the tap, not much head forms; retention is average, and just a little lacing is left on the glass.
It does have a nice complexity and blend of things on the nose: spices are as strong as they could be without being overdone; a skillful hand has been employed. It's also earthy, just a little sweet, and bready. The spices seem to be multiple but not lost when put together. I can distinctly detect cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, and there may be ginger. Some cocoa powder and roasty coffee notes round it out.
While the complexity doesn't come out as fully on the tongue, this beer still has a deep, rich flavor to it. There's a little toffee and brown sugar sweetness to start off before ground coffee and cocoa come in. It's slightly nutty underneath. The spiciness is the main event the whole way through but again, not overdone and well balanced.
The body is medium, and the hard bite of the crispness is consistent. A little dryness kicks in, and it feels like it wants to get smoother as it goes but that kick keeps it hard.

Photo of Jeffreysan
4.55/5  rDev +20.1%
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!

Photo of Sammy
3.92/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Very tasty winter warmer picked up last December in Detroit. Pours dark brown, without a noticeable head, yet some carbonation still there. Conifers and cinammon dominate the smell, ginger predominates the taste, a bit of nutmeg. Spicy sweetness, though not too sweet. Tasty. Average mouthfeel.

Photo of secondtooth
3.49/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Very dark chestnut/black, with ruby highlights. Average head of tan bubbles, and a fair, loopy lace.

Aroma: Ah, the spices! Cinnamon, clove, and others providing a rich and strong olfactory experience right off the bat. Easy to detect the Xmas theme here.

Taste: Heavy on the palate, with that potent dose of winter spice. I also get a little chocolate undertone happening, and a bittersweet finish that definitely packs some heat. Overall, a solid and enjoyable winter warmer.

Photo of prototypic
4.35/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to hoppy for this wonderful surprise.

Appearance: It's a dark mahogany color and is very close to opaque. There's a little light slicing through at the edges giving it dark garnet highlights. The head is caramel colored and reaches about a finger deep. It was quick to recede and left light lace behind.

Smell: The nose is good, bordering on excellent. I'm close to awarding a 4.5 here, but it's just a little too weak. It is very heavy on cinnamon throughout. That's the predominant aroma. To a lesser degree, other holiday spices are noted (vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger). Roasted and light chocolate malts are noted. I'm not picking up any alcohol here. I wish I knew what the abv was. Nice smelling beer, just needs a little more kick.

Taste: Dark Horse ramped it up here. Cinnamon is very strong throughout. I haven't encountered a beer with such a strong cinnamon taste before. Fear not, it's excellent. Nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla complement the cinnamon flavor nicely, and give it a very well-rounded taste of the holidays. Roasted and light chocolate malts add a little sweetness and a ton of character. 4 Elf has a great malty foundation. Hops weren't apparent on the nose, but they certainly are here. They're mostly floral, but add a really nice buzzy kick to round it out. I am picking up alcohol here. It isn't offensive, but does have a slight warming effect. Finishes a little sweet with a nice bitter bite.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: The body is on the lighter side of medium, but it has a very nice creamy feel. Carbonation is dialed down to just the right level. Drinkability is very high. I really like the flavor of 4 Elf and it doesn't come across as a big, badass beer. I'm unsure of the abv, but I wouldn't guess it's all that high.

4 Elf is an excellent holiday beer. It's absolutely loaded with holiday spice flavor. While it's not exactly novel in that sense, the spicy flavor is definitely unique. Cinnamon comes through very strong, but it works soooo well. I have only one slight complaint and that's that the nose is just a little weak. It wouldn't take much to work out that kink. It's a close call as it is. Nevertheless, 4 Elf is excellent beer. Highly recommended.

Photo of mikey711
4.21/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Received his as an extra recently.

A: Very dark brown with only a mild amount of head on top. No lacing present either which is dissappointing

S: Heavily spiced with gingerbread cloves nutmeg and cinnamon with a brown sugar and molasses note in the background.

T: Very much like the smell with the spices coming through pretty heavy. There is a good amount of brown sugar and molasses that are very pleasing.

M: It has a good amount of body and is very smooth. When I realized it was 11.5% I was shocked because it is much lighter than that.

D: Continuing on from my shock, I cant believe this beer is this big. It drinks like a 6% beer and is something I could have a few of in the night which would cause problems

Photo of nickd717
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle thanks to bring on BA.

Pours dark brown with a small off-white head that fades to light foam.

Aroma is lots of spice. A metric shitload of it. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove stand out, and that's about it.

Flavor is also loads of spice. Cloves are huge, and cinnamon and nutmeg are there too. Very balanced though nonetheless. A little roasty with some vanilla.

Smooth on the palate with medium body and a really spicy mouthfeel.

A very solid winter warmer, very drinkable, especially for the ABV. Others at the tasting didn't think much of it, saying it was overspiced, but I thought it was great.

Photo of Drinkin4Two
4.05/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Had this on-tap at The French Laundry in Fenton, MI

A: Very dark brown, almost black. One finger, off white head that lasted throuhgout

S: Spice and dark fruits. Not as much spice as I was expecting

T: Fruits, malts, and spices. Much more spice than the smell. Cinnamon, nutmeg, very good for a spiced brew.

M: Very smooth. Good carbonation, not too much.

D: Very good. Don't have a ton of experience with spiced brews but I really liked this one. Went well with my meal and would be a great Christmas brew

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.74/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a CBS snifter. 2010 vintage thanks to chpueblo22.

Appearance - Pours a dark brown body that is nearly completely opaque. Transparent as I pour it and a bit translucent at the edges. Not much of a head and really only a ring of lace to speak of. I let a few chunks of sediment fall into the glass. They are now clinging to the bottom and slide into the body as I drink it.

Smell - Earthy malts and strong toffee. Huge spice presence. Cinnamon. Like a pre-flambe bananas foster. Booze, as well.

Taste - Not as pleasant as the aroma. The flavors are nice, but they don't blend well with the finish for me. Spice and toffee up front, but it isn't sweet at all. Dry, quite dry. The finish is bitter with a significant spice presence. I enjoy drinking it, but after I finish a sip it doesn't linger on the palate in a pleasant fashion.

Mouthfeel - Overly bitter for the style. The spice and malt backbone are nice, but the finish is just awful. Well carbonated and surprisingly thin. I suppose that's a result of the dryness of the drink.

Overall - A strange dichotomy of nice flavors and a disappointing finish. I'll finish the glass no problem, but the aftertaste is pretty off-putting.

Photo of Shumista
4.38/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Stumbled upon a 4 pack of this at my local beer store. I didn't even know this beer existed and hadn't seen it before so I was pretty excited about the find. Good thing dark horse beers are easy to recognize in the store or I may have missed it.

A- Dark brown with some highlights. Small light brown fizzy head.

S- Smells like christmas. Gingerbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove. Some chocolate and toasted malt.

T- Delicious. Gingerbread is the first thing I thought of. The other holiday spices are there too from the smell...nutmeg, clove, allspice etc. There's a bit of chocolate in the background. Aftertaste is all holiday spice.

M- Medium to thick bodied. A little bit syrupy.

D- What, What, What!? This is 11.5%? I would have thought more like 6-8. I actually think its pretty funny that nowhere on the bottle or 4 pack does Dark Horse bother mentioning how potent this beer is.

The warmest and most satisfying winter warmer I have had yet. Great beer.

Photo of alleykatking
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours from 12oz bottle. Review from notes.

A- Pours a deep dark brown almost a black color. One finger tan head which dies down rather quickly. Some light lacing on the sides of the glass that slides down back into the beer.

S- Tons of spice in the upfront of this. Cinnamon, nutmeg, some ginger, and some maple syrup undertones. Caramel malts in the undertones of this beer. A light almost chocolate presence as well in light tones but that's about it. This smells like how Christmas smells to me.

T- This tastes just like how it smells but with some added features like pumpkin and some more caramel malts in the front. Big spices in the front of this with some light caramel malts backing it up. Some darker roasted malts in the middle mix with ginger snapps. Just a overall great winter warmer tasting beer...like Christmas in a bottle.

M- Medium mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the style. Tons of spices with light caramel malts left on the palate with roasted malts left in the aftertaste. Clean overall even with all the flavors run about on the tongue.

D- This was a interesting beer that I seemed to really really love. I need to make sure that pick some more of this up next time I'm at the brewery. Dark Horse does no wrong yet once again!

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 690 ratings.