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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.
very good

176 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 176
Hads: 719
Avg: 3.86
pDev: 24.09%
Wants: 54
Gots: 130 | 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: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 176 | Hads: 719
Photo of daddycard
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%

Pours burnt caramel and very cloudy. The low head is a light tan and dissapated quickly. Once in the chilled imperial pint glass its medium body is almost opeque, you can only see light through the edges of the glass. The spices really come out in the aroma. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice mix in with molasses making me think of sitting in front of a fireplace with a cigar in my favorite holiday sweater during a week long blizzard. The spices stand out from the first gulp. Nutmeg is almost overpowering but the other spices come through and combine richly with the molasses in the end. The beer does have a bit of a medicinal or alcoholic taste but overall it balances nicely and isn't a real hard drink. Overall I would recommend buying it in singles but a definite must try.

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Photo of Billolick
3.99/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.58/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L - Clear dark brown, with some red highlights. Thin creamy beige head leave rings of lace.

A - Smells like a tin of assorted Christmas cookies. Lots of clove-crusted orange.

T - Holiday spice overwhelms this beer. Pick a rich holiday spice, it's in there. Some medicinal flavors, and a long chemical finish.

M - Full body, satin texture, soft carbonation, light alcohol.

O - Anyone who relishes the supper spicy holiday beers will enjoy this offering. For me it is just a jumble of spices. A subtle hand would server this beer better.

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Photo of Mitchster
3.5/5  rDev -9.3%

$2.19 for a 12oz single @ Siciliano's. Pours out to a murky deep brown, forming a small head with poor retention and minimal lacing. The nose is peculiar...pink bubble gum, carob, fruity soap, , spices (cinnamon and nutmeg, big time), bourbon, molasses. The mouthfeel is round, a touch cloying, with a big chewy body and medium-low carbonation. Sediment in the bottle. The taste is interesting...pink bubblegum, spices, leather and moist pipe tobacco, walnut, and lots of cinnamon and nutmeg in the aftertaste. Bitterness is medium to mild, very earthy. Reminds me a little bit of constant comment tea...orange peel?

Hrmm, interesting, but one bottle is enough for me, probably better to split this with someone special. A nice beer.
L=3.0, A=3.5, T=-4.0, MF=3.75, D=3.5

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Photo of RoamingGnome
3.03/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Ale

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Capital Brewery snifter. Served chilled.

A) Dark brown with a small off white head that dissipated quickly. Bit of a cola look...

S) I don't get much besides a variety of spices. I'd say it was heavy on the clove.

T) Again, heavy on the spices. Some sugary sweetness as it transitioned to room temp. The alcohol is very well hidden.

M) Medium body with moderate carbonation. The mouthfeel is dominated by tingling spices start to finish.

O) I'm sure it's a well crafted brew, but the spice blend here was just not enjoyable for me. It was like my mouth was trapped in a candle shop.

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Photo of ksimons
3.96/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A-a dark cola color with a very thin layer of head that quickly disappears to leave a layer of lace one top

S-lots of winter spices, mostly cinnamon, caramel malt

T-chocolate and caramel with a lot of holiday spices, tastes like a gingerbread cookie

M-medium body light carbonation

Overall one of the better winter warmers I have had. Might be too sweet to have multiple at a time, but overall a great holiday beer

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Photo of Ksoden1186
4.5/5  rDev +16.6%

A very dark cola colored beer with an off-white head.
Winter spices on the nose.
A wonderful tasting winter ale. The spices shine and the alcohol is not apparent at all.
This is one of my favorite winter ales and really sets itself apart from many others. A very unique beer that is wonderful.

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Photo of kkleu357
3/5  rDev -22.3%

From notes on 4/23/14

Drinking it kind of late in the year. Poured with huge chunks. Won’t be finishing it because of that. Christmas nutmeg spiced aroma. Not bad smelling. Taste fine to. Dark cocoa taste with lots of cinnamon nutmeg flavors. The chunks is the only off putting thing.

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Photo of JayQue
3.6/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dense medium brown (muddy) color with a minimal light tan head. Minimal head retention and lacing. Smell is sweet malts (caramel) and some spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Taste is mostly sweet malts with some holiday spicing . The spicing is mild and not annoying like so many Christmas beers/Winter Warmers. The maltiness is the dominant flavor.

Mouthfeel is rich and smooth. A nice sweet malty beer. The spices serve to make it more interesting rather than overwhelm the beer. No hint of the fairly high abv.

Well worthwhile.

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Photo of chinchill
3.6/5  rDev -6.7%
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

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Photo of karengarys
3.74/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This pours dark ruby brown, and as I let the glop at the bottom of the bottle into the glass (on purpose) it all swooshed around into a goopy glass of bliss. Little head, but I kind of slow pour.

smells baking spicy, like cinnamon, and nutmeg, nothing sweet, and not a lot of anything else. But, what is there is good.

taste has some good aspects, but the balance, to me, has a hiccup, like the seasons are messed up. I'm getting a nice winter corriander and maybe cinnamon and some of that wierd icky spicey Christmas candy they have not made since the 1970's, (at least I haven't seen it; which is good)... But then it seems to have a little pepper. um, okay, let's roll with that - now the season clash: Grapfruit and/or bitter hop? It does clean up the finish, but it just seems awkward in this offering.

Mouthfeel is decent, nice and fizzy in a creamy sort of way that lasts throughout the drink.

It seems to have a medium body, not thin, not heavy, just nice.

If you see this at a bar, ask for a sample - others may like this combination. If somebody handed one to me, I'd say "cool, thank you!" and enjoy it - unlike the latest lite beer, where I'd say "thanks?" and pretend to drink it... Not worth seeking out, but interesting enough to experience at least once.

...update a half hour later... I let the last 3 ounces warm up a bit. The sweet and spice mixes better than when cold, and the crisp edge is way mellowed... The mouthfeel didn't flatten out all that much. In my opinion, to do this beer justice, it has to be served a bit warmer than the typical beer... It's a different story. I updated my taste and overall ratings - they were set to 3.25 cold, but I'm making them 3.75 based on the taste when it is a bit warmer.

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Photo of mountdew1
3.99/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet. Almost completely opaque very dark reddish brown. Poured with a 1 finger bubbly head that was gone by the time I carried it to table. Small amount of lacing remained. Aroma was flightly fruity sweet, kind of a smokey spiced grape juice. Nicely flavored, a bit sweet, but not overly so. A bit of banany clove flavor. Felt good in the mouth, nicely coated, a bit of stick, not much carbonation. Overall a good example of a winter warmer without being too heavily spiced.

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Photo of TwelveOunces
3.8/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a tulip

A- Pitch black with nearly no head to speak of.

S- Pale malt, burnt sugary, syrup, slightly spicy. Smells like a plain malt homebrew extract.

T- A syrupy sweetness at first. A ton of caramel flavors. toffee, burnt sugar. A hint of rasted malt. The spices are big on the back end. A lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Tingles the tongue in spite of its low bitterness. Homebrewers might recognize the taste from plain homebrew malt extracts, plus some spices.

M- Thick but quite well balanced. Not too sweet but spicy as well.

O- A very unique beer and a different take on the winter warmer.

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
3.1/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A- Pours a very deep brown in color, leaning a little towards black. Smaller, 1 finger head forms with lots of tight bubbling and retains very well. Lacing is also very good.

S- Not very strong in the scent department, but the flavors that are detectable are dark and slightly fruity. Dark, but not burnt malts are present and there is just a hint of raisin-like fruit.

T- Complex and a little hard to put my finger on, the first flavor of this beer leans toward raisins mixed with dark malts. Fruitiness here is unlike a in a quad, because this one is more bitter and medicinal in flavor. Some spices are mixed in here, I think cinnamon and nutneg. Dark malts and some bitter hops take over after the slight, dark fruitiness. Hops are fairly bitter on the back end, with a somewhat chemical-like bite at the end.

M- Low in carbonation and fairly smooth for the most part. I can't detect the alcohol very much at all. The limiting factor in drinking this one is the odd flavor profile and whether or not you enjoy it.

Overall, an odd, spiced, somewhat fruity, and very malty and bitter version of a winter warmer. Not sure how I feel about this one, except that the spices and dull bitterness throughout are a definite drawback.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.55/5  rDev -8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to GRG1313 for sharing this one at his tasting.

2013 vintage.

Pours a hazy dark brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, caramel, toffee, and spice aromas. Taste is much the same with caramel and spice flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with some interesting aromas and flavors.

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Photo of cjgiant
3.66/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I've enjoyed most of the beers I've had from Dark Horse, and this one falls into the category, but it wasn't quite what I expected from reading the tasting notes and other reviews.

The beer pours a little darker than expected, but with a nice head that has some staying power. I was unhappy about not getting much in the nose, as I expected a waft of holiday spice that I missed. I think I am far enough over my cold that it's not a factor.

The taste reminded me of a black IPA a bit. The base malt tastes hit on the winter warmer style as I perceive it, a little bland initially. This is countered by the definite presence of some holiday spices-clove and allspice. The feel though is what makes me think IPA, mainly due to dryness, earthy (maybe a little smokey) fading into a burnt coffee taste.

I was thinking and looking for a little less dry and a little sweeter malt from this beer to really boost my overall enjoyment. If you like black IPAs, you might enjoy this beer.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.37/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This pours an amber-cola color with thin foaming. It has a matly aroma with cloves and cinnamon prominent. The beer itself is spicy—not peppery spice, but holiday/pumpkin pie spice—with a heavy-handed shake of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice… mixed with some raisin and a touch of roastiness and a bitter finish. Strong, but it plays well and warms wonderfully.

The first bar I had this at had it listed in the 5% range. I was pretty sure it was a weee bit stronger… but at almost 9% I had no idea!

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Photo of CMUbrew
3.87/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from 12/25/13

A: Varnish brown in the glass and an off-white head forms only very briefly.

S: Nutmeg, ginger, maybe a hint of cinnamon. Lighter spice aroma overall.

T: All the spices mentioned above. I think I do get a slight cinnamon heat on the finish. Malts balance nicely, and have caramel and a tiny bit of dark fruit.

M: Feels about right. Feels maybe a little light for a beer this big, but it's not watery or over carbonated.

O: 12 Dogs of Christmas is my only comparison for the style, but this was slightly better. This is more balanced overall.

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Photo of Stinkypuss
3.8/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

4 elf

A dark brown with an amber hint. The off white head forms and recedes to a ring.

Smells of cinnamon and nutty, sweet malts.

In the taste, a firm sweet nutty malt, hints of fruit (sugar plums?) but certainly cinnamon and allspice. A small hint of alcohol and faint bitterness round out the brew.

The feel is on the light side of medium bodied. The brew itself is slightly thin, with a soft carbonation.

Overall, this an enjoyable holiday offering. Everything works well together here in a very drinkable winter warmer/spiced ale.

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Photo of bmwats
3.36/5  rDev -13%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter.

A: Dark brown. Pours a slight, bubbly head. Dissipates very quickly. Spotty lacing,

S: Roasted nuts, plenty of molasses, nutmeg, sage, and a little chocolate. Boozy.

T: Pecan shell, unsweetened chocolate, and peat.

M: Medium body. Pungent finish.

D: Sip and enjoy.

Atmosphere is pretty good. Dark, slight head, slight lacing. Nose is nutty with fall and savory spice and chocolate. Bitter and pungent flavor. Overall, this is a pretty good quaff.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
3.63/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

The beer appeared thicker and more viscous than expected when pouring. I got just a thin layer of light tan head over a solid brown body. The head dies to a ring, which is the only thing that stays on the glass as it's tipped.

It smells roasty with dark fruit, malt and caramel. A little coffee is also apparent.

The taste is to the nose, with bigger malt flavor, nutmeg and other "xmas" spices and a little hint of booze at the back end.

This one is a medium-heavy bodied beer. Leaves just a little residue on the back of the tongue. Very good.

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Photo of mfnmbvp
3.97/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, with no apparent bottled on date present. A new beer to me from Dark Horse Brewing Co.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter glass.

A - Pours a thick ruddy caramel color; opaque in the glass, with just under a finger of thin tan head that thins to a ring quickly. Looks pretty dark.

S - The herbal spice rack notes come first - nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, oregano & ginger. Some smooth vanilla, chocolate malt roast, cream, cocoa powder, licorice / anise, & some rum soaked raisins / dark fruits.

T - Taste is of dark malt roast, cola, licorice / anise, sweet sticky caramel, some vanilla, brown bread, brown sugar, notes of chocolate, and notes of dark fruits like figs and dates.

M - Feel is smooth and creamy, with good carbonation.

Overall, this is a prime example of the ideal winter warmer. Big, rich, and well spiced. I would definitely be interested to see what the barrel aged version of this is like.

Dark Horse 4 Elf ---4/5.

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Photo of BubalooBrewMaster
3.31/5  rDev -14.2%
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.

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Photo of reebtaerG
3.91/5  rDev +1.3%
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

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Photo of Brenden
3.99/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
87 out of 100 based on 176 ratings.