Dismiss Notice
Save $5 when you subscribe to 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine by selecting auto-renew.

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join Our Email List →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.
Dismiss Notice

Pre-order your Respect Beer "Hipster" Hoodie today!

Plus: Free shipping (US only) on orders of $25 or more until 12/18/15. Just select "Free Shipping" at checkout.

Shop now →

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 Fcolle2
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pour deep dark brown with a 1 finger tan head that has decent retention.

Smell is good. Tons of spices are forward with notes of cinnamon clove and allspice. Notes of toasted cracker like malt follow and the beer is finished with light aromas of a spicy hop presence

Taste is good and follows the nose. Spices are also forward in the taste, dominated by more cinnamon clove nutmeg and allspice. Toasted cracker like malt follows along with a clean yeast flavor, more spices and light hop bitterness on the exhale

Mouthfeel is good. Medium body and high carbonation keeps it pretty drinakable.

 595 characters

Photo of Axnjxn
3.89/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

on draft at beer study into a FW tulip.

pours a dark brown with a nice head. smell is very big on nutmeg and spices....kind of typical for the style. taste is also filled with spices but not as intense. good caramel taste too. medium bodied with mild carbonation. ABV doesn't feel this high at all.

overall liked it but not amazing.

 334 characters

Photo of bigcat1408
3.86/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I really enjoyed the Clove taste as well as the allspice. I am not sure my pallet is refined enough to pick out the nutmeg, especially since I really have never had nutmeg (as a taste that was distinct like nutmeg during the holidays nutmeg). I have been drinking mystic chai spiced hot tea and I can taste some similarities. Which is cool because this is a brew! I did feel a warmth in my stomach while picking up leaves (which may be because it was cold or because that is the way the beer is designed?). Either way I would drink it again.

 541 characters

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

I picked up a bottle of Dark Horse's 4 Elf about a week ago for $2.19 at Boyne Country Provisions. I know it's too early for Winter Warmers, but I've been wanting to try this beer for a long and time and now that Dark Horse decided to distribute this beer for the first time I thought I would give it a try while it's pretty fresh, so lets see how it goes. No visible bottling date, but it just showed up so it's pretty fresh. Poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a snifter.

A- The label is decent but I think they could have used a better drawing for the label, but it's still a little eye catching. It poured a muddy dark brown color that really didn't let any light come through with two fingers worth of tan head that died down to a thin ring that stayed till the end and left lots of spotty lacing behind. This is a pretty nice looking beer that left some real nice lacing.

S- The aroma starts off with a higher amount of medium sweetness followed by some malts with some toasted/lightly roasted malts coming through along with some caramel malt like aromas. Up next comes a higher amount of spices with clove and nutmeg seeming to stick out the most. The aroma was pretty good and true to style.

T- The taste seems to be similar to the aroma but it's lighter and it starts off with a medium amount of sweetness followed by some malts that impart a toasted/lightly roasted malt flavor with some light chocolate and coffee flavors showing up in the background. Up next comes a pretty light alcohol flavor followed by some lighter spices with no one spice seeming to stick out the most.with a medium amount of bitterness with a spicy and malty aftertaste. This was a pretty good tasting beer, it had good balance and the alcohol was hidden well.

M- Pretty smooth, clean, creamy, on the thicker side of being medium bodied with a slightly lower amount of medium carbonation. The mouthfeel was pretty good and it worked well with this beer.

Overall I thought this was a pretty nice beer and a good example of the style, unlike a lot of Winter Warmers the spices weren't overdone and and it didn't taste as strong as I thought it would for being 8.75%. This beer had good drinkability, it was smooth, clean and the taste held my attention I think two of these would be just the right amount for me. What I liked the most about this beer was the balance, neither the malts or the spices were too overpowering. What I liked the least about this beer was nothing, there isn't anything that I really disliked about it and I can't think of anything I would change to make it better. I would buy this again and I would like to keep some around for the holidays. I would recommend this to anybody who generally likes Winter Warmers. All in All I was happy with this beer and I'm glad it wasn't over spiced. Thanks for distributing this beer Dark Horse, I see what it's popular and it's nice to be able to get this beer without having to take a trip to the 4 Elf release party. Good job guys, keep up the good work.

 3,013 characters

Photo of 71CrazyOtto
3.7/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bought the 4 pack bottles for 9 bucks.
Thin head when poured
Nice aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Pleasant warming brew for a cold day or night.
This is a specialty beer best for outdoor drinking during fall or winter imo.
If you don't like cinnamon then avoid this one because it dominates the palate.

 308 characters

Photo of mccallisters_dali
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into Dark Horse pint glass.

Very little head to no head on this beer

Malty aroma but not strong by any means.

Initially I was overwhelmed with spices, Nutmeg and clove being the most prominent. The Cinnamon/clove fades quick though, while the nutmeg lingers and gives way to the malty backbone of this beer.

I really like the mouthfeel and texture of this beer, the nutmeg seems to coat your mouth leaving a creamy side flavor.

Overall I would say that I will definitely be adding this to the already expansive roster of Dark Horse beer that I thoroughly enjoy.

 584 characters

Photo of barczar
2.94/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 2.5

Pours an opaque deep brown with a foamy tan head.

A bit of a spice bomb, cinnamon, lots of nutmeg, and lots of clove jump from the glass. There's a bit of a molasses note in the background.

Whoa, spices. How the hell can anybody actually drink this? It tastes like putting a cinnamon stick, whole nutmeg, and a handful of cloves in your mouth...with a bitter finish.

Body is moderate, with slightly low carbonation, and noticeable alcohol warmth.

Way too spicy for my palate, with a roast malt backbone that comes off as being somewhat acrid. Not a fan.

 557 characters

Photo of buschbeer
3.78/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12 FL.OZ. bottle
Served in a perfect pint glass

A - It pours a ruddy brown with dark amber highlights. The inch of tan head that topped it did not last long.

S - I get some spices, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

T - The taste is full of the aforementioned spices, plus it has some roasted malt to give it some flavor besides all those spices.

M - Medium

O - I tried this back in January and the spices held up quite nicely. I like the fact that the roasted malt flavor is there, or this would just be a holiday spice beer.

 528 characters

Photo of Jacurdy60
3.65/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A-Pours a deep chestnut brown color with a one finger width, fizzy and carbonated head that retains poorly. Leaves no lacing

S-Cloves, nutmeg, some spices, and a strong phenolic presence

T-Dark fruits, nutmeg again and some other spices. A bit of a boozy bite at the end

MF-Crisp, over-carbonated with a dry finish

O-Pretty decent. Never had a winter warmer and I'm drinking it during the summer so the experience probably isn't the best it could be. The spices are too strange and I could not drink more than 1 in a sitting. Overall a decent brew.

 553 characters

Photo of alpinebryant
3.09/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark chestnut brown with lots of tiny white bubbles on the top. laces well

S: Aromas of pumpkin , nutmeg , cinnamon and clove. Some dark fruit and slightly belgian yeast?

T: Too much Cinnamon here, its fresh Hot Cinnamon Trident Gum flavored first off the bat and followed by cardamom and tannic like qualities.

M: Medium to thick body with light carbonation. There is a bit of sting from CO2 but the body is thick enough to make the carbonation seem moderate.

O: Overall, its a cinnamon bomb with not too many qualities that I enjoy - and I really like winter warmers. This just didnt hit the right notes for me.

 630 characters

Photo of Rifugium
4/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First had: bottle shared by baybum at a March '13 tasting. Thanks, Ray!

Sampled this in a very interesting vertical line after One Oatmeal, Too Cream, and Tres Blueberry.

I honestly never heard of this one, but I quite liked it. Dark brown pour with a small tan head that left a bit of lacing on the glass. Nice spicy aroma, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, with a touch of icing-like sweetness. In the taste, all the spices that were there in the aroma, plus rich caramel maltiness, and a little vanilla icing; light herbal hops and roasty bitterness for balance. Medium body, smooth mouthfeel, quite enjoyable overall.

 620 characters

Photo of superspak
3.9/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, Winter 2012 bottling. Pours cloudy almost opaque dark reddish brown color with a small light khaki head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of big caramel, raisin, dark bread, brown sugar, toffee, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, earth, roasted malt, chocolate, and light herbal. Damn nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt and spice notes. Taste of big caramel, brown sugar, molasses, raisin, dark bread, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, roasted malt, chocolate, toast, prune, earth, and light herbal spiciness. No bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, dark fruit, dark bread, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, roasted malt, chocolate, and herbal earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice balance and complexity of robust flavors; with a nice malt backbone over the spices; and almost zero cloying flavors present after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a creamy and slick mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a slight warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a very nice winter warmer style. Very nice robust and balanced flavors; and very smooth to sip on. A very enjoyable offering.

 1,316 characters

Photo of SometimesIfart
3.49/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours black with a one finger off white head. Left no lacing.

S - Cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread, slight anise.

T - Mostly anise and nutmeg. A bit of gingerbread and orange peel as well. Watery too.

M - Medium bodied with light to medium carbonation.

O - Overall, a basic, solid beer that I could have again. Quite sessionable for the strenght.

 351 characters

Photo of ypsifly
3.91/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2012 vintage from a bottle poured into a pint glass.

Deep mahogany with slight reddish hues on the edges. Decent head with retention and globby laces.

Cinnamon flavored bubblegum in the nose that is supported by a range of Xmas spices such as cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and a pinch of cardamom. Very seasonal aromas that are pleasantly balanced.

Nice amount of malt upfront that is quickly followed by the above mentioned spices and a drying hop and spice finish. Lingering spices that are strong, yet not too far off balance. For me this has all of the hallmarks of a Winter Warmer with boldness yet just enough balance to make it enjoyable.

Full enough in the mouth with no odd lingering oils or over the top bitterness/spice for my palate..

Overall, I like this beer I've had past incarnations that were higher in abv, and as much as I wish this one was closer to past versions...I'm happy with this one.

 914 characters

Photo of divineaudio
3.12/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 bottle, 8.75% abv, nonic.

a - pours a murky, dark brown with a just a thin film of head and a few bubbles. no lacing.

s - clove, cinnamon, molasses, fresh bread.

t - thankfully the spice is more muted than in the nose. has a pronounced, earthy hop bitterness with some burnt malt laying low in the background. notes of black coffee in there as well. finishes very dry. not a very successful combination of flavors imo.

m - medium in body with not quite enough carbonation. finer co2 profile.

o - meh. dark horse beers are hit or miss for me, and this one is a miss. lacks most of the things i look for in a winter warmer, mainly the malty sweetness and a subdued hop profile. probably won't be returning to this one.

 726 characters

Photo of maximum12
2.75/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to whomever sent this to me. I like to think I'll look it up later & insert my gratefulness here, but I usually forget when I'm too lazy to look it up. Well, thanks. You know who you are. 12 oz. bottle.

Pour is dark brown with red foil. Nose, the nose, bejeebuzz, it's like an overturned semi- full of cinnamon on the interstate. Most of the rest of the spice rack is in there too. Light cherry, nutmeg, allspice are those I can ID.

4 Elf ain't my kind of holiday beer. The spicing was done with a backhoe: cinnamon lights up my palate like a Christmas tree fire. Loads of spice. Caramel gets a bare lick in, & there might be a gentle, earthy hop kick right at the end. Maybe. Twelve ounces? I might need some help.

A classic example of "too far" for me; I don't put this much spice in my mulled apple cider. Spicing is out of control & overwhelms the beer, & gets too close to being straight-up undrinkable. As is? An almost-average novelty.

 955 characters

Photo of Dope
4/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Fresh batch from Dec 8th, 2012 release. Only 8.75%

A: Almost pure black with a good sized fluffy light brown head. Quite decent lacing as it fades slowly away.

S: Nutmeg, hint of cinnamon and cocoa.

T: Nutmeg up front with mild cocoa powder. Hints of cinnamon in the middle with caramel. Finish is molasses and cloves. A little lingering cinnamon and nutmeg in the long aftertaste. Lots of other unidentifiable spices throughout the beer that I couldn't include, but it is quite complex with lots of flavors.

M: Medium bodied and slightly astringent and drying in the aftertaste.

O: Awesome winter warmer. Great variety of spices and balance of flavors. Nice roasted malt fits in nicely without making it a real porter or stout. Expertly crafted.

 751 characters

Photo of inlimbo77
3.88/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

4 Elf Winter Warmer '11
Pinocchio's snifter

A: Pours a very deep dark brown color. Basically opaque. Some reddish hues around edges. Initially about a quarter finger if off white head. Then it blended into a thin layer if bubbles and a ring.

S: On the nose, dark fruit/spice/chocolate/mild coffee. Even through sickness, getting those spices: cinnamon and nutmeg and clove. I'm surprised they held up so much over a year.

T: On tip of tongue, you get a hit of spice. Cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. then you get more chocolate flavors drifting into the porter/stout. It's a nice little sip, although it's not a favorite style of mine. Just a taste of this would have been enough.

M: Full bodied. But seems nicely carbonated

 723 characters

Photo of kawilliams81
2.78/5  rDev -28%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 vintage. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a AleSmith Horny Devil snifter.

A- pours a dark brown/near black with a 1 finger tan head. Bog trails and waves of lacing remain on the glass.

S- roast, cinnamon and nutmeg.

T- some chocolate and roast for a quick second then it turns into a bitter, licorice, cleaning product tasting mess.

M- medium body and carbonation. Has some creaminess but bad flavors make this tough to drink.

O- did DH F this beer up? The label says 8.75% and it says 11.5% on here. It seems like they changed the recipe and it turned out terrible and they said F it we'll sell it anyways.

 616 characters

Photo of scottfrie
3.65/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle into snifter. Thanks Jay!

A: Pours a very dark raisin brown that looks black in the glass. The head is minimal and light tan. I’m getting some hefty chunks of floaties in this one, where one chunk of yeast was the size of a pea. Luckily they were all heavy enough to setting to the bottom rather quickly.
S: I could smell this beer across the room! Sweet notes of candied fruits and holiday spices fill my nose. I get hints of clove, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, dates, spruce tips, baked bread, red grapes and milk chocolate. Smells very sweet and interestingly spiced.
T: Not as sweet as the nose but definitely just as spicy – if not more so. All the scents of the nose are there, especially cinnamon, nutmeg, bread, clove and coriander. Milk chocolate and nuts bring up the rear. The aftertaste is slightly sweet.
M: Medium-full body, viscous and slick mouthfeel, with low and fuzzy carbonation.
O: A very potent, flavorful and spicy winter warmer. The alcohol is hidden very well. Thanks again, jbck109!

 1,029 characters

Photo of davey101
3.75/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I assume this is the 2011 vintage. 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A - Dark brown body with a small mocha one finger head. Some large bubbles creating some edging.

S - Loads of winter spices. Sweet roasty malts and some candied sugar.

T - Cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, roasty caramel malts, and some dark candied fruits. Higher ABV is hidden well. Nice balance between the malts and spice. Mouth feel is medium bodied.

O - A tasty winter warmer that's head up well over the last few months.

 495 characters

Photo of MichaelinFishers
4.25/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

December 2010 vintage. Poured into 16oz tulip from a 12oz bottle.

Pours very dark brown, on that edge between porter and stout that is reminiscent of Bell's Batch 9000. No head, very little lacing. I probably should have let it warm up a bit more before I poured it.

Smell is dark fruit and molasses with a bare hint of spice. Smells like it's going to be very sweet...

...but it's not. A little sweetness, but not cloying, like the aforementioned outing from Bell's. Very nicely balanced, actually. The spices are very understated, which is a good thing. Spiced beer should be beer first, spice second.

The mouthfeel echoes the color: thinner than an imperial stout, more substantial than a porter. A little prickle from the small amount of carbonation that's there, just enough to brighten it up a bit. No heat, no fusel smells. There's no way this is 11+%.

I've only had one other beer that hid 11% this well without using excessive amounts of residual sugar to to it, that's the other "Elf" out of Harrisburg/Hershey. Not an everyday beer, but a nice seasonal sipper. I'm glad I have four more in my cellar.

 1,116 characters

Photo of BBP
4.09/5  rDev +6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark dark brown blurring the lines between black. Minimal head, but decent lacing.

The aroma is a bit like a stout and a porter. Not with the normal intensity, but it's more subtle. A bit more fragrant.

The taste is again like a stout and porter, but with a little bit less thickness. It has some spice like you'd expect from a winter warmer, but it's very subtle and a bit underplayed. Luckily, that's how I enjoy spice in my beer. This beer also has a way of embedding itself onto my mouth. The flavor had excellent followthrough due to this.

The body is creamy and full. The weight is fairly heavy. The finish is dry and slightly sticky.

Overall, this is another nice brew from Dark Horse. They might go down in my books as the kings of hiding alcohol. At first I would have guessed this was a 6% beer. There is absolutely no heat in the taste, and I don't really get any when it goes down either. As always, they've managed to balance this quite well as well. Glad I snagged a bottle of this.

 1,009 characters

Photo of russwbeck
3.33/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

A: Pours out of the bottle dark brown and sits in the glass deep brown, closer to black, with a finger or so of off white head. Not a lot of retention, but what does stick around laces nicely.

S: The aroma is full of cinnamon and other spices. Sweet, it's very focused on the malt and typical winter warmer like smells.

T: Again, nothing really separates this from a typical winter warmer. It is pretty malty, focused on caramel on molasses, but the spices are there as well. Mostly cinnamon and nutmeg type spices, I really just dislike this style as a whole, so determine a fair review is a bit difficult.

MF: Heavier body than most in the style and the carbonation is good. I will say that for 11.5% this beer is damn drinkable. Probably it's redeeming quality.

O: This wasn't awful. Compared to the rest in its style I actually think it's really good. But overall? Not a fan.

 883 characters

3.77/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330ml bottle.Snifter glass.Enjoyed on oct´11.Dark mahogany in color.Off-white crown,fairly good retention.Caramel malt,chocolate,toasted malt aromas.Intense aromatic spicy:cinnamon,clove,nutmeg.Sweet bitter upfront followed by sweet malty flavor.Smooth astringency.Full body,correct carbonation.Dry prune & molasses on the finish lasting to the aftertaste.Pleasant drinkability.

 379 characters

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