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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
585 Reviews
For Trade:
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States | website

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by xlperro on 05-28-2002

User Reviews
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Reviews: 585 | Ratings: 1,208
Photo of mfnmbvp
3.68/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, no freshness date. A new one to me from Dark Horse, acquired a single bottle of this stuff from the local bottle shop.

Poured to a Duvel tulip snifter.

A - Straight center pour yields an opaque black body, glassy & obsidian with one finger of frothy mocha head that reduces to a ring and leaves tons of beautiful scattered webbed lacing behind. Looks good.

S - Hops are apparent on the nose: piney and green, but it is overrun with lots of burnt black malts - notes of roast, char, caramel, & toffee.

T - Taste follows the nose: huge ashy, burnt, roasted malt. Notes of burnt black coffee grinds. Hop presence in the form of pine, resin, earthy / herbal bitterness. Bitterness from both the malt & the hops, but the dark malt roast dominates.

M - Feel is crisp, roasty, bitter. Tons of burnt ashy roasted bitterness clings. Medium bodied with good carb.

Overall, a nice representation of the style from Dark Horse.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale -----4/5.

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Photo of 57md
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a deep dark brown with more than a finger of tan head. The nose is pretty much all roasted loveliness. The body and flavor profile are very stout-like. There is a dryness on the finish but no distinct hoppiness like the average American Black Ale.

If this beer were given to me unlabeled, I would definitely say that it was a stout but I generally respect the brewers' definition of their beers.

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Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Look: Pours black in color. Looks heavy even for a beer of this style.

Smell: Mild. If anything at all, I'd say it's malty. Really quite a light, basic smell.

Taste: Huge roasted flavor. Malt sweetness and nuttiness. An earthy, dry taste. There is a slight hop bitterness in the background, but it's so subdued I shouldn't even mention it here. The roasted flavor is so big and pronounced it seems to have a certain smokiness to it in some sips. This beer is ALL roasted malt, all the way. Tastes and drinks like a stout.

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Photo of BillHodson
4.28/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. pour from a bottle into a glass.

Dark Horse has given me mixed feelings in the past. I've had good, and I've had bad experiences. This one, however, rates toward the top! I felt it was an excellent black ale, with a great malt base, and a good malt/hop balance.

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

This whole thing is really roasted and bitter. Not unpleasant, but it really dominates everything about this beer. Appearance is nice enough, lots of lacing. Nose and mouth are toasty.

I really used to like this beer. I don't know what changed, but we've grown distant.

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Photo of Jon_Hendricks
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a very dark, hazy mahogany beer, as good as black in appearance.

Overall: It has the aroma of coffee grounds, black tea, caramel, nutmeg, bitter chocolate, soy sauce. Tastes very smooth, full but slightly metallic mouthfeel, toasted and nutty malt ’bittersweetness’ ending in more roasted bitterness. Very good black ale, but too roasted and dry for a porter. Seems to finish like a stout.

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Photo of SometimesIfart
3.52/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale.

Dark Horse just doesn't put enough beers out there often enough. They have some absolute gems, and a mostly very solid portfolio with minimal amounts of misses. Black Ales are quickly becoming a new favorite style of mine and I'm hoping this one is something special. Let's drink it.

Look - From the twelve ounce bottle hard poured into a dimpled pint glass. This beer pours black as a sunless wasteland with a three finger deep mocha colored head that is of depths I seldom ever see. The pillowy nature is a sight to behold and it looks as thick as Donald trumps skull. Immediate retention amongst a slow dissipation. Carbonation is unreadable do to the darkness of the liquid swill. Lacing and stick is excellent.

Smell - In the initial sniff directly from the bottle I was detecting a lot of hops along with a lot of chocolate. Upon pouring it the nose is pure dark chocolate but a small touch of grape like scents. Coffee as well in medium roasts. Smells stouty.

Taste - Something funny is going on with this beer. At first, when it was quite cols it was all straight up dark chocolate. Now that it has warmed again that odd grape flavor is dominating with a noticeable amount of the dark chocolate coming in halves. There isn't anything else to this flavor profile. Old bottle? Infection?. I mean it doesn't taste BAD per say but it isn't all that great either.

Feel - Beer is moderate in the mouth with a very high level of creamyness and a low to medium amount of carbonation. Swallows easier than I had expected and this aspect does retain the chocolate as it sits but the swallow once again brings forward the grape flavor.

Overall - Even with the apparent age this was still a solid enough beer. I do not blame the brewery, I blame the shop for how old this thing must be. It looks beautiful, and the feel is pretty nice but the taste was surely off. I will try again fresh and re-review it..

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Photo of Huhzubendah
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Near black opaque body. Viscous with an oily, beige collar. Roast and chocolate scents leap out. Piney hop character emerges as the beer is allowed to warm a bit. Nice flavor. Medium bodied. Bitterness is gentle on the palate. Solid.

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Photo of cbutova
3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of them been sitting in the fridge for just about too long.

A- 12oz pour into a snifter with a pitch black body and a semi-dark mocha brown cap. That head is thick and creamy with good retention. Several extended webs and sheets of lacing deposited by a small foamy ring.

S- Heavily roasted with a focus on malts. The grains provide a deep delivery of toasted almond nuttiness, burnt barley, milk chocolate, coffee and brownie desserts; somewhat luscious. Despite the intense malts earthy and slight citrus hops poke through.

T- Starts out with a barrage of kilned grains covering the spectrum from brown to pitch black. Toasted nuts like walnut, medium caramel, licorice, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso beans, smoky burning wood (a touch of scotch) and charred barley come to mind. Once again hints of pine, citrus and earthy hops. Bittersweet caramel ash character.

MF- Medium-heavy bodied overall with a certain slickness about it. Texture falls between chewy and puffy while carbonation is on the lower end. Finish leaves the palate coated in burnt bitters.

Black is the key word here. Decadent depth of blackening here with heavily smoked and burnt flavors melding with dessert tones of chocolate and coffee. Embrace the dark side; perhaps even a bit too much here.

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Photo of avalon07
3.86/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a black color and a thick texture. There was an inch and a half of foamy, tan-colored, long-lasting head. Pretty good lacing.

S: A decent aroma of coffee, chocolate, hops, and malt.

T: Tasted of a strong coffee element, a good shot of chocolate in the finish, light hops (lighter than most ABAs), and roasted malt. Not quite what you normally expect from the style (this is mainly due to the lighter than average hoppiness), but still a good flavor. It does get a little less interesting as you go along, but solid nonetheless.

M: A well-carbonated beer with a dry finish. Medium-bodied.

O: This is a strangely likable beer. It has a couple of flaws, but is quite drinkable.

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Photo of fscottkey
4.25/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A: [4.25] Beer looks deep black with some ruby highlights when held to a backlight. There is a decent 1/2 finger of chocolate Frosty colored head. The beer looks inviting. The bottle lists the ABV (7.5%) but I can't find a date code.

S: [4.25] Based on the name I was expecting a Black IPA smell. This is straight up porter/stout. Coffee, chocolate, roasted malts, toasted marmallow. Really nice scent.

T: [4.25] Follows the nose. Perfect roast malt flavor with hints of coffee and cocoa to back it up.

M: [4.25] Sticky and coating. the beer clings to the glass and the palette. The carbonation level is right and the beer feels really solid as you drink it.

O: [4.25] I do not read about beers before I drink them. The name "Black Ale" made me expect a Black IPA. To me this is not a Black IPA. but a delicious stout. Great roasted malt qualities on the nose and the tongue. The beer feels slick and smooth as you drink it. There is no sense of the alcohol anywhere.

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Photo of Bone53
4.51/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottled 2/13/14

Appearance: Thick pour; Black with no light coming through. Mocha brown head

Smell: Dark chocolate, espresso, molasses, slight dark fruit, grains

Taste: Dark roasted coffee and dark chocolate, slight dark fruit, smokey ash, hops come through the finish

Mouthfeel: Light medium bodied; Thin for the style, but drinkable with a bitter finish

Overall: Im very impressed with this beer. They packed big RIS aromas and flavors in 7.5% abv. If the mouthfeel was thicker, this would be near perfect. I didnt realize this was a year and a half old til i was half way done with the six pack. I think the age has done wonders to this beer

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Photo of OldManMetal
3.62/5  rDev -8.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This is a beautiful black ale: a tenacious giant rocky brown head (pour carefully!), which leaves surprisingly sparing rafts and blotches of lacing, looms atop a viscous midnight-black body that is completely impenetrable to light; a significant amount of yeast sediment covers the floor. On the nose, it is moderate in intensity, showing itself as very dark, sweet malt: toffee and sweet milk chocolate, with significant alcohol undertones and a faint background of dark herbs. On the palate, it is primarily bitter, bitter chocolate with lesser amounts of dark toffee and bitter coffee. The finish is surprisingly clean, but astringent from the alcohol, followed by the onset of a long-lingering chocolatey bitterness, thin but intense. Mouthfeel is quite thin considering the full body, and texture is creamy and very peppery from some strong carbonation. While there are a few different flavor notes here, they tend to be narrow in scope; this beer just doesn't have the rounded, complex dark malt flavor profile that I really want from a black ale. The alcohol is also a bit too present for my liking, and at only 7.5% ABV at that. Maybe at 11 months old, it still needed more aging. (12 oz bottle, 334 days after pkg.)

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Photo of Pegasus
3.97/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Deep black in color, like spent motor oil. Small, patchy islands of caramel colored coarse foam lie upon the surface. Fine, scattered beading lines the glass walls.

Aroma: Spicy alcohol, with notable fusel alcohols utterly dominate the aroma. The scent wafts well even at a foot or so away from the glass. Black licorice, cold coffee and charred malt are present as well.

Taste: Cold coffee, charred malt and bitter chocolate open the taste and serve as its foundation throughout. Warming, spicy alcohol is present as well. As the taste develops, the charred malt rises to its zenith, well balancing the sweet-and-spicy notes of the alcohol. Late in the taste, there is a moderate herbal bitterness, serving to bring the taste to a close.

Mouth feel: Smooth full, quite soft, pleasant.

Drinkability/notes: A refined, well-crafted high ABV ale, better suited to chill winter days. But, it will do well, even in summer.

Presentation: Packaged in a stand twelve-ounce brown glass longneck bottle with a pry-off crown, served in a New Belgium Brewing chalice.

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Photo of Ozzylizard
3.87/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

On draft at Dark Horse into shaker
Aroma of roasted malt with some chocolate
Head removed by bartender – what remains is light brown, creamy, diminishing to creamy layer
Lacing excellent – curtains of tiny to medium bubbles
Body dark brown/black, opaque
Flavor of roasted malt and bitter chocolate; no hops flavor but slightly bitter; no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate medium, creamy, lively carbonation

Appearance 4, Aroma 3.75, Flavor 4, Palate 3.75, Overall 3.75

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Photo of Mikus
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is the best Dark Horse that I have had the pleasure of trying (though Safety Meeting wasn't too shabby either). Super deep, black brew with 1/2 finger of cocoa tinged bubbles. Nose consisted of coffee, roasted malt, and a slight 'herbal/earthy' hoppiness. Delicious coffee note right up front, with a nice balance of coffee and hop bitterness on the middle of the palate, hint of molasses/burnt sugar move towards the aftertaste with some more coffee. Rather viscous for a 7.5% ABV, with a hint of alcohol on the aftertaste. Very well done, actually hits many of the same notes as FIS, but a bit easier to drink (as opposed to FIS being more of a sipper). Nice brew.

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Photo of DabblinWiscCraft
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got in a build-your-own-sixer at my local grocer. This one has no bottled on date I can see, but there's quite a bit of yeasty settlement that has me a bit worried. Poured right from the fridge into my pint glass.

L: Pours coffee black with about a half-inch of khaki head that falls and dissipates pretty quickly but leaves some cling as it goes down.

S: Roasted malts and a touch of molasses in the nose. Just a bit of grassy hops coming through, as well. Some coffee/dark chocolate notes are present.

T: That's a tasty brew. It's quite sweet at the front--caramel malts/sweetbread notes--although the roasted malts balance things out nicely. The middle brings on more sweetness, with molasses coming in on top of the already sweet malts. There's just a bit of coffee in there, with dark chocolate coming across more clearly. The back end sees the sweet and roasty malt flavors continue until they run up against some clear alcohol and hop bitterness. For how sweet it starts out, this one finishes pretty bitter.

F: Medium-bodied, smooth, light on the carbonation, and decidedly bitter at the end. It has some stick, but I wouldn't classify this as overtly syrupy--it definitely lingers on the palate.

O: I've had very few offerings from Dark Horse, but this is another winner from them. It's a very full-flavored brew that--even if I wouldn't character it as balanced--works some great flavors together for a complex and enjoyable brew. Definitely recommend this one.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Horray! I hope my stomach doesn't punch me for this one. My first dark beer in over a MONTH!!! HEALTH REASONS!! SUCK!!!

Appearance : Dark...pitch...obsidian; used motor oil coming out of the bottle here. The head pours an angry reddish color (hmm, reminding me of Smoked Fore!), about 2 fingers tall. Within a couple minutes' time the head recedes to a hilly lace on top of the black oblivion of death that we call the body.

Aroma : Oh yes. Oh...I missed you so, dark beers.

Black licorice, spice drop, some anise, horehound, and some spicy dark earthy hop. Barrel aged malts. Schwarzbier-like nose. First thought was that it smelled like Shiner's Bohemian Black but a bit classier. My mouth is watering, I must move on...

Flavor : OH, OH I may start crying here. I missed this soooo much. Oh...deep dark rooty flavors, (wiping my eyes)...smokey, slightly metallic but mixes in just right, coffee bean, charred barley, hardware store candy spice drop, licorice...good good heaven.

Feel : Rich, sweet, succulent, and smooth. Medium bodied, coats the palate, glides down like melted chocolate. Dries politely with a root and spice finish. Carbonation is just right. Alcoholic burn at the back of the throat - so so delicious.

Overall : All is freaking right in the world. I think the stars aligned. What was I missing? Man I love these dark beers. Gotta watch myself though...

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Photo of MichaelProcton
4.6/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Astoundingly good. Perhaps branded as an ale, more like a porter/stout-leaning hybrid. Just enough hops to give a kick, but TONS of dark, malty deliciousness. Highly recommended.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.74/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours seal brown with a luxuriant head of fine, mocha froth. Complex aroma smells of molasses, currants, berries, peat, smoke, and dark chocolate, contrasted by a spritz of grapefruit--one of the more engaging and adventurous bouquets I’ve encountered in a while. For a beer I’ve yet to taste, this is highly seductive...

The taste features a bite of herbal hops and alcohol up front, along with black coffee, bitter chocolate, and grapefruit pith--far more ferocious than I had anticipated. Substantial warming begins to unveil some of the dark berries alluded to by the nose. The mouthfeel comes off a little sharp in spite of smooth, medium body. Perhaps it’s just the bitterness cutting through...

Overall, this is a beautiful and enticing brew whose presentation belies its aggressive, bitter taste. If you’re into that sorta thing you may well enjoy this, but I was hoping for something more balanced.

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Photo of Mooslerfitness
1.4/5  rDev -64.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

not what I was hoping for taste of chocolate melted on a chared oak plank
And im drinking the ashes taste lingers in mouth for long time mine had a date of 2/17/14 almost year old ? I poured out it was so bad

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Photo of mchegash
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - 4.75/5
About 1 cm of nice creamy light brown head. The color is *pitch black*. Even when I shine a very bright light at it, I can see no color other than black. I can see a bunch of carbonation bubbles rising up on the sides of the glass. Overall, a great look. Deep, dark, and mysterious. Makes me feel like drinking this beer in going on an adventure into the unknown.

Smell - 4/5
Chocolate, roasty, smoky, some hops. Has the smell of a great roasty/smoky porter.

Taste - 3.85/5
Roasty and smoky flavors. Some sweet, almost fruity malts and some hops flavors as well. A light level of sweetness. The predominant taste overall is the smokiness. The beer is good, but I feel like they could have toned down the smokiness a bit, and brought out the sweet malt flavors a bit more.

Mouthfeel - 3.5/5
Medium to full bodied. Moderately creamy. Carbonation is light. Perhaps a little bitter but still quite drinkable

Overall - 3.9/5
Overall quite a decent beer. The main think I love is the pitch black appearance. The main thing I would change would be to balance out the smokiness and the sweet malts a bit more.

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Photo of Folderol
3.38/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dark Horse says this has a hard time being called a porter or stout, and I agree. I'm sure this is spot-on for the emerging Black Ale category, as it is truly black. Looks pretty damn good, Imperial Stout-like with a thin brown head, but smells more like an IPA. I hoped for a more rounded malt and roast in the flavor profile, but mostly I just get west coast hops. Not my cup of brew.

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Photo of KYGunner
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Coffee centric on the nose it delivers a nice balance of char and bitter sweet chocolate in aroma.

For the most part the flavor emulates the aroma with a coffee forward front. The coffee yields to a chocolate center and an abrupt roasty char. It ends a bit bitter but the bitterness comes in the form of bitter sweet bakers chocolate.

The feel is quite full but it still keeps an easy drinking presence. Very enjoyable yet nicely complex.

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Photo of mrfrancis
4/5  rDev +0.8%

A: Pours a murky black with a creamy tan head.
S: Aromas of caramel, toffee, cream, roasted grain, herbs, grass, lemon, and lime fill the nose.
T: Notes of herbs, grass, kumquats, lemon, lime, and grapefruit rind mingle with notes of caramel, toffee, cream, cocoa, and roasted grain. The finish is bitter, imparting a rush of herb and citrus flavors.
M: Medium-bodied, silky, and smooth. Carbonation is airy and just present enough. Alcohol is pretty much undetectable.
O: A rock solid and very approachable black ale. I have no complaints with this one.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 585 ratings.