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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

917 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 917
Reviews: 553
rAvg: 3.96
pDev: 10.35%

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

Style | ABV
American Strong Ale |  7.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: xlperro on 05-28-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 917 | Reviews: 553 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of keithmurray

New York

4.65/5  rDev +17.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance - dark brown nearly black color with mocha head

Smell - black licorice, dark chocolate, roasted malts, expresso

Taste - much like the smell - dark chocolate, roasted malts, expresso, black licorice, vanilla

Mouthfeel - full bodied, viscous, medium carbonation, slight sweetness in the front, bitterness lingers in the back, the mouthfeel has the thickness of an imperial stout, which I like

Overall - impressive beer that drinks like an imperial stout, I will be seeking out more of this

Price Point - $2.09/12 oz bottle

Serving type: bottle

03-23-2014 21:29:50 | More by keithmurray
Photo of brutusmuktuk


4.28/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle with a dark brown color with a foamy tan head. Has a coffee and chocolate aroma, and taste is also coffee and chocolate, though with a bitter finish. Has a nice medium body feel. This has a stout feel and flavor, but without the roasted malts. Probably one of my favorite porters.

Serving type: bottle

03-18-2014 21:13:00 | More by brutusmuktuk
Photo of SLeffler27

New York

3.71/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

SRM 35, like dark chocolate syrup with dark amber highlights when put to the light, otherwise, black in a Dogfish Head snifter. The thin, creamy chestnut head is quick to dissipate, leaving fine lace and a clinging viscosity.

The aroma is syrupy sweet with raisins and dates. A faint aroma of roasted chocolate and coffee resides in the background. Warmth brings out hints of vanilla and molasses.

No surprise, strong roasted malt punches through up front to the middle. A long, roasted bitterness fills the finish. Any sweetness upon entry quickly yields. There is no real presence from hops. This beer is all roasted malt and builds on that as it warms.

A full, almost syrupy body with ample fine carbonation. Alcohol is warming and far more present than anticipated. A dry finish leaves light astringency and plenty of residual sugar on the lips.

This was enjoyable, though far from what I would consider an American Strong Ale. I think this one is more suited to a dry Stout. Sit back and enjoy it with conversation and hors d’ouvres.

Serving type: bottle

03-16-2014 22:40:09 | More by SLeffler27
Photo of clayrock81


3.89/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a black body with one finger head on top of an aroma that is definitely roasted and coffee like along with hints of chocolate. The taste is one of strong roasted malts, again malts are similiar to coffee (maybe java is better word), a chewey, almost bready beer that is dry but mixed with some bitter chocolate and I swear I get hints of both vanilla and dark fruits like figs. Simple but enjoyable sipper.

Serving type: bottle

03-14-2014 11:14:11 | More by clayrock81
Photo of andrewjraab


3.86/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black with a caramel mocha brown head that quickly dissipates to a fine ring around the glass. Smells of caramel, malts, brown sugar, syrup. Tastes follows the nose - nice balance of malts, warming alcohol, acidic, drying mouthfeeel.

Overall, this is a solid brew that just misses on the finer points of drinkability. This is a one and done type of brew, but I'd come back.

Serving type: bottle

03-12-2014 03:47:34 | More by andrewjraab
Photo of beerrat


4.3/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I sat here in the tap room reviewing a beer on the phone.This beer is very dark brown with light brown head.Smooth feel in mouth and taste not to strong.Not real bitter with a hint of nut taste.Now the glass is almost gone I want another so it is pretty dam good.

Serving type: on-tap

02-28-2014 20:28:21 | More by beerrat


4.03/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap. Tasting glass @ BierCab (Barcelona). Black color, brown froth. Lasting crown leaves a wide lacing collar on sides. Intense chocolate & licorice aromas, toasted & sweet malt notes, slight roasted to the nose. Creamy upfront & sharp bitterness from roasted malts. Medium body. Moderate carbonation. Velvet palate & dense texture. Prunes & fudge chocolate in the middle. Sweet & slight bitter finish. Long aftertaste. Delicious !!

Serving type: on-tap

02-04-2014 00:01:46 | More by GONZALOYANNA
Photo of matjack85


4.16/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I bought this as part of a build-your-own six pack for $9.99 at the Binny's store in Bloomingdale, IL. 12oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

The beer pours an opaque black color with a 1½-finger light brown head. Retention was only 30 seconds long in my pint glass and lacing was minimal.

Burnt malt and chocolate/coffee aroma.

Big dark roasted malty flavor along with lots of bittersweet chocolate. Some black coffee underneath. Earthy hops add additional bitterness and balance. Finishes bitter with a bitter aftertaste.

Thick, smooth, and creamy mouthfeel. Full bodied with moderate to medium crabonation.


Serving type: bottle

02-01-2014 04:26:51 | More by matjack85
Photo of rlee1390


4/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Black in the glass with off white/tanish head that leaves some lacing.

S-Roasted malt, coffee, earthy hops, mild dark chocolate.

T-Starts with roasted malt and coffee, ends with earthy and dirt like hops. Mild bitterness.

M-Medium bodied, nice carbonation and a tad creamy.

O-A good beer, increasing the bitterness would help round out the beer more or more chocolate in the tatse. Still a good beer.

Serving type: bottle

01-12-2014 16:30:43 | More by rlee1390
Photo of mvanaskie13


3.86/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a sam adams custom glass, color is black, head is tan, 1/2 inch thick with some stop presence, no lacing.

Smell is clean, light roast and chocolate malts, becoming more apparent as it warms, subtle grassy hops.

Taste is also straightforward, good strong malts, roast and chocolate, no over sweet flavors, hops are present but not too bitter, enough to counter balance the strength.

Mouthfeel is a little biting on the tongue from the roasted malts and strength, slightly drying, but does not take away; sweet flavors are apparent in the mouthfeel as it lingers, more chocolate and lighter malt.

Overall, a really tasty black ale, great drinkability, nice dark malt flavors and presence.

Serving type: bottle

11-22-2013 00:04:49 | More by mvanaskie13
Photo of tobelerone


4.04/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Like many others I assumed this was a Black IPA when purchased but upon pouring discerned that it's really more of a stout. Pitch black body with a tan head a little more than a finger high. Very nice retention, some sticky patches of lace on the glass.

Aroma is very malt-forward, with traces of earthy hops lurking subtly underneath. Quite roasty, with molasses, cocoa powder, and hints of raisins and black cherries detected. Tasty - again it's roasty, more assertively bitter than expected, very faint booziness, not as fruity as expected. Kind of bittersweet chocolatey, charred, but still milky and creamy, not very sweet at all, and mostly dry in the finish. There's a bit of an aspirin-like quality to the lingering bitterness at the end but it's doesn't overpower the other more appealing aspects of this beer.

Medium bodied and carbonated, with an excellent creaminess to the feel overall. I think most drinkers would characterize this as a hoppy stout, at least that's how I see it. Good stuff for a midweight stout-style beer that isn't too sweet and laden with adjuncts.

Serving type: bottle

10-13-2013 04:07:03 | More by tobelerone
Photo of micromaniac129


3.99/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I thought I was buying like a black ipa or black lager. I wasn't expecting this.
A well made beer that very fragrant and a nice depth of flavor. The aroma is sweet malts candied stone fruits church pews and molasses.
The taste of this stout looking beer was equally up to par. it was rich malts. almost roasted, tobacco, fruits, lether and molasses.
Drinks heavy and velvetty smooth with a touch of alcohol warming at the end.

Serving type: bottle

10-06-2013 14:28:04 | More by micromaniac129
Photo of chinchill

South Carolina

3.78/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Undated 12 oz bottle purchased near brewery last month, poured into a snifter.

A - Pours deep dark brownish-black with a one cm dark tan head that fades quickly to a thin, irregular top coat. Essentialy black in the glass.

Smell: Lots of dark fruits with hints of dark chocolate, wood, toffee and molasses.

Taste: A load of malts, mostly dark roasted but some sweet too. Some spicy hops, hints of dark fruits, dark chocolate, expresso, burnt toast and light smoke. A bit of clash between hops and malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium+ body; medium-light carbonation. Less smooth than one might reasonably hope.

Overall: Lots of dark roasted malts, chocolate, and coffee in this big beer. Worth trying: I have no doubt some people will love this beer that drinks like an imperial American porter.

Serving type: bottle

09-18-2013 00:08:07 | More by chinchill
Photo of superspak


4.23/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 6/11/2013. Pours pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, cocoa, coffee, light char, toast, toffee, floral, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of roasted/dark malts; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, cocoa, char, toast, toffee, floral, and roasted earthiness. Moderate roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, char, cocoa, toast, toffee, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Awesome complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt flavors; with a great bitterness/sweetness balance and no cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a very creamy, slick, and moderately chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a highly excellent robust porter style. All around great balance and complexity of roasted/dark malt flavors with big robustness; and very smooth to sip on. A highly enjoyable offering.

Serving type: bottle

09-14-2013 07:12:44 | More by superspak
Photo of damndirtyape


4.1/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Libby globe porter/stout glass. No date. Pour left lots of sediment behind in the bottle. Washing out the bottle later I found the sediment was really caked on.

Appearance: Black with a cola brown hint at the edges when held up to the light. Thin tan foam ring at the edges, with only an occasional tiny island of lacing noted.

Smell: Roasted malt, cocoa powder, burnt sugar, and also something woody and slightly pungent as it warms up. Interesting, but odd as well.

Taste: Chocolate roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate, a lingering espresso bean bitter finish. Like a rich chocolate cake in a glass, but not too sweet, more chocolate than anything else.

Mouthfeel: Nicely thick, close to creamy but not quite. Carbonation just right - little pin pricks of carbonation on the tongue that linger a bit. Definite stickiness after the carbonation subsides.

Overall / Drinkability: I know this beer is listed as a strong ale, but it strikes me as a stout, and an imperial one at that. Very tasty and I could see myself buying it again, but one an evening is enough. I wish I had some cookies to go with it, but pretty good by itself.

Serving type: bottle

08-29-2013 23:28:50 | More by damndirtyape
Photo of PicoPapa


3.86/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle. Pours a pitch black color with a half inch of medium brown head. Some lacing. Earthy aroma with lots of dark fruits and chocolate. Hints of smoke. The taste is smoke with some nice roasted malts and dark chocolate. Earth as well but not nearly as much dark fruit flavor as the aroma lead me to expect. Bitter dark chocolate with more roasted malts at the end. Medium bodied with a bit of an oily mouthfeel. Not sure what it is classified as but this one reminds me of a Porter. Regardless, pretty solid beer I'd have again. Good balance of the bitter dark chocolate and the smoke/roasted flavors.

Serving type: bottle

08-29-2013 18:23:47 | More by PicoPapa
Photo of lacqueredmouse


4.4/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

330ml bottle purchased from Beer Cartel in Sydney.

Pours a deep black, oily with a blood-red edging to it. Head forms a solid crust of mocha chocolate that coalesces into larger bubbles and rings the top of the glass. Lacing forms in lovely tiny little patches. Carbonation is very fine and forms in tiny vertical streams. It looks very good.

Nose is wonderful. Deep, brown, sweet and nutty, with a chewy, dark caramel character and a bright sharp roast character to pierce it. It's extremely mellow, and sweet without being heavy or sickly. It's based around wholesome grain sweetness and rich unprocessed sugar. It's really, really lovely stuff.

Taste is also excellent, although it has a lightness that surprised me at first. Mild nutty entry develops into a big, broad burnt caramel sweetness that keeps going for some time. On the back, it develops into a sweet coffee-vanilla character like an affogato. Vanilla and a touch of very dark chocolate linger in the aftertaste. Wonderful stuff.

Feel is surprisingly light for everything else that's going on—in some sense it works, because the palate survives so well on its own anyway, but I wonder what a bigger, fuller version of this would be like.

Overall, though, this is exceptional stuff. I pretty much picked this up on a whim: I've very much enjoyed some of the other Dark Horse beers, but there was nothing particularly attracting me to this one. I'm very glad I did select it though: this is truly a very, very good beer.

Serving type: bottle

08-17-2013 05:13:43 | More by lacqueredmouse
Photo of vandemonian


3.65/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale seems like a stout to me. The finish was too dry and metallic.

A: Black colour and a 4 mm head that lasts quite well. 4

S: Roasted malt aroma. 4

M: Roasted malt and strong, dry charcoal flavours. The finish is dry and bitter.
Don't like the finish. 3.5

M: Low carbonation. 3.75

O: 3.5

Serving type: bottle

08-14-2013 02:26:57 | More by vandemonian
Photo of rudzud


3.99/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Received this as an extra in a trade. Poured into my Duvel tulip.

A - Pours a nice deep dark brownish black with a one finger dark brown head that fades quickly to leave light wisps and a thin halo. Not too too shabby.

S - Lots of dark fruits here, raisins, nice dark chocolate, sweet malts, caramel and molasses.

T - Taste is more of the sweet malts, syrupy sweet, lots of dark fruits, raisins, chocolate, coffee, some acrid roast notes. Not too sweet, lots of roast.

M - Mouthfeel is a touch on the thinner side, light carbonation, makes this almost slightly syrupy.

O - Overall, not a bad strong ale. I like the amount of roast, chocolate, and coffee in this one. Its very solid. With the mouthfeel was a bit better.

Serving type: bottle

08-09-2013 01:38:52 | More by rudzud
Photo of TheRougeBastard

North Carolina

3.18/5  rDev -19.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a jet-black into my HD pilsner glass (a birthday present) leaving a nice two-finger tan colored head. First impression was that this more a porter or stout than anything, mouthfeel and aftertaste confirmed that impression. I was expecting a black "IPA" based on much of what is written, though a black ale does not an IPA make, despite what some beer " aficionado's" would have you believe. Overall, this was a decent brew that one can enjoy without getting hammered...unless you consume a lot. The only LIMFAC is lack of bitterness I've come to expect from this genre, of course some might find that more to their liking.

Serving type: bottle

07-28-2013 01:01:33 | More by TheRougeBastard
Photo of smakawhat


4.35/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

A good sized swiss cheese looking tan cocoa brown head, of a good three fingers off the pour is made. Body is classic dark walnut brown, nearly black. Very dark and opaque. Pretty solid and basic, and quite dark.

Porter like roast, and a chewy grain. Hints of bulgur and dark roasty coffee. Slightly dry but with some creamy like density. This smells more like a very creamy robust porter than a strong ale. Deep roasting density of malt almost into black bean thickness smelling. Not sure where this is going, but it's a very nice brew so far.

Real nice surprise on the palate. Very light body, almost unexpected from the nose, a fruity ester quality like a classic strong ale, and a great roast coffee finish. Creamy mouthfeel hits with a coffee angle nicely on the swallow. Good bitterness of hop and mellow citrus and grapefruit which is only noticeable on the swallow. The lightness strangely seems to carry extremely well flavor wise on the palate.

Overall a very unique tasting brew, a roast hoppy strong ale, quite neat, I really dig this beer.

Serving type: bottle

07-19-2013 01:01:03 | More by smakawhat
Photo of mdfb79

New York

3.89/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From 05/15/13 notes. Had this on tap at Pony Bar on the UES in NYC. This was a want of mine so glad to see it at their anniversary party. 14 oz. pour in a pint glass.

a - Pours a dark brown mahogany color with one inch of light tan head and moderate carbonation evident. Some light lacing on the glass.

s - Smells of roasted malts, burnt malts, toasted malts, caramel, chocolate, some light coffee, and some molasses. Nice nose, tons of roasty notes and malts.

t - Tastes of roasted malts, bitter coffee, bitter dark chocolate, toasted malts, burnt malts, caramel, and some vanilla. Nice taste, a decent amount of bitterness. I like the nose a bit better.

m - Medium body and moderate carbonation. Pretty easy to drink, light bitterness.

o - Overall a pretty nice beer; lots of roasted notes and malts throughout, with some bitter coffee and chocolate in the taste. Reminds me more of an american stout but whatever, it's a pretty good beer. Would have it again.

Serving type: on-tap

05-17-2013 17:11:58 | More by mdfb79
Photo of barczar


3.96/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours an opaque onyx with minimal deep tan head that dissipates to almost nothing.

Booze, chocolate, roasty malt, and coffee form the initial aroma. Tobacco and nutty notes add complexity. There's a hint of soy and plum sweetness.

Flavor is roast malt dominant, initially a little sweet and chocolatey, but turning coffee bitter and a touch charred at the finish. Underlying notes of resin and grapefruit are present. There's a bit of toasted malt nuttiness, but roast overpowers.

Body is on the thick side, velvety, with minimal carbonation and slight alcohol warmth.

Lots of roast malt character and coffee, with an interesting underlying hop citrus profile. Just enough chocolate to add character, though I'd rather it be more prevalent.

Serving type: bottle

05-10-2013 23:56:01 | More by barczar
Photo of ehammond1

3.51/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Bottle (2012)

Acquired via trade
Thanks, joshrosborne!

An appropriately pretty black ale: black throughout and a small, but persistent, creamy brown head of small bubbles. I can't exactly say why, but I thought this really looked like Bell's Expedition Stout as it poured from the bottle. Sticky, lined, brown lacing left down the glass. No doubt about it, this is a pretty beer.

Plenty of roasted malt and baker's chocolate make up the abundance of the aroma, along with a touch of a cream sweetness. A mild pine hop presence as well.

The flavor follows the aroma: lots of roast and black malt, a touch of chocolate, and coffee creamer sweetness, interestingly. There's a touch of licorice as well. Nice flavors. Comes together nicely. The flavors fall apart though as the beer warms and the thin mouthfeel shines through.

Thinner in body than anticipated. Lower-medium bodied with low, but creamy, carbonation.

A nice, sweeter stout.

Serving type: bottle

05-02-2013 01:36:53 | More by ehammond1
Photo of dbrauneis

North Carolina

3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours an opaque yet clear jet black in color with minimal amounts of visible carbonation and some very dark amber highlights. The beer has as finger tall foamy dark mocha head that reduces to a very thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Light to moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of dark roasted malts with some light notes of roasted coffee and pine/resin hops.

T: Upfront there are strong flavors of dark roasted malts with some notes of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and just a touch of smoked malts. There are some light to moderate flavors of pine/resin and earthy hops. Moderate amounts of lingering bitterness in the finish.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with some moderate amounts of dryness in the finish.

O: Very easy to drink for the style (American Strong Ale) and the higher ABV - drinks like a smaller beer and is pretty enjoyable.Nice complexity to the flavors.

Serving type: bottle

04-28-2013 03:28:24 | More by dbrauneis
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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 917 ratings.