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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

919 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 919
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: 919 | Reviews: 553 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of RedSpecial1


4.97/5  rDev +25.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer pours a thick, dark, black with a thin bit of brown head. The smell is robust and roasty with hints of dark chocolate, reminds me of a campfire. The main flavors are dark roasted barley and a nice dark chocolate flavor. This beer is thin enough to sip easily, but robust enough to coat the mouth with a pleasant flavor that lingers nicely. This is a great beer, lots of strong flavor, but smooth as well.

Serving type: bottle

04-14-2011 03:35:00 | More by RedSpecial1
Photo of lsrose


4.97/5  rDev +25.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Beer poured a tall dark tan head with a very aggressive pour into a Sam Adams perfect pint. Was dark black even at the thinnest parts of the glass. Head did diminish rather quickly to leave a coating.

S - Beer had an exceptional chocolate mocha smell. Very much like many chocolate stouts.

T - Doesn't take long to get a feel for the taste of this beer. It just smacks you with a heavy coffee flavor. With the smell I expected more chocolate but there is just a bit of dark chocolate taste with the coffees.

M - Take one little drink of this beer and the tastes will linger for several minutes. The taste can be so strong that it is hard to distinguish a mouthfeel.

I had expected a Belgian Dark Ale or some other weaker style from this but was pleasantly surprised. This is a super thick and flavorful beer. I was stunned with the smell, and then again with the flavor and loved both. One of the best beers I have discovered in a long time and very pleasant to drink.

Serving type: bottle

05-08-2011 04:05:13 | More by lsrose
Photo of britzdog


4.88/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5


Serving type: bottle

04-26-2010 02:12:09 | More by britzdog
Photo of paxtonthegreat


4.85/5  rDev +22.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours super black in color with a very unique creamy head. Aromas of dark chocolate, leather, and tobacco in the nose. Flavor mostly consisting of dark chocolate, dark malt, and slight leather and roasty and smokiness. A great strong ale that I convinced my local pub to get on draft because I love it so much.

Serving type: on-tap

11-07-2011 18:45:48 | More by paxtonthegreat
Photo of Realale


4.83/5  rDev +22%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Opaque black, with an extremely fine medium mocha head that sticks around and leaves nice lacing.

Nose is a touch of roast malt over brown bread, with an excellent hint of candied fruit. Excellent broad spectrum of malt flavors. Manages to be both subtle and complex. Bit of leafy hop as it warms. Great stuff!

Complexity carries through to the palate, where the dark, bready malt leads the way, but is well-supported by yeasty, chocolately, and coffee notes. Medium-full in the mouth, but there is excellent acidity to keep it balanced. Very long.

This batch is well-carbonated, and the beer is incredibly drinkable for its strength. A fine beer for a session or a meal.

Serving type: bottle

04-17-2005 16:49:25 | More by Realale
Photo of BeerCon5


4.75/5  rDev +19.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours black in color with two fingers of coffee colored foamy head, very good retention.

The scent is of chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, and notes of wood.

The taste was of dominant sweet dark chocolate, notes of fruit, roasted malts, molasses, coffee, surprisingly not much of an alcohol presence.

Full bodied, very smooth, a bit of a chalky feel, low carbonation.

This was an excellent beer, though it seemed more along the lines of a Stout than an Strong Ale. The flavor was very good, well balanced and complex. This was a very easy drinker for being a little heavy, I would definitely look for this again.

Serving type: on-tap

11-09-2010 16:13:50 | More by BeerCon5
Photo of elNopalero


4.73/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This certainly lives up to its name, pouring the color of used motor oil topped by a foamy layer of cocoa-colored clouds. Looks wonderful, in other words.

I get a rich aroma of dark roasted coffee beans, as well as some terrific espresso and bitter dark chocolates. There’s a faint worn leather hint to it and an almost earthy touch of mushrooms.
The flavor comes off with that heavy and intense roast profile, followed by a sharply pronounced bitterness upfront. It’s a strong beer with a great body and a wonderful finish. I could easily imagine this bourbon barrel aged… (mmm… I’m drooling here.) Sip it and enjoy. I loved it!

Serving type: bottle

06-04-2012 18:43:51 | More by elNopalero
Photo of Bighuge


4.72/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Inky black appearance. Medium sized brown head. Good retention. Lacing comes in rings. Aroma is thick, milkshake like. Beer Stout milkshake that is. Burnt chocolate, char, cocoa and roasted malt. I like. This beer is like velvet on the tongue. Body reaches toward full. Flavors of burnt malt, charred wood, tobacco, bittersweet chocolate and PACNW hops meld together in perfection. Nice lingering roasted bitterness. They call this "Black Bier Ale" but I hear it's really an Imperial Stout. It tastes like one. My curiosity has got me though. What kind of A/V are we talking about, cuz I taste none.

Yet another beauty I can thank marburg for.

Serving type: bottle

03-21-2004 05:47:38 | More by Bighuge
Photo of shapudding


4.7/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

No dating.
WOW! This is sooo not what I was expecting at all! I had no idea what I was in for. This one poured out like an imperial stout. Pitch brown with a thick caramelly creamy brown head that reduced quickly to a bit of a dusting and a thick ring. Huge aroma. Total shocker here too. Scents of lambic, rich imperial stout, alcohol, with tons of hoppiness. Merlot, chocolate, coffee, deep and roasty. Smooth and slightly creamy with a bitey carbination that snaps at you towards the end of the sip. Nice toasty dark hoppiness with a good bite. Blackened toast, dark bittersweet chocolate and espresso. This is damn luscious. Great flavors and feel. Nice one!

Serving type: bottle

03-11-2005 02:48:40 | More by shapudding
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 putnam


4.63/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

What a fantastic brew. One of the best drinking made-in-Michigan beers in a bottle.
It has a rich, moist, solid, eggy head of medium grey/brown color over a virtually opaque brown liquid.

The aromas suggest coffee. Burned to thickness, black coffee. But there is a gasp of spring rain as well. Mature marsh grasses, baked in the August sun...
The flavors are sternly bitter. Thick, concentrated, highly extracted, drip-brewed black coffee flavors. It's a darker roast so its hard to fix the coffee's origin. It has the body of a top notch aged Sumatra though...with the fruity spiciness of a Central American brew. Sweet, perfectly couched alcohol floats along on the raft of bitterness. A finish that won't quit. It's hijacking the back of my tongue.

Easy to indulge in this elixer.

Serving type: bottle

11-02-2002 21:25:08 | More by putnam
Photo of McNealc31


4.63/5  rDev +16.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

So here is Dark Horse Brewing's Reserve Special Black Ale. It is indeed black with a creamy dark tan head. Lots of roast and toffee in the nose. Kind of smells like a Heath Bar. Wrapped in bacon.

Big, bold flavors in the first sip. Dark, bitter chocolate, smoked meat, roasted coffee. Late hop bite, too.

I really dig on this one! 7.5% ABV doesn't hurt, either. As they mention on the site, it's not quite a porter, not quite a stout, but golly is it good!

Serving type: bottle

04-04-2011 02:59:37 | More by McNealc31
Photo of inebrius


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Foamy head of fat ass bubbles over pitch. Nose of chocolate butter creme, roasted walnuts and a hard working weed whacker. An amiable roastiness hits the buds straight off to meld seamlessly into a long, but mild-mannered hop bitterness that necessitates another sip be recorded as a ring of lace on your hard working pint glass. Simultaneously lush and refreshing. Great beer!

Serving type: bottle

01-09-2003 18:18:29 | More by inebrius
Photo of aaronh


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

OK, I was expecting something not like this. A double stout at 8% ABV? Not the ideal pre-dinner beer, but it's open, so here we go. The first shock was the appearance of what looked like motor oil pouring out of the bottle into my "borrowed" glass. Just a hint of mahogany highlighted the edges, and a nice tan head topped the beer and lingered for a while. The aroma was great, with dark fruits, roasted malts, and a it of herbalness. I typically discuss flavor before mouthfeel, but this one the latter demands attention. This beer is perfect for a big stout: Silky smooth, coolly enveloping the tongue, with the carbonation lifting the beer off the tongue on the finish. Best part, there's not a strong lingering sweetness that usually accompanies such a great mouthfeel. The flavor does have a strong black malt presence, and just a hint of caramel sweetness up front. Strong dark chocolate flavors develop, along with a touch of minty hop herbalness. Man, this stuff is great! I think this was about $8 a six pack. I may have to go get more before I go home. While a strong beer with respect to both flavor and ABV, I could drink a good bit of this stuff. This is one of those beers that make the effort of tracking down regional stuff worthwhile. (Also makes sitting in a hotel room easier as well....). Do yourself a favor and give this one a try. All too frequently "Special" beers aren’t that special. This one is Very Special. Nice.

Serving type: bottle

03-29-2005 22:41:06 | More by aaronh
Photo of GreenWBush


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Absolutely impenetrable onyx. Fantastic, multi-layed chocolate milk lace pattern. Slight licorise on the nose seems out of place and funky, but then the flavor reassures you that this is fact one killer beer. Anise, soured milk. Roastiness is all over the place but kept in check with sweetly, almost Russian Imperial characteristics. Hoppy and bitter as all hell. Remains potent and in your face while remaining amazingly drinkable. Damned good from the source but equally good from the bottle – a remarkable achievement. Scarily similar to a smaller version of Rogue’s Imperial Stout.

Serving type: on-tap

07-01-2005 18:42:47 | More by GreenWBush
Photo of corey0212


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this in a trade with moose3285!

Pours black in color, sludgy out of the bottle, nice big cocoa-colored head fades down to a thin layer on top of the beer, excellent lacing. Smell is incredible...milk chocolate, molasses, plenty of coffee, slightly doughy. Now this is effing delicious! Taste is bitter coffee, plenty of chocolate, a faint smokiness, slightly burnt around the edges....wow. Mouthfeel is really interesting....feels more like a porter, tastes more like a stout. Great lingering bitterness, perfect coffee aftertaste. This is one of the more enjoyable beers I've had in a long time. Excellent brew!

Serving type: bottle

07-16-2008 01:09:56 | More by corey0212
Photo of Damian


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drank on-tap at The Independent, Somerville, MA
Served in a pint glass

The beer poured an inky, near pitch black with only hints of brown along the edges. A small, frothy, coffee-colored head lasted throughout most of the drink. Sticky sheets of webbed lacing trickled all down the glass.

The aroma was rich and smooth. Super roasty and quite smoky. Semi-sweet chocolate and black coffee notes came through strong. Slightly creamy and a touch boozy.

The taste was simply outstanding. Similar to the aroma in many regards except perhaps and bit more intense. Roasty and full up front. Dark chocolate notes dominated the center. Sweet caramel malts and molasses notes appeared as well. Espresso was also quite noticeable. The finish was crisp, dry and minerally with a lingering, roasty, slightly bitter aftertaste. I really enjoyed the interplay between the milky, chocolate-like sweetness and the roasty, dry notes.

The mouthfeel was creamy, smooth and supple. Medium to full bodied for the style (what is the style exactly?) with a fine, moderate effervescence.

Although I loved this beer, the style classification definitely threw me for a loop. By calling it a "black bier," I was thinking that it was going to be a German-style schwarzbier. The BA label of "American strong ale" does not really define it well either. Personally, I would describe this beer as something between a foreign export stout and an imperial stout. In any case, it is quite an impressive offering.

Serving type: on-tap

04-13-2010 03:36:43 | More by Damian
Photo of buschbeer


4.58/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

I poured like motor oil into a pint glass to a half inch of brown head. The label said black bier so I expected a schwarzbier or brown ale. Then I saw the category on here and thought strong ale. Once I poured this beer I immediately went to the Dark Horse website to see what they called it. They call it a strong black ale. I thought it looked and tasted like a stout. Anyways, back to the review.

This beer is black. As I smelled the beer I get all those wonderful roasted malt aromas, chocolate, coffee, just nice earthy smells. It tastes, in my opinion, like a great stout. You get all the roasted tastes that the aroma gave. The mouthfeel is incredible, thick and creamy. I am so blown away by this beer. One million times better than I expected. I will absolutely have this again!

Serving type: bottle

08-24-2010 01:06:24 | More by buschbeer
Photo of Mitchster


4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours out to a completely opaque inky thick brew, forming a tall creamy dark tan head with excellent retention and gorgeous lacing. The head looks like chocolate mousse. Carbonation is moderate. Aroma is out of this world...Intense with espresso (think Black Cat from Intelligentsia), chocolate malt milkshakes, subtle herbal and earthy hops, black walnut, vanilla...just beautiful. Mouthfeel is initially lightly prickly, but smooth and coating the mouth with a very longe espresso-like aftertaste. Dense malty body. Taste...herbal green oily hops, tons of heaily roasted malts, espresso, milk chocolate, wood, cocoa powder, charcoal, pepper and chalk towards the finish, medium bitterness with more green, oily character, and lingering tobacco, espresso and chalk in the everlasting aftertaste. No off-flavors, and alcohol isn't appreciable in taste.

A wonderful brew. Don't let the "Black Bier" title fool you, this is a double stout. Intense, chewy, rich, and full of complementary flavors. I would have liked this more with a smidge less flavor hops and a more velvety mouthfeel, but it still stands as an awesome brew. Considering it's dense body and ABV, this one is dangerously drinkable. I already drank half a bottle without batting an eye. Highly recommended.

Serving type: bottle

08-03-2004 00:42:30 | More by Mitchster
Photo of beerinator


4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Appearance: Black bier? Ok, well yes, it's black. You're definitely not looking through this one. The brown head made stiff peaks and left nice lacing in the glass.

Aroma: Roasty, burnt malts balanced nicely in the aroma by caramel cake-y goodness. I could easily sit here and smell this for the next 30 minutes. Maybe I will.

Taste: Nice roasted dark chocolate flavors hit solidly upon the first sip. There is a bit of lactic sourness that fits in nicely with the malt. The mouthfeel is full and the finish lasts for a pleasant time on the tongue.

Notes: This beer is great. I love the flavors, the balance and the body is super. I wish I could buy this one at my local store!

Serving type: bottle

03-11-2006 03:42:22 | More by beerinator
Photo of brewgetter


4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a syrupy black with a very dark tan head with nice retention...beautiful. Smells of caramel and chocolate, I can smell a little hops, and some nice earthiness as well. Wow, the taste is dark molasses, coffee, bittersweet chocolate. Really thick but some nice carbonation as well, leaves the mouth coated, but has a dryness too. Hops come out late in the profile, not as much as, say, darkness, but a very nice addition. Some fruity undertones as well, complex and super roasty. I wasn't sure what to expect as I haven't had anything from this brewery yet, but I was quite impressed. The fact that they make this beer year round is fantastic as well.

Serving type: bottle

03-26-2008 01:13:08 | More by brewgetter
Photo of WakeandBake


4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Notes Nov 1 2008
Black pour with a serious fluffy brown head. A hoppy,bitter aroma. Flavor is of chocolate,and coffee as promised,but not bitter at all, a nice smooth easy drinker. Nice body,nice mouthfeel. I drank the whole growler myself it was awesome and very drinkable.Thank you Dark Horse

Serving type: growler

01-10-2009 14:10:56 | More by WakeandBake
Photo of Greywulfken

New York

4.55/5  rDev +14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Yes, I gave it a 5 in taste.

A: pitch black beer with a fat head of dense dark foam; collars the beer after a bit, with a cloud in the middle; the insdie of my glass is lace-free and clean.

S: dark malts, cocoa and vanilla, roasted coffee beans dominates

T: roasted coffee bean beer; dark, delicious, almost powdery dark malts are doused in wet hopped bitterness and sweet, burnt coffee

M: light, extremely easy-drinking... mine was close to room temp when I had it and lemme tell you: smooth and slick; left a roasty, toasty, bitter burnt wet toast and coffee bean aftertaste that was exquisite (I factored this into my taste rating, BTW)

O: really impressed - this is a well-crafted black ale. If you like Stone's S' Self-Righteous Ale, Uinta's Dubhe, or Dark Element, you'll find this beer is waaay better than its (current) "good" rating.

Serving type: bottle

10-06-2012 02:13:08 | More by Greywulfken
Photo of david131


4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Absolutely pitch black in color. When held to a light, you can see some carbonation rising along the side and some sediment in the bottom. The head is stunning- it is light brown and thick. Once it settles down, it maintains a nice thin covering over the entire surface.

S- Chocolate, coffee, some caramel. Very roasty. Not the most complex, but very appealing.

T- Some sweet chocolate and coffee. Delicious. Some hops are definetly noticeable, but are not over the top and add a great level of complexity to the brew.

M- A little lighter for the style due to the amount of carbonation. But, this is not a bad thing. A tad dry on the finish though.

D- This was wonderful and I will definitely be enjoying this on a regular basis (less than $10 a 6-pack...). Highly recommended.

Serving type: bottle

09-04-2007 02:42:59 | More by david131
Photo of JoeyBeerBelly

New York

4.53/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

I got this brew from SirSketch, Thanks Zach!

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

L - black color with a brown head that thinned to a ring.

S - roasted coffee and chocolate aroma.

T - big roasted coffee flavor with bittersweet chocolate mixed in, delicious.

F - medium/full bodied with a smooth, creamy feel.

D - extremely easy to drink.

Serving type: bottle

01-23-2009 00:40:23 | More by JoeyBeerBelly
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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 919 ratings.