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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
89
very good

1,038 Ratings
THE BROS
86
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,038
Reviews: 563
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 53
Gots: 57 | FT: 3
Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company visit their website
Michigan, United States

Style | ABV
American Black 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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale Alström Bros
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Ratings: 1,038 | Reviews: 563 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Sammy
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A supreme stout. Exceeding the lineup of Rogues. Looks like yummy chocolate drink. Stout roasted, with chocolate aroma. Creamy mouthfeel with roast. More so than coffee, which works for me. Enough of a drink experience, that you don't know the alcohol until..klunk. Glad I bought a six-pack. Dry mouth aftertaste.

Sammy, Jun 17, 2004
Photo of t0rin0
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%

t0rin0, Sep 18, 2012
Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.98/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to drewone for sharing this one at jmgrub's tasting.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, and coffee. Taste is much the same with a medium amount of roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty but pretty roasty.

UCLABrewN84, Oct 07, 2012
Photo of djrn2
4/5  rDev +1.3%

djrn2, Mar 08, 2012
Photo of spycow
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%

spycow, Mar 09, 2013
Photo of Thorpe429
4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.
Poured into a tulip glass. Color is near black with a light mocha head and not much lacing. Fairly short retention period. Nose brings some complex notes of chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, and hints of molasses. The taste is pretty dry with chocolate and roasted malt. Feel is really nice with a good dryness. Drinks quite well and is a nice take on this "style."

Thorpe429, Nov 09, 2010
Photo of acurtis
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%

acurtis, May 16, 2014
Photo of metter98
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is absolutely jet black in color. It poured with a quarter finger high dense tan head that gradually died down, leaving a large patch of bubbles in the center of the glass and a collar around the edge.
S: There are moderate aromas of coffee beans and roasted malts in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, but is much stronger and also has some hints of smoke and chocolate along with a light amount of coffee bitterness in the finish.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. The roasted malts leave a bit of dryness in the finish.
O: I enjoyed drinking this beer because it delivered a lot of flavors of coffee beans and roasted malts without the heavier body of a Russian Imperial Stout. Any traces of alcohol are very well hidden from the taste. There is also a good balance between the malts and hops.

metter98, Nov 15, 2012
Photo of Texasfan549
4/5  rDev +1.3%

Texasfan549, Jul 25, 2013
Photo of brentk56
4.5/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black color with a big tan head that laces the glass when agitated

Smell: Licorice, over-roasted coffee, dark unsweetened chocolate

Taste: Starts out with a dark fruit and licorice flavor that is joined, mid-palate, by the coffee tones; after the swallow the roasty bitterness lingers forever, bringing with it a rich dark chocolate flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium to ful body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A really special beer that I have enjoyed again and again

brentk56, Apr 10, 2007
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.45/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Impenetrable onyx with a thin slice of burnt sienna along the bottom edge of the pint glass. The fantastic looking cap is a thickly creamy beast that is beginning to lay down a (not yet broken) blanket of mocha colored lace. I'm impressed as hell so far.

The nose is very nice too. It's chock full of roasted malt and all the good things that go along with it. Baker's chocolate and crushed coffee beans share the spotlight with heavy cream spiked with vanilla. I can't appreciate hops, but then I don't need big-time hops in my big stouts. I like them, I just don't need them.

For some reason, I always thought that Black Bier Ale was a schwarzbier. Hey Dark Horse, actually putting the word 'stout' on the label would be a good idea. Adding the ABV would be helpful as well. Whether it's big enough to be a *double* stout is debatable. Whether or not it's good beer is already settled. The answer is an unqualified 'yes'.

I love the Holiday Stout Series from these guys and I love Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier Ale. This offering, I'm guessing, is the base beer for all of the brewery's flavored stouts. Well, I'm here to say that it's a humdinger of a roastfest. Char the beejusus out of the barley, add a ton of it, bottle and drink. What could be easier?

One of the beer's best features is the interplay between the sweetness of the malt sugars and the bitterness of the American hops. I'm reminded of a sweet stout-dry stout hybrid in a double stout's body. Again, maybe not quite double, but close enough. The usual flavors of chocolate (Tootsie Rolls?) and gourmet coffee are joined by an impressive Scotch pine character that is getting me back in the Christmas spirit.

In the final reckoning, the mouthfeel isn't worthy of double/Imperial status. That doesn't mean that it's less than good, just that it doesn't match the magnificence of the rest of the beer's attributes. It is, however, incredbily gulpworthy. Given the ABV, that's a recipe for disaster. Or would be if I had more than one bottle.

I've been looking for this beer for some time now (Thanks Talisker). Maybe it was the goofy cartoon donkey on the label, maybe it was the proven 'stout excellence' of the brewmasters at Dark Horse, who knows? All you need to know is that Reserve Special Black Bier is a lip smackingly good, stout lover's stout.

BuckeyeNation, Dec 30, 2007
Photo of BEERchitect
3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Expecting a Schwarzbier going in, needless to say that first sip was a stunner.

Pouring a coal-black color and a thicker-than-expected viscocity, the beer begins to look like an American Stout. Modest carbonation struggles to form any meaningful head. Reducing to a lace, the foam clings shyly to the sides of the glass. A nice looking beer that may need more CO2.

Deeply toasted and caramelized malts give a definate Stout-like nose. High hopping rates give a mix of grasses, pine, citrus, and earthiness. Coffee and bitter cocoa also help to spice the beer up a lot. Definately not a Schwarz, that Stout descriptor is smelling more accurate.

Very roasty, toasty, and charred in taste, the heavily roasted malts give a sharp and acidic coffee-cocoa taste. A far second follows and then the toffee, caramel, and bready malts come into play. Hop flavor is at bay but do portray the same grassy-pine-citrus character found in the nose. This beer relies heavily on those roasted barley kernels.

Quite sharp, bitter, and astringent with those burnt grains. Hop bitterness and hard water definatly accentuate the bitterness. As sweet as the caramels are to taste, the texture is very dry from mid-palate on. A hoppy and chalky bitterness ride deep into the finish.

A bit of a different animal here. I'm still not convinced that a Schwarzbier proportion isn't at work here- just at the scale, gravity, and hopping rates of an American Stout.

BEERchitect, Aug 24, 2009
Photo of kjkinsey
4/5  rDev +1.3%

kjkinsey, Jul 25, 2013
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Moejuck: Poured a pitch-black color beer with a medium foamy head with good retention and good lacing. Aroma of medium coffee with light roasted malt. Taste is dominated by some medium dry coffee with some light roasted malt and some nice oatmeal notes. Body is quite creamy which I always enjoy as well as being full with some medium to low carbonation. Well done and something I wouldn’t mind having again.

Phyl21ca, May 28, 2007
Photo of GRG1313
3.25/5  rDev -17.7%

GRG1313, Apr 26, 2014
Photo of mikesgroove
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I obtained this bottle a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. No it was a trade a long ass time ago. Been sitting in the cellar ever since, waiting on me to call on it one day. Well, today was the day. Served chilled and poured into an over sized wine glass, this one was consumed on 09/30/2008.

The pour was very nice. Rich dark brown, nearly black with a large tan head of about two inches in height that took forever to settle down and left behind tons of side glass lace that really just thickened up as you went and coated the whole glass.

The aroma was rich with chocolate and roasted malts. Big notes here of cocoa and molasses, hints of smoked malts and a touch of earthy hops. The flavor was more of the same. There was an initial shock wave of chocolate and roasted malts, some light smoked notes that started to come through as well. Almost a hint of bourbon as it warmed and the mid palate took over. This warmed into a light burnt caramel like flavor that soon rolled over into a long, sweet finish that left the lasting flavor of vanilla and coffee on the tongue. The carbonation was just about right on this one, rich, subtle, and never dull or slick. Same could be said of the medium bodied feel, which was just filling enough to call this one bordeline full.

Overall I thought this was an excellent beer. The style is up in the air, but the flavor was nailed down very nicely, I would have no issue at all with trying this one any day. A solid beer for sure and something they can be proud of.

mikesgroove, Oct 01, 2008
Photo of womencantsail
3.78/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The pour is just about black in color with a finger or so of tan head.

S: Nice chocolate aromas to it to start with, as well as some espresso. There is a strong roasted malt aroma and perhaps just a hint of soy sauce. A slight smokiness along with some nut shells.

T: Smokey and roasty, I wasn't quite expecting that. Not much of the chocolate/cocoa notes that were there on the aroma. A decent amount of bitterness is also present. Some toasted nut flavor on the long finish.

M: Medium in body with a smooth, medium carbonation.

O: I could have done without the smoke, but this was a pretty enjoyable beer.

womencantsail, Jul 20, 2011
Photo of Knapp85
3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew poured out much thicker than I expected. The head was tan and creamy looking. This beer could be a stout I think. The smell of the beer was had some big roasted aromas to it along with some earthy lager notes too. The taste of the beer was pretty good. I liked the rich roasted flavors that this had. The mouthfeel was heavy and thick. Overall this was a realli interesting brew. I would probably drink it again if I came across it.

Knapp85, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.43/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a black body with a thin, off-white head.

Smell: Roasty chocolate malts with a hint of smoke and a sprinkling of licorice dust.

Taste: Rich dark maltiness with flavors of lightly sweetened chocolate and licorice. Touch of smoke. Smidgen of nuttiness along the way. Meager amount of earthy bittering hops. Drying, chocolatey finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Very nice. Packed with flavor, but relatively light enough to pound down a few of these, even at 7:00AM in the morning.

ChainGangGuy, Feb 13, 2008
Photo of oberon
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Ashley's in Ann Arbor,poured a near jet black but there was a noticable crimson hue when held up to the light a thinner quick to faid almond colored head atop.Aromas were roasted and sweet with notes of molasses and French Roast coffee and bitter chocolate no hop presence to this one.Big and sweet up front with some molasses and dark fruit notes very roasty with just a hint of earth in the finish wich doesnt dry it out much.Its a big hearty beer sweet and it packs a punch

oberon, Jul 02, 2007
Photo of JAHMUR
4/5  rDev +1.3%

JAHMUR, Nov 14, 2011
Photo of TMoney2591
3.3/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Served in a slightly chilled Sam Adams shaker pint glass.

VDubb86 was kind enough to save one of these bottles for me to sample upon my return from my East Coast/grad school year. It was enjoyed in his basement bar. It pours an opaque black-brown topped by a half-finger of ecru foam. The nose comprises light coffee, semi-diluted roasted malts, and dark chocolate. The taste holds notes of bitter coffee, bitter dark chocolate, dirt, and some shavings of charcoal. The body is decidedly medium, with a light moderate carbonation and sorta thick feel. I had had this beer before, on-tap at a local I-Talian restaurant, and wasn't too thrilled by it but wanted to give it another chance. This was it, and I am still not feeling this beer. The taste just seems off to me in a way I can't really pin down. It almost seems to want to be a couple different beers, but in the process of combining them loses the pizazz that would accompany each individual one. Something like that.

TMoney2591, Sep 06, 2010
Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, oily pour into a 3F imperial pint glass. Immediate head of mocha foam builds itself, and with the unfiltered dregs, it rises to over 3 fingers in size.
Tan webs of lace network themselves around the inside of the glass.

Chocolate malt and some minor dark fruit define the aroma. At first there was a hint of a banana-like ester, but it faded fast.

Taste is huge, big bittersweet chocolate with an underlying hoppy edge. An earthy tobacco char in the aftertaste that is excellent. Maybe some mild coffee, but not too defined. It's very integrated, but still has a good degree of complexity.

Smooth and creamy, this is some delectable stuff. The abv is never harsh, but a buzz is felt by the end of the glass. Don't let this donkey kick your ass...

emerge077, Jun 05, 2007
Photo of zeff80
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a jet black color with a small, tan head. There were some traces of lace.

S - It smelled of roasted malt. Also, some good notes of chocolate.

T - It tasted very bittersweet. It had a nice burnt toast flavor. There was also an good bit of dark chocolate flavor. There was a warmth from the alcohol, too.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is a pretty good stout. It is my first Dark Horse beer and I would love to find more.

zeff80, Jul 01, 2007
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bottle - crappy label... great beer! Pours an opaque black with deep mahogany highlights at the rim and base. The head is a full and creamy orangish-brown. It holds well and leaves some very nice lace. A simple swirl of the glass will bring up a thin surface covering. The nose is fruity and exceptionally roasty with lots of caramel and some mild floral/grassy hops. The body is medium with an exceptionally fine carbonation that's gently crisp and creamy in the mouth. The flavor starts with a light berry-like & apple fruitiness, becomes more caramelish and creamy as it warms with hints of floral hop flavor, and then unleashes an avalanche of bold, deeply-roasted coffee and bitterness into the dry finish. The bitterness lingers alongside short flashes of sweet caramel and deep roast. Although this beer is listed here as a German-style Schwarzbier, it is certainly not! It's much too over the top for that. And yet, it's very nicely balanced allowing the sweet caramel maltiness to show amongst a very deep roast (burnt) character and some intense bitterness. Rich and exciting!

NeroFiddled, Nov 21, 2002
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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,038 ratings.