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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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

575 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 575
Hads: 1,182
Avg: 3.97
pDev: 15.11%
Wants: 57
Gots: 107 | FT: 2
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:
Beer added by: xlperro on 05-28-2002

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  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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Reviews: 575 | Hads: 1,182
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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Photo of Budinetz
4.15/5  rDev +4.5%

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a teku glass. Dated 2-20-14.

Pours an opaque black color with a tan frothy head that dissipates slowly. No visible lacing present. Smells of roasted malt and sharp hops. Surprisingly fresh for being bottle 6 months prior. Was expecting to have a wet cardboard smell with a slight medeira finish but the bottle was stored very well. Not very drinkable as it has a 7.5% abv and the roastiness from the malt taints the palate. Would definitely have this again.


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Photo of droomyster
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black body with a small tan head with okay retention. Aromas are very roasty, big on espresso, inky, with just a bit of cocoa nibs. Full bodied and loaded with bold flavors; a slow sipper for sure. Starts slightly sweet before the darkest of flavors, pure char, gasp-inspiring smokiness, burnt chocolate,black licorice (I get a distant whiff of a Sambuca burn) and cold coffee grounds take over at an intensity level that many might consider challenging. Not a beer for the newbies who prefer something "light," but right up the alley for lovers of dark beers that explore all aspects of beery blackness. What an unexpected pleasure. Bravo!

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Photo of Strix
3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours near black, tan head that eventually disappears entirely.

Main smell is remarkably similar to a cup of coffee.

Roasted caramel malt and coffee, with a lingering dark chocolate finish.

Mouthfeel could be a touch fuller.

I enjoyed this one - nice roasty flavors.

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Photo of Louisville-Beer-Reviews
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: Darkest ruby, almost black color, with heavy, brown head and spotty lacing.

Aroma: Big, dark chocolate, with sweet caramel and milk sugar.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Strong coffee and milk chocolate flavor on the tongue, with a pleasant, light texture carrying a subtle sweetness akin to milk and sugar. Finishes with dry, bitter, earthy, roasted coffee. It feels like a breakfast stout, with the sweetness lending just enough balance to the big flavors of cocoa and dark roast coffee.

Final Word: Dark Horse doesn’t disappoint with this one, and I highly recommend snagging a glass if possible. The coffee flavor is true and earthy, with a light texture and enough gentle sweetness to keep it drinkable. You’ll get the full flavor of real coffee, rich chocolate, and mocha without the thick, oily mouthfeel that the flavors could imply. This beer isn’t a complex brew, but is rich and in balance, making it easily accessible, and should only be avoided if you hate coffee. Get adventurous and try it for brunch!

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Photo of Gmann
3.66/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a black color with a short dense khaki colored head that settles into a solid ring.

The aroma is of big caramel. Moderate cold coffee roast with some milk sugars. Not much hop aroma.

The taste is of big milk chocolate and cocoa. A dusty coffee. Some darker chocolate in the finish. There is a bit of a grassy hop bitterness in the finish as well.

The beer is full bodied with soft carbonation. Sweet and roasted bitterness on the palate. A bit powdery and slightly sticky in the finish. Perhaps some acidity from the hops.

A good roast forward beer. I don't pick up much from the hops but that is ok as I am not a huge fan of the style.

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Photo of Immortale25
3.94/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured into a New Belgium goblet. No freshness date.

A- Pours a fully opaque black color with a 1/4 inch light brown head that retains decently before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of bubbly surface foam. Resilien lacing leaves a thick solid ring behind.

S- Roasty stout-like aroma with some notes of chocolate, coffee and caramel.

T- Flavor displays the hops more while still keeping that roasty quality. Rides a fine line between bitter and sweet. Roasty finish. Alcohol is hidden well.

M- Semi-creamy with medium-low carbonation and a full body.

O- While I agree that this can only be characterized as an American Strong, I feel it has a bit of an identity crisis and lacks focus. Has the flavor of a stout but lacks the body of a stout while having the sweetness of a barleywine and the hop character of an IPA. Color me confused. Still, it's drinkable although perplexing.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a pitch black color. The head is a finger high, and light tan in shade. I'm not hugely impressed by the retention, but it's creamy looking, thick, and leaves a nice ring of lacing on the glass.

S: I'd reckon the aroma is closer to a hoppy stout than a proper black IPA like, say, Wookey Jack. Citrusy hops only augment the big roasted, chocolate, and licorice notes instead of competing with them. There are slight smoky hints as well. Could almost pass for an imperial stout at times.

T: I get a nice yet subtle bite of piny hops to start. The finish is loaded with chocolate, roast, and mild licorice. More piny flavors linger post-swallow. Both the hoppy and roasted components coexist with each other beautifully. I could use a touch more depth, but I don't care. This is a hoppy stout done properly.

M: The general feel is extremely soft and full. It could be a little drier, but I can't deny this is a shockingly rich stout. I almost said imperial stout, but I backed off considering it's only 7.5%. Carbonation is low, as expected. This one is easy to sip, with a finish that's 'dry enough', but only just.

O: What this does well is balance the roasted malts and the subtle hop notes like a boss. It's not much of a black IPA, though. But wow, this is another super solid stout from Dark Horse, just with a bit more hops than the norm.

EDIT: The other site which will remain nameless flat-out calls it a porter - and that's before I noticed this site calling it a STRONG ALE. I'm not going to raise scores, but it's still a damn good dark beer; I can still look at it in an even better light due to the fact it's not designed to be hoppy.

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Photo of keithmurray
4.63/5  rDev +16.6%
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, espresso

Taste - much like the smell - dark chocolate, roasted malts, espresso, 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

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Photo of brutusmuktuk
4.26/5  rDev +7.3%
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.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.73/5  rDev -6%
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.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 575 ratings.