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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
Reviews: 575 | Hads: 1,182
Photo of clayrock81
3.9/5  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.

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Photo of andrewjraab
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

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Photo of beerrat
4.27/5  rDev +7.6%
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.

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4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
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 !!

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Photo of matjack85
4.14/5  rDev +4.3%
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.


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Photo of rlee1390
4/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

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Photo of tobelerone
4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

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Photo of micromaniac129
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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Photo of chinchill
3.79/5  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.

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
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.

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Photo of damndirtyape
4.09/5  rDev +3%
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.

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Photo of PicoPapa
3.85/5  rDev -3%
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.

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Photo of lacqueredmouse
4.41/5  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.

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Photo of vandemonian
3.68/5  rDev -7.3%
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

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Photo of rudzud
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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Photo of TheRougeBastard
3.18/5  rDev -19.9%
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.

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Photo of smakawhat
4.33/5  rDev +9.1%
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.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.9/5  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.

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Photo of barczar
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
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.

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Photo of ehammond1
3.54/5  rDev -10.8%
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.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

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Photo of plaid75
4.43/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

On draft at Croxley's, Smithtown, New York.

Poured a deep black hue with a one finger frothy tan head. There was very good retention and sticky lacing.

The smell featured dry cocoa powder, charcoal and a touch of caramel.

The taste consisted of tiers of dark chocolate, charcoal, smoke and caramel yet maintained a clean and unmuddled flavor profile.

The mouthfeel had an upfront creamy fullness that finished very dry.

Overall a superior ale. Very well done.

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Photo of Lemke10
4.34/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very black indeed, this pours a very dark brown/black color with a slight light brown head. If you didn't know better you’d swear it was a stout. There are some robust notes to it with a little sweet sugar too. There is a lot of flavor here for an ale. The texture is smooth, yet it is thinner than a stout. Lots of chalky malts and coffee flavors in the mix. Certainly a very interesting brew.

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Photo of CMUbrew
4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a DFH snifter

A: This beer really is a black ale. One of the darkest and blackest I've seen, and it's not even a stout. No highlights or anything, just pitch black. A thin ring of dark brown foam sits around the edge, but soon fades with no head remaining.

S: Dark malts, roasted and toasted malts, dark burnt raisins, tiny whiff of clean alcohol.

T: Roasted dark malts, toasted grain, dark fruit, anise, hints of chocolate, and a slightly alcoholic finish. Maybe some sort of earthy hop presence, but either this bottle was old enough to fade them or this beer is very malt driven. Either way, tastes great.

M: Smooth and easy drinking to be sure. Carbonation is light but plenty. Body is fairly lush yet somewhat light. Really good here.

O: With all the excellent malt flavor and dark color you could swear this is a porter. I think anything really goes for this style, so it is nice that brewers can just make a good beer without worrying too much about style points. This beer is great and I would have it again.

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