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

574 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 574
Hads: 1,171
Avg: 3.97
pDev: 10.58%
Wants: 56
Gots: 101 | 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
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Reviews: 574 | Hads: 1,171
Photo of tdm168
4.26/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A - pitch black with a big cap of brown, dense head that has a short-lived retention

S - red wine, chocolate, roasted malts, caramel, burnt sugar, coffee

T - chocolate, roasted malts, caramel-sugar, coffee, some faint dark fruit in the finish, warming alcohol in the finish

M - warm, medium bodied, well carbonated

I must say this is a pretty interesting beer. The appearance had me thinking stout. The nose was amazing. As soon as I poured this beer I could smell layers of aromas. Then I entered into the equally complex taste. At first there were some big, roasty, chocolate notes. Then a deep caramel presence that adds a sugary, caramel-candy flavor that meshes well with the chocolate. There are dark fruit notes in the aftertaste that also lend some depth. The alcohol presence makes this beer seem a bit bigger than it is, but that doesn't bother me too much. Overall, this is an impressive beer that is worth trying.

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Photo of scootny
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A nice thick head atop an opaque must be black ale. Decent lacing and very nice retention. Smell is chocolate malt and coffee with a firm earthy hops. Solid English style fruitiness ties together the toffee and caramel sweetness. Taste is rather like an RIS but dryer. Much. Lots of dark roasted malts and charcoal. No sign of the abv. Figgish plum fruitiness lightly shows before a mildly astringent swallow. Earthy hops, dry finish. Feel is lighter than you might think while still chewy, carbonated with a smooth, mild character. Superb drinkability being one of its best qualities. A good roasty dark ale that goes down well .

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Photo of dfillius
4.38/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass
A: Aggressive pour yields 1 finger of dark tan head with good retention. Very creamy and thick head. Opaque black liquid. Nice.
S: Coffee, bitter chocolate, slight cherry from the alcohol.
T: Stout/RIS territory. Very bitter and dark chocolate-y. Tasty! I like this a lot. Slightly too much bitterness at the end. It turns a bit astringent.
M: Nice and creamy character balances the strong roasty bitterness and alcohol bite.
O: A very drinkable take on a RIS. All the flavor, none of the booziness. Goes great with bacon. I want another and I might buy 6.

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Photo of metter98
4/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

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Photo of MusicaleMike
3.69/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

No bottle date.

Black ale with two fingers of mocha colored head that dissipates to nothing but a rim of lace on the edge. No lacing.

Notes of chocolate, blackberry, coffee and raisins. Smell is great, and promises a rich, full body.

Flavor is acrid, roasted malts, with hints of coffee and dark fruits. Not quite as complex as the aroma, but decent enough. Bitterness is biting and lasting.

Thick, full body. Great mouthfeel for this style. Decent carbonation.

This is an American Stout. I think it is a good version and would recommend this beer to others. Pair with something chocolate. Probably great with BBQ as well.

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Photo of BarryMFBurton
4.07/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

However unappealing this label may be (amateur art of a donkey with lightning in the background), Dark Horse certainly has some good beers. Here’s to not judging a book by its cover.

A: Wow, am I pouring a cup of coffee? This pours immensely dark, showing a slight maple syrup redness near the bottom of the glass. Dark brown head rises slowly to a half-inch then plummets to nothing, looking even more stout-like. Slick lacing sticks around for a quick second and falls back down.

S: Roasty coffee extends first from the nose, layered over a nice thick aroma of chocolate syrup; how is this not a stout? The roasts are big, but not enough to keep this from smelling very sweet overall, especially considering the rich vanilla and caramel profile mixed in throughout. Hershey’s lovers rejoice, because this one smells like a chocolate factory.

T: Now this is a coffee-lover’s beer: nothing but bold flavors of slightly acidic, roasted Arabica beans on the front end. Smoky malt flavors proceed to pick up a hint of mild herbal hops, melding char with notes of pine and lemon zest. Sounds like a stout, I know, but there’s something to it that keeps it grounded in something different – a metallic undertone keeps the acidic flavors in the spotlight, thinning out the body from pure chocolate and cream. Residual sugars still make their appearance, though, with a resounding chocolate, cherry (simple syrup), toasted coconut, and vanilla coffee creamer character. Finishes with a taste of bitter roasts and cocoa powder, defiant in remaining dry and smoky.

M: As thin and drinkable as you could get from a beer this dark; reminiscent of a Samuel Smith beer with all those acidic and metallic tastes in such a thin body. Carbonation is fizzy, like watered-down soda.

O: This beer really took me by surprise, but in the best possible way; I am an absolute roast fiend, and this filled my kilned malt quota for a while. We’re not talking Dark Horse Lite – this is a totally different beer. And for only two bucks a bottle, this is a hell of a deal.

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Photo of StJamesGate
3.77/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Unctuous jet black with on the slightest purple tinge in direct light and barely a ribbon or violet-brown film – seriously, like motor oil.
Black grapes, molasses, ash and tar on the nose – the darkest of dark malts.
Fig, treacle, blackberry jam, a touch of dark chocolate, a big roasty hit and cedar chip and orange rind hops.
Port barrel ending and bitter, charred linger. Medium to full, chewy, oily, sticky.

RIS or hoppy porter? Hits like a sledgehammer with the dark flavors but there are hops there, too. Heavy duty, with just a bit too much charcoal.

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Photo of veinless
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured like a stout, with semi-fizzy tan bubbles and a head that was creamy and frothy. Body was black with total opacity.

Smells of roasted malts, coffee, and just a bit of chocolate and fruit (not much). Dryish smell is probably a product of the beer not being a full-blown stout, and it's quite nice.

Taste is where the hoppy backbone comes out quite a bit, with a clean, bitter start and an acidic, almost sour, finish. Roast malts take more of a backseat, but are still quite flavorful. It's a good balance overall, and more skewed towards the hop side of it, which I like.

Feels creamy yet acidic, with a medium weight body that is silky overall. Easily sippable, and very drinkable for the strength of flavors. Strong effort from Dark Horse.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev 0%
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.

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Photo of Greywulfken
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
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.

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Photo of isaiahcutright
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours Pitch black with a bountiful dark tan head, nice lacing.

Smell: Carmel malts upfront, slight citrus, grassy hop aroma, molasses, a touch of coffee

Taste: Again a nice dark carmel malt up front, a bitter dark malt rich and chocolately, a touch of sweetness to balance it out, then a nice amount of hop bitterness. Molasses, coffee, burnt carmel, a touch of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Chewy, rich and dense, a nice heavy mouthfeel rich and dry leaving you wanting more.

Overall: A brew that isn't in a certain style, stout richness, with porter drinkability, a sweet maltiness balanced by the bitter dark malt and the smooth hops. Well done.

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Photo of Beer_Runner
4.18/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

No bottle on or enjoy by date on the label.

A: A semi-aggressive pour yielded a dense head of about one finger that was a light chocolate color. The head dissipated to about a quarter-finger and then lasted through the entire glass and left a good lacing. The brew is a deep, rich black and opaque.

S: The aroma was very mild. All that was there is just a whiff of dark roasted malt.

T: The taste began with a sweet malt and a little bit of strong black coffee bitterness and just a touch of earthy hops joined in for some balance just before the sweetness went too far. There was also a little raisin and dried dark fruit in the background to provide just a little complexity.

M: The body was rich, heavy, and smooth. There was only a small amount of carbonation, which was just right for this heavy-bodied beer.

O: This was an outstanding sweet, dark beer. The sweetness was very pleasing and fit very well with the dark roasted coffee-like malt flavor; and, the little bit earthy hops bitterness was just the right flavor to balance the sweetness and enhance the overall experience of this beer. In a very big and competitive world of great craft brews this is one of the very best dark beers. It should definitely be on the list of “must try” if you can find it.

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Photo of SerialTicker
4.05/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours like a porter/stout. Super deep black with a nice little tan head. No lacing, but it still looks pretty nice.

Smell: Much like your typical porter or stout. Heavy on the coffee. Alcohol can be tasted a bit. Chocolates may be in there as well.

Taste/feel: What can I say. It's just a quality beer. I think of it as more of a stout, but that's just me. It has all the qualifications. The thing I can say about this beer is that it seems to be more bitter than most stouts I've had, so that makes it a little different. The highlight of this beer is certainly the feel. It seems sort of "meh", but if you let it sit in your mouth for a second before you swallow, it gets really nice and creamy, and you get that warmth when you finally swallow.

Overall, a quality beer. As I said a couple times, drinks like a stout. It's a pretty big, deep, rich, coffee flavored beer.

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Photo of deadonhisfeet
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a New Belgium snifter. Pours extremely dark, almost black, with one finger of light brown head that dissipates quickly. The nose is all roasted malt, some caramel, and some chocolate. Really nice. Looks and smells like a good American porter.

Full body and creamy feel. Sweet malt, molasses, and chocolate flavors on the front of the tongue. Roasty coffee-like notes blend in at mid-palate and provide a nice, balancing bitterness. Slight bit of hoppy bite on the finish as well as a slight cola-like taste, but the roastiness is what lingers.

I don't now why they don't just market this as a porter. It's a really nice, dark, roasty beverage. Everything is well-balanced between sweet and roasty (perhaps tilted just a bit towards sweet) and the feel is nice and slick. Try it if you like porters or sweet stouts.

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Photo of AmitC
4.18/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Color : Absolute dark black.

Head : No head at all.

Carbonation : Negligible.

Nose : A mix of coffee, roasted malts and chocolate. Extremely likable and inviting.

Taste : Just confirms the nose. Very enjoyable. A lot of lingering effect. Tastes like n iced black coffee but a lot more complex than that.

I would definitely recommend this.

Good black ale.

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Photo of vfgccp
3.47/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Thin, cappuccino tan head. Dense black body with thin cola highlights.

S - Sweet nose. Plum, booze, and rum cake. Almost like a Baltic porter.

T - Prune, booze, and brown bread. Bitter chocolate enter with a delicious lingering, medium roast coffee finish.

M - Overly carbonated. Pleasantly light frame.

O - An ambivalent beer. The front end feels confused, over carbonated, and overly sweet, but the center and finish are fantastic.

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Photo of srv33
4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a pitch black, very thick pour, almost no head. Scents of coffee, lots of malt, chocolate, molasses, and a touch of cashew. Taste follows the nose to a tee, huge notes of coffee and malt, really a fantastic combo. Thick mouthfeel. Another awesome beer from Dark Horse.

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Photo of wedge
4.22/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours thick and black beneath a small, creamy dark tan head. Highly malty aroma...dark chocolate roast, espresso, molasses, slight nuttiness, some creamy fruit. Big malt, char, heavy roast, and a dark, fruity tartness. Some sweetness, but it works well with the big roasty quality and smooths everything out nicely into the finish. The roasted malt is big at first, but I would say it's more like a quality, lighter roast coffee with it's fruity overtones...not like a dark espresso or french roast at all. The warmer this gets, the better. Medium body and smooth. Really nice all around! I've been wanting to try this for years and I'm glad it's finally available to me now. Somewhere kinda sorta between a porter, a stout, and an ice coffee...or something.

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Photo of VncentLIFE
3.75/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured with the guys and people at Sams. Black body, with a strong smell of coffee, dark chocolate and roasted malt. I cant relly get much but a roasty thick porter. Light Single stout if you wanna swing that way. The taste is just the same. Lots of a bitter coffee and severly bitter chocolate. Light body and the booze is hidden.

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Photo of rarbring
4.17/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The beer is nearly black, has a small brown head that leaves no lacing but has big curtains.

Smelling chocolate, dates, a whiff of smoked bread and soy sauce.

Tasting of dark brown bread crust, dried dates and figs, dark roasted coffee and chocolate.

Little carbonation, soft and oily, a big body and a dry finish.

A nice balanced rich and complex beer (more RIS than strong ale to me).

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Photo of MadScientist
3.71/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This pour an intense jet black with thick brown head.

Rich malt aroma and american hops with some carmel and coffee aromas. There is a light alcohol hint in there but overall the aroma is subtle.

The flavor has a one two punch of strong hops bitternes and medium dark grain bitterness. There is a little bit of malt sweetness for support and moderate citrus hops flavor in the middle before a dry finish with a long hop flavor and bitterness in the aftertaste.

medium heavy body with low carbonation and a very slight astringency that seems grain derived. A slight alcohol warming.

A big, bitter and malty brew with juicy citrus hops flavor.

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Photo of martyl1000
4.01/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Note to self: you really dont like this beer. While it's a quality brew, it's too burnt for your pallate.
Without a doubt, this is the blackest beer I've ever seen. Nice dark brown head, though it's gone before you know it.

The burnt coffee flavor is awesome, brought down only by the metallic tartness of the [yeast?], which neutralizes and brings low the more giant-like flavors into the realm of a great porter and makes it an eminently drinkable brew, even in summer.

Note to self: having had this several times since writing the review above, I won't be drinking this very often. The roastiness is just too bitter and burnt for me.

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Photo of BostonHops
3.49/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

pours a deep, opaque mahogany tone - borderline black - yielding a lasting 1" tan / mocha colored head. tons of lacing. the nose here is subdued. slight notes of coffee and roasted malt and maybe a touch of chocolate are present, but i'm not getting a whole lot more. not bad, just a little 'meh'.

taste is a modest improvement on the aroma. roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee headline this beer with secondary notes of dark fruits and molasses. not a knock your socks off delicious beer by any means, but reasonably tasty and enjoyable. well-hidden 7.5% ABV. decent mouthfeel, medium bodied with average carbonation.

overall, as mentioned this is a solid beer if far from trascendent. curious as to why it falls into the american strong ale category - to me this is much more porter / stout territory. at any rate it's worth a try, just keep your expectations in check.

(originally reviewed: 05-26-2011)

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Photo of elNopalero
4.75/5  rDev +19.6%
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!

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Photo of RuckusDu
3.67/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Poured maybe a finger and a half of light brown head which fell to a trace. body is dark black and needs maybe 4mm to see light through it. Decent lacing.

S - There are dark fruits, bitter chocolate, and stoutness.

T - Dark and mysterious. I would not classify this as a strong ale, more like a stout. Strong bitter hops to go with some chocolate and coffee. Not bad, but nothing special.

M - Solid carbonation and great body.

O - A good beer but pretty standard. Could get this quality stout just about anywhere.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 574 ratings.