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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
585 Reviews
For Trade:
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States | website

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by xlperro on 05-28-2002

User Reviews
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Reviews: 585 | Ratings: 1,208
Photo of pootz
4.31/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle (thanks Sammy) ..Decanted into my tulip glass a a black, light shedding, viscous ale with a beautifil creamy 3 finger cap that stacks out of the glass and remains....a pure joy to look at.

Aromas are complex: burnt treacle malts, chicory, limes, hazel.

Starts with large roasted malts balanced with the ample lime-like citrus hops...then the middle settles on the toungue and departs a layered impression: chicory, medira, molasses, nuts...all over seen with the lime hops...the finish is long with the chicory molasses tastes giving way to the increased bittering...finally a deep metallic aftertaste and a slow warming....the alcohol is well buried in this rich brew...wadda stout!! recommended!

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Photo of Dithyramb
3.21/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: Appeared in the mail via BIF XV. The label, with hand drawn donkey, is a bit crappy. No freshness date and no mention as to what type of beer a “black bier” is.

Appearance: Inky, oily blackness, both in appearance and in viscosity, just as you would expect from something calling itself black bier. Opaque with very little carbonation. Took a bit of effort to tease the head up. When accomplished, it was a deep dark brown head that dissipated off with no lacing.

Smell: Is this milk stout? A slight sourness is evident in the aroma after your nose soaks in the super bitter coffee.

Taste: My first BIF disappointment. The bitterness was a little hard to handle, since there was almost no malt sweetness to cut it. Heavy coffee ground and/or bitter cocoa flavors assault the taste buds. Don’t get me wrong. I love Turkish coffee, even the bitter grounds swirling around the bottom of the glass, but I still add a touch of cream or sugar to cut it. A bit of sweet, creamy, or even vanilla maltiness would really complement this beer and give it what it is missing. The sourness in the nose was in there, along with a touch of oxidation. I looked up the beer and don’t see any mention of lactic acid being thrown in, but it certainly seems to be there. Only a slight warmness alerts you to the higher alcohol content.

Mouthfeel: Thick molasses quality sticks on the tongue and the top of the mouth. Medium to heavy body but is just a tad thinner than the color and body would suggest.

I don’t think I’ll be having another. However, given the topnotch reviews for this and the other brewery’s selections, I may try more from the brewer if I can find them.

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Photo of Chaz
3.65/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Huge head (poured semi-hard into a Duvel glass, convex atop!) with good duration and excellent lacing. Seemed rather thick at first sight, and right then and there I knew I had a true micro (or 'glorified homebrewer' as we sometimes like to say ; ) The aroma is amazing, and no matter what they wanna call this, Double Schwarzbier, triple Sweet Stout, etc, it's a super rich and malty dark beast, and the alcohol is barely discernable on both the nose and palate. Creamy mouthfeel, thinner than expected, with plenty of citrusy, aromatic hops, bittering hops, and roasted malts, all fighting for attention like paparazzi jockeying for a good photo op. Lingering, pronounced bitterness is not probably to everyone's liking but it is to mine. Notes of bitter chocolate, sour apple, and burnt toast. There's a lactic quality here that works out well, making for a more complex brew than one might expect from what at first glance seems like such a malt monster, so rather than be cloyingly sweet it's well balanced. Double Stout, huh? Not something that's done too often, and one bottle is probably more than enough bitter darkness to satisfy a couple of 'Guiness Draught' enthusiasts, as it's altogether a bit more challenging than most of the stouts you'll find. Nice dry finish too.

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Photo of BrewMaster
3.68/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this beer from a 12 oz bottle and immediately I noticed its intense black color. Flowing from the bottle it looked like used motor oil. It is opaque and dark which makes it very nice to look at. It has a fizzy tan head that thins out pretty quickly. The aroma is definately roasty but has a distinct alcohol scent as well. The flavor is a dark maltiness with a sour earthy taste, some cherry, and more distinct alcohol warmth. The downfall of this beer I think is that it really only presents a dark malt flavor without much complexity in the flavor. It certainly looks great, but the flavor falls a bit short.

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Photo of trumick
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a black, thick, used motor oil color, thin head with just a bit of lacing.

Scent is of sweet, dark fruit, roasted malts, burnt coffee, chocolate.

Taste is of sweet, sweet dark roasted malts, dark fruits and a nice dry coffee finish.

Mouthfeel is smooth, medium carbination with a nice full body.

Drinkability is nice, tis a bit filling though and abv is a bit high.

This is a nice beer I would definately buy this one again.

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Photo of deejaydan
3.63/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Another solid beer from a lil brewery in Marshall.

Pours a black as night color, I couldn't pick up any hues of red or amber at all. Not even a hint of brown. Nice head for the abv, wonderful lacing for a stout.

Smells of rich malts. A slight chocolate sent in the mix as well.

Taste... starts with a thick, sweet tastes.. moves slightly into the alcohol burn, but ends with roasted malts. I think they slightly overdid the roasted malts, in my opinion, a bit too strong.

Slick, coating mouthfeel. This one stays with you for a while.

A good beer, but not something I could make a night out of.

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Photo of redmosquito
3.73/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Another beer tasted at the Michigan Brewer's Festival. Opaque black in color with a decent brown head. The aroma is all roasted malt, and some sweetness. Flavor follows suit, this beer is sweet and thick like a big boned chocolate porter. Much thicker and roastier than I expected, this is a good beer.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.4/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Oooo! The smell wafts out, right from the second the crown is uncapped, and it smells gooood! Time for a closer inspection...
utter blackness in appearance, with a lush brown, creamy, cocoa-y head...as Freddie Prinz would say, "Looo-keeen gooood!" (Oh, I date myself...that's FP, Sr., of course...)
Smell it...ooooh, again! Rich and roasty, fine and toasty, nearly burnt, aburst with dark flavors, anise and maple and more...I can see the confusion expressed elsewhere, i.e. "schwarzbier or stout"? Let's drink and see...
Huge mouthfeel, full bodied all the way, bittersweet, and terrifically complex. Little bit fruity, but very dry, this is rich, rewarding, very, very tasty.
I can see the conundrum clearly now...it feels like a schwarzbier at times, a la' Sprecher's Black Bavarian, but still has tones similar to an Imperial Stout.
Well, who gives a crap, this is damned good, and that is all that the people need to know!

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

Received this bottle as part of BIF 10 from deejaydan. (See the Trading group forum for more on BIFs!) Odd, non-descriptive packaging with a cartoon drawing of a donkey (?!) Pours really dark brown... almost, but not quite, black. One of the darkest stouts I've seen. The head is not large, but is an interesting rich brown color (maybe a bit reddish) and is dense and foamy with decent retention. Some lace tries to cling to the glass, but slides back down. Smell is dark-roasted malts and maybe a little dark chocolate and coffee. Taste is more complex than expected. Roasted malt bitterness (or is that the hops?) Notes of chocolate and coffee as noted in the smell, but also hints of dark fruit and maybe a little licorice in the aftertaste. Very dry finish with some astringency. Alcohol, while initially well hidden, comes out more as the beer warms. Medium-thick mouthfeel. Pretty drinkable for a strong stout. A very pleasant surprise! I liked this one pretty well and would definitely drink it again, given the opportunity!

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.02/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I think this bottle came from garthwaite. Thanks a bundle.
Great label on this one!
I am sampling a chileld brew in a pint glass.
The beer pours pitch black with a creamy tan head foaming up immensely and almost overflows my glass. The receding head leaves a tight latticework on the sides. Finally settles to a good surface layer.
Aroma is very roasty and almost smoky, bittersweet chocolate comes through as well.
I get light yet prickly carbonation and a fairly thick body. Flavor is coffee bitter , roasted malt with no real hop presence to be found. Easy to drink beer even with the full flavored big body.
Good brew!

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

Appearance – The body is, yes, black, with a very dark tan head that was gorgeous and enchanting. It came up wonderfully, left some nice lacing, and never did go all the way down. I can even see some foam at the BOTTOM of my glass.

Update on Appearance: No, wait, that’s darkly tanned sediment at the bottom of my glass. Now it gets a “5”.

Smell – Big, burnt malts and milk chocolate lead the way here. The sugars are of the refined cocoa variety. I can also pick up some coffee grounds. Nice.

Taste – Boy, is this bitter. The sweet chocolate from the nose steps back a bit, which is good because I enjoy smelling these flavors in a stout a little more than tasting them. I am now licking coffee grounds out of my golden cone filter.

Mouthfeel – Full-bodied and bitterly dry. This is probably the driest Imperial Stout that I’ve had to date. You almost need to chase this with a pale lager or something.

Drinkability – This is for true stout lovers only. If you want over-the-top burnt coffee ground madness, this is for you.

Comments – A big thanks to garthwaite for sending me this offering from Dark Horse.

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Photo of Mitchster
4.57/5  rDev +15.1%
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.

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Photo of ppoitras
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle obtained via trade with garthwaite. Thanks for the opportunity...

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed 2" of medium brown head over the opaque black brew. Long lasting head, laces well. Aroma is strongly of dark malts, but tempered with a bit of sweet creaminess. Taste is dominated by dark malts and their inherent bitterness, but closes out with a nice little hoppy bite. Mouthfeel is good and smooth, albeit quashed a bit by the dark malt bitterness, and drinkabilty is good as well. Good stuff, although I will admit I was fooled by the vague label as well, and was expecting a schwarz or black lager. Nice surprise.

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Photo of garthwaite
4.1/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on tap at the brewery, then again from a 64 oz growler upon my return home. Pours black, which I guess is to be expected, given the name. Dark tan creamy head that laced nicely. Powerful aroma of blackberries, blueberries, deeply roasted malts, mild chocolate, & some earthy hops. Bitter front end with massive roastiness & the blackberry flavor to back up the aroma. Some chocolate & caramel notes as well as peppery hops make this a complex & unique brew. Not sure what style this fits in (schwarzbier, porter, stout, double stout), doesn't seem like it fits perfectly into any of them. What I do know is that this brew is no joke - it is heavily roasted, assertively bitter, and damn good.

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

Perpetual black, thick and opaque, sliced thin dark brown skim of a head, a thin collar remains mostly present; lacing in minimal strings and spots.

Aroma is low-keyed and mellow with what seems to be quite a heft of black malt roastyness, partailly sweet with a mollasses undertone, hints of deep dark espresso beans and dark chocolate keep the nose happy.

Sip....whoa! Wasn't expecting that! Wow, what a mega assault of blackened roasty stuff. Starts smooth and subdued with sweeter roasted malts with caramel, licorice, and molasses, then it gets all crazy with mega blackened malts and grains, earthy, smokey, charcoal effervescence and bittering coffee/espresso roast tones and pungent dry hop leaves. What an absolutely fantastic finish. That black roast makes itself a home across the entire palate. Oh so nice to let it just sit there and dry out the tongue. Its like taking a larger, fuller sip of espresso but its cold. Very nice appeal as far as thats concerned. The hops make for a nice meld in the finish as well.

Feel is quick to start, slick creamy front, bold, richly robust, nearly full once it procedes past midway and the finish is a fuckin' treat of roasty blackened stuff, very dry and coating with a long ever-lasting burntish quality. I may just be tasting this stuff the rest of the day.

Stout, Schwartzbier, Black Bier Ale, or what ever they want to call this is fine by me, its awesome! And whats with the worried looking smile of "Hope ya like it" cartoon donkey on the label? I wasn't gonna open it cuz of that, but now I'm glad I did.
Another fine treat I can thank trbeer for!

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Photo of Rastacouere
4.13/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Tan head swiftly recedes o a ring over this opaque black impressing hue. Powerful and appealing aroma. Impressively well blended and balanced, wait this is 8%? Smokey, roasted maple and gentle C-hops, grapefruity and lemony hit the nose together with molasses and licorice. Nothing overdone, nonetheless no flavor is shy. Dark malt comes out in a graham cookies and dark chocolate manner. C-Hops are just expressive enough to keep the focus and the malt interplay. Great mouthfeel with comfortable carbonation, as smooth as any oatmeal stout.. This is great psychprof..

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Photo of Sammy
4.21/5  rDev +6%
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.

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Photo of Sixpack595
3.45/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Nearly black with a thin ring of tan head. Aroma is hoppy and piney but not very assertive. Flavor is quite bitter without much malt sweetness. Coffee and hop bitterness really overpower everything else. Slick, oily mouthfeel, but seems a bit weak bodied for the flavor. Marginal drinkability.

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

Hmmm, whats this now...another awesome Michigan beer? This brew pours out an opaque black colour with a thick tan head that lasts. The aromas are all coffee, chocolate, caramel, deep roasted malts, and slight booze. The taste follows suit with tons of coffee flavors, and a lovely deep roasted malt flavor that than envelopes your tongue in dark (70%cocoa belgian) chocolate. The mouthfeel is thick and soooo creamy and the drinkability is damn good as well. Oh yeah, there is also a nice freshly citirc hop flavor in this one as well....Very good.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.7/5  rDev +18.4%
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.

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Photo of jsolack
3.6/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Very dark... pretty much black. Even when held against a light there is no seeing through it.

Licorice comes through as well as a burnt malt smell.

Strong burnt malt flavor in finish. Has a nice sweet taste in mouth. Overall it's nice but just a little bitter for me. Has grassy hints as well.

Feels heavy in mouth, just like I would expect. Overall very nice feel.

A nice tasting beer but a bit bitter for my taste. I would have a hard time drinking a bunch of these.

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Photo of beergeek279
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in the 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass. The color is black (as you'd probably expect), with a thin layer of tan head. The smell is a chocolatey sweetness. The taste is a mix of coffee bitterness and chocolate sweetness, with the coffee just coming out a bit ahead in the finish. Mouthfeel is very creamy. As for drinkability, could have a few of these.

Thanks to trbeer for the bottle. Wow...a nice imperial stout character in a beer that doesn't seem too big. Hopefully one I'll have again this summer in Michigan.

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Photo of granger10
3.17/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

this one poured extremely dark and decently thick. But the head was nowhere to be seen, even though I did an extremely hard pour. Slight lacing but even that was weak. Taste was strong and malty. Lots of astringent flavors. Chalky texture to it. Thick molasses taste is dominant. Other dark flavors emerge but no chocolate or coffee which I usually taste. This one gets better the further I go along but it seems too one sided and rough for my liking.

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Photo of jcalabre
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: The bottle has a cartoon-ish drawing of a donkey on it. My daughter, who likes Eeyore, thought it was cool...
Otherwise: This is an imperial stout; I'm not sure why bottle calls it a "black bier".
It pours very thickly. The head is very thin, and brown colored. The flavors are roasty with a hint of hops. it's nice tasting.

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Photo of marburg
4.23/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not what I was expecting when I ordered a "black beer." This has imperial stout all over it -- in the appearance, aroma, and flavor. An intense black hole for light that continues to be a visual void with its obsidian opacity. Sweet and roasty nose -- very big stout like character. Deeply bitter flavors. Pure, bitter chocolate. Roasted grains. Coffee beans. Toffee. Culminates with a big bitter finish that likes to hang out like a fun but slightly unwanted guest. A hell of a beer. I just wonder why they don't call it "Special Reserve Stout" or something...

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 585 ratings.