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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

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

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

970 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 970
Reviews: 556
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 42 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: xlperro on 05-28-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Latest | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 970 | Reviews: 556 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of prdstmnky


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

Poured into a pint glass, jet black body with a finger of mocha head that settles to a frothy cap. Lots of chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla, and coffee in the nose - very stout like. More of the roasted malts and coffee flavors on the tongue, less sweet than expected based on the aromas, though the chocolate and vanilla comes though a bit as it warms.Medium bodied and creamy with adequate carbonation.

Another solid beer from Dark Horse.

Serving type: bottle

03-06-2011 01:30:37 | More by prdstmnky
Photo of ribby


4.15/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is one of the darkest beers I have ever seen. 'Black' indeed. It pours with a big head that is a medium brown, quite dark for foam. The taste is a nice balance of dark roasted malt and hops, with a nod to the malt. You could call this a stout and no one would question you. With the vigorous carbonation, the mouthfeel is quite good, and the overall package makes this very drinkable. I've only had this and Crooked Tree from Dark Horse, but I will be checking out some other brews.

Serving type: bottle

03-05-2011 03:21:36 | More by ribby
Photo of DannyDan


4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A. Pours a black oily beer with a thick tan head that has good retention, carbonation and really good lacing that clings rather nicely to my beer mug.
S. Dark Chocolate and coffee dominates the aroma here, but also notice some dark fruits and molasses.
T. Taste chocolate, followed by some coffee, dark fruit, molasses and finishes off with some floral hops leaving a mix of citrus and chocolate at the end. The ending taste remains in the aftertaste. The way this taste reminds me of a mix between a stout, porter and an IPA due to the floral hops.
M. A nice smooth creamy feel that leaves a little stickiness on the mouth and finishes off quite dryly.
D. This is a great medium bodied feel beer that is smooth and very enjoyable to drink. This beer has a different taste than most stouts or porters, but it is a great taste that fans of stouts, porters and even IPA's should try.

Serving type: bottle

03-04-2011 03:08:50 | More by DannyDan
Photo of CuriousMonk


3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On tap at ChurchKey in Washington, DC. Poured into snifter glass. This beer was served in near room temperature which is the norm at ChurchKey. Pours an opaque black with a 2 finger brown head that fizzled pretty quickly and spotty lacing throughout the session. Nose is powdered cocoa, roasted malts, smoked barley and a touch of coffee. Taste is charred dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans and chalky cocoa with some bittering hops in the finish. Full creamy mouthfeel and low carbonation going on. I didn't know what to expect and this one surprised me. I understand this was the very first brew by Dark Horse so I was glad to have tried this one out!

Serving type: on-tap

02-24-2011 21:47:05 | More by CuriousMonk
Photo of jmdrpi


4.38/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

jet black with massive tan colored head. good lacing, and the head stays to the bottom of the glass.

big roasty aroma of coffee and maybe some chocolate. a rich complex taste that is nicely balanced between dry roasted flavor, coffee, and a touch of sweetness.

super smooth mouthfeel thicker body, lower carbonation. very easy to drink, and it only gets better as it warms.

Serving type: bottle

02-23-2011 03:40:12 | More by jmdrpi
Photo of joshrosborne


4.28/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This is really, really good stuff. I'm not entirely sure how it's not a stout or porter, but strong ales can mean pretty much anything, so whatever.

Pours black as night without much of a head at all. You can smell some coffee, honey, and a bit of smoke. The taste is coffee and chocolate w/ a bit of burnt (good burnt, not bad). Mouthfeel is medium. A good amount of carbonation w/o being over the top. I'm used to beers this color being like syrup. Definitely not the case here. Overall, a great, drinkable beer. Whatever style it is, it's good. I'd put it in the porter or stout category, but it's irrelevant at the end of the day.

Serving type: bottle

02-19-2011 03:17:12 | More by joshrosborne
Photo of haazer


4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled at the Philly Winter Beerfest. Poured into the plastic goblet.

A- Good carbonated brew. Very dark brown to almost black in color. A bubbly caramel colored head sits atop the beer.

S- Coffee upfront. Transitions into tea/mint leafs. Roasted malts. Then lastly in the background is a smokey, charcoal aroma.

T- Roasted caramel malts. Little bit of chocolate. Toasted marshmellow. Tastes a lot like a porter.

M- Medium bodied brew. Milky smooth.

D- I thought this was a porter initially but realized its an american strong ale when coming on BA. Good mouthfeel and taste to this, I'd certainly have again.

Serving type: on-tap

02-17-2011 22:16:20 | More by haazer
Photo of Beertracker


4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark Horse Reserve SBBA pours up like an overdue oil change! I mean this stuff is really ugly & black, just like we like it. The brownish-tan head doesn't stick around too long, but who really gives a rat's arse. The aroma smells like burning witches at a black mass! Serious notes of blackstrap molasses & dark cane syrup (e.g. Steen's) along with some dark cocoa, espresso roast and charred barrel notes. Huge black malt character! Alcohol is noticeable, but doesn't detract. The flavor starts off brash, but mildly sweet (burnt toffee) with a bit of chicory, coffee & chocolate/cocoa underlying before the black malt & bitterness drive this like Casey Jones running the Ole' 382 straight to hell! Big, bold expansive roasted finish that's surprisigly balanced in the end. There's maybe just a touch of astringency? This medium-slightly full bodied specialty beer is like a black three-headed goat in that it's hard to comprehend that it even exists, yet you just can't take your eyes off of it. It's a stout schwarzbier, porterish-type, strong dark mild ale! I must admit that this one was rather harsh & undrinkable a few months ago, but age has been kind to this wee black beast from Marshall. Here's to those crazy SOB's @ Dark Horse with all of the extra black malt.

CHEERS! Beertracker

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2011 07:28:29 | More by Beertracker
Photo of MarcatGSB


3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Decanted into a La Fin Du Monde tulip on 02-15-11.

A: Pitch black. Small, caramel colored head.

Nose: Roasted malts. Pow! Could smell it as soon as the beer hit the glass. Bitter chocolate, coffee on the back.

Taste: Smokey and roasted? That's possible, it's in this beer. Coffee, more smoke. Almost too much smoke, almost. Finish is bitter, and lasting. Going to let this warm up for a minute, I believe it's a bit cold...As it warms up, I notice more overall flavor, a better balance of bittersweet malt and bitter chocolate.

Mouth: Wouldn't say this one is creamy, and the bitterness really comes through. It's got a nice feel, bit thin. Very dry, but that is expected. Wont knock it.

Overall: Enjoyable beer. Especially after letting it warm up a minute. I'll enjoy this one again.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2011 05:00:23 | More by MarcatGSB
Photo of beergod1


4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown/black with a thin brown coffee-colored head that dissipated fully. Aroma is a wonderful mix of dark fruit (plums/dates), sweet malt, roast coffee, molasses, and bitter dark chocolate. Tastes of coffee, bitter hops, dark chocolate, and a touch of sweetness. Finishes quite dry.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2011 01:15:06 | More by beergod1
Photo of trappistlover


3.25/5  rDev -17.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

(12oz bottle courtesy of guy in chicago!). Pours black with khaki head. Aroma of chocolate and berries and pine. Taste is roasty bitter to along with hop bitterness and a little bit of sweetness. Thin bodied with a creamy texture. Finish is bitter. I would like this more if it were hopped less.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2011 04:11:57 | More by trappistlover
Photo of DrDemento456


4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Solid black with a nice inch of mocha head that turns to a nice ring of lace.

S - Mild roasted sweet chocolates with an faint whiff of coffee.

T - Very nice! I get the chocolate and coffee tones with a bit of hop bitterness in the finish. Very mild grains and mild sweetness in the middle from the malts. Overall awesome!

M - Light to medium. I never new a strong ale good drink so smooth.

D - Man when I first got this I expected a Swartz maybe even a dunkel but got a really smooth drinkable strong ale. It may have been aged since it did have a solid ring of sediment in the bottom of the bottle but definitely improved the taste. Would go back to D's for another bottle or two, great beer!

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2011 05:54:16 | More by DrDemento456
Photo of OnThenIn


3.38/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Finger of dark tan head on a very dark brown body.

S: Slightly sweet with a bit of chocolate. A bit of some kind of hop aroma was also present.

T: Tastes slightly watery, with chocolate and bitterness dominating with a lingering sweetness. The beer felt slightly creamy, but was also a bit astringent.

M: Full bodied and creamy with good carbonation.

D: The astringency kills the driknkability. The sweetness helps the beer, surprisingly. Neither I nor anyone at my table really loved this beer, and I am honestly somewhat surprised by its high rating on here.

Serving type: on-tap

01-30-2011 19:51:56 | More by OnThenIn
Photo of DefenCorps


3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I'm drinking this bottle that I got from G311 on the day that I caused 31.1G's worth of damage at work. It's not too often that you can say that.

Black with a dense, brown head with excellent retention and lacing, this is a particularly attractive beer. The head slowly recedes to a thin, uniform disk. The nose is potent. There's a rather strong licorice character to go with a blend of roasted malts (along with a moderate bitterness) and unsweetened chocolate, this is great. A little vanilla and some caramel are present too. This is almost entirely driven by malt and dark fruit, though there is a mild, pine-like hop character present.

The palate opens rather stout like. In some ways, this reminds me of aged Expedition - and that's a good thing. With a blend of mild, pine-like hops, licorice and rather robust roasted malt flavor and bitterness, this does command your attention. Unsweetened chocolate/cocoa and a little caramel are present, but this isn't as complex as the nose might suggest. I don't really get much of the delicate brown sugar and vanilla that I pick up on the nose. Quite thick and chewy, this has quite a bit of licorice and anise on the finish, along with a moderate bitterness. The hops don't really linger here. Carbonation is a little higher than I'd like, but other than that, I have no complaints. The intensity does hurt the drinkability, but I am glad I got to try this, it is an interesting and unique schwarzbier - stout hybrid. Thanks again, Vince!

Serving type: bottle

01-25-2011 04:51:47 | More by DefenCorps
Photo of mavbrew


4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep brown color that looks pitch black until held up to the light. The mocha colored head is minimal and it quickly dissipates.

S: Smell that consists of roasted malts, chocolate, dark fruits and some coffee beans.

T: The taste has a strong roasted malt presence up front with a hint of chocolate. The roasted, burnt flavor lasts throughout with a little bit of sweetness coming through in the middle. The finish is dry and obviously roasted.

M: Medium to full bodied with light carbonation, roasted feel throughout that lingers in the palate long after.

D: The style says American Strong Ale, tastes like a Porter or a Stout to me but whatever, it's different and kind of unique. I would say the roasted characteristics are a bit overboard but it's a good beer to say the least.

Serving type: bottle

01-25-2011 02:13:55 | More by mavbrew
Photo of ksimons

New York

3.93/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A-pours a dark black brown with just a bit of foam around the top of the glass

S-roasted malts and coffee is the primary smell, caramel sweetness and dark fruits are also detected

T-roasted malts and bitter coffee dominate the taste, sweet caramel balances the flavor out. Alcohol warming comes out the more I sip it.

M-medium body, light carbonation, dry finish, very smooth

D-my first beer from Dark Horse and it's pretty good. Nice rich roasted malts make for a good winter beer.

Serving type: bottle

01-22-2011 22:30:22 | More by ksimons
Photo of BB1313


4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a standard pint glass. Pours a pitch black with a nice mocha colored head and nice lacing. Lots of coffee, dark malts, and roasted chocolate right off the bat. It also has a nice sweet butter aroma mixed in with some smoke. Tastes very bitter. Once again, lots of chocolate and coffee. Lots of roasted characteristics; slightly smokey. Mouthfeel is nice and fizzy, nothing overboard. Drinkability isn't bad, nice silky beer to enjoy. Very nice brew.

I'm kind of confused what kind of beer this is. Stout? Porter? Black Ale? Either way, it's enjoyable. If you're into those styles, definitely check this one out. Dark Horse comes through!

Serving type: bottle

01-20-2011 04:27:55 | More by BB1313
Photo of DrinkingDrake


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One finger, frothy brown sugar colored head. Sticky around for the majority of this glass. Black with a deep brownish/red tinge when held to the light

Robust chocolate and some dark, candied fruit. Brown sugar. Alcohol bite in the tail.

Fireplace roasted chocolate malt with a dark fruity texture at the back of the palette. Coffee finish that becomes dry but far from desert dry.

Thick body but not gritty. Milky smooth. Medium amount carbonation that gives a slight tingle.

Serving type: bottle

01-19-2011 00:55:42 | More by DrinkingDrake
Photo of TheDTrain


3.93/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Until I went onto BA, I thought I was drinking a stout. Hard to believe this is an American Strong Ale! Robust medium body pours deep black with tan head with serious staying power.

Dark roast malts, sweet fruits, burnt coffee, molasses, chocolate. Great dry hoppy finish with some bite.

Another Dark Horse well worth picking up.

Serving type: bottle

01-14-2011 03:16:33 | More by TheDTrain
Photo of Internatbrewlove


4.28/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This dark coffee brown, opaque beer has a moderate light brown head. There is a sweet malty coffee aroma and the taste is similar with a hint of chocolate and moderate hops. There is a light tingling on the tongue that lasts and a slightly obvious betrayal of the higher alcohol content in the overall oral experience.

This is another great beer by Dark Horse Brewing company. If you like porters you will love this beer.

Serving type: bottle

01-13-2011 03:15:18 | More by Internatbrewlove
Photo of cratez

Ontario (Canada)

4.1/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle from Wolverine Market in Port Huron, Michigan. Pours an opaque black with one finger of tan head and sheets of lacing on the pint glass. Smell is chocolate, roasted barley, vanilla, burnt grains, doughy cake batter, cream, baking sugar, faint woodiness. Taste is roasted and black malts, coffee grounds, bitter dark chocolate, floral and earthy hops, mildly astringent bitterness, touch of smoke, ashy, charred aftertaste with a little toast in there as well. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, average carbonation, silky creaminess mid-palate, ultra dry and chalky finish. Overall, this beer exemplifies the American Porter style very well, so I'm not sure why it's classified as an ASA on this site. Regardless, Reserve Special is a solid purchase if you can manage to find it.

Serving type: bottle

01-12-2011 19:12:52 | More by cratez
Photo of chiefydawg


4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Given to me by a buddy who was in MI with family. Thanks Jonny. Love the ass on the label. Way to stick with the original artist and keep it real!

Opaque pitch black. I mean no light escapes, like a black hole. Small, light brown head. Carbonation low but ample. Legs without much lace.

Smells of cherries and fresh Kenyan coffee. Roasted dark malts marry a fruity, nearly sweet scent for an intriguing prelude to the first sip.

Fruitiness is still there, but more muted as the dark chocolate picks up. Bitter coffee aftertaste, still with a cherry zing. Not too bitter or astringent, but an in-your-face, Stoutlike roast. If somebody told me this was an American Stout with a cherry accent, I would have been not the least bit surprised. Some prune, burnt caramel, and dry grain.

As it warms, I am realizing that some of the fruit and bitterness is coming from the hops, which I should have caught earlier. I had been so caught up in the cherry wondering about a fruit addition and/or yeast; and the bitterness of roasted malts that I was distracted. Definately a beery, earthy hoppiness to it that I like. Slightly burnt aftertaste

Nice, smooth body and creamy mouthfeel. Alcohol perception is quite low. A lot going on here, and all of it screams to be sipped upon again.

An impressive ale, and a bit of a pleasant surprise. When I saw the name (Black Bier Ale), I didn't know what to expect. I would call this an American Stout, but who am I. Would absolutely dig more of this, especially to sip with good friends on a cold winter's eve such as this.

Would be seriously nice and comforting with a big, juicy roast from the crockpot or oven.

Serving type: bottle

01-12-2011 03:06:40 | More by chiefydawg
Photo of jale


4.18/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

appearance:Almost black with a tan head

smell: roasted malt and some chocolate

taste: toasted malt with chocolate. maybe a little burnt raisin. nice hop finish

mouthfeel: slightly sticky on the tongue. good carbonation

Drinkability: would drink a couple more

Serving type: on-tap

01-07-2011 18:50:22 | More by jale
Photo of wingman14


4.4/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours black with a small dark mocha head that leaves lacing. The smell is inviting, sweet and chocolate notes, along with a roasted malt. The taste starts malty with a tint of bitter and some alcohol, then moves to a nice chocolate sweet and finishes with a roasted malt. The roasted malt and some sweetness linger. The mouthfeel is nice, heavier then expected for a strong ale, but adds to beer. A nice drinker, great flavor, and definitely worth checking out.

Serving type: bottle

01-02-2011 23:27:47 | More by wingman14
Photo of TurdFurgison


3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this on tap at Dark Horse while waiting for the doors to the 4 elf party to open. I've never bought this in stores before, I guess because schwarzbiers aren't really my thing. So I was happy to find that this seemed more of a stout than a schwarzbier.

It's dark black and thickish, with only wisps of foam on top. Lots of toasted malts, very good balance from hops too, sort of grassy and lightly citric. The hops only accent, then main work aroma-wise is from the roasted malts.

Same with the taste, very roasty and bready, nice. Toffee and caramel in small measures, a little more of the citrus-grass, not bad at all. The only detractor for me is the bitter aftertaste, to the point of being a little astringent. Thick body, rich flavors, a good American stout.

Serving type: on-tap

01-02-2011 19:46:38 | More by TurdFurgison
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 970 ratings.