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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

997 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 997
Reviews: 559
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 51 | FT: 3
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
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Ratings: 997 | Reviews: 559 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of SWMeyer4141


4.15/5  rDev +5.1%

Wasn't too sure what this beer was, got two bottles.

Appearance-Looks like a Stout. Dark brown ith a mocha 1.5 finger head. Tight bubbles. Dissipates pretty quickly. Good Lacing.

Smell-Dark Chocolate and malts. Dark fruits and hops. Intriguing.

Taste-Lots of Roast. Porterish. Chocolate, Coffee, and some nice bitterness. Very Balanced. Mouthfeel is great...

Mouthfeel-Smooth, Creamy. Medium carbonation, lots of body. Very drinkable.

Overall-This is a Porter in my eyes. Very roasty and balanced with plenty of flavors. Nice brew.

06-26-2011 00:37:46 | More by SWMeyer4141
Photo of Kayn169


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

12oz bottle poured I to pint glass, at DMK burger in Chicago. I immediately went at bought Some at my local liquor store.

A- Deep brown body, nice 2" Khaki head. Looks like a higher carbonated, lighter bodied stout

S- Very nice. Smoky malts, and a little sweetness.

T- Smoky roasted malts hit me up front, followed by bitter chocolate nibs. Maybe a little Molasses

M- So much lighter than the color would lead you to believe. Really suprising. Nice carbination really lends a hand to the feel of this beer.

O- originally ordered this beer at a local burger joint. Wasn't expecting much, so when I tried it, I was very surprised. Really good. Not the best I've ever had, but VERY GOOD

06-24-2011 03:46:16 | More by Kayn169
Photo of jbertsch


3.9/5  rDev -1.3%

Poured into a tulip. This appears black, with a khaki head 2-finger in size. The head fades to a ring after a bit.

Aroma is of fudgy chocolate brownies, crème brulee, creamed coffee, and a little sherry.

The flavor profile consists of bakers chocolate up front. Crème brulee in the middle, and a slight alcohol kick at the end. The taste is shorter and thinner than expected, but still good.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick, and a little fizzy. Not so creamy. Medium body.

Overall, this was enjoyable. I think this is more of an imperial stout with some slight barleywine characteristics.

06-23-2011 16:41:19 | More by jbertsch
Photo of J0E


4.05/5  rDev +2.5%

A: Poured into a goblet style glass, it is very black with the slightest brown on the edges. About a half inch of light tan head that dissipated fairly quickly.

S: Slightly roasted malts and chocolate - something like a stout or a porter. Not overwhelming as there is still a bit of a hoppy citrus/herbs coming through. Slight amount of coffee, maybe some raisin in there too.

T: Very robust with the malt character, giving way to the bitterness of the hops which then melts away to dark chocolate on the finish. The alcohol is well hidden beneath it all. I wouldn't have guessed this was 8.5% (although their website says it's 7.5% - still seems higher than expected).

M: Smooth, but higher carbonation that you'd expect from something this dark like a stout.

O: This was the first time I'd had this one from Dark Horse, and I'd drink it again no problem. I'm glad it's a year round so I don't have to wait to have another.

06-23-2011 13:55:07 | More by J0E
Photo of dmfrench


4.33/5  rDev +9.6%

Dry, acidic cocoa coffee Stout

A: Deep black body with no real edges to speak of, topped with a fairly persistent tight one finger deep khaki head.

S: Rich, powdery but not overly dry baker's chocolate, brown sugar/molasses, musty, earthy hops, cream, hints of coffee and alcohol. Delicious.

T: Big, fresh chocolate coffee with a fairly aggressive zesty, spicy, earthy hopping, though there's still a fair amount of creamy molasses sweetness. Though it's firmly on the dry, bitter side, expecially on the finish, it's still an excellent balance.

M: Fairly big and creamy for the ABV. Not overly carbonated with a grainy texture.

O: Great weight, dryness, sweetness, coffee, cocoa... what's not to love?

06-06-2011 03:24:38 | More by dmfrench
Photo of perrymarcus


3.88/5  rDev -1.8%

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 beer. curious as to why it falls into the americans strong ale category - to me this is much more porter / stout territory.

05-26-2011 03:44:40 | More by perrymarcus
Photo of Bierlerner


3.78/5  rDev -4.3%

A- dark dark dark brown. Nice 1 finger bubbly tan head. Goes away quickly. Some lacing.

S- Light aroma smells of coffee and molasses. Bit of chocolate. Lots of roasted malts.

T- Taste is great! Roasty and toasty. Nice molasses taste with a bittering finish. Small amounts sweetness and chocolate and coffee through out. Really a great balanced beer.

M- Medium body. Creamy. Low carbonation, which is perfect for this brew.

O- Very great strong ale. Perfect for the colder months. I'm diggin this.

05-25-2011 00:03:16 | More by Bierlerner
Photo of jdhilt

New Hampshire

3.9/5  rDev -1.3%

Pours a three finger brown head that fades slowly and leaves some lace. Black color, no highlights, ton of yeast left in bottle. Good carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Light coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee and oak, some bitterness at finish. $2.95 for a 12 oz bottle from Julio's Liquors Westborough, Ma.

05-23-2011 22:10:13 | More by jdhilt
Photo of Mario61Aler


4/5  rDev +1.3%

Gave it a hard pour into a tulip and Wow 2-3" of dark molassas head that, was dense with very tiny bubbles in the carbination, tyhat disapated slowly. The Color was as black as the inside of a cave with the lights out :).

I smell heavily roasted malts, notes of coffee and a fruit(?) very pleasant.

The taste was slightly sweet and bitter at the same time then the bitterness lingered on the back of the tongue like a rich stout would.

The feel of this in my mouth was alot lighter than I was expecting, medium with a slight oiliness to the finish, then it cleans itself out. Amazing. Complex.

Overall pretty good, I'll drink this one a little cooler than I drink most, about 53 F. I'll buy this one again and try it outside in the sun. Its that light and refreshing.

05-19-2011 19:23:27 | More by Mario61Aler
Photo of Brunite


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

A: Pours very dark, nearly black. A mocha head that fades quickly.

S: Lots to smell here. Roasted malts, coffee, chocolate. Not much in the way of hops.

T: Pretty complex. The roasted coffee, molasses and chocolate start out on top but fade to a bitterness and a bit of a unique twang.

M: Medium bodied...decent carbonation.

O: A tasty beer with a bit of uniqueness. Something here reminds me of a Sprecher's black beer. Will try again.

05-14-2011 22:06:30 | More by Brunite
Photo of rinhaak


4.03/5  rDev +2%

12 oz. bottle poured in a tulip glass.

Pours a dark, viscous black with a quickly dissipating head. When held up to the light, there is a dark brown hue in the beer.

The nose is very nice and very sweet: lots of chocolate, mocha, and molasses. A little bit of fruit can be detected on the edges.

The mouth is lovely. I was expected a thick, syrupy beer which this wasn't at all. It had a surprising lightness which helped to counter the heavy alcohol levels (very little booziness), and the heavy carbonation also assists in keeping it lighter on the palate.

The taste is not terribly complex, though tremendously pleasant. Light hops are faintly tasted, but they can barely compete with the rich malty flavors in the foreground. There is a burnt toffee/ash finish.

Overall, a well made beer that is enjoyable to drink.

05-14-2011 20:18:33 | More by rinhaak
Photo of lsrose


4.97/5  rDev +25.8%

A - Beer poured a tall dark tan head with a very aggressive pour into a Sam Adams perfect pint. Was dark black even at the thinnest parts of the glass. Head did diminish rather quickly to leave a coating.

S - Beer had an exceptional chocolate mocha smell. Very much like many chocolate stouts.

T - Doesn't take long to get a feel for the taste of this beer. It just smacks you with a heavy coffee flavor. With the smell I expected more chocolate but there is just a bit of dark chocolate taste with the coffees.

M - Take one little drink of this beer and the tastes will linger for several minutes. The taste can be so strong that it is hard to distinguish a mouthfeel.

I had expected a Belgian Dark Ale or some other weaker style from this but was pleasantly surprised. This is a super thick and flavorful beer. I was stunned with the smell, and then again with the flavor and loved both. One of the best beers I have discovered in a long time and very pleasant to drink.

05-08-2011 04:05:13 | More by lsrose
Photo of mater


4.5/5  rDev +13.9%

Picked up a bottle of this in my mixed sixer at Vintage Estate in Boardman, Oh.

A-Pours a very, very dark brown almost black with a nice mocha colored two finger head and solid lacing.

S-Almost smells like a stout or porter. I'm getting roasty malts and chocolate, but also some dark fruits.

T-Roasty malts, chocolate, coffee with a little hop bite.

M-Goes down really smooth, nice and creamy with light carbonation.

Overall this is a really solid brew. I don't know if I'd consider this a strong ale(almost reminds me of Stone's SSR), but I'll definitely be buying more of this.

05-04-2011 09:27:18 | More by mater
Photo of hombreverde


3.88/5  rDev -1.8%

Appearance: Very dark color, almost like strong black expresso. Can´t see through glass. One finger head. Some carbonation on the sides of the tulip.

Smell: Notes of coffee. Sweet malt.

Taste: Cherry, burnt taste, alcohol fumes, not sticky, slight sour notes in the back of the mouth. Fully roasted malt.

Mouthfeel: Thin with evenly balanced carbonation.

Overall: Loads of coffee flavors coming through. Will gladly drink the rest of the 6 pack!

04-28-2011 00:58:52 | More by hombreverde
Photo of abraxel


3.63/5  rDev -8.1%

A - Quite black (I already used the "none more black" reference in another review, but it fits here, too). A few fingers of chocolate-brown head that settles relatively fast, but leaves thick trails along the glass.

S - As I started pouring, the smell almost immediately hit me; at first just sweet, dark, slightly fruity malts, then upon closer inspection there's a whole lot of roasty malt and a bit of hops.

T - Here the roastiness takes over in force, with some citrusy hops mixed in. The tasty sweetness that was so prevalent in the smell is much more hidden. The roasty/hoppy combination lingers perhaps a little too long. Good, but could be better.

M - Smooth, just a hint of carbonation. Not bad.

Overall, an above-average beer, but I don't know where the "reserve special" in the name came from, since neither of those words seems quite appropriate.

04-27-2011 22:25:34 | More by abraxel
Photo of Daktyls


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

A: Pours a dark, motor oil black color with a small tannish/mocha head that dissipates quickly to a fine lacing on the top of the bear.

S: Dark and malty for starters, not too much else that is immediately present. There's a little bit of chocolate and cocoa, but not too much else.

T: Again, a lot of smoked malts and a tiny bit of hops. There's also a little bit of vanilla and a slight bit of coffee.

M: Light amount of carbonation with a nice big body. The alcohol is a little present on the finish, but certainly not overwhelming.

O: Overall, quite good. This is definitely going to go onto the buy again list. Everything works well here.

04-16-2011 21:13:29 | More by Daktyls
Photo of robwestcott


3.9/5  rDev -1.3%

poured cold and black from the tap at the brewpub to a standard pint with a long lasting, foamy, mocha head leaving lace to the rim.

subtle dark malty aroma with plenty of chocolate following up.

this one's dark, smoky, coffee, chocolate. nice blend of flavors.

big bodied, creamy smooth, subtle bitter all about the tongue, semi sweet chocolate follows up.

drinkable - a pint or two.

overall - my first beer on my first stop at dark horse. very pleasant beer, big and flavorful.

04-15-2011 01:32:45 | More by robwestcott
Photo of RedSpecial1


4.97/5  rDev +25.8%

This beer pours a thick, dark, black with a thin bit of brown head. The smell is robust and roasty with hints of dark chocolate, reminds me of a campfire. The main flavors are dark roasted barley and a nice dark chocolate flavor. This beer is thin enough to sip easily, but robust enough to coat the mouth with a pleasant flavor that lingers nicely. This is a great beer, lots of strong flavor, but smooth as well.

04-14-2011 03:35:00 | More by RedSpecial1
Photo of Gushue3


3.98/5  rDev +0.8%

First off I have a little cold so my review may already be all fucked up. Ive been sitting on this one for a while now, pretty excited to drink it.

A- Pours almost pitch black with just a little bit of transparency. Sits in my glass blacker than Charlie Murphy with a small light brown head that goes away quickly. Little/no retention and lacing.

S- Lots of malt up front with what seems like a hint of alcohol. Semi sweet chocolate too

T- BIG roast, smoke and malt profile at first that mellows out in the middle and turns into hops. A nice medium hop bitterness to finish. A hint of alcohol too

M- Good medium amount of carbonation and other than that goes down pretty smooth

O- not much to complain about with this one. i wish my nose wasnt as stuffed. hope i did it justice

04-13-2011 23:58:23 | More by Gushue3
Photo of Genghis22


4.43/5  rDev +12.2%

A - Pours a super thick dark oil looking black. Zero light penetration. Rich mocha colored head forms, but does not stick around to long.

S - Chocolately roasty malt. Vanilla and oak, lots of sweet fruit, fig and prunes. Very enticing.

T - Bitter hops hit the back of the tongue, while the front is pleasured by sweet chocolate and cocoa. There is then a rush of vanilla and a twist of fig. The aftertaste is bitter and strong coffee. Fantastic.

M - Chewy, and oil like in viscosity. Very fine carbonation that slightly prickles the tongue as the sip goes down. The finish is quite dry, but pleasing.

O - Not sure why this is an "American Strong Ale" it tastes like a damn fine stout to me. That being said, this beer is quite tasty. Rich, flavorful and a pleasing mouthfeel. The label on the bottle may look a little hokey, but the beer is very tasty. I'd buy more if I could.

04-13-2011 23:18:18 | More by Genghis22
Photo of McNealc31


4.63/5  rDev +17.2%

So here is Dark Horse Brewing's Reserve Special Black Ale. It is indeed black with a creamy dark tan head. Lots of roast and toffee in the nose. Kind of smells like a Heath Bar. Wrapped in bacon.

Big, bold flavors in the first sip. Dark, bitter chocolate, smoked meat, roasted coffee. Late hop bite, too.

I really dig on this one! 7.5% ABV doesn't hurt, either. As they mention on the site, it's not quite a porter, not quite a stout, but golly is it good!

04-04-2011 02:59:37 | More by McNealc31
Photo of number1bum


4.2/5  rDev +6.3%

Pours nearly black in color with a pretty thick two fingers of dark tan head. Looks like a stout. Head keeps reasonably well, although once it settles it's only a thin and not very full lace. Keeps a ring or two of stick on the sides.

Smell is quite bold with notes of roasted malt and chocolate, plus some milky/lacto sweetness. There is a hint of coffee as well and then a pretty substantial fruity aroma. I get a bit of orange and black currant. Smells like a milk stout with some increased fruity hop aromas.

Taste also consists of roasted and chocolate malts with a good dose of bitter coffee as well. There is a sweetness here that again reminds me of a milk stout; not sure if there is any lactose in this beer or not but it has that sort of quality, plus some sweet and bittersweet chocolate. There is a good deal of black currant flavor like the nose suggested, plus some more subtle citrus hop flavor. In the finish it is roasty and pretty bitter for a stout. A lot of good flavor here.

Mouthfeel is on the plus side of a medium body, appropriately carbonated and pretty smooth. Bitterness dries it out a bit in the finish but it has a nice creaminess to it as well.

I like this. It drinks like a hoppy milk stout to me, and it has a ton of flavor. It's smooth and even at 7.5% it's extremely easy to drink. Very tasty stuff.

04-02-2011 00:36:01 | More by number1bum
Photo of cocogan


4/5  rDev +1.3%

Poured into pint glass.

Visual: Black with a light brown one finger head. Head recedes to a half finer and lingers. Moderate lacing.

Nose: Caramel, brown suger, coffee.

Taste: Smoke, coffee, wood,and a nice sweet malt middle with noticable hop bittering backbone. Also notes of peanut brittle, and earth finishing with a slight fruity hop balance.

Mouth: Medium body, creamy smooth.

Drunkability: I like.. yes i do.

03-25-2011 23:07:55 | More by cocogan
Photo of Kelly88


4.05/5  rDev +2.5%

Poured from a bottle into an old Rasputin pint glass.

A- looks like a very thick Brew on the pour. Pours a dark brown that settles into s fresh paved asphalt road. Really nice tan head That is frothy and persistent, gradually recedes to a film of beige.

S- lots of toasty and roasty malts and a glimpse of hop residue. And maybe some scents of a used coffee mug.

T- tastes like a hoppy coffee that ate a chocolate candy bar. The coffee tasted a Tad Bitter and acidic but blended ok with the hops That are trying to escape from the malt straight jacket.

M- light to medium with excellent carbonation. Just enough to give some feel and not enough to be overbearing. Really smooth with a little bit of grit on the finish.

D- easy drinking beer That is only held back by how much you like the taste. I like it so its pretty good.

03-12-2011 02:55:46 | More by Kelly88
Photo of champ103


3.98/5  rDev +0.8%

A: Pours a nearly opaque pitch black color. A two finger tan head forms with excellent retention. A collar of foam stay all the way down the glass. Sticky, spiderweb looking lace is left as well.
S: Roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, toffee. All the good dark malty aromas you would expect. Some very light slick and oily hops linger for a nice balance.
T: Lots of toasted malt. Lightly roasted. Creamed coffee up front, but not over barring. Chocolate and toffee. Some baked bread. Even some smoke. Lingering hops again. Very well balanced. Nothing is over barring.
M/D: A medium body, but just a bit watery. A bit under carbonated as well. Easy to drink. A good warming beer to sip on.

I enjoy this. Very well made. Something I would recommend.

03-11-2011 04:26:24 | More by champ103
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 997 ratings.