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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

992 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 992
Reviews: 559
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 50 | 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
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Ratings: 992 | Reviews: 559 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of uwmgdman


3.93/5  rDev -0.5%

This brew pours an opaque jet black with great lace left from the thick dark tan head. The aroma is highly roasty, chocolate and moderate caramel sweetness. The flavor is highly roasty with moderate-high bitterness with a bittersweet finish. The body is full and chewy with moderate carbonation. Overall a very tasty beer with sharp bitterness enhanced by roasty malts. Worth a try.

10-23-2009 23:38:07 | More by uwmgdman
Photo of yourefragile

District of Columbia

4.2/5  rDev +6.3%

12 oz bottle poured into a nonic

As the name suggests, this is black, motor oil looking with a mocha head. Not much retention and some minimal lacing. Burnt malt aroma, very stout like, caramel and molasses, mild chocolate, some bitterness in the finish. Thick and smooth body, mildly syrup like, adequate carbonation for the style. Flavor is roasted malt and barley heavy with some sweet molasses and chocolate flavors in the finish to balance out the burnt notes. Also an unexpected light hop bite in the finish. A very nice, big, but drinkable stout.

10-22-2009 03:20:13 | More by yourefragile
Photo of jera1350


4/5  rDev +1.3%

Pours into a pint glass a syrupy black with minimal dark tan head.

Sweet cream, dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean with deep roasted malt.

Starts with dark fruit and finishes with a huge roasted coffee taste at the end. Hints of burnt toffee and vanilla are also present. Not as sweet as the nose suggests. Personally, I would like a little more sweetness in this.

Smooth, full body with soft, almost creamy carbonation.

Pretty easy drinking. Coffee lovers will love this one. Alcohol is well hidden. A nice coffee forward strong ale.

10-20-2009 01:46:53 | More by jera1350
Photo of BARFLYB


3.68/5  rDev -6.8%

12oz bottle poured into a otter creek pint glass. Glad to try this one.

A- This is much darker than I was expecting. Comes out of the bottle thick and dark, once in the glass this looks like a stout. The head is gorgeous dark brown with semi density. Just a small amount of lace on the sides.

S- This comes off like a coffee porter to me. Big smells of rich chocolate and the finest coffee beans. Both of these together, plus some roastiness make for a great smell. A nice hop scent coming through as well telling me this bottle aint all that old.

T- First off, this really should be reclassified style wise. What I get is a big coffee presence. Big roast and caramel malt. Hops in between, and some chocolate to finish. I need to find more of this stuff. Some dark fruits in the distance.

M- This went down easy enough, almost to easy. For such a thick look, this is actually medium bodied with low carbonation which works well. I cant believe this is so smooth. A lucious smooth feel. Superb.

D- A little high in ALC but Im game for three bottles in a sitting. This stuff is great. Reminds me of a coffee porter with attitude. Need to find more and eat some chocolates with it. Im in for a case.

Edit- Had a few bottles two months later and this stuff really went downhill taste wise. While i enjoyed this fresh, where it's at now is just plain wrong. It reminded me of stale coffee with old cream and some smoke with old licorice. I gotta dock some points.

10-17-2009 22:15:06 | More by BARFLYB
Photo of civilizedpsycho


4.03/5  rDev +2%

Poured bottle into pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a solid black color with a small brown head. It almost looks like a porter or stout.

Smell: Quite malty with hints or fruit that reminded me a little of blueberry.

Taste: Strong roasted flavor with hints of coffee and chocolate. No notice of any fruit taste that I thought I noticed in the smell.

Mouthfeel: Good body. Again, this almost reminds me of a stout.

Drinkability: Very good. It's a little strong to be drinking a whole bunch, but certainly will be kept in mind.

10-11-2009 21:16:37 | More by civilizedpsycho
Photo of Casey10


4/5  rDev +1.3%

Dark beer that pours with no light.

A - Pours a dark head with a slight head.

S- Bourbon smell of dark chocolate.

T - Dark Bourbon, chocolate.

M - Smooth, slight burn of alcohol. A nicce chocolate afterfeel.

D - Would drink again if given the chance really nice.

10-07-2009 06:01:34 | More by Casey10
Photo of thain709


4.03/5  rDev +2%

A - Served with a pitch black body...there is no light shining through this one...a creamy, mocha colored head is present...it retains strongly and leaves nice spotty lacing

S - Solid aromas coming from this...mainly dominated by milk chocolate and coffee beans...a definite roastiness apparent...some hints of vanilla as well

T - Again the taste is dominated by chocolate and coffee...the flavors are not heavily roasted to the point of being burnt...they have nice subtle flavors...the vanilla becomes more apparent and pairs with a hint of lactose...almost like a cream/milk stout...but that is not overpowering and I like that...the coffee beans come back and I believe a few earthy hops pair together to form a lingering bitterness

M - Boarding on being heavy in the body...very rich and creamy

D - I didn't know what this was when I ordered it...but I was very impressed to the point that I wanted to order another one...a solid beer with both stout and porter characteristics

10-05-2009 23:36:27 | More by thain709
Photo of Dibujob


3.53/5  rDev -10.6%

Pours a deep, tar-black with a beautiful, thin, rusty-brown head.

Roasty malts, espresso, and cocoa dominate the aroma. Subtle hops in the background add balance.

Again, the roasty, almost smokey, flavor dominates, but the coffee and cocoa flavors are not overwhelmed. Strong alcohol aftertaste makes for a somewhat bitter finish.

Heavy mouthfeel, nice body. I definitely wouldn't be able to drink a bunch of this though.

All in all a very nice ale.

10-01-2009 00:02:18 | More by Dibujob
Photo of biegaman

Ontario (Canada)

4.05/5  rDev +2.5%

Black Bier is a kind of black oil that makes both highlighting and transparency completely out of the question. Go ahead and hold it right up against a bright afternoon sun and you'll be hard pressed to find even an edging on it. The head, on the other hand, is beautifully coloured a deep mocha brown. It appears rusted and replete with flavour. Lacing is spotty.

Budding hop cones, ripened blueberries, fresh-pulled shots of espresso and vehemently roasted malts combine for an enticing - if not to say mouthwatering - aroma. Traces of crystallized sugar and caramelized custard idle in the backdrop while those more smokey, roasted notes of black coffee and bitter cocoa beans take center stage.

And their performance is quite amicable; nearly deserving of a standing ovation but not quite. The taste of dark, dried fruits is nice but the chocolate isn't that of the high quality, finely-conched variety and those sweeter flavours of caramel seem largely forgotten. The taste of coffee is a little overtly predominant; the beer is intensely roasty...

To the point where I wonder what Dark Horse is trying to prove? This has the rich chocolate and bitter coffee flavours, does it really need *this* much cheek-scrapping roast to make the point that this is a decadent and sumptuous tipple? Scale back on that smokey, burnt character so more of that bittersweet mouthfeel can be appreciated.

Otherwise, however, there isn't much to scoff at. I don't know why this is considered a "reserve special" when, in fact, I would consider it a great every day drinking dark beer. Porter or stout - it is a little of both but not exactly either - this is a deliciously quaffable beer that would likely work just as well before, during, or after a hearty dinner. Enjoyed.

09-26-2009 03:08:01 | More by biegaman
Photo of jrallen34


2.68/5  rDev -32.2%

I drank this from a bottle into a chalice.

It pours a motor oil black with not much head and poor lacing.

The aroma is ok but nothing special. There are notes of coffee and light hops.

The taste is just bad. Its light coffee, but this beer doesn't know what it wants to be. Its certainly not an american stong ale. Its in between a porter and imperial stout.

Mouthfeel is ok, but drinkable.

09-26-2009 01:57:28 | More by jrallen34
Photo of Ricochet


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

A: Black. As advertised. Ruby shimmer , no head, no lace. Stouty stout stout.

S:Burnt malt, slight caramel, raisin and lots of it. Dig in.

M: Bitter and bracing wash, creamy at first with a chalky remainder. Stays bitter after for a long time. Check.

T: I drank this with a few gulps first and was rewarded with slight alcohol, lots of toasty malt flavor, bitter everywhere and looked forward to the wash. Letting is sit while I sipped, strong alcohol is there but only on the outside. Dark chocolate and a sweet raisin were strongest. Touch of coffee rounds it out. Great balance.

D: Fast or slow, this should satisfy anyone looking for a decent strong ale that is balanced very well.

09-25-2009 02:10:59 | More by Ricochet
Photo of JohnQVegas


4.4/5  rDev +11.4%

Pours black, with a huge 2-finger light-brown head, nice and dense, that sticks around a long, long time, eventually settling in as a super-dense, 1/8" cap. Not much in the way of lacing as the head settles though, but nice temporary stickage.

Nose is replete with coffee first and foremost, a bit nutty, even a bit of dry smokiness in there. Loads of licorice come out as the beer warms.

Taste sticks with that coffee theme, supplemented by a nice dose of dark chocolate underneath, big anise presence as well. Smokey, dry, very roasty. Hops are an afterthought here, swallowed up by the big, bold body. Finish is long, lightly bitter, roasty and a bit smoky.

Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, but with a nice, light, creamy carbonation that's fantastic and really increases the drinkability for me. Nary a hint of alcohol, very nicely done.

09-24-2009 00:31:56 | More by JohnQVegas
Photo of Reneejane


4/5  rDev +1.3%

According to the bartender this is somewhere between a porter and a stout. Indeed it had many porter like characteristics with a definitely more assertive malt profile and a considerably stronger hop note. It was a black bodied beer with a tan head that left incredible lacing. That head lasted forever, also! The aroma was hoppy! The taste was of alcohol, followed by roastiness, and then malty sweetness. Then finally it finishes with a nice bitter roastiness. I really enjoyed this beer!

09-22-2009 02:20:44 | More by Reneejane
Photo of mikey711

New Jersey

3.95/5  rDev 0%

Received this as an extra from bergands!

A: Very deep plack with and frothy espresso style head on top. The head itself is not very large but the lacing is quite good.

S: Very nice smell of coffee and chocolate provide lots of sweet notes. Not much in terms of roastiness, just sweet.

T: A bit surprised that with all the sweet aromas this one was bitter and roasty. Burnt coffee and bitter chocolate. Really I was expecting more sweetness. But the flavors are not unpleasant.

M: Chalky and dry with a slight touch of alcohol heat, a bit watery and some acidity

D: Very nice sipping beer and more than one wouldnt be tough

09-17-2009 20:25:05 | More by mikey711
Photo of Florida9


3.98/5  rDev +0.8%

A: Opaque black. Pours with an impressive head. Nothing at first, then a voracious rise of deep tan bubbles to form a good inch of tan head. Recedes to a respectable, crema-type surface coating, but still very nice.

S: Primarily coffee. Some dark, sweet fruit as well, but mostly coffee.

T & M: Bitter, burnt black coffee over the tongue. Dark, dark roasted malts resulting in a distinct bitterness. Very little sweetness remains. Coffee flavor sticks to and stays on the tongue. Medium in weight, with a slightly thicker feel. Decent carbonation to even things out.

D: I was surprised to see this listed as a Strong Ale. For one, its just not that strong. Really more reminiscent of a porter or a stout. I will admit I was a more impressed with this one than I expected to be, but the tongue biting bitterness can be a little tiring. Still light enough to be able to drink easily.

09-16-2009 00:36:35 | More by Florida9
Photo of WVbeergeek

West Virginia

3.65/5  rDev -7.6%

I've been trying to get this brew back here in Ohio for quite some time, well here it goes this one pours a deep pitch black hue absolutely absorbs all light, nice thicket of creamy tan head. Lacing is minimal with specks surrounding the sides of my chalice with each sip.

Aroma contains a lot of dry cocoa powder roasted malt layers not much sweetness or creaminess coming through, dark roasted coffee beans comes into play as well with an air of spicy herbal hops in the background. There's a touch of butterscotch or something candy like in there as well but it only appears as the beer really warms up, this is a black patent malt roast fest. Another factor is the cherry fruit note that arises as it warms in your hands with the dark chocolate and coffee roasts.

Flavor provides a biting roasted bitterness with a sharp acrid iced coffee accent cutting through, the level of roasted malts is up there. Brings out a dry finish with some alcohol noted on the palate. A bit one dimensional on the roasts not enough rounded flavors here that burnt bitterness flavor sticks to the palate like hop resin or tannins from tea or wine. Herbal hops are definitely here, but they don't rise above the roasted malt bitterness, you basically burp up profile. There is a mild lactic tartness that brings a bit of creamy notes to blend with the dark espresso burnt flavor.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a dry desert like finish, carbonation is soft and natural and stands up to the dark roasted malt profile nicely. Alcohol just barely singes the palate and the nose air with a soothing burn.

Drinkability overall is decent nothing I will be draining in number but definitely a nice complex dark ale that varies from the usual stout/porter/schwarzbier path but shares characteristics of each of those. Definitely a hybrid not sure how to label this Michigan brewed gem.

09-14-2009 14:35:58 | More by WVbeergeek
Photo of Arbitrator


3.63/5  rDev -8.1%

Chilled bottle into a glass. Acquired in a trade with Hexxed. Thanks Brian! (BTW, that might be the most common name I've encountered in the beer world, seriously.)

First off, is this a strong ale? I guess I don't know much about the style, because my first thought about a 7.5%er is... it's not strong. This looks / tastes more like a stout to me.

A: Pours an impenetrable brown; it looks black in the center of the glass, but the edges clearly lighten to a reddish-brown color. The head is a generous mocha cap with good retention, leaving lacing down the glass.

S: Lots and lots of roasted malt. I generally enjoy chocolate-forward aromas more than roast, because this picks up a charred, smoky note. Chocolate and coffee beans, with a nice vanilla presence.

T: Yep, roasty as all hell, as the nose suggested. Lots of charred barley, with a stronger tootsie roll/coffee presence and a vanilla finish. It reminds me of a dry stout in the beginning, but gets sweeter toward the finish. Interesting. Just not something I really like -- too much roast.

M: Low-medium bodied; it felt kind of thin for a stout (or "strong ale" or whatever it is supposed to be). Carbonation was satisfactory.

D: I think an aficionado of the stout style -- not imperial stouts, but the "regular old" kind, would get a lot out of this one. Unfortunately, I didn't; I respect the craft here, but the flavor was kind of off-putting and unimpressive.

09-14-2009 02:11:16 | More by Arbitrator
Photo of ffejherb


4.25/5  rDev +7.6%

On tap at TJ's Restaurant & Drinkery on 8/29/09 as part of its Darkhorse draft event.

A - Pitch black, opaque body that is impervious to light with a solid, dense finger's width of burnt mocha head that settled into a quarter inch of creamy retention, yielding ornate swatches of lacing all around the glass.

S - Bittersweet chocolate and coffee beans up front, followed by a dark roasted malt character and earthy, woody hops in the middle. Plenty of nutty notes are also present.

T - Initial flavor blends semi-sweet chocolate with dark roasted malt and coffee notes. A nutty character quickly develops mid-way through, followed by an assertive bitterness in the finish, suggesting earthy, woody tones.

M - Medium bodied with an oily texture and pretty lively carbonation. Finishes quite bitter on the palate with a hint of astringency.

D - Fantastic chocolate-forward beer that drinks like an Imperial Porter or even a Stout. This one packs a nice blast of coffee flavor and plenty of hop bitterness, too.

09-09-2009 23:49:11 | More by ffejherb
Photo of sholland119


4.4/5  rDev +11.4%

On tap at TJs Everyday.

A-Pours jet black with a thin tan head and good sticky lacing.

S-Roasted coffee and dark rich chocolate.

T-Deliciously roasty. Roasted coffee, dark chocolate and cocoa with a crisp finishing hop bite.

M-Rich and creamy, moderately thick.

D-Excellent drinkability. An outstanding beer.


08-31-2009 18:34:45 | More by sholland119
Photo of beerwolf77


4/5  rDev +1.3%

I sampled this beer the other day at a tasting and now I get an entire bottle to myself. Poured into my pint glass the beer is dark chocolate brown. It borders on black. A tiny wisp of head sit on top of my glass. I take a huge whiff and wow! This smells terrific. Coffee, chocolate caramel, vanilla and malt. It's a perfect storm of aromatics for me. They all seem to blend together so effortlessly. No one aroma takes center stage. I love it. The flavor is a touch less dramatic. Coffee is the main player with chocolate and malt taking supporting roles. Vanilla and caramel make small cameos in the scene as well. The mouthfeel is creamy and not to heavy. Full body with just a hint of carbonation. This is a very drinkable um... I don't really know what style this fits in. I just know it's a really good beer.

08-25-2009 23:39:06 | More by beerwolf77
Photo of BEERchitect


3.95/5  rDev 0%

Expecting a Schwarzbier going in, needless to say that first sip was a stunner.

Pouring a coal-black color and a thicker-than-expected viscocity, the beer begins to look like an American Stout. Modest carbonation struggles to form any meaningful head. Reducing to a lace, the foam clings shyly to the sides of the glass. A nice looking beer that may need more CO2.

Deeply toasted and caramelized malts give a definate Stout-like nose. High hopping rates give a mix of grasses, pine, citrus, and earthiness. Coffee and bitter cocoa also help to spice the beer up a lot. Definately not a Schwarz, that Stout descriptor is smelling more accurate.

Very roasty, toasty, and charred in taste, the heavily roasted malts give a sharp and acidic coffee-cocoa taste. A far second follows and then the toffee, caramel, and bready malts come into play. Hop flavor is at bay but do portray the same grassy-pine-citrus character found in the nose. This beer relies heavily on those roasted barley kernels.

Quite sharp, bitter, and astringent with those burnt grains. Hop bitterness and hard water definatly accentuate the bitterness. As sweet as the caramels are to taste, the texture is very dry from mid-palate on. A hoppy and chalky bitterness ride deep into the finish.

A bit of a different animal here. I'm still not convinced that a Schwarzbier proportion isn't at work here- just at the scale, gravity, and hopping rates of an American Stout.

08-24-2009 02:45:24 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of BeerImmediately


2.68/5  rDev -32.2%

Came into this one with high hopes given all the recent hype around here. On draft into pint glass.

Color was deep brown, with a thin tan head. About as expected for a bar pour.

Not much to the smell - little bit of sweetness from molasses and maybe some bittersweet chocolate.

Taste just didn't do it for me - Seemed more like a Smoked beer than anything else. Had a hint of the dark chocolate, accompanied by bitter bark, and harsh, astringent smokiness.

Really sharp, yet thin mouthfeel, which I was not expecting. While ASA varieties are varied, most have a thicker, heartier quality than this. The mouthfeel does improve with higher temperature, so I'd recommend serving at 50 degrees to make this a bit smoother.

If I were a smoker, I imagine I'd dig this beer, but this one just smoked me out and it killed the drinkability for me.

08-22-2009 21:16:04 | More by BeerImmediately
Photo of meatyard


4/5  rDev +1.3%

Pours an opaque black with about a 2-finger, milk chocolate colored head that dissipates quickly with spare lacing.
The smell is dark chocolate and dark roasted malts which dominate the smell as it warms.
The taste starts with a bit of alcohol followed by some dry, bitter chocolate, bitterness from a burnt coffee taste and more dark roasted malt.
Mouthfeel is smooth and dry with little carbonation present.
Drinkability is very nice though one at a time serves it's purpose very well.

08-20-2009 22:48:14 | More by meatyard
Photo of jeremyd365


3.6/5  rDev -8.9%

Poured a nice oil slick dark with some light brown head the dissipated quickly. Smelled of chocolate and coffee and tasked it also. The mouthfeel was a little thin but overall it was a decent brew and pretty drinkable. I'd say it was a fair mix between a stout and a medium ale.

08-15-2009 16:27:02 | More by jeremyd365
Photo of yelterdow

New Jersey

4.35/5  rDev +10.1%

Much thanks go out to fellow BA EPseja for this sampling. Served between fridge and cellar temperature in the trusty new SABL glass.

Appearance- Black. Like Imperial Stout black. Even the three finger head carries some of the rich, deep chocolate color. Viscous and oily, it has a tremendous presence. There's some slow, trudging lacing that creeps down the inside of the glass.

Smell- A rich aroma of what seems like oats, dark roasted coffee, and bittersweet chocolate swim together with a prominent hop nose.

Taste- The tongue is stinged nicely with hops right away, then the ebb and flow of rich, decadent malt and chocolate takes hold. There's a spicy edge to the flavor too, not quite licorice or molasses but something bold and similar. The finish is superbly bittering and goes on for quite some time.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Absolutely sublime texture in the mouth... it's medium bodied with a richness matched by the beer's stunning palate. Powerfully robust, it's an easy drinker that demands respect and appreciation.

08-11-2009 03:05:07 | More by yelterdow
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 992 ratings.