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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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

1,103 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,103
Reviews: 569
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 10.69%
Wants: 54
Gots: 75 | 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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,103 | Reviews: 569 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of DrinkingDrake
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
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.

Photo of TheDTrain
3.91/5  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.

Photo of Internatbrewlove
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%
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.

Photo of cratez
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

Photo of chiefydawg
4.02/5  rDev +2.3%
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.

Photo of jale
4.18/5  rDev +6.4%
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

Photo of wingman14
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
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.

Photo of TurdFurgison
3.84/5  rDev -2.3%
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.

Photo of jbone78
3.06/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

My buddy brought me this one back from Michigan.

Pours very black with a nice tan head. Taste starts with an inital bitterness that resembles cold brewed coffee. Very toasty/roasty flavors that pretty much dominate the beer.

Finishes with a little twang on the bitter side.


Photo of TheBear11D
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle

Pours very dark, nearly black. It almost looks like used motor oil. It comes along with a very dark brown head that was short lived.

Plenty of smells to go around. Roasted malts, coffee, vanilla, chocolate. The hops are not really present in the nose.

The flavors are complex and quite active. The roasted coffee malts hit the palate first with vanilla and chocolate transitioning into earthy hops. The finish is excellent with the bitterness of the hops and the sweet chocolate hanging around in the aftertaste for a good while.

Medium bodied with carbonation that seems to linger with the aftertaste.

A very enjoyable brew. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of hops in the taste considering they were nearly non-existent in the aroma. This will be something I will revisit.

Photo of InebriatedJoker
4.35/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12 oz bottle - No best by date visible.

Poured a used motor oil black with one finger head that descended into a thick tan lacing .

Smell - Roasted coffee , Toasted malts .

Taste - Burnt roasted coffee with toasted malts , molasses with caramel hints.

Drinkability - This was a brew I enjoyed from start to finish, well blended and balanced , deep rich flavors in every sip.

Photo of schoolboy
4.23/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Boy, they weren't kidding when they called this BLACK bier. It looks like they put coal in it and it tastes like charcoal. Extremely roasty. And the bier spelling makes me think something other than what is listed on beeradvocate for this (American Strong Ale). I don't know what it is, but that doesn't seem right.

It tastes more like something German, except with the over the top roastiness that only an American would be inventive enough to do.

I like this a lot and intend to buy more. It is unique.

Photo of MakeMineAPBR
4.18/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is a seriously thick beer that pours black as oil. There is a caramel-colored head (maybe 1cm) that recedes fairly quickly and leaves minimal lacing on the glass. Tiny carbonation bubbles explode through the pour and are virtually nonexistent after the head settles.

Aromas of bitter, dark chocolate and coffee beans emanate from this brew, matching the deep roasted, almost smokey, flavor that starts dry and slightly bitter on the nose and finishes very long and complex. The finish is clean with few hints of alcohol.

It's hard to believe that this beer is tagged as an American Strong Ale. It drinks like an American-style stout or even a Russian Imperial Stout, with a smoothness that belies its 7.5% ABV tag. It definitely isn't a session beer by most standards, but I found myself taking seconds (and thirds) with this delicious beer from Dark Horse.

Photo of ccrida
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle (recently purchased in the midwest) poured into my delirium snifter, Reserve Special is black with a very creamy tan head that leaves heavy lace.

Smell is pretty robust, a nice fruity ester note, some char'd black malts, and a bit of roast as well. Some herbal hops open up as well.

Taste is similar, reminds me of a baltic porter, very tasty, pretty big but very smooth. The char really lingers on the aftertaste, with some hop bitterness poking through as well.

Mouthfeel is creamy, dry, medium bodied.

Drinkability is very good, I'm really enjoying this brew, and wish I'd brought back more then one. Big flavor, very smooth, satisfying and not to heavy.

Photo of ClassicBrad
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours much darker than I would have guessed. Opaque black with a fluffy, medium-brown head that subsides to a half-finger of head. Retention is solid and last most of the beer.

Smells doughy and roasty. Very enticing!

Tastes of bitter, dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. How is this not an RIS? Anyways...

Mouthfeel has adequate carbonation and drinkability is fine; drinks closer to a 9% than its actualy 7.5%... Could have a couple, but it is very strong on the palate.

If I were to drink this without looking up its style, I would have never guessed American Strong Ale. Closer to an RIS or IS.

Someone please message me if you have any information that I do not that explains this beers identity crisis. Cheers!

Photo of BigMike
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A: a gorgeous black color with with a caramel colored head that's thick and creamy leaving tons of beautiful lacing.

S: tons of sweet chocolate. Roasted caramel malts and some vanilla. Smells really really good.

T: Theres a hop presence I wasn't expecting. The flavor is strange. It's very bland at first. Then 2 seconds after swallowing you get tons of sweet chocolate and dark roasted coffee. So damn tasty!

M: My only complaint with this beer is that it's just a bit watered down. I wish there was more body.

Overall: This is a really good stout. The other dark horse beers in this series are somewhat lacking but this one is great. I really enjoyed this one and will drink it alot more then I have been.

Photo of Stinkypuss
4.08/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dark Horse's Reserve Special Black Bier pours a midnight black with an off white head and a whole bunch of lace. Aroma is heavy on roasted malts and some floral hops are there too. Tastes like an amped up Schwarzbier, with black malt action, mild roast and a hint of coffee and unsweetened cocoa. Hops are mild and earthy but there to keep some balance. The 7.5% ABV is barely noticed until the end.

They should have a foot kicking the donkey on the label, since overall, this is another kick ass beer from Dark Horse Brewing.

Photo of alleykatking
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12oz bottle.

A- Poured a black color dark red hues around the glass edges when held to the light. One and a half finger beige head shows good retention. Some nice streaky lacing on the sides of the glass.

S- Lots of roasted malts in the front of the beer. There are light cold coffee notes as well along with hints of chocolate. The aroma is simple but doesn't lack dimensional singleness.

T- Tons of darker chocolate in the front of the beer dominates a lot of the flavor profile. Nice blends of roasted malts and darker fruits in the middle. Some light molasses in the ending with a blast of coffee in the ending. There was a light alcohol presence in the backing.

M- Heavy mouthfeel. Carbonation is good for the beer. Roasted malts with lots of chocolate malts left on the palate. More chocolate malts and light alcohol in the aftertaste. Malt forward beer with a blending that suits the style. Light drying on the palate from alcohol.

D- This is a very drinkable beer that Dark Horse makes well. A different take on a Strong Ale that suits the style. The ABV is well hidden and this makes it a sixer style drinkable beer.

Photo of biglite351
2.91/5  rDev -26%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - black ad pitch. Tall grey brown creamy head.

S - smoked malts and a good bit of chocolate. A little bitter turn in the end.

T - smokey malts again with dark chocolate. A lot of bitterness in the follow through.

M - good coating, just a hint of tingle on the top of the tongue.

D - too bitter for more than maybe two.

Photo of Thorpe429
4.24/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.
Poured into a tulip glass. Color is near black with a light mocha head and not much lacing. Fairly short retention period. Nose brings some complex notes of chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, and hints of molasses. The taste is pretty dry with chocolate and roasted malt. Feel is really nice with a good dryness. Drinks quite well and is a nice take on this "style."

Photo of BeerCon5
4.71/5  rDev +19.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours black in color with two fingers of coffee colored foamy head, very good retention.

The scent is of chocolate, coffee, roasted malts, and notes of wood.

The taste was of dominant sweet dark chocolate, notes of fruit, roasted malts, molasses, coffee, surprisingly not much of an alcohol presence.

Full bodied, very smooth, a bit of a chalky feel, low carbonation.

This was an excellent beer, though it seemed more along the lines of a Stout than an Strong Ale. The flavor was very good, well balanced and complex. This was a very easy drinker for being a little heavy, I would definitely look for this again.

Photo of otto251068
2.88/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Chimay goblet.

Appearance: Pours oily black, a dark reddish brown color along the edges. A very dense liquid, no light passes through. A thin, dense layer of head on the pour almost disappears after a few seconds. A thin ring of foam remains around the outside of the glass with some dense bubbles remaining in the center. Impressive so far.

Smell: Day old coffee grounds. A little bit of sourness, a little bit of sweetness, but mostly coffee. A bit of smoke, not much else. As the glass warms the alcohol comes through.

Taste: Roasted dark coffee with a lot of burnt flavor. Plenty of bitterness throughout the drink. There is a sourness presence that I don't like. For me, although it does fade as the beer warms, the coffee and burnt flavors are just too overwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a high carbonation. The bubbles prickle the tongue and take away from the taste a little. Again, the sourness doesn't fit well with my taste buds.

Overall: I just can't get by the sourness of this beer after the swallow. It would seem to fit better with a Milk Stout. I would drink another one, but not two in one night.

Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Exiled for sharing this bottle.

The beer pours a dark brown to black color with a tan head. The aroma is chocolate and roasted malt. Pretty basic, but very inviting.

The flavor is more of the same - roasted malt and chocolate. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation.

There is nothing really special about the beer, but it is a very solid porter.

Photo of cameraman
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A black opaque color with a thin beige head forming on top that dissolves away rather quickly. Chocolate is the most striking scent in the aroma that is followed by dark sweet malt fragrance. That is followed by dark bread and the slight scent of dried fruit and coffee. The malt and chocolate hit the palate at the beginning of esch taste then a bitterness starts to grow. The bitterness has burnt grain and coffee, that lingers on the palate for some time. The taste finishes with a mild citric grapefruit flavor that fades rather quickly. A heavy water feel at the front, then it rolls to a medium bodied feel. The back of the palate finishes with a mild dryness. A surprisingly very dark, inviting, and drinkable beer. The look is dark and seductive, a striking aroma, and a hearty flavor. Then it finishes with with an even feel.

Photo of OWSLEY069
4.42/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours jet black with a chocolaty brown head. In the aroma, roasty coffee and a hint of caramel sweetness. In the taste, roasty coffee, and hints of chocolate and caramel, however not sweet. A small bitterness and medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small dry coffee aftertaste. Nice big flavor, not sweet or sticky. Big, but easy to drink.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,103 ratings.