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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

959 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 959
Reviews: 556
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 38 | 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: 959 | Reviews: 556 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of KarlHungus


3.5/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours a nearly opaque black color. The head is an inch of tan foam that recedes slowly into nice lacing. The aroma is of roasted malt, graham cracker, cream, hints of blueberry, and only a faint gesture of hops. It reminds me of Tres Blueberry Stout, but a lot lighter on the blueberries. The taste is considerably more hoppy than the aroma both in the mouth and in the finish. There is still a strong presence of the roasted malt and graham cracker, but they are firmly in the background. The mouthfeel is a little fuller than medium bodied with lively carbonation, and a smooth texture. Overall, this is a nice beer, but the style just isn't my thing. I'm eager to taste a beer that is traditionally malty that is successfully made hoppy. As is this beer has a very nice maltiness going on, but it is made into a mess by the hops. What is even more of a disappointment it that the malt is so easily visible, yet its goodness is completely unattainable due to the mess of hops.

Serving type: bottle

06-29-2009 23:25:21 | More by KarlHungus
Photo of illidurit


3.63/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy bulletrain76. Pours blackish with brown highlights and a dark tan head. Aroma is straightforward milk and dark chocolates, with maybe a lactose note. Super roasty flavor with black, roasted, burnt barley notes and an even bitterness. Dry, maybe a bit astringent. Still pretty good.

Serving type: bottle

06-28-2009 19:18:34 | More by illidurit
Photo of sweemzander


3.73/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

12oz. bottle poured into an imperial pint glass. No bottled date.

(A)- Pours a thick, completely opaque black. A good sized head formed but dissipated to a light layer of light brown bubbles fairly quickly. Some lacing.

(S)- Super rich brown sugar and raisins. Lots of roasted malts with a vanilla-ish part. Cocoa abound.

(T)- Lots of cocoa, some citrus for a twist, and roasted malts.

(M)- Thick, heavy, sweet, rich, and slightly bitter. This really coats the mouth. Low level of carbonation.

(D)- This is a sipper for sure. Super rich and thick. It reminds me more of a RIS more than an American Strong Ale, but its still an enjoyable beer for sure.

Serving type: bottle

06-21-2009 02:59:05 | More by sweemzander
Photo of OldSchoolGamer


3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I saw this beer in Draft Magazines Top 25 Beers of the Year. Pretty pumped to see what we got here. Here is my review:

A: Pours a pitch black color. Very Stout-like. There is, however, almost no head at all. No lacing as well.

S: I was kind of surprised. I get quite a bit of citrus on the nose. Lots of roasted malts as well. Hints of coffee as well. Reminds me of a Black IPA or something.

T: I get alot of citrus in the taste as well. The citrus notes give way to lots of dark malt characteristics. Lots of smoke, roast, some coffee, and very little chocolate. Tastes great.

M: Not as thick as one might think. Actually somewhat dry in the finish. Beer also seems kinda flat as well. I've had this before, so I know its not a bad bottle. Maybe just low carbonation levels. Probably the low-point of the beer.

D: Pretty decent drinkability. The dryness detracts from the drinkability as it makes your tongue feel chalky. Its not an overpowering beer at all. Very drinker friendly.

This is a pretty solid brew. I actually got quite a bit of hop flavoring in this beer which is nice. However, it is kind of chalky and has somewhat flat carbonation levels which do detract from the overall enjoyment. I would definetly buy it again.

Serving type: bottle

06-06-2009 18:18:08 | More by OldSchoolGamer
Photo of neenerzig


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

A 12 oz bottle poured into my pint glass. This beer pours a dark, almost motor oil, black like color. Lets in no light whatsoever. Nice tan head about 2/3 inch thick when poured that eventually settles to a nice tan ring lining the inside of the glass and that leave a few streaks of lacing behind. Has nice roasted, sweet malt aromas and not much else, maybe a hint of coffee and chocolate. Has a nice sweet roasted malt flavor upfront with hints of bitter coffee and chocolate too. No much hop bitterness here, but the roasted coffee bitterness comes through very nicely indeed. Has a nice thick and oily, full bodied mouthfeel with moderate carbonation. I would have certainly thought this beer was a stout of some kind if I didn't know otherwise. After the last sip I discovered a nice pile of yeast sentiment at the bottom of my glass, the likes of which I have not seen from any beer in a long time. This beer is very nice and drinkable indeed!


Serving type: bottle

06-06-2009 04:26:45 | More by neenerzig
Photo of BeerFMAndy


4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

12 oz bottle poured into an American Tumbler Pint at Barley House. No date on the bottle.

A - One finger dark tan head tops a syrupy opaque black pour. Little retention with a ring and some lacing.

S - Very dark roasted malts resemble a coffee smell with chocolate as well. A bit of cocoa neutralism to it. Very dark with a malty sweetness.

T - Insanely malty with large bitter coffee, cocoa-chocolate to it. No hops to speak of. This beer is intensely strong and overpowering.

M - Thick and syrupy, it's definitely a full-bodied beer that goes down like motor oil and coats the throat. Bitter as hell, but not hoppy, on the finish.

D - While it's a good beer, it lends itself to the sipping type. This beer is not all that drinkable at all, but it I wouldn't say it reflects negatively on all the other aspects at all.

Serving type: bottle

06-05-2009 15:16:22 | More by BeerFMAndy
Photo of mjl21


3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Acquired via trade...thanks Josh! 12 ounce bottle poured into a snifter. No abv or bottling info is given.

A-Pours black with a minimal sandy head. Some nice streaks of lace are left.

S-When cracked, it reminds me a lot of a sweet stout. Once in the glass I pick up on a lot of roasty and smokey notes. After it has been in the glass for a few minutes, citrus hops hit the nose.

T-A tad bit of sweet malt is the first taste. Roast malt dominates as it goes down. Get coffee and tobacco in the aftertaste. The citrus hops used really pick up as it warms.

M-A tad bit thin and watery for such a dark beer. Has a light level of carbonation, but is by no means flat.

D-A unique beer. It went down just fine and the 7.5% was nowhere to be found.

This is another beer that falls into the not good, not bad category. It has elements of both a strong ale and a stout and there are better beers available in both of those categories.

Serving type: bottle

06-02-2009 19:20:06 | More by mjl21
Photo of IBUnit63


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

Courtesy of KeefD. Have dug all of the Dark Horse stuff I've tried, however limited...let's see what this 12 oz. of goodness does in a Duvel tulip. By the way, I hate that &*(%ing douchebag (a word that has been forging a hearty comeback in the past 2-3 years) Michael Kay on the YES network that I just had the unfortunate pleasure of listening to while scanning the MLB Network and its live "look-ins." Enough about that. It's the Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass.

Holy shit. OK, you win. It's black. Awesome brown sugar/bran/gingerbread (OK, a little lighter) head with the desired muffin tunnels. About a finger's worth before it slowly recedes with compact lacing. Body is opaque black...more licorice than espresso. Wicked solid.

Am digging the dry, dark chocolate roast with a hint of patent...but it's sans tannins. First comparison on the big Italian nose: Caddy Mount. Mellows a little bit to show even more dryness; the patent shows a little more. Hops are grassy and there is a huge slate component, but this is thoroughly above board. Recedes with warmth to resemble more of a Schwarzbier, which, while good, is a little thin for the style.

There is creamy patent tannin, if there is such a thing, along with huge slate, a dry, splintery licorice...and piney hops. It's spicy and carries a hell of a lot of licorice for the style. Again, rolls much more like a Schwarzbier than the existing style designate. It's still good. I haven't mentioned the hops...grassy? Earthy? More slate? Noble but strong? Maybe it's a Target thing. Dunno.

After a while the tannins do get quite sharp. Velvet of hops is replaced by a dry black pepper quality wayyy on the back of the palate. Need to wash this down with a chocolate Florentine cookie from Mike's in the North End to enhance the licorice sweetness. Lo and behold, it works.

No denying that it's a good one. It's style agnostic...torn between an SDA and a Schwarzbier. But it's one of the best tweeners you'll come upon in a while. Dark Horse, Short's...all those hole-in-the-wall Michigan outfits are pumping out quality product at a rate that GM and Chrysler would be proud to grovel in.

Serving type: bottle

06-02-2009 02:09:49 | More by IBUnit63
Photo of LordAdmNelson


4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Dark oily black with small, rapidly fading tan head. Looks like a RIS without any head.

S- Nice dark roasted notes with some hoppy citrus/pineyness. A little alcohol lingers there. Light grassy/cherry/vinous (weird, I know) note at the front of it. Weird, but I like it. A nice syrupy-molasses note as it warms too.

T- Some sweetness of citrus (probably the hops) with a nice menthol-like cooling sensation to begin (only other brews I've had to date with that sensation were Edmund Fitzgerald and Speedway-so that's good news). Moves into nice roasted/coffee notes, not as robust as a good stout, but similar in composition. Finishes with a light hop kick. Pleasant, but I'll go for an Arrogant Bastard. Alcohol is masked well. Slightly woody/caramel-y too as it warms.

M- Light and carbonated and prickly, not what I was expecting for the color/flavor. Slightly sticky finish.

D- Pretty high. This is a nice brew to move through, not my favorite, but not a bad one. The carbonation and lighter body keeps it rolling.

Not bad, definitely would reach for others too though.

Serving type: bottle

05-28-2009 21:17:15 | More by LordAdmNelson
Photo of carlborch


2.73/5  rDev -30.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured a beautiful silky black with rather modest head. The head is dark-brown, like the "crema" on the espresso. Has an oily look and dissipates within a minute to a thin film. Chocolate notes on the palate. Rather light formation of Belgian lace. Nice lingering. Medium body. Not as dense as the color and pour suggested. Subdued roasted notes. Hints of coffee. Some bitter hops. I like it, but am not overly impressed. I expected more ale yeast character. While I will not seek it out, it is better than a great many beers.

Serving type: bottle

05-27-2009 17:35:52 | More by carlborch
Photo of Beejay


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

A: Dark black, thick and syrupy looking. Nice tan head on top.

S: Dark roast, malty, chocolate and coffee tones. Lots of dark chocolate.. Very nice smelling..

T: Big bitter taste at thee front. then it mellows to a burnt coffee and chocolate taste.. the aftertaste just lingers forever.. It's like cold mocha... Very nice..

M: Feels thick, but had plenty o' carbonation.

D: Very nice over all. Though I think there are better example of the style... Still very good, and well worth a try.

Serving type: bottle

05-27-2009 01:00:12 | More by Beejay
Photo of spointon


3.58/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had this one at the Auld Dubliner Pub in Bolingbrook, IL on 5/20/2009. Poured from a 12oz brown bottle with a pint glass.

A= This ale poured a super dark black, with a towering 2.5" dark tan head. Head retention was great and lots of sticky lace clung to my glass.

S= Aromas were mostly roasted dark malts, coffee, husk, and chicory. Not much sweetness in the nose.

T= Like the smell, the taste was dominated by the roasted grains. Very dry and almost puckeringly astringent. Malty sweetness was lacking. Some earthiness in there, probably from the hops, as well as some mild esters. Finished bone dry and left a nice roasty aftertaste.

MF= Thin side of medium bodied and fully crisp on the tongue.

D= A beer worth trying for sure, but ultimately this one just didn't gel for me. Too many different things going on without anything to pull it all together.

Serving type: bottle

05-22-2009 20:58:47 | More by spointon
Photo of abecall98


3.98/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Thank you amietaj1 for this nice extra

A - pours a stout looking black with a nice tan head that laces in a great way.

S - the smell is rather weak. It smells of roasted malt and light coffee. Not much going on in the smell here.

T - this beer tastes great. This beer has a nice coffee taste. I like the maltiness, and the slight hop finish.

M - this beer is slightly watery. Has good carbonation. Smooth finish and leaves your mouth feeling nice and wet.

D - this beer has a good ABV. The drinkability is good. I like the finish, and it makes you want more. Good drinkability in this beer.

Serving type: bottle

05-16-2009 03:49:33 | More by abecall98
Photo of abrand


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

12 ounce bottle poured into pint glass

A- Pours an opaque extremely deep brown, similar appearance to a cup of joe. Minimal head with no lacing along the pinty. The little head is a tan color.

S- Nose is similar to a stout. Lots of chocolate and coffee scents. Also hints of sweet vinegar and sugar

T- Palate isn't consistent with the nose. Pretty sweet and earthy tones. Finishes with bitter chocolate tones.

M- Medium body with minimal carbonation.

D- Fairly high, I love this style and will definitely continue to drink

Serving type: bottle

05-15-2009 03:26:26 | More by abrand
Photo of Vonerichs


3.88/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours an extremely dark brown, almost black. The head was almost non-existant, but what was present was whispy and coffee colored.

The smell is huge roasted malt and dark chocolate.

It tastes mostly of molasses and wood. The malt borders being burned. Very robust flavor, but the wood almost tastes like stain. There finish is black licorice.

Low carbonation, like it should be. The body is creamy, but a little thin. There is a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The alcohol is slightly astringent and the woody flavor makes this one that I could only have one or two before moving on.

Overall, it is tastey but there are many better stouts, porters, and strong ales out there.

Serving type: bottle

05-10-2009 01:39:47 | More by Vonerichs
Photo of stonequarrywest


3.8/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this beer from beernuggets after he and his wife hit 12 brewpubs in 3 days...damn good work.

Poured into a DFH pint...oily black with a half inch of dirty brown head.

Aroma of chocolates and roasted coffee beans and barley. Nothing major.

Taste of molasses..dark fruits...some licorice?? and a bit of coffee.

Seems a bit thin in the mouth but decent carbonation. Not a bad beer at all.

Serving type: bottle

05-06-2009 01:13:44 | More by stonequarrywest
Photo of maximum12


3.78/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Must have picked this one up at some point, no idea when, & it's been resting comfortably in the fridge for, well, a while I guess. Don't know why I haven't tried it before, always up for some Dark Horse.

Black. Smells roasted & toasted, pretty tame, nothing to distinguish it from hundreds of other beers that look & smell like this.

I need to try more Dark Horse beers. This is pretty darn good stuff. Flavors are very nice, a hint of coffee - as I like it, not like swigging a cup of Starbucks - lots of roasted maltiness, with a strange ending of a touch sweet & a touch bitter. Weird.

Has a nice thick consistency to it, between a porter & a stout, that lends itself to sipping. 7.5% ABV in no where in evidence.

Another very good beer from the Dark Horse stable.

Serving type: bottle

05-01-2009 22:28:34 | More by maximum12
Photo of BierFan


3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass.

Thin layer of brown foam constitutes the head. Hard to tell because of the black body but from the bubbles rising to the surface I would say it has pretty good carbonation. Smells and tastes like a big roasty porter but perhaps a little more bitter than most porters.

Really nice stuff.

Serving type: bottle

04-30-2009 21:30:01 | More by BierFan
Photo of Ragingbull


4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark black color like motor oil. Light brown or tan head that barely covers the surface and is slowly breaking down. Mild coffee and malt nose. A little bit of moist dough perhaps. Gentle coffee attack that carries through a mostly malty flavor and ends with a smoky finish. Thick mouthfeel. Slight touch of hops. An excellent robust beer as no one component really overpowers you, but you still know its a big beer. A little bit bitter or sour at the finish. Lots of smoke in the aftertaste.

Serving type: bottle

04-27-2009 12:49:02 | More by Ragingbull
Photo of DrDogbeer


4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks SaucyA!!

Poured from the bottle into a snifter- just a tad too cold. Did not know this one was a strong ale, figured it to be a schwarzbier or something from the label.

Pours incredibly black. Black as an RIS. Nice, full brown head. Smells like a porter on steroids. Lots of coffee and chocolate and some burnt malts. Taste is similar. Nice, roasted malt flavor that kicks up a notch as it warms. Very tasty! Taste of a very good imperial porter- think coffee and chocolate with a little alcohol burn with a more creamy mouthfeel- almost imperial stoutish. Very good beer. Another winner from DH.

Serving type: bottle

04-14-2009 18:02:18 | More by DrDogbeer
Photo of thirdeye11


1.93/5  rDev -51.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

Thanks to amietaj1 for including this as an extra in our trade!

A: Pours the blackest of blacks. Darker than almost any beer I've ever personally poured including a load of stouts. I can't get any light to filter through this beer. No head, and minimal lacing.

S: Smells like plastic, leather, and some burnt toast/coffee in the nose. There's also a roasted malt smell.

T: Smells exactly like it tastes. I had no expectations when I cracked this one, but it wasn't for me at all. I have began enjoying stouts and RIS recently. This beer is similar in some ways, but lacks all the good characteristics those seem to possess.

M: Nice and creamy. Carbonation is spot on.

D: I couldn't finish mine. Drainpour and my first in a VERY VERY long time.

I'm not certain my sample wasn't bad. It was shipped laying on its side, and when I cracked it open there was a trail of something that had situated itself on the side of the bottle. Stayed there after I poured it too and I couldn't get the sediment out even after rinsing the bottle multiple times.

Serving type: bottle

04-13-2009 05:19:34 | More by thirdeye11
Photo of storksonm


4.43/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pint Glass

Bought it as a single bottle on the way home tonight. Had no idea what to expect but a dark beer as the label pointed out. Formed a monster head right out of the bottle and was nice and dark definite dark black in color. Very Very hoppy, nice. It was so dark and tasty I was very suprised and I instantly just wanted six more of these in my fridge, but sadly I'll have to wait...until tomorrow. Very smooth Its medium bitter and has a nice dry, hoppy aftertaste, if you haven't checked it out its worth it. I know I should have a long time ago.

Serving type: bottle

04-11-2009 02:07:32 | More by storksonm
Photo of GatorBeerNerd


4.1/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle purchased for me by a friend at Keg Liquors in Indiana. Poured into a Bass pint glass.

A: Pours a black color with only the slightest of reddish brown tint at the surface when held up to light. There is a quarter inch thick cocoa colored head that doesn't hang around for long. There is a ring of bubbles left around the edges. There is a little bit of lacing but most slides down the glass.

S: Hints of coffee, chocolate, and dark roasted malts mix together nicely in the aroma. None of them really dominate the other and join together to make a nice aroma.

T: The flavor follows the aroma. A nice mix of coffee, chocolate, and dark roasted malts. However, unlike the aroma, the roasted malts take charge. The coffee and chocolate flavors are just along for the ride. The finish is a bit bitter. I am not picking up any typical hop flavors so maybe its the coffee and bitter chocolate causing the finish.

M: Thick full body and relatively smooth. There is just a bit of tongue tickling from the carbonation.

D: This one drinks like a stout. It is a bit of a sipper for me.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2009 03:40:47 | More by GatorBeerNerd
Photo of bluejacket74


4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle. Served in a snifter, the beer pours black with about a half inch brown head. Head retention and lacing are both pretty good. It smells like roasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and also a little bit of a sweet, fruity aroma (reminds me of a peach, but I'm not sure exactly what kind of fruit it smells like). The taste is similar to the aroma, it tastes like roasted/burnt malt, coffee, and chocolate. There's also a nice lingering roasty bitter finish. Mouthfeel/body is medium/full, it's a bit creamy with moderate carbonation. Drinkability is good, it's smooth and easy to drink. I'm glad I picked up a six pack of this, it's a pretty good beer. I'd definitely buy this again.

Serving type: bottle

04-03-2009 23:47:06 | More by bluejacket74
Photo of mothman

United Kingdom (Wales)

4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed some of these with ThePeskyDingo

Poured into Sam Adams Sensory Glass

Pours a 2 finger tan hea to the brim of the glass. Leaves some good lacing. Color is a dark black, deep chocolate.

Aroma is coffee and chocolate. Amazing. Very malty with slight earthy hops.

Taste is a little bit of a let down compared to the smell. Coffee, matls, dark chocolate, and earthy hops are present.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, then gets a little bitter. Smoothes back out and is very creamy. A little alcohol comes out here and leaves a slight sticky aftertaste.

Overall, I was really impressed with the smell. It was pretty easy to drink and I highly recommend.

Serving type: bottle

04-02-2009 20:13:12 | More by mothman
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 959 ratings.