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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

1,020 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,020
Reviews: 561
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 55 | 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: 1,020 | Reviews: 561 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of eljefe21
4.38/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Thick, dark almost black viscous liquid. Thin light brown head. Tiny, fine brown lacing clings to the sides of the glass.

S: Chocolaty malt smell. Sweet vanilla and hints of coffee. Noticeable smell, but not very strong.

T: Dark chocolate sweetness. Taste lingers in the center of the tongue. Coffee and other malt flavors make an appearance too. A bit of a hop bite helps balance.

M: Thick coating and lasting flavorful mouthfeel. Not much carbonation, which is good for the style.

D: One of the best cool weather beers I've had in a while. Not sure how big this is, but while it probably is a bit big to be sessionable, enjoying several at one sitting would be time well spent. Wish I could get this one at home. Will have to grab several 6-ers when I'm in Michigan for the holidays.

Served: in a standard pint glass.

Review from notes taken on: 11/2/09.

eljefe21, Nov 08, 2009
Photo of Durge
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An Ohoove special, this beauty shows a dark brown black with a fair light brown head and decent rings of lacing. The aroma is bitter coffee and nutty seaweed. The flavor brings a tart citrus hopped coffee malt. It's light to mid-bodied but thick in taste and smooth in feel. Quite drinkable if you like the style. Charcoal becomes much more evident after a few sips and I even pick up a peach hint. Generally tart and sharp. Good stuff.

Durge, Oct 27, 2009
Photo of adamette
3.45/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Review from notes taken 10 15 09, poured from tap at the brewery.

A Oil black body under a medium brown creamy head. Great look. 4.5

S Dark roast malt. Maybe some sweetness added to the dark roast smell. Really smells like a stout. 3.0

T This tastes very much like a stout. It even features a dry finish of a stout. 3.5

M Great thick, oil like syrupy feel that I value in this style. 4.5

D Fair with its dark roast malt and bigness. 3.0

Notes: I really believe that this tasted like a stout (I did not have access to the internet during the review).

adamette, Oct 27, 2009
Photo of uwmgdman
3.93/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

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.

uwmgdman, Oct 24, 2009
Photo of yourefragile
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

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.

yourefragile, Oct 22, 2009
Photo of jera1350
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

jera1350, Oct 20, 2009
Photo of BARFLYB
3.68/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

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.

BARFLYB, Oct 17, 2009
Photo of civilizedpsycho
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

civilizedpsycho, Oct 11, 2009
Photo of Casey10
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

Casey10, Oct 07, 2009
Photo of thain709
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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

thain709, Oct 06, 2009
Photo of Dibujob
3.53/5  rDev -10.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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.

Dibujob, Oct 01, 2009
Photo of biegaman
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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.

biegaman, Sep 26, 2009
Photo of jrallen34
2.68/5  rDev -32.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 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.

jrallen34, Sep 26, 2009
Photo of Ricochet
4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

Ricochet, Sep 25, 2009
Photo of JohnQVegas
4.4/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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.

JohnQVegas, Sep 24, 2009
Photo of Reneejane
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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!

Reneejane, Sep 22, 2009
Photo of mikey711
3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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

mikey711, Sep 17, 2009
Photo of Florida9
3.98/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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.

Florida9, Sep 16, 2009
Photo of WVbeergeek
3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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.

WVbeergeek, Sep 14, 2009
Photo of Arbitrator
3.63/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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.

Arbitrator, Sep 14, 2009
Photo of ffejherb
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

ffejherb, Sep 10, 2009
Photo of sholland119
4.4/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

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.


sholland119, Aug 31, 2009
Photo of beerwolf77
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

beerwolf77, Aug 26, 2009
Photo of BEERchitect
3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

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.

BEERchitect, Aug 24, 2009
Photo of BeerImmediately
2.68/5  rDev -32.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

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.

BeerImmediately, Aug 22, 2009
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,020 ratings.