Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

Not Rated.
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

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very good

1,082 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,082
Reviews: 565
rAvg: 3.94
pDev: 10.66%
Wants: 54
Gots: 66 | 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: 1,082 | Reviews: 565 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of drabmuh
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle (aged at least two years). Beer is dark black and forms a very thin brown head. There doesn't appear to be much lacing and there doesn't appear to be a lot of carbonation.

The aroma is a mixture of liquor (like bourbon) and coffee / roasted malt. Smells a lot like a stout.

Beer has medium body and finishes with a strong avalanche of roasted malt / coffee flavor. It comes up so late that one might consider it an aftertaste. Second taste, roast is dominant over all other flavors. There is a growing bitterness that isn't from the roast though. Perhaps some hops trying to squeeze through, yelling "Taste me! I'm here too!" Drinkability is fine and the mouthfeel is fine. Probably not a repeat for me I do recommend it for people to try if they have the opportunity.

Photo of Jayli
4.22/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

received this from csmiley in the Review This! BIF so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours an opaque deep chocolate brown with a 1/4 inch of light brown head. Head recedes immmediately and leaves wispy lacing.

S: Nose is of roasted and burnt malts, and bitter baker's chocolate.

T: Taste starts with deep burnt malts, coffee, and roasted malts, with bitter chocolate. Finish has a slightly sweet, but slightly hoppy nature.

M: Medium body, medium carbonation, rich and creamy, slightly chewy.

D: This is a highly drinkable beer. Well balanced, nice flavoring, goes down easy and worthy to have a few of.

Photo of theirishdago
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into an oversized wine glass.
This beer pours like motor oil. There is a dark brown head that sticks around. The smell is of faint coffee and maybe some hershey's special dark. The taste is quite a bit lighter than the aroma, but very similiar. I have to say this stuff is more of an imperial stout than anything. It is nice and thick and well balanced, perfect for a cold afternoon. The finish is very clean and leaves me wanting more.

Photo of bluemoonswoon
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been thinking about this beer for quite some time now, had it on draft and out of bottles a couple of times now, just getting around to reviewing now.

12oz bottle poured into a Goose Island pint glass.

A: Pours out black just as the name indicated it should. Head is rather thin with bits of chocolaty brown lace sticking to the side of the glass. Give the beer a quick swirl and you can see some nice legs but nothing that really sticks.

S: This beer smells like a porter, dark, charred chocolate with an almost abrasive bitterness.

T/MF: Taste is much like the aroma, bitter dark and dry chocolate, licorice toasted caramel with a dry, leafy hop bitterness interspersed in between everything.

Photo of arkurzynski
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours thick, curtain of black. The beer itself actually sticks to the side of the glass like oil. Beautiful orange tan head. Heavy lacing. Smells of roasted barley, molasses, brown sugar, and toffee. Roasted malts exploding on the taste buds. Great mouthfeel. Dry and slightly sour. Medium low hoppiness. Creamy, smooth and delicious.

Photo of ThatWineGuy
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Inky oily black, tan head looks a bit purple, it rose and fell leaving a wispy ring and some surface spritz. Smell of black licorice, toasty malt, tiramisu. Taste features big toasted chocolate and coffee malts, rich velvety mouthfeel. Medium body, a bit dense. There is a coffee bean astringency that detracts somewhat from the overall package but there is more than enough substantial flavour to carry it. Drinks more like a porter or a stout, not bad at all.

Photo of woodychandler
4.28/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Holy Exxon Valdez, Batman! This looked like an oil spill as I poured it into my glass. The two fingers' of head were about as deep brown as I have ever seen in a thick, foamy head. I have had coffee that was less dense and deep black than this beer. The nose was redolent with chocolate - fudge, brownies, dark chocolate bars. Wow! Mouthfeel was thick and full with a rich chocolate flavor accompanied by light smoke on the tongue. The finish was rich, chocolaty, somewhat more charcoal than in the mouth with a dusty dry finish. This would be better as a dessert beer, IMHO.

Photo of DanJ
2.9/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured rich oily black into a pint glass, tan foamy head that did not last.

Burnt coffee, roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate aromas with a hint of fruity ester.

Tasted like burnt coffee grounds, bitter chocolate, high bitterness, dry bitter finish.

Medium body, astrigent, medium carbonation, no alcohol warmth.

I do not think thinks this is a real drinkable beer, to hoppy for the style. The finish could be a lot less bitter. The hops overpower the coffee, malt forward taste. I believe this is more of an American Stout than a Stong Ale.

Photo of spartanfan
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours an unfiltered opaque black with a nice tan head which has reduced to a thin layer and left some nice lacing behind.

S: Aromas are mainly of dark chocolate, coffee

T: Oh man, this is good. Rich chocolaty, carmely taste. But there is also a fruity taste that I can't put my finger on. Lingering bitter hops and coffee on the finish.

M: Mouthfeel is spot-on. I'm really enjoying the smoothness of this one.

D: At 7.5% this beer is quite drinkable. No real hint of alcohol whatsoever.

Overall a very solid offering, and one of my favorites from Dark Horse.

Photo of semihobo
3.15/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Last in a six-pack, enjoyed in a chalice.

Head starts off a half inch thick of caramel bubbles and fades quickly to a ring. As advertised, the beer is, in fact, black. Ruby highlights on the edge.

Smells of smoky, scorched coffee. Earthy and slightly nutty. Very strong smell.

Bitter, smoky, astringent taste. Tobacco. High-alpha hops. Especially when warmed to cellar temps, this one hits hard. Very dry, especially on the merciless finish, which is like eating something charred. Alcohol is hidden.

Creamy carbonation, moderately heavy body.

Through six of these, I loved it at times and didn't at others. Good for what it is but too burnt and over the top for me. About average for the style.

Photo of MaltyHoppyGood
4.18/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Black hole with a thick, creamy tan head.

S: Smell isn't too strong, though some light hopping and dark malt scents are present.

T: Whoa. The darkness reveals itself to be chocolaty and coffee. Like coffee (sometimes chocolate), some fruity notes come out, a sort of berry-like acidity can be detected. The aftertaste just lingers and lingers. Really rather nice.

M: Is very rich, somewhat viscous, but not overly so. It's not syrupy to me, just nice and thick. Bubbles are tiny, and in small numbers.

D: This is a sipper. I could probably drink a few of these back to back, but it might take me a while.

In conclusion, this beer has many desirable qualities to it. It is black, bold, packed full of rich, savory flavor. I am surprised a beer like this is only $7.50 and abv 7.5%.

I'm also sure that this would be perfect for making some beer cheese soup.

Overall I've been impressed with Dark Horse Brewing.

Photo of BeerAdvocate
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume II, Issue II:

Here we have a great example of originality in American craft brewing. Put a donkey on the label and say that it is somewhere between a Stout and Porter, and it is a Strong Ale as well. Odd label, not an exact style, we love the concept. Dense tiny bubbly brown lace forms off of a hard pour. Is there anything darker than black because this is one sooty beer. Aromatic with molasses, dark chocolate, dark roasted ice coffee, black currants and a mild ester alcohol. Super smooth with a feigned semi-syrupy body, light on the carbonation. Charred wood, molasses and intense dark cocoa flavors lock down the taste buds for a good while. Some sweetness breaks out in the middle with a juicy nugget of burnt black berries. Hops are mild with a slightly balancing bitterness and vague herbal flavor. Ends with a bitter burnt flavor that never seems to go over the top.

The darker the better and one hell of a kick to the taste buds. Big, bold, complex and in-your-face. No need to debate on whether it is a Stout or Porter or even a double of the style, its good drinking. Enough said.

Photo of eljefe21
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
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.

Photo of Durge
4/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of adamette
3.45/5  rDev -12.4%
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).

Photo of uwmgdman
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
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.

Photo of yourefragile
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

Photo of jera1350
4/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of BARFLYB
3.68/5  rDev -6.6%
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.

Photo of civilizedpsycho
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
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.

Photo of Casey10
4/5  rDev +1.5%
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.

Photo of thain709
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
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

Photo of Dibujob
3.53/5  rDev -10.4%
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.

Photo of biegaman
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

Photo of jrallen34
2.68/5  rDev -32%
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.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,082 ratings.