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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

1,099 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,099
Reviews: 569
rAvg: 3.94
pDev: 10.66%
Wants: 54
Gots: 73 | 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: 1,099 | Reviews: 569 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of mikesgroove
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I obtained this bottle a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. No it was a trade a long ass time ago. Been sitting in the cellar ever since, waiting on me to call on it one day. Well, today was the day. Served chilled and poured into an over sized wine glass, this one was consumed on 09/30/2008.

The pour was very nice. Rich dark brown, nearly black with a large tan head of about two inches in height that took forever to settle down and left behind tons of side glass lace that really just thickened up as you went and coated the whole glass.

The aroma was rich with chocolate and roasted malts. Big notes here of cocoa and molasses, hints of smoked malts and a touch of earthy hops. The flavor was more of the same. There was an initial shock wave of chocolate and roasted malts, some light smoked notes that started to come through as well. Almost a hint of bourbon as it warmed and the mid palate took over. This warmed into a light burnt caramel like flavor that soon rolled over into a long, sweet finish that left the lasting flavor of vanilla and coffee on the tongue. The carbonation was just about right on this one, rich, subtle, and never dull or slick. Same could be said of the medium bodied feel, which was just filling enough to call this one bordeline full.

Overall I thought this was an excellent beer. The style is up in the air, but the flavor was nailed down very nicely, I would have no issue at all with trying this one any day. A solid beer for sure and something they can be proud of.

Photo of jraycee
3.85/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Wow is this beer dark! Its dark enough that when i hold it up to the sun it is still solid black. Shining a light on the front of it though, reveals lots of little floaties of sediment and yeast being pushed up the side of the glass by small carbonation bubbles. Pretty amazing visual. Head was milk chocolate brown only one finger from a vigorous pour, but its stuck around a little and left great dense lacing.

Smell is roasted nuts, malts, toffee, chocolate, and honey? Very thick smell with several components.

Taste is packed with heavily roasted malts, toasted pecans, pumpernickle, chocoalate, strong coffee finish.

Those little floaties make an appearance here in the mouthfeel.

Wouldn't have picked this up myself if I saw it, but thanks to lightindarkness for sending it to me. I definately enjoyed it, and would drink another on a cold snowy day or with a meal.

Photo of hooliganlife
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured from a bottle into a pint glass. pours jet black. i was not expecting this beer to be this dark for some reason. poured with no head what so ever. smell is roasted malts. taste is light up front with a roasted finish. although no carbonation seemed to be present at the pour, there is a subtle bit in the mouth and its pretty prefect. this beer caught me off guard and i am glad it did, sucks i only have one.

Photo of tempest
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I guess this might be an early example of a black IPA. It's dark and chocolatey with a sizeable hops bitterness. Yum. In some senses it's an imperial porter, on the other hand, you could squeeze it into the double stout style.

The aroma is rich with smokey chocolate, reminds me of Old Rasputin, and I could smell it the second I opened the bottle. The flavor is full of dark chocolate with a hint of sweet cherry and bitter grapefruit. The body is a medium thickness but still very drinkable. This is a damn tasty beer, especially for chocolate lovers.

Photo of Vancer
4.48/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Way more of an American stout versus strong ale, but whatdahec?

Brother, does this one pour a coal black, damn nice tan head for a 7.5% brew, sheet lacing in the tulip.

Man, quite a nice cool weather brew - full of coffee, toffee, malt and chocolate in the aroma and quaff. Thick, rich and 'heavy', this is one flavor packed brew. Freakin' chocolate beer shake in a bottle.

Dark Horse also now available in the STL area - life is beer good!

Photo of oakbluff
3.8/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a solid ebony colour with slight tan head and reasonable lacing. Nose- chocolate milk powder and roasted nuts. Taste- dark fruits, chocolate, touch of lactic sourness and a little smokiness. Medium bodied with a vigorous carbonation. Finishes dry.

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

Acquired from grub courtesy of the Birthday Club 2, so a big "Thank you" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep black color, with a thin brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of dark chocolate, dark fruit, roasted malts and a touch of hops.

T: The taste is full of the bitter-sweet flavor of dark chocolate up front with background flavors of dark fruit and molasses. The malt character is very hearty and stout-like. There's a mild hops presence. The bitter dark chocolate bite tones down as the beer warms and it becomes a bit more balanced. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and very smooth, medium-to-heavy body, medium carbonation, slightly sticky finish.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, good kick, if you're a fan of the darker and maltier beers than this is a good one for you, it's definitely worth drinking a few of if you're the mood for that type of beer.

Photo of botham
4.22/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a tulip glass. pours jet black with a half finger of rich brown head that takes a few minutes to subside. moderate lacings.

aroma is heavily roasted and mildly smoked, with black and chocolate malts lending quite a rich profile to the brew. very heavy in the nose.

taste is very roasted up front, with notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel, and a lightly earthy base, coupled with a finish of black and roasted malt and a lightly smoked aftertaste, this is a very rich, thick and rich brew, with only a tinge of alcohol upon finishing.

mouthfeel is full bodied with a rich and creamy texture, along with a silky smooth finish of residual coffee and burnt malts. so rich in profile, yet curiously drinkable.

drinkability is good. for a brew this rich and complex, the body and finish are not typical, in that they resemble a lighter and more drinkable brew. almost like a super-rich porter, this brew is a solid example of whatever style it has been slotted into. cheers!

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

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

Appears, well...black, as expected. Dark Horse really likes 'em black. This ones still not as dark as the Smoked Stout though. Very slight red highlights on the bottom of the glass when held up to light. Head is about one finger tall and dark tan. Sheets of lacing down the side.

Aromas of coffee, molasses, chocolate, some vanilla, and black licorice.

Taste starts off with a not quite, but almost sweet roastiness with dark chocolate then it gradually becomes drier and more akin to coffee. After the swallow some hops appear and leave a mildly bitter finish along with the roasty flavors.

Mouthfeel is medium-full and very smooth.

I saw a bottle of this sitting by itself in the liquor store so I picked it up and damn I am impressed. This "Black Bier" is obviously supposed to be a stout I assume. Really nice flavors though.

Photo of brewandbbq
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours opaque black with a mocha colored, dense head that struggles out of solution.
The inch-tall foam sank slowly, leaving behind a thick wall of clingy lace. Traces of mahogany luminescence around the edges.

Aromatics start off with dark chocolate, espresso, roasted malts, and cocoa.
Brownie batter and a hint of nougat follow through.

Full bodied, thick and chewy, with a very creamy mouthfeel.

Bitter chocolate, roasted malts, coffee, and brownie bits lead off the pallet. A drying acridity follows through along with some warming alcohol.

Finishes with burnt brownie ends, bitter chocolate, and lingering roast.

Tasting like something between a big Imperial Porter and a small Imperial Stout.

Photo of jwinship83
3.79/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

A- very tiny brown head on a big black body. reminds me of a stout.

S- Also reminds me of a stout. roasted malts, slight alcohol, slight anise, slight chocolate.

T- Man, this is VERY similar to a stout. roasted malts, mild coffee aftertaste, and the warming of alcohol

M- maybe a little over carbonated and a little thinner than i expected. not bad though

D- if i had a blind taste test id swear this is a stout. its something i could drink a few of in a night, but not one ill always have on hand

Photo of WJVII
3.96/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass this brew is a dark coffee color with minimal head, and then the carbonation erupts after the pour into a milk chocolate head that leaves lots of lacing. The smell is full of chocolate, coffee, and even some of the alcohol. There is a slight burnt note in the nose as well. The flavor is excellent. Strong malt flavor, deep roasted taste with a heavy burnt backdrop and some alcohol in the finish. The carbonation is light with a medium syrup body. This is a solid beer and I will enjoy more to come.

Photo of corey0212
4.55/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got this in a trade with moose3285!

Pours black in color, sludgy out of the bottle, nice big cocoa-colored head fades down to a thin layer on top of the beer, excellent lacing. Smell is incredible...milk chocolate, molasses, plenty of coffee, slightly doughy. Now this is effing delicious! Taste is bitter coffee, plenty of chocolate, a faint smokiness, slightly burnt around the edges....wow. Mouthfeel is really interesting....feels more like a porter, tastes more like a stout. Great lingering bitterness, perfect coffee aftertaste. This is one of the more enjoyable beers I've had in a long time. Excellent brew!

Photo of Med
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to DontCallMeSurly for this.

Even an aggressive pour produced only a thin tan head that quickly receded to just a slight ring around the top of this black opaque beer. Smell is toffee and roasted malt with a noticeable fruity sweetness that seems somewhat out of place. Taste follows but without the fruitiness. Very nice dark chocolate with some hop bitterness. Finish lasts a good long time and maintains that bitterness. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, but a little soft on the carbonation. Drinkable. Nice.

Photo of grandq
4.38/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a thick dark brown with no light coming through. A fluffy two finger head of dark khaki sits on top - looks rock solid and melts away slowly. Smells of toasted malt, oat, and honey. Very stout like nose. Molasses and milk chocolate in there as well. Taking a sip, my instant word association responses are: bitter, smooth, easy drinking. This seems like a stout to me, and a nice one at that, with the bitter end ratcheted up a notch. Sweet but not cloying, hugely bitter (coffee mostly, oak playing backup) but not overpowering other flavors. Some Old Ale and Barleywine touches creep up as well in the form of currants and a faint blast of boozy heat. Dark red fruits open up as this warms. I haven't liked much I've tried from Dark Horse, but this one is damn fine by me. Top notch.

Mouthfeel is thin, almost watery but some slight chewiness towards the back - think Guinness and you're close (or at least as my memory of Guinness serves). Again, goes down damn smooth, especially for being so bitter. Couldn't drink more than one of these, but this one I'm not having any trouble downing.

Huge thanks yet once more to RblWthACoz for this surprise "extra" to what was already an unexpected beer drop. I do so enjoy being surprised with beer, and in this case, surprised by a beer.

Photo of gmcfarre
3.59/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle poured into traditional pint glass

A - Pours like a pitch black sludge with a thin dark mocha colored head. Lacing is nice for such a dark beer with little head.

S - Strong milk chocolate flavor, more creamy than bitter. Good espresso addition. Strong roasted flavor as well, with a good deal of sugary sweetness.

T - Good sweetness with strong creamy chocolate and espresso flavor. Roasted flavor is dominant. Very dry finish with a lot of dry roasted leftover flavor. Cloying in this way, almost tastes and feels like coffee grounds.

M - Heavy body with mild carbonation. Creamy. Very dry at the finish.

D - Tastes, smells, feels, and looks like a stout, so why not call it one? A bit too roasted for my tastes, and kind of cloying in the finish. Not my favorite stout nor my favorite Dark Horse offering.

Photo of barefootbrewer
4.09/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black and oily with a cream colored head which didn't stick around long.

S: Malty, sweet and molasses.

T: It tasted different from the aroma. It was a bitter brew. Coffee and roasted flavors were noticeable.

M: Medium, but with a slick residue.

D: Smooth, but intense. Quite drinkable.

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

This was my first beer last night @ the crawfish boil, I had low expectations from what locals told me about the brewery but damn they were wrong this was an incredibly well crafted beer. It poured black with a tan head. The smell was of toasted malts and caramel. I was very delighted with the flavor certainly alot of caramel flavors in it. This is a very smooth drinking beer for a dark beer and it felt just wonderful in my mouth :) Thanks for a great brew!

Photo of deepsouth
4.01/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

tried this aged about a year beer thanks to barefootbrewer.

this beer poured black! small tan head.

the smell is great. molasses, honey, caramel, chocolate, coffee. much more complex than i expected.

the taste was of bitter roasted coffee.

the mouthfeel was thin with not much carbonation.

this beer was super easy to drink. i recommend seeking it out if only for the smell.

Photo of tedpeer
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A - vigorous pour resulted in a huge mocha head, which subsided to two fingers, and then slowly settled to about a quarter inch. A little lacing.

S - Nice coffee and chocolate smell, kinda sweet.

T - Follows smell. Chocolate, coffee, and a little sweet, with a barely bitter finish.

M - Mouth coating, very smooth. Lightly carbonated.

D - If you like coffee, very.

Photo of jspruit
4.32/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I picked this 12oz bottle up back in Michigan-enjoyed back in Ireland.

Pours pitch black, and a bit thick-very enticing. There is a small 1/2 finger cream colored head that fades to lacing around the glass.

The smell hits you right away and it's roasty, chocolatey, and coffees. It is really great and between the appearance and smell it really gets you ready to taste it.

Very smooth, plenty of chocolate and coffee tones in the taste as it goes down. There is a bit of earthiness and smokiness as some other reviewers have indicated, but it's mostly all chocolate and coffee.

There's enough carbonation to let you notice it, but it doesnt dominate and feels good in your mouth. It isnt as full as you might expect if you judge it straight from its pour, but its great to the last drop.

I'll definitely recommend this to others and try to get my hands on another the next time that I see it. It reminds me of a couple of Foudners beers and that's always nice for me.

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

Poured from 12oz to standard pint, pours a deep opaque brown, nice 3 finger mocha head

smells of lactose, roasty malts, chocolate, coffee, bitterness

taste is bitter, roasty/peaty, deep chocolate malts, coffee, the lactose makes things nice and silky smooth, heavy malts, hops come in play and bring out the roasty scottish ale qualities, not for the faint of hops - reminds me of an american double stout with the hop bang.

mouthfeel is silky smooth with a hop bite, an easy drinker

one of my favorite dark horse offerings :D

Photo of gford217
4.12/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of HopHobo poured into a snifter.

A: Pours pitch black with mahogany hints when held up to the light. Head is small but dense tan and dissipates quickly leaving decent lacing. This looks much like an RIS or a porter.

S: Smell is of roasted coffee and malts with a bit of chocolate and sweet dark fruits. Really nice aroma.

T: First taste is of sweet chocolate malts and caramel before giving way to a roasted coffee taste. Finish is fairly crisp with hops and coffee bitterness lingering a bit.

M: Mouthfeel is medium bodied with decent carbonation.

D: I really like this beer and would compare it to a decent RIS or porter. Nice and roasty!

Photo of rallison
3.45/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice black with a 1/2 finger tan head that took a little coaxing to get, but lasts well.

Smells quite chocolatey with some decent roasted notes.

The flavor here is a letdown from the nice nose. Dark fruits, chocolate and a sharp roast are followed by some slightly off flavors - touches of sour and old wood (best way I can describe it). This is a pretty minor component in the flavor, but it does bring down the enjoyment.

Mouthfeel and drinkability are decent.

Overall, decent. I'd be up for trying another bottle to see if it is any better.

Photo of Gehrig
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Lush tan-berry foam tops a deep black body, lacing the Yankees mug with foamy goodness. The coffee aroma is unmistakable, making mugs of java envious. Rich caramel malt accompanies the coffee aroma. The coffee dominates the taste a bit too much for me, delicious though it is. I'm fond of the heavy malt this carries, and it carries it well, But the coffee smothers most other components are here. The prominent smoky flavor is nice, but I must confess a wariness for smoke beer. This is NOT smoke beer, but is certainly smoky. It combines with the coffee to produce a heavy, somewhat bitter taste.

Yet the heavy, malty texture makes up for a lot, coating the tongue not unlike a good, densely-hopped IPA does. Smooth and rich, the mouthfeel is quite good. One of the more distinct beers I've had, rich and bold. Well worth trying.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,099 ratings.