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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

1,115 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,115
Reviews: 569
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 10.69%
Wants: 54
Gots: 78 | 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: 1,115 | Reviews: 569
Photo of ahalloin
3.86/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured fairly aggressively and managed to aggravate a 1 and half finger width head of dark, dark tan, kind of like the color of a cup of coffee with a teaspoon of cream...I am still talking about the head! As the beer is drunk, the lacing sticks to the side of the glass in thick quantities. The fluid is jet black with absolutely no light getting through. This beer is certainly an imposing sight!

The roasty aroma of the beer is obvious from a good 8 inches away. With a closer inspection, hints of coffee, chocolate, smoke, and molasses are revealed.

The nose of the flavor starts with a brief dark sweetness of dark chocolate and molasses but is quickly overtaken and dominated by roasty coffee and smokiness, reminiscent of smoked bacon. The finish is somewhat bitter.

For such a dark big flavored beer the mouthfeel is surprisingly thin. I would have hoped for something more commanding.

Photo of cvstrickland
4.37/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

April 2007 bottling

The worried-looking cartoon donkey on the label has been eyeballing me from my beer fridge for quite some time, and I've decided today is the day to turn him loose. Pouring the 12-ounce bottle into an imperial pint willi glass reveals an inky black body with a sliver of garnet trim, capped with a thick layer of fine-bubbled dirty-khaki foam. The head retains at a chunky sheet and leaves wisps and freckles of lacing on the glass.

The smell is sweetly burnt and acridly roasty with megatons of charred malt and dark-roast coffee laced with dark caramel.

The taste is roasted-barley sweet with a smoky, charred, French roast bitterness that prevails and intensifies in boldness throughout the drink. As a lover of dark roast coffee served black, I find myself quaffing this carbonized-caramelly, burnt-tangy, bittersweet, roasty-savory jewel of a drink without a thought of any ABV issues.

The quaffability of the brew is enhanced by a light-medium body with mild carbonation, and the bitterness smoldering in the aftertaste begs for another quenching sip. An excellent brew. Thanks to Dr. Brad for the bottle!

Photo of Guzzler78
3.92/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Not what I was expecting. Awfully close to a stout.
Pours black A thin light tan head that dissipates quickly. Some spotty lacing.
Smells of caramel, chocolate and coffee.
Tastes much like the smell- coffee, bitter dark chocolate.
A medium mouthfeel, fine carbonation and dry finish.
A surprise heavier than I expected. A decent beer more of a stout than anything. Worth a try.

Photo of rtepiak
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

dark ebony brew with a nice stout quality. quite thick. not as strong but richly backed alcohol. nice chocolate in a good bottle. alcohol gives it a cherry hint on the palate. soft coffee. great malt. warm going down with a light smokey dessert like quality. light woodiness. not the most consistent... excellent a little below cellar temperature. somewhere between american double and goose island bourbon county. candy fruit rummy... yet light, when it shines. will have again.

Photo of danielharper
3.13/5  rDev -20.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark coloration, brown-black, with very thin khaki-colored head that disappears almost immediately. Opaque.

Smell: Sweet, malty. Hints of chocolate malt, a touch of caramel. Very subtle. No hops present in nose.

Taste: Dry malt up front, slightly cloying, with a very dry finish. Slightly unpleasant "soapy" flavor. Alcohol is well-hidden.

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness. Slightly watery. Low carbonation.

Drinkability: Overall not necessarily a bad beer, but it lacks complexity and could use a little more balance.

Photo of Bung
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Near black pour, healthy brown head, slight ruby around the edge. Very roasty aroma. Tastes roasted malt, burnt malt, oat, bakers chocolate, some smokiness. A pleasant amount of carbonation. Just a slight amount of hop and coffee bitterness in the finish. Almost as much coffee in this to me as the Beer Geek Breakfast stout. Very good and to the point of what a good porter should be.

Photo of morimech
3.49/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours pitch black with a large chocolate colored head that has very good retention. When the head does eventually settles, it still forms a thick cap. Heavy sheets of lacing is left on the glass.

The aroma is dominated by the dark malt. Maybe a hint of citrus and chocolate. I was expecting more chocolate and coffee aromas from such a dark beer.

More dark malt in the flavor. Hints of chocolate. Has a burnt bitterness throughout this one. Charcoal in the aftertaste that lingers for a long time. No sign of alcohol.

Medium body but I think it is overcarbonated. Makes it feel thinner then it should. A nice creamy texture would of been a good compliment to this beer.

A good beer but it did not live up to my expectations. The flavor just has too much of a burnt taste to warrant continued consumption. The high ABV limits it as well.

Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of SQNfan. Pours black with a small dark tan head that fades quickly. Aroma of rich roasted malt, alcohol, and bitter chocolate. Flavor of sweet roasted malt and a hint of bitter chocolate. A little boring, flavor-wise but ok.
Aroma: 7/10
Appearance: 4/5
Flavor: 7/10
Palate: 4/5
Overall: 14/20

Photo of Buebie
4.06/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz brown bottle fresh off the distribution truck. No freshness date, but I assume it is indeed fresh.

3 finger foamy dark brown long lasting head. Retention is great with half a finger just hanging out. Thin spotty pods of lace.
This thing is pitch black with no transparency or glowing.
Goofball lable, that was a turn off, almost didnt buy it.

Aromas of ruch dark roasted coffee, bittersweet bakers chocolate, grains, my grandma's cedar closet, wet cardboard and a dairy like cream smell.

Creamy and full bodied with a medium zing of carbonation. Bitter chocolate, a touch of dark roasted coffee, oak like flavors, distand wisps of earhty hops.
Just a hint of lemon zest at the swallow. No alcahol warming at the nose or on the pallett.

Very delicious brew, definatly a stout in my mind.

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

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a pint glass

A 1/2 inch mocha colored head which fall to a ring. Some nice course lacing. Super dark black/brown.
S Sweet malt with light fruit notes.
T Sweet toasted malt followed by some dry hoppy tastes. A bit of chocolate and maybe a hint of raspberry.
M/F Wonderfully smooth. Light/Medium in body.
D Very approachable ale with some interesting and fairly intense flavors.

Photo of beckje01
3.41/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Wonderful brown head a quater inch thick, tiny bubbles. The color is black and not at all see through.

S- Light malt in the nose, but faint.

T- Nice chocolate malt flavor, very smooth and nice with a hint of malt right at the end to remind you how it started.

M- Thin for the flavor but it's nice.

D- Very drinkable, a nice ale.

Photo of russpowell
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one is courtesy of joe1510, cheers Joe!

Pours mahogany/purple with 2 fingers of mocha/brown head. Nice viscous look, good lacing & above average head retention

S: Dark chocolate, coffee, a bit of dark fruit & leafy hops, doesn't quite marry together well

T: Dark choclate, roasted malt & coffee up front. Dryness, more roasty malt, a bit of booze, & licorice & even fainter traces of oak, as this warms. finishes with dark choclate, roasted malt, dryness & raisins

MF: Syrupy & minimal carbonation

Not a bad drinker, but the ABV is pretty ubiquitous & got to me very quickly

Photo of ncvbc
3.67/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Nearly black in color with a thin tan head that falls pretty quickly. Smell is mainly sweet up front along with a bit of roast and hop bitterness. Molasses, some dark fruit, almost milk chocolate. Decent sized roast character. Kind of husky and grainy with a light nutty scent. Taste is much of the same. A bit all over the place but when together, it is nice. More of a roast presence than sweetness in flavor. Definitely a hop presence that doesn't work so well with the rest of the brew. This seems like a Schwarzbier/Stout hybrid with a hop presence that is a little over the top. Mouthfeel is actually nice. Creamy and the hop presence doesn't create a huge bitterness. Actually seems like a Schwarzbier type feel but a little bigger. A little smoky in the finish along with roast. Not overly bitter, again. Overall, fairly drinkable but not the most exciting brew in the world. It's interesting but still not completely convincing. Somewhat boozy, which hurts this one. Maybe a bit less hoppy goodness and tune up on the stoutage...I think it could be great.

Photo of Bitterbill
4.37/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I got this bottle in a trade with Joe1510. Thanks Joe!

This pours a pitch black. No browns, no reddish hues....pitch plack. It has a nice 1" head of tan foam and tons of lacing. It looked very thick whilst pouring so I'm eager to taste this son of a gun.

The smell is complex. Notes of roasted malt, chocolate, toffe, and some coffee greet my nosebuds. Now, I'm even more eager.

The taste, damn, after such a great start....err...just kidding. Wow. The smells transfer their "nose-y" goodness to the taste big time.

Huge notes of toffee, roasted malt and coffee, some chocolate sweetness in the background...yummy! Btw, the alcohol is hardly noticeable so it scores some good points in drinkability, for sure.

This is full bodied, the carbonation is light, and it finishes with a nice bitter chocolate/coffee kick. Damn, this is good.

Bottom line: This is my second Dark Horse brew I've gotten in a trade with Joe and I really like what this brewery is putting out there and apparently, a lot of other BAs do too. Way to go!!

Photo of kzoobrew
3.91/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black and opaque. Finger and a half frothy mocha head. Retention is quite good and lacing superb.

Definite coffee in the nose. Smoky roasted malt with some earthiness to the aroma.

Big chocolate flavors hitting the palate up front. Roasted malt and dark coffee flavors settle in just behind. Slightly warming alcohol. Hop bitterness is not big but noticeable and pleasant.

Mouth feel is smooth and almost creamy. Medium to just below full bodied brew. I am not sure about the classification seems somewhere between a stout and a porter. There is a bigger body to this beer than some stouts I have had.

Regardless if I don't agree with the style, very enjoyable brew.

Photo of paco1029384756
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours black with small tan head.

Scent of coffee and chocolate with hint of caramel.

Taste is a balance of chocolate and coffee, with malts rounding it out. Balances somewhere between a stout and a porter, but takes the best qualities of both and blends them well.

Mouthfeel is clean and crisp.

Not entirely complex or over the top, but I really enjoyed this one.

Photo of mikesgroove
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
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%
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 +6.9%
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 +4.8%
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 +14%
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 -3.3%
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 +1.8%
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 +7.4%
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 +8.9%
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.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,115 ratings.