1. Extreme Beer Fest tickets go on sale Sat, Sep 27 @ Noon EDT.
  2. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  3. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

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.
BA SCORE
89
very good

1,020 Ratings
THE BROS
86
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
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,020 | Reviews: 561 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of zeff80
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a jet black color with a small, tan head. There were some traces of lace.

S - It smelled of roasted malt. Also, some good notes of chocolate.

T - It tasted very bittersweet. It had a nice burnt toast flavor. There was also an good bit of dark chocolate flavor. There was a warmth from the alcohol, too.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is a pretty good stout. It is my first Dark Horse beer and I would love to find more.

zeff80, Jul 01, 2007
Photo of genog
3.85/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bought this at Crown Liquors #15 in Fishers IN

Poured into snifter with small brown head with lacing. Very little head remains in the deep black beer.

Smell is malty, roasted scents.

Taste is dark chocolate, coffee, espresso, malty, somewhat of an earthy, and I agree with the chalky description as well.

Medium feeling that leaves a little alcohol and less carbonation. Beer seems to remind me of the breakfast stout in the first impression, but that comparisson quickly fades away as the beer does not stay on the same level throughout the beer.

genog, Jun 26, 2007
Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, oily pour into a 3F imperial pint glass. Immediate head of mocha foam builds itself, and with the unfiltered dregs, it rises to over 3 fingers in size.
Tan webs of lace network themselves around the inside of the glass.

Chocolate malt and some minor dark fruit define the aroma. At first there was a hint of a banana-like ester, but it faded fast.

Taste is huge, big bittersweet chocolate with an underlying hoppy edge. An earthy tobacco char in the aftertaste that is excellent. Maybe some mild coffee, but not too defined. It's very integrated, but still has a good degree of complexity.

Smooth and creamy, this is some delectable stuff. The abv is never harsh, but a buzz is felt by the end of the glass. Don't let this donkey kick your ass...

emerge077, Jun 05, 2007
Photo of Phyl21ca
3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Moejuck: Poured a pitch-black color beer with a medium foamy head with good retention and good lacing. Aroma of medium coffee with light roasted malt. Taste is dominated by some medium dry coffee with some light roasted malt and some nice oatmeal notes. Body is quite creamy which I always enjoy as well as being full with some medium to low carbonation. Well done and something I wouldn’t mind having again.

Phyl21ca, May 28, 2007
Photo of nlmartin
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer was served lightly chilled in my imperial nonic.

Appearance: The beer pours a dead black coloration in my glass. The head was about 2+ fingers high with a burnt creamed coffee coloration. Major webs of lacing remain behind on my glass. The beer had a bit of reverse cascading while being poured. Nice!

Smell: Burnt and chared coffee are very dominate in the smell of this beer. Roasted and toasted burnt malts combine to make aromas of dark chocolate, anise, a whiff of vanilla, cherry fruityness, a bit of smoke and peat. This beer smells outstanding.

Taste: A dam near perfect delivery on the taste. The roasted, toasted burnt flavors of coffee resonate on my taste buds. This combines with semi-sweet chocolate. The beer has nice earthy tones of smoke and peat bringing up the rear of the flavor. This is a very good dry double stout.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The one weak spot in this beer is the body. The body is a bit thinner than I prefer. The body nearly approaches medium. The carbonation is low but not problematic. The flavors are long lasting. The beer provided a very pleasant beer drinking experience and I will have this one again.

nlmartin, May 20, 2007
Photo of blitz134
4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nearly pitch black, only hits of dark brown at the edges. Tan head that reduced down to only a ring around the glass with a slick surface on top. No lacing to speak of.

Super nice dark toasted malts, black coffee and dark chocolate. Hints of smoke waft in as well.

Really robust flavor. Dark toasted malts run around unchecked, char and black coffee again. Smoke again. Very similar to the smell.

Mouthfeel is medium to full. Carbonation is low. Its hard to say this is fully b/c it isn't quite creamy, but it is slick. Flavor sticks around and lingers.

This is pretty damn drinkable to have this strong of a flavor, but I like my stouts like this and not overloaded with sweet flavors. Overall its very simple with dark toasted flavors, but just good. Good stuff...a must try.

blitz134, May 15, 2007
Photo of Phatz
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

When I ordered this "Black Bier" at the brewpub I assumed Black Beer means Schwartzbier. Boy oh boy was I gonna say this Schwartzbier is an Imperial Schwartz and popping out of the skin in the style. BA has it listed as an ADS and I guess a dry roasty bitter American Double Stout is about the same thing as an "Imperial Schwartzbier" would be, huh? ha ha. The Web Site says "The Reserve Special Black Ale has a hard time being called a stout or porter but it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale." That is true.

Appearance: It is served a very black color with a tan head and light lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma fits with a Schwartzbier. It is Very roasty with coffee and burnt malts and grains, a bit of smokiness and charcoal and just a hint of toasty chocolate and caramel.

Taste: Burnt flavors and an overall roastyness, overshadow the whole experience with the chocolate coffee and hops on the tongue and a wood flavor chiming in with the final nip from the hops in the back end. Certainly dry and bordering astringent this is a nice roasty ... whatever you want to call it ~ 'Stout'.

Drinkability: It really hit the spot at the time. If you like the burnt coffee ground flavors (and I do) I think this beer may surprise you.

Hope this is helpful.
Cheers!

Phatz, May 08, 2007
Photo of GbVDave
4.45/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a 20oz imperial pint.

A: Pours out a pure, coal tar black with a one finger mocha-colored head. Average amounts of sticky lace left in the glass.

S: Wonderful aromas of dark roast coffee, molassas, raisins, dark chocolate,and plums.

T: Incredible abundance of flavors here. Chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, vanilla, cherry, hops, and burnt malt.

M: A tiny bit on the thin side when cold but it thickens up nicely as it warms. Super long roasty finish.

D: Fantastic, roasty flavors as well as the sneaky undercurrent of dark fruit and molassas. A very rewarding treat!

GbVDave, May 03, 2007
Photo of brentk56
4.5/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black color with a big tan head that laces the glass when agitated

Smell: Licorice, over-roasted coffee, dark unsweetened chocolate

Taste: Starts out with a dark fruit and licorice flavor that is joined, mid-palate, by the coffee tones; after the swallow the roasty bitterness lingers forever, bringing with it a rich dark chocolate flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium to ful body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A really special beer that I have enjoyed again and again

brentk56, Apr 10, 2007
Photo of TheBungyo
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Flyingbison for this brew.

Entirely dark upon pour with a foamy brown head. Nice to look at. Not much lacing but the legs are substantial enough to leave dots upon the glass.

Nose reminds me of an ice cream chocolate malt shake.

Taste is rich milk chocolate with hints of coffee. Body is a bit thinner than I'd like but it's still shockingly smooth. Yes sir, I reckon I'd buy this again if I could.

TheBungyo, Apr 07, 2007
Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.03/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz. brown bottle into my Adnams tulip pint glass.

A - Dark translucent brown color with about two fingers of tan foam. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S - Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and brown sugar, dark cherries, and molasses.

T - Very bitter initially, leading to dark, bitter cocoa, over-roasted coffee, vanilla extract and then a mild alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Slick and slightly rich. Medium in both body and carbonation. My tongue is left tingling from the bitterness.

D - I'm finding it difficult to make my way to the bottom of the glass. This beer is trying to grow on me, and partially succeeds as it warms up a little. A sipper more by force and not by choice.

ClockworkOrange, Mar 27, 2007
Photo of Viggo
3.1/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Thanks for sharing this one grub!

Pours a very opaque black, very dark, thick brown head forms, nice lacing, good retention, sticky, looks pretty awesome. Smell is very roasty, some chocolate and coffee, vanilla, bit of toffee, quite rich, very astringent even in the aroma. Taste is ashy smoke, chocolate, roast, dark fruits, very astringent and bitter from all the roasted malts, medicinal finish. Mouthfeel is kind of thin and oily, medium carbonation, much to astringent, but has some nice characters. Thanks Russ!

Viggo, Mar 26, 2007
Photo of shivtim
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

4's across the board for this above average stout. It sits heavily in a pint glass, deep black with a bit of a brown head and good lacing. Nose is lots of roasted malts and some smokiness. Taste is roasted malts in good amounts, tiny hints of alcohol, and sweetness. Mouthfeel and drinkability are both good. Nice job, Dark Horse.

shivtim, Mar 13, 2007
Photo of beveritt
3.3/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Presentation: Poured from a 12 oz brown bottle into a standard pint glass. The label depicts a donkey or mule and has no description or brew date.

Appearance: Pours with very little head, even after a hard pour; maybe 1/4 inch of tan head initially. This quickly fades to a thin coating and a ring around the glass. The beer itself is just as the label says, black. Not even a hint of lighter color around the edges.

Smell: Initial smell is dark cocoa powder. A hint of slightly sweet dark and roasty grains.

Taste: Decent carbonation bite upfront. Thick, viscous, dark fruot and sigar flavors follow. Bitterness from roasted barley mixed with a slightly sweet malt is next. Alcohol is present in finish.

Mouthfeel: Average to higher than average carboantion level, helps to balance out the strong flavors. Incredibly thick body.

Drinkability: A very flavorful and full body drink. Good for sipping on a cold winter's night.

beveritt, Mar 11, 2007
Photo of BMoney575
4.47/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Sampled on 3-8-07

Pours a pitch black, with a tan head that settles and stays on the top of the beer.

Smells strongly of coffee, chocolate. Hints of anise and molasses as well. Very enjoyable.

Taste is very good. Huge malty backbone with coffee bitterness and great smoky finish.

Mouthfeel is also very good. Thick, creamy, this beer has huge flavor but also goes down smooth.

Drinkability is good, if you like huge stouts. I do.

Overall a tremendous brew from Dark Horse. If you're in the mood for a kick-in-the-ass double stout, this is a worthy opponent.

BMoney575, Mar 09, 2007
Photo of kohoutek
4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Jet black mid-weight inky fluid with beautiful tan espresso crema. Sticky lace and a permafoam cap.

The aroma is a wonderful mix of roasted malts, aromatic coffee, vinous dark fruits and some nicely placed noble hybrid hops, Liberty maybe? Charcoal, sugary caramel, dried cherries and a touch of vanillized oak. If there was a 4.75 scoring choice I would choose it. I keep coming back again and again to the nose.

The aroma qualities also express beautifully as flavors. The drawback here for me is the choice of roast material. The black patent (?) is very present with its charcoal, ashy harshness. It definitely has the tendency to disrupt the integration of flavors. The vanilla, oak, herbal, creamy noble hops and coffee all add a wonderful compliment to the roast and the dark fruits.

A nice medium/high weight offering as a stout. At 8% the alcohol presence is nicely subdued and the beer has a perceived dryness that works well with the hopping level, residual sugars and the aromatic beauty.

Very drinkable for the weight. A beautifully complex beverage that is not a quaffer, but can offer so much to the drinker in terms of character and flavors.

A very nice beer!

kohoutek, Mar 03, 2007
Photo of FtownThrowDown
3.93/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into my delirium tulip glass.
Pours black and roasty with only a minimal head that doesn't last.
Smell is really good. Roasted malts and some cocoa bean coming through.
Taste is even better. A good coffee, tobacco (very well done) taste hit you at first. This has a decent bitterness to it. This is a very solid stout.
The mouthfeel is a bit thin for an American Double but the taste more than makes up for it. The thin mouthfeel does keep it from making it to the next level.
A very good offering from Dark Horse and I'll seek out more of their beers. If you see this beer, definitely pick it up.

FtownThrowDown, Feb 11, 2007
Photo of browner
4.2/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Amber brown pour and a bit hazy. Very sweet palate with a bit citrus and malt. Goes down easy with little carbonation as hoppy as I would expect from a double but enjoyable. The beer is a above average to very good India Pale Ale in the American style. Laet the beer stand a bit if to cold as it comprimizes the delevery of this beer.

browner, Feb 10, 2007
Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.6/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Black as a somber alleyway on a moonless night. Thick looking, I mean really thick, semi-solid even. Head is light brown and heavily and root beer like, foamy and chunky. Retention is solid. Obviously unfiltered.

Great aroma. Just plum chalk full of dark, dark malts. Reminds me of black bier, fitting name. Lots of chocolate, grain husks, some chicory, and wood.

Smooth. Very nice. Thick, luscious, creamy body. Plenty of coffee and chocolate with a heavy astringency, some wood, and an oddly faint sense of citric hops. Smoky. Semi-dry.

Not that drinkable for me. To much smoke and astringency but in general probably good.

Great bottle.

DaPeculierDane, Feb 09, 2007
Photo of grub
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

grabbed a sixer of this one so i could send a couple bottles out in a trade. glad i did, as i'm enjoying this one.

pours opaque black with 1/4" of dense dark brown head. drops slowly and leaves spotty lace.

aroma is great. rich roasty malt. bittersweet chocolate. espresso. bit of alcohol.

taste is good. strong roast. bit of alcohol. bittersweet chocolate. espresso. hint of something fruity, maybe cherry? less malt and depth than i expected, mostly dominated by the intense roastyness.

mouthfeel is ok. thinner body than i expected. good moderate carbonation level. high astringency.

drinkability is ok. the strong roast and astringency takes away from this one a bit, but it's still nice. a little warm on the way down. might be better with some time to mellow.

grub, Feb 06, 2007
Photo of alexgash
4.47/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown to black with a finger of dense, clingy, light tan head. Nose of rich roasted malt, scorched candy sugar, molasses, chocolate, caramel, and coffee. Very aromatic and deliciously complex. Roasted, smoked malt up front. Quickly turns to sweetish milk chocolate and sugary dark fruits. Roastedness comes back along with dark coffee and herbal, bitter hops. Very nice! Smoky bitter finish. Medium-full body with a thick, chewy feel. Very well done and an amazing value at 7.99 a six-pack. Thank you Darkhorse!

alexgash, Jan 28, 2007
Photo of nouseforotacon
4.3/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Rest assured I've been trying many, many different great brews as of late... I just haven't had the time or the energy to sit down and review them. This one was courtesy of an old trade (5-6 months), unsure of the age on this bottle.

Rich, syrupy, mahogany pour with loads of visible carbonation. Small brown head that dissipates rapidly. Minimal lacing, lots of bubbles.

Sweet, full, complex aroma. Roasted malts. Coffee and milk notes. Bits of black licorice with alcohol on the backend. Smoky and nutty. Really enjoyable nose.

Touch of cream in the mouth that gives way to an intense hop bitterness and a HUGE roasted malt character. Smoky. Bits of black licorice, again. Not much sweetness. Espresso beans. Alcohol warmth on the backend, slight bit of burn. Fruity, nutty sweetness that surfaces as the brew milds.

Bold and strong, but also very drinkable and very aromatic. Delicious and well-tempered throughout the session. Highly recommended.

nouseforotacon, Jan 12, 2007
Photo of Frozensoul327
4.1/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Dark coffee colored liquid with a nice level of viscosity. Next to no head, and very low carbonation. No lacing.

S: Deep, rich aromas of sweet cocoa, dark roasted malts, java, a hint of bourbon, burnt notes of earth and wood. Very complex and inviting. Nice.

T: Rich, thick notes of roasted malt and dark toffee are immediately present. A dense character of coffee, chocolate and a warming alcohol note. Very nice.

M: Thick, dense, rich. Not over-the-top, but appropriate for the style. A minor note of carbonation is present, which enhances the experience.

D: Pretty darn good. I'd have a couple of these, make a fresh comment about the waitress, ask for a smoke, and feel like heaven is a place on earth because of beer.

Frozensoul327, Jan 12, 2007
Photo of akorsak
3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A 12 oz bottle from a long-ago trade with BigErn.

A: The stout pours as a thick oily mix. Closer to black than any other color, the head is small and doesn't register much.

S: The aroma is malty grains, deep with roasted and chocolate hints. There is a great deal of sweetness that comes out of those malts.

T: The first impression of the beer is that it is very thin flavor-wise, having a bit of grains but lacking depth. Luckily, at the ale continues to sit in the mouth, a warming alcohol, roasted malt and chocolate flavor emerge, giving the stout a nice complexity that puts forth a nice array of malty flavors. There is a bit of a coffee dryness holding the whole beer together.

M: The finish on the stout is very nice, adding a kick of flavor after a slow start.

D: The slow start is discouraging but the finish is nice. This stout is above average, a good glass if you can find it.

akorsak, Jan 08, 2007
Photo of BeerBelcher
4.05/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

This beer pours an inky black, with very little tan head which does not stick around long.

Aroma is strong coffee and chocolate malt notes.

Flavor is coffee flavor and "burned pizza crust" taste, which is very good and well-matched to the porter style (in my opinion).

Mouthfeel is thin - this beer is smooth (with the taste delivering a certain bitter bite - that’s a good thing) but needs more carbonation; it feels flat to me.

BeerBelcher, Jan 06, 2007
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,020 ratings.