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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

1,073 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,073
Reviews: 563
rAvg: 3.94
pDev: 10.66%
Wants: 54
Gots: 62 | 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: 1,073 | Reviews: 563 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of mcallister
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Lives up to the name black bier. Black in color with a creamy mocha colored head. Very thick and viscous.

Coffee and dark chocolate with a roasty malt. A bit charcoaly in nature. Tar, and licorice with a bit of unmalted barley ester. Black currant aromas as well.

Tastes like a stout to me. Rich and creamy with an assertive charcoal roasted malt middle. Fresh ground coffee wth a hint of vanilla and caramel. Almost espresso in the finish with currant and raisin.

mcallister, Apr 28, 2008
Photo of BeerZack
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Black, with khaki and brown 1-2 finger head that settles to a nice foam covering.

Roasted coffee, some herbal/vegetal notes; some sweetness, some vanilla, bit of sarsparilla?

Very coffee-like. Dark chocolate, espresso, with an herbal hop edge. Almost tastes more like coffee than beer.

Low to moderate carbonation, pretty substantial, full, rich mouthfeel. Pretty drinkable, if you're a coffee-lover.

BeerZack, Apr 28, 2008
Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - pours black, with a not quite oil viscosity, but nearly. A finger of mocha head forms up and lazily falls back to a scant cover. Not much of a lacer. Quite a bit of sediment in the bottle.

Aroma - good roastiness out of the bottle, a grain and coffee smell.

Taste/Mouthfeel - starts out like it's going to be a thick impy stout type thing. Sweet malts briefly grab the front of the tongue with a smoothness and light oiliness. They are quickly moved out by a shallow but brash bitterness and roasty burnt flavor. Alcohol pushes into the picture now as well, lending some warmth and thinning the body out considerably on the swallow. Now it doesn't feel like a stout as much. As the bite backs off, the aftertaste allows some bitter chocolate through along with some roastiness that is straining to be more than just ashy. Good dark chocolate flavors after some warm-up time realy take over the beer and lift it up noticeably.

Drinkability - call it a porter or a stout or an old ale if you like, but you'll likely call it tasty as well. Good one for cold weather, with a bowl of chili.

brewdlyhooked13, Apr 23, 2008
Photo of RblWthACoz
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I'm very much looking forward to trying this on the bottle after having it on cask at the Chelsea Festival a few weeks ago.

Pours pitch black with a creamy tan head that really sticks around. This is a beautiful beer. I mean, it's just amazing to look at. The nose is a very nice amount of coffee. I could look and smell this beer all night. But that's not what we're here for damnit! Wow. Flavor is pretty smoked (but not in the realm of a thick ol' rauch). Nice. Very full and robust. There is a sweet edge to this, but not in the way of a milk stout. It is almost like a natural sweetness. It just happens to be there it seems. Man. This is amazing stuff. I thought that perhaps the cask version of it might have kicked it up quite a bit, but the bottle version is really bringing the love too. This is an absolutely amazing beer to be shared with people who care. Thank you Fairy Beer Mother. Thank you.

RblWthACoz, Apr 17, 2008
Photo of Wasatch
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks goes out to lightindarkness for this one.

Pours a black color, some carbonation, nice little creamy dark tan head, very minimal sticky lacing follows. The nose is malty, good tones of toffee/chocolate/coffee/caramel, slight vanillaness. The taste is slightly sweet, big malts, and dark chocolates. Medium body, the alcohol is hidden very well with this one. Drinkable, a very tasty brew, more of a stout than a ASA.

Wasatch, Apr 15, 2008
Photo of Slynger
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Jet black with a nice and creamy deep tan cap. Chocolatey and roasted smelling with coffee beans and light fruity plum. Full bodied with a creamy-smooth mouthfeel. The flavor is roasted, dry, and bitter. Deep and flavorfully bitter chocolate, darkly roasted malts, and coffee. Perhaps a light amount of fruitiness as it warms. Nice strong schwarzbier that can spit in the face of most imperial stouts.

Slynger, Apr 07, 2008
Photo of drpimento
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wow! Killer! Great rocky, textured, foamy tan head with lots of lace. Opaque black color. Deep roasty malty aroma with the traditional aromas associated with that. Just a little dark fruit in the tast. Great body and smooth long finish. Close to being a session beer but not quite. A masterwork!.

drpimento, Apr 01, 2008
Photo of ejquin
4.43/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A: Black as night with basically no head

S: Malt and molasses. Some Anise notes and alcohol. Hops there as well with some brown sugar and maple syrup.

T/M: Chewy and heavy with very little carbonation. Really malty with espresso fading to anise. Hops, alcohol and licorice linger in the finish. Surpringly refreshing taste inspite of alcohol content

D: Very refreshing despite >7% abv.

ejquin, Mar 30, 2008
Photo of Overlord
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks LinD for the extra!

Pours a dark black with a light tan head. Almost more RIS looking than anything else. Obviously robust carbonation. Smells like roasted malts and chocolate.

Taste offers redolent burnt/roasted malts, some caramel backing, and strong coffee and chocolate notes. Really seems more like a stout than strong ale, but regardless, nicely done. I could use a bit more complexity, as the "roastedness" gets a bit overwhelming after a while.

Overlord, Mar 29, 2008
Photo of brewgetter
4.55/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a syrupy black with a very dark tan head with nice retention...beautiful. Smells of caramel and chocolate, I can smell a little hops, and some nice earthiness as well. Wow, the taste is dark molasses, coffee, bittersweet chocolate. Really thick but some nice carbonation as well, leaves the mouth coated, but has a dryness too. Hops come out late in the profile, not as much as, say, darkness, but a very nice addition. Some fruity undertones as well, complex and super roasty. I wasn't sure what to expect as I haven't had anything from this brewery yet, but I was quite impressed. The fact that they make this beer year round is fantastic as well.

brewgetter, Mar 26, 2008
Photo of SaucyA
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A - Completely opaque black with a quick receding one finger khaki head. Slight lacing present.

S - Coffee, roasty malts, chocolate, alcohol, burnt. Somewhat complex.

T - Chocolatey, smokey, burnt malts, slightly bitter finish. Bittersweet, nutty, mocha. Complex. Tasty.

M - Perfect carbonation and body. No complaints anywhere.

D - Maybe not the best thirst quencher, but easy drinking and sessionable if you're nursing. More of an American Stout/Robust Porter in my eyes, but if you're in the mood for something that transcends styles a bit, pick one up.

A solid brew from a solid crew. Definitely a repeat buy.

SaucyA, Mar 18, 2008
Photo of JDV
3.48/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle courtesy of, and shared with ford9719.
Pours big and black with a smallish tan head. Smell is dark and roasty with a big smoky tone to it. Although the flavor of dark smoky roastiness was nice, it was a bit thinner bodied than expected, overall. Didn't get any coffee flavors in this. Would definitely like to try again and a nicely made beer. Thanks Chris!

JDV, Mar 15, 2008
Photo of cokes
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Black indeed! Opaque and trimmed with a lasting stack of brown suds.
The nose is Imperial Stout incarnate. All sun-roasted tar, molasses, liquorice, hazelnut-vanilla-chocolate candies, port, and wintergreen.
While the nose is full of pomp and bombast, it treads rather meekly across the mouth. I've never encountered such a drop-off before. Watery coffee. Caramel. Cigarette butts. Carob. Wet paper. Prune. Liquorice. Spruce. It's like an Imperial Stout Lite, and, in part, that's exactly what it is, but instead of focusing on any one element, it merely dulls everything uniformly. The fact that oxidation has already set in to relatively fresh bottle is also a concern.
Thickish up front, then sagging to a flatlined medium build. It's a drinkable stout. But its appearance and aroma set the bar higher than it can maintain.

I feel like I've been overly negative, hence this afterword. I've more or less rated this an Imperial Stout (or Double Stout), as that is what I feel it most resembles. It's enjoyable, no doubt (especially at its price point), but lacking compared to the competition. To me, this is quite reminiscent of Old Rasputin....something that I know isn't best-in-class (in my world), but I buy periodically since the price is attractive. Yet every time I still feel a little bit cheated. At the end of the day, it's good to have around.

cokes, Mar 10, 2008
Photo of merlin48
4.05/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Didn't know what to expect from this one. Initially thought it would be a schwartzbier. Pours an almost black body with a small cocoa head that has some garnet hues. Some nice sheet lacing. Looks like a stout. Aroma of burnt dark malt, chocolate, and red apples. Medium body has a subdued carbonation. Taste has a biter bite from both hops and dark roasted malts. A red apple fruitiness softens the edges quite a bit. A very interesting brew here. More like a stout than anything else.

merlin48, Mar 03, 2008
Photo of sleazo
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A_Pours a medium rich dark brown. The head is very small and dissipates into a small slick fairly soon.

S_Nose is of fairly sweet malt with hints of roasted smoke. Middle of the road as far as strength of the nose goes but fairly pleasant enough.

T_A bit on the sweeter-side, there is a nice sort of sweet roasted malt/caramel note there. Follow through is a bitterness derived from a good deal of smoke. Drinks like a porter I would say.

M_On the syrupy side, moderate carbonation.

D_The smoke can get to be a bit much but there is a a lot to like here. I am enjoying this though that aftertaste can be a bit of a hurdle.

sleazo, Feb 20, 2008
Photo of sfoley333
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from 12oz bottle into New Belgium snifter. Poured a midnight black color with mocha tan head. Smell is mixture of chocolate, roasted malt, and coffee. Taste is burnt flavors of malt and coffee with a sweet finish. Mouthfeel is full body with a low level of carbonation that helps maintain its creamy feel. A great drinking beer with a huge body and bold flavors.

sfoley333, Feb 19, 2008
Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.43/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a black body with a thin, off-white head.

Smell: Roasty chocolate malts with a hint of smoke and a sprinkling of licorice dust.

Taste: Rich dark maltiness with flavors of lightly sweetened chocolate and licorice. Touch of smoke. Smidgen of nuttiness along the way. Meager amount of earthy bittering hops. Drying, chocolatey finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Very nice. Packed with flavor, but relatively light enough to pound down a few of these, even at 7:00AM in the morning.

ChainGangGuy, Feb 13, 2008
Photo of ALESwhatCURESya
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Deep, inky black with deep mocha film that quickly turns to a ring on the outside of the glass. Pretty opaque.

S-Fresh coffee grounds and a touch of anise. Heavy on the roastedness and maltiness.

T-Nice, raw flavor with huge roasted overtones. The coffee and burnt anise come through quite nice.

M-Sharp and bitter from the roasted grains, but very smooth and well balanced.

D-This brewery almost always delivers. Nice crisp stout that any stout fan would enjoy.

ALESwhatCURESya, Feb 06, 2008
Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.03/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - nice solid black brew, good sized tan head

S - Roasted grains, french roast coffee and a sweet undertone.
T - solid roast characteristics but a quick switch end of sip to a fig / molasses sweet side.
M - medium bodied, nicely carbonated, semi dry finish
D - Nice drinkable brew, doesn't overpower and has a nice roasty-ness about it.

barleywinebrewer, Feb 04, 2008
Photo of SaCkErZ9
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to hoppymeal for this one.

Dispensed from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass. Jet black beer with a very creamy and rich tan mocha colored head. Looks beautiful.

Aroma is quite chocolatey and malty. Slight hop aroma, citrusy. Possible some oatmeal in there as well. Kind of subdued, a little disappointing there.

Terrific chocolate malt and coffee flavors. Wow, this one is nice. Smooth and creamy. Slightly roasty but certainly not overdone. Nice bitterness in the back from the roasted malts. Tangy as well.

This was a great beer. Glad I got the opportunity to give this one a whirl. Full bodied, terrific carbonation, smooth, slightly dry in the finish as well. Certainly worth the effort to get this one!

SaCkErZ9, Jan 28, 2008
Photo of DrJay
3.95/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This was an extra in a trade with cburian. Thanks Chris!
Very, very dark brown with a thin tan cap of fine bubbles. Good head retention with spotty lacing. The aroma was full of toffee, roast, milk chocolate with some sour cherry and caramel notes. Leafy hop bitterness that started strong and grew into the finish. Caramel sweetness up front, followed by mild roast and semisweet chocolate, then dry cocoa towards the end followed by lingering cherry. Medium to full bodied with very low carbonation, a little heavy. Good stuff and an easy drinking bigger beer. Unfortunately, the carbonation was just a little too low and didn't do the beer justice.

DrJay, Jan 24, 2008
Photo of Blakaeris
3.8/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours very dark, almost black with a creamy tan head.

Aroma is smokey dark grain and plenty of chocolate. Overall rather mild.

Taste is surprisingly hearty. Strong dark grain and coffee bitterness get your attention. Generous chocolate, caramel, and hints of molasses bring balance. Finish is bitter and clean with lingering licorice and alcohol notes.

Mouthfeel is medium-full. Quite dry and smokey.

A well crafted stout. The nose was underwhelming, but the flavor is big but balanced. Bitterness complemented with sweetness, and no off flavors here. An easy drinker for the high ABV.

Blakaeris, Jan 23, 2008
Photo of tayner
2.93/5  rDev -25.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 ounce bottle with no freshness date.

was expecting an ale, got a stout out of this bottle for sure. poured black with a huge foamy head that ended up eventually settling into a ring with a slight film across the top.

Bitter citrus/floral hops up front with roasted malts, coffee, bitter chocolate all prominent as well.

Tastes thick and grainy. is this brew unfiltered?

This one doesnt seem balanced enough for me for some reason, too much bitterness in the finish for me, not enough balance. One of these is enough, but worth trying. not my thing

tayner, Jan 22, 2008
Photo of lightindarkness
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A "slightly older" bottle, without any dating. All Dark Horse Brewing could offer was that it was definitely pre new-labeling-contract-era, without any specific date.

A - Black, with a thin brown head. Some lighter colored sediment suspends itself in the pour.

N - Dark roasted and black malts, espresso, cocoa, licorice, and an undeniable scent of soy sauce.

T - Milder on taste than many others of the same style, but more drinkable as a result. Up front chocolate, espresso, with oaky vanilla. good rich flavor with a mellow smoothness. Rises in bitterness toward the end, with smoky coffee and dark chocolate flavors. Finishes with tobacco and some hop character, along with plenty of grains.

M - Smooth/rich, with good sticky quality. Minimal carbonation leaves it somewhat soft and flat, but does not detract. Certainly less intimidating than some of its Imperial Stout cousins.

D - I think for the style, this is an extremely drinkable beer. It possesses all of the imperial stout character without being unnecessarily heavy or daunting.

lightindarkness, Jan 17, 2008
Photo of objectivemonkey
3.95/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Into a pint glass, pours about as dark as a bier will get, pitch black without any tints even when held up to a lamp. The head is a dark brown, lasts for a bit before receding to almost nothing, and little lacing to be had. The aroma is, of course, dark and mean, roasted toasted malts, but kind of quiet, and maybe lacking in some complexity... a really nice aroma, just give me more... lots more.

The taste, however, is not shy. With a fine carbonation and coating texture, the bitterness sinks into the tongue, roasted, toasted and burnt to a crisp malts, anise, molasses, maybe some coffee and a woody something. The burp tastes pretty good too:) The body, however, looses some strength, feeling a bit thinner later. One thing I must say, I don't know how accurate these classifications of stout/double stout/impy/whatever, but this beer is called a black bier by its maker, and it tastes just like that... black, dark, mean, with no redeeming qualities. Tasty.

objectivemonkey, Jan 15, 2008
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,073 ratings.