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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

1,114 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,114
Reviews: 569
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 10.69%
Wants: 54
Gots: 77 | 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: 1,114 | Reviews: 569
Photo of jwinship83
3.79/5  rDev -3.6%
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 +0.8%
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 +15.8%
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 -5.9%
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 +11.5%
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 -8.7%
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 +4.1%
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 +1.8%
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 +2%
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 -5.9%
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 +9.9%
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 +8.9%
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 +4.8%
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 -12.2%
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 +3.8%
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.

Photo of kasper
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to pepsican for this extra. I've had this on cask at the recent Manhattan Cask Fest and was dying to try it via bottle.

A: This pours like a RIS/Double stout and looks just as delicious -- pitch black with a creamy carmel colored single finger head that fades pretty quickly to a blanket, leaving patches of lacing around the glass.

S: I poured this pretty cold and the aroma was initially dominated by a smoky earthiness, but as it warmed a little, dark roasts and sweet chocolate tones presented themselves amongst the smokiness.

T: Oh man, this brew is like a roasty, chocolately milkshake. Sweet and luscious chocolate up front followed by some smokiness, and finally what I consider a tamed but optimal dry bitter finish that does not overwhelm and leaves you craving another sip.

M: A smooth and creamy milkshake-like texture with considerable carbonation to match, but there's no excessive tingliness. A step or two from a full bodied brew. Perfect mouth-feel for my liking. A total 5.

D: I could probably go through a 6-pack of these if you left it in front of me. This is a delicious brew that I'd easily mistake for an double/imperial stout. Awesome flavors, Awesome mouth-feel. They should just call this a double stout and be done with it. Either way, I'm off to find me some more. This would be a staple in my fridge if I had easy access to it...

Photo of mcallister
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

Photo of BeerZack
3.93/5  rDev 0%
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.

Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4.48/5  rDev +14%
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.

Photo of Wasatch
4/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

Photo of Slynger
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

Photo of drpimento
4.28/5  rDev +8.9%
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!.

Photo of ejquin
4.4/5  rDev +12%
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.

Photo of Overlord
4/5  rDev +1.8%
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.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,114 ratings.