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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

991 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 991
Reviews: 559
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 50 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: xlperro on 05-28-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 991 | Reviews: 559 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of mattcrill


4.03/5  rDev +2%

Thanks to malty for the chance to sample this beer. My first taste from this Michigan brewery. The label looks a little cheap but the beer is rock solid.

Aroma: A touch of fruity esters, bitter chocolate, anise, and roasted barley.

Appearance: Jet black ink pour from edge to edge. A sticky and tight tan head that fades into a filmy, sudsy cap. Laces wonderfully.

Flavor: A delicate balance of bitter chocolate, roasted barley, and hints of dark chocolate. Heavy on the bitterness with a touch of hops just to assault the palate a bit more.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied and slightly astringent. Nice carbonation to balance it out.

Overall impression: A fine stout for sure. Would be in my regular rotation if available. Drinkability suffers a bit due to the astringency. Perhaps the grains were over-sparged. Still, a solid offering. Thanks malty!

04-24-2006 00:59:22 | More by mattcrill
Photo of neonbrown82


4.4/5  rDev +11.4%

This is one of the shittiest labels for one of the best beers I've tried. The ratio still tilts to the great beer side, however.

The appearance is great. Very inky black with a thick chocolatey head and a decent lacing. Retention is fairly good.

The smell is good too. Very hoppy with a chocolate and coffee undertone. The taste is very similar. Sweet up front with the chocolate, fading into some coffee and hoppy bitterness. A gentle roast adds to the trifecta of bitterness. Good stuff indeed.

The body is nice and full. A good mix between sweet and bitter. Not too much of an alcohol burn.

Drinkability is definitely the weak point of this beer, but it is still good. Just not something I could drink more than one of in a row.

03-28-2006 02:52:22 | More by neonbrown82
Photo of BigDaddyWil


4.1/5  rDev +3.8%

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a snifter glass.
No freshness or batch date.
Goofy looking horse or mule on label.

Menacing dark black color, with an equally dark tan colored head. Half inch thick head fades quickly, leaving very little lacing. Delicious aroma, lots of dark chocolate and roasted malts. Hints of dark fruits and coffee in the background. The smell reminds me of melted Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate bars. Full bodies taste, roasted malt and bitter dark chocolate. Quite bitter! Smooth mouthfeel, a bit thin, and leaves a definite dry feeling in the mouth. I never would have known this had a abv of 8%, very easy too drink. Another great offering from Dark Horse!

03-26-2006 21:02:02 | More by BigDaddyWil
Photo of Crosling


3.63/5  rDev -8.1%

Deep opaque black body with a very large head more in the realm of a brown, rather than tan in color. Perfect appearence. Deeply roasted nose with hints of coffee mainly, and a touch of chocolate and blackberries. Taste follows suit with an explosion of roasted grains (chocolate, coffee), fruits and a mild hop bitterness. A tasty one for sure.

03-26-2006 03:24:17 | More by Crosling
Photo of beerinator


4.55/5  rDev +15.2%

Appearance: Black bier? Ok, well yes, it's black. You're definitely not looking through this one. The brown head made stiff peaks and left nice lacing in the glass.

Aroma: Roasty, burnt malts balanced nicely in the aroma by caramel cake-y goodness. I could easily sit here and smell this for the next 30 minutes. Maybe I will.

Taste: Nice roasted dark chocolate flavors hit solidly upon the first sip. There is a bit of lactic sourness that fits in nicely with the malt. The mouthfeel is full and the finish lasts for a pleasant time on the tongue.

Notes: This beer is great. I love the flavors, the balance and the body is super. I wish I could buy this one at my local store!

03-11-2006 03:42:22 | More by beerinator
Photo of frazbri


3.95/5  rDev 0%

Dark Horse Special Reserve Black Bier poured an impenetrable black in color topped by a dense, tan head. An impressive amount of belgian lace remained on my glass. Aroma had notes of chocolate and fresh cut pine. I tasted cocoa, charcoal, and a little bit of peanuts with a clean bitter finish. The Special Reserve had a medium body and carbonation with a dry mouthfeel.

This black beer is a nice change of pace from the IPA's.

03-07-2006 03:17:38 | More by frazbri
Photo of Jredner


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

Damn this poured like an Impy! Aroma is roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Deep black with a thin mocha head. Fore is very bitter with lots of coffee notes..hints of sweet cream in the middle along with quality milk chocolate and malt..the finish is again bitter with a big coffee finish. Intense flavor in this porter that could easily pass as a stout.

02-15-2006 23:06:48 | More by Jredner
Photo of bditty187


4.33/5  rDev +9.6%

Opaque, black in hue, no shading even when backlit. Firm, beige-chocolate colored head, at the apex the bubbles compacted well and created one finger of foam. Head retention was excellent, a half finger cap lasted almost the entire consumption but a fat collar did make it to the end. The subsequent lacing was spotty and not too prevalent. I have no complaints with the appearance; it is much darker in color then I was expecting. With that said…

The label is confusing. On the pour I could tell this wasn’t a Schwarzbier. One sniff and, wow, this is not a Schwarzbier, either! No doubt, this bad boy is a stout, solely a stout. Roasted coffee and semi-chocolate notes, caramel, black malts, and char. Plus there are undercurrents of dark fruits and chocolate milk. Prickly hop bitterness pokes it head through. Moderate potency, talkative enough… it has my attention, even if it is fairly simplistic. Still, I want to take a sip. Okay, the more I smell this beer the less “true” stout this reminds me of. I can see a little Schwarzbier influence. I like it.

I’m not confused. This is a stout. Yep, just a stout. I hope this was the brewer’s intention. I really hope this wasn’t some kind of Imperial Schwarzbier. (Thought edit: what would be wrong with that?) I love the harsh bitterness; it kind of seems like a hop byproduct and yet it seems like it’s a mix of baker’s chocolate, char, and astringent coffee beans. And then, in the middle lovely milk chocolate sweetness comes into play. What a great counterpoint to the rough (but tasty) start. The finish is a mix of sweet caramel, milk and baker’s chocolate, and even some smoke, char, dark fruits, and dry/powdery, grainy malt. Did I mention the alcohol plays along from start to finish? Well it does, I should have said something. This is a very rich beer. Tasty as all hell too! Rich, ample, and way more complex then the nose indicated. I am impressed. 75% Stout… 20% Schwarzbier… 5% RIS.

Medium/medium-full in body, the mouthfeel is rich and smooth. Thanks impart to the creamy carbonation. The bulk on the tongue is ample enough; I want to slowdown and savor this beer. I really want some cheesecake.

Oh my… the aftertaste on this beer is devilish. I can’t help but drink it. I can’t stop thinking about driving to Michigan to get more. As beefy as this beer is there are certain aspects that hid that fact very well. I could drink this all night… how long that night would be is another question all to itself. Delicious… complex… relaxing, I really love this beer. Thank you RedHaze for the bottle, this was a great surprise! Recommended.

02-15-2006 15:00:41 | More by bditty187
Photo of Sephiroth


4.38/5  rDev +10.9%

Pours with small brown head. Body is black, obviously. Nose of expresso, chocolate, and dried fruits.

Taste is well blended. Dark chocolate, coffee, and vinous fruits stand out. The mouthfeel is unique, I think. The body is thinner than one might expect, yet it feels grainy on my tongue. Tannic. And coating. This shows no sign of 8%ABV. Drink up!

01-07-2006 01:11:19 | More by Sephiroth
Photo of weeare138


4.33/5  rDev +9.6%

Thanks to trbeer for this...
Appearance-This is indeed, black with a fluffy brown head that retains well and slowly fades into a brown film. Plenty of spent yeast settles in the glass. Brew leaves tons of lacing all over the glass.
Smell is of bitter chocolate, rich blackberries, black grapes, currants, nuts, and creamy espresso.
Taste is of the same aromas with some hops coming through that are a nice compliment.
Mouthfeel is chewy, creamy, smooth, sugary, and bitter-sweet along the palate.

12-16-2005 17:14:06 | More by weeare138
Photo of warriorsoul


4.35/5  rDev +10.1%

Thanks to Eyedrinkale for this one...
Pours a thick dead black color with no light passing thru...a half a finger of cocoa-colored head with a gentle pour. Most of the head disappears rapidly with very little lacing.
An excellent aroma filled with chocolate colored cherries, cocoa powder, a vinous character and just a hint of smoke.
The taste is fabulous and just what I was expecting from the nose...less a hint of sweetness that I am glad to see.
A nice hop profile to bitter it up ever so gently and the smokiness really drys up the finish.
Mouthfeel is a bit thinner after seeing this one pour out, but it is by no means thin...fits right into a double stout IMO.
Carbonation is spot on and the drinkability is thru the roof if you remotely enjoy porters/stouts.
Another winner from Dark Horse...I am quite jealous I cannot obtain more of this gem...trade anyone?

12-15-2005 23:57:58 | More by warriorsoul
Photo of macpapi


4.08/5  rDev +3.3%

Interesting bottle design. A gray donkee against the white background, looking somewhat guilt stricken. Is it possible that he has just imbibed some of this Black Bier out of his trough? Not sure. But having drank some myself, I'm ready to review.

D.H. Reserve Special Black pours a dark black (shocking) color with a purplish/tan minimal head. Deep and dark to the maximum. There is nice lacing as well.

Smell is of full roasted malt and barley. There is also a strong presence of chocolate, caramel and nutty coffee. Quite a complex and full aroma.

Tastes of sharp malt. Very pleasant presence of chocolate and coffee or even cappucino is also there. A bit of alcohol is also notable at the end. But again, very full, balanced and pleasant.

In the mouth D.H. Black is full, biting and surprisingly smooth. Very little notable carbonation is there. Also a hint of bitterness in wake of the swallow.

Overall, this is a surprisingly drinkable beer. It has a nice complex, but exceedingly tolarable flavor. Sippable? Yes. But also smooth enough to drink several. Impressive.

12-13-2005 05:21:23 | More by macpapi
Photo of ypsifly


4.35/5  rDev +10.1%

Undated 12oz with a cartoonish mule/donkey/ass/whatever on the label, poured into a pint glass.

About as black as it gets with a smal head of light brown. Decent retention with some wispy lace.

The nose carries the darkest of roasted malts and really good, dark chocolate. The kind of chocolate you can only get from a place that makes their own by hand. It also has a nice dose of bitter hops and some warm fumes of alcohol. The aromas border on Imperial Stout territory, but wtf I'm lovin' it.

Nice malt flavors upfront. Roasty with the sweetness of chocolate then a good blast of hops to give balance while taking it in a different, but really good, direction. It tastes like they used fresh hops as they taste both green and earthy. Nice dry finish that works well with the residual oils.

Full mouth that, as mentioned above, has some residual oil but the lingering hops seem to balance it out in the finish. I could drink two maybe three of these before calling it a night or at least switching to something with a lower abv.

11-25-2005 04:14:35 | More by ypsifly
Photo of andyo


3.95/5  rDev 0%

Solid beer. Thanks to my buddy, Matt Zahn, for bringing down a few bottles from Michigan. Enjoyed this one by myself on this cold and dreary Thanksgiving night.

This one pours pitch black. Really strong sweet coffee aromas come out of my glass. This one is somewhat chalky and sweet, with subtle hops, and strong, malty, espresso coming straight through to the palatte. Sweetness and biterness are nicely balanced, making this a surprisingly enjoyable beer. More like a porter than anything.

I could drink plenty more.

11-25-2005 04:04:41 | More by andyo
Photo of carln26


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

Deep black color with a nice sized tan head that recedes quickly and leaves a good sheet of lace on the side of the glass. Nice espresso and chocolate aroma from the chocolate malt. It has just a hint a citrus from the hops, but it’s not overpowering. Bang! A lot more espresso in the flavor. It really comes across strong. The chocolate is there, but is a bit more subtle. The hops almost disappear, and are just there to balance the flavor a bit. Full, rich mouth feel, and a nice drinakbility. This is another nice beer from this brewery. I’ve been impressed with their stouts.

11-05-2005 16:49:47 | More by carln26
Photo of orbitalr0x


4.13/5  rDev +4.6%

Nice ass on the label of this one! Pours from the bottle a super dark midnight black with an impressive two fingers of frothy tan foam on top. Nice sticky lacing with no light daring to escape. Aromas of dark, roasty burnt malts with powdered cocoa accents and a hint of coffee. Some dark fruits (black currants) float in and out along with a slight note of cream. Quite nice.

First sip brings a wall of rich, roasted, toasty slightly burnt malt flavors melded with lots of powered cocoa and good helping of bitter instant coffee. Dark fruits show up again in the flavor with a touch of smokiness. Finishes with a brash residual bitterness and a touch of green, herbal hops on the way down. A bit astringent on the palate and overall a very enjoyable double stout.

Mouthfeel is big with a nice creaminess and ample carbonation. The carbonation helps cut through this one making it more drinkable. This is a tasty stout that I wouldn't mind having around. Goes down quite easily and I would love to have a few on a cold night. Dark Horse continues to impress. Thanks to Cornboy for the opportunity.

11-03-2005 03:58:34 | More by orbitalr0x
Photo of RedHaze


4.1/5  rDev +3.8%

Pours a used motor oil black. There's absolutely no light getting through this one. Has a thin dark brown head, with small amounts of lacing.

Smells of coffee, chocolate, roasted malts. What you would expect from a good stout.

Taste is initially chocolate, followed by the coffee and roasted malts finishing with just a touch of bitter hops and alcohol. This one is better that I had anticipated. Mouthfeel is just thick enough to let you know that you are drinking a stout, but so much that it's hard to finish.

My first beer from Dark Horse, and I was pleasantly surprised. Can't wait to try the others in my fridge.

10-10-2005 01:17:16 | More by RedHaze
Photo of nortmand


4.5/5  rDev +13.9%

Double stout, hmmm....
Literally pours black, with a ruddy brown head.
Huge chocolate roast smell. Burned beans, delicious memories.
Sweet chocolate on the fore tongue, followed by a rounded roast, which leads directly to a distinct roast bitterness. Manages to be very complex, but also relatively light.
Smooth and rounded with a subdued carbonation, this beer has alot going for it.
What a fine brew.

10-09-2005 02:46:55 | More by nortmand
Photo of OldSock

District of Columbia

3.73/5  rDev -5.6%

Appearance and Presentation – 12 oz bottle purchased at Cloverleaf, poured into my tulip at cellar temp. The name correctly suggests that this is a black beer, the head is light brown for the short time that it stays before sinking to a thin covering. Lacing is nice with small bubbles.

Smell – Lightly roasted barley, no hops or alcohol. Toast and brown sugar are both present as well.

Taste – Bitter chocolate and hops in the back, with a well rounded roasted flavor, chocolate, coffee, charcoal etc…, in the rest of the mouth. A good dry stout flavor, but it lacks that much complexity and interest. This is as close as I have had to a double dry Irish stout, but it isn’t all that good.

Mouthfeel – Thick mouthfeel with medium carbonation, just what I wanted.

Drinkability and Notes – For a big stout this beer is relatively easy to drink, the dryness keeps the beer from getting cloying or unpleasant. However, with so many great big, available, American stouts out there this one just doesn’t do anything to make itself memorable.

09-27-2005 21:05:39 | More by OldSock
Photo of rhoadsrage


3.65/5  rDev -7.6%

(Served in an American pint glass)

A- This beer pours a thick opaque black body with a dark cocoa head that is creamy. No bubbles visiable at all.

S- Surprisingly this has the aroma of green earthy hops and some sweet and earthy roasted malt.

T- This beer has a roasted malt body with a nice gentle hop bitterness at the finish. Some faint notes of dark chocolate and earthiness.

M- This has a full mouthfeel with a creamy texture but no alcohol warmth or astringency.

D- A double stout? This is a nice beer but I'm not sure it the malt taste and texture would live up to the name double stout. It does have interesting hop notes, which you rarely see in stouts even American stouts. With more complexity in the roasted and some toasted grain this has great potential.

07-30-2005 02:01:31 | More by rhoadsrage
Photo of RedwoodGeorge


4.22/5  rDev +6.8%

Pours like a bottle of jet black motor oil - very heavy bodied out of the bottle. Very little head but what did rise up was an attractive cocoa brown in color. Little lacing along the glass (more like an oil slick) but that's not really unusual for a big stout.

Smell was big in malts with quite a bit of roasted notes - coffee, dark chocolate, dark brown toast are all in there. No real hops in the nose.

Taste was pleasantly complex. Limited sweetness balanced nicely by bitter roasted notes and dry hops at the finish. Quite a bit like my favorite dry stout with a bit more body. Lots of deep caramel notes, plenty of espresso and just a hint of sweet fruit - raisins or plums. Aggressive hop finish makes each sip a front-to-back pleasant experience.

Mouthfeel is quite good. Without the drying of the hops it would have been a bit heavy bodied but all in all it works out well. Heavy bodied, low carbonation, an feel bordering on 'sludgy' but backs away before becoming too heavy. Nice dry finish leaves you longing for that next drink.

A very nice stout that hits all the right notes. I hadn't realized it was a double (either the ABV isn't on the label or it was too small for my feeble eyes to find) but the 8% would explain why I staggered away from this one. I'd certainly like to have another (just not today...)

[Once again, thanks to TikkiGodxxx for the great beer trade. You folk in the Midwest have some mighty fine brews!]

07-16-2005 03:48:13 | More by RedwoodGeorge
Photo of GreenWBush


4.58/5  rDev +15.9%

Absolutely impenetrable onyx. Fantastic, multi-layed chocolate milk lace pattern. Slight licorise on the nose seems out of place and funky, but then the flavor reassures you that this is fact one killer beer. Anise, soured milk. Roastiness is all over the place but kept in check with sweetly, almost Russian Imperial characteristics. Hoppy and bitter as all hell. Remains potent and in your face while remaining amazingly drinkable. Damned good from the source but equally good from the bottle – a remarkable achievement. Scarily similar to a smaller version of Rogue’s Imperial Stout.

07-01-2005 18:42:47 | More by GreenWBush
Photo of fingolfin72

North Carolina

4.28/5  rDev +8.4%

The title "Black Bier Ale" let me to expect something I might almost be able to see some light through, but this one is indeed black. The head is small, but persistent. The nose- buckwheat honey, dark coffee, malt and brown sugar. The palate- dry bitterness. The dark coffee predominates, but there is an unmistakable bitter note that reminds me of Campari. I am also reminded of a slightly burnt marshmallow. A big beer with a long, dignified finish. There is just a bit of chalkiness that mars the mouthfeel, however. Overall, though, I consider it a very good beer.

04-25-2005 02:16:25 | More by fingolfin72
Photo of Realale


4.83/5  rDev +22.3%

Opaque black, with an extremely fine medium mocha head that sticks around and leaves nice lacing.

Nose is a touch of roast malt over brown bread, with an excellent hint of candied fruit. Excellent broad spectrum of malt flavors. Manages to be both subtle and complex. Bit of leafy hop as it warms. Great stuff!

Complexity carries through to the palate, where the dark, bready malt leads the way, but is well-supported by yeasty, chocolately, and coffee notes. Medium-full in the mouth, but there is excellent acidity to keep it balanced. Very long.

This batch is well-carbonated, and the beer is incredibly drinkable for its strength. A fine beer for a session or a meal.

04-17-2005 16:49:25 | More by Realale
Photo of SupaCelt


4/5  rDev +1.3%

This mofo is dark ass-brown-black ( a new Crayola colour ). Thick like Aunt Yomammy, and the ultimate stout cliche: motor oil. Very stout-like. Skinny mini cocoa head lacking the mysterious red highlight characteristic of other stout cabesas. Looks well yummy and good. Mucha loocha!

The smell. The smell is always the hardest for me. Too many crusty stallagtites blocking the path. This smells like coffee, water, and dark malt. Snips of roasted, slightly toasted, with baker's chocolate shaved thin overtop flavors spelunking about in my two stall boogar garage.

The taste certainly gets way mo' better with temperature elevation. I was not vibing with this dark skinned beauty when we first met. Plan B: let her catch some heat. Result: Nice. Different, that is undeniable. Stout doused with India pale ale style hopping. The dryest finishing stout beer I have met in my short tenure as a guy who fancies himself a beer drinker and aspiring champion of beer. Stock stout flavors of coffee and chocolate and roasted malt challenged by hop bitters. Weird, yet foreseeable. Good shiznit. This is my second Dark Horse sample. Both times, the stuff has improved down the stretch. Watch the temperature I guess. So far, this brewer has made me appreciate the natural rawness of their styles. Realness. Purity. No selling out by Dark Horse. It beersonifies what being an individual is all about.

03-31-2005 15:32:46 | More by SupaCelt
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 991 ratings.