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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

1,072 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,072
Reviews: 563
rAvg: 3.94
pDev: 10.66%
Wants: 54
Gots: 61 | 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: 1,072 | Reviews: 563 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of akorsak
3.65/5  rDev -7.4%
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 +2.8%
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
Photo of scruffwhor
4.18/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Looks like some black, viscous sludge with a thin tan head. The aroma is off deep, deep, deep roasted mlats that give the idea of very strong, but slightly stale coffee grounds. The taste brings some more bitterness to the mix to help round out this great stout. The bitter coffee with some nice smokey creams to give some sweetness to such an overwhelming beer to the senses. Soliky, even oily smooth on the tongue. Goes down very easy for its thickness.

scruffwhor, Dec 27, 2006
Photo of Magpie14
3.53/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Apperance: pitch black in color and slightly viscious. I poured this one strongly and was surprised by the minimal head. What lilttle head it had was brown cream in color and frothy.

Smell: big burnt coffee and bread smell. A robust dark coffee smell with malts. Also I pick up on hops, small amout but it is present and gives it a woody character

Taste/Mouthfeel: heavy malt, molasses thing going on. Burnt coffee glides about on the tounge. Overall it combines a bittersweet flavor that bursts forth with acidic fruitiness, a very unique combination. Aftertaste definitely brings forth the fruity, dry flavors. I don't know how I feel about the aftertaste it is a bit dry and puckerish. But it has a very rich characteristic overall. This is a full-bodied beer overall and has minimal carbonation that proves for a nice smooth finish!

Not to bad! dryness or aftertaste gets to me after a bit. But overall a good beer

Magpie14, Dec 18, 2006
Photo of Westsidethreat
3.98/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The cap came off and there was some movement of foam slowly making its way towards the top of the bottle. Into the snifter it went. Poured like soy....very dark but not super thick. And yeah, its pitch black. Head started off really quality, a full deep beige color....looking really rich. Alas, the head fell and only a rim and a few strays swafts remain.

S: Cafe au lait, marshmallow, milk chocolate, cream and some hazelnut.

T: Charred roasted grains right up front. This is going to be interesting. A lot of coffee and some seriously bitter chocolate. Charred is the theme here with almonds and burnt raisins adding extra depth. Some milky qualities with lactose sweetness. Finishes very bitter with chocolate milk moments. And the roasted barley continues

M: Medium body and quite full with just a touch of fuzz.

D: Black beer for sure. Something different, which is nice. Good thing this one comes in a 12oz bottle...anything bigger would be tough.

Westsidethreat, Dec 15, 2006
Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.48/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A - Black brew with two fingers of frothy light brown head. Lacing is pretty thick in decent rings.

S - Pine hops, coffee and dark charred malt.

T - A bit of dark coffee and charred malt with a touch of pine hops. Aftertaste is bitter from all three, dominated by the burnt malt though. Pretty good.

M - Thick, but a bit harsh from carbonation. Slightly refreshing.

D - Mediocre. It is isn't that quaffable and it is strong abv. The burnt malt make the flavor, though initially quite pleasant, something you don't want to keep having.

mrasskicktastic, Dec 10, 2006
Photo of bjohnson
3.9/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big thanks to hoppymeal for this offering.

A: Pours a black stallion color with a creamy one finger dark caramel colored head. Slight retention of a film in the center of the glass.
S: Roasted black malt with sweet chocolate and sharp coffee notes. Slight dark fruit presence with a swirl of the glass.
T/M: Immediate sharp bitter coffee flavors that are evened out by sweet chocolate and caramel flavors. Initial sharpness shifts into a soft smooth creamyness on the palate. Pretty hefty bitterness in the finish with a dry aftertaste. Full bodied and damn complex. A nice tasting double stout and one I look forward to sampling again.
D: High abv goes unmasked. Easy drinking and smooth. Bitterness was bigger than I expected it to be, sometimes garnering to much attention by overpowering the other flavors.

bjohnson, Dec 04, 2006
Photo of maundythirsty
4/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

As black as advertised. Not a hint of brown. Slight -- but nice-looking -- chocolate milk colored head. Smells a little sour, and mostly of burned coffee.

Tastes like burned coffee and smooth, heavy malt. A little bitterness rounds it out, building in the mouth sip by sip. So tick and velvety, the mouthfeel is unbelievable. Sets the standard for big stouts. Easy going carbonation.

A nice winter drink. Mellow and well-crafted.

maundythirsty, Nov 26, 2006
Photo of benito
3.8/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

As others have noted, the artwork (wacky donkey) on the bottle does little justice to the quality or strength of this beer.

It's strictly black with little head and some good, sticky lacing around my mug. It has a bouquet of molasses, and tastes predominantly of burntwood and chicory. There's a crisp bitter finish that's very peppery, giving it a long bite to round of an otherwise smooth palate.

Dark Horse seems to specialize in stouts (that means they're competing against Bell's in Michigan no less!), and this is the finest one I've tasted from them. A serious and charismatic brew. Recommended.

benito, Nov 23, 2006
Photo of lou91
3.88/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

I thought this was a black beer and not a stout but it is all double stout - dark thick and a beautiful dark brown head. The nose was also a wonderful compliment of bitter chocolate, toffee and dark coffee. The taste was solid but the worst mouthfeel I have ever felt in this style. Aside from this flaw it is tasty.

lou91, Nov 20, 2006
Photo of schusterbauer
2.98/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

a -- just what you'd expect: very dark brown, virtually black

s -- roasted coffee beans, chocolate, slight alcohol burn in the nose -- nice!

t -- wonderful flavors here, strong roasted flavors, chocolate, black licorice... but it all seems very watered down. finish is very thin, with little to no flavor lingering after i swallow.

m -- a watery thinness competes with the flavors; mouthfeel puts me in the mind of drinking a Coke

d -- given the style, perhaps a bit too drinkable. i could've downed this in 3 minutes and it would've felt refreshing. that's NOT what i'm looking for in a double stout.

overall -- after reading all of the good reviews of this beer, i'm sincerely hoping this was just a bad bottle. i really enjoy Dark Horse's "too" cream stout, and so i was excited to give this one a try. not a terrible experience, but i am disappointed, because it was just okay, in every sense of the word. perhaps i'll revisit in the future.

schusterbauer, Nov 15, 2006
Photo of Winter
4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Don't judge a beer by it's label art. Goofey looking donkey artwork on the label undermines the true gem inside. This pours motor-oil black with a nice dark brown head, which I got after coaxing it with a hard pour. Pleasant vinous aroma with cocoa and chocolate malt. The mouthfeel is very full-bodied. This is a big stout all the way. Chocolate and roasted/burnt malt on the front end. A dry stout-like bitterness follows. Hints of oak and burnt raisin in the middle. There's a dry hop bitterness toward the back. Finishes with layered chocolate and alcohol. Very solid yet unassuming double stout.

Winter, Nov 08, 2006
Photo of adammills
3.83/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a jet black with a disapointing head. It is very thick as it pours, far from watery. The aroma as it pours smacks you right in the face, very coffee. Sweet, bitter, maybe a hint of chocolate. The it almost hits like a porter, the beer is rather sharp. For such a thick looking beer the mouthfeel is lighter than I expected. Alcohol is present in the back. Pretty good, would not buy again however, but worth a try.

adammills, Nov 06, 2006
Photo of xav33
2.9/5  rDev -26.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier Ale
12 oz bottle
Recent brewing, arsed over 11/06
Medium pour in an English pint

Poured black with a moderate light brown frothy somewhat lasting head with a tiny ring of lacing.

Smelt of strong nuttiness, mild coffee and cream, mild chocolate, with vanilla cola notes.

Taste was upfront strong bitter coffee and burnt taste with light sweet molasses, followed by a harsh burnt taste and moderate coffee, licorice and nuttiness, on a long bitter burnt finish. Mouthfeel was medium to full bodied, creamy, lively carbonated, with harsh astringency.

Overall, a harsh and not so subtle beer. It smells and looks wonderful, but doesn't beg to please the tastebuds.

xav33, Nov 02, 2006
Photo of dogfooddog
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

this bottle courtesy of MABZ....ours with thick tan head, this nearly-black beer is nearly opaque. Wonderful odor of sweet dark candy and roasted malt, very appealing. served 55f.

taste matches - fairly sweet at first, then the whole impact of burnt chocolate-like malt hits the tongue, in a way almost overwhelming. very enjoyable.

highly recommended.

dogfooddog, Nov 02, 2006
Photo of terrabyte
3.9/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Wonderful black color with an even better dark-tan head. The head doesn't last long and ends into a limp thin head.

Smell is like dark roasted coffee than eventually fades after tasting it.

The flavor is quite strong, which I appreciate. However, it seems a bit burnt. Chocolate, coffee, and bitter. At least it's interesting. The other beers I reviewed tonight I complained about the lack of strong flavor. This beer has strong flavor, even if some of it is in the negative. However, it's a quality I was looking for. This beer has something going on, and if it hits your goals, it'll be a favorite.

terrabyte, Sep 26, 2006
Photo of kennyo
2.13/5  rDev -45.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12 oz bottle

Poursa pitch black beer with a small brown head that disapates right away.

Aroma is chocolate, ground coffee, beef jerky

taste is very dry, kind of harsh on the back of the throat and coats the toungue. very roasty, too much roast not enough malt base to cover some of this harshness

kennyo, Sep 23, 2006
Photo of badbeer
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an dark black color with a tan and darker brown colored head, looks nice and creamy. Smell is hoppy, roasty, and chocolatey. Taste is slightly astringent, but plenty of hops in there and a nice cocoa flavor and a roasty undertone to help balance things out, quite good. Mouthfeel is nice and thick with lower carbonation, just about perfect. A very solid beer that I plan on getting again. I think this one will get even better with age, a hypothesis I plan to test out.

badbeer, Sep 12, 2006
Photo of dirtylou
3.7/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12oz single, Riley's, $1.89...Welcome to Wisconsin Dark Horse

appearance: poured into a snifter...opaque black body, extremely dark, light creamy chocolatey head with just slight lacing around the rim...dark bold double stout, looks quite nice. Odd label, but I like it I guess.

smell: very roasty, licorice, burnt coffee grounds, cocoa powder, dark roasted malt. bold dark aromas

taste: I remember tasting this at the Great Taste of the Midwest and not being overwhelmed. It's certainly a different type of double stout...licorice flavours are big, char, lots of burnt flavour, very roasty, cocoa powder, dark roast, molasses.

mouthfeel: waaay to thin for my taste, bitter dry finish

drinkability: pretty good, not my favourite DH beer

dirtylou, Aug 31, 2006
Photo of lackenhauser
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Deep black with a seriously nice tan head. Slight head lingers on the surface down the glass. Nice roasted aroma-somewhat of a cross between mocha and a fine grade of chocolate. Somewhat faint but a pleasant aroma overall. Big, killer chocolate flavor. Huge graininess with a mellow, very rounded roasted flavor. Just a great mix. Good body but the grainy flavor leaves it a bit dry overall. Very, very drinkable beer. The dry/grain flavor is a tad much but very yummy indeed. Thank you sir may I have another?

lackenhauser, Aug 27, 2006
Photo of Golden2wenty1
4.08/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a single at Riley's here in Madison. Was expecting a schwarz from the name, surprised to find it was a double stout upon checking BA.

Pour: midnight black, zero visibility, inch of creamy cappucino foam leaving impressive lacing for the ABV.

Nose: bittersweet cocoa powder, bitter roasted malt, espresso bean and lightly smoked jerky

Taste: intensely bitter, almost ashy, roasted malts; Dutch cocoa powder, prune, burnt espresso bean, smoky jerky and a lightly fruity raspberry finish. The 8% is nowhere to be found - kudos.

Feel: creamy and chewy, but thinned in the finish from the 8%. A little metallic grit on the tongue.

Drinkability/Overall: a nice, roasty, bitter, mild, drinkable double stout. A nice alternative to Storm KIng in the category. Glad to see another good brewery being distributed in Madison. Bring it on.

Golden2wenty1, Aug 22, 2006
Photo of brewcrew76
3.8/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

thanks to beerinator for this one

A - Solid black with a thin brown head that dissipates to a small brown oil slick floating on top. This one is dark not allowing any light to penetrate.

S - Roasted malt, coffee, hint of dark chocolate.

T - Very roasty, almost ashy. Sweet chocolate balanced by bitter/sour coffee flavors. The roasty/ash aspect combined with the bitterness comes across just a little too strong for my liking.

M - A little on the thin side of a full mouthfeel. Ends very dry. The alcohol is hidden very well.

D - A solid stout that is just slightly astringent.

brewcrew76, Aug 04, 2006
Photo of CortexBomb
3.83/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle of unknown age...pour is jet, but not much head around...only average. The appearance is helped by the viscuity of the body though, heavy clinging, which puts it back up a half notch. The smell reminds me why I like stouts though, exceptionally roasty with a hop and coffee edge on it...textbook stout.

The taste starts out with a roasted malty aspect and then goes big into chocolate with a strangely spicy undertone, almost limey...somewhat reminds me of Batch 7000 by Bells in that regard. Very malty, heavy on the coffee with the hops being more present than a standard stout, but not dominating either...good stuff.

The mouth, not as heavy as I would like, but it's not overly watery either. Some hop tingles as well...a shade above average. Drinkability, also about par for the course.

The bottom line: a pretty tasty stout offering by the guys from Dark Horse. Does a nice job of incorporating hops strongly without making them unbalance the brew and make it less enjoyable.

CortexBomb, Jun 13, 2006
Photo of beermanbrian
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Opaque black beer with a thin tan head. Tan film hangs around and does give some nice lacing. Smell is a big WOW. Bitter chocolate, burnt coffee, smokeyness. Taste is so nice and full. This is one I wish I would have bought more of. Chocolate taste up front that turns into a nice burnt coffee bitterness. Finishes dry with a smokey aftertaste. I will have this beer every chance I get.

beermanbrian, Jun 04, 2006
Photo of WeisGuy
4.33/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

a - deep dark black with a good sized tan head that leaves a nice lace

s - roasted malt and espresso, perhaps some bittersweet chocolate too, nice bitterness in the aroma

t - wow, this one is very well balanced with the roasted malt and coffee flavors complementing each other nicely, the bitter finish just lingers in your mouth until you take another drink, the alcohol is not there in taste, but it definitely warms you up

m - very thick and creamy feeling, a little carbonation evident, coats the mouth very well

d - very drinkable for the style, I could definitely handle two of these, more than that is asking a lot for a double stout

One of the biggest suprises I've ever had in beer tasting. The label sure makes this look like an amateur beer, but everything else about it says that these guys know what they're doing. I really enjoyed this beer...not quite as much as Bell's Batch 7000, but it's right up there in my book. I really wish I could find this beer in my area. Good thing I spend a lot of time in Michigan.

WeisGuy, Jun 03, 2006
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,072 ratings.