Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale - Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

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very good

1,082 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,082
Reviews: 565
rAvg: 3.94
pDev: 10.66%
Wants: 54
Gots: 66 | 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
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Ratings: 1,082 | Reviews: 565 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of beveritt
3.3/5  rDev -16.2%
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.

Photo of BMoney575
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

Photo of kohoutek
4.13/5  rDev +4.8%
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!

Photo of FtownThrowDown
3.93/5  rDev -0.3%
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.

Photo of browner
4.2/5  rDev +6.6%
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.

Photo of DaPeculierDane
3.6/5  rDev -8.6%
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.

Photo of grub
3.75/5  rDev -4.8%
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.

Photo of alexgash
4.47/5  rDev +13.5%
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!

Photo of nouseforotacon
4.3/5  rDev +9.1%
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.

Photo of Frozensoul327
4.1/5  rDev +4.1%
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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,082 ratings.