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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 joe1510
4.17/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz Bottle
$8.69 6-Pack
Village Dell and Wine, Rice Lake

Reserve Special Black Bier pours black without a hint of light coming through when backlit. A three finger brown head formed on the pour and slowly fell to one finger becoming extremely creamy. Leaves some decent patchy lacing on it's way down.

Roasted malts kick things off and lead into a mildly fruity (figs, prunes), nutty aroma. Cocoa shows itself complimenting the nuttiness. Mild alcohol fumes way in the back. Complex and warming.

Roasty malts combine with a mild lactic quality quickly leading into the nuttiness that was present in the aroma. Cocoa and mild brown sugar lead their way to the the finish the cocoa becoming most dominant. A hint of fig peeks in and out throughout the palate.

Heavy body with a smooth silkiness as it slowly works it's way over the palate. Becomes slightly gritty on the swallow. Leaves my mouth watering after each sip.

Good balanced moderate bodied Imperial stout keep this going down easy. I could see myself putting a few of these away on a cold winter evening.

Another high quality brew from Dark Horse. I've sampled three or four of their offerings (all being darker, heavier styles) and everyone was excellent. I said it before and I'll say it again to the brewers at Dark Horse...Please find a distrubutor in Chicagoland.

Photo of GRPunk
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a tulip glass

A- This beer poured a jet-black color. There was some reddish-brown coloring at the edges. There was a thin head that looked something like a chocolate malt. The head gave way to a light lace that left behind a light stick.

S- The aroma seemed to fit the description of an imperial stout. Scents I picked up were chocolate and plum.

T- Its flavor was chocolate and roasted malt. There was a bitterness like that of dark chocolate. There was an enjoyable warming alcohol flavor and some hop bite.

M- Nice and thick as I would expect for the style.

D- It was a nice slow sipper. It wasn't too overpowering to drink another in a single sitting.

Overall- This is a good representation of the style. I could see drinking this as a nightcap/winter-warmer throughout the cooler months.

Photo of hellcatsjg
3.77/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Dark black, just like they say. No head at all save for the slightest layer of foam.

Smell: Coffee and chocolates. Not much to it but good smelling.

Taste: Big coffee flavor up front. Chocolates as well. Lacks the roasted flavor you get with a lot of stouts. Finishes a bit bitter. Again, not much to it, but still good.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, almost no carbonation. Decent thickness, could maybe have a bit thicker feel though.

Drinkability: Easy to drink. Seems to have low ABV and is not as heavy as many stouts, could use a more complex taste though. I could have several of these in a night, which gives it a good score here. Decent stout overall, not great, but good.

Photo of Rudgers73
3.43/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served at the pizza plant in Williamsville, NY.

I saw it and thought it was a schwarzbier, although they couldn't really tell me what style it was. Looking for something sessionable, and didn't get it.

Served a a deep brown with a dark tan head. The head was 1/4 inch tall when they brought it to me and it quickly fell to a ring around the perimeter. When I smelled it I knew it was either a baltic porter or a big stout. Chocolate malt, roasted and burnt, slight flavoring hops poking through, and carbon. The taste was big, bold, burnt at first then regressing to more of a nutty flavor. Bitter hops right at the end dry it out for the next sip. The mouthfeel is dry, chewy, and bitter. The drinkability is good for the style.

Photo of soupyman10
4.21/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Perfect black beer, with no highlights at all. Big three fingers of reddish tan frothy head that leaves excellent lacing all the way down. Nose is really strong on dried fruit, prunes, and some light roasted malt and spices. Taste is likewise. Spice up front, then strong dried fruit. A ton of roasted malt shows up later on in the flavor. Very tasty beer, although perhaps not the most complex. Creamy, full bodied, with solid carbonation. Liked this one a lot. The big flavor totally covers the alcohol, although these'll catch up with you if you don't pay attention.

Photo of Enola
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Many thanks to Wcudwight for the bottle.

This is likely one of the best of the style that I have ever had. The beer is pitch black with a decent tan head. Some lacing but not too much. The smell is oatmeal,chocolate and some coffee. The same things show up in the taste. The beer is very smooth for the style. The abv does not show. Drinkability is high, maybe a little too high as this beer is good enough that it could pose some problems near the end of the sixer.

Photo of Dogbrick
4.23/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This beer pours a shiny black color with a thin light beige head that turns wispy quickly. Very little lacing apparent. Roasted malt and caramel aroma. Medium-bodied and smooth with a pleasant roasted character. Coffee, malt and hops flavors make this one enjoyable. The finish is hoppy and leaves a charred wood aftertaste. One of the better Porters I have tasted in awhile.

Photo of david131
4.53/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A- Absolutely pitch black in color. When held to a light, you can see some carbonation rising along the side and some sediment in the bottom. The head is stunning- it is light brown and thick. Once it settles down, it maintains a nice thin covering over the entire surface.

S- Chocolate, coffee, some caramel. Very roasty. Not the most complex, but very appealing.

T- Some sweet chocolate and coffee. Delicious. Some hops are definetly noticeable, but are not over the top and add a great level of complexity to the brew.

M- A little lighter for the style due to the amount of carbonation. But, this is not a bad thing. A tad dry on the finish though.

D- This was wonderful and I will definitely be enjoying this on a regular basis (less than $10 a 6-pack...). Highly recommended.

Photo of wcudwight
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The best looking stout I've seen yet! Dark as coal and the depths of a West Virginia mine allows more light into it than this beer. Huge chocolate colored head rises to 2 fingers and half way through the glass is still holding strong at one finger. Head is thick and velvety in texture.
Smells like dark fruits, roasted malts and maple syrup.
Full of strong black coffee and rich chocolate flavors. I also get a hint of Golden Delicious Apple, which adds a very nice twist. Wonderfully bitter finish.
Full bodied in the mouth but remarkably drinkable.
Thank goodness I bought a sixer, but this beer is worthy of a case purchase.

Photo of IntriqKen
3.53/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured almost black with a tan head that makes a sticky ring almost immediately.

Aromas of dark chocolate and faint espesso.

Dry taste of powdered cocoa and coffees finishing with a bit of bitter citrus hops.

Aftertastes of the cocoa and hops.

Very nice and unusual dry double American stout.

Photo of baos
3.24/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Black. Not much of anything head wise. Little ring around the tub, though.

S: Coffee although rather faint, and a little coco puffs.

T: Not bad, An alcohol bite with chocolate and roasted malty caramel.

M: Pretty heavy, with no bubbliness.

D: Not bad, but wouldn't be my first choice of the black ales I've had.

Photo of scoobybrew
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This was poured from the bottle into a pint glass. The color is jet black with a modest head that settles to a fine layer of foam on top. Rich chocolately malt aroma with some traces of alcohol make up the scent. The flavor is mostly dominated by the coffee and chocolate-like roasted grains but hops are strong enough to balance the malt out and make themselves known. Alcohol is also noted. The finish is finishes slightly dry. It has a thick, full body which is very smooth with moderate carbonation.

Overall, this is a very interesting and wonderful beer. It's kind of potent, so I don't think I'd have too many of them in one session, but it's definitely worth picking up more. (I got this one in a mixed 6er.)

Photo of trevorwideman
3.87/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a snifter.

Pours black as used motor oil with a big 3/4 inch frothy tan head. Bit of wet lacing, and what I imagine to be a medium carbonation. Intense and pungent aroma of bitter roasted coffee, semi-sweet chocolate, heavily roasted malt, anise, molasses, vanilla, dates, prunes, raisins...wow.

Taste is right smoky off the hop, as smoky as a Rauchbier almost. Earthy and scorched and peaty, like an Islay scotch. The sweeter notes are quite subdued, much more so than I thought they would be. There's hints of dark chocolate, molasses, and aniseed, but not much else. Surpsisingly one-dimensional, focusing almost solely on the bitter and ignoring any sweeter balancing notes. That said, it's still good, just lacking the complexity I was expecting in the nose. Mouthfeel is medium, not too heavy at all, but perhaps a bit overcarbonated. Drinkability is good, but hampered a bit by the booze.

Worth a try to be sure, but the one-dimensionality makes it a litle disappointing. There's one in the cellar though, and we'll see if a couple years can bring out something new in this beer. Stay tuned.

Update April 9th, 2008: Well I didn't wait 2 years, but this bottle is now about 1 year and 3 months old. Aroma is still amazing. There's a lactic sourness I didn't notice before, and the up-front bitterness has had it's edge taken off by a milk chocolate sweetness in the background. I'd bet that that sweetness would develop further if I'd let the bottle sit a little longer. I like the balance and the interplay here. Still smoky and very bitter and roasted, but just a hint of molasses and chocolate taking the edge off. Much less one dimensional than even 8 months ago. This is a tasty brew and balls out.

Photo of Atron67
4.13/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- poured a dark black of which even the pour out of the bottle was opaque. A big 2.5 inch head of tan foamy head that settled to a smaller volume pretty quickly but then that stayed for awhile, and there was heavy lacing left throughout
S- Roasted and chocholate malts, little notes of a fruit perhaps, cant quite tell, thought i smelled it orginally, but cant discern it
T- very roasted malty flavor with a nice bitterness that finishes it off,
M- sharper carbonation, although it is fine and rolls over the tongue well. , medium to heavy body, but nothing really heavy
D- pretty solid, im in a definite mood for stouts, and this is perfect

Photo of BattleRoadBrewer
4.12/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served cold from a 12 oz amber bottle into a glass tankard.

Despite the aggressive pour, very little head, dark khaki, coarse bubbles, with a lot of body. Negligible lacing.

Fruity aroma with a chocolatey note and surprise hint of alcohol.

Taste and mouthfeel are better than I expected from the pour. Rich, slightly acrid, sweet, fruity, complex. Notable hop bite, more effervescense than I expected considering the head.

The lower ABV, and balanced hops and heavy mouthfeel, without ridiculous maltiness, make this more drinkable than many double American stouts. The counterpart to DIPAs and the other end of the color and richness scale. Highly recommended.

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.18/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours with a reasonably tightly beaded, full, creamed chocolate, brown colored head that is initially three-fingers in height. The head leaves a distinct lacing pattern on the sides of my glass as I work my way through this beer. The beer is an almost black color, with perhaps some dark amber notes to it. The aroma has notes of chocolate, dusty roast grain husks, toasted malt and a nice burnt, yet still sweet, raisin note to it towards the end. Interesting, after rooting around in the aroma for a bit I notice a distinct, yet subtle note that reminds me of wood, smoked malt or perhaps butterscotch; I am not sure which, but it is certainly noticeable and now I can't seem to not notice it.

Light feeling as it first hits the tongue, it picks up a medium fullness to it as it moves across the tongue. The finish is marred by an astringent, sharp, almost harsh burnt bitter note, that is thankfully not too overwhelming. Notes of bitter, French Roast, black coffee, darkly toasted bread, a burnt acidity, and a acrid char flavor. This beer has a ton of darkly roasted grain character, it is actually a bit much, but on the upside I think that it is helping to hide some off flavors that are derived from a bit of diacetyl and perhaps some vegetal notes. In the end the dark malt is just a bit too much, if the gravity was bumped up a bit it might be more in balance.

Photo of BeerTruth
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to metallitone1 for this one.

12 oz. bottle poured into a nonic.

Pours a tar like color, no light is comin' through this one. Two finger dark khaki colored head that slowly dies down to a very nice lacing. Stickiness is amazing. Smell is of dark chocolate with roasted nutty malt that overpowers the nose. Taste is of strong espresso and black coffee with a nice hop bite that quickly moves in, quite a surprise. Aftertaste is somewhat bready with more of that black coffee flavoring. Mouthfeel is full bodied with a good amount of carbonation. Very right and flavorful. I really enjoy this brew, but one is good enough for me. Definitely look forward to more beers from Dark Horse.

Photo of auxiliary
3.85/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

appearance - Dark black coloe, no head, no lace. Little rim around the glass.

smell - Roasted malts, java, and coco.

taste - Roasted malts, java, coco, and a alcohol kick.

mouthfeel - Thick mouthfeel, not much carbination here.

drinkability - Nice stout, nice sipper for me.

Photo of oberon
4.07/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Ashley's in Ann Arbor,poured a near jet black but there was a noticable crimson hue when held up to the light a thinner quick to faid almond colored head atop.Aromas were roasted and sweet with notes of molasses and French Roast coffee and bitter chocolate no hop presence to this one.Big and sweet up front with some molasses and dark fruit notes very roasty with just a hint of earth in the finish wich doesnt dry it out much.Its a big hearty beer sweet and it packs a punch

Photo of zeff80
4.22/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a jet black color with a small, tan head. There were some traces of lace.

S - It smelled of roasted malt. Also, some good notes of chocolate.

T - It tasted very bittersweet. It had a nice burnt toast flavor. There was also an good bit of dark chocolate flavor. There was a warmth from the alcohol, too.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is a pretty good stout. It is my first Dark Horse beer and I would love to find more.

Photo of genog
3.83/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bought this at Crown Liquors #15 in Fishers IN

Poured into snifter with small brown head with lacing. Very little head remains in the deep black beer.

Smell is malty, roasted scents.

Taste is dark chocolate, coffee, espresso, malty, somewhat of an earthy, and I agree with the chalky description as well.

Medium feeling that leaves a little alcohol and less carbonation. Beer seems to remind me of the breakfast stout in the first impression, but that comparisson quickly fades away as the beer does not stay on the same level throughout the beer.

Photo of emerge077
4.23/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, oily pour into a 3F imperial pint glass. Immediate head of mocha foam builds itself, and with the unfiltered dregs, it rises to over 3 fingers in size.
Tan webs of lace network themselves around the inside of the glass.

Chocolate malt and some minor dark fruit define the aroma. At first there was a hint of a banana-like ester, but it faded fast.

Taste is huge, big bittersweet chocolate with an underlying hoppy edge. An earthy tobacco char in the aftertaste that is excellent. Maybe some mild coffee, but not too defined. It's very integrated, but still has a good degree of complexity.

Smooth and creamy, this is some delectable stuff. The abv is never harsh, but a buzz is felt by the end of the glass. Don't let this donkey kick your ass...

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Moejuck: Poured a pitch-black color beer with a medium foamy head with good retention and good lacing. Aroma of medium coffee with light roasted malt. Taste is dominated by some medium dry coffee with some light roasted malt and some nice oatmeal notes. Body is quite creamy which I always enjoy as well as being full with some medium to low carbonation. Well done and something I wouldn’t mind having again.

Photo of nlmartin
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer was served lightly chilled in my imperial nonic.

Appearance: The beer pours a dead black coloration in my glass. The head was about 2+ fingers high with a burnt creamed coffee coloration. Major webs of lacing remain behind on my glass. The beer had a bit of reverse cascading while being poured. Nice!

Smell: Burnt and chared coffee are very dominate in the smell of this beer. Roasted and toasted burnt malts combine to make aromas of dark chocolate, anise, a whiff of vanilla, cherry fruityness, a bit of smoke and peat. This beer smells outstanding.

Taste: A dam near perfect delivery on the taste. The roasted, toasted burnt flavors of coffee resonate on my taste buds. This combines with semi-sweet chocolate. The beer has nice earthy tones of smoke and peat bringing up the rear of the flavor. This is a very good dry double stout.

Mouthfeel/ Drinkability: The one weak spot in this beer is the body. The body is a bit thinner than I prefer. The body nearly approaches medium. The carbonation is low but not problematic. The flavors are long lasting. The beer provided a very pleasant beer drinking experience and I will have this one again.

Photo of blitz134
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Nearly pitch black, only hits of dark brown at the edges. Tan head that reduced down to only a ring around the glass with a slick surface on top. No lacing to speak of.

Super nice dark toasted malts, black coffee and dark chocolate. Hints of smoke waft in as well.

Really robust flavor. Dark toasted malts run around unchecked, char and black coffee again. Smoke again. Very similar to the smell.

Mouthfeel is medium to full. Carbonation is low. Its hard to say this is fully b/c it isn't quite creamy, but it is slick. Flavor sticks around and lingers.

This is pretty damn drinkable to have this strong of a flavor, but I like my stouts like this and not overloaded with sweet flavors. Overall its very simple with dark toasted flavors, but just good. Good stuff...a must try.

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