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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

1,103 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,103
Reviews: 569
rAvg: 3.93
pDev: 10.69%
Wants: 54
Gots: 75 | 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: 1,103 | Reviews: 569 | Display Reviews Only:
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.

Photo of Phatz
4.01/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

When I ordered this "Black Bier" at the brewpub I assumed Black Beer means Schwartzbier. Boy oh boy was I gonna say this Schwartzbier is an Imperial Schwartz and popping out of the skin in the style. BA has it listed as an ADS and I guess a dry roasty bitter American Double Stout is about the same thing as an "Imperial Schwartzbier" would be, huh? ha ha. The Web Site says "The Reserve Special Black Ale has a hard time being called a stout or porter but it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale." That is true.

Appearance: It is served a very black color with a tan head and light lacing on the glass.

Smell: The aroma fits with a Schwartzbier. It is Very roasty with coffee and burnt malts and grains, a bit of smokiness and charcoal and just a hint of toasty chocolate and caramel.

Taste: Burnt flavors and an overall roastyness, overshadow the whole experience with the chocolate coffee and hops on the tongue and a wood flavor chiming in with the final nip from the hops in the back end. Certainly dry and bordering astringent this is a nice roasty ... whatever you want to call it ~ 'Stout'.

Drinkability: It really hit the spot at the time. If you like the burnt coffee ground flavors (and I do) I think this beer may surprise you.

Hope this is helpful.

Photo of GbVDave
4.45/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a 20oz imperial pint.

A: Pours out a pure, coal tar black with a one finger mocha-colored head. Average amounts of sticky lace left in the glass.

S: Wonderful aromas of dark roast coffee, molassas, raisins, dark chocolate,and plums.

T: Incredible abundance of flavors here. Chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, vanilla, cherry, hops, and burnt malt.

M: A tiny bit on the thin side when cold but it thickens up nicely as it warms. Super long roasty finish.

D: Fantastic, roasty flavors as well as the sneaky undercurrent of dark fruit and molassas. A very rewarding treat!

Photo of brentk56
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black color with a big tan head that laces the glass when agitated

Smell: Licorice, over-roasted coffee, dark unsweetened chocolate

Taste: Starts out with a dark fruit and licorice flavor that is joined, mid-palate, by the coffee tones; after the swallow the roasty bitterness lingers forever, bringing with it a rich dark chocolate flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium to ful body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A really special beer that I have enjoyed again and again

Photo of TheBungyo
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Flyingbison for this brew.

Entirely dark upon pour with a foamy brown head. Nice to look at. Not much lacing but the legs are substantial enough to leave dots upon the glass.

Nose reminds me of an ice cream chocolate malt shake.

Taste is rich milk chocolate with hints of coffee. Body is a bit thinner than I'd like but it's still shockingly smooth. Yes sir, I reckon I'd buy this again if I could.

Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.05/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz. brown bottle into my Adnams tulip pint glass.

A - Dark translucent brown color with about two fingers of tan foam. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S - Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and brown sugar, dark cherries, and molasses.

T - Very bitter initially, leading to dark, bitter cocoa, over-roasted coffee, vanilla extract and then a mild alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Slick and slightly rich. Medium in both body and carbonation. My tongue is left tingling from the bitterness.

D - I'm finding it difficult to make my way to the bottom of the glass. This beer is trying to grow on me, and partially succeeds as it warms up a little. A sipper more by force and not by choice.

Photo of Viggo
3.14/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Thanks for sharing this one grub!

Pours a very opaque black, very dark, thick brown head forms, nice lacing, good retention, sticky, looks pretty awesome. Smell is very roasty, some chocolate and coffee, vanilla, bit of toffee, quite rich, very astringent even in the aroma. Taste is ashy smoke, chocolate, roast, dark fruits, very astringent and bitter from all the roasted malts, medicinal finish. Mouthfeel is kind of thin and oily, medium carbonation, much to astringent, but has some nice characters. Thanks Russ!

Photo of shivtim
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

4's across the board for this above average stout. It sits heavily in a pint glass, deep black with a bit of a brown head and good lacing. Nose is lots of roasted malts and some smokiness. Taste is roasted malts in good amounts, tiny hints of alcohol, and sweetness. Mouthfeel and drinkability are both good. Nice job, Dark Horse.

Photo of beveritt
3.33/5  rDev -15.3%
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
4.49/5  rDev +14.2%
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
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
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
3.92/5  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.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
88 out of 100 based on 1,103 ratings.