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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

1,020 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,020
Reviews: 561
rAvg: 3.95
pDev: 10.63%
Wants: 52
Gots: 55 | 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: 1,020 | Reviews: 561 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of GreenWBush
4.58/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

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.

GreenWBush, Jul 01, 2005
Photo of fingolfin72
4.28/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 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.

fingolfin72, Apr 25, 2005
Photo of Realale
4.83/5  rDev +22.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

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.

Realale, Apr 17, 2005
Photo of SupaCelt
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

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.

SupaCelt, Mar 31, 2005
Photo of aaronh
4.58/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

OK, I was expecting something not like this. A double stout at 8% ABV? Not the ideal pre-dinner beer, but it's open, so here we go. The first shock was the appearance of what looked like motor oil pouring out of the bottle into my "borrowed" glass. Just a hint of mahogany highlighted the edges, and a nice tan head topped the beer and lingered for a while. The aroma was great, with dark fruits, roasted malts, and a it of herbalness. I typically discuss flavor before mouthfeel, but this one the latter demands attention. This beer is perfect for a big stout: Silky smooth, coolly enveloping the tongue, with the carbonation lifting the beer off the tongue on the finish. Best part, there's not a strong lingering sweetness that usually accompanies such a great mouthfeel. The flavor does have a strong black malt presence, and just a hint of caramel sweetness up front. Strong dark chocolate flavors develop, along with a touch of minty hop herbalness. Man, this stuff is great! I think this was about $8 a six pack. I may have to go get more before I go home. While a strong beer with respect to both flavor and ABV, I could drink a good bit of this stuff. This is one of those beers that make the effort of tracking down regional stuff worthwhile. (Also makes sitting in a hotel room easier as well....). Do yourself a favor and give this one a try. All too frequently "Special" beers aren’t that special. This one is Very Special. Nice.

aaronh, Mar 29, 2005
Photo of shapudding
4.7/5  rDev +19%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

No dating.
WOW! This is sooo not what I was expecting at all! I had no idea what I was in for. This one poured out like an imperial stout. Pitch brown with a thick caramelly creamy brown head that reduced quickly to a bit of a dusting and a thick ring. Huge aroma. Total shocker here too. Scents of lambic, rich imperial stout, alcohol, with tons of hoppiness. Merlot, chocolate, coffee, deep and roasty. Smooth and slightly creamy with a bitey carbination that snaps at you towards the end of the sip. Nice toasty dark hoppiness with a good bite. Blackened toast, dark bittersweet chocolate and espresso. This is damn luscious. Great flavors and feel. Nice one!

shapudding, Mar 11, 2005
Photo of ScottS
3.95/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours black, really black. I noticed a lot of sediment coming out throughout the whole bottle even though I was careful not to disturb the bottle before pouring it. Luckily the yeast flavor doesn't come through at all. It does stay in suspension the whole time though causing what would be a 4.5 rating to be a 4.

The beer smells strongly of smoke, milk, and burnt sugar. The initial taste is a sharp bitterness which seems like it's from the dark malts. The bitterness is reminiscent of a very dark chocolate. Subsequent sips reveal a smoother more balanced aspect to this beer as it warms up. As it warms up more a lot more chocolate comes out in the flavor. Be careful of drinking this beer too cold, it's not good, very astringent and bitter.

ScottS, Mar 02, 2005
Photo of CRJMellor
4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours engine oil black, no light penetrating at all. Dark tan head on the pour that fades quickly and leaves the off spot of lace.
Aroam of chocolate, brown sugar and some light peat and smoke notes.
Flavor was chocolate, raisins, whiskey/peat note, some bread notes and a flash of hot grainy alcohol. Very complex as it warms.
Mouthfeel is very sweet to start but quickly overtaken by peaty, charcola hits and some resiny, gritty bitterness. Very stout like feel.
Drinkability is high. Ignored this beer in my locals too long Very solid effort from the folks in Marshall.

CRJMellor, Jan 10, 2005
Photo of Bierman9
3.68/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Somehow I was expecting something like a Schwarzbier with this; don't no why....

Anyhow, it came out a thick, black, oily color, with a creamy, dark tan topping. Head lasted so-so, at about 1/8", and lacing was ok.
Had a nose rich with a touch of coffee and lots of semi-sweet chocolate, with roasty notes and some floralness lurking in the background. Passes quite smoothly on the tongue, and body was medium but bordering on chewy. Flavor is also well-roasted and a touch bitter, with more big chocolate flavors evident. Some floral hops appear at the end as well, in a dryish finish. It does have a slight metallic/tinny taste in there somewhere, though, but I didn't find this to detract too much. All-in-all tasty; a mini imperial stout, if you will.

overall: 3.75
appearance: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 4 | drinkability: 3.5


Bierman9, Dec 17, 2004
Photo of walleye
4/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What a surprise when the label says ale on it thats is what I thought I was getting. Glad I got a porter. poured dark brown with a deep tan frothy head good lacing.aroma was carmel, chocolate,dark fruitsfinish a nice bitterness with hints a sweetness glad I had to buy a 6 pack of this and not just 1 bottle which I like to do when I am trying out a new beer

walleye, Dec 17, 2004
Photo of pootz
4.33/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle (thanks Sammy) ..Decanted into my tulip glass a a black, light shedding, viscous ale with a beautifil creamy 3 finger cap that stacks out of the glass and remains....a pure joy to look at.

Aromas are complex: burnt treacle malts, chicory, limes, hazel.

Starts with large roasted malts balanced with the ample lime-like citrus hops...then the middle settles on the toungue and departs a layered impression: chicory, medira, molasses, nuts...all over seen with the lime hops...the finish is long with the chicory molasses tastes giving way to the increased bittering...finally a deep metallic aftertaste and a slow warming....the alcohol is well buried in this rich brew...wadda stout!! recommended!

pootz, Nov 07, 2004
Photo of Dithyramb
3.18/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: Appeared in the mail via BIF XV. The label, with hand drawn donkey, is a bit crappy. No freshness date and no mention as to what type of beer a “black bier” is.

Appearance: Inky, oily blackness, both in appearance and in viscosity, just as you would expect from something calling itself black bier. Opaque with very little carbonation. Took a bit of effort to tease the head up. When accomplished, it was a deep dark brown head that dissipated off with no lacing.

Smell: Is this milk stout? A slight sourness is evident in the aroma after your nose soaks in the super bitter coffee.

Taste: My first BIF disappointment. The bitterness was a little hard to handle, since there was almost no malt sweetness to cut it. Heavy coffee ground and/or bitter cocoa flavors assault the taste buds. Don’t get me wrong. I love Turkish coffee, even the bitter grounds swirling around the bottom of the glass, but I still add a touch of cream or sugar to cut it. A bit of sweet, creamy, or even vanilla maltiness would really complement this beer and give it what it is missing. The sourness in the nose was in there, along with a touch of oxidation. I looked up the beer and don’t see any mention of lactic acid being thrown in, but it certainly seems to be there. Only a slight warmness alerts you to the higher alcohol content.

Mouthfeel: Thick molasses quality sticks on the tongue and the top of the mouth. Medium to heavy body but is just a tad thinner than the color and body would suggest.

I don’t think I’ll be having another. However, given the topnotch reviews for this and the other brewery’s selections, I may try more from the brewer if I can find them.

Dithyramb, Oct 25, 2004
Photo of Chaz
3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Huge head (poured semi-hard into a Duvel glass, convex atop!) with good duration and excellent lacing. Seemed rather thick at first sight, and right then and there I knew I had a true micro (or 'glorified homebrewer' as we sometimes like to say ; ) The aroma is amazing, and no matter what they wanna call this, Double Schwarzbier, triple Sweet Stout, etc, it's a super rich and malty dark beast, and the alcohol is barely discernable on both the nose and palate. Creamy mouthfeel, thinner than expected, with plenty of citrusy, aromatic hops, bittering hops, and roasted malts, all fighting for attention like paparazzi jockeying for a good photo op. Lingering, pronounced bitterness is not probably to everyone's liking but it is to mine. Notes of bitter chocolate, sour apple, and burnt toast. There's a lactic quality here that works out well, making for a more complex brew than one might expect from what at first glance seems like such a malt monster, so rather than be cloyingly sweet it's well balanced. Double Stout, huh? Not something that's done too often, and one bottle is probably more than enough bitter darkness to satisfy a couple of 'Guiness Draught' enthusiasts, as it's altogether a bit more challenging than most of the stouts you'll find. Nice dry finish too.

Chaz, Oct 21, 2004
Photo of BrewMaster
3.65/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this beer from a 12 oz bottle and immediately I noticed its intense black color. Flowing from the bottle it looked like used motor oil. It is opaque and dark which makes it very nice to look at. It has a fizzy tan head that thins out pretty quickly. The aroma is definately roasty but has a distinct alcohol scent as well. The flavor is a dark maltiness with a sour earthy taste, some cherry, and more distinct alcohol warmth. The downfall of this beer I think is that it really only presents a dark malt flavor without much complexity in the flavor. It certainly looks great, but the flavor falls a bit short.

BrewMaster, Oct 17, 2004
Photo of trumick
3.9/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a black, thick, used motor oil color, thin head with just a bit of lacing.

Scent is of sweet, dark fruit, roasted malts, burnt coffee, chocolate.

Taste is of sweet, sweet dark roasted malts, dark fruits and a nice dry coffee finish.

Mouthfeel is smooth, medium carbination with a nice full body.

Drinkability is nice, tis a bit filling though and abv is a bit high.

This is a nice beer I would definately buy this one again.

trumick, Oct 01, 2004
Photo of deejaydan
3.6/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Another solid beer from a lil brewery in Marshall.

Pours a black as night color, I couldn't pick up any hues of red or amber at all. Not even a hint of brown. Nice head for the abv, wonderful lacing for a stout.

Smells of rich malts. A slight chocolate sent in the mix as well.

Taste... starts with a thick, sweet tastes.. moves slightly into the alcohol burn, but ends with roasted malts. I think they slightly overdid the roasted malts, in my opinion, a bit too strong.

Slick, coating mouthfeel. This one stays with you for a while.

A good beer, but not something I could make a night out of.

deejaydan, Sep 15, 2004
Photo of redmosquito
3.75/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Another beer tasted at the Michigan Brewer's Festival. Opaque black in color with a decent brown head. The aroma is all roasted malt, and some sweetness. Flavor follows suit, this beer is sweet and thick like a big boned chocolate porter. Much thicker and roastier than I expected, this is a good beer.

redmosquito, Sep 11, 2004
Photo of feloniousmonk
4.4/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Oooo! The smell wafts out, right from the second the crown is uncapped, and it smells gooood! Time for a closer inspection...
utter blackness in appearance, with a lush brown, creamy, cocoa-y head...as Freddie Prinz would say, "Looo-keeen gooood!" (Oh, I date myself...that's FP, Sr., of course...)
Smell it...ooooh, again! Rich and roasty, fine and toasty, nearly burnt, aburst with dark flavors, anise and maple and more...I can see the confusion expressed elsewhere, i.e. "schwarzbier or stout"? Let's drink and see...
Huge mouthfeel, full bodied all the way, bittersweet, and terrifically complex. Little bit fruity, but very dry, this is rich, rewarding, very, very tasty.
I can see the conundrum clearly now...it feels like a schwarzbier at times, a la' Sprecher's Black Bavarian, but still has tones similar to an Imperial Stout.
Well, who gives a crap, this is damned good, and that is all that the people need to know!

feloniousmonk, Sep 07, 2004
Photo of jimdkc
4.22/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Received this bottle as part of BIF 10 from deejaydan. (See the Trading group forum for more on BIFs!) Odd, non-descriptive packaging with a cartoon drawing of a donkey (?!) Pours really dark brown... almost, but not quite, black. One of the darkest stouts I've seen. The head is not large, but is an interesting rich brown color (maybe a bit reddish) and is dense and foamy with decent retention. Some lace tries to cling to the glass, but slides back down. Smell is dark-roasted malts and maybe a little dark chocolate and coffee. Taste is more complex than expected. Roasted malt bitterness (or is that the hops?) Notes of chocolate and coffee as noted in the smell, but also hints of dark fruit and maybe a little licorice in the aftertaste. Very dry finish with some astringency. Alcohol, while initially well hidden, comes out more as the beer warms. Medium-thick mouthfeel. Pretty drinkable for a strong stout. A very pleasant surprise! I liked this one pretty well and would definitely drink it again, given the opportunity!

jimdkc, Aug 20, 2004
Photo of sulldaddy
4.03/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I think this bottle came from garthwaite. Thanks a bundle.
Great label on this one!
I am sampling a chileld brew in a pint glass.
The beer pours pitch black with a creamy tan head foaming up immensely and almost overflows my glass. The receding head leaves a tight latticework on the sides. Finally settles to a good surface layer.
Aroma is very roasty and almost smoky, bittersweet chocolate comes through as well.
I get light yet prickly carbonation and a fairly thick body. Flavor is coffee bitter , roasted malt with no real hop presence to be found. Easy to drink beer even with the full flavored big body.
Good brew!

sulldaddy, Aug 17, 2004
Photo of RoyalT
4.15/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – The body is, yes, black, with a very dark tan head that was gorgeous and enchanting. It came up wonderfully, left some nice lacing, and never did go all the way down. I can even see some foam at the BOTTOM of my glass.

Update on Appearance: No, wait, that’s darkly tanned sediment at the bottom of my glass. Now it gets a “5”.

Smell – Big, burnt malts and milk chocolate lead the way here. The sugars are of the refined cocoa variety. I can also pick up some coffee grounds. Nice.

Taste – Boy, is this bitter. The sweet chocolate from the nose steps back a bit, which is good because I enjoy smelling these flavors in a stout a little more than tasting them. I am now licking coffee grounds out of my golden cone filter.

Mouthfeel – Full-bodied and bitterly dry. This is probably the driest Imperial Stout that I’ve had to date. You almost need to chase this with a pale lager or something.

Drinkability – This is for true stout lovers only. If you want over-the-top burnt coffee ground madness, this is for you.

Comments – A big thanks to garthwaite for sending me this offering from Dark Horse.

RoyalT, Aug 04, 2004
Photo of Mitchster
4.55/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours out to a completely opaque inky thick brew, forming a tall creamy dark tan head with excellent retention and gorgeous lacing. The head looks like chocolate mousse. Carbonation is moderate. Aroma is out of this world...Intense with espresso (think Black Cat from Intelligentsia), chocolate malt milkshakes, subtle herbal and earthy hops, black walnut, vanilla...just beautiful. Mouthfeel is initially lightly prickly, but smooth and coating the mouth with a very longe espresso-like aftertaste. Dense malty body. Taste...herbal green oily hops, tons of heaily roasted malts, espresso, milk chocolate, wood, cocoa powder, charcoal, pepper and chalk towards the finish, medium bitterness with more green, oily character, and lingering tobacco, espresso and chalk in the everlasting aftertaste. No off-flavors, and alcohol isn't appreciable in taste.

A wonderful brew. Don't let the "Black Bier" title fool you, this is a double stout. Intense, chewy, rich, and full of complementary flavors. I would have liked this more with a smidge less flavor hops and a more velvety mouthfeel, but it still stands as an awesome brew. Considering it's dense body and ABV, this one is dangerously drinkable. I already drank half a bottle without batting an eye. Highly recommended.

Mitchster, Aug 03, 2004
Photo of ppoitras
4.35/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle obtained via trade with garthwaite. Thanks for the opportunity...

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed 2" of medium brown head over the opaque black brew. Long lasting head, laces well. Aroma is strongly of dark malts, but tempered with a bit of sweet creaminess. Taste is dominated by dark malts and their inherent bitterness, but closes out with a nice little hoppy bite. Mouthfeel is good and smooth, albeit quashed a bit by the dark malt bitterness, and drinkabilty is good as well. Good stuff, although I will admit I was fooled by the vague label as well, and was expecting a schwarz or black lager. Nice surprise.

ppoitras, Jul 29, 2004
Photo of garthwaite
4.13/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled on tap at the brewery, then again from a 64 oz growler upon my return home. Pours black, which I guess is to be expected, given the name. Dark tan creamy head that laced nicely. Powerful aroma of blackberries, blueberries, deeply roasted malts, mild chocolate, & some earthy hops. Bitter front end with massive roastiness & the blackberry flavor to back up the aroma. Some chocolate & caramel notes as well as peppery hops make this a complex & unique brew. Not sure what style this fits in (schwarzbier, porter, stout, double stout), doesn't seem like it fits perfectly into any of them. What I do know is that this brew is no joke - it is heavily roasted, assertively bitter, and damn good.

garthwaite, Jul 23, 2004
Photo of tavernjef
4.4/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Perpetual black, thick and opaque, sliced thin dark brown skim of a head, a thin collar remains mostly present; lacing in minimal strings and spots.

Aroma is low-keyed and mellow with what seems to be quite a heft of black malt roastyness, partailly sweet with a mollasses undertone, hints of deep dark espresso beans and dark chocolate keep the nose happy.

Sip....whoa! Wasn't expecting that! Wow, what a mega assault of blackened roasty stuff. Starts smooth and subdued with sweeter roasted malts with caramel, licorice, and molasses, then it gets all crazy with mega blackened malts and grains, earthy, smokey, charcoal effervescence and bittering coffee/espresso roast tones and pungent dry hop leaves. What an absolutely fantastic finish. That black roast makes itself a home across the entire palate. Oh so nice to let it just sit there and dry out the tongue. Its like taking a larger, fuller sip of espresso but its cold. Very nice appeal as far as thats concerned. The hops make for a nice meld in the finish as well.

Feel is quick to start, slick creamy front, bold, richly robust, nearly full once it procedes past midway and the finish is a fuckin' treat of roasty blackened stuff, very dry and coating with a long ever-lasting burntish quality. I may just be tasting this stuff the rest of the day.

Stout, Schwartzbier, Black Bier Ale, or what ever they want to call this is fine by me, its awesome! And whats with the worried looking smile of "Hope ya like it" cartoon donkey on the label? I wasn't gonna open it cuz of that, but now I'm glad I did.
Another fine treat I can thank trbeer for!

tavernjef, Jul 13, 2004
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
89 out of 100 based on 1,020 ratings.