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River Horse Special Ale ESB - River Horse Brewing Co.

River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
74
okay

160 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 160
Reviews: 134
rAvg: 3.17
pDev: 14.51%


Brewed by:
River Horse Brewing Co. visit their website
New Jersey, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  4.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-01-2002)
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Ratings: 160 | Reviews: 134 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of micromaniac129
micromaniac129

Pennsylvania

3.33/5  rDev +5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had this at TJ Smith's and it was okay. if they had a better tap selection last night we wouldn't be talking today. Pours a plain average, came to me clear amber but with nary any carbonation and utterly lacking off head.
Aroma was basically just caramel malts with hardly anything to speak of. Taste is plain and average tasting with malts. There is a sutle nutty finish. Drinks smooth but feels abrasive with a bitter or grain husk finish.
No I don't really much care for this beer.

Serving type: on-tap

02-12-2012 16:13:11 | More by micromaniac129
Photo of zoso1967
zoso1967

Michigan

3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served up a deep reddish amber color with a head that is light tan. The head has both nice staying power and good lacing capabilities.

The aroma is a bit underwhelming. Malty and fruity with a bit of a buttered toast like thing going on. I am not picking up any hops at all.

The flavor is a bit better, with the fruit mingling with a fairly nice butter toffee taste. It has some toast and caramel flavors as well as a pretty hefty amount of fruitiness that reminds me of an overripe peach. There is little bit of an herbal hop component, but not as much as I was hoping for.

The mouthfeel is medium with a nice balanced finish. It seems like it is just a little bit over carbonated and it drinks an awful lot like an American style beer than a British one.

I suppose this is drinkable, but it really just doesn't ring my bell. Not a bad beer, but not a very good one either.

Serving type: on-tap

11-21-2010 21:30:34 | More by zoso1967
Photo of mrgrinch
mrgrinch

New Jersey

4/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Caramel brown with light carbonation. It was served in a plastic sample cup at the brewery, so I could not really get a good look at the clarity.

Smell - A sweet buttery smell.

Taste - Sweet tastes that fades to a bitter.

Mouthability - Thick and nice.

Drinkability - ESB is not my favorite style, but this one is one that I would try again if I was in the mood for such a thing. I did enjoy it more than the Ship Inn ESB I had earlier in the day.

Serving type: on-tap

07-31-2010 20:05:29 | More by mrgrinch
Photo of thequeen711
thequeen711

Pennsylvania

3/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This ale has bee with River Horse since the beginning of the brewery in 1996. Ample quantities of caramel malt give this English Ale a soft copper colour and the addition of carapils adds tghe sweetness you might mistake for honey. Low bitterness combines with a slightly sweet finish...not a bad brew.

Serving type: on-tap

08-12-2008 00:46:45 | More by thequeen711
Photo of Brianmerrilyn
Brianmerrilyn

New York

3.75/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

@08 Long Island Brew festival, poured into heffe glass, the color was beautiful caramel with dark red accents. A somewhat disappointing small head which faded into a cap quickly, almost no lacing. The taste was low sweetness and Mouthfeel was very light. Pleasant experience overall and would recommend as a nice starter.

Serving type: on-tap

03-31-2008 02:17:38 | More by Brianmerrilyn
Photo of Foxman
Foxman

New Jersey

3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a brownish copper, clear, crisp, and carbonated, with a beige head of pillowy froth that retains well. There is some moderate lacing on the glass that drips away quickly.

The aroma brings a very rounded but discernible balance of toasted malt and hops bitterness, with the sweetness slightly more poignant. At the close the bitterness lingers just a bit longer then fades away.

The first wash of flavor carries a biscuity darker malt essence, with a slight caramel cream note. The hops play some small role, but in more a sensatory manner than as a component of taste. A yeasty tang, almost tinny, asserts toward the end, before a dull hops bitterness lingers at the finish.

Just a little more than light bodied, it slides across the palate, spending little time on board. The dry hops tingle is no much for any food that gets heaped upon it.

So it seemed to me that choosing the beer of a relatively local brewery would be a good way to go when we took my oldest to his favorite wings place for his birthday. Well, I think I was wrong, because they had Sam on tap as well. The overall effect is certainly one of balance, but the contributing factors are bordering on insubtantial. With no distinct malt or hops profile to sink my teeth into it comes across, in the end, as disappointing. And yes, it is certainly drinkable, and a better choice than the macros available there, but considering there was at least one stronger option, then I'll consider this a lesson learned and pass on it the next time.

Serving type: on-tap

03-24-2004 16:52:12 | More by Foxman
Photo of Omnium
Omnium

Pennsylvania

3.11/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Bottle > Pint Glass
A - Pours a reddish brown color nice 1 finger head of an off white tint, no real lacing though.
S - Caramel and toffee malts, an odd alcohol scent, but there's not much alcohol in this beer? Some sour candies and stale bread as well.
T - Tastes like a bad brown ale, all malt flavors with barely any hops or even bitterness. Very bland, and mildly tart
M - Thin fizzy, no good flavors resonating (not that there were any to begin with)
O - Horrid example of an ESB, River Horse needs to go back to the books on this one.

Serving type: bottle

04-16-2013 01:23:26 | More by Omnium
Photo of claspada
claspada

New Jersey

3.05/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep orange with a very large off white head with good retention.

Aromas begin with sweet pale malt and some light honey/caramel. As it warms you get some slight doughy, roasted maltiness with a bit of earthy hoppiness.

The tastes follow the nose with light caramel, toasted bready maltiness with some light toffee flavors as well. Light and clean earthy hoppiness emerges more as it warms.

The mouthfeel is light bodied with medium to high carbonation. Finish is lightly dry and earthy but mainly clean and crisp.

Overall this is a decent, flavorful and balanced ESB. Nothing to mind-blowing but quite satifying considering the ABV, but nothing close to the traditional quality English examples or even as good as many American interpretations.

Serving type: bottle

09-24-2012 15:43:35 | More by claspada
Photo of mikeg67
mikeg67

New Jersey

2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle from a variety pack. Pours hazy-amber with a thick, foamy, long lasting white head and some lacing. Aroma is of bready malt, caramel and some fruity notes. Body is medium and crisp. Bready, caramel malt is balanced on the palate by earthy hops. Finish is long and bitter. Good brew but not “special”.

Serving type: bottle

03-13-2012 01:01:00 | More by mikeg67
Photo of Rifugium
Rifugium

Pennsylvania

3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: bottle from Total Wine, Cherry Hill, NJ

A very nice and smooth ESB. Nothing extraordinary here, but still a good simple selection. At least I thought so. Maybe I need to revisit with my somewhat updated palate.

Poured a murky, reddish-brown with a small whitish head. Toasted malts in the aroma, with a bit of sour fruit coming through. Caramel malts in the taste mostly, nutty, with some sweet fruitiness in the background--orange and apricot--and some hop bitterness for balance, but with the malts clearly taking control. Medium mouthfeel, leaves a bit of a film in the mouth, but still fairly drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

06-02-2011 18:32:43 | More by Rifugium
Photo of generallee
generallee

New York

3.93/5  rDev +24%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: It has an orange amber colored body with lots of yeast fine sediment floating around inside. This is cap off by a tall, light and foamy head. It is light tan in color and slowly fades to thin filmy covering which leaves behind a little slick lacing on the glass.

Smell: I get some really nice sweet bready and doughy maltiness with a faint hint of English hops.

Taste/Palate: There is a nice base of bready maltiness and yeast with pleasant sweetness. I get some mellow notes of honey like sweetness, sugar cookies and even a touch of light caramel and vanilla. The hops come in at the finish and offer some pleasant herbal character and light bitterness for balance. The mouth feel has a firm medium feel with soft carbonation.

Notes: My overall thought is that it may not be the prettiest beer but it has some good flavor notes and nice balance. Also I could see myself drinking more then a few of these at 4.5% abv.

Serving type: bottle

05-20-2011 22:47:01 | More by generallee
Photo of Knapp85
Knapp85

Pennsylvania

2.98/5  rDev -6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours out a deep amber color. This beer has virtually no head on it. The pour and appearance is rather boring. The smell is mostly caramel malts, has a sweet aroma. There is basically no hop aroma at all. The mouthfeel is a little heavier than medium. Really not much else to brag about this one, not the best ESB out there.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2011 02:04:06 | More by Knapp85
Photo of Brianjames16
Brianjames16

New York

3.13/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A- Pours a very dark amber color with a slight haze on the bottom. One finger width cream colored head on top. Relatively thick lacing sticks around.

S- Roasted caramel malts mixed with some bread and coffee notes. This reminds me more of a stout than a ESB.

T- Nice roasty flavors with big caramel/bready malts on the pallet. Some honey and spices in the backround.

M- Medium bodied beer with full flavors. Coats the mouth a little like a stout.

O- Somewhat interesting and easy to drink. Nothing amazing here but nothing horrid either. Cheers!

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2011 01:44:20 | More by Brianjames16
Photo of Thads324
Thads324

Connecticut

2.55/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a perfect pint :

A: pours a deep amber/copper with a honey glow, white head that dissipates quickly to nothing.

S: smells of sour fruit and old apples. Very little hop aroma, just sweet and then sour fruit.

T: a sweet malt followed by more of the sweet and almost old fruit flavor. There's a hint of hop towards the end but it isn't all that noticeable with all the odd sweet fruit flavor.there's a biscuit malt after taste with a slight hop at the end.

M : little carbonation with a slight linger of this fruit.

D: weak, real weak

Disappointed in a brewery I'm usually high on. Seems like a poor blend of malts. I don't know if it's old or what. Not a fan at all...not an esb at all

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2011 04:10:32 | More by Thads324
Photo of KTCamm
KTCamm

New Jersey

3.85/5  rDev +21.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours chocolately brown with touch of white foam. Laces.

Smells malty with some spices. Good blend.

Caramel malty taste with some hop. Light cola taste. Bitterness is buried and not overly dominant.

Evenly carbonated.

Tasty, good drinnker. Nice ale.

Serving type: bottle

10-24-2010 12:38:13 | More by KTCamm
Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
JoeyBeerBelly

New York

2.42/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

L - dark amber color with a light beige head that thiined out leaving a little lacing.
S - an odd bitter aroma.
T - again it is bitter but has an odd sort of bitterness, almost buttery.
F - light/medium body with a flat feel.
D - I got halfway through and decided enough was enough... 1/2 drain pour.

Serving type: bottle

09-21-2010 00:59:19 | More by JoeyBeerBelly
Photo of jmdrpi
jmdrpi

Pennsylvania

3.78/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

poured into nonic pint glass
A - deep ruby copper color, thin tan head, opaque. nice lacing
S - crisp sugary malt, just a touch of hops
T - nice mild balance of malt body and hops finish. clean finish.
M - moderate to high carbonation, fairly thin body
D - nice mild flavors and low abv would make this a good session beer

Serving type: bottle

08-07-2010 21:13:51 | More by jmdrpi
Photo of aahynick
aahynick

Florida

3.2/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

45F in a pilsner glass

A- instant crazy foam, dark gold

S- mild spicy aroma

T- almost flavorless, after warming a lot, maltyness comes out

M - easy, medium body

D- I really liked the body on this one but with almost no flavor and a nightmare pour I'd give it a pass everytime.

Serving type: bottle

07-20-2010 17:30:11 | More by aahynick
Photo of JunkYardJake
JunkYardJake

Pennsylvania

2.68/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle poured into pint glass.
Redesigned bottle says nothing about being an ESB. Pours a dark amber wich looks brown at certain angles. Small head that fizzles quickly. Smell throws me for a loop since I was expecting an american amber, which is what the bottle says. Heavy toffee malts with some toasted grain and a little butterscotch. Taste follows the nose pretty well. Malt forward, a little buttery and some caramel and licorice. Tastes much bigger than 4.5% as I notice bit of alcohol on the palate. Mouthfeel is a little chewy. Went down easy enough but I'm glad I only have one.

Serving type: bottle

07-16-2010 10:23:22 | More by JunkYardJake
Photo of tempest
tempest

Pennsylvania

3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

OK, I can see where these guys are going with this beer. They're trying to turn a classic ESB into a full-flavored American amber. It doesn't work. The body is too thick, either from low attenuation or (possibly and) too much crystal malt. It comes off with a thick body like a 6-7% beer, which sort of negates the sessionability. Mouthfeel aside, the beer tastes like toffee malt with a dash of herbal citrus hops at the finish. So even for all that unfermented sugar thickening the beer, it doesn't seem terribly complex. I'd avoid this if I were you. It's not offensive, there are just better options out there.

Serving type: bottle

04-19-2010 13:33:02 | More by tempest
Photo of HeroicDoses
HeroicDoses

New Jersey

2.58/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a midnight copper with a long lasting fluffy head. Looks pretty good in a pint glass. Smell is average at best...nothing to write home about. Has a caramel taste, but falls a little flat. Overall nothing really jumps out about this beer. Almost like you really have to search for it's character. In the end though it's not that bad, it basically comes off as just an average beer. To me River Horse overdoes it more often than not (Hop A Lot A Mus for example), but this beer does the opposite (it doesn't do enough). The finish is like eating an actual caramel...sticky and sweet. Would I buy this again? No. But would I say it's crap? No. It's just an average beer.

Serving type: bottle

04-19-2010 01:49:08 | More by HeroicDoses
Photo of magnj
magnj

New Jersey

3.78/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Deep copper body is very clear though I stopped pouring when I saw some yeasties coming out towards the end. Head is generous with an off white color. Some small carbonation bubbles apparent. Some lacing.

S - Malt forward obviously, slightly musty like a standard brew pub type ESB or amber. Caramel and vaguely toasty and a little bready. Nice smell reminiscent of many others I've had but rarely find in a bottle.

T - Well balanced, starts of malty with toast and mild caramel. Towards the middle I get a bit of hop flavor an bitterness, it finishes dry and bready. Nothing really dominates and that's the point, well balanced, full flavored and enjoyable. After going back and reading some reviews, I definitely get the apple thing.

M/D - Carbonation is there but not a ton, pretty average mouthfeel. Not too thin, not really silky or chewy. It's just there. Not much residual sugar, which when coupled with its balanced flavor and low ABV makes for a great session beer. My only gripe is that it's still close to $10 at my local shop, RH would make a killing if they could undercut other craft brews.

Serving type: bottle

04-10-2010 21:10:11 | More by magnj
Photo of jhammel01
jhammel01

New Jersey

3.18/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown like a brown ale. Pretty much matches the bottle it came from. Off white coffee colored head with plenty of healthy lacing.

No smell at all. I hate that, I wish it had more of an aroma....

A clean hoppy tasting brew. Plenty of hops up front that finishes with plenty of malty breadiness with an almost burnt hop taste. Kind of odd. Mainly just hop bitterness. Not bad at all.

The beer is medium bodied with a ton of carbonation. Good for the style.

A pretty good beer. My 1st from this brewer. Sometimes I feel like I expect every beer to be a huge monster of a beer and it shouldnt be. So if you are looking for a huge hop bomb, this isnt it. But in every way, this is a good solid beer. Its just unfortunate that I picked up no scent at all.

Serving type: bottle

03-30-2010 01:09:52 | More by jhammel01
Photo of ToasterChef
ToasterChef

Maine

2.63/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a cellar temperature beer into a pint glass. The beer is clear with a light brown color. There was a large head of small off-white bubbles. There is a lot of carbonation rising within; A lot of bubbles are clinging to the sides and bottom of the glass. It looks as though it is over carbonated. It has a mild hop aroma that is slightly off in some way. Maybe it is all the gas coming form the dissipating head that is influencing the smell. There is touch of hop to the flavor, but it's hardly strong enough to call this an ESB. Otherwise it tastes watery and slightly piney. It has a light body and a ton of carbonation. I can feel bubbles in every corner of my mouth. There is a little coating, but nothing memorable. What is more noticeable is the feeling my stomach has with all of this gas in it, even after just a few sips. I'm afraid this beer is going to make me burp a few times. All of this carbonation makes this glass hard to finish. I will say that this bottle is a little old, and that may be why the flavor isn't that bitter and there is so much carbonation. I don't think I get another bottle of this, unless I knew it was very fresh.

Serving type: bottle

03-23-2010 00:49:46 | More by ToasterChef
Photo of keanex
keanex

New Jersey

2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Bought at a local Canal's to support the local New Jersey brewing scene.

Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Dark brown cloudy beer, with a thin head that disappeared rather fast. Lacing retains though.

No scent me or my friends could notice. Very disappointed.

Tastes like a slightly better Budweiser. A bolder Budweiser as my friend says. Very let down.

Medium bodied beer with high carbonation.

Very drinkable with a low ABR.

Serving type: bottle

03-14-2010 01:15:52 | More by keanex
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River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.