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River Horse Special Ale ESB - River Horse Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
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%
Wants: 1
Gots: 0 | FT: 0
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 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of djrn2
djrn2

New Jersey

3/5  rDev -5.4%

11-30-2011 20:27:42 | More by djrn2
Photo of BuckeyeNation
BuckeyeNation

Iowa

2.98/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Coppery orange with honey hued highlights and way too many bubbles. The khaki colored crown was large after a gentle pour and doesn't have much character. It becomes slightly rocky over time and leaves almost no lace.

Toasted and caramel malts are noted in the nose, as is a pat of butter and a background sour fruitiness. The beer doesn't smell very hoppy, which is always a concern in an ESB.

River Horse Special Ale ESB isn't a bad little English-style ale, but it's no ESB. It isn't extra special (or strong), and it isn't bitter. A hoppier beer, or a bigger beer, or both, would've been preferable. Its mouthfeel lets it down as well.

Flavors include toast crust, butter toffee, tea leaves, baked nuts and tangy apricots. It's far from an unpleasant combo, but it doesn't come together very well and it isn't a classic version of the style by any means. A complete overhaul is in order, never mind the fact that this is one of the brewery's originals.

The mouthfeel is too thin, even when keeping ABV in mind, and is too harshly bubbled. While the carbonation settles down by mid-mouthful, it doesn't add even a modicum of smoothness or creaminess.

Looking back through my reviews, River Horse has never released what I would consider to be an impressive beer. Special Ale ESB keeps that dubious streak alive. Sorry, but your money is better spent elsewhere.

Serving type: bottle

01-23-2010 13:46:53 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of mikesgroove
mikesgroove

South Carolina

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

An ESB from my home state, what would there be not too like. I was anxious to give this one a whirl and grabbed it for lunch yesterday. Unfortunately things did not go entirely as planned. Served cold and poured into a pint glass, this one was consumed on 08/23/2009.

Appearance 2.5 - A foamy mess here. Not a gusher but about as close to one as I care to get. Took about three pours to get the whole bottle into a glass, not the way we care to start out the day for sure.

Aroma 3 - Light hops here, not terribly aromatic at all. Pine maybe? Not really discernable. Lots of grain and light fruit notes.

Taste 3 - Same here, grain steels the show with a light touch of almost peach like fruit coming through, not much at all in the way of hops ever really comes through, which really is a shame.

Feel 3 - Over carbonated, it had the seltzer kind of effect to it for sure. Got in the way of the flavor at times and really was not winning me over by any stretch.

Drinkability 3 - Ehh, I mean it's not terrible, but I would not really being going out anywhere looking for it, I have had worse.

Overall - I will have to pass on going through with round two on this one. Again nothing terrible here but I will have to pass on this one.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2009 00:33:19 | More by mikesgroove
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 NeroFiddled
NeroFiddled

Pennsylvania

3.63/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A quite hazy - almost cloudy - and deep-amber colored body topped by a thin & creamy white cap that has limited holding capabilities. The aroma is richly malty (similar to Munich malt) with a touch of diacetyl, gently fruity, and displays a minor hop note if you swirl the glass enough to bring it up. The body is medium with a very fine, restrained carbonation that gives it an oily, smooth and lightly creamy mouthfeel. The flavor reflects the rich malt first seen in the aroma, although it's more caramelish here, with a firm hoppy balance that's more bitterness than flavor. It finishes dryish with some gently lingering maltiness, a mild fruitiness, a soft note of buttery diacetyl, and a touch of hop bitterness and flavor. Although it may sound complex here, it's actually quite straight-forward. I actually enjoy the light diacetyl here as it works well with the other characteristics of the beer and adds to the richness (as it sometimes seen in brown ales).

Serving type: bottle

10-20-2002 14:21:44 | More by NeroFiddled
Photo of russpowell
russpowell

Oklahoma

2.68/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Purchased in alexandria, va

Pours a hazed amber/ice tea color with 3 fingers of lively sand colored head. Very good lacing, some head retention & hazed all the way to the bottom

S: Jammy notes

T: Fruitty with some astringent notes up front. Some hop tea& then diathechyl. Some spicy hop & fruitty (apricot) notes follow, but notenough to save this.

MF: Light & prickly & not pleasant

Drinks slow, too astringent, not sure how long this one was sitting in a fridge in that store, but this failed to impress & makes me hesitant to try anything else from these guys. This really reminds me of one of my first (crappy) batches of homebrew, avoid

Serving type: bottle

04-05-2007 04:02:59 | More by russpowell
Photo of Slatetank
Slatetank

Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev +26.2%

05-17-2013 05:18:21 | More by Slatetank
Photo of WesWes
WesWes

New York

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

The beer pours a golden color with a thin white head that fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. I has a pale and carapils malt scent with a musty breadlike aroma. The taste is average. It has a thin, bitter flavor that boasts of pale and some light crystal malts. It goes down quick and finishes dry with some hops in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is average as well. It is a low bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a decent drinker, but I'm really not sure what style this is. It's not really and amber/red ale and it's not really a ESB. If anyone can figure it out, please let me know.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2005 01:37:15 | More by WesWes
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 jwc215
jwc215

Wisconsin

2.53/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours copper - decent clarity - with a thin head that soon disappears to nothing - poor head retention. Little spots of quickly canishing traces of lacing on glass.

The smell is indescribly off - seems like a homebrew that didn't quite come out right. Fortunately, it is mild. Other than that though, can't say there's much to it.

The taste is rather raw. Again, like an off home brew. It almost has something to save it - almost. Swwet malt balanced out by water more than anything. This is the most un-ESB ESB that I;ve had. Sweetness is not overwhelming, so something is balancing it out. A fruitiness is hinted at, but lost. There is a tea-like earthiness. That must be it. But, other than controlling some of the sweetness, adds little to the taste.

There is a watery thinness, and an unusual grittiness. The body is on the upper side of light. There is some fleeting coating effect. But, the feel falls apart enough to bring it to mediocre at best, even forgetting style.

I understand that styles are open to interpretation, but this one misses the mark. It's not very good, ESB or not. It does have something, a lightness about it perhaps, or a mildness, that doesn't make it drain pour, but it comes pretty close.

Serving type: bottle

02-21-2007 00:35:02 | More by jwc215
Photo of smcolw
smcolw

Massachusetts

2.8/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This amber pours with a slight chill haze and features a modest head with a mild lace that slides down the glass side. The aroma is predominantly caramel with a touch of hop. I also detect an unpleasant metallic smell.

The caramel aromas translate into caramel flavors that last into the aftertaste. This has a very light hop for the style. The carbonation is moderate to high and the body is thinner than the coloring would suggest.

Much more malty than most ESB's, and certainly more watery. I wouldn't recommend it past a curiousty tasting.

Serving type: bottle

03-01-2004 00:22:29 | More by smcolw
Photo of Gavage
Gavage

New Jersey

3.95/5  rDev +24.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours an amber color with a thick bubbly head. Lacing was produced on the glass as it emptied. The aroma was pleasant, fruity and sweet overtones were very noticable. The body was thinner than expected, but flavorful with a nice balance of malts and some slight bitterness. The malt lasts long on the tongue. Extremely drinkable and enjoyable.

Serving type: bottle

11-01-2003 22:14:08 | More by Gavage
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 oriolesfan4
oriolesfan4

Maryland

3.6/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A darn solid beer right here. Pours a cloudy brownish color, some lacing seen on the glass. Smell is of caramel and some roastiness. Taste is medium bodied, some nice caramel notes come through with subtle hops. Nice smoothness to this one.. a little bit boring taste wise but a good beer overall.

Serving type: bottle

12-25-2009 22:54:48 | More by oriolesfan4
Photo of woodychandler
woodychandler

Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This poured with a thick, off-white head that actually had decent retention. The nose had a malty sweetness to it. The color was a sightly cloudy orangish-amber. The mouthfeel was medium and I got a big, malty flavor on the tongue. The finish was more hoppy than what I experienced in the mouth, but there was still a good bit of sweetness to it. I wouldn't mind drinking this beer on a regular basis, regardless of the time of year.

Serving type: bottle

08-07-2005 01:04:15 | More by woodychandler
Photo of Billolick
Billolick

New York

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

12 ounce bottle, Boring and nondescript are my words to describe this brew. As said below this one does not go anywhere. Mushy flavor profile, malty? hops? nothing really is destinct.. Poor brew to roll out as your "special" ale. I'm sure these guys are capable of better.

Serving type: bottle

04-29-2004 10:30:39 | More by Billolick
Photo of Georgiabeer
Georgiabeer

Georgia

3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a decent copper with a touch of chill haze. Not much head and no lacing. Smell is extremely light but with a touch of metal and dry malt. Taste isn't bad. Clean, slightly metallic, very slight hint of dry malt, touch of bakers chocolate and floral hops. Mouthfeel is a little slick. Pretty drinkable session beer. Not very alcoholic, fairly lightly flavored and clean but with a touch of decent flavor. Not my favorite, but I wouldn't complain if this was a fallback at a bar with mostly bmc.

Serving type: bottle

07-17-2007 21:09:03 | More by Georgiabeer
Photo of ppoitras
ppoitras

Massachusetts

2.73/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz bottle purchased as a single somewhere in NoVA, either WF/Vienna, WF/Annadale, Norm's, or Rick's.

Poured into an imperial pint glass, formed a 1/4" beige head above the mostly clear copper brew. Head settles down a layer of foam, with nice lacing. Aroma is almost sickly sweet for the style, little evidence of hops. Taste, unfortunately, continues along this road. Somewhat corny sweetness, with the slightest of bitterness not even close to doing its job of balancing (or more) here. Mouthfeel and drinkability are okay, but the sweetness just puts a damper on the whole experience.

Serving type: bottle

10-30-2005 17:05:45 | More by ppoitras
Photo of BillRoth
BillRoth

Maryland

3.5/5  rDev +10.4%

12-29-2013 03:47:29 | More by BillRoth
Photo of plaid75
plaid75

New York

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

Poured a murky dark copper hue with a half finger foamy white head. There was decent retention and lacing.

The smell featured soft caramel malts and a tea like herbal hop.

The taste consisted of a light grainy malt and a slightly herbal hop. A touch of sweetness toward the finish.

The mouthfeel was toward the thinner side of the style with little carbonation.

Overall a decent ESB. Not something I would search out.

Serving type: bottle

05-26-2009 19:13:05 | More by plaid75
Photo of beerthulhu
beerthulhu

New Jersey

3.28/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Poured a clear, cranberry-orange with a 1 finger creamy, light beige head that left a fair rim lacing. Visible carbonation was soft.

S: light with some dry orange peels and light fresh flowers.

T: spritzy orange juice with fresh orange grinds. A nice fruitiness of sour apples, sour caramel and some spruce hints were detected as well. Light dry caramel toasted grains, curaco oranges and citrus rounds things out.

M: light, oily slick in texture, and softly carbonated. Light spicy orange fade is experienced on the swallow.

D: Decent drinkability, but wouldn't be my first option.

Serving type: bottle

05-19-2008 22:55:31 | More by beerthulhu
Photo of dirtylou
dirtylou

Washington

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

12oz single, received as an extra in a trade from Warriorsoul

appearance: pours a murky copper-amber into a between the buns pint glass, quite cloudy, light beige head forms with not much retention and decent lacing

smell: oddly sour, vegetal aromas, toasty malt aromas, artificial sweetner characteristic, light caramel, peach-citrus

taste: certainly not like any esb i have ever sampled...delicate out of place sourness, grainy aftertaste, light caramel, toasty malt...different, but not all that great

mouthfeel: lightly watery, sour on the tongue, average-low carbonation

drinkability: not bad

Serving type: bottle

06-27-2006 01:54:07 | More by dirtylou
Photo of harpus
harpus

Alabama

3/5  rDev -5.4%

03-20-2014 18:52:47 | More by harpus
Photo of Dogbrick
Dogbrick

Ohio

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

Pours clear reddish copper with a thin beige head and minimal lacing. Roasted malt aroma with a bit of hops. Medium-bodied with caramel and earthy malt flavors, as well as mild grass and hops. The finish is short and slightly bitter. This beer will not win any awards in the category, nevertheless it is a straightforward and easy to drink brew.

Serving type: bottle

07-18-2005 15:19:23 | More by Dogbrick
Photo of tone77
tone77

Pennsylvania

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

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a caramel color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, mostly malts. Taste is mostly of malts, some hops present, not overly flavorful. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and has average drinkability. Overall this is a fairly decent brew.

Serving type: bottle

03-01-2010 03:34:11 | More by tone77
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River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.