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River Horse Special Ale ESB - River Horse Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.

134 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 134
Hads: 162
Avg: 3.17
pDev: 14.51%
Wants: 1
Gots: 1 | 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:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-01-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (32) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 134 | Hads: 162
Photo of Proteus93
3.14/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: A lighter golden, modest white head... short lived.

S: A somewhat sweet citrus aroma... closer to grapefruit or orange fruit, rather than rind bitterness.

T/M/D: Some sparse flavours, lacking the smooth maltiness often associated with the style. A touch of citrus zing, but fairly watery - both in flavour and body consistency. A moderate carbonation offers some added life to keep things interesting. It doesn't quite do it, unfortunately, and the brew ends up a little boring and the experience uneventful.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.53/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This ESB builds a nice firm head that quickly recedes to a patchy lace. The ale itself is a clear, new-penny copper with columns of fine carbonation. Also, the label has great artwork.

The aroma leans more to the sweet side of the spectrum with fresh apples. This is a pleasant aroma, but lends little to a discussion.

River Horse's ESB is a simple, lightly-bittered ale with definite bready malts. In the finish, one will find some butter tones and minimal pine.

This one has a medium body that is smooth and easy flowing.

A nice beer for a tailgate party or the game itself. The simple flavors compliment the activity rather than taking center stage. And... it comes from a great New Jersey town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Date consumed: 6 July 2008

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Photo of AltBock
3.01/5  rDev -5%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12 oz. bottle that has a label that's almost like the Lager label, except this one has the hippo drinking it up with a not so bumpy frog. This hippo like to party ith frogs I guess.

When poured into a Flying Fish standard pint glass, this River Horse is a clear copper orange with a miniature head of white fizzy bubbles. These bubbles quickly fizzled away that had to be somewhere else. When they fizzled away, they only left behind 5 to 8 fizzy rings along the edge and no lace. Not even one spot of lace. It had a very crispy and dry aroma of floarl hops, a drop of perfume, subtle lemon and grapefruit, and then it finished up with a small touch of toffee. The taste of this ESB was more dry than hoppy and featured lightly hoppy floral hops, a smidge of toasted malts, and ended just like the aroma did, with a small touch of toffee. The mouthfeel feel was light and crispy with a high level of carbonation, and a faint aftertaste of grapefruit and toffee. Sometimes the carbonation was so loud that it covered up what little taste this beer had. In the end, it's just another average decent ale from River Horse.

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Photo of MuddyFeet
2.52/5  rDev -20.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Not what I was hoping. A very lifeless beer with not much going for it--but also nothing hugely negative about it. Pours a brick red, and at first it was clear but upon further inspection it appeared rather hazy. Also, I could not get a head to form on this beer. Full bodied, but flat feeling. Flavor is almost sour apple juice. I can barely find the presence of any hops. Malts come through rather thick and almost tastes as if some rye was added into the hop bill. Reminds me of really bad homebrew.

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Photo of mikeg67
2.91/5  rDev -8.2%
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”.

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Photo of SixpointJMH
2.66/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This one pours a decent looking but somewhat watery amber colour wit ha very thin head that dissolves to nothing with little to no residue left on the glass.

The aroma is a weird concoction of some sweetness, mixed vegetables and hints of what can best be described as vomit. Not very impressive at all.

The flavour axes the vomit-esque qualities but brings in an over the top sweetness that is reminicscent of bubble gum at times. Hops and malt mix nicely in the background but you can't avoid said sweetness. Mouthfeel is average and is, like the appearance a bit watered down.

The weird aroma and uber sweet characteristics of this brew are amongst the reasons I hadn't sampled a River Horse brew in quite some time until recently. Their limited amount of seasonals/special beers are pretty good to very good, but the regular lineup has always seemed to be littered with various problems. Can't really recommend this one.

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Photo of Foxman
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of mschofield
3.9/5  rDev +23%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Listed as an amber/red ale here, but an ESB on the label. I'll review as an amber ale (brings the beer up in all ways).
Pours a clear copper with a two finger tan head, leaves rings of lacing behind, mapping out your drink.
Caramel and floral aroma, buttery and fruity.
Sweet, nicely bitter for an amber - quite mild, a little honey, the flavor is dominated by a caramel note.
The taste is full, but the body is medium.
Very easy to drink, but there is a bitter-honey note that could grow overpowering, otherwise this would be a good session beer.

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Photo of jmz62565
2.91/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This pours a cloudy reddish amber with a very small short lived head.The smell is average with some roasted malt,but that's about it.The taste has some roasted malt nuttiness and a slight citrus aftertaste.The m/f is light and leaves your mouth a little watery.This is an average beer and I doubt I'll try this again.

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Photo of zoso1967
3.11/5  rDev -1.9%
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.

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Photo of ATPete
3.92/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

Pours a hazy brown orange color with a small screen of a white head, some soapy sticking. Sweet bready malts in the nose with a spicy hop character. The beers malt character over powers the semi-bitter hop character it has going on. A good, and welcomed, hop bite just before the finish. Although not true to the ESB style this ale remains, light, drinkable and some what refreshing. A well balanced beer.

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Photo of MrHungryMonkey
4.02/5  rDev +26.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bright fruit with citric pop and plenty of juicy malt. Smells wonderful!

Hazy orange, little head, good retention.

Citrus overtones with more bright fruit. Hop smack. Plenty of malt flavor and body. Roasted edge but mainly biscuit toast with caramel bit. Nicely balanced with an enticing sweet edge and an ever-citric nose. A little bitterness. Medium body, ample carbonation.

Spot on and ever-so-tasty, with a great aesthetic to the label.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Situation: Final exams have began--time to celebrate prematurely!
Glassware: Kisatsky's Pub shaker...
Appearance: Burnt orange-brown body with a crispy, fresh white head that settles to a lacing-less moustache..
Aroma: Robust, hoppy scents--a bit much in the hopper for an ESB (though indeed this is an American brewer)...
Palate: medium-bodied and rather smooth finish after an abrupt start; the throat is stoked ablaze with each passing sip...
Taste: buttery with sweet toffee and vanilla (?); hops provide initial runch but ease off; aftertaste is pleasantly even...
Overall: No insult, but can't think of something more to say either way--works as the twelve-pack filler with a sessionable sweetness....

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Photo of williamherbert
3.88/5  rDev +22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A light cranberry red. Clear but for the fog on the glass. One half finger of foamy off-white head. Lots of bubbles. Diggin' the look.

Strong alcohol aroma, just this side of a barleywine. Some sweetish leathery malt notes. Hints of dark berry. A light barleywine smell.

The taste is strong and a bit puckery sour. Some leathery malt, almost like a porder in its darkness, but balanced by some dark berry. Hints of dark caramel. Strong malts. Hops are English and subdued.

The feel is thick, almost like a cream ale; full bodied. It's a drinkable "special ale." They call it an ESB but it's far stronger. Nice and substantial.

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

12oz. amber bottle with no freshness dating. "You'll never miss the water!" on the label.

Poured a dark copper in color with a very smooth and creamy off-white head that dies quickly and sparsely covers the glass. Aromas are tough to pick out, but are comprised mostly of a doughy sweetness...like cinnamon roll dough. Flavor is more of the same, with a shallow malty-caramel flavor supported by a bit of diacetyl input. Finishes with nary an aftertaste....nothing. Mouthfeel is very thin and not to pleasing to the palate. Drinkable, but not overly so.

Notes: Bottle clearly notes "ESB" on the bottle but there's no way that this fits the ESB mold.

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Photo of BeardedBoffin
3.09/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A 12 ounce bottle of River Horse ESB poured into a pint glass revealed a fairly attractive dark amber ale with a nice appropriate head. The aroma was very light, but I think there was some barely detectable hints of grain and a smaller hint of hops. Nice carbonation on the palate and fairly light bodied. The flavor was similar to the aroma, mainly grain with almost no hops. I was hoping for a bit more.

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Photo of beerluvr
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

"Extra Special"? Hardly. "Bitter"? Not very. Pours out with a decent looking off white head that settles briskly over attractive reddish/amber clear liquid. The nose is clean, biscuity, somewhat weak maltiness with some caramel notes strewn about...where's the hops? The taste offers somewhat thin mouthfeel with tastes of crisp maltiness with a biscuit edge, very little fruitiness, very little hop bitterness...where's the hops? Finishes spritzy, light, unexciting...you win some, you lose some. This time I lost. I'll say this though, it would make a mighty fine lawnmower beer at the very least. But where's the hops??

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Photo of ToasterChef
2.65/5  rDev -16.4%
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.

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Photo of Clydesdale
2.73/5  rDev -13.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

A: Pours a moderately hazy copper-orange color. The medium-sized head has a faint burnt orange tint and a fairly dense, frothy texture. Retention is above average, with some solid lacing.

S: A solid maltiness up front; a bit of sweet caramel. Some pleasant but nondescript fruitiness. Some mild earthy/spicy hop aromas are present, but are quite subdued.

T: A moderately full maltiness up front. Some pale malt is accompanied by a sweet caramel touch. Notes of fruit, diacetyl, and brewed tea. Hops are light for the style, and quite tame by any standard.

M: Light bodied. Carbonation is soft and fading. Faintly dry in the finish.

D: This is very tame. It isn't awful - it's sort of like a decent red ale sans any hop flavor or balance. Drinkability is admittedly solid, and the low ABV would make this a reasonable session choice. Otherwise, difficult to recommend.

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Photo of beveragecaptain
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle. Very clear copper. Malty aroma with a touch of honey. The malt and hop flavors are pretty evenly balanced, and there is a nice lemon zestiness, but all the flavors are too weak. Watery mouthfeel, and the carbonation is too high. All the beers I've had from River Horse remind me of each other: nothing really bad about them, just not all that interesting.

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Photo of Jacobob10
2.49/5  rDev -21.5%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a hazy amber/orage color with almost no head at all. Leads me to believe that maybe this beer wasn't fresh. Decent smell nonetheless, nothing great though. Slight hop bitterness in the taste, but the beer was very flat and lacked carbonation. I wouldn't recommend this beer, but I would like to try it again to see if it was just a bad sample.

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

Full amber color with off-white head. Aromas - fruity, malty, and slightly nutty with jelly and biscuits. Tastes totally like a UK bitter/pale/ESB. Total English yeast strain going on here. More on the malty side with a slight butter cookie taste on the finish. Medium body and a great U.S. copy of a U.K. style. Not for American craft lovers of hop-town.

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Photo of ElGuapo
3.07/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I did not get even a little bit of head on top of this dark amber colored beer. The aroma was dominated by malts, but there was a bit of hops that you could just get a whiff of.

In the taste, the hops made their presence felt a little more with a bitter spicy flavor. The malts were in a pretty good balance, and a caramel like taste also came through. This brew is medium-bodied and very drinkable because of its clean and smooth qualities. It is sure not an all star, and it is lacking in taste, but you could always throw a few back.

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Photo of droomyster
2.63/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I like a few River Horse beers this is not one of them. Pours a clear copper with a small head and lots of sediment. Smell reminds me of the essence of a watermelon sucker with a tootsie roll in the middle; it doesn't smell beer-like at all; no trace of hops. Tastes not at all like and ESB. In fact, it hardly tastes like a beer at all. Cloying malts and over-yeastiness is not tasty to me in the slightest. I hope that RH either reworks this beer or else scraps it, because I know from other styles that they are able to make some pretty good beer.

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Photo of matty
3.15/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Orange colored beer with a rapidly fading head.Aroma is malty.Taste is malty with a bready aftertaste.Overall there's not much going on.It's kind of bland and boring.This is where you can use the term "run of the mill".I wouldn't waste my time with another one nor would I waste anybody elses time by recommending it.

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River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 134 ratings.