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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 AltBock
AltBock

Ohio

3/5  rDev -5.4%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-31-2008 17:37:30 | More by AltBock
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 BeardedBoffin
BeardedBoffin

New Mexico

3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-26-2008 00:44:43 | More by BeardedBoffin
Photo of brantadid
brantadid

New Jersey

2.78/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

poured into a pint glass with next to no head. Diminished to next to no head.

A lot of spice in the nose. Some cinnamon and nutmeg which was very unexpected.

Nice balance between hop and malt. Slightly more hoppy than malty.

Moderate carbonation.

Not a standout, but a nice beer.

Serving type: bottle

10-23-2007 02:41:37 | More by brantadid
Photo of RoBotGod
RoBotGod

Colorado

2.78/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This beer looked a little better then it tasted. After taking a few sniffs I didn’t pull a whole lot. Very light hops and a little grain aroma. The taste was light and not a whole lot to it as well. It didn’t taste bad, there just wasn’t a lot of content. There was slim not of bitterness when it warmed up. Usually from a extra special BITTER I tend to expect a little bit of bitterness. Over all I just think it’s a light copper ale.

Serving type: bottle

09-13-2007 00:41:13 | More by RoBotGod
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 EStreet20
EStreet20

New Jersey

3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle, shaker pint.

A - Nice copper color. Finger and a half of chinky off white head. Looks pretty nice.

S - Weak smell of sugary malts.

T - Taste is pretty decent. A smooth, clean tasting brew. A bit of sugary sweetness in there. Decently balanced.

M - Medium body lets you take deep sips.

D - Coud be a good session beer at 4.5 % abv but more flavor would be nice.

Serving type: bottle

07-06-2007 02:31:40 | More by EStreet20
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 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 dickroop
dickroop

Maryland

2.28/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured a clear bronze with not much head and only a faint aroma, so faint I couldn't really discern anything but a kind of beery smell.

Taste was not much there, every-so-faint hops presence and kinda flabby malt flavor that gave a kind of sourish finish. Mouthfeel was weak and watery, at least the carbonation was OK. Have I been drinking so much DFH that I've burned out my taste buds? I don't think so. This is just kinda ordinary beer, like the rating says "not impressed". One could drink a lot of this... if there wasn't anything good around. And it would be better than BMC... but not much. I got this ESB in a variety-pack case, a Pennsylvania special, would never have tried the stuff if not for wanting to get some of the "Hop Hazard". This stuff is a "No-hop Hazard".

Serving type: bottle

10-01-2006 23:57:48 | More by dickroop
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 guinness33
guinness33

New Jersey

2.7/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-09-2006 04:06:36 | More by guinness33
Photo of mcallister
mcallister

Ohio

2.75/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A very opaque copper orange. Poured this one hard to no avail very little head, thin thin lacing with no retention. I do like the color of this beer.

Sour caramel malty aromas. Smells of sweet white fruits not very distinguishable. Slight peach and nectarine with a delicate hop ending.

Thin watery mouthfeel to this one. Lacking any sort of complexity. Basically a semi sweet caramel malt flavor with not much else going on. Very little hop presence.

Not one I will buy again.

Serving type: bottle

06-02-2006 20:16:47 | More by mcallister
Photo of sacfly
sacfly

Maryland

2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

12 oz, no date.
Pours a lightly hazy orange color with a thin head of medium off white bubbles. Aroma is sour… Smell reminds me of a Flemish red. Taste is watery with a mild sourness in the background. Sourness and some bitterness linger long into a dry aftertaste. Interesting. Just about the farthest thing from the ESB I was expecting. You will be massively disappointed with this as an ESB, but if you are looking for a light, easy drinking beer with a bit of sourness this is OK.

Serving type: bottle

04-30-2006 18:12:40 | More by sacfly
Photo of Amar
Amar

New York

3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this into a pint glass but didn't notice much froth (becasue ESBs apparently have low carbonation).

Smell was sweet and really estery with strong fruity hints.

The flavor was slightly dissapointing: it was neither pronounced nor subtle. In other words, it wasn't there. You could easily sense the sweet undertones but it was very impossible to identify any flavors per se. This ale has such a light body and feels just like water especially right after you swallowed it. I had part of this ale with blueberry waffles and ended up appreciating it a little bit more but I wouldn't call this ale anything but slightly above average. So much for it being the flagship ale of River Horse!

Serving type: bottle

03-26-2006 18:46:20 | More by Amar
Photo of Phatz
Phatz

Pennsylvania

3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

Okay, so this is a decent tasty beer but *ESB* hardly. That is what it is actually classified as from the brewery but even on the Variety case (from which I got this beer) it is labeled as "Special Ale - a smooth amber ale" which is pretty accurate IMO.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color decent head. Mediocre lacing.

Smell: There is very little aroma in this beer. Upon very harsh scrutiny you can find a hint of toasty butterscotch and a bit of soapy buttery diacetyl.

Taste: The taste here is quaffable but boring. It is very clean and thin upfront. It almost seem like drinking water to start and the flavor only begins two thirds across the palate. When the flavor kicks in it is a buttery candied malts flavor with a gentle hop character which makes it very balanced. The beer is oily and somewhat juicy with even a bit up fruit showing through the folds. The aftertaste is the biggest part of the beer and it comes in two parts; initially sweet and fruity followed by a drying mild diacetyl taste in the mouth.

Mouthfeel: It is hard to say about the mouthfeel because it changes on the way through. It appears to be very thin week and watery but yet the oiliness add a slickness and smoothness to this very 'flat' beer.

Drinkability: Really it is a straightforward chugger beer. This is one for parties, hotwings and session drinking; not one for contemplation. Unlike other fascinating ESBs this beer is not interesting but it is approachable and easy to drink.

Hope this is helpful.
Cheers!

Serving type: bottle

03-25-2006 10:19:02 | More by Phatz
Photo of Jdiddy
Jdiddy

Rhode Island

2.85/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This one leaves a lot to be desired. Very watery taste with no real malt or hop surge to be found. Definitely has hints of honey. The smell became worse after each sip to the point of a vinegar like smell. I definitely would call this an ESB and there is really nothing special about it. I will say it is drinkable mainly because it is so light. A pretty weak effort overall. Glad I only purchased a single bottle. I won't revisit this one again.

Serving type: bottle

03-01-2006 00:24:32 | More by Jdiddy
Photo of daliandragon
daliandragon

North Carolina

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

Aquired a mixed twelve of these Jersey beers this afternoon at St James Beverage in the suburban hamlet of the same name. Color is pale, golden brown with los of carbonation and minimal head. Looks almost like a cider or a cream soda or something. Nose is mild with hops and fruit and that pleasant bitterness associated with English ale.
Taste is slightly watery for a bitter and could stand to have the principal flavors juiced up forty percent or so. Mouthfeel, again, is agreeable but fairly flat and not overly impressive.
This isn't a horrible effort but needs to focus the aim and produce a unifying taste that can be strengthened by continual repetition, this is just not quite right. However, if you like the style this is worth taking a flyer on.

Serving type: bottle

02-19-2006 02:02:16 | More by daliandragon
Photo of maximumsheehan
maximumsheehan

District of Columbia

3.05/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Appearance:
Small head that faded quickly. Pours an orangey red color.

Smell:
Very sweet, honey comes through.

Taste:
Flavors are balanced, caramel and honey are prominent ones.

Mouth feel:
Carbonation is barely noticeable.

Drinkability:
Very easy to drink however it is very sweet so I didn't find myself wanting more than one.

Notes:
This is an ok beer that I would certainly drink if I was offered one. I wouldn't buy it. A previous review sums this beer up perfectly, forgettable.

Serving type: bottle

02-05-2006 23:56:12 | More by maximumsheehan
Photo of jmz62565
jmz62565

Connecticut

2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

12-31-2005 03:56:33 | More by jmz62565
Photo of DevilDogBeer
DevilDogBeer

Pennsylvania

2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

River Horse poured a hazy red, which I found as a positive sign as it means the beer was not filtered. The head was a good white color but faded half way through the beer. The smell was very malty with a sight caramel note; a fruity hop nose complemented the sweetness. The taste was a little too sweet for the style, I expect a pronounced hop character in an ESB but I did not find it here. The mouth feel was good, a nice bodied beer. Special Ale is a good drinking beer but the sweetness of it limits me to only one or two in a session. Definitely worth a try, but I don’t know about buying it case after case.

Serving type: bottle

11-22-2005 02:21:16 | More by DevilDogBeer
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 Hagbard
Hagbard

Connecticut

2.6/5  rDev -18%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours deep orange with a small white head. It's hazy and cloudy, apparently unfiltered. The aroma is almost nonexistent, but what's there is a malty sweetness with a strange soapy note in the background. The taste is very underwhelming. There's not much there past a vague malty sweetness. Hops seem nonexistent. It finishes like it starts...there's a serious lack of flavor here. This is clearly a "crossover" beer, but I think it fails at even that. There isn't very much taste and what's there isn't terribly interesting or appealing.

Serving type: bottle

10-20-2005 13:32:59 | More by Hagbard
Photo of tgbljb
tgbljb

Pennsylvania

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

Upon its emergence from the botlle, the beer presented itself as a deep amber liquid with boisterous white puffy head that fell to a chunky coating that refused to leave. The aroma is a toasty sweetness that was immensely pleasureable to the nose. Where is the taste? I can detect a slight presence of malt, but I feel its really trying to hide. Finish is sweet and a bit dry but reallly is unremarkable. The beer was very easy to drink because there flavor was so light.

Serving type: bottle

10-10-2005 00:04:23 | More by tgbljb
Photo of GCBrewingCo
GCBrewingCo

North Carolina

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

The beer poured into the glass tea colored with a very slight haze. The head was frothy and tall and large bubbled. The bottle opened with a noticeable whoosh and with a large release of carbonation.

The aroma was slightly corny (DMS) followed by a light caramel and a low fruity aspect.

The flavor was light caramel with a nice fruity component. The flavors were difficult to acertain with such a high carbonation level. The carbonic bite in the flavor was high. The bittering of the beer was low, but kept the caramel malt from becoming overpowering. As the carbonation dropped off more bready flavors emerged.

The finish was dry with a slight lasting caramel and a very low fruit character. The body was medium, but the carbonation level was off the charts making it seem much less. Not a bad beer, but nothing to get excited about or to seek out.

12 ounce bottle purchased at Vintage Cellar.

Serving type: bottle

09-25-2005 21:02:20 | More by GCBrewingCo
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.