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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

(Send Samples)
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 (30) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 134 | Hads: 162
Photo of Stunner97
3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- amber color beer with slight carbonation as bubbles stream slowly up glass, murky and cloudy, head starts white and fades to slight foam lacing,

Smell- Sweet molasses, caramel, and loads up sweet maltiness on the nose, smells a nice and sweet beer, sweet caramel apple,

Taste- sweet caramel malts lead off out of the batters box's in this one but are mellowed out by some strong bitter hops balancing it out pretty nicely, very mild citrus tones, its overall a little light in flavor in a way but the strong point to me is the decently nice long bitter finish, flavor grew on me a bit after first sip or two

Mouth- medium body to this beer though still pretty light and refreshing to drink

Drinkability- A decent esb, not necessarily the best but also not terrible, its definitely easy to drink and worth a one time shot but probably wont blow you away to crazily, for what it is its not bad, certainly a decent option as a session beer but for the price better could be found for my own preference

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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 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 Pencible
2.7/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

This poured a hazy honey color with tons of off-white head (foamed out of the bottle as soon as I popped the top). It smelled like polished copper and grass and lemon hops, with fresh wheat and dusty barley. It tasted like copper and wild yeast and lemon hops, with some barley. It was watery with tons of carbonation, and had a bitter aftertaste. Overall this was a super fizzy beer that had decent flavor but was pretty bland. It was tough to enjoy or critique through all the carbonation. I'm not a fan.

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Photo of Lexluthor33
2.85/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

An orange colored beer with a big head and an amazing lace.
The aroma was hard to decipher. I only picked up caramel with some light malt hints.
The taste was of sweet caramel and a mild bitter taste.
The feel was medium body and and medium carbonation.

Notes: Nothing impressive here,but if I am at an outing and this is all they have then I would gladly indulge.
This brew is just boring and while it was really great looking it was a lot like a hot babe with a great rack and no brains.

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

Murky amber-brown color with a wafer thin white head. Weak aroma of crystal malt, honey and dark fruits. Initial mouthfeel is thin and watery. Flavor is dominated by the sweetness and mild herbal spiciness with little to no hop presence. Perhaps the "company's leading seller" because it is so middle-of-the-road and unremarkable?

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

Reviewed from notes.

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Fin Du Monde Tulip glass. Firm pour elicits 1/8 inch head that diminishes very rapidly. Moderate lace. Color is a slight ruby amber.

Nose- Light notes of caramel, bitters evident in the nose.

Palate- Lightly sweet caramel notes, some nuttiness. Pleasantly yet mild bitterness. Not overly complex but a nice beverage none the less.

Mouthfeel- A little thin, but pleasant.

Drinkability- Good.

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Photo of hops4me
2.69/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I am an instructor to 15 Marine Corps captains. During the holiday leave block we all said we would bring back a six pack from the state we were taking leave in. This was my selection. After reading some mediocre reviews, I decided to test it. I wish I bought the Oatmeal Stout instead. The appearance is the only thing good about this beer. It pours a bright gold to amber with a big fluffy head. Ample lacing sticks to the side of the glass. I don't get too much in the aroma. Maybe a little grainyness and no real hop aroma to speak of. The taste is the same. A little malt sweetness but nothing else. The mouthfeel is light with a weird drying happenning to my mouth. I guess it has "drinkability" due to its light nature but the flavor is not there. I would rather spend a dollar or two less and get Yuengling if I am looking for something light and quaffable. Looks like I am going to have to purchase something else because I am not giving this to my students.

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Photo of BWH3
2.84/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A-copper fairly still average head retention.

S- caramel malt and wet hair. not too pleasing

T - a tart apple taste with the lightest caramel accent. little bitterness and little creaminess. the bitterness is mineral and mild.

M- light, still, average retention

D- average mid Atlantic esb

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Photo of Gambrinus1184
3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Sunset Grill & Tap pint glass.

A: Pours a light, golden amber color with a chilled haze and a thin head of white bubbles which leaves little to no lace.

S: Smells of British malts, a bit of spiciness and a sweet herbal aroma. Toasted bread and a bit of honey are noted too.

T: The label says certain malts might be mistaken for honey, and they are correct. A semisweet honey, toasted biscuit and malt flavor comes through this disappointing bitterness. Very mild and drinkable, but not enough flavor going on.

M: Mouthfeel is thin-medium bodied and slightly bitter in the finish.

D: A drinkable brew, but only because of the lower ABV and mouthfeel. The slightly sweet and bitter taste might satisfy some palates, but even in a style mimicking a milder English ESB, I'd expect more flavor and complexity. You're better off sampling and moving on.

Not a terrible beer, but a bit of a letdown. Clean, drinkable and subtle with its sweet and bitter flavors. Water shares a few of these attributes as well. I could have stood a bit more spiciness and bitter English malts, but instead, was left with a mediocre ESB. All in all, it's worth a try.

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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 thethrone
2.99/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours clear amber, with small head which immediately disappears. No lacing.

S - Caramel malts with some fruity notes. A mineral-like aroma come up in the back end.

T - Malt is the prominent flavor here, a bit too sweet, but overall not a lot of flavor to speak off.

M - Mouthfeel is pretty thin, with low carbonation.

D - May make a good session beer for some, but its not a beer I would want to have again.

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Photo of kinger
2.92/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I like this beer and I also don't really care for it at the same time. Aroma is very sweet with a good presence. Pours a nice pale amber color but even while dumping the beer straight into my glass I couldn't get a decent head to form and there is very little lacing. Mouthfeel is somewhat full but watery in the end. Solid malt here rather sweet for an ESB. Caramel and a honey flavor are dominant, it's tasty but just a bit too sweet for my liking. Decent but lacking.

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Photo of thequeen711
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.

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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 dsa7783
3.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Single, twelve-ounce bottle just copped from Super Saver Liquors on Route 22...
Pours a dark-copper hue with hardly any head and very minimal lacing...
Faint, malty aroma with hints of butter and biscuits...
Taste strongly complemented the smell, with a strong nuance of bread, butter, light caramel, and candied sugars...
Overall, a decent stab at the style, yet mild in taste and unassertive in flavor...
Nothing to write home about...

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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 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 orcasteve
3.27/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

this smells beter than it acualy tastes, it is a nice amber color and pours with minimal head, this is a little sweet then bland than a hop kiss. this one is avarage, its beter than any macro brew (budwiser) but its nouthing special. i gess that it is too sweet for my taste

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Photo of JDV
3.69/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from Kramer17801. Thanks man!
Pours a nice amber color. Mostly clear with a short lived white head. Smell is fruity, nutty and toffee like, with light chocolate. Really nice for an ESB. Taste is lightly chocolatey, with toffee and some pecan like flavor, and fruity tones. Richer than expected and much better that the ratings indicate. I liked this one.

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Photo of philbe311
3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A - Copper and bronze mix... Very little head, especially given a slightly rougher than usual pour...

S - Malt... Hints of corn and barley... Burnt sugars... Buttery...

T - Malt and butter... Toffee perhaps...

M - Creamy and medium bodied... Carbonation fights through...

D - Solid, but unspectacular... A nice brew worthy of consideration, but not one to be sought out or reverred...

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Photo of beerthulhu
3.26/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

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Photo of dmamiano
3.64/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Rudy in color, wit ha nice head.
Smells was malty, bready with notes of caramel.
Taste was very smooth. Big in malt lent to a nice full mouthfeel.
No hoppiness really evident. Very smooth with no real bitterness.
I was expecting a little more in the bitterness at the end, but good non the less.
Not sure it was true to style.

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