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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 Georgiabeer
3.33/5  rDev +5%
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.

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Photo of Suds
3.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I guess that I had higher hopes for this beer.
Copper color with a faint head. Subtle and delicate balance of musty hop and worty-malt aroma. Overall, the smell is pretty good...just way too faint. Caramel-ish foretaste and slightly sweet and hoppy finish. Overall, the beer is light-bodied and un-challenging. Strictly middle of the road.

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Photo of micromaniac129
3.3/5  rDev +4.1%
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.

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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 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 goz
3.26/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a medium amber, with a large off-white head that mostly diminishes to leave good lacing. Aroma is light, with some toasted grains and caramel. Flavor starts slightly sweet, then turns to some mild roasted graininess. Thinnish body, fairly light on the aromas and flavor, which seems to be typical of this brewery.

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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 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 GCBrewingCo
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
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.

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Photo of tjd112
3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Chimay glass

A - Brown-ish copper color, thick head
S - Only subtle maltiness, with hoppiness reminiscent of an IPA.
T - Bitter, sort of a tea like flavor with some caramel notes.
M: Very dry
D: Despite having a low-alcohol content, I feel this is more of a sipper than something to wash down food with.

Serving type: bottle

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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 EStreet20
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.

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Photo of aahynick
3.22/5  rDev +1.6%
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.

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Photo of marc77
3.2/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazed copper hue covered by a lean, but dense and steadfast off white head. Sparse lace remains. Medium lovibond caramel with a slight buttery biscuit twang upfront in aroma. Sweet floral, mildly perfume like hop nose. Maltose rich, wort like hints surface as the brew breathes. Clean and tame aromawise. In flavor, the prevalent malt character is a combination of dilute toffee and toasted pale malt. Mellow butterscotch undertone. Mild in hop bitterness, but appropriately matched to the stately, simple residual sweetness. Leafy hop flavor melds with toasted malt component to lend a sweetened, cool black tea like impression. A tad skimpy in body and well attenuated, with a thinnish, lanky mouthfeel. Finishes with fading hints of watered down biscuit and brown sugar. An underwhelming amber that lacks inspiration but succeeds in passable drinkability. Balanced, but prosaic.

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Photo of ElGordo
3.17/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This one showed up in the BOTM shipment for February. Pours a strange-looking coppery/orange color with a smallish creamy head that lingers on the glass. Really strong nose of toffee, biscuit, caramel, and roasted malt. Palate is caramel malt, more bread/biscuit, very light hops, hint of orange. Creamy mouthfeel with a muted aftertaste of sweet roasted malt. The bottle says this is an ESB, BA says it's a red ale,and I have to side with BA. A decent beer, but not very true to style.

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Photo of tgbljb
3.17/5  rDev 0%
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.

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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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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 Brianjames16
3.15/5  rDev -0.6%
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!

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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 dirtylou
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

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Photo of jlandis
3.13/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Translucent golden in color with minimal thin white head that disappears almost immediately.

S - Sweet honey like malt aroma with no hop presence.

T - Simple malt flavor with a bit of an off metallic taste. Hop bitterness present, but minimal hop flavor.

M - Evident use of carapils provides a creamy body. Minimal carbonation.

D - Low ABV and carbonation make this highly drinkable, although the metallic taste is a little off putting. A decent beer, but nothing exciting.

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Photo of WesWes
3.12/5  rDev -1.6%
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.

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Photo of jhammel01
3.12/5  rDev -1.6%
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.

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Photo of Omnium
3.12/5  rDev -1.6%
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.

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