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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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 160 | Reviews: 134 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Clydesdale
2.7/5  rDev -14.8%
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.

Clydesdale, Oct 23, 2009
Photo of ppoitras
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.

ppoitras, Oct 30, 2005
Photo of mcallister
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.

mcallister, Jun 02, 2006
Photo of whartontallboy
2.75/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Light copper pour, medium-sized white head that didn't retain very well. Not much carbonation, either.

Smell is thin malt with a significant off note that has an almost metallic scent. There's some baked bread, etc, but that's about it.

The flavor is similarly weak with bready malt, but the off note in it just keeps coming through. It's kind of a metallic sweetness that I've noticed in some other River Horse beers. The maltiness could use some notable hop presence to round it out; as it is, it's just kind of malty with the metallic note and a hint of diacetyl.

Overall: Eh. Pretty weak, especially to call itself an ESB. The "S" stands for "special!"

whartontallboy, Sep 07, 2005
Photo of RoBotGod
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.

RoBotGod, Sep 13, 2007
Photo of brantadid
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.

brantadid, Oct 23, 2007
Photo of MetalHopHead6
2.8/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a shaped pint glass.

River Horse Special Ale ESB pours a deep cloudy gold with a massive pillowy head that took up half the glass. The head over-stayed its welcome, a bit, and left thick foam on the glass. This is a striking-looking beer for any style.

The smell and taste, on the other hand, are in the midst of a style-identity crisis. This is more Hefe than ESB. The smell is faint and malty-sweet and the flavor is strong...and malty-sweet. There is very little hop presence and very little bitterness.

The feel, aftertaste, and lingering impression of River Horse Special Ale ESB is like cotton candy: sticky, sweet, and not so special.

MetalHopHead6, May 23, 2009
Photo of smcolw
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.

smcolw, Mar 01, 2004
Photo of necoadam
2.8/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The label states that it's their special ale with the letters ESB on the bottom right side. So, they say this is an ESB huh...

Poured out a copper/amber head with a thin layer of carbonation on top. Smell consisted of caramel, malts, and a biscuity aroma. Taste was a bit of a let down. Started off with a malty biscuity backbone with some caramel and sweetness mixing in the middle, but that was it, and even those flavors were on the light side. Mouthfeel was medium with a lack of carbonation I thought. Quite a disappointing brew. Not a true ESB, or even an amber ale. These guys are capable of producting much better beers I would think.

necoadam, May 04, 2005
Photo of Jdiddy
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.

Jdiddy, Mar 01, 2006
Photo of BWH3
2.88/5  rDev -9.1%
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

BWH3, Dec 17, 2008
Photo of Lexluthor33
2.88/5  rDev -9.1%
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.

Lexluthor33, Jan 25, 2009
Photo of jmz62565
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.

jmz62565, Dec 31, 2005
Photo of mikeg67
2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
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”.

mikeg67, Mar 13, 2012
Photo of sacfly
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.

sacfly, Apr 30, 2006
Photo of DevilDogBeer
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.

DevilDogBeer, Nov 22, 2005
Photo of kinger
2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
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.

kinger, Aug 12, 2008
Photo of NJpadreFan
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

River Horse Special Ale

My first River Horse.

Appearance- orangy yellow with a thin fizzy head.
Smell- grassy hops and malt. not bad.
Taste- light and watery. yet decent malt with some grassy hints.
Mouthfeel- watery with a dull dryness in the back end.

Overall- a decent is not forgetable beer. Wouldn't seek this one out but wouldn't mind drinking another.

NJpadreFan, Feb 16, 2005
Photo of keanex
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Bought at a local Canal's to support the local New Jersey brewing scene.

Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Dark brown cloudy beer, with a thin head that disappeared rather fast. Lacing retains though.

No scent me or my friends could notice. Very disappointed.

Tastes like a slightly better Budweiser. A bolder Budweiser as my friend says. Very let down.

Medium bodied beer with high carbonation.

Very drinkable with a low ABR.

keanex, Mar 14, 2010
Photo of Citadel82
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This was a fair beer, not good nor bad just fair. Like many River Horse brews it was not very well balanced, nor full bodied. But it was very drinkable. The carmel malts gave it a rich color and a hint of malty sweetness. There was a litle too much citrusy hopping present for my tastes however. I will buy it again as I am trying to culture some friends into being more respectful of beer and this is a good starter.

Citadel82, Nov 29, 2004
Photo of thethrone
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
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.

thethrone, Aug 21, 2008
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.

OldFrothingSlosh, May 31, 2004
Photo of mikesgroove
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.

mikesgroove, Aug 25, 2009
Photo of joshlara
2.98/5  rDev -6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

My first offering from this brewery. The bottle says it is an ESB style ale. Listed here as an amber ale so we shall see. Very disappointing appearance. The coloring is okay as it's a light amber burnt orange color but there is literally no head immediately after a strong pour and no collar afterwards. Butterscotch and caramel aroma. Tastes like the sun tea my wife makes during the summer. Almost spot on. Absolutely no hop seem to be present. It seems to be almost an unsweetened iced tea. Has a different flavor, caramel and diacytel. I guess more of an ESB than an amber ale in my opinion albeit an uninspiring one. Is drinkable but I would not purchase it again.

joshlara, May 08, 2004
Photo of Knapp85
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.

Knapp85, Apr 09, 2011
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.