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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 sliv
3.02/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I spent a long time staring at the beer refrigerators in the store down the street from me, trying to decide if I wanted something new or something familiar. I must have looked lost, since the owner came and recommended this one to me, as well as the Tripel Horse (to be tasted tomorrow…) I have had such good luck with his recommendations in the past, that I was positive this would be a worthy beer. However, on sampling I discovered that I didn’t find anything “extra” about this ESB except maybe extra mediocre.

This beer poured a thin, weak head. The head subsided almost immediately into nothing. Looking through the glass, I could see a faint haze swirling about in the honey-amber-copper color. I didn’t notice too much carbonation at first glance, but the bubbles were there…you just have to look for them.

Right away I could smell light sweet malts. This beer has promise. Something metallic underneath, though. Not sure what it is. Bad 6-pack? Old beer? Bad water? Not a strong odor, but definitely there, lurking behind the nice malts.

Very light taste in this beer. No single thing really stands out. Very basic light ale. The sweet malts are there, and the metallic smell is now a faint metallic taste, but not so much to overpower the malt. Very light aftertaste here. Nice finish. Seems very balanced.

Mouth feel:
Only a very slight bit of carbonation. I would have preferred a little more, so that you notice the beer is there. This is light and sweet, but not cloyingly so. These go by very quickly.

This is a very easy to drink beer, but there’s nothing truly outstanding here. The metallic taste fades away after about half a bottle. I could definitely drink this one all night. I hardly noticed that I was almost finished with the second beer almost as soon as I poured it. This reminds me of a hundred other forgettable ales that won’t make you sick, and can be had again and again and again and (well, you get the idea)

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Photo of claspada
3.06/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a deep orange with a very large off white head with good retention.

Aromas begin with sweet pale malt and some light honey/caramel. As it warms you get some slight doughy, roasted maltiness with a bit of earthy hoppiness.

The tastes follow the nose with light caramel, toasted bready maltiness with some light toffee flavors as well. Light and clean earthy hoppiness emerges more as it warms.

The mouthfeel is light bodied with medium to high carbonation. Finish is lightly dry and earthy but mainly clean and crisp.

Overall this is a decent, flavorful and balanced ESB. Nothing to mind-blowing but quite satifying considering the ABV, but nothing close to the traditional quality English examples or even as good as many American interpretations.

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

12 ounce bottle, Boring and nondescript are my words to describe this brew. As said below this one does not go anywhere. Mushy flavor profile, malty? hops? nothing really is destinct.. Poor brew to roll out as your "special" ale. I'm sure these guys are capable of better.

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Photo of maximumsheehan
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

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

Very sweet, honey comes through.

Flavors are balanced, caramel and honey are prominent ones.

Mouth feel:
Carbonation is barely noticeable.

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

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.

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Photo of tempest
3.11/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

OK, I can see where these guys are going with this beer. They're trying to turn a classic ESB into a full-flavored American amber. It doesn't work. The body is too thick, either from low attenuation or (possibly and) too much crystal malt. It comes off with a thick body like a 6-7% beer, which sort of negates the sessionability. Mouthfeel aside, the beer tastes like toffee malt with a dash of herbal citrus hops at the finish. So even for all that unfermented sugar thickening the beer, it doesn't seem terribly complex. I'd avoid this if I were you. It's not offensive, there are just better options out there.

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Photo of tone77
3.11/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a caramel color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is mild, mostly malts. Taste is mostly of malts, some hops present, not overly flavorful. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and has average drinkability. Overall this is a fairly decent brew.

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