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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 BuckeyeNation
2.98/5  rDev -6%

Coppery orange with honey hued highlights and way too many bubbles. The khaki colored crown was large after a gentle pour and doesn't have much character. It becomes slightly rocky over time and leaves almost no lace.

Toasted and caramel malts are noted in the nose, as is a pat of butter and a background sour fruitiness. The beer doesn't smell very hoppy, which is always a concern in an ESB.

River Horse Special Ale ESB isn't a bad little English-style ale, but it's no ESB. It isn't extra special (or strong), and it isn't bitter. A hoppier beer, or a bigger beer, or both, would've been preferable. Its mouthfeel lets it down as well.

Flavors include toast crust, butter toffee, tea leaves, baked nuts and tangy apricots. It's far from an unpleasant combo, but it doesn't come together very well and it isn't a classic version of the style by any means. A complete overhaul is in order, never mind the fact that this is one of the brewery's originals.

The mouthfeel is too thin, even when keeping ABV in mind, and is too harshly bubbled. While the carbonation settles down by mid-mouthful, it doesn't add even a modicum of smoothness or creaminess.

Looking back through my reviews, River Horse has never released what I would consider to be an impressive beer. Special Ale ESB keeps that dubious streak alive. Sorry, but your money is better spent elsewhere.

BuckeyeNation, Jan 23, 2010
Photo of Kraken
3/5  rDev -5.4%

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.

Kraken, Jan 06, 2009
Photo of cliff1066
3/5  rDev -5.4%

cliff1066, Dec 24, 2012
Photo of mikerems
3/5  rDev -5.4%

mikerems, Mar 07, 2012
Photo of mdillon86
3/5  rDev -5.4%

mdillon86, Nov 26, 2011
Photo of ROGUE16
3/5  rDev -5.4%

ROGUE16, Dec 07, 2011
Photo of cmq103
3/5  rDev -5.4%

cmq103, Feb 02, 2014
Photo of harpus
3/5  rDev -5.4%

harpus, Mar 20, 2014
Photo of AndrewMichael
3/5  rDev -5.4%

AndrewMichael, Feb 03, 2012
Photo of AltBock
3/5  rDev -5.4%

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.

AltBock, Mar 31, 2008
Photo of djrn2
3/5  rDev -5.4%

djrn2, Nov 30, 2011
Photo of NYR_Rob
3/5  rDev -5.4%

NYR_Rob, Aug 17, 2013
Photo of touchmeimsac
3/5  rDev -5.4%

touchmeimsac, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of thequeen711
3/5  rDev -5.4%

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.

thequeen711, Aug 12, 2008
Photo of garuda
3/5  rDev -5.4%

garuda, Dec 05, 2011
Photo of claspada
3.05/5  rDev -3.8%

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.

claspada, Sep 24, 2012
Photo of sliv
3.05/5  rDev -3.8%

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.

Appearance:
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.

Smell:
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.

Taste:
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.

Drinkability:
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)

sliv, Sep 17, 2005
Photo of maximumsheehan
3.05/5  rDev -3.8%

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.

maximumsheehan, Feb 05, 2006
Photo of Proteus93
3.08/5  rDev -2.8%

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.

Proteus93, Jul 27, 2008
Photo of jlandis
3.08/5  rDev -2.8%

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.

jlandis, Mar 10, 2009
Photo of ElGuapo
3.08/5  rDev -2.8%

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.

ElGuapo, Jan 26, 2003
Photo of Billolick
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%

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.

Billolick, Apr 29, 2004
Photo of tempest
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%

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.

tempest, Apr 19, 2010
Photo of tone77
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%

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.

tone77, Mar 01, 2010
Photo of zoso1967
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%

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.

zoso1967, Nov 21, 2010
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.