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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)
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Ratings: 160 | Reviews: 134 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of sliv
sliv

Massachusetts

3.05/5  rDev -3.8%
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.

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)

Serving type: bottle

09-17-2005 02:26:36 | More by sliv
Photo of GnomeKing
GnomeKing

Pennsylvania

3.73/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The carbonation is vigorous at first, with bubbles that you can feel popping on your tongue and lips. At this point, you'll taste moderate hops well blended with sweet malts. About halfway through your pint glass, the mouthfeel will smooth out, even become slightly thin. By now, you'll notice, surprise, some banana flavors and heightened, but not overdone, sweetnees.

I'm surprised at how low this beer is rated. It's really drinkable and pleasant. Granted, it's not interesting or provocative, but not all beers can be or should be. This is a textbook session ale.

Serving type: bottle

09-09-2005 02:42:46 | More by GnomeKing
Photo of whartontallboy
whartontallboy

New York

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!"

Serving type: bottle

09-07-2005 00:18:56 | More by whartontallboy
Photo of jakester
jakester

Pennsylvania

3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I got this sampler case from Shelbourne Beer Dist. No dates on the case, bottle, or label. I drank this in a pilsner glass.

Pours a slightly hazy copper, with a 1/2 finger head of off-white foam. The head quickly drops to islands and a ring. Sparse splotches of lacing are evident. Not much carbonation.

Earthy type malt smell, caramel-y and toasty, with an herbal hop nose. Fruity, and maybe a touch of diacetyl. Pleasant.

The first flavor is slightly singed caramel malt, with a decent hop bitterness. Pretty fruity, with flavors of golden raisins and dates. Fairly sweet for style, but not bad. Aftertaste is sweet toasted malts.

Mouthfeel is medium sweetness, with soft carbonation. Pretty much to style. Finish is pretty sweet, but nice.

If this beer had more depth of character, it would be pretty damn good. It's within style parameters, but with just a little push, could be so much more.

Serving type: bottle

08-15-2005 18:26:44 | More by jakester
Photo of woodychandler
woodychandler

Pennsylvania

3.7/5  rDev +16.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This poured with a thick, off-white head that actually had decent retention. The nose had a malty sweetness to it. The color was a sightly cloudy orangish-amber. The mouthfeel was medium and I got a big, malty flavor on the tongue. The finish was more hoppy than what I experienced in the mouth, but there was still a good bit of sweetness to it. I wouldn't mind drinking this beer on a regular basis, regardless of the time of year.

Serving type: bottle

08-07-2005 01:04:15 | More by woodychandler
Photo of cubedbee
cubedbee

Maryland

2.35/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a dull caramel color with a thin white head that fades right away to a ring, no lacing to speak of. Smell is decent and simple; a grassy hops scent over a biscuity malt. Tastes is very underwhelming--some sweet malt and butterscotch flavors, maybe a tiny bit of hops, but mostly just a weak washed out iced-tea taste. The taste isn't helped by the very thin body. This is from the River Horse sampler pack, and is supposedly their special ale, but it is the weakest and least flavorful of the bunch.

Second bottle from the sampler pack was more of the same, but had an horrid strong disgusting smell---like a mix between soy sauce and vinegar. Don't know how this didn't carry over to the taste, but I wasn't tasting anything, but boy, I don't think I've ever smelled a less appealing beer.

Serving type: bottle

08-01-2005 22:55:42 | More by cubedbee
Photo of MuddyFeet
MuddyFeet

North Carolina

2.5/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Not what I was hoping. A very lifeless beer with not much going for it--but also nothing hugely negative about it. Pours a brick red, and at first it was clear but upon further inspection it appeared rather hazy. Also, I could not get a head to form on this beer. Full bodied, but flat feeling. Flavor is almost sour apple juice. I can barely find the presence of any hops. Malts come through rather thick and almost tastes as if some rye was added into the hop bill. Reminds me of really bad homebrew.

Serving type: bottle

07-19-2005 01:20:46 | More by MuddyFeet
Photo of Dogbrick
Dogbrick

Ohio

3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours clear reddish copper with a thin beige head and minimal lacing. Roasted malt aroma with a bit of hops. Medium-bodied with caramel and earthy malt flavors, as well as mild grass and hops. The finish is short and slightly bitter. This beer will not win any awards in the category, nevertheless it is a straightforward and easy to drink brew.

Serving type: bottle

07-18-2005 15:19:23 | More by Dogbrick
Photo of Jacobob10
Jacobob10

New Jersey

2.48/5  rDev -21.8%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a hazy amber/orage color with almost no head at all. Leads me to believe that maybe this beer wasn't fresh. Decent smell nonetheless, nothing great though. Slight hop bitterness in the taste, but the beer was very flat and lacked carbonation. I wouldn't recommend this beer, but I would like to try it again to see if it was just a bad sample.

Serving type: bottle

06-29-2005 21:05:38 | More by Jacobob10
Photo of GeoffFromSJ
GeoffFromSJ

New Jersey

4/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well, I must have gotten a good batch or something. I thought this beer is a solid, though not spectacular ESB. Pretty drinkable.

It pours a clear amber with minimal head which goes down into some lacing. It smells like a standard ESB. English hops dominate with some malt coming through.

Taste, again, is solid and can be thought of as standard for an ESB. Very well balanced, but straightforward.

Very good for a session brew.

Serving type: bottle

05-05-2005 01:47:14 | More by GeoffFromSJ
Photo of necoadam
necoadam

Connecticut

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.

Serving type: bottle

05-04-2005 17:48:02 | More by necoadam
Photo of WesWes
WesWes

New York

3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2005 01:37:15 | More by WesWes
Photo of NJpadreFan
NJpadreFan

New Jersey

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.

Serving type: bottle

02-16-2005 00:08:32 | More by NJpadreFan
Photo of beveragecaptain
beveragecaptain

New Jersey

3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-02-2005 03:35:38 | More by beveragecaptain
Photo of Citadel82
Citadel82

New Jersey

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.

Serving type: bottle

11-29-2004 00:58:36 | More by Citadel82
Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
OldFrothingSlosh

Pennsylvania

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.

Serving type: bottle

05-31-2004 02:31:59 | More by OldFrothingSlosh
Photo of joshlara
joshlara

Pennsylvania

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.

Serving type: bottle

05-08-2004 03:45:36 | More by joshlara
Photo of Billolick
Billolick

New York

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.

Serving type: bottle

04-29-2004 10:30:39 | More by Billolick
Photo of lackenhauser
lackenhauser

Maryland

2.03/5  rDev -36%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Decent enough orangeish color.No head to speak of.Carbonation seems low.Very earth/bready and not much more.Green bananas?Flavor isnt extra or special or bitter.Smooth but really lacks something.Doesnt seem to go anywhere or do anything.Drinkable enough but theres a lot more out there at the same price that packs a lot more flavor.

Serving type: bottle

04-18-2004 02:47:36 | More by lackenhauser
Photo of LarryKemp
LarryKemp

Texas

4/5  rDev +26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I started to review this beer as an ESB because that is what the label called it. It was not a good ESB. In fact, I would not say it is anykind of ESB. Then I changed my review ot an American Amber Ale. It does not fit into that category either. So I will just review it as a beer. It poured a very nice clear medium dark golden with a firm off white head that lasted a fair amount of time. I found little evidence of hops either in the nose or on the tongue. Both the aroma and flavor was balanced toward the malt. There was a very nice malitness in the aroma which inreased the pleasure of sipping the beer. The malts were present also in the taste with a slight amount of carbonation playing with the tip of my tongue. It had a medium mouthfeel. It is a very nice session beer. Too bad they don't sell it in Texas. I would buy more of it.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2004 01:45:52 | More by LarryKemp
Photo of mschofield
mschofield

Massachusetts

3.9/5  rDev +23%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Listed as an amber/red ale here, but an ESB on the label. I'll review as an amber ale (brings the beer up in all ways).
Pours a clear copper with a two finger tan head, leaves rings of lacing behind, mapping out your drink.
Caramel and floral aroma, buttery and fruity.
Sweet, nicely bitter for an amber - quite mild, a little honey, the flavor is dominated by a caramel note.
The taste is full, but the body is medium.
Very easy to drink, but there is a bitter-honey note that could grow overpowering, otherwise this would be a good session beer.

Serving type: bottle

03-24-2004 22:36:19 | More by mschofield
Photo of Foxman
Foxman

New Jersey

3.23/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

03-24-2004 16:52:12 | More by Foxman
Photo of moulefrite
moulefrite

Massachusetts

2.65/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Starts out alright with a fairly clean caramel color and a fluffy/sticky beige head. That's where the story ends. Aromas are average at best, and feature sweet malt extract, and a hoppy aroma redolent of hairspray? Some buttery elements as well rise to the nostril(s). In the mouth the beer is quite dilute-watery in fact. Roasted grain, buttered popcorn, and a rather un-refreshing level of sparkle. This is a pretty boring beer, and I don't really want to finish it, but it was part of a beer of the month club purchase bought by a buddy-and it is free...ok I'll finishit.

Serving type: bottle

03-23-2004 02:35:44 | More by moulefrite
Photo of marc77
marc77

California

3.18/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-12-2004 09:02:32 | More by marc77
Photo of smcolw
smcolw

Massachusetts

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.

Serving type: bottle

03-01-2004 00:22:29 | More by smcolw
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.