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River Horse Special Ale ESB - River Horse Brewing Co.

River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

160 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 160
Reviews: 134
rAvg: 3.17
pDev: 14.51%

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 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of LilBeerDoctor

New York

3.68/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed on 10/26/2009. Bottle. Pours a slightly hazy amber/brown with a thick off-white head. Aroma of sweet malt, oatmeal, light spices, overall kind of odd. Flavor of tons of sweet fruits: peach, apricot, pear and apple. Not really a fan of the aroma, but I'm really enjoying the fruitiness. Reminds me of one of those canned mixed fruit cups. I didn't have high hopes for this beer initially, but I ended up really enjoying it.

Serving type: bottle

12-19-2009 03:43:24 | More by LilBeerDoctor
Photo of tjd112

New Jersey

3.2/5  rDev +0.9%
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

Serving type: bottle

10-27-2009 04:09:30 | More by tjd112
Photo of Clydesdale

District of Columbia

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.

Serving type: bottle

10-23-2009 01:32:14 | More by Clydesdale
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

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.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2009 00:33:19 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of TheFightfan1


3.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the last beer to review in the variety pack. Poured a hazy amber color with a decent white heading.

Smell has an ok roasted malt aroma but immediatley is overrun by burnt sugar. Very feint aroma's of each but I got something finally after swirling for a while.

Taste and Mouth is decent in malts but has a oily buttery aftertaste.Burnt caramel with some bittering hoppiness to this beer which is medium bodied and good carbonation. A sugary kiss that stick's to the lips for a little while.

Drink is decent a good beer to try but nothing worth seeking out .

Serving type: bottle

08-24-2009 01:07:45 | More by TheFightfan1
Photo of bonkers

New Jersey

3.63/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I poured from a 12 ounce bottle into my SA pint glass. It pours a hazy copper with a moderate white head, a bit of lacing. The aroma is a bit sweet, a bit grassy. The beer is a bit sweet on the palate, nothing real complex. The bottle is right, it almost taste like it has honey in it. The beer is a light bodied session beer, that is very easily drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

08-20-2009 23:05:23 | More by bonkers
Photo of maddogruss

New Jersey

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

Got a bottle of this in a River Horse mixer.

A: Pours a murky, amber body with a small, white head with decent retention and lacing until the finish.

S: A sweet, toffee roasted malt smell with some bitter notes.

T: A decent, roasted toffee, malt taste that was pretty nice. Slight bitterness was evident underneath the malts as well as within the aftertaste. As it warmed up, a slight muskiness developed later one to really start balancing out the bitterness.

M: A fairly smooth and crisp mouthfeel that was nice in complimenting the beer.

D: A nice mouthfeel and taste combination makes this beer pretty drinkable. The crispness is refreshing and a slight muskiness of the sweet malts did well to balance the beer later on.

Serving type: bottle

07-21-2009 20:41:45 | More by maddogruss
Photo of tugdriver7


3.83/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

From the sampler pack (from Perfect Pour, of course). Poured a soft brown in the glass, with a huge fluffy head of foam that fell quickly but left a nice lacing of foam all the way down. A touch more carbonation than expected, but a nicely drinkable mouthfeel. Mild biscuity malt flavor with a subtle malt bitterness to round out the flavor profile. No strange aftertastes and was easily quaffed even after it warmed. Would make a nice session beer. Nothing fancy. Just flavorful and refreshing.

Serving type: bottle

07-20-2009 23:47:51 | More by tugdriver7
Photo of dacrza1

New Jersey

3.53/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Situation: Final exams have began--time to celebrate prematurely!
Glassware: Kisatsky's Pub shaker...
Appearance: Burnt orange-brown body with a crispy, fresh white head that settles to a lacing-less moustache..
Aroma: Robust, hoppy scents--a bit much in the hopper for an ESB (though indeed this is an American brewer)...
Palate: medium-bodied and rather smooth finish after an abrupt start; the throat is stoked ablaze with each passing sip...
Taste: buttery with sweet toffee and vanilla (?); hops provide initial runch but ease off; aftertaste is pleasantly even...
Overall: No insult, but can't think of something more to say either way--works as the twelve-pack filler with a sessionable sweetness....

Serving type: bottle

07-17-2009 18:26:15 | More by dacrza1
Photo of originalsin


3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The pour is a deep amber with little head.
Smells somewhat interesting. Floral hop aromas and caramel malts dominate.
This beer doesn't exactly taste like an ESB- there are too many sweet malt flavors going on for me and the bitterness is very mellow.
Otherwise, the beer is medium bodied, well carbonated, and pretty drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

06-20-2009 02:00:54 | More by originalsin
Photo of emsroth

New York

3.95/5  rDev +24.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

App: Slightly darker than amber. A small, one finger head that turned into a thick lace on the top of the beer.

Smell: Sweet floral and piney hops. Smells great but much more like an APA

Taste: A malt in line with the british ale styles: slightly toasty and a bit watery. A little bit sweet. Ends with a slight bitterness. Light taste.

Medium body; very drinkable.

Not the best of the style, but a tasty, highly drinkable brew.

Serving type: bottle

06-11-2009 21:43:57 | More by emsroth
Photo of Gyle41386

South Carolina

2.28/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Thanks, mikereaser.

Pours a hazy amber color. Tons of carbonation. Big head doesn't really retain well, and practically none of it sticks. Flurry of activity in the glass.

Really weird musty aroma. I'd be lying if I tried to describe it as anything else.

Just a weird flavor overall. Doesn't make me think ESB at all. It's pretty malty sweet, with a weird metallic kind of finish. Maybe some fruitiness, but there's just not much depth to the flavor.

Medium body. Feel starts out creamy, then is broken up by the lively carbonation. Decently smooth, although it's a bit of a chore to drink it all.

Serving type: bottle

05-27-2009 05:34:32 | More by Gyle41386
Photo of plaid75

New York

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

Poured a murky dark copper hue with a half finger foamy white head. There was decent retention and lacing.

The smell featured soft caramel malts and a tea like herbal hop.

The taste consisted of a light grainy malt and a slightly herbal hop. A touch of sweetness toward the finish.

The mouthfeel was toward the thinner side of the style with little carbonation.

Overall a decent ESB. Not something I would search out.

Serving type: bottle

05-26-2009 19:13:05 | More by plaid75
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.

Serving type: bottle

05-23-2009 02:27:54 | More by MetalHopHead6
Photo of Martin2D

New Jersey

3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Golden amber with a large, carbonated type head that fades with no lacing

S - Just hints of hops, some malt and some soapiness

T - Malt on the forefront, hops in the background. Mild bitterness and dry on the finish.

M - Medium carbonation and light in body.

D - Very low ABV and not much extreme flavor going on. Very good session beer, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Serving type: bottle

05-22-2009 23:33:33 | More by Martin2D
Photo of PEBKAC

New York

1.8/5  rDev -43.2%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Nice seeing fresh River Horse around town again. Say hello to the handsome hippo on the label posing for the portrait. :)

Big forceful spurt as the cap comes off. Poured into a cheapie pint glass.

Not a gusher, but it pours like one. Several inches of off-white insulation foam stiffen up & park it. Underneath, it's murky & gunky, & a little less appetizing then your standard amber. Pebble-sized bits & floaters litter the bottom of the glass.

Smell is a lot of caramel that I wasn't expecting. ...and a whole lot of butter. Really obvious amounts of greasy margarine. Was this recipe part of the list of reformulated beers? I was assured this was fresh. Oh man, that is ugly. I mean, I sort of like this is some beers, but that's not what I was looking forward to.

Taste is... gah... really sweet. "...careful addition of carapils malt adds a slight sweetness you might mistake for honey." Eek! Maple candies, honey spread, buttermilk creaminess. Not much stickiness, just spoonfuls of sugar. A little toast & burnt newspaper on the very back of it, & maybe a squirt of orange zest in there somewhere, but that's it. This is like a really bad attempt at a Biere de Miel clone.

Carbonation is well to do, but that alone won't help me finish this. The pale is a so much better sessioner then this weak reach around. Not really offensive, but just impossible(for me at least). Probably could waste the rest of this on an orange glaze for some chicken though.

Serving type: bottle

05-16-2009 03:48:54 | More by PEBKAC
Photo of wiseguy142

New York

4.55/5  rDev +43.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

First thing I notice: SHIT- bottle conditioned. Get to eat hop flakes this whole time. Should probably pay more attention to the bottle next time. That being said, this is the most sediment I've ever seen in a bottle conditioned beer. Lots of very large hop particles left clinging to the bottom/side of the bottle after the pour, not to mention what I got in the beer. No biggie, I guess I'm used to drinking homebrew anyway, but it's definitely something that could be improved.

Pours a great murky iced tea color.. VERY unfiltered and authentic looking. Amazing creamy, frothy head. Really pleased with that. I love it when ou get little dollops of foam on top of the beer even after most of the head has subsided. (Note: even further into the review this head is still creamy and amazing. It's like it keeps getting regenerated)

Aroma smacks me in the face immediately with the sweetness. Lots of crystal malt with a unique fruity character to it. My nose is a little stuffed so I'm sad I'm missing out on some of the complexities I know are in here. Reminds me of a candied apple of all things.

Taste is rich and malty. Reminds me of a lighter version of an Altbier or a English Pale Ale blended with a Dopplebock (that would be weird..). Slight honey character to it with a good backing of pure hop flavor and balanced bitterness. Damn. This is one of my new favorite beers.

Mouthfeel is almost like the beer evaporates in your moth, but not due to excessive carbonation. It's just that smooth. There's something nagging me a bit towards the finish of the beer about the mouthfeel but I can't pinpoint it.. reminds me too much of my own homebrew I guess. Maybe a little dullness in the hop taste towards the end or slight oxidation... but seriously this is good.

I feel slightly seduced by this beer. It's like the hot girlfriend I never had. Every time you take asip you get a nice forthy head back on top. It doesn't taste like hop soda like a lot of American craft beers and doesn't have the consistency of Diet Coke. This is a real beer with some real flavors. Will definitely pick up some more later.

Serving type: bottle

05-02-2009 16:42:20 | More by wiseguy142
Photo of allergictomacros

Ontario (Canada)

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

Pours a lightly hazed copper with a medium-small head. Nose is malt, husky grain and some caramel. Fairly dry in flavour, with a light toast and some faint herbal notes. Light in body but not overcarbonated and finishes fairly cleanly. Good, sessionable ale.

Serving type: bottle

05-01-2009 18:09:57 | More by allergictomacros
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-09-2009 03:48:14 | More by matty
Photo of jlandis


3.08/5  rDev -2.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-10-2009 22:20:27 | More by jlandis
Photo of abents


2.38/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to mikereaser for the brew. Busy red and whit label with no dating.
Explodes out of the bottle causing me to spill a little on the floor; because, of course, I had no glass ready to pour it into. Needless to say this one's got a huge white head made up of larger bubbles. The beer itself sits a murky amber that you can almost see your fingers through as I hold the glass. Smells slightly sweet with caramel malts and a tinge of lemon/citrus. Woah, we got the funk. Was not expecting that one. Need to regroup and figure out what's going on here.
I'm guessing this is not what they were going for, it's got a distinct lemony funk to it, but with nothing else going on this beer it is not pleasant. Kind of an off weird tasting beer that has little to no hop flavor and on the lighter watery side.

Serving type: bottle

03-03-2009 05:04:33 | More by abents
Photo of Stunner97

New Jersey

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

Appearance- amber color beer with slight carbonation as bubbles stream slowly up glass, murky and cloudy, head starts white and fades to slight foam lacing,

Smell- Sweet molasses, caramel, and loads up sweet maltiness on the nose, smells a nice and sweet beer, sweet caramel apple,

Taste- sweet caramel malts lead off out of the batters box's in this one but are mellowed out by some strong bitter hops balancing it out pretty nicely, very mild citrus tones, its overall a little light in flavor in a way but the strong point to me is the decently nice long bitter finish, flavor grew on me a bit after first sip or two

Mouth- medium body to this beer though still pretty light and refreshing to drink

Drinkability- A decent esb, not necessarily the best but also not terrible, its definitely easy to drink and worth a one time shot but probably wont blow you away to crazily, for what it is its not bad, certainly a decent option as a session beer but for the price better could be found for my own preference

Serving type: bottle

03-02-2009 02:50:32 | More by Stunner97
Photo of ATPete

New Jersey

3.93/5  rDev +24%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

Pours a hazy brown orange color with a small screen of a white head, some soapy sticking. Sweet bready malts in the nose with a spicy hop character. The beers malt character over powers the semi-bitter hop character it has going on. A good, and welcomed, hop bite just before the finish. Although not true to the ESB style this ale remains, light, drinkable and some what refreshing. A well balanced beer.

Serving type: bottle

02-18-2009 01:50:44 | More by ATPete
Photo of droomyster


2.63/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I like a few River Horse beers this is not one of them. Pours a clear copper with a small head and lots of sediment. Smell reminds me of the essence of a watermelon sucker with a tootsie roll in the middle; it doesn't smell beer-like at all; no trace of hops. Tastes not at all like and ESB. In fact, it hardly tastes like a beer at all. Cloying malts and over-yeastiness is not tasty to me in the slightest. I hope that RH either reworks this beer or else scraps it, because I know from other styles that they are able to make some pretty good beer.

Serving type: bottle

02-04-2009 10:13:11 | More by droomyster
Photo of Pencible


2.68/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

This poured a hazy honey color with tons of off-white head (foamed out of the bottle as soon as I popped the top). It smelled like polished copper and grass and lemon hops, with fresh wheat and dusty barley. It tasted like copper and wild yeast and lemon hops, with some barley. It was watery with tons of carbonation, and had a bitter aftertaste. Overall this was a super fizzy beer that had decent flavor but was pretty bland. It was tough to enjoy or critique through all the carbonation. I'm not a fan.

Serving type: bottle

01-29-2009 15:17:17 | More by Pencible
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 160 ratings.