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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

161 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 161
Reviews: 134
rAvg: 3.18
pDev: 14.78%
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: 161 | Reviews: 134 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of orcasteve
3.23/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

this smells beter than it acualy tastes, it is a nice amber color and pours with minimal head, this is a little sweet then bland than a hop kiss. this one is avarage, its beter than any macro brew (budwiser) but its nouthing special. i gess that it is too sweet for my taste

orcasteve, Jul 05, 2008
Photo of macster
3.13/5  rDev -1.6%
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?

macster, Jan 07, 2009
Photo of JunkYardJake
2.68/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle poured into pint glass.
Redesigned bottle says nothing about being an ESB. Pours a dark amber wich looks brown at certain angles. Small head that fizzles quickly. Smell throws me for a loop since I was expecting an american amber, which is what the bottle says. Heavy toffee malts with some toasted grain and a little butterscotch. Taste follows the nose pretty well. Malt forward, a little buttery and some caramel and licorice. Tastes much bigger than 4.5% as I notice bit of alcohol on the palate. Mouthfeel is a little chewy. Went down easy enough but I'm glad I only have one.

JunkYardJake, Jul 16, 2010
Photo of tjd112
3.2/5  rDev +0.6%
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

tjd112, Oct 27, 2009
Photo of magnj
3.78/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Deep copper body is very clear though I stopped pouring when I saw some yeasties coming out towards the end. Head is generous with an off white color. Some small carbonation bubbles apparent. Some lacing.

S - Malt forward obviously, slightly musty like a standard brew pub type ESB or amber. Caramel and vaguely toasty and a little bready. Nice smell reminiscent of many others I've had but rarely find in a bottle.

T - Well balanced, starts of malty with toast and mild caramel. Towards the middle I get a bit of hop flavor an bitterness, it finishes dry and bready. Nothing really dominates and that's the point, well balanced, full flavored and enjoyable. After going back and reading some reviews, I definitely get the apple thing.

M/D - Carbonation is there but not a ton, pretty average mouthfeel. Not too thin, not really silky or chewy. It's just there. Not much residual sugar, which when coupled with its balanced flavor and low ABV makes for a great session beer. My only gripe is that it's still close to $10 at my local shop, RH would make a killing if they could undercut other craft brews.

magnj, Apr 10, 2010
Photo of emsroth
3.95/5  rDev +24.2%
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.

emsroth, Jun 11, 2009
Photo of thequeen711
3/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

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 BWH3
2.88/5  rDev -9.4%
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 keanex
2.95/5  rDev -7.2%
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 GnomeKing
3.73/5  rDev +17.3%
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.

GnomeKing, Sep 09, 2005
Photo of dickroop
2.28/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured a clear bronze with not much head and only a faint aroma, so faint I couldn't really discern anything but a kind of beery smell.

Taste was not much there, every-so-faint hops presence and kinda flabby malt flavor that gave a kind of sourish finish. Mouthfeel was weak and watery, at least the carbonation was OK. Have I been drinking so much DFH that I've burned out my taste buds? I don't think so. This is just kinda ordinary beer, like the rating says "not impressed". One could drink a lot of this... if there wasn't anything good around. And it would be better than BMC... but not much. I got this ESB in a variety-pack case, a Pennsylvania special, would never have tried the stuff if not for wanting to get some of the "Hop Hazard". This stuff is a "No-hop Hazard".

dickroop, Oct 02, 2006
Photo of abents
2.38/5  rDev -25.2%
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.

abents, Mar 03, 2009
Photo of brantadid
2.78/5  rDev -12.6%
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 jhammel01
3.18/5  rDev 0%
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.

jhammel01, Mar 30, 2010
Photo of hungryghost
3.45/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Amber, copper in color, small, short lived head.
Sweet malt aroma with a hint of hops.
Smooth honey like sweetness (I know its not honey cuz the bottle said so), with a slight, hop tang. Nice balance between the two flavors. Not as sweet as expected.
Mouthfeel is good, pretty clean finish, becomes a little sticky halfway through first one. Overall a very drinkable beer.

hungryghost, Dec 18, 2003
Photo of Hagbard
2.6/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours deep orange with a small white head. It's hazy and cloudy, apparently unfiltered. The aroma is almost nonexistent, but what's there is a malty sweetness with a strange soapy note in the background. The taste is very underwhelming. There's not much there past a vague malty sweetness. Hops seem nonexistent. It finishes like it starts...there's a serious lack of flavor here. This is clearly a "crossover" beer, but I think it fails at even that. There isn't very much taste and what's there isn't terribly interesting or appealing.

Hagbard, Oct 20, 2005
Photo of cde1218
2.5/5  rDev -21.4%

cde1218, Sep 17, 2012
Photo of originalsin
3.35/5  rDev +5.3%
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.

originalsin, Jun 20, 2009
Photo of jlandis
3.08/5  rDev -3.1%
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.

jlandis, Mar 10, 2009
Photo of Jdiddy
2.85/5  rDev -10.4%
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 Martin2D
3.5/5  rDev +10.1%
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.

Martin2D, May 23, 2009
Photo of DreaminBeer
3.5/5  rDev +10.1%

DreaminBeer, Feb 19, 2012
Photo of hops4me
2.68/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I am an instructor to 15 Marine Corps captains. During the holiday leave block we all said we would bring back a six pack from the state we were taking leave in. This was my selection. After reading some mediocre reviews, I decided to test it. I wish I bought the Oatmeal Stout instead. The appearance is the only thing good about this beer. It pours a bright gold to amber with a big fluffy head. Ample lacing sticks to the side of the glass. I don't get too much in the aroma. Maybe a little grainyness and no real hop aroma to speak of. The taste is the same. A little malt sweetness but nothing else. The mouthfeel is light with a weird drying happenning to my mouth. I guess it has "drinkability" due to its light nature but the flavor is not there. I would rather spend a dollar or two less and get Yuengling if I am looking for something light and quaffable. Looks like I am going to have to purchase something else because I am not giving this to my students.

hops4me, Jan 04, 2009
Photo of DevilDogBeer
2.93/5  rDev -7.9%
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 RoBotGod
2.78/5  rDev -12.6%
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
River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 161 ratings.