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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 Suds
3.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I guess that I had higher hopes for this beer.
Copper color with a faint head. Subtle and delicate balance of musty hop and worty-malt aroma. Overall, the smell is pretty good...just way too faint. Caramel-ish foretaste and slightly sweet and hoppy finish. Overall, the beer is light-bodied and un-challenging. Strictly middle of the road.

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Photo of whartontallboy
2.78/5  rDev -12.3%
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!"

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
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.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
2.43/5  rDev -23.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

L - dark amber color with a light beige head that thiined out leaving a little lacing.
S - an odd bitter aroma.
T - again it is bitter but has an odd sort of bitterness, almost buttery.
F - light/medium body with a flat feel.
D - I got halfway through and decided enough was enough... 1/2 drain pour.

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Photo of KTCamm
3.83/5  rDev +20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours chocolately brown with touch of white foam. Laces.

Smells malty with some spices. Good blend.

Caramel malty taste with some hop. Light cola taste. Bitterness is buried and not overly dominant.

Evenly carbonated.

Tasty, good drinnker. Nice ale.

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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 GCBrewingCo
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

The beer poured into the glass tea colored with a very slight haze. The head was frothy and tall and large bubbled. The bottle opened with a noticeable whoosh and with a large release of carbonation.

The aroma was slightly corny (DMS) followed by a light caramel and a low fruity aspect.

The flavor was light caramel with a nice fruity component. The flavors were difficult to acertain with such a high carbonation level. The carbonic bite in the flavor was high. The bittering of the beer was low, but kept the caramel malt from becoming overpowering. As the carbonation dropped off more bready flavors emerged.

The finish was dry with a slight lasting caramel and a very low fruit character. The body was medium, but the carbonation level was off the charts making it seem much less. Not a bad beer, but nothing to get excited about or to seek out.

12 ounce bottle purchased at Vintage Cellar.

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Photo of micromaniac129
3.3/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Had this at TJ Smith's and it was okay. if they had a better tap selection last night we wouldn't be talking today. Pours a plain average, came to me clear amber but with nary any carbonation and utterly lacking off head.
Aroma was basically just caramel malts with hardly anything to speak of. Taste is plain and average tasting with malts. There is a sutle nutty finish. Drinks smooth but feels abrasive with a bitter or grain husk finish.
No I don't really much care for this beer.

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Photo of NJpadreFan
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.

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Photo of mcallister
2.8/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

A very opaque copper orange. Poured this one hard to no avail very little head, thin thin lacing with no retention. I do like the color of this beer.

Sour caramel malty aromas. Smells of sweet white fruits not very distinguishable. Slight peach and nectarine with a delicate hop ending.

Thin watery mouthfeel to this one. Lacking any sort of complexity. Basically a semi sweet caramel malt flavor with not much else going on. Very little hop presence.

Not one I will buy again.

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Photo of dsa7783
3.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Single, twelve-ounce bottle just copped from Super Saver Liquors on Route 22...
Pours a dark-copper hue with hardly any head and very minimal lacing...
Faint, malty aroma with hints of butter and biscuits...
Taste strongly complemented the smell, with a strong nuance of bread, butter, light caramel, and candied sugars...
Overall, a decent stab at the style, yet mild in taste and unassertive in flavor...
Nothing to write home about...

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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 RonfromJersey
3.4/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Copper color body. Decent head which doesn't linger. Little to no lacing. Very malty without being overly sweet, a little chocolate tone in the taste/aftertaste. Not spectacular, but went nice (3 bottles nice) with dinner at deli where single selections were running a little low, so I went local.

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Photo of lackenhauser
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.

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Photo of JDV
3.69/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from Kramer17801. Thanks man!
Pours a nice amber color. Mostly clear with a short lived white head. Smell is fruity, nutty and toffee like, with light chocolate. Really nice for an ESB. Taste is lightly chocolatey, with toffee and some pecan like flavor, and fruity tones. Richer than expected and much better that the ratings indicate. I liked this one.

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Photo of Gambrinus1184
3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Sunset Grill & Tap pint glass.

A: Pours a light, golden amber color with a chilled haze and a thin head of white bubbles which leaves little to no lace.

S: Smells of British malts, a bit of spiciness and a sweet herbal aroma. Toasted bread and a bit of honey are noted too.

T: The label says certain malts might be mistaken for honey, and they are correct. A semisweet honey, toasted biscuit and malt flavor comes through this disappointing bitterness. Very mild and drinkable, but not enough flavor going on.

M: Mouthfeel is thin-medium bodied and slightly bitter in the finish.

D: A drinkable brew, but only because of the lower ABV and mouthfeel. The slightly sweet and bitter taste might satisfy some palates, but even in a style mimicking a milder English ESB, I'd expect more flavor and complexity. You're better off sampling and moving on.

Not a terrible beer, but a bit of a letdown. Clean, drinkable and subtle with its sweet and bitter flavors. Water shares a few of these attributes as well. I could have stood a bit more spiciness and bitter English malts, but instead, was left with a mediocre ESB. All in all, it's worth a try.

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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 Phatz
3.46/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

Okay, so this is a decent tasty beer but *ESB* hardly. That is what it is actually classified as from the brewery but even on the Variety case (from which I got this beer) it is labeled as "Special Ale - a smooth amber ale" which is pretty accurate IMO.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color decent head. Mediocre lacing.

Smell: There is very little aroma in this beer. Upon very harsh scrutiny you can find a hint of toasty butterscotch and a bit of soapy buttery diacetyl.

Taste: The taste here is quaffable but boring. It is very clean and thin upfront. It almost seem like drinking water to start and the flavor only begins two thirds across the palate. When the flavor kicks in it is a buttery candied malts flavor with a gentle hop character which makes it very balanced. The beer is oily and somewhat juicy with even a bit up fruit showing through the folds. The aftertaste is the biggest part of the beer and it comes in two parts; initially sweet and fruity followed by a drying mild diacetyl taste in the mouth.

Mouthfeel: It is hard to say about the mouthfeel because it changes on the way through. It appears to be very thin week and watery but yet the oiliness add a slickness and smoothness to this very 'flat' beer.

Drinkability: Really it is a straightforward chugger beer. This is one for parties, hotwings and session drinking; not one for contemplation. Unlike other fascinating ESBs this beer is not interesting but it is approachable and easy to drink.

Hope this is helpful.

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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 TheFightfan1
3.43/5  rDev +8.2%
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 .

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Photo of generallee
3.92/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: It has an orange amber colored body with lots of yeast fine sediment floating around inside. This is cap off by a tall, light and foamy head. It is light tan in color and slowly fades to thin filmy covering which leaves behind a little slick lacing on the glass.

Smell: I get some really nice sweet bready and doughy maltiness with a faint hint of English hops.

Taste/Palate: There is a nice base of bready maltiness and yeast with pleasant sweetness. I get some mellow notes of honey like sweetness, sugar cookies and even a touch of light caramel and vanilla. The hops come in at the finish and offer some pleasant herbal character and light bitterness for balance. The mouth feel has a firm medium feel with soft carbonation.

Notes: My overall thought is that it may not be the prettiest beer but it has some good flavor notes and nice balance. Also I could see myself drinking more then a few of these at 4.5% abv.

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Photo of bonkers
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.

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Photo of allergictomacros
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.

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Photo of daliandragon
3.54/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Aquired a mixed twelve of these Jersey beers this afternoon at St James Beverage in the suburban hamlet of the same name. Color is pale, golden brown with los of carbonation and minimal head. Looks almost like a cider or a cream soda or something. Nose is mild with hops and fruit and that pleasant bitterness associated with English ale.
Taste is slightly watery for a bitter and could stand to have the principal flavors juiced up forty percent or so. Mouthfeel, again, is agreeable but fairly flat and not overly impressive.
This isn't a horrible effort but needs to focus the aim and produce a unifying taste that can be strengthened by continual repetition, this is just not quite right. However, if you like the style this is worth taking a flyer on.

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