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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 bonbini26
2.5/5  rDev -21.1%

bonbini26, Jan 10, 2012
Photo of AndrewMichael
3/5  rDev -5.4%

AndrewMichael, Feb 03, 2012
Photo of marc77
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.

marc77, Mar 12, 2004
Photo of buzzy
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%

buzzy, Mar 11, 2014
Photo of Phatz
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
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.
Cheers!

Phatz, Mar 25, 2006
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.

allergictomacros, May 01, 2009
Photo of daliandragon
3.53/5  rDev +11.4%
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.

daliandragon, Feb 19, 2006
Photo of generallee
3.93/5  rDev +24%
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.

generallee, May 20, 2011
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.

bonkers, Aug 21, 2009
Photo of ElGordo
3.15/5  rDev -0.6%
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.

ElGordo, Feb 15, 2004
Photo of Proteus93
3.08/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

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 garuda
3/5  rDev -5.4%

garuda, Dec 05, 2011
Photo of AltBock
3/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 2 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

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 MuddyFeet
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.

MuddyFeet, Jul 19, 2005
Photo of rorjets
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%

rorjets, Jan 11, 2014
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 .

TheFightfan1, Aug 24, 2009
Photo of Omnium
3.11/5  rDev -1.9%
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.

Omnium, Apr 16, 2013
Photo of SLeffler27
3.55/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This ESB builds a nice firm head that quickly recedes to a patchy lace. The ale itself is a clear, new-penny copper with columns of fine carbonation. Also, the label has great artwork.

The aroma leans more to the sweet side of the spectrum with fresh apples. This is a pleasant aroma, but lends little to a discussion.

River Horse's ESB is a simple, lightly-bittered ale with definite bready malts. In the finish, one will find some butter tones and minimal pine.

This one has a medium body that is smooth and easy flowing.

A nice beer for a tailgate party or the game itself. The simple flavors compliment the activity rather than taking center stage. And... it comes from a great New Jersey town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Date consumed: 6 July 2008

SLeffler27, Jan 10, 2009
Photo of SixpointJMH
2.7/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This one pours a decent looking but somewhat watery amber colour wit ha very thin head that dissolves to nothing with little to no residue left on the glass.

The aroma is a weird concoction of some sweetness, mixed vegetables and hints of what can best be described as vomit. Not very impressive at all.

The flavour axes the vomit-esque qualities but brings in an over the top sweetness that is reminicscent of bubble gum at times. Hops and malt mix nicely in the background but you can't avoid said sweetness. Mouthfeel is average and is, like the appearance a bit watered down.

The weird aroma and uber sweet characteristics of this brew are amongst the reasons I hadn't sampled a River Horse brew in quite some time until recently. Their limited amount of seasonals/special beers are pretty good to very good, but the regular lineup has always seemed to be littered with various problems. Can't really recommend this one.

SixpointJMH, Jun 09, 2006
Photo of Foxman
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.

Foxman, Mar 24, 2004
Photo of mschofield
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.

mschofield, Mar 24, 2004
Photo of mikeg67
2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle from a variety pack. Pours hazy-amber with a thick, foamy, long lasting white head and some lacing. Aroma is of bready malt, caramel and some fruity notes. Body is medium and crisp. Bready, caramel malt is balanced on the palate by earthy hops. Finish is long and bitter. Good brew but not “special”.

mikeg67, Mar 13, 2012
Photo of jmz62565
2.93/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This pours a cloudy reddish amber with a very small short lived head.The smell is average with some roasted malt,but that's about it.The taste has some roasted malt nuttiness and a slight citrus aftertaste.The m/f is light and leaves your mouth a little watery.This is an average beer and I doubt I'll try this again.

jmz62565, Dec 31, 2005
Photo of touchmeimsac
3/5  rDev -5.4%

touchmeimsac, Nov 23, 2011
Photo of zoso1967
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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.