Dark Horse 4 Elf | Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Dark Horse 4 ElfDark Horse 4 Elf

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States

Style: Winter Warmer

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 8.75%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by granger10 on 11-27-2003

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Reviews: 204 | Ratings: 825
Photo of SportsandJorts
2.71/5  rDev -30%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Appearance: dark brown almost black. pretty opaque. not much foam at all not enough to cover but leaves a little lacing off brown

Smell: funky, lots of nutmeg and cinnamon and a good amount of sweetness

Taste: super strong nutmeg. weaker cinnamon. some sweetness that quickly gives way to a spicy taste

Mouthfeel: pretty heavy lingering bitterness.

Overall: not a fan and could not finish it. way too strong on the nutmeg

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Photo of maximum12
2.75/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to whomever sent this to me. I like to think I'll look it up later & insert my gratefulness here, but I usually forget when I'm too lazy to look it up. Well, thanks. You know who you are. 12 oz. bottle.

Pour is dark brown with red foil. Nose, the nose, bejeebuzz, it's like an overturned semi- full of cinnamon on the interstate. Most of the rest of the spice rack is in there too. Light cherry, nutmeg, allspice are those I can ID.

4 Elf ain't my kind of holiday beer. The spicing was done with a backhoe: cinnamon lights up my palate like a Christmas tree fire. Loads of spice. Caramel gets a bare lick in, & there might be a gentle, earthy hop kick right at the end. Maybe. Twelve ounces? I might need some help.

A classic example of "too far" for me; I don't put this much spice in my mulled apple cider. Spicing is out of control & overwhelms the beer, & gets too close to being straight-up undrinkable. As is? An almost-average novelty.

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Photo of kawilliams81
2.78/5  rDev -28.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 vintage. Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a AleSmith Horny Devil snifter.

A- pours a dark brown/near black with a 1 finger tan head. Bog trails and waves of lacing remain on the glass.

S- roast, cinnamon and nutmeg.

T- some chocolate and roast for a quick second then it turns into a bitter, licorice, cleaning product tasting mess.

M- medium body and carbonation. Has some creaminess but bad flavors make this tough to drink.

O- did DH F this beer up? The label says 8.75% and it says 11.5% on here. It seems like they changed the recipe and it turned out terrible and they said F it we'll sell it anyways.

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Photo of Warren2621
2.81/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Too bland for me. Nothing holds this beer together. The spices, while ok, arent complimented by many other flavors. Too thin of a body. To me it was water with spices added. Could be the style, I dont know. I dont enjoy Christmas Ales much

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Photo of rangerred
2.89/5  rDev -25.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours pitch black with a one finger darkt tan head that quickly fades away. There is really nothing in the way of lacing and barely any foam remaining on top of the beer.

The aroma is quite odd. There is a very musty note too it along with some char and wood ash. Nuts are present along with some cinnamon and nutmeg. Coffee too. There is quite a bit going on but it is different.

The flavor continues with the notes put forward by the aroma. Lots of nuts up front along with that same musty char. Some cinnamon and orange peel along with a sweetness that lingers throughout. Somewhat of a slick mouthfeel that is quite sticky and sweet with just a light bitterness.

Overall, an ok winter warmer but far from great. The flavors are just too muddled and the sweetness needs to be dialed back a bit. Not one I will be seeking out.

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Photo of barczar
2.94/5  rDev -24%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 2.5

Pours an opaque deep brown with a foamy tan head.

A bit of a spice bomb, cinnamon, lots of nutmeg, and lots of clove jump from the glass. There's a bit of a molasses note in the background.

Whoa, spices. How the hell can anybody actually drink this? It tastes like putting a cinnamon stick, whole nutmeg, and a handful of cloves in your mouth...with a bitter finish.

Body is moderate, with slightly low carbonation, and noticeable alcohol warmth.

Way too spicy for my palate, with a roast malt backbone that comes off as being somewhat acrid. Not a fan.

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Photo of kkleu357
3/5  rDev -22.5%

From notes on 4/23/14

Drinking it kind of late in the year. Poured with huge chunks. Won’t be finishing it because of that. Christmas nutmeg spiced aroma. Not bad smelling. Taste fine to. Dark cocoa taste with lots of cinnamon nutmeg flavors. The chunks is the only off putting thing.

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Photo of RoamingGnome
3.03/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Dark Horse 4 Elf Winter Ale

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Capital Brewery snifter. Served chilled.

A) Dark brown with a small off white head that dissipated quickly. Bit of a cola look...

S) I don't get much besides a variety of spices. I'd say it was heavy on the clove.

T) Again, heavy on the spices. Some sugary sweetness as it transitioned to room temp. The alcohol is very well hidden.

M) Medium body with moderate carbonation. The mouthfeel is dominated by tingling spices start to finish.

O) I'm sure it's a well crafted brew, but the spice blend here was just not enjoyable for me. It was like my mouth was trapped in a candle shop.

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Photo of alpinebryant
3.09/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark chestnut brown with lots of tiny white bubbles on the top. laces well

S: Aromas of pumpkin , nutmeg , cinnamon and clove. Some dark fruit and slightly belgian yeast?

T: Too much Cinnamon here, its fresh Hot Cinnamon Trident Gum flavored first off the bat and followed by cardamom and tannic like qualities.

M: Medium to thick body with light carbonation. There is a bit of sting from CO2 but the body is thick enough to make the carbonation seem moderate.

O: Overall, its a cinnamon bomb with not too many qualities that I enjoy - and I really like winter warmers. This just didnt hit the right notes for me.

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Photo of boilermakerbrew
3.1/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A- Pours a very deep brown in color, leaning a little towards black. Smaller, 1 finger head forms with lots of tight bubbling and retains very well. Lacing is also very good.

S- Not very strong in the scent department, but the flavors that are detectable are dark and slightly fruity. Dark, but not burnt malts are present and there is just a hint of raisin-like fruit.

T- Complex and a little hard to put my finger on, the first flavor of this beer leans toward raisins mixed with dark malts. Fruitiness here is unlike a in a quad, because this one is more bitter and medicinal in flavor. Some spices are mixed in here, I think cinnamon and nutneg. Dark malts and some bitter hops take over after the slight, dark fruitiness. Hops are fairly bitter on the back end, with a somewhat chemical-like bite at the end.

M- Low in carbonation and fairly smooth for the most part. I can't detect the alcohol very much at all. The limiting factor in drinking this one is the odd flavor profile and whether or not you enjoy it.

Overall, an odd, spiced, somewhat fruity, and very malty and bitter version of a winter warmer. Not sure how I feel about this one, except that the spices and dull bitterness throughout are a definite drawback.

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Photo of divineaudio
3.12/5  rDev -19.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

2012 bottle, 8.75% abv, nonic.

a - pours a murky, dark brown with a just a thin film of head and a few bubbles. no lacing.

s - clove, cinnamon, molasses, fresh bread.

t - thankfully the spice is more muted than in the nose. has a pronounced, earthy hop bitterness with some burnt malt laying low in the background. notes of black coffee in there as well. finishes very dry. not a very successful combination of flavors imo.

m - medium in body with not quite enough carbonation. finer co2 profile.

o - meh. dark horse beers are hit or miss for me, and this one is a miss. lacks most of the things i look for in a winter warmer, mainly the malty sweetness and a subdued hop profile. probably won't be returning to this one.

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Photo of emmasdad
3.26/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks again to Dan for bringing this one on Saturday. I have been a Dark Horse fan for a while now, but this is my first time trying this one. Poured a dark brown color with a bit of off-white head. Very reminiscent of Christmas, with a big clove aromas, which leads to a bunch of other holiday spices. On the palate, this one is medium bodied and smooth, with tons of clove, a little vanilla and caramel.

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Photo of BB1313
3.27/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass. Pours the darkest brown you can imagine with tons of floaties/sediment; tan head that fades and leaves nice retention and decent lacing. The aromas have a nice amount of malts going on. There's some smoke. It's followed by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Some vanilla bean and cocoa in the mix as well. The flavors have a nice roastiness to it, which I didn't see coming. There's a nice amount of chocolate. Lots of clove. More cinnamon and nutmeg followed by some ginger. Very subtle hints of coffee. There's some vanilla in the mix. It has an earthy bitterness to it, but it's far from overwhelming. Finishes dry. Mouthfeel is very nice. It's creamy and fluffy with moderate carbonation. It's extremely smooth and the alcohol goes unnoticed.

This was my first time having 4 Elf. It's a solid holiday brew. It's unique and different from alot of spiced holiday beers. It has some stout/porter qualities to it. It's good stuff, but it didn't get me overly excited. It's worth checking out though. It's definitely fitting for the holidays.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.28/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a dark cola color with a thin head of coarse, khaki bubbles that are gone in a flash. The aroma is a sweet, wintery funk comprised of molasses, gingerbread, lebkuchen, caramel, and allspice.

The taste is spicy up front with a big kick of allspice, nutmeg, and warming alcohol that dominates the subtler flavors. Some caramel, gingerbread, and hints of roasted malt comprise the sweeter side of the beer. A pleasant toffee aftertaste finally manages to find its way through on the back end. The surprisingly prickly carbonation amplifies the spiciness, while the medium-heavy body provides an appropriate foundation for the vibrant flavors.

Overall, this is an aggressively spicy, flavorful brew that could only be appropriate for the season. I’m not especially keen on allspice to begin with, and in this case it’s far from balanced. I had this on tap a couple months ago and recall a much mellower brew, so I’m not sure which experience is more representative of the brewers’ intention.

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Photo of Fergyx825
3.3/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Appearance: a very dark colored beer, nearly black. Almost no head on the pour, and a tiny bit sticks around after the pour. This is on the further spectrum that this beer style allows.

Smell: I can smell this beer from my hip. Its full of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander. This does not have much of an aroma, but you can smell the malt.

Taste: flavorful, it has some coffee taste to it. Nutty, with some spice is evident. It doesn't have a particular flavor but its not bad. I wouldn't go ahead and grab this to drink again but its tolerable.

Mouthfeel: light beer with some not so much carbonation, very drinkable.

Overall: This beer is okay. It smells great, looks the way it should and is drinkable.

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Photo of BubalooBrewMaster
3.31/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz bottle

A: Dark brown almost like a really dark tea.

S: a hint of vanilla ,nutmeg,malts and cinnamon.

T:roasted malts,cinnamon and nutmeg.

M: very smooth and lightly carbonated.

O:it's a nice one for these breezy nights.Not my favorite winter warmer but not my least favorite.Worth a try.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.31/5  rDev -14.5%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

12 oz bottle into a teku glass (HA! I bet you guys didn't think I had one of these! Merry freakin' Christmas, everyone!!!)

Appearance: Pours a dark brown color with lots of ugly, chunky sediment at the bottom of the glass. The head is a finger high, with a khaki shade. Retention is good and the texture is creamy, also. A bit of lacing is left on the glass. Typical of many Dark Horse brews, it's not exactly pretty to look at (no thanks to its unfiltered nature). (2.75)

Smell: This is around a 7/10 as far as Christmas spicing goes. I'm picking up plenty of ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. There are also additional notes of graham cracker, caramel, and dark chocolate. While this is a nice aroma altogether, there isn't much here to separate it from other winter warmers. (3.5)

Taste: Okay, but THIS does. It opens up with a surprising amount of roast, coalescing with the notes of allspice and caramel. Appropriately for the style, a hoppy touch finishes it off. The back end is also a touch acidic - it's hardly to the tomato-esque levels of Sapient Trip, though. While the spices are nicely restrained, it seems more chaotic than balanced in its complexity. Still, there's no hint of the alcohol whatsoever. (3.25)

Mouthfeel: Really crisp and light - this is where the unfiltered nature really shines. While it becomes slightly warming when it properly warms up, it conceals the alcohol extremely well. Carbonation is middling. (3.5)

Overall: The aroma revealed a fairly standard winter warmer. The taste, however, showed off a roasty, almost crisp wassail that's practically dangerous. It isn't my favorite winter warmer, but hey, it's still well worth a look. (3.25)

3.3/5: Far from perfect, but it's definitely not boring, either

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Photo of kojevergas
3.33/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up at a Whole Paycheck in Manhattan for something like $2.99 USD.

BOTTLE: 12 fl oz. Brown glass bottle. Pry-off crown cap. Artful label art with a red and white holiday theme.

8.75% ABV. "Winter warmer spiced ale." 36 IBU.

HEAD: ~3-4cm in height. Pale khaki colour. Nice even consistency with a nice thickness to it. Soft enough. ~8 minute retention. Leaves no lacing as it recedes.

BODY: Opaque dark brown-black. Floating yeast particles are visible within.

Appears well-carbonated. Not unique or special, but generally appealing. Head retention is better than you might expect in an 8.75% ABV winter warmer.

AROMA: Whoa - big vivid spice presence redolent of nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar (not a spice, I know, but it fits into that schema), cardamom, vanillin, and clove. Vague dark malts (brown and schwarz, I guess?) lend this its backgrounded sweetness. Some raisin, maybe? Yeast profile is clean, not estery; I suspect an American ale strain instead of an English strain (to its detriment).

Aromatic intensity is average. I find no overt hop notes. No off-notes. Not boozy; the aroma suggests maybe a 5% ABV beer.

TASTE & TEXTURE: Cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, brown malts, schwarz malts, brown sugar. The marriage of spiciness to malts works well, but I'm missing yeasty complexities and any hop presence whatsoever. Some sprucey/evergreen-forward hops would be at home in this build.

ABV is well-disguised, but some alcohol warmth wouldn't be unwelcome, and might play to the clove-forward medicinal vibe nicely (think clovey hot whiskey on a snowy night).

Balanced but not perfectly dialed in. Texture suits the taste without really being in perfect harmony therewith. Medium-bodied, smooth, wet, slightly sticky, and unrefreshing, with moderate thickness and weight. A more gooey, soft, warm mouthfeel would better suit the spiciness of the flavour profile. This texture fails to elevate the beer as a whole or to accentuate specific flavours.

Average flavour duration and intensity.

OVERALL: A competent winter warmer with a nice spice profile and a well-hidden ABV, but little else. Discerning drinkers might find its relative simplicity underwhelming, and there's definitely room for improvement, but it's nice middle-of-the-road holiday season fare from a wonderful brewery. I'm glad I tried it once, and I'd probably buy a 4-pack if offered at better prices elsewhere in the U.S., but it wouldn't be a repeat purchase for me at the $2.99/bottle pricetag.

B- (3.33) / WORTHY

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Photo of russwbeck
3.33/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

A: Pours out of the bottle dark brown and sits in the glass deep brown, closer to black, with a finger or so of off white head. Not a lot of retention, but what does stick around laces nicely.

S: The aroma is full of cinnamon and other spices. Sweet, it's very focused on the malt and typical winter warmer like smells.

T: Again, nothing really separates this from a typical winter warmer. It is pretty malty, focused on caramel on molasses, but the spices are there as well. Mostly cinnamon and nutmeg type spices, I really just dislike this style as a whole, so determine a fair review is a bit difficult.

MF: Heavier body than most in the style and the carbonation is good. I will say that for 11.5% this beer is damn drinkable. Probably it's redeeming quality.

O: This wasn't awful. Compared to the rest in its style I actually think it's really good. But overall? Not a fan.

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Photo of malty
3.33/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

Looks to be as dark brown as you can get before black. Dense, settled 1/4" khaki head. Lovely spotted sheets of elegant lace all the way down.

Smells of cinnamon, dark baker's chocolate, cloves & figs. A bit of ginger slips under the radar as it warms a bit. Reminds me of Jagermeister, but much less licorice. Dark, earthy spices and definitely mysterious.

Cinnamon and a touch of fusal alcohol make for the initial taste. Boozy masurated figs dominate the middle, while dusty dark chocolate comfy things up a bit.

Mouthfeel is between medium and full with a lovely creaminess. The carbonation is tame but still playful and cheery. The finish has a chalky element that makes for a nice bitter feel, somewhat offsetting the alcohol punch.

Drinkability is pretty decent. For a 11.4% brew, it drinks well enough.

Overall a beer I'm glad I tried, but I would choose other holiday spiced ales for my liking. As this beer warms, the flavors do open up and get rounder - less cinnamon and more dark roasted malts. The body is very nice, very creamy and soothing. Definitely a cold weather beer. A nice winter warmer but too much cinnamon and heat for my taste.

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Photo of mikereaser
3.35/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours a deep dark brown with just a layer of bubble on the surface with a bit of lacing down the side of the glass.
S - aroma is hard for me to pick out, especially after the last one. Again, there is just a little bit of smokiness, but more of the beef jerky, a bit of cinnamon i'm finally picking out.
T - The taste is hard to decipher, there is some cinnamon again, some vanilla, it definitely tastes aged. It seems like it could be some sort of a christmas ale. I was thinking Anchor but its not as spicy as that.
M/D - Its lacking a full body and is kind of thin, what now seems more like a christmas beer type spice.

The only thought that came to me was Great Lakes Christmas beer, but lets rip her open and see...
Dark Horse 4 Elf, a winter warmer. So I was kind of close in my guess. At least I had the holiday right anyway. Not bad but the whole Christmas spice thing is not my taste.


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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.35/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

A nice bottle from normyk. Poured into a snifter.

The beer pours out very dark, much darker than I expected. It has nightlights if chestnut and mahogany. Not much of a head. The spices are sweetand aromatic. Up close it smells like a malty rich strong ale. Lots of ginger bread, Nutmeg, cherries and light cinnamon. Spices are pretty big, but quite unique. Equally as big is a deep maltiness. Gingerbread, dried cherries, toffee, cocoa, raisin. It starts strong but the finish is lackluster. Carbonation is pretty high and the body leaves me wanting more heft. This its almost like a fruitcake in a glass. One of the more interesting winter warmers.

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Photo of bmwats
3.36/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter.

A: Dark brown. Pours a slight, bubbly head. Dissipates very quickly. Spotty lacing,

S: Roasted nuts, plenty of molasses, nutmeg, sage, and a little chocolate. Boozy.

T: Pecan shell, unsweetened chocolate, and peat.

M: Medium body. Pungent finish.

D: Sip and enjoy.

Atmosphere is pretty good. Dark, slight head, slight lacing. Nose is nutty with fall and savory spice and chocolate. Bitter and pungent flavor. Overall, this is a pretty good quaff.

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Photo of mjl21
3.37/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Acquired via trade...thanks Josh. 12 ounce bottle poured into a snifter. No abv info or bottling info is given.

A-Pours a dark brown with some visible red coming through. It has a minimal tan head that goes to a small ring fairly quickly.

S-Super spiced is the best way to describe this beer. It reminds me in a lot of ways of a pumpkin beer because it has similair spicing. There is a lot of clove, cinammon, anise, and five spice. The aroma is not to my personal liking but when judged as a spiced beer it works.

T-Like the nose, there is lots of anise, clove, five spice, and other spices. It has a spicy finish and there is some noticeable bitterness. There is a little booze as it goes down and the flavor and aftertaste remind me of everyone's favorite Italian digestif, Fernet Branca.

M-It is thicker bodied and has light carbonation.

D-Too spiced for my taste.

This is a great beer for lovers of pumpkin beers. I think a lot of people will like this, but the spices just don't appease my palate.

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Photo of goingbrokeonbeer
3.4/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with a quarter inch head that disappears quickly. Smell is spice for days, a little over the top for me so take this for what it's worth. Taste is nutmeg, cinnamon spice, and bitterness. Not my thing for sure.

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 825 ratings.
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