Dismiss Notice
We're celebrating 10 years of BeerAdvocate magazine with $10 print subscriptions for US residents.

Subscribe now!

Dark Horse 4 Elf | Dark Horse Brewing Company

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
very good
195 Reviews
no score
Send samples
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

For Trade:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 195 | Ratings: 801
Photo of jzlyo
4.13/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Aroma is nutmeg/cinnamon/spices and malts. The flavor is nutmeg/cinnamon, malts, mild fruit/berries and a mix of mild sweetness and slightly sour in the finish.

 161 characters

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

 2,528 characters

Photo of tone77
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a black color with a 1 inch head. Smell is of spices, nutmeg in particular, roasted malts. Taste is roasted malts, spices, chocolate, tasty. Feels full bodied in the mouth and overall is a good beer on this 40 degree night in late April in PA.

 282 characters

Photo of SD-Alefan
4.13/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

On tap.
Arrives a deep, dark brown, nearly black with virtually no head. No lacing to speak of.
Aroma is roasty: coffee and chocolate with a bit of nutmeg, tree nuts and cinnamon.
Tasty beer. Lots of chocolate goodness as well as those yummy holiday spices in just the right amount as well as a bit of fig and a bit of booze.
Mouthfeel is rather thin.
Nice holiday beer.

 371 characters

Photo of woodychandler
4.16/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am continuing to eradicate the Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody while alternating with The CANQuest (tm). The forecast snowstorm may be helpful in my being successful in this endeavor!

I Pop!ped the cap on the Bottle & utilized a gentle pour as is my new wont. I am coming to realize that I may have been doing even the freshest of beers a disservice with my heavy-handed pours & inverted Glugs, so I am backing off. If the idea was to raise head, I can accomplish that with a swirl once the beer is in the glass. Having done so, I had a finger of fizzy, foamy, light-tan with low retention. Color was Dark Brown to Very Dark Brown (SRM = > 27, < 34) with NE-quality clarity & ruby highlights. Nose was heavy with cinnamon, but there were other spices in there, also, just none that I could easily discern. It also had a dark bready maltiness so that it smelled like spice cake. Not space cake! That is for later. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, not quite full, but close. It was a thick beer on the tongue, as though a dollop of something had been scooped onto it. The spices were just what I needed on a cold winter's day in January in advance of a creeping snowstorm! It definitely had a warming quality without being overwhelming, or worse, making me feel that it was oversaturated with spices. The prevalent taste was cinnamon, but the hops seemed to impart a cool wintergreen/peppermint flavor, also. The finish was quite dry, as you might imagine, thanks to all of the spices involved. I was really happy with this warming up my winter's day!

 1,551 characters

Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.38/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours chestnut brown with a cream colored almost beige 3 finger head. Light accentuates cranberry hues around the sides of the body.

If there were a festive smelling beer, this is it. Cranberries, holly, nutmeg, pecans, cinnamon, gingerbread, Red Hots, peppermint, hot cocoa...there's no better smelling holiday beer, I guarantee you.

The flavor starts out slightly piney, but quickly develops into banana nut bread, gingerbread with red hots, prune, cinnamon, nutmeg, followed by slight baked brown sugar and molasses. It's just so incredibly festive I can't help but rate it so high.

Buzzing carbonation, alcohol heat, and a dry rubbed finish.

Overall, as a Christmas/Holiday ale, 4 Elf NAILS it. I mean just NAILS it. Nothing better captures the aromas, flavors, and warmth of the holidays. Best holiday beer, and beyond impressed.

 840 characters

Photo of jasonpeckins32
4.62/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a color somewhere on the fence between deep, dark brown, and pure black. A decent head sits atop as well. The beer is pretty darn dark for a christmas ale, and that is all good in my book.

The aroma is hoppy and spicey with notes of pine, nutmeg, and cloves. Some roasted malts appear in the background the more the beer warms.

The flavor is also big on both cloves and nutmeg, but with a strong malt backbone that really beefs this up compared to other christmas ales. Chai tea is present, as well as some faint hints of ginger.

Mouthfeel is a well carbonated medium bodied beer. Exactly what you'd want this one to be.

 634 characters

Photo of delta490
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a really deep brown with a little tan head that just won't quit. Leaves spots of lacing. The aroma is like a spice cookie, mostly cardamom. The taste has more going on with the addition of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. The body is lighter, slick and smooth.

 264 characters

Photo of smcolw
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Deep mahogany brown. Only the brightest of lights pass through the brew. Modest head which leaves a lattice lace on the glass.

Spicy as if there is black and cayenne pepper in the brew. I detect vanilla and oak as well. Nice complex nose.

Dark malt start with a biting peppery bitterness. The swallow is dry and staying to be bitter. The aftertaste is surprisingly brief considering the biting finish. Neutral body with an elevated carbonation level.

 454 characters

Photo of biegaman
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Christmas is the time of lights and yet this holiday seasonal is completely black. Well, not quite. 4 Elf does have flashes of clear, twinkling garnet that give it a slightly lighter air than, say, a porter or stout. Nonetheless, it shares most of their visual characteristics including the creamy, brown-tinged head.

That is most certainly the smell of the holidays - holidays, plural, referring to both Christmas and Thanksgiving. This heavily seasoned bouquet has layers of spice - cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, allspice - that cover everything from pumpkin pie right up to tourtière and gingerbread cookies.

Frankly, it's actually a bit much. Google the 'cinnamon challenge' to see reactions to too much spice. Granted, this is nowhere near that bad. The fact remains, however, that this over-stepped chai-like concoction is almost itchy in the throat and leaves a long-lasting, heavily peppery sensation.

What it needs, if you ask me, is a little more body and roast from the malt to help mellow it out. For such a dark beer there's little by way of flavour - no chocolate, coffee, or toasty nuttiness (or perhaps there is but one can't detect it behind all the fiery ginger, fragrant clove and nutmeg, or zesty orange peel notes).

That abundance of spice and the sufficient alcohol (8.7%) makes stashing a few bottles in the cellar for next holiday season an option. I'm unsure the beer would improve over an additional 12 months (again, it's not terribly malty) but it shouldn't have a problem enduring it if you're curious about a vertical tasting.

4 Elf drinks like a pumpkin ale on steroids and resembles some kind of holiday cheer distillate. I found it a little too thin for its over-the-top spice profile but still managed to enjoy it just fine. It won't be at the top of my list to Santa but I'll still be happy if a few bottles find their way into my stocking again next year.

 1,907 characters

Photo of martinpfal
3.61/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.25

Not too bad. Surely not my fav from dark horse but during the season it works. Clove and nutmeg spice do come through and actually surprising to be at 8.75% abv. Too many other good beers this time of year to really pursue this one.

 236 characters

Photo of Evilyak
3.71/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

not a favorite style of mine, but this was a good representative.

dark brown, thin head.

like the other folks said, there's lots of nutmeg in here. other spice, too, but that's the one that pops out. anise or licorice in there, too.

lightly carbonated. pretty clean mouth.

overall, a decent beer - not one i'd grab again but could work nicely in the right environment.

 372 characters

Photo of 20holmbrew
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Smells and tastes like Christmas. Lots of spices including cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and nutmeg. High carb with medium mouthfeel. This is my first beer from the brewery, but pretty impressed. I will seek them out again.

 219 characters

Photo of dar482
3.77/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

The beer comes in a rich brown color.

The aroma offers some raisin, licorice spice, toffee, caramel, clove.

The flavor follows with more spice and earthiness. Clove, cinnamon, lots of nutmeg, a brown sugar sweetness onto a earthy bitterness on the finish.

 257 characters

Photo of WoodBrew
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The Dark Horse 4 Elf is quite decent. It poured an opaque black with thin white head that left a spotty lace. The scent was spice and nutmeg. The taste carried clove and spice. The mouthfeel was medium in body with smooth carbonation. Overall this was a decent Xmas beer that was certainly drinkable after the first few sips.....once the pallet was adjusted....good.

 371 characters

Photo of jmdrpi
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

On draft, served in goblet

Dark brown in color, fairly clear, foamy head. Very herbal spicy aroma. Ginger, cinnamon, spice. Heavy on the spice flavor - a bit too much for me. Medium bodied.

 192 characters

Photo of Hesscabob
4.16/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Really, really love this brew. Fits the example of the style perfectly. HInts of clove/nutmeg in the aroma followed by a porter'esque taste/mouthfeel. Had it with about a year on it. Loved it!

 192 characters

Photo of mlockman
3.5/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A good winter warmer in its own right, but definitely doesn't hold a candle to the others in its class. Be warned however: I had this a few months out-of-season once and it was abysmal; really must be drank fresh.

 213 characters

Photo of orcrist_cleaver
4.07/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Dark chestnut, a little muddy. Khaki Head and garland rings of lacing.

S: Toffee, brown sugar and ginger. Light amount of crystal malt and cocoa. Dried figs and raisins.

M: Medium body with medium carb. Very slight warmth. Would want to let this sit a little more.

T: Gingerbread cookie with some espresso dusted dark fruit. Slight floral pine and citrus. Roasty, cocoa finish. Tastes like Christmas.

 410 characters

Photo of 57md
4.1/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown with a thin layer of head. The nose is full of Christmas spices. The flavor follows the nose and the finish is semi-dry with even more spice. The body is not super hearty but it certainly holds up to the heavy spicing of this beer.

 253 characters

Photo of Brew_42
3.97/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours jet black with very little head or lacing.

Smells of roasted malts, toffee, and dark fruits. Taste follows the nose closely with a little chocolate in the mix as well. Tastes like a barley wine more than anything.

Mouthfeel- medium with low carbonation.

Overall- Decent winter warmer. I like the taste and the fact that they hide the ABV well. Will revisit

 365 characters

Photo of cmf
4.09/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz to becker. Foamed up and out of the glass - two pours were required. Chocolate dark with just a little light getting through. Ok, chocolate, coffee taste aroma. What's different - aroma is a little yeastier. Head is still high with a mountain shape in the middle. Pretty strong alcohol flavor. Feels smooth almost like a barley wine. Overall a good beer to have in the dark winter months.

 402 characters

Photo of Gobearswalter34
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Pours black with a thin, tan head. Smells of chocolate malts with clove and spice dominant. Maybe a slight coffee smell. Taste follows the nose with the coffee more prevalent. He clove and spices dominate. Something in here I'm not sure what it is. Very unique. Better as it warms.

 288 characters

Photo of ClavisAurea
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2014 version in a tulip glass.

Appearance: dark chestnut with a nice off-white head and a nice body when poured.

Nose: chocolate, cinnamon, roasted malts, caramel, toffee, raisins, prunes, figs and other dark fruits, very pronounced Juicy Fruit gum character, grainy on the back end

Taste: follows the nose perfectly but with a huge chocolate hit in the front followed by those dark fruits and spices. The finish is roasty and lingering with some spicy character that makes me want to keep drinking this beer.

Overall: I'm really impressed with this beer. It's my first from Dark Horse and I really liked it. The 4 pack was on clearance for $5 and I really regret not buying 2 more. This is really a great beer. It's almost like a combination of a barleywine, old ale and stout all in one. Great beer.

 805 characters

Photo of alarmclock314
4.27/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

I've had several 4-packs of this beer now. 12oz bottles, all from 2015. Pours somewhat opaque brown with a medium sized tan head; some lacing. Yeast on the bottom of the bottle carries over into the glass. Smells mostly of sweet malt and ginger with some nutmeg, clove, allspice, and toasted caramel. The taste follows very closely and has kind of a gingerbread vibe; ginger, clove, malt, and caramel. The alcohol is fairly present but is less noticeable when it warms up. Above average body and average carbonation. Overall, it fits the style well as a spiced, malty, and boozy beer.

 592 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 801 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • 10 Years of BeerAdvocate Magazine

    We're celebrating 10 years of BA mag with $10 print subscriptions for US residents!