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: 824
Photo of BBP
4.09/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours dark dark brown blurring the lines between black. Minimal head, but decent lacing.

The aroma is a bit like a stout and a porter. Not with the normal intensity, but it's more subtle. A bit more fragrant.

The taste is again like a stout and porter, but with a little bit less thickness. It has some spice like you'd expect from a winter warmer, but it's very subtle and a bit underplayed. Luckily, that's how I enjoy spice in my beer. This beer also has a way of embedding itself onto my mouth. The flavor had excellent followthrough due to this.

The body is creamy and full. The weight is fairly heavy. The finish is dry and slightly sticky.

Overall, this is another nice brew from Dark Horse. They might go down in my books as the kings of hiding alcohol. At first I would have guessed this was a 6% beer. There is absolutely no heat in the taste, and I don't really get any when it goes down either. As always, they've managed to balance this quite well as well. Glad I snagged a bottle of this.

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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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3.77/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

330ml bottle.Snifter glass.Enjoyed on oct´11.Dark mahogany in color.Off-white crown,fairly good retention.Caramel malt,chocolate,toasted malt aromas.Intense aromatic spicy:cinnamon,clove,nutmeg.Sweet bitter upfront followed by sweet malty flavor.Smooth astringency.Full body,correct carbonation.Dry prune & molasses on the finish lasting to the aftertaste.Pleasant drinkability.

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Photo of minterro
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Single from Spartan Spirit --> poured into a snifter

A&S: The smell is predominately cinnamon. Other odors include nutmeg, slight sweet chocolaty tones, and ginger bread. The look is a viscus jet black colored beer. tan colored head that hangs around in a creamy ring and leaves lacing that falls fast.

T&M: pretty robust for a spiced beer. Upfront its pretty gingery but its not overwhelming. Bitter dark chocolate finish. To put it simply it taste like a really good winter warmer. Full bodied beer with low carbonation.

O: This is a great beer pretty much a tie for my favorite Dark Horse beer (Tres), although I'll really looking forward to trying Plead the 5th. 1.99$ for this beer without tax or deposit is a steal by any means, I hope I can still score some more.

By the way there is no way this beer is 11.55%

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Photo of Alieniloquium
3.74/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a CBS snifter. 2010 vintage thanks to chpueblo22.

Appearance - Pours a dark brown body that is nearly completely opaque. Transparent as I pour it and a bit translucent at the edges. Not much of a head and really only a ring of lace to speak of. I let a few chunks of sediment fall into the glass. They are now clinging to the bottom and slide into the body as I drink it.

Smell - Earthy malts and strong toffee. Huge spice presence. Cinnamon. Like a pre-flambe bananas foster. Booze, as well.

Taste - Not as pleasant as the aroma. The flavors are nice, but they don't blend well with the finish for me. Spice and toffee up front, but it isn't sweet at all. Dry, quite dry. The finish is bitter with a significant spice presence. I enjoy drinking it, but after I finish a sip it doesn't linger on the palate in a pleasant fashion.

Mouthfeel - Overly bitter for the style. The spice and malt backbone are nice, but the finish is just awful. Well carbonated and surprisingly thin. I suppose that's a result of the dryness of the drink.

Overall - A strange dichotomy of nice flavors and a disappointing finish. I'll finish the glass no problem, but the aftertaste is pretty off-putting.

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Photo of jegross2
3.6/5  rDev -7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Reviewing the 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company.
Score: 83

Unknown bottling date from the 2011 release, served in a Surly Darkness snifter and enjoyed on 02/05/12. Thank you BeerAdvocate user minterro for hooking me up with this one!

Appearance: Pours a jet black color that is totally opaque save for a super faint, thin brown highlight atop the beer when held up to light. Pours a finger of creamy off-white/tan head that settles into a ring around the glass and thin foggy film of head atop the beer. Above average lacing. 4/5

Smell: Cinnamon, caramel, peppermint candy cane and winter spices. A little roasted chocolate malt and light cherry. Smells a lot like what you'd expect a "Christmas flavored" incense stick to smell like. 4/5

Taste: Creamy caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg and a little ginger upfront with a peppermint twist towards the finish. A little watery chocolate and cherry on the midpalate. Alcohol is totally hidden. You would never guess this is 11.5% ABV. 3.5/5

Mouthfeel: Pretty light bodied, which is surprising given the appearance. Low carbonation. A watered down, creamy mouthfeel. Has a slight bitter/malty, spiced finish. 3/5

Overall: I usually do not like winter warmers, but this one is pretty tasty. It's unlikely that I would buy more than a single bottle of this at a time, especially because the style is not my thing, but this is certainly a beer that I would drink again if given the opportunity. Quite the drinkable beer.

Recommendation: A good beer for casual beer drinkers. Above average winter warmer.

Pairings: Sugar cookies (that are shaped like Christmas trees).

Cost: $12 for a four pack.

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Photo of CuriousMonk
4.12/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Never thought of trying this brew until it came to my attention especially being a Dark Horse fan. Poured from 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. Pours roasty brown with a thin off-white head that recedes quite quickly. Aromas of nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon, and some orange. Bit disappointed with the taste as it did not mirror the delicious aromatics as initially indicated. Flavors of dark fruit, indistinct spices- perhaps some nutmeg? Somewhat bittery back finish. As mysterious as the flavor is, I am at loss of how well hidden the high alochol is! Medium-bodied with nice carbonation throughout. As the beer warmed up a bit, the more I found myself to enjoy this one. I would gladly have this one again on a cold winter night.

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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 BarrytheBear
4.22/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 bottle into my now favorite go-to glass, the Drakness snifter. Courtesy of a trader long, long ago. Notes are hazy. Thank you whoever you are. A preface: winter beers are groddy.

Pours a reddish brown with a short lived head that forms an amorphous ring of off white.

Time has been kind to the nose. Loads of mulling spices and cinnamon. Smells like Christmas. Uncanny really and seemingly fresh and bright.

Taste follows suit. Spices and cinammon. Thankfully, no allspice. Had that shit in copious quantities in a disgusting authentic Chinese joint once and it makes me want to projectile up charles. Well integrated, though not abrasive and in your face. Booze is non existent on the drink but settles warmly into the innerds.

Overall, this was a really nice surprise. I don't dig on holiday spicetasticness, but this was the best of what I find to be a lame style. Really well played Dark Horse!

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Photo of jtingue
3.45/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2011 Batch. Poured into a tulip.

Appearance. Dark red brown in color. Pours with 2 fingers of head, which dissipates to a nice layer on top.

Smell. THere is some cinnamon there, but not in an overwhelming way. There seems to be a smell that I notice in beers with brett, though I don't know if this beer has any. In addition to this there is a subtle cherry note.

Taste. Starts out bitter with some spice: allspice cinnamon and ginger. Bitterness builds and a malt backbone that starts to taste like graham cracker, probably because of the cinnamon in there. The finish is spicy and hot from the alcohol.

Mouthfeel. Surprisingly thin body, but this is compensated for by an appropriate level of carbonation.

Tastes like christmas; still subtle though.

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Photo of dgugliuzza
4.47/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured from 12 oz. bottle into a large snifter

Opaque brown color that looks pitch black in the glass. Thin tan head with large bubbles spread throughout.

An array of spices delightfully inhibit the nostrils. Cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice are dominant. Nice layer of candy sweet malt. Smells like freshly baked gingerbread cookies.

Just as the smell indicates. The warming spices are delectable and perfectly incorporated. Cinnamon and nutmeg stand out to make this taste like liquid gingerbread. No alcohol burn whatsoever.

Medium-thick and creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is low, but adequate for the style. Very smooth and easy to drink. I would have never guessed the double digit ABV quantity.

4 Elf is nothing short of outstanding. The most flavorful winter warmer I've had to date. If you like gingerbread cookies, then you will love this beer. It truly tastes and feels like a snowy winter night. Well worth seeking out.

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Photo of BeRanger
4.17/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2011 Vintage, poured into a pint glass.

A: Deep brown, about one finger of creamy foam that stuck around for quite sometime.

S: Wonderful Christmas Ale smell with all the flavors coming out - cinnamon, spices, nutmeg and roasted malts.

T: The alcohol is hidden very well. The cinnamon and nutmeg hit you first, kind of resembled a sugar cookie that I was snacking on right before drinking it.

M: Medium body with good carbonation - finishes very smooth.

O: Very nice Christmas Ale from Dark Horse, one of the best I've had. Looking forward to cracking open my 2009 Vintage later this evening to compare.

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Photo of oline73
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Pours a dark mahogany color with a finger of light tan head that goes away quickly.

Smell: Stong smell of sweet malt with some mild roast, molasses, an lots of dark fruit. Mild spice, this bottle has been cellared for a year. Some alcohol as well.

Taste: Really sweet malt with dark fruit and some chocolate. Chalked full of molasses. Some spices and warming alcohol in the finish.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side with smooth carbonation and a slick finish.

Overall: The age did this beer well. Still warming, but much smoother. I'd have another.

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Photo of Khazadum
4.01/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

2009 courtesy of Jay

Great opaque body. Cola colored. Lacing well, good stickiness.

Bursting nutmeg, cinnamon, too much spices. Sharp Sharp Sharp! Caramel sweetness tries to Balance but cannot.

Sweetness comes out well, the spices actually blend super well so much more than the nose.

Full bodied great carb. Super sticky, lingers like a nice coffee.

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Photo of paxtonthegreat
5/5  rDev +29.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Easily my favorite winter beer ever along with Samichlaus. This strong winter warmer packs in tons of flavors reminiscent of cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and allspice. Every winter I frequent dark horse a lot to get my hands on lots of this. Like I said, best winter beer. ever.

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

Bottle from 2009 courtesy of Derek. Thanks!

A: The beer pours a dark brown/amber color with a small khaki head.

S: Sort of reminiscent of the Anchor Christmas beers. Light roasted malt character followed by spices, especially pumpkin pie type spices. There are mild herb notes that give this one a bit of a woody note. Some toasted malt, chocolate, caramel, and toffee are also there.

T: There is a bit more chocolate to the flavor than let on by the aroma. Still a lot of the pumpkin pie spices with a mild woodiness of herbs. A restrained roasted malt character with a touch of bitterness and different dark fruits.

M: Medium bodied with medium carbonation.

O: This was one of the better spicy/herbal winter beers I've had.

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.24/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass.

3.5 A: Deep brown, nearly black color. Just one finger of creamy light brown head. Half of the head fell fairly rapidly, while the rest stuck around a good deal longer. Pretty good given the ABV. Not much in terms of lacing.

4.5 S: There's plenty of spice in here and indeed this smells like Christmas. Nutmeg makes the bigger splash, while cinnamon is right on its heels. Behind the spices, there is a toastiness accompanied by a nuttiness. The spices block out anything else that might be there. Lovely and well rounded with all aromas in good proportions. Alcohol is completely hidden.

4.0 T: The spices (mainly nutmeg and cinnamon with an underlying sugar cookie flavor) are again found in ample amounts, but much less intense than the nose which allows the complexity to be realized. Again, toasty and nutty. Perhaps even a touch of roastiness. Rich caramel gives the taste a welcomed richness. Again, the booze is nearly unnoticeable save for a slight warming on finish.

4.5 M: Heavier medium body. The body is perfect for the flavors presented. Good moderate carbonation. Good creaminess, though I'd prefer a touch more. Super smooth.

4.5 T: I am a pretty big fan of the style and this is a more than solid example of it. Good all around.

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Photo of glid02
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle via a trade with GCurlow – thanks!

Pours a dark brownish-amber color with an off-white head leaving decent lacing.

Smells of deep toasted malts with good amounts of nutmeg and lighter cinnamon. Also present are slight amounts of lighter caramel malts.

Tastes very similar to how it smells. Smooth toasted malts up front are joined by good amounts of heavy spices – nutmeg, allspice, and hints of cinnamon and anise. The flavors sweeten midway with lighter caramel malts. The ending is mildly bitter. Mouthfeel is good, with smooth carbonation.

Overall this was a solid beer for the style, and the alcohol was hidden remarkably well. Worth a shot.

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Photo of srandycarter
3.96/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Pretty darned dark, light tan head that stays forever.

S - Spices, malt hiding underneath.

T - Much like smell, malty and spicy. More spicy than anything else.

M - Good carb, medium body, finishes to the spice.

D - Not my usual cup of ale. Good to try.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.97/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle shared with Thirstybird. Pours a deep brown with ruby highlights around the base. Head eventually dissipates into a thin band and a soapy skim. Nose expresses allspice, licorice and sassafras. Taste reveals chocolate, roast, spice, sassafras, licorice and slightly bitter, earthy hops. Mouthfeel is medium-light with an even, crisp carbonation. Complex and interesting with an amazingly well-hidden abv - I can hardly believe it comes in at 11.5%.

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Photo of jwinship83
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

on tap at the bavarian lodge. excited to try this beer from one of my favorite breweries. served in a small snifter.

A- a very dark brown body with a small amount of ruby red highlights. a small khaki colored head on top. little to no lacing gets left behind.

S- the first thing i notice is roasted malts and chocolate. after that i get some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. very christmas-y very stout like.

T- the taste mimics the nose. lots of roasted malts leads the way. it is closely followed by chocolate and spices. plenty of nutmeg and cinnamon. earthy hops at the end.

M- medium bodied, bordering on full. the alcohol is well hidden, and only noticeable by a slight warming.

D- as a fan of dark horse's stouts, i liked this one very much. one that i would pick up every year if the bottles were sold in my area. glad i had the chance to try this. very spicy, but well done and not too over the top.

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Photo of brew3crew
3.78/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap at the brewery.

A-brownish black, so not completely dark. White head around the ed ge s
S-smells very spicy. Herbs definately dominate
T-lots of roastiness and herbal tones.
M-medium bodied and smooth. Crisp.
D-ok at best. Asked for a taste and got a pint. Not really complaining too much just took a while to finish

Gets better as it warms up. Prolly better with age.

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Photo of gordavidson
4.18/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2009 Vintage

A- Pours a deep, dark leathery brown liquid with some ruby red highlights. The mocha head is thick and creamy and has good retention.

S- Very complex with hints of mint, black cherry, citrus, and caramel. No alcohol is detected in the nose. Intriguing.

T- Sweet and smooth malt flavors hit first. Some smoke and black cherry flavors are present. No alcohol is apparent.

M- Very smooth and creamy body with a nice amount of carbonation. The flavors linger for quite some time.

D- This is astoundingly drinkable for the alcohol content. The flavors are mild enough to keep it form becoming too rich. This has aged nicely.

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Photo of BMoney575
4.2/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Sampled on 2-2-11
2010 Vintage

Pours completely opaque and very dark. A tiny bit of red filters through on the edges. A filmy tan head leaves a a thick ring around the outside.

Smell is strong, roasted malt, with aromas of coffee, anise and earthy hops. The booze is there, adding a deepness to accent the earthy tones.

Taste is all dark fruit at first, giving way to flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. The roasted coffee flavors come next, with a sweet, slightly bitter finish. Very good.

Mouthfeel is thick, slick, and very creamy. Just right for the big malty character.

Drinkability is very good, considering the big flavors and big abv.

Overall, a very good beer that will probably age very well.

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Photo of olympuszymurgus
3.9/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

These mouthy servers! the party bus put them in a foul mood and made them mouthy. I like it.

They pour me a shaker pint of this muddy brown beer with a slight tan head. The pour is short but so is her temper so I don't say anything. A nice spice, thick chewy caramel and dark fruit. this is like a sexy fruit cake, the kind you eat instead of set in the back of the fridge until the next year.

I drink it too fast though, far too fast. Holy crap, this thing is 11.5%? shit. This is good and dangerous, a great combination for the evening.

Thank you ladies of Dark Horse, you entertained us well.

DH- Keep it up.

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 824 ratings.
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