Dark Horse 4 Elf | Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Dark Horse 4 ElfDark Horse 4 Elf
Very Good
848 Ratings
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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Ratings: 848 |  Reviews: 211
Photo of mikeyv35
4.04/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Sampled: 08/01/2009
12oz. bottle into tulip glass
Vintage: 2008

To start off, this was a very interesting brew that I am glad I sampled. Brew poured a black translucent color w/ a one finger cream head. Had the look of a black tea w/ carbonation. Laced the glass nicely and it pretty much stuck around for the remainder of the tasting. The nose was a real treat w/ the aromas of chai tea, vanilla, ginger, clove, and nutmeg. The taste was pretty much on par as expected w/ a finish of mild bittering hops. For 11% ABV this brew was surprisingly drinkable due to the herbs/spices masking well. The mouthfeel was a little thin for my taste - wanted this to be slightly creamier. Overall, this brew was very unique, interesting, and enjoyable. Glad I got the chance to sample, but don't think I will be seeking this one out again, due to it reminding me more of tea than beer. This brew was more of a mind expander than anything for me.

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Photo of brentk56
4.37/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a dark chocolate color with a tan head that leaves a few splashes of lace behind

Smell: Smells like mincemeat pie with a whole range of holiday spices - cinnamon, clove and allspice dominate

Taste: Rich caramel and spice flavors build into a boozy chocolate concoction by mid-palate; the clove, allspice and cinnamon are powerful; after the swallow, the booziness builds a bit and adds a holiday dessert element

Mouthfeel: Full body with moderate carbonation; some warmth in the gullet

Drinkability: For those who like a nice spicy Winter Warmer, this beer is the real McCoy; a bit too high in alcohol to drink more than one

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Photo of HopHead84
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An extra received in a trade with OHLRangers. Thanks Ed! Pours dark brown with crimson notes into my tulip, with a small light brown head.

One sniff of the aroma evokes images of a traditional Christmas, one filled with eggnog and holiday spirit. In other words, a holiday that exists only in paintings and story books. A myriad of spices greet the olfactory...cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, clove, and ginger. The malt backbone is roasted beneath the Christmas vapor, with a hint of dark fruits. Alcohol is completely hidden.

I was a little scared after the potent yet delicious aroma, but the spices blend together well in the flavor to make a pretty drinkable spice beer. Flavors are of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted malt, alcohol, and a little sweetness. The finish is a little spicy and peppery. Overall a holiday sipper. Surprisingly enjoyable.

I've had two bottles of this sitting in my fridge for a while. The thought of cracking one and venturing into the unknown seemed a daunting task for such an unwilling Holiday voyager. Had I known the joy this beverage would bring, I would have cracked it sooner. I'm very happy to have one more bottle of this.

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Photo of Reagan1984
4.1/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Masterski for providing this as an extra in a recent trade.

First comment, I enjoyed this much more than I would have guessed. Not too shabby. I know I drank it in June, but it was a colder and rainy June day here in Mass. Still a nice beer.

Some off white head forms.. about finger & ½ that fades rather quickly. The beer looked like a cola and left no lacing at all.

The aroma was very spicy... And frankly, I'll describe the taste and aroma together as they do meld...

Allspice, Mace, Clover and cocoa powder. All very prevelent. What's funny is that I am NOT a clover fan, but it all works here. Just below the surface was a nice malt backbone. Not really a sweetness, but just enough to round out the spices.

Medium body and rather smooth.

I have to say I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would...

Thanks Alex.. Thanks Dark Horse

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Photo of GbVDave
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a DT tulip. Thanks to heliosphann for the trade!

A: Pours a murky, dark, cola-brown color with the tiniest whisp of tan foam on top that still managed to leave a few random specks of lace in the glass.

S: Heavenly aromas of holiday spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom rub shoulders with dark chocolate, dark fruit, and hints of roasted nuts, toffee and/or caramel.

T: Wow! More of the same as above with additions of pumpkin pie spice, clove, gingerbread, cherry, spiced orange peel, and more chocolate. Tastes like German pfeffernusse cookies.

M: The spicing adds, well, a spicy quality to the mouthfeel. A little dry, ever so slightly bitter, but nice and prickly/peppery.

D: I didn't didn't look at the alcohol content until I started typing this paragraph. The 11.5% is hidden pretty well by all of the spice going on here. It started coming out a little as it began to warm. Pretty much a one and I'm done...but it was immensely enjoyable 'till the bottom of the glass.

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Photo of tmoneyba
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Draft at Dark Horse.

Poured hazy reddish brown color with an average fizzy white head that was mostly lasting with good lacing. Moderate to heavy complex nutmeg sweet aroma. Medium to full body with a sticky texture and flat carbonation. Medium to heavy spicy balanced flavor with a medium sweet spicy finish of moderate to long duration.

This is good complex seasonal brew.

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Photo of MasterSki
3.4/5  rDev -10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Got a few of these from Scott (heliosphann) in an in-person trade. Served in my Pisgah pint glass.

A - A half-finger of tan foam that dissipates quickly and leaves a nice ring. Attractive dark cherry wood color, although there's some white sediment at the bottom of the glass.

S - Cinnamon, nutmeg, graham cracker - it doesn't seem that far from some of the pumpkin beers I've tried (not surprising considering the similar spices). There are also some berry and milk chocolate notes. For a spiced beer it's pretty good - nice balance.

T - The taste is less good - there's some serious spice and it leaves a really bitter aftertaste (and not in the hoppy or roasty sense). There are a few notes of sweetness and cinnamon but they're on the periphery.

M - Medium body with lively carbonation that tingles the lips and tongue. Goes down pretty smoothly. Nothing special, but pretty solid. Really dries out my mouth.

D - I don't think I could have more than one of these, and even one was a struggle. There's just way too much spice.

Glad I got to try this, but it's not really my kind of thing.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle: Poured a deep brown color ale with large foamy head with good retention and minimal lacing. Aroma of spices (nutmeg and light cinnamon) with a well balanced sweet roasty malt body. Taste is also very well balance between some sweet malt with notes of nutmeg and light cinnamon and maybe some white pepper? Body is about average with good carbonation and a nice creamy body and no apparent alcohol. Very well done with great balance while being easily drinkable.

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Photo of brewandbbq
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle at 55 degrees.

Pours dark mahogany with translucent edging and a cola-like fizzle. The short head of beige evaporated quickly and left no trace on the surface or lacework.

Aromatics lead off with strong spicing and chocolate-drizzeled malt. Big on the nutmeg and cinnamon, with shades of ginger and cardamon following through. A hint of molasses flows underneath.

Medium bodied with a syrupy mouthfeel.

Pungent spice and sweet malt start the palate. Ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamon, and some brown sugar. Cloves and menthol follow through along with anise and carmelized honey.

Finishes with a building warmth from the spice and alcohol, then a wave of medicinal phenols.

Way more spicy than I care for, but it would probably pair up well with fresh gingerbread or rumcake.

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Photo of mcallister
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great looking winter warmer. Deep mahagony brick color. Pours with a thick yet light bodied tannish head that fades into a nice quarter inch topper with no lace. Carbonation streams up the sides of my tulip.

Nose is very pleasant smelling with holiday spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, toffee, candy truffles, dried nuts and fruit. Very thick dark bread aromas.

A very solid winter warmer. Nicely spiced and really shows through on the middle and finish. Same tastes as the nose would suggest. Slightly too much spice for my liking however which skewed the score somewhat. Otherwise one of my favorite spice winter warmers I've had the pleasure of tasting.

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Photo of prototypic
4.35/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to hoppy for this wonderful surprise.

Appearance: It's a dark mahogany color and is very close to opaque. There's a little light slicing through at the edges giving it dark garnet highlights. The head is caramel colored and reaches about a finger deep. It was quick to recede and left light lace behind.

Smell: The nose is good, bordering on excellent. I'm close to awarding a 4.5 here, but it's just a little too weak. It is very heavy on cinnamon throughout. That's the predominant aroma. To a lesser degree, other holiday spices are noted (vanilla, nutmeg, and ginger). Roasted and light chocolate malts are noted. I'm not picking up any alcohol here. I wish I knew what the abv was. Nice smelling beer, just needs a little more kick.

Taste: Dark Horse ramped it up here. Cinnamon is very strong throughout. I haven't encountered a beer with such a strong cinnamon taste before. Fear not, it's excellent. Nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla complement the cinnamon flavor nicely, and give it a very well-rounded taste of the holidays. Roasted and light chocolate malts add a little sweetness and a ton of character. 4 Elf has a great malty foundation. Hops weren't apparent on the nose, but they certainly are here. They're mostly floral, but add a really nice buzzy kick to round it out. I am picking up alcohol here. It isn't offensive, but does have a slight warming effect. Finishes a little sweet with a nice bitter bite.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability: The body is on the lighter side of medium, but it has a very nice creamy feel. Carbonation is dialed down to just the right level. Drinkability is very high. I really like the flavor of 4 Elf and it doesn't come across as a big, badass beer. I'm unsure of the abv, but I wouldn't guess it's all that high.

4 Elf is an excellent holiday beer. It's absolutely loaded with holiday spice flavor. While it's not exactly novel in that sense, the spicy flavor is definitely unique. Cinnamon comes through very strong, but it works soooo well. I have only one slight complaint and that's that the nose is just a little weak. It wouldn't take much to work out that kink. It's a close call as it is. Nevertheless, 4 Elf is excellent beer. Highly recommended.

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Photo of brewcrew76
4.32/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to emerge077 for sharing this one.

A - Blackish brown with ruby highlights and a thin tan head.

S - Gingerbread like aroma. Nutmeg, allspice, clove and cinnamon.

T - Clove, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon with some chocolate and malty notes to provide enough flavor to prevent the spices from being too powerful. A nice graham cracker gingerbread mix.

M - Medium body with light carbonation and some warming from the alcohol.

D - This is how a winter spiced beer should taste. Malty with good spice presence but not overwhelming. Perfect to sip by a warm fire.

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Photo of hopdog
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle acquired in trade (thanks Derek!).

Poured a deeper brown color with an averaged sized off white head. Aromas of lots of spices (ginger, cinamon, and a bunch of others), chocolate, and I was getting some berries in there too. The spices were definitely the strongest of the aromas. Tastes of the same spices, chocolate, and caramel. This one was all about the spices.

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Photo of emerge077
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to TheBlackMallard for this one...

Black body, thin cap of tan foam. Pleasing aroma of gingerbread cookies, vanilla, nutmeg, the usual holiday cookie medley. Full bodied, creamy, slightly lactic feel. More stout than anything, which Dark Horse excels at. Dry spice notes similar to the nose, dominant gingerbread and vanilla/nutmeg. Not overly sweet, it's well balanced and unique for a winter warmer.

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Photo of BeerTruth
4.19/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

TheBlackMallard threw this one in as an extra, thank you sir!!

12 oz. bottle poured into a goblet.

Pours a deep dark brown with a quick one finger light tan head that falls to a thin layer of foam. Tiny bits of lacing remain on the sides of the glass, but not a whole lot. There is definitely some sediment floating around as well. Smell is a wonderful blend of gingerbread, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Chocolate malts, egg nog, and a good amount of nuttiness as well. Very pleasant aroma, nothing overdone or in your face. Taste is very similar to the aroma with a bit more spice. Nutmeg, ginger, and some pumpkin up front. Midway the rich malts emerge and lead to the spicy aftertaste. Once again, the flavors are in check, with nothing over the top crazy. Medium to full body with a rich feel and a prickly carbonation. There is a touch of alcohol, but it doesn't take away from the beer. By far one of the better Winter Warmers out there. I'm not a huge fan of the style, but I definitely enjoyed this one. Hopefully I can crack open another one of these come Christmas 2009! Thanks again Craig!

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Photo of seaoflament
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks Derek for the opportunity to try this beer.

Even with a hard/aggressive pour I only managed to get about one inch of foam, the retention is good though. The color of the beer is a deep cola color.

Spicy aroma upfront but well balanced. I'm getting aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cola nuts, toast, multi-grain bread, cinnamon bun dough, nutmeg, and spicy hops. A hint of orange peel, caramel, and a dose of chocolate. The aroma also reminds me of a cinnamon raisin bagel, very appetizing.

The spices are a little more aggressive on the taste, more cinnamon and nutmeg initially with some ginger in the middle followed by the toast and chocolate malts and a little alcohol in the finish. A little rough on the finish. I wouldn't describe the finish as intense or harsh it's just a bit overwhelming with the spices and the alcohol (although the alcohol does not come across as "hot"). Cocoa, mild coffee, vanilla, and a bit of orange in the aftertaste. After a while I begin to pick up some fruits like raisins and prunes. The toasted flavors also increase as it warms up but the spices still dominate.

Good mouth-feel, with some soft carbonation.

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Photo of SaucyA
4.41/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Pours an incredibly deep, almost black, brown. The head is a tan crown that lasts about as long as the pour itself. It retreats back into it's deep mahogany base as quickly as it appeared. Retention, lacing, and legs aren't it's strong suit.

S - The smell of this brew is just killer. Lots of cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, allspice. Perfumey. Smells a lot like the same spices as Screaming Pumpkin from MBC, except doubled. The chocolatey malty background is a great stage for everything to play around on.

T - Wow, this is like nothing I've ever had before. My dad just drank a sip and said "It tastes like Christmas." And it does. It starts off rather sweet at first, with an almost tea-like quality. Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg are all big players, with the spices leaving a nice aftertaste. It seems the malt has just enough "umph" to keep everything together and even out the backend. This is good on both an "extreme" level, and a well-brewed-beer level.

M - A little thinner bodied than I might prefer, but it works with the spices. Carbonation is fine, if a little subdued.

D - Y'know, for being a total spice-bomb, this shit is second to none. Far and away the best spiced beer I've ever had. Glad I have a few more bottles.

Notes: Thanks to Craig for this, because I am a bitch.

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Photo of FrognutUnl
4.42/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - dark brown with an off-white head.
S - The nose is of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice with very little hop character to speak of.
T - Very similar to the nose with the addition of some chocolate malt. The alcohol begins to poke through as the glass warms.
M - Medium bodied.

Overall, this is what every winter warmer should be. Another hit from Darkhorse.

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Photo of TheBlackMallard
4.7/5  rDev +23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours black into my snifter with about an inch of off white head.

Smell: Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Allspice, Vanilla, and Ginger.

Taste: Aforementioned spices along with Chocolate malt. Full bodied with medium carbonation. Alcohol shows up a bit as it warms, I have a hard time believing it's only 9%.

Absolutely amazing and everything I'd want from a Winter Warmer. I wish I could've picked up more of this, it's on par with 3 guys if you ask me. Definitely one of my favorite beers. I hope they keep brewing it.

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Photo of shivtim
4/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Dark Horse, served in a pint glass. Its a very deep brown color with a small brown head that fades away. Nose is malty cinnamon, vanilla, and some sprucey winter notes. Kinda like a christmas wreath candle. Taste is heavy malts with almond and chocolate. Some alcohol on warming. Wintery. Smooth. Nice holiday beer.

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Photo of aforbes10
4.47/5  rDev +17.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle procured somehow by kkulacki (he got engaged across the state the day this was released, so i have no idea how he got this) and generously sent to me. Pours surprisingly dark with a short brown head. Laces slowly and tightly. Smells magnificent...strong nutmeg and allspice with well-brewed coffee and dark chocolate. Flavor great too, big holiday spiced front (again, nutmeg and allspice, with a hint of hot cinnamon). Spices very strong, but supported well by a chocolate malt body and well balanced but warming alcohol. Full bodied. A bigger than life but extremely enjoyable winter warmer. Thanks again, Konrad!

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Photo of mentor
4.62/5  rDev +21.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle provided by Eyedrinkale, ala BIF20. Thanks for the opportunity! Hard pour to get a thin layer of light brown head over a dark brown liquid. Can't see through, even when held to light. Smells wet sweet and of chocolate, ginger, molasses, nutmeg, and perhaps coriander (coriander is a spice I have limited experience with). Very enticing. Taste is equally complex and the flavors bound through numerous transitions. Wow. Starts nutmeg while drawn in the mouth, then a very aromatic ginger as the liquid settles across the tongue. The ginger sting settles, but never quite disappears. The next flavors to dance across my palette are chocolate and a gentle nutty. The nutmeg then re-appears along with a sweeter herb, which I think is coriander (sweet with rounded esters, but still a bit of a woody quality about it) as part of the swallow/aftertaste. The aftertaste is a touch bitter, no maybe sour, consisting of a mix of alcohol hot and ginger yow-za...but, also tastes vanilla and smooth. Also, as I ponder another aftertaste, I taste some orange zest...no white pith, it's pure orange skin. Lots going on here...this beer is a wonderful challenge. Burps are sweet chocolate. Medium body and moderately (and sharply) carbonated. The numerous flavors in this beer 'play nice' with each other and also do not 'talk too loud'. I get a sniff each time I take a sip and I wind up being so intrigued by the smell that I steal another whiff before I pull it away.

Near the end of the glass, I'm getting an overall impression of a complex and woody character that's similar to the burned cask character of some whiskies. The ginger in the beer is like a bit of pixie dust to keep me from thinking this could be an oak-aged product. I think, what really makes this beer, is the chocolate. With searching, I find it from draw to swallow, with varying intensities. It lays a nice backbone that the diffferent spices can whirl away from, but then step to the safety of.

I feel like a sod, having drank this in July. It *really* would be a great sipping beer in front of my fireplace on a dark winter night.

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Photo of granger10
3.85/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I'm not completely sure about the style of this beer, so if somebody else knows better than correct it for me. I do know that this beer was spiced up bigtime! It was also very dark and very thick. The initial taste was of a thick burnt malt flavor. That was followed by some spices mainly ginger with a few others. A slight floral hop flavor came but went very quickly because more spices came along the lines of nutmeg and (cardamon?). I don't know what exactly all the spices were but I do know that they worked well in this beer. I couldn't have too many of these though because they were very filling.

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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.8 out of 5 with 848 ratings