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Dark Horse 4 Elf | Dark Horse Brewing Company

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very good
195 Reviews
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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

For Trade:
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Reviews: 195 | Ratings: 801
Photo of Ksoden1186
4.5/5  rDev +16.3%

A very dark cola colored beer with an off-white head.
Winter spices on the nose.
A wonderful tasting winter ale. The spices shine and the alcohol is not apparent at all.
This is one of my favorite winter ales and really sets itself apart from many others. A very unique beer that is wonderful.

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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.

 287 characters

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

Pours a dense medium brown (muddy) color with a minimal light tan head. Minimal head retention and lacing. Smell is sweet malts (caramel) and some spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Taste is mostly sweet malts with some holiday spicing . The spicing is mild and not annoying like so many Christmas beers/Winter Warmers. The maltiness is the dominant flavor.

Mouthfeel is rich and smooth. A nice sweet malty beer. The spices serve to make it more interesting rather than overwhelm the beer. No hint of the fairly high abv.

Well worthwhile.

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

12 oz 2013 bottle served in a Belgian snifter.

Pours dark brown with a short-lived tan head. Looks like a porter.

Aroma: complex and lightly spiced compared to the flavor.

Flavor: spicy with an iverload of clove. Allspice and nutmeg in more moderate amounts. Dark malts are largely masked by the spices. Dark bread with plenty of "holiday" spices in the aftertaste.

O: a very spicy winter ale with well hidden ABV

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Photo of karengarys
3.74/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This pours dark ruby brown, and as I let the glop at the bottom of the bottle into the glass (on purpose) it all swooshed around into a goopy glass of bliss. Little head, but I kind of slow pour.

smells baking spicy, like cinnamon, and nutmeg, nothing sweet, and not a lot of anything else. But, what is there is good.

taste has some good aspects, but the balance, to me, has a hiccup, like the seasons are messed up. I'm getting a nice winter corriander and maybe cinnamon and some of that wierd icky spicey Christmas candy they have not made since the 1970's, (at least I haven't seen it; which is good)... But then it seems to have a little pepper. um, okay, let's roll with that - now the season clash: Grapfruit and/or bitter hop? It does clean up the finish, but it just seems awkward in this offering.

Mouthfeel is decent, nice and fizzy in a creamy sort of way that lasts throughout the drink.

It seems to have a medium body, not thin, not heavy, just nice.

If you see this at a bar, ask for a sample - others may like this combination. If somebody handed one to me, I'd say "cool, thank you!" and enjoy it - unlike the latest lite beer, where I'd say "thanks?" and pretend to drink it... Not worth seeking out, but interesting enough to experience at least once.

...update a half hour later... I let the last 3 ounces warm up a bit. The sweet and spice mixes better than when cold, and the crisp edge is way mellowed... The mouthfeel didn't flatten out all that much. In my opinion, to do this beer justice, it has to be served a bit warmer than the typical beer... It's a different story. I updated my taste and overall ratings - they were set to 3.25 cold, but I'm making them 3.75 based on the taste when it is a bit warmer.

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Photo of mountdew1
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a goblet. Almost completely opaque very dark reddish brown. Poured with a 1 finger bubbly head that was gone by the time I carried it to table. Small amount of lacing remained. Aroma was flightly fruity sweet, kind of a smokey spiced grape juice. Nicely flavored, a bit sweet, but not overly so. A bit of banany clove flavor. Felt good in the mouth, nicely coated, a bit of stick, not much carbonation. Overall a good example of a winter warmer without being too heavily spiced.

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Photo of TwelveOunces
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle poured into a tulip

A- Pitch black with nearly no head to speak of.

S- Pale malt, burnt sugary, syrup, slightly spicy. Smells like a plain malt homebrew extract.

T- A syrupy sweetness at first. A ton of caramel flavors. toffee, burnt sugar. A hint of rasted malt. The spices are big on the back end. A lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Tingles the tongue in spite of its low bitterness. Homebrewers might recognize the taste from plain homebrew malt extracts, plus some spices.

M- Thick but quite well balanced. Not too sweet but spicy as well.

O- A very unique beer and a different take on the winter warmer.

 627 characters

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 UCLABrewN84
3.55/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to GRG1313 for sharing this one at his tasting.

2013 vintage.

Pours a hazy dark brown with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, caramel, toffee, and spice aromas. Taste is much the same with caramel and spice flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of spice bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with some interesting aromas and flavors.

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Photo of cjgiant
3.66/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I've enjoyed most of the beers I've had from Dark Horse, and this one falls into the category, but it wasn't quite what I expected from reading the tasting notes and other reviews.

The beer pours a little darker than expected, but with a nice head that has some staying power. I was unhappy about not getting much in the nose, as I expected a waft of holiday spice that I missed. I think I am far enough over my cold that it's not a factor.

The taste reminded me of a black IPA a bit. The base malt tastes hit on the winter warmer style as I perceive it, a little bland initially. This is countered by the definite presence of some holiday spices-clove and allspice. The feel though is what makes me think IPA, mainly due to dryness, earthy (maybe a little smokey) fading into a burnt coffee taste.

I was thinking and looking for a little less dry and a little sweeter malt from this beer to really boost my overall enjoyment. If you like black IPAs, you might enjoy this beer.

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Photo of elNopalero
4.37/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

This pours an amber-cola color with thin foaming. It has a matly aroma with cloves and cinnamon prominent. The beer itself is spicy—not peppery spice, but holiday/pumpkin pie spice—with a heavy-handed shake of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice… mixed with some raisin and a touch of roastiness and a bitter finish. Strong, but it plays well and warms wonderfully.

The first bar I had this at had it listed in the 5% range. I was pretty sure it was a weee bit stronger… but at almost 9% I had no idea!

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Photo of CMUbrew
3.87/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Review from 12/25/13

A: Varnish brown in the glass and an off-white head forms only very briefly.

S: Nutmeg, ginger, maybe a hint of cinnamon. Lighter spice aroma overall.

T: All the spices mentioned above. I think I do get a slight cinnamon heat on the finish. Malts balance nicely, and have caramel and a tiny bit of dark fruit.

M: Feels about right. Feels maybe a little light for a beer this big, but it's not watery or over carbonated.

O: 12 Dogs of Christmas is my only comparison for the style, but this was slightly better. This is more balanced overall.

 571 characters

Photo of Stinkypuss
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

4 elf

A dark brown with an amber hint. The off white head forms and recedes to a ring.

Smells of cinnamon and nutty, sweet malts.

In the taste, a firm sweet nutty malt, hints of fruit (sugar plums?) but certainly cinnamon and allspice. A small hint of alcohol and faint bitterness round out the brew.

The feel is on the light side of medium bodied. The brew itself is slightly thin, with a soft carbonation.

Overall, this an enjoyable holiday offering. Everything works well together here in a very drinkable winter warmer/spiced ale.

 541 characters

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 CFHMagnet
3.63/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

The beer appeared thicker and more viscous than expected when pouring. I got just a thin layer of light tan head over a solid brown body. The head dies to a ring, which is the only thing that stays on the glass as it's tipped.

It smells roasty with dark fruit, malt and caramel. A little coffee is also apparent.

The taste is to the nose, with bigger malt flavor, nutmeg and other "xmas" spices and a little hint of booze at the back end.

This one is a medium-heavy bodied beer. Leaves just a little residue on the back of the tongue. Very good.

 548 characters

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

12 oz. bottle, with no apparent bottled on date present. A new beer to me from Dark Horse Brewing Co.

Poured into a clear balloon snifter glass.

A - Pours a thick ruddy caramel color; opaque in the glass, with just under a finger of thin tan head that thins to a ring quickly. Looks pretty dark.

S - The herbal spice rack notes come first - nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, oregano & ginger. Some smooth vanilla, chocolate malt roast, cream, cocoa powder, licorice / anise, & some rum soaked raisins / dark fruits.

T - Taste is of dark malt roast, cola, licorice / anise, sweet sticky caramel, some vanilla, brown bread, brown sugar, notes of chocolate, and notes of dark fruits like figs and dates.

M - Feel is smooth and creamy, with good carbonation.

Overall, this is a prime example of the ideal winter warmer. Big, rich, and well spiced. I would definitely be interested to see what the barrel aged version of this is like.

Dark Horse 4 Elf ---4/5.

 955 characters

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.

 311 characters

Photo of reebtaerG
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured 12oz into new Belguim glass

A-pours a brown color with a beige thin head with good lacing

S-aromas of sweet roasted malt, licorice, caramel nutmeg and cinnamon spice

T-the taste is the same as the aromas with a hint of vanilla and brown sugar

M-mouthfeel is well balanced dry up front but with a sweet malt finish

O-overall a great winter warmer I would be interested what the bourbon would taste

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Photo of Brenden
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

4 Elf is very dark brown, nearly (but not quite) as thick and dark as a stout or a strong porter. From the tap, not much head forms; retention is average, and just a little lacing is left on the glass.
It does have a nice complexity and blend of things on the nose: spices are as strong as they could be without being overdone; a skillful hand has been employed. It's also earthy, just a little sweet, and bready. The spices seem to be multiple but not lost when put together. I can distinctly detect cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, and there may be ginger. Some cocoa powder and roasty coffee notes round it out.
While the complexity doesn't come out as fully on the tongue, this beer still has a deep, rich flavor to it. There's a little toffee and brown sugar sweetness to start off before ground coffee and cocoa come in. It's slightly nutty underneath. The spiciness is the main event the whole way through but again, not overdone and well balanced.
The body is medium, and the hard bite of the crispness is consistent. A little dryness kicks in, and it feels like it wants to get smoother as it goes but that kick keeps it hard.

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

A - Pours dark brown with a khaki head. Nice retention and a good looking lace.

S - Cinnamon spice, yeast, nutmeg, bread.

T - Big burst of spices - ginger, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, egg nog, phenolic. Warming alcohol finishes this one. Mouthfeel is a bit medicinal and acidic.

O - Drinking this on Christmas Eve and it literally warms your soul. Exactly what a Christmas warmer should do.

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Photo of MattyG85
4.2/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a Surly Darkness chalice.

Appearance: Pours a dark blackish brown with a moderate amount of rising bubbles. About one finger of tan head that quickly fades into a thin patch. Leaves a decent amount of lacing on the glass. Some sediment settles around the bottom.

Smell: A toasty, bready, and fairly sweet malt forward aroma with a big presence of winter spices. Toasted and roasted malts with big hints of biscuit, chocolate, toast, sweet caramel, toffee, cream, grains, nuts, and yeast. Big scent of winter spices including hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and ginger. Sweet hints of brown sugar. Dark fruit hints of raisin, fig, and prune. Subtle hints of earthy hops. A pretty solid aroma.

Taste: Like the aroma hints at, a toasty, bready, and fairly sweet malt driven taste with lots of winter spices. Toasted and fairly roasty malts with notes of biscuit, toasted bread, chocolate, sweet caramel, toffee, cream, yeast, grains, and nuts. Big presence of winter spices with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and clove. Also some sweet notes of brown sugar and syrup. Dark fruit undertones with notes of raisin, fig, and prune. A pretty nice taste.

Mouthfeel: Medium to full bodied with a moderate amount of carbonation. Creamy and fairly slick and syrupy. Pretty smooth.

Overall: A pretty solid take on a winter warmer. Good spice presence with the sweet dark malt.

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Photo of bsp77
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Pint.

Appearance: Very dark, chocolaty brown with decent light tan head.

Smell: Nutmeg, clove, allspice and an undefinable sweetness.

Taste: Some spice upfront, but a very sweet core of fruit (plum, cherry, berry), chocolate and even light coffee. The spices are evident and lingering on the finish, with nutmeg, clove and allspice. There may be some English-style hops as well, but it could be mainly the spices.

Feel: Medium to full body with moderately low carbonation. Finish is more sharp than truly dry.

Overall: Some Porter/Stout notes with this Spiced Winter Warmer. It actually reminds me of a ramped up Anchor Christmas Ale, which is mostly a good thing, but this beer is not quite as harmonious. Still, this is a good choice for the Holidays.

 803 characters

Photo of schoolboy
3.75/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Well I just wasn't ready for this big winter warmer. After the last beer especially. I should have just waited

It comes out extremely dark brown. The head is almost not there. The aroma is mild, and of spice.

The taste is classic spiced winter warmer, and a bit boozy. The aftertaste is just spice. I am just not in the frame of mind for this style, and I am tired of it.

 375 characters

Photo of thecheapies
4.08/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Very dark red-brown molasses color. The head looks pathetic. Almost nothing formed.

Musty dark malts, turbinado sugar, vinous notes, spent wood, dark rum, clove, milk chocolate, cinnamon, and toasty biscotti. Excellent nose.

Lots of clove, rum, brown sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, and sweet roll. Hearty and spicy and semi-dry. Perfect warming quality in the stomach, not in the mouth. Only a thin booziness is noticeable on the tongue. Some dried fruits and faint orange peel. Maybe a kiss of star anise. Really great spice composition with a boost of malt base. Feels nice and bold with an enveloped bite. A great experience drinking this for the first time.

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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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Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 801 ratings.
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