Dark Horse 4 Elf | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
204 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
Reviews: 204 | Ratings: 825
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

 409 characters

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.

 1,130 characters

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.

 390 characters

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.

 1,430 characters

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.

 660 characters

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.

 863 characters

Photo of Etan
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

On-tap at Brickhouse.

A. Pours a dark chestnut with a small off-white head.

S. Aroma brings toasted grain, nutmeg, caramel.

T. Taste brings mild roasted malt, molasses, allspice, cinnamon, maple. Spices make this a bit astringent.

M. Between medium and thick-bodied with light yet crisp carbonation.

O: This is a nice beer but it's a little too astringent.

 361 characters

Photo of jlindros
3.82/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Definitely the season for winter warmers, it's frigid cold outside, Pats game on, lazy Sunday afternoon.

The pours started nicely, with a tan colored foamy small head, light lacing, very dakr pretty much black beer, then came the plop of hte huge slimy snot like yeast chunks... not even sure if it's yeast. it is pretty slimy and snot like as it settles on the bottom in blob form.

Nose is nice, lots of holiday spices but not too much, hint of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice maybe, hard to tell but typical holiday spices mostly, under that is a big malt, dark malts but not black malts, brown sugar, caramel, some cocoa and a little creamy milk chocolate, nutty toffee and mild biscuit, and a hint of warming tingly booze.

Taste brings some more malts mainly, lots of sweet flavors, a little nutty, toffee, caramel, candy syrup, chewy nougat, etc. Also some mild biscuit and increasing toffee as it goes, little syrupy. Spices there too, hint of nutmeg perhaps, possibly little allspice, ginger, etc, but again hard to pick specifics for spices, just holiday baking spices. A very light cocoa powder in there too with a slight earthy root like nutty character. Mild booze warmth. Mild bitterness too with a hint of hop character but more from the spices I think. Finish is syrupy and sticky, a bit of a spicy hop coming through this time with more bitterness, little bit of the spices lingering, long nutty toffee and candy flavors mostly linger.

Mouth is fuller bod, little syrupy, decent carb, mild warming booze.

Overall not bad, I'm glad most breweries are keeping the spices in check this year, and not going overboard. The slimy yeast sludge is the only real issue I have with it, also maybe a little too syrupy overall.

 1,741 characters

Photo of KYGunner
3.67/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This almost looked to be a stout after it was poured with a near black color and a thick creamy head.

The scent had tinges of strong alcohol, licorice, and fruit cake dried fruits. The caramel malt sweetness is apparent but the dried fruit seemed more prevalent.

The flavors hold a lot of black licorice and Holiday spice. The nutmeg or cinnamon is not distinguishable but muted by an anise and peppery spice. This is rather boozy, but still attractive enough to set itself apart.

Despite the boozy taste the feel is not overly warm or abrasive. It poured relatively thick but was more moderate in its fullness.

 614 characters

Photo of DrDemento456
4.08/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ow joy winter warmers time! Wasn't able to find this last year but was able to snag one of the last two from Carnivores mixed and matched .

A - Very dark the base must be a brown ale or even a stout. Head is also a nice deep shade of mocha. As always excellent head and lacing from these guys.
S - Wow is that spicy! What is that ginger? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? Smells strong but does fade to some brown malts or maybe chocolate malts. mmm I take a sip.
T - Well the spicing does mix well with what I assume a brown ale mostly tasting brown and chocolate malts. Mildly chalky with a very dry aspect to it. Kind of soapy like Rogues Hazelnut Brown ale so maybe its hazelnuts... Very weird but drink able.
M - This one drinks smooth medium bodied at best with a dry aspect and a mostly easy going spicing.

Overall its pretty much what I expect in a winter warmer, huge dose of cinnamon and nutmeg balanced with a base beer which I assume is an imperial brown. Worth a try but I will stick to plead the 5th for a true warmer.

 1,018 characters

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.

 722 characters

Photo of ONUMello
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle porued into a pint glass
A: Dark brown with a short head and a bit of sediment
S: Lots of spice particularly nutmeg along with some caramel and molasses
T: Also extremely strong nutmeg, clove and some cinnamon, with the sugars taking a back seat
M: Fairly full-bodied, spicy, a touch viscous from the alcohol
O: Bold but one-dimensional. Would be very nice if both the spice and alcohol were turned down a notch

 423 characters

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

 426 characters

Photo of BEERchitect
4.06/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Part of the fun in Christmas Ales is seeing what variety crawls out of the bottle next. Where other seasonal beers are rather predictable in their general taste, these holiday ales are anything but.. Dark Horse jumps out of the gate with an overall taste of toasted gingerbread!

Dark like porter, its brown body is just a shade off of stout. Complete opaqueness reinforces the notion of haze as no ribbons of light are able to pierce through. 4 Elf builds a dense lather of foam that prominently sits on top with strong staying power and trailing with broken lace.

Bold aromas of earthy sweetness and decadent spice intertwine into a toasted bread base with suggestions of molasses, coffee and chocolate. Its "Christmas-type" spices hold elements of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice- all in equal parts, not letting any one to stand out over the other. A hint of campfire rises as the beer warms and highlights a scotch ale note.

Its succulent sweetness is full and rounded with those molasses and brown sugar flavors. Not left alone, other malt flavors resemble the taste of fresh ground espresso, bittersweet chocolates, roasted walnuts, and an earthen peat taste. As the holiday spices sprinkle about, the culminated taste is of fresh-baked ginger snaps. But once the ale opens up, even more savory flavors of rum-drunken stone fruits and coffee cake come alive in very adult fashion.

Medium-full in body, the beer's robust taste is nearly interpreted as complete fullness, but its creamy carbonation pulls from the beer's residual sweetness and pushes the malt off the tongue for a lightened effect. This ushers in a casual fade toward malty-dryness in the beer's waning moments. With the spice dryness and sweet alcohols rising, a taste of spiced rum persists in aftertaste.

I absolutely love the balance of 4 Elf as its spices are restrained enough so that no one type stands out. Also the ratio of sweet to spice is spot on as I go back and forth with each sip about which pulls ahead. This Dark Horse offering will likely be a standout of this holiday season. So, what's up with Dark Horse and random numbers during this time of year?

 2,159 characters

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

A: Pours a relatively clear but opaque very dark brown approaching black in color with light amounts of gentle visible carbonation along the edges of the glass and some faint brown highlights. The beer has a quarter finger tall fizzy light beige head that reduces to a large patch of very thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Light to moderate aromas of roasted + toffee malts with moderate amounts of spices - allspice, nutmeg, and ginger stand out. Some almost woody notes to the aroma as well.

T: Upfront there is a light to moderate flavor of very lightly roasted malts, chocolate malts, and a touch of toffee malt sweetness. There is a moderate amount of spices with allspice, nutmeg, and ginger standing out. There is a light amount of woodiness and a hint of earthy hops. Minimal amounts of bitterness are present.

M: Just heavier than medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Relatively smooth.

O: This beer is a little too high in ABV to be one that you would drink several during a session but it is an enjoyable Winter Warmer (maybe a touch too spice heavy for my preference but very well constructed).

 1,234 characters

Photo of micromaniac129
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark brown color with a dense medium size head. Some lacing around the glass was left behind as the cap faded.
The aroma was spicy and malty reminding me of a pumpkin beer. Plenty of numeg clove and cinammon and that sort of thing. Also pretty malty and sweet. If I didn't jam my nose into my sniffer but instead, took shallow sniffs I get a gahram cracker smell.
Alcohol aroma is in there too just waiting I guess.
The taste is very inviting with subtle spice and sweet malts. The sweet malts and spice give a spiced wafer taste which I can remanence with by the fire.
The feel is gritty over the palate.
I like this beer, it definitly has the Christmas spirit.

 670 characters

Photo of xabyss
3.89/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Very cola-esque, with carbonation bubbles clinging to the glass and head that's gone before I can even glance down to describe it.

S: Sweet and spicy. Caramel and nutmeg stand out from an otherwise bland show of lightly roasted malts.

T: Cinnamon and nutmeg stand out at first sip, with cloves coming in stronger mid sip. Cinnamon hangs back in the finish with pleasant malts. I can tell why some people say there's too much cinnamon here. But, to me, "too much cinnamon" is not a phrase that should be uttered ever, by anyone. So I'm cool with it. Pretty tasty!

M: On the lighter end of medium bodied; pretty standard stuff for the style.

O: I've been on a quest of sorts for some years now to find the perfect winter warmer, which I'm still convinced is a real thing that exists somewhere. I've been consistently surprised with Dark Horse brews, and this is no exception, but the one winter warmer to rule them all it is not.

 934 characters

Photo of Extrajoker00
4.45/5  rDev +15%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

4 Elf by Tröegs
poured from a 12 oz.bottle into a beer mug

A : deep deep amber/ brown 4.0

S : clove, prune and spice, wonderful 4.5

T : toasted malt, dark fruit, spices 4.5

M :Full bodied but crisp, full flavored 4.25

D : a little heavy for day to day

O: very very good holiday beer 4.5

Great Holiday Beer, Thanks

 321 characters

Photo of TastyAdventure
3.64/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A - dark dark brown. Almost stout black. 1/2 finger tab head

S- spicy, strong clove. Almost astringent

T- spicy, clove, after a few drinks comes chocolate, and a more smooth sweetness, bitterness is coffe like, in the back there is lemon peel. Overall clove dominates.

M- nice smooth, good carb level.

A nice "festive winter" brew. But the clove is so overwhelming.

 372 characters

Photo of wvsabbath
3.96/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Serving Type - Bottle

Appearance - Dark cola brown, minor 1/8 inch head, some lacing, looks a little boring really.

Smell - Cinnamon, nutmeg, fig, roasted malts, raisin, plum, cherry, faint hop note near also.

Taste - True to the smell, loads of cinnamon and nutmeg with roasty malts at first sip. Very spiced and bold, with minor sweetness from added brown sugar and molasses. Dark fruits add some sweeter flavor to counter the spices. Some hop flavor comes in near the finish.

Mouthfeel - Huge spice kick nails the tongue alogn with some malts. Palate gets more spices and malts, along with a little fruit note. Aftertaste is malty, spiced and dark fruity.

Overall - A really nice beer. Loads of flavor, heavy on spices, but has some fruit flavor to balance it out some. Drinks rather smooth for being 8.75%, a great winter warmer, id drink again and this isn't one of my preferred stlyes.

 896 characters

Photo of oberon
3.81/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours into a becker a deep roasted walnut brown with a creamy half finger tan colored head atop,great color and love the creamy head.Winter mulling spice and sweet alcohol in the nose,alot of nutmeg is detected.Lower carbonation with a creamy feel,it slides down easy.Spicy to the hilt on the palate with some cake-like notes,like a CHRISTmas spiced cake,the alcohol sweetness gets bigger as it warms.This a winter sipper,like others have noted, you can't drink to much of it,a full on spicy winter warmer here.

 511 characters

Photo of hosehead83
4.23/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a "balloon" glass.
Cola/dark tea color, with a short cap of tan foam.
Aroma-Nice boquet of cinnamon, pine needles and spices.
Taste-Like a liquid Christmas cookie. Nutmeg, raisins, cinnamon,chocolate, vanilla and spice cake. Gently warming finish, nicely balanced, flavorfull and festive. A great match with holiday cookies while wrapping gifts.

 379 characters

Dark Horse 4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.87 out of 5 based on 825 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.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.