Reserve Special Black Ale
Dark Horse Brewing Company

Reserve Special Black AleReserve Special Black Ale
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IPA - Black / Cascadian Dark Ale
Ranked #93
Ranked #9,084
3.96 | pDev: 10.35%
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
Very Good
Reserve Special Black AleReserve Special Black Ale
Notes: Conceived in a dimly lit room on a blistery cold night in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but born and raised here in Marshall Michigan. The Reserve Special is the oldest of all beers in the Dark Horse family. It has an incredibly “thick” presence and when poured into a glass its color is so dark it’s eerie. The flavors explode onto your taste buds with heavy malt, roast, and chocolate, but stay very balanced. The Reserve Special Black Ale has a hard time being called a stout or porter but it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale.
Reviews: 605 | Ratings: 1,278 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

3.91/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Unknown vintage; drank 11/9/15 @ the Yarchives.

Black/purple appearance.

A rough pour yielded a small dark tan head; strong lace.

Fresh earth, smoke, s'mores & blackberry notes in the nose. Evocative!

Medium thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Cream, fresh earth & smoke flavors up front; a hint of pickle juice on the finish.

The nose mesmerized, but that pickle juice finish derailed this. Perhaps an old bottle?

Aug 26, 2019
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chitoryu12 from Florida

3.67/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Look: Very dark brown, like a less fizzy cola. Half a finger of off-white head that almost immediately dissipates.

Smell: Cherries, dark bready malt, mild hops.

Taste: Roast malt backed by a mild piney hop flavor, both contributing a balancing bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Average body with a little carbonation.

Overall: A solid porter-like beer that could use a thicker body to round out the flavor.

Jun 18, 2019
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2beerdogs from California

3.8/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Thanks to @foundersasap for hitting me with this in our NBS BIF #9
Pours a deep, dark, almost black brown. Tan head rises a finger and a half, then recedes to a thin, milky cap.
Smells of roasted malt, hints of chocolate, some dry piney notes, and again roast in the char direction.
Taste is bold. Sweetness is definitely tamed by the char, but not overwhelmingly so. Some chocolate still comes through. Coffee, earthy notes, some pine resin.
Chewy. I like this fuller feel.
Overall, a solid, meaty beer.

Apr 14, 2019
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flgimp from Pennsylvania

4.14/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured dark and thick. Slight head and lacing. Color is a total chocolate brown eclipse. Smell is cocoa. Taste is silky smooth, chocolate nibs and slight coffee comes through first. Finish is a complex blend roasted, smoky and malty. Gotta love it as an after dinner beer. Feel is on the heavy side. Really flavorful black ale.

Jan 18, 2019
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dd53grif from Michigan

3.79/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a dark brown color with a foamy tan head that lasts quite a while. Aroma of chocolate and coffee. Tastes of chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Good mouth feel.

Jul 21, 2018
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Mindcrime1000 from South Dakota

3.85/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Shorter review on this one

Pours a spectacular opaque black with a fine two-finger brown/mottled head and lacing that endures. Aromas are evocative of a stout, a baltic porter, and a typical black ale. The mouthfeel is decent, although a little flat and sticky compared to what was expected. The flavor is decent with elements of chocolate, coffee, and char, but the char taste is a little too overpowering. A unique and decent brew from the masters of the off-beat.

May 20, 2018
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Fading2black from Michigan

3.57/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Very nice black color with one finger tan head. Strong bitter chocolate flavor. Mouthfeel is interesting, but not in a good way. It feels like it is congealing in my mouth. It goes in normal but then seems to thicken (is this what people mean when they say "chewy"? I'm a newbie so not exactly sure.) Very nice, prominent smell of chocolate and coffee. The beer is great until the finish. Lingering dry and bitter after-taste. I find myself taking the next drink quicker than normal to get rid of the taste lingering in my mouth. At the end of the glass I find myself wanting something to wash away the taste. If it weren't for that darn finish this might be my favorite beer.

Feb 26, 2018
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Buck1 from Indiana

4.04/5  rDev +2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Smell - malt, coffee some chocolate
Look- dark
taste-some sweet grain malt up front then , middle some carmel and dark chocolate , finish dry and bitter expresso coffee
I thought it was a black IPA when i first ordered it at the Dark Horse taproom but though there are some hops up front it is really more like a very roasty robust porter that is coffee / dark bitter bakers chocolate on the back end . Long dry finish. I really liked it. If you like roasted malt in a dark beer give it a dry. I always try to have some in my fridge in the winter when a stout is too heavy. Great with smoked ribs.
If you

Dec 13, 2017
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Treyliff from West Virginia

4.24/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle poured into a snifter

A- pours black in color with some light creeping through, one-finger khaki head with good retention

S- smells of roasted malt, chocolate, piney hops, some earthy notes and a bit of citrus

T- dark roasted malt gives some chocolate notes, along with a hint of coffee. Piney and citrus hops pop through mid-palate, the finish gives more roast and chocolate with a linger of piney hops

M- medium-light body and medium carbonation leads to a foamy mouthfeel and a crisp finish

O- solid black ale that is well balanced between chocolaty malt and hops

Dec 09, 2017
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jazzyjeff13 from England

3.85/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A 12oz bottle with a date of Feb 2015 - bottling date? I'm not entirely sure, but at any rate I've had this beer for quite a while. Originally purchased from the Brewdog webshop. Here's hoping it has held up....

A: Poured into a tulip. Bottle conditioned. A very dark brown hue that appears ultra black in the glass. Produces a decent head of creamy brown foam that lasts for a minute or two before subsiding to a patchy surface layer.

S: Aroma of rich dark malt with hints of roasted grain, molasses, dried fruit, prunes, subtle chocolate, ale yeast, faint vanilla, vague stewed leaves and a twinge of smokiness. Nicely rounded but perhaps slightly lacking in definition. Still good though.

T: Tastes of roasted malt with notes of burnt grain, molasses, dried fruit, mild coffee, subtle chocolate, ale yeast, faint stewed leaves and a touch of smokiness. Slightly sweet, followed by a robust malt-driven bitterness upon swallowing.

M: Mouthfeel is smooth and tingly, with soft carbonation and decent body. Could be a tad thicker for the style and strength. Aftertaste of bitter roasted malt, coffee, molasses, ale yeast and stewed leaves.

O: Pretty good; at any rate age doesn't seem to have diminished it excessively. Looks the part, while the aroma and flavour are full-on roasted malt with notes of coffee, dried fruit, molasses and yeast. Body is OK but a shade too thin. Rounded and drinkable - worth sampling if you have the chance.

Nov 27, 2017
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Blackop555 from Michigan

3.92/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours black. Foamy, short tan head that lasts a short while.

Smells roasted malts, light char, light earthy and chocolate hints.

Tastes roasted malts, earthy bitterness, light smokey char, chocolate and coffee hints. Finish is dry with roasty linger. Medium body and smooth lower medium carbonation.

Jul 28, 2017
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tone77 from Pennsylvania

3.83/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a black color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of chocolate, roasted malts, a touch of wood. Taste is roasted malts, smokey, some chocolate, hops are present but in the background. Feels medium/full bodied in the mouth and overall, drinks more like a stout, but is an enjoyable beer.

Mar 20, 2017
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MNAle from Minnesota

3.69/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Very dark, black even, with a 1 inch brown-tan thick, creamy-looking head that recedes gradually, leaving lacing slipping down the glass. Smoaky, roasted malt aroma with hints of sweet raisins. Moderate mouth feel. Initial taste hit is somewhat sweet, but it transitions quickly to a lightly roasted flavor. The initial flavor has a character I can't quite pin down... almost minty, but not really - maybe it is the wood others mention. The balance is provided with mild to somewhat more than mild bittering in the finish. Don't be mislead by the name; this is a porter/stout in all but name. Decent.

Mar 14, 2017
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Tone from Missouri

4.14/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a black color. 1/4 inch head of a tan color. Decent retention and decent lacing. Smells of roasted malt, sweet malt, alcohol, hint of pine, hint of wheat, wood, and pale malt. Fits the style of an American Black Ale. Mouth feel is sharp and clean, with an average carbonation level. There is also a dryness. Tastes of roasted malt, sweet malt, alcohol, hint of pine, hint of wheat, wood, and pale malt. Overall, decent appearance, good aroma and body, great blend, and the dryness and slight bitterness are integrative.

Mar 13, 2017
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qrazvan from Romania

3.83/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Dark brown colour, reduced head.
Grassy smell and taste, with specific black IPA flavours (coffee, roasted barley). Ther's somewhere in the background which gives a strange impression like a chemical.
Not bad, but nothing sensational.

Mar 03, 2017
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Stooven from Illinois

3.97/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

If it pours like a stout and looks like a stout...opaque when held to light. Deep roasted coffee smell. Mouth feel is what this lives and dies on. At first, it's incredibly light, like Guinness Draught. But if you swish it around the alcohol really nips your tongue. And the carbonation defects entirely to the head.

Jan 12, 2017
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Bluerabbitbell from Pennsylvania

4.37/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From tap at walnut grill with Nancy Barsotti, John and Leah's parents. I was initially surprised at how dark this beer was. Nice and thick feel. Taste was very good, nothing overbearing and well balanced. Would definitely drink this one again!

Dec 03, 2016
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martinpfal from Indiana

3.43/5  rDev -13.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Lower rating only because of my taste. It's still a good offering from dark horse but a black ale is not my favorite. Nearly a stout but not as big in the mouth. Roasty roastness abounds in this one. 7.5 abv is nice.

Aug 30, 2016
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wethorseblanket from California

3.9/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Reviewed from notes. Pours black with a solid beige head which leaves clingy lace. Roasty with some woody notes. Earthy, stone fruit pit, roasty. Finishes mildly bitter and smooth. Enjoyed.

Aug 28, 2016
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GrumpyGas from Illinois

4.44/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass is.....wait for it... Wha?
A light brown 1in head floats on top and has staying power. Once collected, the head deflates to a thick cover.
Aroma is dominated by stone fruit and roasted malt/bread.
Taste adds chocolate and booze with a bitterness on the back.
Feel is medium to heavy.
Cannot have too many of these, but monthly is a good goal.

Aug 06, 2016
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mfnmbvp from Illinois

3.68/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle, no freshness date. A new one to me from Dark Horse, acquired a single bottle of this stuff from the local bottle shop.

Poured to a Duvel tulip snifter.

A - Straight center pour yields an opaque black body, glassy & obsidian with one finger of frothy mocha head that reduces to a ring and leaves tons of beautiful scattered webbed lacing behind. Looks good.

S - Hops are apparent on the nose: piney and green, but it is overrun with lots of burnt black malts - notes of roast, char, caramel, & toffee.

T - Taste follows the nose: huge ashy, burnt, roasted malt. Notes of burnt black coffee grinds. Hop presence in the form of pine, resin, earthy / herbal bitterness. Bitterness from both the malt & the hops, but the dark malt roast dominates.

M - Feel is crisp, roasty, bitter. Tons of burnt ashy roasted bitterness clings. Medium bodied with good carb.

Overall, a nice representation of the style from Dark Horse.

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale -----4/5.

Apr 15, 2016
Photo of 57md
57md from Pennsylvania

3.98/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours a deep dark brown with more than a finger of tan head. The nose is pretty much all roasted loveliness. The body and flavor profile are very stout-like. There is a dryness on the finish but no distinct hoppiness like the average American Black Ale.

If this beer were given to me unlabeled, I would definitely say that it was a stout but I generally respect the brewers' definition of their beers.

Apr 01, 2016
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jp32 from Michigan

4.33/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Look: Pours black in color. Looks heavy even for a beer of this style.

Smell: Mild. If anything at all, I'd say it's malty. Really quite a light, basic smell.

Taste: Huge roasted flavor. Malt sweetness and nuttiness. An earthy, dry taste. There is a slight hop bitterness in the background, but it's so subdued I shouldn't even mention it here. The roasted flavor is so big and pronounced it seems to have a certain smokiness to it in some sips. This beer is ALL roasted malt, all the way. Tastes and drinks like a stout.

Mar 11, 2016
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BillHodson from Michigan

4.28/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. pour from a bottle into a glass.

Dark Horse has given me mixed feelings in the past. I've had good, and I've had bad experiences. This one, however, rates toward the top! I felt it was an excellent black ale, with a great malt base, and a good malt/hop balance.

Jan 29, 2016
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Evilyak from Minnesota

3.77/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This whole thing is really roasted and bitter. Not unpleasant, but it really dominates everything about this beer. Appearance is nice enough, lots of lacing. Nose and mouth are toasty.

I really used to like this beer. I don't know what changed, but we've grown distant.

Jan 23, 2016
Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 89 out of 100 with 1278 ratings