Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
594 Reviews
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States

Style: American Black Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 7.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by xlperro on 05-28-2002

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Reviews: 594 | Ratings: 1,243
Photo of Mooslerfitness
1.4/5  rDev -64.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

not what I was hoping for taste of chocolate melted on a chared oak plank
And im drinking the ashes taste lingers in mouth for long time mine had a date of 2/17/14 almost year old ? I poured out it was so bad

 209 characters

Photo of ModemMisuser
1.8/5  rDev -54.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Had on tap at Dark Horse.

As a Dark Horse fan, I had high hopes for all their beers. This one disappointed. I'm not sure why others rate this one so relatively high. Though, as a genetic bitter taster, maybe I'm tasting compounds in it that others cannot taste, or taste only very mildly.

All I tasted were burnt, acrid, bitter flavors, and I didn't enjoy the beer. Could not even finish the flight's sample cup.

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Photo of thirdeye11
1.98/5  rDev -50.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 1

Thanks to amietaj1 for including this as an extra in our trade!

A: Pours the blackest of blacks. Darker than almost any beer I've ever personally poured including a load of stouts. I can't get any light to filter through this beer. No head, and minimal lacing.

S: Smells like plastic, leather, and some burnt toast/coffee in the nose. There's also a roasted malt smell.

T: Smells exactly like it tastes. I had no expectations when I cracked this one, but it wasn't for me at all. I have began enjoying stouts and RIS recently. This beer is similar in some ways, but lacks all the good characteristics those seem to possess.

M: Nice and creamy. Carbonation is spot on.

D: I couldn't finish mine. Drainpour and my first in a VERY VERY long time.

I'm not certain my sample wasn't bad. It was shipped laying on its side, and when I cracked it open there was a trail of something that had situated itself on the side of the bottle. Stayed there after I poured it too and I couldn't get the sediment out even after rinsing the bottle multiple times.

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Photo of kennyo
2.14/5  rDev -46.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12 oz bottle

Poursa pitch black beer with a small brown head that disapates right away.

Aroma is chocolate, ground coffee, beef jerky

taste is very dry, kind of harsh on the back of the throat and coats the toungue. very roasty, too much roast not enough malt base to cover some of this harshness

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Photo of BeerImmediately
2.7/5  rDev -32%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Came into this one with high hopes given all the recent hype around here. On draft into pint glass.

Color was deep brown, with a thin tan head. About as expected for a bar pour.

Not much to the smell - little bit of sweetness from molasses and maybe some bittersweet chocolate.

Taste just didn't do it for me - Seemed more like a Smoked beer than anything else. Had a hint of the dark chocolate, accompanied by bitter bark, and harsh, astringent smokiness.

Really sharp, yet thin mouthfeel, which I was not expecting. While ASA varieties are varied, most have a thicker, heartier quality than this. The mouthfeel does improve with higher temperature, so I'd recommend serving at 50 degrees to make this a bit smoother.

If I were a smoker, I imagine I'd dig this beer, but this one just smoked me out and it killed the drinkability for me.

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Photo of ElizabethCraig
2.7/5  rDev -32%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

On tap at Dark Horse Brewing Company - this is an abbreviated review.

Taste is strong dark chocolate, dry and extremely bitter. My husband and I are both pretty sensitive to bitter tastes - he was completely overwhelmed by the bitter taste and I could only take a few drinks of it.

I have a problem, for example, with a lot of 'charred' black roasted coffees. As a coffee roaster, I kind of resent those bitter flavors being foisted on the public as the 'ideal' coffee when it's only 1 roasting style on a spectrum of tastes.

This is one example of a beer that I know others may really like and appreciate, but if you're very sensitive to bitter charred tastes and don't find them appealing, you may not like them in your beer.

This beer improves greatly (to my palate and preference) once it's near room temperature. My complaint is that I don't want to wait to drink beer until it's warmed up that much.

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Photo of jrallen34
2.71/5  rDev -31.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

I drank this from a bottle into a chalice.

It pours a motor oil black with not much head and poor lacing.

The aroma is ok but nothing special. There are notes of coffee and light hops.

The taste is just bad. Its light coffee, but this beer doesn't know what it wants to be. Its certainly not an american stong ale. Its in between a porter and imperial stout.

Mouthfeel is ok, but drinkable.

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Photo of carlborch
2.76/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured a beautiful silky black with rather modest head. The head is dark-brown, like the "crema" on the espresso. Has an oily look and dissipates within a minute to a thin film. Chocolate notes on the palate. Rather light formation of Belgian lace. Nice lingering. Medium body. Not as dense as the color and pour suggested. Subdued roasted notes. Hints of coffee. Some bitter hops. I like it, but am not overly impressed. I expected more ale yeast character. While I will not seek it out, it is better than a great many beers.

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Photo of otto251068
2.88/5  rDev -27.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Chimay goblet.

Appearance: Pours oily black, a dark reddish brown color along the edges. A very dense liquid, no light passes through. A thin, dense layer of head on the pour almost disappears after a few seconds. A thin ring of foam remains around the outside of the glass with some dense bubbles remaining in the center. Impressive so far.

Smell: Day old coffee grounds. A little bit of sourness, a little bit of sweetness, but mostly coffee. A bit of smoke, not much else. As the glass warms the alcohol comes through.

Taste: Roasted dark coffee with a lot of burnt flavor. Plenty of bitterness throughout the drink. There is a sourness presence that I don't like. For me, although it does fade as the beer warms, the coffee and burnt flavors are just too overwhelming.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with a high carbonation. The bubbles prickle the tongue and take away from the taste a little. Again, the sourness doesn't fit well with my taste buds.

Overall: I just can't get by the sourness of this beer after the swallow. It would seem to fit better with a Milk Stout. I would drink another one, but not two in one night.

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Photo of biglite351
2.91/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - black ad pitch. Tall grey brown creamy head.

S - smoked malts and a good bit of chocolate. A little bitter turn in the end.

T - smokey malts again with dark chocolate. A lot of bitterness in the follow through.

M - good coating, just a hint of tingle on the top of the tongue.

D - too bitter for more than maybe two.

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Photo of DanJ
2.93/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured rich oily black into a pint glass, tan foamy head that did not last.

Burnt coffee, roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate aromas with a hint of fruity ester.

Tasted like burnt coffee grounds, bitter chocolate, high bitterness, dry bitter finish.

Medium body, astrigent, medium carbonation, no alcohol warmth.

I do not think thinks this is a real drinkable beer, to hoppy for the style. The finish could be a lot less bitter. The hops overpower the coffee, malt forward taste. I believe this is more of an American Stout than a Stong Ale.

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Photo of xav33
2.97/5  rDev -25.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier Ale
12 oz bottle
Recent brewing, arsed over 11/06
Medium pour in an English pint

Poured black with a moderate light brown frothy somewhat lasting head with a tiny ring of lacing.

Smelt of strong nuttiness, mild coffee and cream, mild chocolate, with vanilla cola notes.

Taste was upfront strong bitter coffee and burnt taste with light sweet molasses, followed by a harsh burnt taste and moderate coffee, licorice and nuttiness, on a long bitter burnt finish. Mouthfeel was medium to full bodied, creamy, lively carbonated, with harsh astringency.

Overall, a harsh and not so subtle beer. It smells and looks wonderful, but doesn't beg to please the tastebuds.

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Photo of tayner
2.98/5  rDev -24.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 ounce bottle with no freshness date.

was expecting an ale, got a stout out of this bottle for sure. poured black with a huge foamy head that ended up eventually settling into a ring with a slight film across the top.

Bitter citrus/floral hops up front with roasted malts, coffee, bitter chocolate all prominent as well.

Tastes thick and grainy. is this brew unfiltered?

This one doesnt seem balanced enough for me for some reason, too much bitterness in the finish for me, not enough balance. One of these is enough, but worth trying. not my thing

 558 characters

Photo of flowerysong
3/5  rDev -24.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Looks like thick coffee. Minimal head quickly dissipates.

Smell: Fruity and roasty, with vanilla and floral hops.

Taste: Rich coffee character from the roasted malt, medium malt sweetness, mild hop bitterness. Mild fruity esters. Finish is a coffee-like bitterness that coats the roof of your mouth.

Mouthfeel: Rich and creamy, medium-low carbonation. Slight alcohol warming on the finish.

Drinkability: I wouldn't turn it down, but I wouldn't seek it out. One-dimensional and lacking in balance.

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Photo of schusterbauer
3.05/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

a -- just what you'd expect: very dark brown, virtually black

s -- roasted coffee beans, chocolate, slight alcohol burn in the nose -- nice!

t -- wonderful flavors here, strong roasted flavors, chocolate, black licorice... but it all seems very watered down. finish is very thin, with little to no flavor lingering after i swallow.

m -- a watery thinness competes with the flavors; mouthfeel puts me in the mind of drinking a Coke

d -- given the style, perhaps a bit too drinkable. i could've downed this in 3 minutes and it would've felt refreshing. that's NOT what i'm looking for in a double stout.

overall -- after reading all of the good reviews of this beer, i'm sincerely hoping this was just a bad bottle. i really enjoy Dark Horse's "too" cream stout, and so i was excited to give this one a try. not a terrible experience, but i am disappointed, because it was just okay, in every sense of the word. perhaps i'll revisit in the future.

 961 characters

Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.05/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a 12oz. brown bottle into my Adnams tulip pint glass.

A - Dark translucent brown color with about two fingers of tan foam. Minimal lacing left on the glass.

S - Dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and brown sugar, dark cherries, and molasses.

T - Very bitter initially, leading to dark, bitter cocoa, over-roasted coffee, vanilla extract and then a mild alcohol burn in the finish.

M - Slick and slightly rich. Medium in both body and carbonation. My tongue is left tingling from the bitterness.

D - I'm finding it difficult to make my way to the bottom of the glass. This beer is trying to grow on me, and partially succeeds as it warms up a little. A sipper more by force and not by choice.

 716 characters

Photo of jbone78
3.06/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

My buddy brought me this one back from Michigan.

Pours very black with a nice tan head. Taste starts with an inital bitterness that resembles cold brewed coffee. Very toasty/roasty flavors that pretty much dominate the beer.

Finishes with a little twang on the bitter side.


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Photo of treehugger02010
3.06/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I got a bottle of this beer out of a Dark Horse Brewing Company variety case. I poured it into a pint glass.
Appearance: The body is very black, not see through. The head in only a finger tall, dark tan, almost purple in color, great retention and good lacing.
Smell: The aromas are sunny (if that makes sense), roasted coffee and nutty notes.
Taste: The flavors are tart, roasty and peanut butter.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is too crisp with a medium body.
Drinkability: This beer isn't bad.
Don't drink and review.

 515 characters

Photo of danielharper
3.13/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Dark coloration, brown-black, with very thin khaki-colored head that disappears almost immediately. Opaque.

Smell: Sweet, malty. Hints of chocolate malt, a touch of caramel. Very subtle. No hops present in nose.

Taste: Dry malt up front, slightly cloying, with a very dry finish. Slightly unpleasant "soapy" flavor. Alcohol is well-hidden.

Mouthfeel: Moderate thickness. Slightly watery. Low carbonation.

Drinkability: Overall not necessarily a bad beer, but it lacks complexity and could use a little more balance.

 534 characters

Photo of Viggo
3.14/5  rDev -20.9%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Thanks for sharing this one grub!

Pours a very opaque black, very dark, thick brown head forms, nice lacing, good retention, sticky, looks pretty awesome. Smell is very roasty, some chocolate and coffee, vanilla, bit of toffee, quite rich, very astringent even in the aroma. Taste is ashy smoke, chocolate, roast, dark fruits, very astringent and bitter from all the roasted malts, medicinal finish. Mouthfeel is kind of thin and oily, medium carbonation, much to astringent, but has some nice characters. Thanks Russ!

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Photo of granger10
3.17/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

this one poured extremely dark and decently thick. But the head was nowhere to be seen, even though I did an extremely hard pour. Slight lacing but even that was weak. Taste was strong and malty. Lots of astringent flavors. Chalky texture to it. Thick molasses taste is dominant. Other dark flavors emerge but no chocolate or coffee which I usually taste. This one gets better the further I go along but it seems too one sided and rough for my liking.

 451 characters

Photo of semihobo
3.17/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Last in a six-pack, enjoyed in a chalice.

Head starts off a half inch thick of caramel bubbles and fades quickly to a ring. As advertised, the beer is, in fact, black. Ruby highlights on the edge.

Smells of smoky, scorched coffee. Earthy and slightly nutty. Very strong smell.

Bitter, smoky, astringent taste. Tobacco. High-alpha hops. Especially when warmed to cellar temps, this one hits hard. Very dry, especially on the merciless finish, which is like eating something charred. Alcohol is hidden.

Creamy carbonation, moderately heavy body.

Through six of these, I loved it at times and didn't at others. Good for what it is but too burnt and over the top for me. About average for the style.

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Photo of TheRougeBastard
3.18/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a jet-black into my HD pilsner glass (a birthday present) leaving a nice two-finger tan colored head. First impression was that this more a porter or stout than anything, mouthfeel and aftertaste confirmed that impression. I was expecting a black "IPA" based on much of what is written, though a black ale does not an IPA make, despite what some beer " aficionado's" would have you believe. Overall, this was a decent brew that one can enjoy without getting hammered...unless you consume a lot. The only LIMFAC is lack of bitterness I've come to expect from this genre, of course some might find that more to their liking.

 629 characters

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.18/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours with a reasonably tightly beaded, full, creamed chocolate, brown colored head that is initially three-fingers in height. The head leaves a distinct lacing pattern on the sides of my glass as I work my way through this beer. The beer is an almost black color, with perhaps some dark amber notes to it. The aroma has notes of chocolate, dusty roast grain husks, toasted malt and a nice burnt, yet still sweet, raisin note to it towards the end. Interesting, after rooting around in the aroma for a bit I notice a distinct, yet subtle note that reminds me of wood, smoked malt or perhaps butterscotch; I am not sure which, but it is certainly noticeable and now I can't seem to not notice it.

Light feeling as it first hits the tongue, it picks up a medium fullness to it as it moves across the tongue. The finish is marred by an astringent, sharp, almost harsh burnt bitter note, that is thankfully not too overwhelming. Notes of bitter, French Roast, black coffee, darkly toasted bread, a burnt acidity, and a acrid char flavor. This beer has a ton of darkly roasted grain character, it is actually a bit much, but on the upside I think that it is helping to hide some off flavors that are derived from a bit of diacetyl and perhaps some vegetal notes. In the end the dark malt is just a bit too much, if the gravity was bumped up a bit it might be more in balance.

 1,373 characters

Photo of Dithyramb
3.21/5  rDev -19.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Presentation: Appeared in the mail via BIF XV. The label, with hand drawn donkey, is a bit crappy. No freshness date and no mention as to what type of beer a “black bier” is.

Appearance: Inky, oily blackness, both in appearance and in viscosity, just as you would expect from something calling itself black bier. Opaque with very little carbonation. Took a bit of effort to tease the head up. When accomplished, it was a deep dark brown head that dissipated off with no lacing.

Smell: Is this milk stout? A slight sourness is evident in the aroma after your nose soaks in the super bitter coffee.

Taste: My first BIF disappointment. The bitterness was a little hard to handle, since there was almost no malt sweetness to cut it. Heavy coffee ground and/or bitter cocoa flavors assault the taste buds. Don’t get me wrong. I love Turkish coffee, even the bitter grounds swirling around the bottom of the glass, but I still add a touch of cream or sugar to cut it. A bit of sweet, creamy, or even vanilla maltiness would really complement this beer and give it what it is missing. The sourness in the nose was in there, along with a touch of oxidation. I looked up the beer and don’t see any mention of lactic acid being thrown in, but it certainly seems to be there. Only a slight warmness alerts you to the higher alcohol content.

Mouthfeel: Thick molasses quality sticks on the tongue and the top of the mouth. Medium to heavy body but is just a tad thinner than the color and body would suggest.

I don’t think I’ll be having another. However, given the topnotch reviews for this and the other brewery’s selections, I may try more from the brewer if I can find them.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 1,243 ratings.
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