Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
590 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: 590 | Ratings: 1,238
Photo of Sammy
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A supreme stout. Exceeding the lineup of Rogues. Looks like yummy chocolate drink. Stout roasted, with chocolate aroma. Creamy mouthfeel with roast. More so than coffee, which works for me. Enough of a drink experience, that you don't know the alcohol until..klunk. Glad I bought a six-pack. Dry mouth aftertaste.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.97/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to drewone for sharing this one at jmgrub's tasting.

Pours an opaque black with a foamy dark khaki head that settles to an oily film on top of the beer. Tiny dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of dark roasted malt, cocoa, and coffee. Taste is much the same with a medium amount of roasty bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a good beer that is tasty but pretty roasty.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This brew poured out much thicker than I expected. The head was tan and creamy looking. This beer could be a stout I think. The smell of the beer was had some big roasted aromas to it along with some earthy lager notes too. The taste of the beer was pretty good. I liked the rich roasted flavors that this had. The mouthfeel was heavy and thick. Overall this was a realli interesting brew. I would probably drink it again if I came across it.

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Photo of metter98
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The beer is absolutely jet black in color. It poured with a quarter finger high dense tan head that gradually died down, leaving a large patch of bubbles in the center of the glass and a collar around the edge.
S: There are moderate aromas of coffee beans and roasted malts in the nose.
T: The taste is similar to the smell, but is much stronger and also has some hints of smoke and chocolate along with a light amount of coffee bitterness in the finish.
M: It feels medium- to full-bodied on the palate and has a moderate amount of carbonation. The roasted malts leave a bit of dryness in the finish.
O: I enjoyed drinking this beer because it delivered a lot of flavors of coffee beans and roasted malts without the heavier body of a Russian Imperial Stout. Any traces of alcohol are very well hidden from the taste. There is also a good balance between the malts and hops.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.95/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Expecting a Schwarzbier going in, needless to say that first sip was a stunner.

Pouring a coal-black color and a thicker-than-expected viscocity, the beer begins to look like an American Stout. Modest carbonation struggles to form any meaningful head. Reducing to a lace, the foam clings shyly to the sides of the glass. A nice looking beer that may need more CO2.

Deeply toasted and caramelized malts give a definate Stout-like nose. High hopping rates give a mix of grasses, pine, citrus, and earthiness. Coffee and bitter cocoa also help to spice the beer up a lot. Definately not a Schwarz, that Stout descriptor is smelling more accurate.

Very roasty, toasty, and charred in taste, the heavily roasted malts give a sharp and acidic coffee-cocoa taste. A far second follows and then the toffee, caramel, and bready malts come into play. Hop flavor is at bay but do portray the same grassy-pine-citrus character found in the nose. This beer relies heavily on those roasted barley kernels.

Quite sharp, bitter, and astringent with those burnt grains. Hop bitterness and hard water definatly accentuate the bitterness. As sweet as the caramels are to taste, the texture is very dry from mid-palate on. A hoppy and chalky bitterness ride deep into the finish.

A bit of a different animal here. I'm still not convinced that a Schwarzbier proportion isn't at work here- just at the scale, gravity, and hopping rates of an American Stout.

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Photo of brentk56
4.5/5  rDev +13.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pitch black color with a big tan head that laces the glass when agitated

Smell: Licorice, over-roasted coffee, dark unsweetened chocolate

Taste: Starts out with a dark fruit and licorice flavor that is joined, mid-palate, by the coffee tones; after the swallow the roasty bitterness lingers forever, bringing with it a rich dark chocolate flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium to ful body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: A really special beer that I have enjoyed again and again

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Moejuck: Poured a pitch-black color beer with a medium foamy head with good retention and good lacing. Aroma of medium coffee with light roasted malt. Taste is dominated by some medium dry coffee with some light roasted malt and some nice oatmeal notes. Body is quite creamy which I always enjoy as well as being full with some medium to low carbonation. Well done and something I wouldnÂ’t mind having again.

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Photo of emerge077
4.23/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Black, oily pour into a 3F imperial pint glass. Immediate head of mocha foam builds itself, and with the unfiltered dregs, it rises to over 3 fingers in size.
Tan webs of lace network themselves around the inside of the glass.

Chocolate malt and some minor dark fruit define the aroma. At first there was a hint of a banana-like ester, but it faded fast.

Taste is huge, big bittersweet chocolate with an underlying hoppy edge. An earthy tobacco char in the aftertaste that is excellent. Maybe some mild coffee, but not too defined. It's very integrated, but still has a good degree of complexity.

Smooth and creamy, this is some delectable stuff. The abv is never harsh, but a buzz is felt by the end of the glass. Don't let this donkey kick your ass...

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Photo of zeff80
4.22/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a jet black color with a small, tan head. There were some traces of lace.

S - It smelled of roasted malt. Also, some good notes of chocolate.

T - It tasted very bittersweet. It had a nice burnt toast flavor. There was also an good bit of dark chocolate flavor. There was a warmth from the alcohol, too.

M - It was crisp and smooth. A medium-bodied beer.

D - This is a pretty good stout. It is my first Dark Horse beer and I would love to find more.

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Photo of oline73
3.25/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Poured from the bottle into a standard pint glass.

Appearance: Pours black as night with a finger of tan head that fades to a ring around the edge of the glass and doesn't leave any real lacing.

Smell: Slightly sweet from the malt with roast and a ton of smoke. There are some mild dark fruit notes as well.

Taste: This beer is really bitter and smokey. The smoke combines with the malt sweetness, and I enjoy it enough, but the finish is quite bitter and that it rough to get over for me. Not a terrible beer, just not my thing.

Mouthfeel: The body is on the thick side with smooth carbonation and a dry finish.

Overall: This is an intense beer. Lots of flavor, but it didn't all work for me. Tone down the bitterness or the smoke and we'd be talking.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.24/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.
Poured into a tulip glass. Color is near black with a light mocha head and not much lacing. Fairly short retention period. Nose brings some complex notes of chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, and hints of molasses. The taste is pretty dry with chocolate and roasted malt. Feel is really nice with a good dryness. Drinks quite well and is a nice take on this "style."

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Photo of mothman
4.07/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Enjoyed some of these with ThePeskyDingo

Poured into Sam Adams Sensory Glass

Pours a 2 finger tan hea to the brim of the glass. Leaves some good lacing. Color is a dark black, deep chocolate.

Aroma is coffee and chocolate. Amazing. Very malty with slight earthy hops.

Taste is a little bit of a let down compared to the smell. Coffee, matls, dark chocolate, and earthy hops are present.

Mouthfeel is smooth and creamy, then gets a little bitter. Smoothes back out and is very creamy. A little alcohol comes out here and leaves a slight sticky aftertaste.

Overall, I was really impressed with the smell. It was pretty easy to drink and I highly recommend.

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Photo of oberon
4.07/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at Ashley's in Ann Arbor,poured a near jet black but there was a noticable crimson hue when held up to the light a thinner quick to faid almond colored head atop.Aromas were roasted and sweet with notes of molasses and French Roast coffee and bitter chocolate no hop presence to this one.Big and sweet up front with some molasses and dark fruit notes very roasty with just a hint of earth in the finish wich doesnt dry it out much.Its a big hearty beer sweet and it packs a punch

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Photo of superspak
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 6/11/2013. Pours pitch black color with a 1-2 finger dense tan head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice soapy lacing clings on the glass. Aromas of big dark chocolate, roasted malt, cocoa, coffee, light char, toast, toffee, floral, and roasted earthiness. Damn nice aromas with great balance and complexity of roasted/dark malts; with good strength. Taste of big dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, cocoa, char, toast, toffee, floral, and roasted earthiness. Moderate roasted bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of dark chocolate, coffee, roasted malt, char, cocoa, toast, toffee, and roasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Awesome complexity and balance of dark/roasted malt flavors; with a great bitterness/sweetness balance and no cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbonation and medium-full bodied; with a very creamy, slick, and moderately chalky mouthfeel that is great. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is a highly excellent robust porter style. All around great balance and complexity of roasted/dark malt flavors with big robustness; and very smooth to sip on. A highly enjoyable offering.

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Photo of jlindros
3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Dark Horse finally showed up in MA, so I get to do some reviews now.

A: Not at all what I was expecting, it pours as pitch black as tar with a dark fluffy brown head that rises up 1 finger in my Chouffe tulip.

N: As soon as I popped the cap I could smell the roast and coffee billowing out of this thing. Added to that are more dark malts, hints of tobacco and dark fruit, and a little black patent malt. A little bit of some spicy hops. Reminds me a lot of Stout Trooper.

T: Wow, very rich and dark. Lots of bitterness as well. Bitterness comes from both a nice spicy hop flavor and the earthy char from the stout characteristics. Some creamy milk chocolate blends with bitter bakers chocolate. The roasted malt just overpowers all that though. Some thick molasses but very dry as if it was all fermented out. The bitterness is really high and almost overbearing.

M: Semi creamy, a little less body than I would expect but it is pretty thick and heavy. Decent carbonation.

F: Again very bitter and dry. The bitterness does seem to drop off pretty quickly though, along with the heavy roast and malt flavors. A little remaining roast flavor and bitterness lingers though. Slight bakers chocolate as well.

I would definitely call this beer a Russian Imperial Stout, not anywhere like a Strong Ale. Not sure who gave it that label. It's a pretty nice beer too, lots of roast, chocolate, creamy, but just way too bitter and dry.

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Photo of wethorseblanket
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
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.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.13/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bottle - crappy label... great beer! Pours an opaque black with deep mahogany highlights at the rim and base. The head is a full and creamy orangish-brown. It holds well and leaves some very nice lace. A simple swirl of the glass will bring up a thin surface covering. The nose is fruity and exceptionally roasty with lots of caramel and some mild floral/grassy hops. The body is medium with an exceptionally fine carbonation that's gently crisp and creamy in the mouth. The flavor starts with a light berry-like & apple fruitiness, becomes more caramelish and creamy as it warms with hints of floral hop flavor, and then unleashes an avalanche of bold, deeply-roasted coffee and bitterness into the dry finish. The bitterness lingers alongside short flashes of sweet caramel and deep roast. Although this beer is listed here as a German-style Schwarzbier, it is certainly not! It's much too over the top for that. And yet, it's very nicely balanced allowing the sweet caramel maltiness to show amongst a very deep roast (burnt) character and some intense bitterness. Rich and exciting!

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Photo of chinchill
3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Undated 12 oz bottle purchased near brewery last month, poured into a snifter.

A - Pours deep dark brownish-black with a one cm dark tan head that fades quickly to a thin, irregular top coat. Essentialy black in the glass.

Smell: Lots of dark fruits with hints of dark chocolate, wood, toffee and molasses.

Taste: A load of malts, mostly dark roasted but some sweet too. Some spicy hops, hints of dark fruits, dark chocolate, expresso, burnt toast and light smoke. A bit of clash between hops and malts.

Mouthfeel: Medium+ body; medium-light carbonation. Less smooth than one might reasonably hope.

Overall: Lots of dark roasted malts, chocolate, and coffee in this big beer. Worth trying: I have no doubt some people will love this beer that drinks like an imperial American porter.

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Photo of Kegatron
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pour black, maybe a deeper brown, with a finger of dark mocha (almost milk chocolate) colored head. This stays rich in the glass, leaving behind a foamy cascade of lacing behind. The aroma smells of burnt chocolate malts, smoky molasses, and a dash of roasted coffee. Just a touch of earthy hop character weaves in and out but overall this one seriously dark and crunchy bouquet.

The taste is dark chocolate, caramel, burnt toast, dry bitter hops, and coffee notes coming out strong across the back. Some green citrus and light spicy flavors mingle in from the hops, combining with the malts to impart a very dry and roasty finish on this. The mouthfeel is medium bodied, with a strong prickle to the carbonation that really brings out all of the hops and roast in this. This gets much more creamy and smooth as it flows down the throat however and actually drinks pretty darn good considering the deeply burnt and bitter flavors that are at work here.

Falling somewhere between a Stout and a Porter, this packed in all of the complex dark and roasty flavor that only a Dark Horse beer could. This one was under my radar for a bit but not any more. Good stuff.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired from grub courtesy of the Birthday Club 2, so a big "Thank you" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep black color, with a thin brown head that fades slowly and leaves a thick lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is of dark chocolate, dark fruit, roasted malts and a touch of hops.

T: The taste is full of the bitter-sweet flavor of dark chocolate up front with background flavors of dark fruit and molasses. The malt character is very hearty and stout-like. There's a mild hops presence. The bitter dark chocolate bite tones down as the beer warms and it becomes a bit more balanced. The after-taste is slightly sweet.

M: Crisp and very smooth, medium-to-heavy body, medium carbonation, slightly sticky finish.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, good kick, if you're a fan of the darker and maltier beers than this is a good one for you, it's definitely worth drinking a few of if you're the mood for that type of beer.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.65/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at TJ's, Paoli, PA

Poured pitch black with a small creamy tan head that receded to a thin patchy layer. Aroma heavy with dark roasted malts and espresso; if this hadn't been listed as a strong ale, I would've assumed it was a stout from the smell of it. More roastiness in the taste, dark malts, ash, coffee, a touch of cocoa. Pretty one-dimensional, but still pretty good. The thinner body is the only indication really that this isn't a stout. Fairly smooth with a drying bitterness in the finish, pretty easily drinkable overall.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours an opaque yet clear jet black in color with minimal amounts of visible carbonation and some very dark amber highlights. The beer has as finger tall foamy dark mocha head that reduces to a very thin film covering the majority of the surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Light to moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of dark roasted malts with some light notes of roasted coffee and pine/resin hops.

T: Upfront there are strong flavors of dark roasted malts with some notes of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and just a touch of smoked malts. There are some light to moderate flavors of pine/resin and earthy hops. Moderate amounts of lingering bitterness in the finish.

M: Medium to full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with some moderate amounts of dryness in the finish.

O: Very easy to drink for the style (American Strong Ale) and the higher ABV - drinks like a smaller beer and is pretty enjoyable.Nice complexity to the flavors.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
4.42/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a black body with a thin, off-white head.

Smell: Roasty chocolate malts with a hint of smoke and a sprinkling of licorice dust.

Taste: Rich dark maltiness with flavors of lightly sweetened chocolate and licorice. Touch of smoke. Smidgen of nuttiness along the way. Meager amount of earthy bittering hops. Drying, chocolatey finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied. Medium carbonation.

Drinkability: Very nice. Packed with flavor, but relatively light enough to pound down a few of these, even at 7:00AM in the morning.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.45/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Impenetrable onyx with a thin slice of burnt sienna along the bottom edge of the pint glass. The fantastic looking cap is a thickly creamy beast that is beginning to lay down a (not yet broken) blanket of mocha colored lace. I'm impressed as hell so far.

The nose is very nice too. It's chock full of roasted malt and all the good things that go along with it. Baker's chocolate and crushed coffee beans share the spotlight with heavy cream spiked with vanilla. I can't appreciate hops, but then I don't need big-time hops in my big stouts. I like them, I just don't need them.

For some reason, I always thought that Black Bier Ale was a schwarzbier. Hey Dark Horse, actually putting the word 'stout' on the label would be a good idea. Adding the ABV would be helpful as well. Whether it's big enough to be a *double* stout is debatable. Whether or not it's good beer is already settled. The answer is an unqualified 'yes'.

I love the Holiday Stout Series from these guys and I love Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier Ale. This offering, I'm guessing, is the base beer for all of the brewery's flavored stouts. Well, I'm here to say that it's a humdinger of a roastfest. Char the beejusus out of the barley, add a ton of it, bottle and drink. What could be easier?

One of the beer's best features is the interplay between the sweetness of the malt sugars and the bitterness of the American hops. I'm reminded of a sweet stout-dry stout hybrid in a double stout's body. Again, maybe not quite double, but close enough. The usual flavors of chocolate (Tootsie Rolls?) and gourmet coffee are joined by an impressive Scotch pine character that is getting me back in the Christmas spirit.

In the final reckoning, the mouthfeel isn't worthy of double/Imperial status. That doesn't mean that it's less than good, just that it doesn't match the magnificence of the rest of the beer's attributes. It is, however, incredbily gulpworthy. Given the ABV, that's a recipe for disaster. Or would be if I had more than one bottle.

I've been looking for this beer for some time now (Thanks Talisker). Maybe it was the goofy cartoon donkey on the label, maybe it was the proven 'stout excellence' of the brewmasters at Dark Horse, who knows? All you need to know is that Reserve Special Black Bier is a lip smackingly good, stout lover's stout.

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Photo of drewone
3.92/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

In my bruery tulip.

Some foam as pouring but head quickly dissipates to nothing, very minimal lacing. Deep dark brown (almost black).

Smells roasty. No hops.

Roasted, coffee with a minimal amount of tobacco. Leaves a pleasant bitter aftertaste - almost astringent. After taste reminds me of eating a roasted whole coffee bean.

Full mouthfeel - not to thick nor to thin - appropriate considering it's ABV.

Interesting - American strong ale (other than a catch all) is a bit of a misnomer - the Dark Horse Website states "has a hard time being called a stout or porter but it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale".

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 1,238 ratings.
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