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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User Reviews
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Reviews: 590 | Ratings: 1,233
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

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Photo of mchegash
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - 4.75/5
About 1 cm of nice creamy light brown head. The color is *pitch black*. Even when I shine a very bright light at it, I can see no color other than black. I can see a bunch of carbonation bubbles rising up on the sides of the glass. Overall, a great look. Deep, dark, and mysterious. Makes me feel like drinking this beer in going on an adventure into the unknown.

Smell - 4/5
Chocolate, roasty, smoky, some hops. Has the smell of a great roasty/smoky porter.

Taste - 3.85/5
Roasty and smoky flavors. Some sweet, almost fruity malts and some hops flavors as well. A light level of sweetness. The predominant taste overall is the smokiness. The beer is good, but I feel like they could have toned down the smokiness a bit, and brought out the sweet malt flavors a bit more.

Mouthfeel - 3.5/5
Medium to full bodied. Moderately creamy. Carbonation is light. Perhaps a little bitter but still quite drinkable

Overall - 3.9/5
Overall quite a decent beer. The main think I love is the pitch black appearance. The main thing I would change would be to balance out the smokiness and the sweet malts a bit more.

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Photo of Folderol
3.38/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Dark Horse says this has a hard time being called a porter or stout, and I agree. I'm sure this is spot-on for the emerging Black Ale category, as it is truly black. Looks pretty damn good, Imperial Stout-like with a thin brown head, but smells more like an IPA. I hoped for a more rounded malt and roast in the flavor profile, but mostly I just get west coast hops. Not my cup of brew.

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Photo of KYGunner
4/5  rDev +0.8%

Coffee centric on the nose it delivers a nice balance of char and bitter sweet chocolate in aroma.

For the most part the flavor emulates the aroma with a coffee forward front. The coffee yields to a chocolate center and an abrupt roasty char. It ends a bit bitter but the bitterness comes in the form of bitter sweet bakers chocolate.

The feel is quite full but it still keeps an easy drinking presence. Very enjoyable yet nicely complex.

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Photo of mrfrancis
4/5  rDev +0.8%

A: Pours a murky black with a creamy tan head.
S: Aromas of caramel, toffee, cream, roasted grain, herbs, grass, lemon, and lime fill the nose.
T: Notes of herbs, grass, kumquats, lemon, lime, and grapefruit rind mingle with notes of caramel, toffee, cream, cocoa, and roasted grain. The finish is bitter, imparting a rush of herb and citrus flavors.
M: Medium-bodied, silky, and smooth. Carbonation is airy and just present enough. Alcohol is pretty much undetectable.
O: A rock solid and very approachable black ale. I have no complaints with this one.

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Photo of Budinetz
4.15/5  rDev +4.5%

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a teku glass. Dated 2-20-14.

Pours an opaque black color with a tan frothy head that dissipates slowly. No visible lacing present. Smells of roasted malt and sharp hops. Surprisingly fresh for being bottle 6 months prior. Was expecting to have a wet cardboard smell with a slight medeira finish but the bottle was stored very well. Not very drinkable as it has a 7.5% abv and the roastiness from the malt taints the palate. Would definitely have this again.


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Photo of droomyster
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a pitch black body with a small tan head with okay retention. Aromas are very roasty, big on espresso, inky, with just a bit of cocoa nibs. Full bodied and loaded with bold flavors; a slow sipper for sure. Starts slightly sweet before the darkest of flavors, pure char, gasp-inspiring smokiness, burnt chocolate,black licorice (I get a distant whiff of a Sambuca burn) and cold coffee grounds take over at an intensity level that many might consider challenging. Not a beer for the newbies who prefer something "light," but right up the alley for lovers of dark beers that explore all aspects of beery blackness. What an unexpected pleasure. Bravo!

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Photo of Strix
3.79/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75

Pours near black, tan head that eventually disappears entirely.

Main smell is remarkably similar to a cup of coffee.

Roasted caramel malt and coffee, with a lingering dark chocolate finish.

Mouthfeel could be a touch fuller.

I enjoyed this one - nice roasty flavors.

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Photo of Louisville-Beer-Reviews
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Appearance: Darkest ruby, almost black color, with heavy, brown head and spotty lacing.

Aroma: Big, dark chocolate, with sweet caramel and milk sugar.

Taste & Mouthfeel: Strong coffee and milk chocolate flavor on the tongue, with a pleasant, light texture carrying a subtle sweetness akin to milk and sugar. Finishes with dry, bitter, earthy, roasted coffee. It feels like a breakfast stout, with the sweetness lending just enough balance to the big flavors of cocoa and dark roast coffee.

Final Word: Dark Horse doesn’t disappoint with this one, and I highly recommend snagging a glass if possible. The coffee flavor is true and earthy, with a light texture and enough gentle sweetness to keep it drinkable. You’ll get the full flavor of real coffee, rich chocolate, and mocha without the thick, oily mouthfeel that the flavors could imply. This beer isn’t a complex brew, but is rich and in balance, making it easily accessible, and should only be avoided if you hate coffee. Get adventurous and try it for brunch!

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Photo of Gmann
3.66/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a black color with a short dense khaki colored head that settles into a solid ring.

The aroma is of big caramel. Moderate cold coffee roast with some milk sugars. Not much hop aroma.

The taste is of big milk chocolate and cocoa. A dusty coffee. Some darker chocolate in the finish. There is a bit of a grassy hop bitterness in the finish as well.

The beer is full bodied with soft carbonation. Sweet and roasted bitterness on the palate. A bit powdery and slightly sticky in the finish. Perhaps some acidity from the hops.

A good roast forward beer. I don't pick up much from the hops but that is ok as I am not a huge fan of the style.

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Photo of Immortale25
3.94/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured into a New Belgium goblet. No freshness date.

A- Pours a fully opaque black color with a 1/4 inch light brown head that retains decently before becoming a thick ring around the edge of the glass and a mostly full sheet of bubbly surface foam. Resilien lacing leaves a thick solid ring behind.

S- Roasty stout-like aroma with some notes of chocolate, coffee and caramel.

T- Flavor displays the hops more while still keeping that roasty quality. Rides a fine line between bitter and sweet. Roasty finish. Alcohol is hidden well.

M- Semi-creamy with medium-low carbonation and a full body.

O- While I agree that this can only be characterized as an American Strong, I feel it has a bit of an identity crisis and lacks focus. Has the flavor of a stout but lacks the body of a stout while having the sweetness of a barleywine and the hop character of an IPA. Color me confused. Still, it's drinkable although perplexing.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

A: Pours a pitch black color. The head is a finger high, and light tan in shade. I'm not hugely impressed by the retention, but it's creamy looking, thick, and leaves a nice ring of lacing on the glass.

S: I'd reckon the aroma is closer to a hoppy stout than a proper black IPA like, say, Wookey Jack. Citrusy hops only augment the big roasted, chocolate, and licorice notes instead of competing with them. There are slight smoky hints as well. Could almost pass for an imperial stout at times.

T: I get a nice yet subtle bite of piny hops to start. The finish is loaded with chocolate, roast, and mild licorice. More piny flavors linger post-swallow. Both the hoppy and roasted components coexist with each other beautifully. I could use a touch more depth, but I don't care. This is a hoppy stout done properly.

M: The general feel is extremely soft and full. It could be a little drier, but I can't deny this is a shockingly rich stout. I almost said imperial stout, but I backed off considering it's only 7.5%. Carbonation is low, as expected. This one is easy to sip, with a finish that's 'dry enough', but only just.

O: What this does well is balance the roasted malts and the subtle hop notes like a boss. It's not much of a black IPA, though. But wow, this is another super solid stout from Dark Horse, just with a bit more hops than the norm.

EDIT: The other site which will remain nameless flat-out calls it a porter - and that's before I noticed this site calling it a STRONG ALE. I'm not going to raise scores, but it's still a damn good dark beer; I can still look at it in an even better light due to the fact it's not designed to be hoppy.

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Photo of keithmurray
4.63/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Appearance - dark brown nearly black color with mocha head

Smell - black licorice, dark chocolate, roasted malts, espresso

Taste - much like the smell - dark chocolate, roasted malts, espresso, black licorice, vanilla

Mouthfeel - full bodied, viscous, medium carbonation, slight sweetness in the front, bitterness lingers in the back, the mouthfeel has the thickness of an imperial stout, which I like

Overall - impressive beer that drinks like an imperial stout, I will be seeking out more of this

Price Point - $2.09/12 oz bottle

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Photo of brutusmuktuk
4.26/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle with a dark brown color with a foamy tan head. Has a coffee and chocolate aroma, and taste is also coffee and chocolate, though with a bitter finish. Has a nice medium body feel. This has a stout feel and flavor, but without the roasted malts. Probably one of my favorite porters.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.73/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

SRM 35, like dark chocolate syrup with dark amber highlights when put to the light, otherwise, black in a Dogfish Head snifter. The thin, creamy chestnut head is quick to dissipate, leaving fine lace and a clinging viscosity.

The aroma is syrupy sweet with raisins and dates. A faint aroma of roasted chocolate and coffee resides in the background. Warmth brings out hints of vanilla and molasses.

No surprise, strong roasted malt punches through up front to the middle. A long, roasted bitterness fills the finish. Any sweetness upon entry quickly yields. There is no real presence from hops. This beer is all roasted malt and builds on that as it warms.

A full, almost syrupy body with ample fine carbonation. Alcohol is warming and far more present than anticipated. A dry finish leaves light astringency and plenty of residual sugar on the lips.

This was enjoyable, though far from what I would consider an American Strong Ale. I think this one is more suited to a dry Stout. Sit back and enjoy it with conversation and hors d’ouvres.

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Photo of clayrock81
3.9/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a black body with one finger head on top of an aroma that is definitely roasted and coffee like along with hints of chocolate. The taste is one of strong roasted malts, again malts are similiar to coffee (maybe java is better word), a chewey, almost bready beer that is dry but mixed with some bitter chocolate and I swear I get hints of both vanilla and dark fruits like figs. Simple but enjoyable sipper.

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Photo of andrewjraab
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Pours pitch black with a caramel mocha brown head that quickly dissipates to a fine ring around the glass. Smells of caramel, malts, brown sugar, syrup. Tastes follows the nose - nice balance of malts, warming alcohol, acidic, drying mouthfeeel.

Overall, this is a solid brew that just misses on the finer points of drinkability. This is a one and done type of brew, but I'd come back.

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Photo of beerrat
4.27/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I sat here in the tap room reviewing a beer on the phone.This beer is very dark brown with light brown head.Smooth feel in mouth and taste not to strong.Not real bitter with a hint of nut taste.Now the glass is almost gone I want another so it is pretty dam good.

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4.03/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On-tap. Tasting glass @ BierCab (Barcelona). Black color, brown froth. Lasting crown leaves a wide lacing collar on sides. Intense chocolate & licorice aromas, toasted & sweet malt notes, slight roasted to the nose. Creamy upfront & sharp bitterness from roasted malts. Medium body. Moderate carbonation. Velvet palate & dense texture. Prunes & fudge chocolate in the middle. Sweet & slight bitter finish. Long aftertaste. Delicious !!

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Photo of matjack85
4.14/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I bought this as part of a build-your-own six pack for $9.99 at the Binny's store in Bloomingdale, IL. 12oz brown bottle with no freshness date.

The beer pours an opaque black color with a 1½-finger light brown head. Retention was only 30 seconds long in my pint glass and lacing was minimal.

Burnt malt and chocolate/coffee aroma.

Big dark roasted malty flavor along with lots of bittersweet chocolate. Some black coffee underneath. Earthy hops add additional bitterness and balance. Finishes bitter with a bitter aftertaste.

Thick, smooth, and creamy mouthfeel. Full bodied with moderate to medium crabonation.


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Photo of rlee1390
4/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A-Black in the glass with off white/tanish head that leaves some lacing.

S-Roasted malt, coffee, earthy hops, mild dark chocolate.

T-Starts with roasted malt and coffee, ends with earthy and dirt like hops. Mild bitterness.

M-Medium bodied, nice carbonation and a tad creamy.

O-A good beer, increasing the bitterness would help round out the beer more or more chocolate in the tatse. Still a good beer.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
3.88/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured into a sam adams custom glass, color is black, head is tan, 1/2 inch thick with some stop presence, no lacing.

Smell is clean, light roast and chocolate malts, becoming more apparent as it warms, subtle grassy hops.

Taste is also straightforward, good strong malts, roast and chocolate, no over sweet flavors, hops are present but not too bitter, enough to counter balance the strength.

Mouthfeel is a little biting on the tongue from the roasted malts and strength, slightly drying, but does not take away; sweet flavors are apparent in the mouthfeel as it lingers, more chocolate and lighter malt.

Overall, a really tasty black ale, great drinkability, nice dark malt flavors and presence.

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Photo of tobelerone
4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Like many others I assumed this was a Black IPA when purchased but upon pouring discerned that it's really more of a stout. Pitch black body with a tan head a little more than a finger high. Very nice retention, some sticky patches of lace on the glass.

Aroma is very malt-forward, with traces of earthy hops lurking subtly underneath. Quite roasty, with molasses, cocoa powder, and hints of raisins and black cherries detected. Tasty - again it's roasty, more assertively bitter than expected, very faint booziness, not as fruity as expected. Kind of bittersweet chocolatey, charred, but still milky and creamy, not very sweet at all, and mostly dry in the finish. There's a bit of an aspirin-like quality to the lingering bitterness at the end but it's doesn't overpower the other more appealing aspects of this beer.

Medium bodied and carbonated, with an excellent creaminess to the feel overall. I think most drinkers would characterize this as a hoppy stout, at least that's how I see it. Good stuff for a midweight stout-style beer that isn't too sweet and laden with adjuncts.

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Photo of micromaniac129
3.99/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I thought I was buying like a black ipa or black lager. I wasn't expecting this.
A well made beer that very fragrant and a nice depth of flavor. The aroma is sweet malts candied stone fruits church pews and molasses.
The taste of this stout looking beer was equally up to par. it was rich malts. almost roasted, tobacco, fruits, lether and molasses.
Drinks heavy and velvetty smooth with a touch of alcohol warming at the end.

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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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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 1,233 ratings.
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