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

Got in a build-your-own-sixer at my local grocer. This one has no bottled on date I can see, but there's quite a bit of yeasty settlement that has me a bit worried. Poured right from the fridge into my pint glass.

L: Pours coffee black with about a half-inch of khaki head that falls and dissipates pretty quickly but leaves some cling as it goes down.

S: Roasted malts and a touch of molasses in the nose. Just a bit of grassy hops coming through, as well. Some coffee/dark chocolate notes are present.

T: That's a tasty brew. It's quite sweet at the front--caramel malts/sweetbread notes--although the roasted malts balance things out nicely. The middle brings on more sweetness, with molasses coming in on top of the already sweet malts. There's just a bit of coffee in there, with dark chocolate coming across more clearly. The back end sees the sweet and roasty malt flavors continue until they run up against some clear alcohol and hop bitterness. For how sweet it starts out, this one finishes pretty bitter.

F: Medium-bodied, smooth, light on the carbonation, and decidedly bitter at the end. It has some stick, but I wouldn't classify this as overtly syrupy--it definitely lingers on the palate.

O: I've had very few offerings from Dark Horse, but this is another winner from them. It's a very full-flavored brew that--even if I wouldn't character it as balanced--works some great flavors together for a complex and enjoyable brew. Definitely recommend this one.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.21/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Horray! I hope my stomach doesn't punch me for this one. My first dark beer in over a MONTH!!! HEALTH REASONS!! SUCK!!!

Appearance : Dark...pitch...obsidian; used motor oil coming out of the bottle here. The head pours an angry reddish color (hmm, reminding me of Smoked Fore!), about 2 fingers tall. Within a couple minutes' time the head recedes to a hilly lace on top of the black oblivion of death that we call the body.

Aroma : Oh yes. Oh...I missed you so, dark beers.

Black licorice, spice drop, some anise, horehound, and some spicy dark earthy hop. Barrel aged malts. Schwarzbier-like nose. First thought was that it smelled like Shiner's Bohemian Black but a bit classier. My mouth is watering, I must move on...

Flavor : OH, OH I may start crying here. I missed this soooo much. Oh...deep dark rooty flavors, (wiping my eyes)...smokey, slightly metallic but mixes in just right, coffee bean, charred barley, hardware store candy spice drop, licorice...good good heaven.

Feel : Rich, sweet, succulent, and smooth. Medium bodied, coats the palate, glides down like melted chocolate. Dries politely with a root and spice finish. Carbonation is just right. Alcoholic burn at the back of the throat - so so delicious.

Overall : All is freaking right in the world. I think the stars aligned. What was I missing? Man I love these dark beers. Gotta watch myself though...

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Photo of MichaelProcton
4.6/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Astoundingly good. Perhaps branded as an ale, more like a porter/stout-leaning hybrid. Just enough hops to give a kick, but TONS of dark, malty deliciousness. Highly recommended.

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Photo of MaximalC
3.74/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours seal brown with a luxuriant head of fine, mocha froth. Complex aroma smells of molasses, currants, berries, peat, smoke, and dark chocolate, contrasted by a spritz of grapefruit--one of the more engaging and adventurous bouquets I’ve encountered in a while. For a beer I’ve yet to taste, this is highly seductive...

The taste features a bite of herbal hops and alcohol up front, along with black coffee, bitter chocolate, and grapefruit pith--far more ferocious than I had anticipated. Substantial warming begins to unveil some of the dark berries alluded to by the nose. The mouthfeel comes off a little sharp in spite of smooth, medium body. Perhaps it’s just the bitterness cutting through...

Overall, this is a beautiful and enticing brew whose presentation belies its aggressive, bitter taste. If you’re into that sorta thing you may well enjoy this, but I was hoping for something more balanced.

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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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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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