Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale
Liked This Beer
3.93 w/ 1,251 ratings
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

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,251 |  Reviews: 595
Photo of Jspriest
4/5  rDev +1.8%

Photo of mattyb
3.42/5  rDev -13%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours very dark with a fluffy cinnamon colored head.

S - I found the nose to be very muted, very slight scent of roasted malts.

T - Luckily this tastes better than it smells. I found the taste to be very big with roasted malts, surrounded by caramel and coffee.

M - A little creamy with medium body and light carbonation.

O - Like others have said, drinks like a porter/stout. I found it to be quite tasty and for $1.50/bottle I will drink some more.

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Photo of paxtonthegreat
4.83/5  rDev +22.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours super black in color with a very unique creamy head. Aromas of dark chocolate, leather, and tobacco in the nose. Flavor mostly consisting of dark chocolate, dark malt, and slight leather and roasty and smokiness. A great strong ale that I convinced my local pub to get on draft because I love it so much.

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Photo of SirSketch
4.21/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pitch black beer with a mocha colored, soda- pop head.

S - Creamy milk chocolate, butterscotch candy, cappuccino, and even some cherry.

T - The taste is pretty roasty, astringent and dry, with coffee and lactose notes in the background. Chocolate is more of a bitter, dark chocolate than milk chocolate.

M - Thick, sticky mouth and little carbonation. Might be a bit too full-bodied.

O - Both sweet and chocolaty, while being roasty and with coffee flavor. Porter, stout or whatever you want to call it, this beer is delicious!

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Photo of ColdPoncho
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - black body, big tan head, nice stout-ish look.

S - smoked meats, tanned leather, earth and wood hints, some dark fruits.

T - Nice smoke and roast on the malt front. A really nice malt profile, to be honest. Good balance of all things dark.

M - medium body, smooth, a bit drying.

O - a real nice beer. I'd drink this regularly. Nothing wrong with it, and its pretty tasty.

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Photo of Mscarpen
4.01/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

A supermarket, jet black beer with a crazy thin head and no lacking. Smells of floral, hops, and smoke. Tastes of extreme dark hops, mild chocolate, and a pleasant bitter back end. Thick mouthfeel with a very aggressive tonge coating.

Overall, a very surpising dark beer with tos of hops. If that is your sweet spot, then this is for you!

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Photo of monitorpop
3.25/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dark Horse Black Bier

A: Black oil, with a ruby brown glow in the light. slight tan head that dissipates to almost nothing.

S: Faint roasted malts and a bit of smoke.

T: Molasses, roasted malts, bitter hops.

M: Silky with a light carbonation, almost no alcohol burn.

O: This is more of a hoppy stout than a strong ale. Not too bad, but it was not really what I expected.

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Photo of hdelavega
4.23/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to BeerThursdays for this beer.
Pours a nice black with a sticky light brown head that leaves a very nice lacing down the glass.
Smell is rich with roasty malt and a little sweet fruit.
Taste is well balanced with carmely roasted malt and a nice bitter coffee like finish.
Carbonation is nice and bright, it's pretty smooth around the mouth, there is a little bit of a grainy feeling.
I hope I can try some more from this brewery. Very nice!

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Photo of jbierling
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

According to Dark Horse's web site: ABV 7.5%.

The Reserve Special is the oldest of all beers in the Dark Horse family. Its thick and when poured into a glass its color is extremely dark. Best described as a strong black ale.

Appearance: Black color.

Smell: Pleasant.

Taste: Very smooth. Finished strong.

Mouthfeel: Moderate carbonation

Drinkability: Fun. Unique bottle and artwork. Loved the name. "Reserve" indicates something special and it fits the billing.

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Photo of ckeegan04
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - Pitch black with the thinnest of brown foamy head. Beer is inpenetrable even when held up to a light source. Foam quickly dissipates to the thinnest of rings and leaves spotty lacing around the glass.

S - Big aroma of roasted malt. Lots and lots of roastiness. In addition, I pick up notes of chocoalte and just a hint of dark fruits. The roasted malt really just dominates the entire thing though.

T - Roasted malt up front and lots of it. As that taste passes I get some bittersweet chocolate, a hint of vanilla and what I recognize as a touch of oak despite this not ever seeing wood as far as I know. Some dark fruits and a touch of spice sneak in on the finish.

M - Medium to full bodied and a touch sticky. Near perfect level of carbonation gives the beer just a hint of life on the tongue while still maintaining that near full bodidness.

O - An excellent beer. Not sure why it isnt just labeled a stout because that sure is what it tastes like to me. A great display of what can be done to showcase malt flavors without needing a big, hoppy slap in the face.

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

A: Pours pitch black with brown head. Slow dissipation leaves decent lacigns.

S: Roasted dark malts, a bit smoked. Some dark bitter chocolate and strong black coffee.

T: Very like the smell: heavy roast on the malts, some smoke. Lots of dark chocolate and strong black coffee. Some vanilla in the taste. Some mild piney notes.

M: Long lovely bitter aftertaste. Body is full and carboantion is mild. Oily smooth.

O: If I had to describe this beer: a mix between Schwarzbier, Smoked beer and Imperial Stout. Nice!

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Photo of kagent777
4.05/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle obtained in a trade with (I am pretty sure) zrab11. Thanks Zach! Poured into my goblet.

Appearance: This is one dark beer, with a slight tan head that settled too quickly and left a little ring around the edge. Really, I cannot see through this one and the edges have more of a brown hue than ruby.

Smell: Smells of dark flavors smoke, wood, brownies. The malts are clearly present in a nice roasty way.

Taste: The roasty malts take center stage with a little coffee and dark chocolate type flavors. There is a bit of edgy char with a little bit of bite. This beer is not completely smooth and that is OK with me. There is a small pleasant grassy citric hoppiness that lingers in the background near the finish. The finish goes on for a while.

Mouthfeel: A full bodied beer as you might expect. The carbonation is perfectly subtle.

Overall: This is a nice alternative to stouts or porters, I enjoyed it very much. I would get this one again, if given the opportunity.

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Photo of Holland
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: black as the night - is this a stout? The head is a brownish color, and it starts around 1-2 inches and dissipates to become a ring of lacing with some very fine bubbles left behind on top.

S: coffee, smoked wood, heavily roasted malts, a bit of butterscotch

T: starts with a coffee flavor, then some bitterness and sourness, then butterscotch, wood, earthy tones

M: medium bodied with quite a bit of hops to balance it, and just the right amount of carbonation to bring out the hops and coffee flavor bitterness. Nice!

O: this is a bier to savor - it's more beastly than you'd think. I paid $10 for the 6 pack, so solid deal for this quality beer. Still haven't had a bad one from Dark Horse - this one could take #2 of theirs.

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Photo of pmarlowe
3.58/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Tulip glass. Thanks to scoot1969 for this one.

A: Pours a viscous black with a finger of dense, dark khaki head. Pretty good retention and nice sheets of lace.

S: Big roasted and smoke malts with secondary dark chocolate and espresso.

T: Roasted/smoked malt and espresso. Pretty dry, and not much chocolate to balance it, which makes this a little difficult to drink too much of. Tiny bit of alcohol noticeable.

M: Full bodied and mild carbonation is very good for the style.

O: I'm not sure what distinguishes this from a stout. But anyway, this is not bad for a stout-like beer, solidly on the roasty end of the spectrum (which is not really my cup of... beer).

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Photo of brystmar
3.8/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Thanks to france44.com for shipping this to me in Brooklyn!

A: Pours black as night with a finger of dark tan head; mild to moderate beads of lace adorn the glass.

S/T: Strong coffee in the nose, along with roasted malts, toffee, hints of sweetness. Taste follows suit: very strong, bitter coffee hits right up front. Sweetly roasted malts and booze are right behind. For an 8.5%, this tastes pretty darn strong. Bitterness carries on through the dry finish. You sure this isn't a stout?

M/D: Medium-bodied, feels much too thin. Feel like I've been saying this a lot lately, but this brew needs more body. Boozy taste means drinkability suffers.

A solid craft brew!

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Photo of mostpoetsdo
3.96/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours a deep, dark black. Medium tan head, half an inch thick. This thing is nearly opaque, leaves behind some good lacing. Intimidating.

S: Smells like cocoa powder and rocks. Weird combination. Coffee grounds, too.

T: Up front is a load of roasted malt, followed by thick cocoa flavors. Super roasty, touch of coffee. Has an earthy sense to it, like gravel and soil. Finishes fairly bitter, hoppy bite at the end. Not entirely stout tasting, a hoppy porter? "imperial black ipa?"

M: Awesome carbonation. Velvety smooth. Medium body, a pleasure.

O/D: Flavors are welcomed, be it a different beer. Too mineral tasting to enjoy multiple, but oddly enjoyable. Would love to age this.

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Photo of Rhettroactive
3.23/5  rDev -17.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From 12oz bottle to Jackie O's tulip on 7/26/11
*From notes

Another well deserved shout-out goes to siege06nd. Thanks for the hook-up, guy!

A: Pours like a stout. Robust cocoa in color with a chocolate chip cookie lookin', 1.25 finger moderate head.

S: The first thing that stands out here is the minerality. It's got an earthy-cocoa thing going on that sounds good in theory, but in reality comes off a bit manufactured and fake.

T: A touch of bitterness from the hops hits the palate first, then a solid amount of funky dark malt. It's packing a major dirt, mud and cigar tobacco flavor that overwhelms most every nuance that I assume should be present.

M: Whispy and thin. It tries hard, but it simply can't climb Mouthfeel Mountain.

O: Dark Horse's Reseve Special Black Bier Ale is a letdown. I was expecting a rich and complex black ale, and instead got a rather ho-hum and really weird little beer. Off bottle maybe? It's possible, and I'd certainly try this again to compare, though I'm not in a rush to do so.

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Photo of russwbeck
4.43/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A: The pour is very dark with a bubbly brown head. The lacing is great, retention is average. Looks a lot darker than I was expecting.

S: The smell is quite roasty. Dark coffee, roasted malts, smells like a strong porter.

T: The taste here is a lot fuller than I was expecting. Very strong roasted malts and coffee. Bolder than some stouts I've had. The flavor really coats the mouth well. Chocolate and other sweet undertones try to balance it out, but boy is this dark and dry!

MF: Surprisingly light given the big taste and dark pour. Only about medium body with a nice amount of carbonation and no alcohol noted.

O: Great beer. Really impressed here. I cannot get over how big and rich the taste is. I wish I could get this more around my parts!

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Photo of waltonc
3.7/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Doodler for giving this to me last fall. Pours black with a nice tan creamy head. Creamy cocoa and coffee on the nose. Taste is a blend of bitter chocolate, slight creaminess, almost as if there's a bit of lactose in here, and some bitter hop presence. Nice, creamy mouthfeel with medium/high carbonation. Overall, a pretty good beer. I don't care for the strong hop component of this beer, but otherwise, quite good.

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Photo of womencantsail
3.8/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: The pour is just about black in color with a finger or so of tan head.

S: Nice chocolate aromas to it to start with, as well as some espresso. There is a strong roasted malt aroma and perhaps just a hint of soy sauce. A slight smokiness along with some nut shells.

T: Smokey and roasty, I wasn't quite expecting that. Not much of the chocolate/cocoa notes that were there on the aroma. A decent amount of bitterness is also present. Some toasted nut flavor on the long finish.

M: Medium in body with a smooth, medium carbonation.

O: I could have done without the smoke, but this was a pretty enjoyable beer.

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Photo of OneDropSoup
3.66/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Stopped in at Rugger's Pub in Pittsburgh's South Side, saw a Dark Horse tap handle, & asked the bartender what it was: "Black Bier. It's a cross between a stout & a porter." Hmmm.

Poured into a shaker: Straight up black body, nicely rolling, soft mocha head. Leaves gauzy lacing that drifts down the sides.

Fairly grapefruity, lemongrassy hop nose with a baked dough, bready kind of malt character bringing up the rear. Good smell, just not getting a whole lot of it.

Taste is a combination of pine, citrus zest hop, quickly followed by a dark & roasty bitterness. I notice a very mild sweetness in the middle, like a hint of caramel, but quickly swallowed up by that roast bitterness. Pretty much dominated by the bookend bitter flavors. Sweetness grows a little & balances as it warms, but still very much on the bitter side.

Pretty aggressive mouthfeel, again bitter at the front, back, & afterwards.

Not bad overall, a little imbalanced at first but evens out a little with time. Can't say anything really stood out, but I wouldn't avoid it.

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Photo of ebby82
4.1/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a tar like black into a ping glass with very little head.

The aroma is roasted, almost burnt malt, and hops.

The taste is a mixture of roasted malt and hops. Quite bitter and quite delicious.

The mouthfeel is a bit thicker than I would like, and it's certainly a sipper.

Overall, an interesting and tasty beer. It tastes more like a Black IPA than an American Strong Ale to me, but thats probably a moot point.

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Photo of JonathanG
4.23/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I picked this up while on a trip to Michigan about 2-months ago now during the 2nd week of May, so thought I better get around to tasting this one. Purchased at the Lager Mill, in Frankenmuth, MI. No freshness date on bottle.

A: Very, very dark brown, and that's only at the rim with backlighting. It looks jet black from the side, with a froth-like dark tan/light brown head. Sort of looks like a really good pull of espresso with fresh crema on top.

S: Lots of burnt notes, with dark espresso grounds, burnt caramel/black strap molasses, dark roasted malt, and dark chocolate liqueur notes.

T: A hint of sweetness that comes across as round burnt caramel, but finishes relatively dry. Some roasted malt and grain notes on the finish, in addition to the espresso and dark cocoa notes that carry over from the nose. Nicely bitter, without being overwhelming, at least to my taste buds, which tend to like a bit of bitterness.

M: Slightly creamy and a little glycerol viscosity, yet still mildly tingles the tongue.

O: One of my first black biers, this is definitely one I'd come back to! Wasn't sure if I'd like the style or not, but I do. Too bad I'll have to go back to Michigan to get it.

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Photo of shanblur
3.86/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a snifter. No freshness date on bottle.

A - The darkest of blacks. Very opaque, with a dark tan 1 finger head. Very small amount of lacing.

S - Roasted malts and dark chocolate

T - Tastes very smoky like a rauchbier. There is some hints of chocolate and espresso. A bit bitter on the finish.

M - Medium bodied with a light carbonation

I liked this beer. Another good one from this brewery.

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Photo of ModemMisuser
1.8/5  rDev -54.2%
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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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 78.4% out of 100 with 1,251 ratings
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