Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale
1,254 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

Bros Score:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,254 |  Reviews: 595
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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Photo of plfahey
4.25/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a shaker pint.

Appearance-Inky black hole and totally impermeable to light with a tall cap of dark tan (almost brown) foam, with moderate retention.

Aroma-Intoxicating aroma of alcohol and sinfully dark chocolate cake/brownie batter. Secondary notes of molasses, brown sugar, and espresso. Dark fruits (prune and plum) are present, along with light earthy hops. Smells phenomenal.

Flavor-Whoa-whole lot of dark roast in the flavor. It starts and finishes with black espresso and burnt coffee grounds. In the middle, there is some mention of sweet brown sugar, bittersweet dark chocolate and cocoa shells, along with just a hint of the dark fruits from the nose. Finish is somewhat acrid from the dark malts with moderate hop bitterness as well. Very slight earthy hop flavors in the finish as well. Alcohol shows through as warmth, but is entirely unnoticeable in the flavor. Aftertaste is mostly bitter coffee grounds and just a touch of chocolatey sweetness. Yummy.

Mouthfeel-Medium full body, and moderate carbonation. Roast bitterness is a bit acrid, but not overly harsh and certainly not astringent.

This beer is seriously awesome. I'm not sure what separates this from a russian imperial stout, but it is awesome. Very tasty, super flavorful, and impressively drinkable for its enormous flavor and relatively high (and might i add well hidden) alcohol content. A bit heavy on the dark roasts as you drink it, but still, yum.

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Photo of ElizabethCraig
2.7/5  rDev -31.3%
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 NEhophead
4.07/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 fl oz brown bottle, served in a snifter.

Pours an inky, near opaque molasses. Creamy, chocolate-colored head with pretty good retention. A few patches of spotted lacing.

Semi-sweet caramel and milk chocolate aromas up front mask a more earthen, roasted malt character. Very fragrant, rich espresso with hints of smoke and a creme brulee sweetness.

A complex sweetness that is reminiscent of dulce de leche and creme brulee. As the sweetness subsides, an intensely bitter roasted malt character comes to the forefront. Dark chocolate and espresso is aided by hints of licorice and smoke. The finish is very dry and extremely bitter. Dried nuts, espresso, and earthen herbs fill the aftertaste.

Full bodied; very active, even hairy on the palate on account of the intense hop presence and roasted, bitter qualities.

An intensely flavorful brew that highlights some rather dark flavor qualities. The mouthfeel is a bit of a deterrent to enjoying more than a few of these at a time.

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Photo of busterthecat
3.87/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

No date on Bottles or 6pk case. Poured into a SA perfect pint glass. $9.69 a 6 pk.

A- Pours a nice rich dark brown. A tight foamy mocha brown head forms and sits for a little before fading to a filmy cap. Sits very dark brown in glass. Not like any Strong Ale i've ever seen. Stout like.

S- A big strong aroma of chocolate, smooth coffee and roasted malt. The chocolate notes in the aroma are great. Captures both a smooth creamy sweet chocolate shake quality that is really well complemented by the mocha/coffee notes. Great Aroma that makes you want a sip.

T- Mostly coffee and heavily roasted dark malt on this one. There is some big astringent coffee bitterness that boarders on metallic, without falling of the edge. The chocolate is less pronounced then the aroma and adds some secondary flavors. Not very complex.

M- Big flavors with only a medium body. The feel is perhaps a bit thinner and light then I would like for a beer with the above flavors. It does linger decently. Pretty crisp for such a dark beer. Wet on palate. Some zingy bite from semi-metallic quality.

O- This beer is much more fit to be a stout then a strong ale. A good buy and an easy drinker. Glad I picked this up. Looking forward to trying more from Dark Horse. A good morning beer.

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Photo of SWMeyer4141
4.17/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Wasn't too sure what this beer was, got two bottles.

Appearance-Looks like a Stout. Dark brown ith a mocha 1.5 finger head. Tight bubbles. Dissipates pretty quickly. Good Lacing.

Smell-Dark Chocolate and malts. Dark fruits and hops. Intriguing.

Taste-Lots of Roast. Porterish. Chocolate, Coffee, and some nice bitterness. Very Balanced. Mouthfeel is great...

Mouthfeel-Smooth, Creamy. Medium carbonation, lots of body. Very drinkable.

Overall-This is a Porter in my eyes. Very roasty and balanced with plenty of flavors. Nice brew.

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Photo of Kayn169
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured I to pint glass, at DMK burger in Chicago. I immediately went at bought Some at my local liquor store.

A- Deep brown body, nice 2" Khaki head. Looks like a higher carbonated, lighter bodied stout

S- Very nice. Smoky malts, and a little sweetness.

T- Smoky roasted malts hit me up front, followed by bitter chocolate nibs. Maybe a little Molasses

M- So much lighter than the color would lead you to believe. Really suprising. Nice carbination really lends a hand to the feel of this beer.

O- originally ordered this beer at a local burger joint. Wasn't expecting much, so when I tried it, I was very surprised. Really good. Not the best I've ever had, but VERY GOOD

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Photo of jbertsch
3.97/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into a tulip. This appears black, with a khaki head 2-finger in size. The head fades to a ring after a bit.

Aroma is of fudgy chocolate brownies, crème brulee, creamed coffee, and a little sherry.

The flavor profile consists of bakers chocolate up front. Crème brulee in the middle, and a slight alcohol kick at the end. The taste is shorter and thinner than expected, but still good.

Mouthfeel is oily and slick, and a little fizzy. Not so creamy. Medium body.

Overall, this was enjoyable. I think this is more of an imperial stout with some slight barleywine characteristics.

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Photo of J0E
4.06/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Poured into a goblet style glass, it is very black with the slightest brown on the edges. About a half inch of light tan head that dissipated fairly quickly.

S: Slightly roasted malts and chocolate - something like a stout or a porter. Not overwhelming as there is still a bit of a hoppy citrus/herbs coming through. Slight amount of coffee, maybe some raisin in there too.

T: Very robust with the malt character, giving way to the bitterness of the hops which then melts away to dark chocolate on the finish. The alcohol is well hidden beneath it all. I wouldn't have guessed this was 8.5% (although their website says it's 7.5% - still seems higher than expected).

M: Smooth, but higher carbonation that you'd expect from something this dark like a stout.

O: This was the first time I'd had this one from Dark Horse, and I'd drink it again no problem. I'm glad it's a year round so I don't have to wait to have another.

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Photo of dmfrench
4.32/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Dry, acidic cocoa coffee Stout

A: Deep black body with no real edges to speak of, topped with a fairly persistent tight one finger deep khaki head.

S: Rich, powdery but not overly dry baker's chocolate, brown sugar/molasses, musty, earthy hops, cream, hints of coffee and alcohol. Delicious.

T: Big, fresh chocolate coffee with a fairly aggressive zesty, spicy, earthy hopping, though there's still a fair amount of creamy molasses sweetness. Though it's firmly on the dry, bitter side, expecially on the finish, it's still an excellent balance.

M: Fairly big and creamy for the ABV. Not overly carbonated with a grainy texture.

O: Great weight, dryness, sweetness, coffee, cocoa... what's not to love?

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

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

pours a deep, opaque mahogany tone - borderline black - yielding a lasting 1" tan / mocha colored head. tons of lacing.

the nose here is subdued. slight notes of coffee and roasted malt and maybe a touch of chocolate are present, but i'm not getting a whole lot more. not bad, just a little 'meh'.

taste is a modest improvement on the aroma. roasted malt, chocolate, and coffee headline this beer with secondary notes of dark fruits and molasses. not a knock your socks off delicious beer by any means, but reasonably tasty and enjoyable. well-hidden 7.5% ABV.

decent mouthfeel, medium bodied with average carbonation.

overall, as mentioned this is a solid beer if far from trascendent beer. curious as to why it falls into the americans strong ale category - to me this is much more porter / stout territory.

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Photo of Bierlerner
3.75/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A- dark dark dark brown. Nice 1 finger bubbly tan head. Goes away quickly. Some lacing.

S- Light aroma smells of coffee and molasses. Bit of chocolate. Lots of roasted malts.

T- Taste is great! Roasty and toasty. Nice molasses taste with a bittering finish. Small amounts sweetness and chocolate and coffee through out. Really a great balanced beer.

M- Medium body. Creamy. Low carbonation, which is perfect for this brew.

O- Very great strong ale. Perfect for the colder months. I'm diggin this.

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Photo of jdhilt
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a three finger brown head that fades slowly and leaves some lace. Black color, no highlights, ton of yeast left in bottle. Good carbonation and medium-heavy bodied. Light coffee nose and flavor is roasted coffee and oak, some bitterness at finish. $2.95 for a 12 oz bottle from Julio's Liquors Westborough, Ma.

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Photo of Mario61Aler
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gave it a hard pour into a tulip and Wow 2-3" of dark molassas head that, was dense with very tiny bubbles in the carbination, tyhat disapated slowly. The Color was as black as the inside of a cave with the lights out :).

I smell heavily roasted malts, notes of coffee and a fruit(?) very pleasant.

The taste was slightly sweet and bitter at the same time then the bitterness lingered on the back of the tongue like a rich stout would.

The feel of this in my mouth was alot lighter than I was expecting, medium with a slight oiliness to the finish, then it cleans itself out. Amazing. Complex.

Overall pretty good, I'll drink this one a little cooler than I drink most, about 53 F. I'll buy this one again and try it outside in the sun. Its that light and refreshing.

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Photo of Brunite
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours very dark, nearly black. A mocha head that fades quickly.

S: Lots to smell here. Roasted malts, coffee, chocolate. Not much in the way of hops.

T: Pretty complex. The roasted coffee, molasses and chocolate start out on top but fade to a bitterness and a bit of a unique twang.

M: Medium bodied...decent carbonation.

O: A tasty beer with a bit of uniqueness. Something here reminds me of a Sprecher's black beer. Will try again.

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Photo of rinhaak
4.02/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle poured in a tulip glass.

Pours a dark, viscous black with a quickly dissipating head. When held up to the light, there is a dark brown hue in the beer.

The nose is very nice and very sweet: lots of chocolate, mocha, and molasses. A little bit of fruit can be detected on the edges.

The mouth is lovely. I was expected a thick, syrupy beer which this wasn't at all. It had a surprising lightness which helped to counter the heavy alcohol levels (very little booziness), and the heavy carbonation also assists in keeping it lighter on the palate.

The taste is not terribly complex, though tremendously pleasant. Light hops are faintly tasted, but they can barely compete with the rich malty flavors in the foreground. There is a burnt toffee/ash finish.

Overall, a well made beer that is enjoyable to drink.

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Photo of lsrose
4.97/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Beer poured a tall dark tan head with a very aggressive pour into a Sam Adams perfect pint. Was dark black even at the thinnest parts of the glass. Head did diminish rather quickly to leave a coating.

S - Beer had an exceptional chocolate mocha smell. Very much like many chocolate stouts.

T - Doesn't take long to get a feel for the taste of this beer. It just smacks you with a heavy coffee flavor. With the smell I expected more chocolate but there is just a bit of dark chocolate taste with the coffees.

M - Take one little drink of this beer and the tastes will linger for several minutes. The taste can be so strong that it is hard to distinguish a mouthfeel.

I had expected a Belgian Dark Ale or some other weaker style from this but was pleasantly surprised. This is a super thick and flavorful beer. I was stunned with the smell, and then again with the flavor and loved both. One of the best beers I have discovered in a long time and very pleasant to drink.

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Photo of mater
4.5/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Picked up a bottle of this in my mixed sixer at Vintage Estate in Boardman, Oh.

A-Pours a very, very dark brown almost black with a nice mocha colored two finger head and solid lacing.

S-Almost smells like a stout or porter. I'm getting roasty malts and chocolate, but also some dark fruits.

T-Roasty malts, chocolate, coffee with a little hop bite.

M-Goes down really smooth, nice and creamy with light carbonation.

Overall this is a really solid brew. I don't know if I'd consider this a strong ale(almost reminds me of Stone's SSR), but I'll definitely be buying more of this.

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Photo of hombreverde
3.87/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance: Very dark color, almost like strong black expresso. Can´t see through glass. One finger head. Some carbonation on the sides of the tulip.

Smell: Notes of coffee. Sweet malt.

Taste: Cherry, burnt taste, alcohol fumes, not sticky, slight sour notes in the back of the mouth. Fully roasted malt.

Mouthfeel: Thin with evenly balanced carbonation.

Overall: Loads of coffee flavors coming through. Will gladly drink the rest of the 6 pack!

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Photo of abraxel
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Quite black (I already used the "none more black" reference in another review, but it fits here, too). A few fingers of chocolate-brown head that settles relatively fast, but leaves thick trails along the glass.

S - As I started pouring, the smell almost immediately hit me; at first just sweet, dark, slightly fruity malts, then upon closer inspection there's a whole lot of roasty malt and a bit of hops.

T - Here the roastiness takes over in force, with some citrusy hops mixed in. The tasty sweetness that was so prevalent in the smell is much more hidden. The roasty/hoppy combination lingers perhaps a little too long. Good, but could be better.

M - Smooth, just a hint of carbonation. Not bad.

Overall, an above-average beer, but I don't know where the "reserve special" in the name came from, since neither of those words seems quite appropriate.

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Photo of Daktyls
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark, motor oil black color with a small tannish/mocha head that dissipates quickly to a fine lacing on the top of the bear.

S: Dark and malty for starters, not too much else that is immediately present. There's a little bit of chocolate and cocoa, but not too much else.

T: Again, a lot of smoked malts and a tiny bit of hops. There's also a little bit of vanilla and a slight bit of coffee.

M: Light amount of carbonation with a nice big body. The alcohol is a little present on the finish, but certainly not overwhelming.

O: Overall, quite good. This is definitely going to go onto the buy again list. Everything works well here.

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Photo of robwestcott
3.88/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

poured cold and black from the tap at the brewpub to a standard pint with a long lasting, foamy, mocha head leaving lace to the rim.

subtle dark malty aroma with plenty of chocolate following up.

this one's dark, smoky, coffee, chocolate. nice blend of flavors.

big bodied, creamy smooth, subtle bitter all about the tongue, semi sweet chocolate follows up.

drinkable - a pint or two.

overall - my first beer on my first stop at dark horse. very pleasant beer, big and flavorful.

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Photo of RedSpecial1
4.97/5  rDev +26.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer pours a thick, dark, black with a thin bit of brown head. The smell is robust and roasty with hints of dark chocolate, reminds me of a campfire. The main flavors are dark roasted barley and a nice dark chocolate flavor. This beer is thin enough to sip easily, but robust enough to coat the mouth with a pleasant flavor that lingers nicely. This is a great beer, lots of strong flavor, but smooth as well.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.93 out of 5 with 1,254 ratings
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