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 OtherShoe2
3.94/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Jet black with a foamy tan head and some sticky lacing. Really pretty and inviting.

I wanted more here. Cocoa, alcohol, coffee, and not alot shining thru. Adequate.

First sip is coffee and charred malt and hints of sweet vanilla and molasses, that lead to smokiness and burnt bitterness as the palate clears to a long bitter (pleasant) finish. Some herbal hops, but much like bitter greens or chicory. No indication of alcohol at all. Great balance. Terrific flavor here.

I know this is supposed to fall somewhere between porter and stout, and that is the mouthfeel. I want more body, but that is ok. Very drinkable. American Strong Ale? WTF!!!! That couldn't be more wrong. This is stout. Glad I got the chance to try this. Buy this if you are a stout lover.

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

Apparently "American Strong Ale" covers a broad, unspecific range...not that I mind.

This is very nearly black, with deep brown hues just shining through in the light. A thick, dense brown head pours out and hangs out for a good while, leaving behind some patchy lacing in fair quantity.
Lots of roasted malts come straight off the nose at first. Along with it are aromas of bitter dark chocolate, roasted coffee, a little caramel, and just a touch of some herbal/grassy hops for balance with an underlying touch of vanilla. Very nice.
The flavor is as rich and complex as the aroma, with all of the above coming through in full force. There's not as much smoke for the roastiness as, say, a schwarzbier, which is what I initially thought this was. There's a light addition of some dark fruits in the taste and the finish is big and dry with a lingering mix of raosted barley and coffee and light sweetness.
This is a full-bodied brew with a light carbonation and an adequate smoothness.
This is an excellent beer all around.

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Photo of MbpBugeye
3.93/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

On tap at Bodega.
A- Fluffy, dirty short lasting head sits on a black, fairly opaque beer. The head dissipates but still leaves leopard spots of lacing.

S- The nose is weak, its mostly all black coffee. Some caramel and cream.

T- Lots and lots of black coffee. The coffee essence is very bitter. Its a little hard to get much else from it but there is chocolate, creamy milk. The finish is pretty hoppy and it lightens up the heavy coffee. They hops are lemony and sweet.

M- Very very smooth feel. Its truely like silk.

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Photo of BeerIsland
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I bought this beer at the Brass Rail in Cambelltown a couple months ago then left it on the workbench in the garage. I spied it yesterday and thought it was time to check it out before it turned into a pumpkin. Well, it's a very nice beer and not so much a load that one couldn't drink it in the summer (84 degrees today). Like noted below, the frothy head quickly skittered away but laced the glass (16oz tumbler) as it went down. The Black Bier is very dark and opaque but looks very nice in the glass. Big malts on the nose toasty but not sweet.
Very smooth with a nice balance and a lingering finish. Initially, incredibly drinkable; hard to believe it's 7.5. (I think I better slow down!) The garage storage doesn't seem to have affected anything.
Not sweet at all, sort of like a Schwarzbier on steroids. I wasn't expecting a sweet beer and can see how this classifies as a "black ale". I think the hops are in the background keeping a nice tang in the finish. All in all, very nice.

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Photo of divineaudio
3.3/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12oz undated bottle into a pint glass.

pours a greasy, dark brown to black with zero light coming through. forms a thin cap of fizzy brown head that calms to a ring pretty quickly. got a few spots of lace as well.

smell is roasty, smoky, and gooey. taste follows with tons of roasted and burnt malts. has the bitterness of a way too strong espresso, and an almost cloying, cola like, syrupy sweetness. hop character is barely existent.

feel is fuller in body, chewy, with a lot more carbonation than i was expecting. feels sort of like a coffee flavored soft drink with the wrong syrup to water ratio.

drinkable, but the more of this i had the less i liked it. i know american strong ale is sort of a catch all style, but this has more in common with a german schwarzbier or american stout. i'd consider buying this again, but not til the cold winter months.

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

Pours a dark brown/black color with a smallish tan head, fades fast but leaves a bit of patchy lacing.

Smell has a strong roasted malt aroma with a slight metallic aspect.

Taste has a fairly good roasted malt taste, finishes with a strong coffee-like bitterness, the aftertaste is where it's at with this beer since the primary flavors are a bit one-note, carbonation is soft and works well.

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Photo of corby112
3.7/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap on 5-10-10 at Kraftwork.

Pours pitch black and completely opaque with a two finger head with decent retention, slowly fading into a lasting cap and ring. Minimal spots of lacing.

Sweet roasted malt aroma with lots of burnt toast, chocolate malt, molasses, brown sugar and espresso/coffee bean. Possibly some licorice. Earthy hops provide a nice balance of bitterness to the roasted and sweet notes.

Lighter bodied than expected with a lot of dark roasted malts up front with hints of chocolate, burnt toast, coffee and oatmeal. Decently balanced by a sweet chocolate and molasses/honey flavor and some nice bitter, dry hops. Very dry finish. Complex but thinner than I expected or would have liked. Well balanced and drinkable.

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Photo of GregPearson33
3.99/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Smell/Appearance: Poured strait black with a dark chocolate milk colored head which receded pretty quickly. I can tell just by looking at how the head fizzled out and the bubbles I can see rise to the surface that this has robust carbonation. Roasty, chocolatey, nutty, coffee. I thought this was supposed to be a Stong American Ale but it smells a lot more roasty - like a porter maybe?

Rich roasted nuttiness upfront alongside the quintessential coffee/chocolate notes that accompany roasted malts. On the back end there is also a nice hop bitterness and overall it's very well balanced. There is a medium-high level of carbonation that makes for fantastic drinkability and a crisp mouthfeel, finishing light and with relatively little residual mouth-coating.

Overall I'm a little confused about the classification. As an American Strong Ale (7% ABV range like a LT Double Bag, not a chocolate/coffee bomb like He'Brew Jubilation) I think this is a little overdone. As a porter, however, props. In what way does it not fit the category?

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Photo of Pete9094
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

S- Bottle

A- Pour in a glass it says Porter

S- Dark, spicy , fruity. Nice hoppy smell.

T-Complex. Deep, rich taste w/ spicy feel. I feel like this is an Imperial Porter

M-Crisp mouthfeel. Lively brew

D-Hard to classify. Really good, though. Not a session brew but a nice night cap.

I would definately search this out again.

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Photo of Jwale73
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. bottle served at 50 degrees in my DT tulip. Poured one shade shy of black with a one inch, dense, mocha-colored head that gradually recedes into a thin, broken cap. Some strands and swaths of lacing exposed during the tasting. Nose reveals malt and cocoa and the merest suggestion of dark fruit and perhaps a metallic quality. Taste consistent with nose; however, metallic quality is not present, but a roasty, coffee character comes out, as well as a hint of lactose and a light, hops bitterness at the finish. Mouthfeel falls just shy of medium with a little creaminess upfront, followed by a lively carbonation level. Not sure why this is classified as an American Strong; it has American Double/Imperial Stout written all over it. This is a really tasty brew I have to say. Dark Horse does an exceptional job with its stouts (yep, that's how I'm classifying it) and this is another solid offering from this brewer.

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

Pours with a slight head of dark brown which tends to then congregate around the glass walls, minimal lacing. Typical jet black liquid, fully opaque and impenetrable without a hint of color. The nose is all about heavily roasted coffee, chicory, malt, hard caramel candy, charcoal ash and tar, soy, at times it seems like citric or floral notes trying to get out but kept locked in the trunk, absolutely takes pains to make you notice it, might be able to benefit from some hoppy balance. Medium-bodied, the carbonation causes an intense swirling sensation through the mouth entry, quite dry and semi-rough in texture. The roast far and away the dominant factor, coffee, dark chocolate, chicory, bitters, soy, less earthy and perhaps more leafy with a hoppy bite. The white grapefruit displays spunk and maybe there's licorice as well. That said, the roast lingers much longer than any other component.

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Photo of hosehead83
3.73/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a standard pint glass
Deep dark pour, with a moderate tan head. not what I was expecting, looks more like a stout or porter.
Aroma-Subtle chocolate and coffee notes
Taste-Smoky,black coffee, baker's chocolate, definite hop bite. Bitter, bottom-of-the-coffee-pot finish.
Overall, looks, smells, and tastes like a strong stout or porter. A bit unbalanced, but quite flavorful and robust.

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Photo of horshack7
4.33/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Wow this is some dark beer I was not expecting it would be black with a mocha colored head. It looks like a stout or a porter but it's still neat.

Aroma: Coffee notes dark fruit or berries way in the back and I do mean wasy in the back. Carob with dark roasted malts still giving some room for dark raoasted hops as well.

Taste: More dark roasted coffee and malts. Carob as well as roasted hop. A littel bit of tart ness on the tail end but it's only a twinge. The mouthfeel is very smooth a very creamy.

Notes: This quite a unique tasting American Strong Ale. I definatly enjoy this beer. Cheers.

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Photo of bartle
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I'm pretty sure I picked this up from Wacky's.

Pours an opaque black, with a toasted cream head that reduces to a film and it laces down the glass. The look is good.

Smells of dark roast, coffee, light molasses, some citrus notes coming from the hops ever so slightly. Fresh strawberries and a little boozy.

The taste is much the same. The front is roast malt, bits of chocolate and espresso. Malt balls even. Very clean finish with some herbal hops balancing nicely with the dark malts. It has a nice bitter bite on the back of the tongue. Very little sweetness.

The carbonation is a moderate, slightly oily body yet remains full. This finishes super smooth and semi-dry.

There are many reasons why I lived closer to this place. One is this beer, the other is the mug club and the brew pub itself.

This isn't a porter or a stout, but it's damn good.
Black ale it is.

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

Pours super dark, just about a black, into a Great Divide goblet. Mocha head forms nicely into a small ring with some bubbles of lacing. Smells roasty. Coffee, bitter espresso, with hints of a vanilla milk chocolate. Notes of dark blackberries are there as well. Taste is delicious. Coffee stout-like, but with a nice complement of bitterness. It is smooth with a Heath Bar like flavor of toffee and caramel malts while the coffee lingers into a bitter, well-balanced state. Carbonation gives it a nice sting as it goes down too smoothly for its alcohol content. I'm glad Dark Horse is now in MA. Michigan is doing some good things with beer.

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Photo of bwiechmann
3.9/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nearly impenetrable black which seems to suck light from the room. The mocha head pours one finger thick with a pretty aggressive pour and slowly dissipates to a ring. It almost looks menacing- beautiful.

The smell is delicious. Perfectly roasted malts with a backbone of french roast coffee and bitter chocolate. Some faint camp fire smoke notes round off a great smelling beer.

The taste is wonderfully complex. Starts you off with some non-sweet dark, pitted fruits and then melds seamlessly into a noticeable roasted coffee. The malt on the back end is wonderful and leaves a slight bittertone on the tongue.

Personally, mouthfeel for me was perfect. Half way between porter and stout describes it nicely. Mild carbonation.

Drinkability is pretty good- the abv is nearly imperceptible and goes down easily.

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Photo of britzdog
4.85/5  rDev +23.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5


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Photo of Espenoza
4.15/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Pours an opaque pitch black with a nice mocha colored head.

S - Strong roasted malts and surprisingly smokey, definitely an alcohol smell on the back end.

T - The taste is very similar smell, strong roasted malts with a strong smokey flavor. I'm almost getting a hint of espresso on the back-end along with a nice boozy touch.

M - Definitely an alcohol presence but it's a nice bite. Good mouth feel, I was a little surprised by it's lightness for being such a dark beer.

D - The flavors are so strong and complex that I don't see myself drinking more than one in one sitting. I'll definitely have this beer again but not until I can find it again.

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Photo of thebeerdoctor
4.4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

One of the sweet benefits of being a professional beer consultant, is that sometimes clients "pay it forward". As was the case here, when one kind store owner sold me a six pack of Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier for $5.99!
This is a sleeper in the American craft beer world. A delicious dark ale that is located somewhere between stout and porter. "Strong ale" is applied by the brewery, and by American and British standards this is accurate. But in Belgium, at 7.5% abv, this would be considered moderate. Nevertheless, a most enjoyable complex recipe. That is truly a joy to imbibe, from start to finish.

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Photo of Damian
4.55/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drank on-tap at The Independent, Somerville, MA
Served in a pint glass

The beer poured an inky, near pitch black with only hints of brown along the edges. A small, frothy, coffee-colored head lasted throughout most of the drink. Sticky sheets of webbed lacing trickled all down the glass.

The aroma was rich and smooth. Super roasty and quite smoky. Semi-sweet chocolate and black coffee notes came through strong. Slightly creamy and a touch boozy.

The taste was simply outstanding. Similar to the aroma in many regards except perhaps and bit more intense. Roasty and full up front. Dark chocolate notes dominated the center. Sweet caramel malts and molasses notes appeared as well. Espresso was also quite noticeable. The finish was crisp, dry and minerally with a lingering, roasty, slightly bitter aftertaste. I really enjoyed the interplay between the milky, chocolate-like sweetness and the roasty, dry notes.

The mouthfeel was creamy, smooth and supple. Medium to full bodied for the style (what is the style exactly?) with a fine, moderate effervescence.

Although I loved this beer, the style classification definitely threw me for a loop. By calling it a "black bier," I was thinking that it was going to be a German-style schwarzbier. The BA label of "American strong ale" does not really define it well either. Personally, I would describe this beer as something between a foreign export stout and an imperial stout. In any case, it is quite an impressive offering.

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Photo of herman77
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A: Yes, this is straight black as the name implies. Has a inviting light brown head that has great retention. Tons of tiny bubble lacing all the way down.

S: Fully roasted black malt, some toffee, chocolate and coffee in the mix as well.

T: Tons of roasted malt and charred wood. Almost a burnt toast taste up front that gives way to a sweeter, molasses/toffee malt taste with a hint of coffee and bittersweet chocolate. Has a bitter/dry coffee aftertaste that is a little sweet. Very robust and malty!

M/D: Very smooth, not much carbonation. Borderline heavy body. Drinkability is okay, I would get tired after 2 or so.

Interesting style, in-between a porter and a stout?

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Photo of Reagan1984
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours like a stout, smells like a stout. Listed as a "Strong Ale" I don't get it.
From their web site.. "The Reserve Special Black Ale has a hard time being called a stout or porter but it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale."

Not sure they are really calling it a Strong Ale there. but whatever.

Thick tan head forms about a finger+ thick and slowly settles. Visually it's a thick looking beer and the color is a deep/dark brown. Totally opaque with no light getting through at the edges.

Aroma is dark roasted malts, ash and charcoal. A hint of coffee grinds.

OK, after a taste I have to say this is clearly a stout like beer. I realize that Strong ale is one of those catch all categories, but if you line up 20 random Strong ales, this one would be the thumb on the hand. Dark bitter roasted malts, charcoal, bitter coffee grinds. A touch of black licorice every now and again. The lingering burnt/bitter flavor is powerful and a strong part of this beer.

Thick, almost creamy texture. A bit dry which makes me think this is like a thick Dry Stout. Just a spot of prickly carbonation.

I chose this first this evening since I was saving stouts for later. So it threw me for a bit of a loop. I shouldn't blame the beer for that. Slow one to enjoy and it just bugs me that this is listed as a Strong. This is a pretty good Dry Stout, not loving it as a Strong ale the way I think of them.

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Photo of tigg924
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: 1/3 inch head, opaque, black in color

Smell: chocolate and toasted malt

Taste: burnt malt, dark coffee, and chocolate

Mouthfeel: medium/light bodied, sweet with a slightly bitter end, low carbonation

Drinkability: A very drinkable strong ale that hides the abv well. It tastes like a slightly more complex schwarzbier. I could have a couple of these to sip, but am not likely to go out of my way and order this.

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

Pour - settles like a stout or a porter. Super dark brown to black with a thin mocha colored head. No light gets through this one, it reminds me of an Imperial Stout almost.

Aroma - coffee, soy sauce, teriyaki, dark roasted malt, charcoal, burnt wood, burnt sugar, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, caramel and vanilla. Yes, this has a lot of nasal complexity.

Taste - sweet, bitter, malty, tangy and creamy all at once. This hits your pallet at full speed and gets your tastes buds revved up immediately. Its an all out assault of coffee grounds, dark roasty/toasty malts, soy sauces, burnt toffee and caramel goodness. Be ready for a tongue that will be working overtime to handle all that this one has to dish out because its not a simple dark ale, this is something different, something special-er.

Overall - complex and delicious. I am still processing the first sip and all it offered. My tongue is dry and yet thirsty for more of this intriguing elixir. Vanilla, coffee, bitter chocolate, caramel and dark roasted malts galore. Hooray for non-conformity.

Would I buy more of it? - yes. I'll be buying more of this for sure. No doubt about it.

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Photo of tippebrewcrew2
4.05/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

In my opinion this is one of the most underrated beers on the shelfs of indiana beer stores. Pours black as black. I would say it resembles that of an american porter. Lots of coffee, dry bitter finish, with a medium hop profile. This is a very chewy, complex beer. Its very rich with deep notes of dark chocolate and a velvety texture. Great beer.

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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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