Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

very good
1,244 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

For Trade:
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,244 |  Reviews: 594
Photo of albern
3.77/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This beer is quite syrupy, inky black, not much lacing, retention, or carbonation. It is pretty thick, creamy, dark, full palated, and a bit oily on the tongue. The beer has an aroma dark malts, molasses, maybe some coffee grinds, burnt wood, maybe some chocolates too.

This beer is a full bodied affair, very thick and syrupy and creamy. The beer has a very charred almost burnt molasses and dark malt flavor. There is some sweeter malts hidden deep underneath, but the charred, roasted, dark malts pretty much predominate. There is a slight ABV quality to the beer and there is some leafy hop in there on the back end. The aftertaste is very burnt wood taste on the tongue. I particularly like the sweetish, almost cherry chocolate flavors in the mid section of the beer, but they are way down below. The molasses and charred flavors, coupled with the leafy hop makes this a beer that is assertive. It's a decent beer for the right occasion. The aftertaste is probably the low point.

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Photo of icetraxx
4.32/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: An ink black, with no light at all showing through. Pours a one finger head that dissipates into a cap rather quickly, and then it shortly dissipates to nothing. No lacing.

S: Toasted cereal maltiness, roasted malt, and a hint of bittersweet chocolate make up the aroma here. I further detect a hint of vanilla and coffee. This beer sort of smells like chocolate covered rice crispy treats.

T: Hops. I did not expect this, but the dominate flavor here is floral hops. Balancing the hops is a strong roasted malt note, almost imperial stout like. This beer sort of reminds me of a blend between an IPA and an imperial stout, but this feeling fades as I drink it, imperial stout definitely feels like the appropriate designation for this beer. The chocolate, vanilla, and coffee from the smell make their way to the taste. No rice crispy treats in the flavor profile, unfortunately.

M: Well carbonated, thick and viscous. Almost syrupy.

D: If I consider this an imperial stout, which I do, this is one of the more drinkable. As an ASA, this is less drinkable than others.

O: A refreshing take on the Imperial Stout by Dark Horse.

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Photo of rfgetz
3.8/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep dark brown, near black... minimal head and lacing on this one. Smell is of dark roasted malts, hints of chocolate, coffee, tar, whiffs of grassy hops. Very stout-like. Taste is of dark roasted, and sometimes burnt grains & beans - coffee, cocoa, nuts. Background holds some molasses like sweetness, dark fruits and a grassy hop prsence. Acidic and bitter at times, lacks in carbonation, dry and chalky finnish. Interesting beer that is halfway between a Stout and Schwarz, strong roasted grain profile, but bitter, lowly carbonated and dry finnish dont compliment the overall beer as well as it could have.

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Photo of bsp77
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into Nonic Imperial Pint.

Appearance: Pure black with thin brown head and light lacing lines.

Smell: Roasted aroma, but quite sweet - molasses, cookies & cream, chocolate, vanilla, licorice and something reminiscent of a Christmas tree.

Taste: Strong roasted flavor but fairly creamy and sweet. Chocolate, light coffee, cream, licorice, molasses and pine. Ends somewhat bitter, but a nice touch of creamy sweetness remains throughout. Tastes like a blend of a Stout, a Cafe Mocha and, more some reason, Anchor Christmas Ale.

Feel: Relatively low carbonation. Body is creamy, silky and smooth, but surprisingly not quite full-bodied.

Drinkability: Very nice - both very complex and easy to drink. BA and Dark Horse both claim this is not a Stout, but surely it is a Stout of some kind. It seems like a ramped-up, bitter and higher alcohol Cream Stout, with a strange dash of holiday spirit.

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Photo of Jeffo
3.48/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this at De Bierkoning in Amsterdam.

From a bottle into a snifter.

APPEARANCE: Pours a one finger medium-thick mocha colored head with good retention. Comes out of the bottle pitch black and thicker looking. Some carbonation evident. Head fades to a nice wisp leaving some immediate lacing. A slight wisp remains until the end and leaves bits of lacing down the glass.

SMELL: Mild nose of roasted malts, caramel notes and chocolate. Nice, but needs to be bolder to make an impression.

TASTE: This is bolder. Roasted malts with some chocolate and piney hops up front. Nice combination. Some caramel malt sweetness through the middle leading into a bold, roasted bitter hop finish with plenty of pine flavors. Bold and long lasting aftertaste is plenty roasted and bitter with a touches of piney hoppy notes. Very nice flavor indeed.

PALATE: Medium-thin body with medium carbonation. Goes down a little prickly with a little alcohol burn at the end, and finishes slightly dry on the palate. A little light and only slightly creamy; disappointing performance here.

OVERALL: A decent offering from Dark Horse; I quite enjoyed this one. The taste was quite nice and it went down pretty quickly, and with a thicker more robust mouth-feel, this beer might actually turn some heads. At the moment, however, it lacks the body to bring the flavor over the hump, and on the whole doesn't quite live up to its potential. Too bad really. This is one I'll have again, but I don't think I'll be in a rush.

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Photo of Jeebs
4.23/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours an amazing bitch black with a thick and creamy 1 finger brown head. The head slowly dissipates leaving amazing lacing down the glass. This beer looks simply beautiful!

S: This beer smells amazing! Nice toasted malts, chocolate, molasses and some alcohol.

T: Toasted malt, coffee, maybe some fudge with a slight bit of alcohol. This beer leaves a nice toasty after taste which is very pleasant.

M: Full bodied and thick with a nice smooth creamy mouthfeel.

D: Very enjoyable beer! Looks, smells, and taste great perfect for a nice chilly evening, I'm just not sure if I would want multiple of these.

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Photo of cpetrone84
4.42/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A-pours a motor oil looking liquid that is completely opaque black. the head is thick creamy but only about 1 finger after an aggressive pour. it is a dark java brown color that lingers for about a quarter of a minute and leaves a light lacing on the glass.

S-the nose is huge and delicious! it brings a huge malt aroma with roasted malt, espresso, and milk chocolate. a touch of citrus hops hits at the very end

T-the taste is not quite as good as the nose. it brings roasted barley and grain, quite a bit of espresso, and hints of dark bakers chocolate. some citrus hops and bitterness come in towards the finish

M-this is a full bodied beer, smooth and creamy, almost chewy. perfectly carbonated, and slightly astringent.

D-i really like this beer! very tasty and awesome mouthfeel. it tastes more like an imperial porter but is just great!

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Photo of natelocc787
4.28/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one crosses the line between porter and stout, a hybrid. Not sure why this beer is ranked as low as it is, it is fantastic. Bursting with flavor, many roasted notes but not burnt. Smooth, bitter, black and roasted. Graham cracker, chocolate, coffee, fudge and brown sugar all fight for dominance in an extremely well balanced beer. The best I've had from Dark Horse and a real treat. Creamy, silky feel, very mellow despite the big flavor. Highly recommended.

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

I've seen this on the shelves numerous times, but finally thought, what the heck, let's give it a shot! Glad I did. Review is from notes taken on 1/18/2010 and the pour is from the bottle to a snifter.

Appearance: Pour is darkest brown/near black; no head to speak of, just a thin ring of dark tan foam around the center of the surface; body is entirely opaque and looked a little viscous on the pour; slight and scant lacing in the thin rings that don't last long -- overall it looks more like an Imperial Stout...

Smell: Deep dark roasty and even slightly (burnt) caramel sweet maltiness; a very earthy/dirt-like aspect, but not in a bad way -- kind of like a burnt toasty/grainy aspect; slight presence of alcohol that grows a bit as it warms.

Taste: Very nice overall -- nice burnt roastiness that is espresso-like in nature; a semi-sweet syrupy chocolate is mixed in with the roastiness; a very earthy and woody (charred and a little smokey) presence that really lingers in the aftertaste; alcohol becomes a little more apparent as it warms as well.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with pretty strong carbonation; their is a very nice coating left behind that holds the flavors and aftertaste quite well and the belly is left a little warm.

Drinkability: Really enjoyable with great flavors and a nice earthy warmth to it; I'm not really sure if would do well with age or not, but I'm willing to give it a shot and throw a few in the back of the closet and see how it does with some time on it.

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Photo of treehugger02010
3.06/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I got a bottle of this beer out of a Dark Horse Brewing Company variety case. I poured it into a pint glass.
Appearance: The body is very black, not see through. The head in only a finger tall, dark tan, almost purple in color, great retention and good lacing.
Smell: The aromas are sunny (if that makes sense), roasted coffee and nutty notes.
Taste: The flavors are tart, roasty and peanut butter.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is too crisp with a medium body.
Drinkability: This beer isn't bad.
Don't drink and review.

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

Pours slick black, with an oily surface very low tan head
Smells like fresh roast coffee and a little sweet malt

Flavor is malt first, coffee, then a little chocolate and molasses. The finish is some lingering bitter hops. Nice

Mouthfeel: Tongue lubricant, nice carbonation, not too bubbly, slick and heavy

I quite enjoyed this beer, I wish I could easily get my hands on more.

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Photo of jampics2
4.47/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at the Beer Engine.

Dark black with a tan head.

Smells of chocolate and coffee roast. Mild hops.

Taste is, as my notes exclaim, "f'n kick-ass". Chocolate and coffee roast flavors abound. Hops also have their role. Great flavor, really over the top in a good way.

Mouthfeel is great as well. Crisp and creamy at the same time. Not too heavy. Very drinkable, one of my favorites from a great brewery.

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Photo of drabmuh
3.92/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle (aged at least two years). Beer is dark black and forms a very thin brown head. There doesn't appear to be much lacing and there doesn't appear to be a lot of carbonation.

The aroma is a mixture of liquor (like bourbon) and coffee / roasted malt. Smells a lot like a stout.

Beer has medium body and finishes with a strong avalanche of roasted malt / coffee flavor. It comes up so late that one might consider it an aftertaste. Second taste, roast is dominant over all other flavors. There is a growing bitterness that isn't from the roast though. Perhaps some hops trying to squeeze through, yelling "Taste me! I'm here too!" Drinkability is fine and the mouthfeel is fine. Probably not a repeat for me I do recommend it for people to try if they have the opportunity.

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Photo of Jayli
4.2/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

received this from csmiley in the Review This! BIF so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours an opaque deep chocolate brown with a 1/4 inch of light brown head. Head recedes immmediately and leaves wispy lacing.

S: Nose is of roasted and burnt malts, and bitter baker's chocolate.

T: Taste starts with deep burnt malts, coffee, and roasted malts, with bitter chocolate. Finish has a slightly sweet, but slightly hoppy nature.

M: Medium body, medium carbonation, rich and creamy, slightly chewy.

D: This is a highly drinkable beer. Well balanced, nice flavoring, goes down easy and worthy to have a few of.

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Photo of theirishdago
4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into an oversized wine glass.
This beer pours like motor oil. There is a dark brown head that sticks around. The smell is of faint coffee and maybe some hershey's special dark. The taste is quite a bit lighter than the aroma, but very similiar. I have to say this stuff is more of an imperial stout than anything. It is nice and thick and well balanced, perfect for a cold afternoon. The finish is very clean and leaves me wanting more.

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Photo of bluemoonswoon
3.97/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been thinking about this beer for quite some time now, had it on draft and out of bottles a couple of times now, just getting around to reviewing now.

12oz bottle poured into a Goose Island pint glass.

A: Pours out black just as the name indicated it should. Head is rather thin with bits of chocolaty brown lace sticking to the side of the glass. Give the beer a quick swirl and you can see some nice legs but nothing that really sticks.

S: This beer smells like a porter, dark, charred chocolate with an almost abrasive bitterness.

T/MF: Taste is much like the aroma, bitter dark and dry chocolate, licorice toasted caramel with a dry, leafy hop bitterness interspersed in between everything.

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Photo of arkurzynski
4.46/5  rDev +12.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours thick, curtain of black. The beer itself actually sticks to the side of the glass like oil. Beautiful orange tan head. Heavy lacing. Smells of roasted barley, molasses, brown sugar, and toffee. Roasted malts exploding on the taste buds. Great mouthfeel. Dry and slightly sour. Medium low hoppiness. Creamy, smooth and delicious.

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Photo of ThatWineGuy
3.87/5  rDev -2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Inky oily black, tan head looks a bit purple, it rose and fell leaving a wispy ring and some surface spritz. Smell of black licorice, toasty malt, tiramisu. Taste features big toasted chocolate and coffee malts, rich velvety mouthfeel. Medium body, a bit dense. There is a coffee bean astringency that detracts somewhat from the overall package but there is more than enough substantial flavour to carry it. Drinks more like a porter or a stout, not bad at all.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.27/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Holy Exxon Valdez, Batman! This looked like an oil spill as I poured it into my glass. The two fingers' of head were about as deep brown as I have ever seen in a thick, foamy head. I have had coffee that was less dense and deep black than this beer. The nose was redolent with chocolate - fudge, brownies, dark chocolate bars. Wow! Mouthfeel was thick and full with a rich chocolate flavor accompanied by light smoke on the tongue. The finish was rich, chocolaty, somewhat more charcoal than in the mouth with a dusty dry finish. This would be better as a dessert beer, IMHO.

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Photo of DanJ
2.93/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Poured rich oily black into a pint glass, tan foamy head that did not last.

Burnt coffee, roasted malt, bittersweet chocolate aromas with a hint of fruity ester.

Tasted like burnt coffee grounds, bitter chocolate, high bitterness, dry bitter finish.

Medium body, astrigent, medium carbonation, no alcohol warmth.

I do not think thinks this is a real drinkable beer, to hoppy for the style. The finish could be a lot less bitter. The hops overpower the coffee, malt forward taste. I believe this is more of an American Stout than a Stong Ale.

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Photo of spartanfan
4.04/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A: Pours an unfiltered opaque black with a nice tan head which has reduced to a thin layer and left some nice lacing behind.

S: Aromas are mainly of dark chocolate, coffee

T: Oh man, this is good. Rich chocolaty, carmely taste. But there is also a fruity taste that I can't put my finger on. Lingering bitter hops and coffee on the finish.

M: Mouthfeel is spot-on. I'm really enjoying the smoothness of this one.

D: At 7.5% this beer is quite drinkable. No real hint of alcohol whatsoever.

Overall a very solid offering, and one of my favorites from Dark Horse.

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Photo of semihobo
3.17/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Last in a six-pack, enjoyed in a chalice.

Head starts off a half inch thick of caramel bubbles and fades quickly to a ring. As advertised, the beer is, in fact, black. Ruby highlights on the edge.

Smells of smoky, scorched coffee. Earthy and slightly nutty. Very strong smell.

Bitter, smoky, astringent taste. Tobacco. High-alpha hops. Especially when warmed to cellar temps, this one hits hard. Very dry, especially on the merciless finish, which is like eating something charred. Alcohol is hidden.

Creamy carbonation, moderately heavy body.

Through six of these, I loved it at times and didn't at others. Good for what it is but too burnt and over the top for me. About average for the style.

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Photo of MaltyHoppyGood
4.11/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: Black hole with a thick, creamy tan head.

S: Smell isn't too strong, though some light hopping and dark malt scents are present.

T: Whoa. The darkness reveals itself to be chocolaty and coffee. Like coffee (sometimes chocolate), some fruity notes come out, a sort of berry-like acidity can be detected. The aftertaste just lingers and lingers. Really rather nice.

M: Is very rich, somewhat viscous, but not overly so. It's not syrupy to me, just nice and thick. Bubbles are tiny, and in small numbers.

D: This is a sipper. I could probably drink a few of these back to back, but it might take me a while.

In conclusion, this beer has many desirable qualities to it. It is black, bold, packed full of rich, savory flavor. I am surprised a beer like this is only $7.50 and abv 7.5%.

I'm also sure that this would be perfect for making some beer cheese soup.

Overall I've been impressed with Dark Horse Brewing.

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

From BeerAdvocate Magazine Volume II, Issue II:

Here we have a great example of originality in American craft brewing. Put a donkey on the label and say that it is somewhere between a Stout and Porter, and it is a Strong Ale as well. Odd label, not an exact style, we love the concept. Dense tiny bubbly brown lace forms off of a hard pour. Is there anything darker than black because this is one sooty beer. Aromatic with molasses, dark chocolate, dark roasted ice coffee, black currants and a mild ester alcohol. Super smooth with a feigned semi-syrupy body, light on the carbonation. Charred wood, molasses and intense dark cocoa flavors lock down the taste buds for a good while. Some sweetness breaks out in the middle with a juicy nugget of burnt black berries. Hops are mild with a slightly balancing bitterness and vague herbal flavor. Ends with a bitter burnt flavor that never seems to go over the top.

The darker the better and one hell of a kick to the taste buds. Big, bold, complex and in-your-face. No need to debate on whether it is a Stout or Porter or even a double of the style, its good drinking. Enough said.

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Photo of eljefe21
4.35/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Thick, dark almost black viscous liquid. Thin light brown head. Tiny, fine brown lacing clings to the sides of the glass.

S: Chocolaty malt smell. Sweet vanilla and hints of coffee. Noticeable smell, but not very strong.

T: Dark chocolate sweetness. Taste lingers in the center of the tongue. Coffee and other malt flavors make an appearance too. A bit of a hop bite helps balance.

M: Thick coating and lasting flavorful mouthfeel. Not much carbonation, which is good for the style.

D: One of the best cool weather beers I've had in a while. Not sure how big this is, but while it probably is a bit big to be sessionable, enjoying several at one sitting would be time well spent. Wish I could get this one at home. Will have to grab several 6-ers when I'm in Michigan for the holidays.

Served: in a standard pint glass.

Review from notes taken on: 11/2/09.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 1,244 ratings.
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