Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

BA SCORE
89
very good
1,251 Ratings
Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
darkhorsebrewery.com

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

BEER STATS
Ratings:
1,251
Reviews:
595
Avg:
3.97
pDev:
10.33%
 
 
Wants:
64
Gots:
134
For Trade:
2
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Ratings: 1,251 |  Reviews: 595
Photo of smcolw
4.02/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Near black color where no color can shine through. Light beige head, but it leaves a blanket of lace that drains to a ring after each sip. The head settles to a single layer of minute bubbles.

Dark bitter coffee-like aromas. Blindfolded, I would think that this is a dry stout.

Dry and extremely bitter from black patent malt. More burnt than most dry stouts. The aftertaste is of coffee grounds. The taste is chewy but the body is thin (for the style). The potency is hidden by the strength of the bitter dark malt. Overall, quite delicious.

 545 characters

Photo of ArthurShipkowski
3.98/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Appearance: Dark, not much head.

Smell: Initially a roast and grapefruit odor, fading just to roasted.

Taste: Dark, roasted, hop-bite giving way to bran. Very similar to a number of imperial stouts.

Mouthfeel: Nice carbonation, but a little thin in my opinion.

Drinkability: Quite good. The thinness might make it a little too drinkable, if you catch my drift.

Overall, quite nice and enjoyable -- sort of a pocket imperial stout, trimmed down a bit.

 455 characters

Photo of palmdalethriller
4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

A very enjoyable beer overall.

This beer is absolutely jet black. American string ale? Maybe American strong stout is a better description, even the nose smells like a stout with roasted malt smell and a slight herbal hop aroma. A bit hoppier in aroma than a typical stout, but this is no ipa in that regard.

The taste is heavy on the roasted and black malts, with a choclatey sweetness underneath it all. At over 7% there isn't really any burn, but it definitely smacks of charcoal on the finish. It's pleasant for a while, but the acrid bitterness on the finish gets pretty old.

 584 characters

Photo of backfat
4.45/5  rDev +12.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

american strong ale? i'd guess more like a porter. pours a viscous black, motor oil, with a khaki/cinnamon colored one finger head. it looks like it's going to stain my glass. awesome. smells robust, dark chocolate, coffee, dark fruits, candied sugars. rich and complex. tastes chocolatey and velvety. bold flavor that is creamy and smooth. lingering bitters. this beer is just excellent. highly recommend.

 406 characters

Photo of 05Harley
4.06/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle #?? Come on DH, give us some info.

Purchased through West LakeView Liquors, Chicago

Price - $10.99/6-pack

Appearance: WOW, this beer looks awesome in a glass. Pitch black with a thick brown head which settles down to a ring in the glass.

Smell: Burnt roasty aroma with chocolate and a hint of coffee.

Taste: Strong flavor with bitter chocolate and coffee. Licorice and dried fruit in the backround. Bitterness is present and comes on strong in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Thick and chewy. Quite viscous leaving an oily feel. Finishes dry.

Drinkability: I've had two bottles tonight and find it pretty good. At 7.5% it's not over the top.

I'm definitely confused with the style however. This beer is clearly more like a dry stout, kind of like Obsidian stout by Deschutes but with more of a kick.

 812 characters

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

The beer pours a pitch black color with a thick and creamy tan head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a bitter black malt scent with a bit of alcohol warmth. It has a tremendous roasted malt character with some mild chocolate malt notes. The taste is great! It has a bone dry, black malt flavor that goes down easy and finishes with tons of earthy coffee-like character. There is a bit of chocolate malt sweetness which does add some balance, but for the most part it's all black patent and roasted barley goodness. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a full bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a fine black ale. I would love to see this fermented with lager yeast, but I'll take this version any day.

 726 characters

Photo of jlindros
3.83/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Dark Horse finally showed up in MA, so I get to do some reviews now.

A: Not at all what I was expecting, it pours as pitch black as tar with a dark fluffy brown head that rises up 1 finger in my Chouffe tulip.

N: As soon as I popped the cap I could smell the roast and coffee billowing out of this thing. Added to that are more dark malts, hints of tobacco and dark fruit, and a little black patent malt. A little bit of some spicy hops. Reminds me a lot of Stout Trooper.

T: Wow, very rich and dark. Lots of bitterness as well. Bitterness comes from both a nice spicy hop flavor and the earthy char from the stout characteristics. Some creamy milk chocolate blends with bitter bakers chocolate. The roasted malt just overpowers all that though. Some thick molasses but very dry as if it was all fermented out. The bitterness is really high and almost overbearing.

M: Semi creamy, a little less body than I would expect but it is pretty thick and heavy. Decent carbonation.

F: Again very bitter and dry. The bitterness does seem to drop off pretty quickly though, along with the heavy roast and malt flavors. A little remaining roast flavor and bitterness lingers though. Slight bakers chocolate as well.

I would definitely call this beer a Russian Imperial Stout, not anywhere like a Strong Ale. Not sure who gave it that label. It's a pretty nice beer too, lots of roast, chocolate, creamy, but just way too bitter and dry.

 1,435 characters

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.

 986 characters

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.

 1,136 characters

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.

 619 characters

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.

 928 characters

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.

 1,505 characters

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.

 612 characters

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!

 847 characters

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.

 464 characters

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.

 1,498 characters

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.

 515 characters

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.

 380 characters

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.

 409 characters

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.

 791 characters

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.

 625 characters

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.

 463 characters

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.

 698 characters

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.

 334 characters

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.

 461 characters

Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
3.97 out of 5 based on 1,251 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.