Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale | Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black AleDark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale
Very Good
1,257 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

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Ratings: 1,257 |  Reviews: 597
Photo of Ricochet
4.2/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Black. As advertised. Ruby shimmer , no head, no lace. Stouty stout stout.

S:Burnt malt, slight caramel, raisin and lots of it. Dig in.

M: Bitter and bracing wash, creamy at first with a chalky remainder. Stays bitter after for a long time. Check.

T: I drank this with a few gulps first and was rewarded with slight alcohol, lots of toasty malt flavor, bitter everywhere and looked forward to the wash. Letting is sit while I sipped, strong alcohol is there but only on the outside. Dark chocolate and a sweet raisin were strongest. Touch of coffee rounds it out. Great balance.

D: Fast or slow, this should satisfy anyone looking for a decent strong ale that is balanced very well.

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

Pours black, with a huge 2-finger light-brown head, nice and dense, that sticks around a long, long time, eventually settling in as a super-dense, 1/8" cap. Not much in the way of lacing as the head settles though, but nice temporary stickage.

Nose is replete with coffee first and foremost, a bit nutty, even a bit of dry smokiness in there. Loads of licorice come out as the beer warms.

Taste sticks with that coffee theme, supplemented by a nice dose of dark chocolate underneath, big anise presence as well. Smokey, dry, very roasty. Hops are an afterthought here, swallowed up by the big, bold body. Finish is long, lightly bitter, roasty and a bit smoky.

Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, but with a nice, light, creamy carbonation that's fantastic and really increases the drinkability for me. Nary a hint of alcohol, very nicely done.

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

According to the bartender this is somewhere between a porter and a stout. Indeed it had many porter like characteristics with a definitely more assertive malt profile and a considerably stronger hop note. It was a black bodied beer with a tan head that left incredible lacing. That head lasted forever, also! The aroma was hoppy! The taste was of alcohol, followed by roastiness, and then malty sweetness. Then finally it finishes with a nice bitter roastiness. I really enjoyed this beer!

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Photo of mikey711
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Received this as an extra from bergands!

A: Very deep plack with and frothy espresso style head on top. The head itself is not very large but the lacing is quite good.

S: Very nice smell of coffee and chocolate provide lots of sweet notes. Not much in terms of roastiness, just sweet.

T: A bit surprised that with all the sweet aromas this one was bitter and roasty. Burnt coffee and bitter chocolate. Really I was expecting more sweetness. But the flavors are not unpleasant.

M: Chalky and dry with a slight touch of alcohol heat, a bit watery and some acidity

D: Very nice sipping beer and more than one wouldnt be tough

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Photo of Florida9
3.98/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: Opaque black. Pours with an impressive head. Nothing at first, then a voracious rise of deep tan bubbles to form a good inch of tan head. Recedes to a respectable, crema-type surface coating, but still very nice.

S: Primarily coffee. Some dark, sweet fruit as well, but mostly coffee.

T & M: Bitter, burnt black coffee over the tongue. Dark, dark roasted malts resulting in a distinct bitterness. Very little sweetness remains. Coffee flavor sticks to and stays on the tongue. Medium in weight, with a slightly thicker feel. Decent carbonation to even things out.

D: I was surprised to see this listed as a Strong Ale. For one, its just not that strong. Really more reminiscent of a porter or a stout. I will admit I was a more impressed with this one than I expected to be, but the tongue biting bitterness can be a little tiring. Still light enough to be able to drink easily.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
3.68/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I've been trying to get this brew back here in Ohio for quite some time, well here it goes this one pours a deep pitch black hue absolutely absorbs all light, nice thicket of creamy tan head. Lacing is minimal with specks surrounding the sides of my chalice with each sip.

Aroma contains a lot of dry cocoa powder roasted malt layers not much sweetness or creaminess coming through, dark roasted coffee beans comes into play as well with an air of spicy herbal hops in the background. There's a touch of butterscotch or something candy like in there as well but it only appears as the beer really warms up, this is a black patent malt roast fest. Another factor is the cherry fruit note that arises as it warms in your hands with the dark chocolate and coffee roasts.

Flavor provides a biting roasted bitterness with a sharp acrid iced coffee accent cutting through, the level of roasted malts is up there. Brings out a dry finish with some alcohol noted on the palate. A bit one dimensional on the roasts not enough rounded flavors here that burnt bitterness flavor sticks to the palate like hop resin or tannins from tea or wine. Herbal hops are definitely here, but they don't rise above the roasted malt bitterness, you basically burp up profile. There is a mild lactic tartness that brings a bit of creamy notes to blend with the dark espresso burnt flavor.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with a dry desert like finish, carbonation is soft and natural and stands up to the dark roasted malt profile nicely. Alcohol just barely singes the palate and the nose air with a soothing burn.

Drinkability overall is decent nothing I will be draining in number but definitely a nice complex dark ale that varies from the usual stout/porter/schwarzbier path but shares characteristics of each of those. Definitely a hybrid not sure how to label this Michigan brewed gem.

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Photo of Arbitrator
3.67/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Chilled bottle into a glass. Acquired in a trade with Hexxed. Thanks Brian! (BTW, that might be the most common name I've encountered in the beer world, seriously.)

First off, is this a strong ale? I guess I don't know much about the style, because my first thought about a 7.5%er is... it's not strong. This looks / tastes more like a stout to me.

A: Pours an impenetrable brown; it looks black in the center of the glass, but the edges clearly lighten to a reddish-brown color. The head is a generous mocha cap with good retention, leaving lacing down the glass.

S: Lots and lots of roasted malt. I generally enjoy chocolate-forward aromas more than roast, because this picks up a charred, smoky note. Chocolate and coffee beans, with a nice vanilla presence.

T: Yep, roasty as all hell, as the nose suggested. Lots of charred barley, with a stronger tootsie roll/coffee presence and a vanilla finish. It reminds me of a dry stout in the beginning, but gets sweeter toward the finish. Interesting. Just not something I really like -- too much roast.

M: Low-medium bodied; it felt kind of thin for a stout (or "strong ale" or whatever it is supposed to be). Carbonation was satisfactory.

D: I think an aficionado of the stout style -- not imperial stouts, but the "regular old" kind, would get a lot out of this one. Unfortunately, I didn't; I respect the craft here, but the flavor was kind of off-putting and unimpressive.

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

On tap at TJ's Restaurant & Drinkery on 8/29/09 as part of its Darkhorse draft event.

A - Pitch black, opaque body that is impervious to light with a solid, dense finger's width of burnt mocha head that settled into a quarter inch of creamy retention, yielding ornate swatches of lacing all around the glass.

S - Bittersweet chocolate and coffee beans up front, followed by a dark roasted malt character and earthy, woody hops in the middle. Plenty of nutty notes are also present.

T - Initial flavor blends semi-sweet chocolate with dark roasted malt and coffee notes. A nutty character quickly develops mid-way through, followed by an assertive bitterness in the finish, suggesting earthy, woody tones.

M - Medium bodied with an oily texture and pretty lively carbonation. Finishes quite bitter on the palate with a hint of astringency.

D - Fantastic chocolate-forward beer that drinks like an Imperial Porter or even a Stout. This one packs a nice blast of coffee flavor and plenty of hop bitterness, too.

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Photo of sholland119
4.38/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at TJs Everyday.

A-Pours jet black with a thin tan head and good sticky lacing.

S-Roasted coffee and dark rich chocolate.

T-Deliciously roasty. Roasted coffee, dark chocolate and cocoa with a crisp finishing hop bite.

M-Rich and creamy, moderately thick.

D-Excellent drinkability. An outstanding beer.


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Photo of beerwolf77
4/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I sampled this beer the other day at a tasting and now I get an entire bottle to myself. Poured into my pint glass the beer is dark chocolate brown. It borders on black. A tiny wisp of head sit on top of my glass. I take a huge whiff and wow! This smells terrific. Coffee, chocolate caramel, vanilla and malt. It's a perfect storm of aromatics for me. They all seem to blend together so effortlessly. No one aroma takes center stage. I love it. The flavor is a touch less dramatic. Coffee is the main player with chocolate and malt taking supporting roles. Vanilla and caramel make small cameos in the scene as well. The mouthfeel is creamy and not to heavy. Full body with just a hint of carbonation. This is a very drinkable um... I don't really know what style this fits in. I just know it's a really good beer.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.95/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Expecting a Schwarzbier going in, needless to say that first sip was a stunner.

Pouring a coal-black color and a thicker-than-expected viscocity, the beer begins to look like an American Stout. Modest carbonation struggles to form any meaningful head. Reducing to a lace, the foam clings shyly to the sides of the glass. A nice looking beer that may need more CO2.

Deeply toasted and caramelized malts give a definate Stout-like nose. High hopping rates give a mix of grasses, pine, citrus, and earthiness. Coffee and bitter cocoa also help to spice the beer up a lot. Definately not a Schwarz, that Stout descriptor is smelling more accurate.

Very roasty, toasty, and charred in taste, the heavily roasted malts give a sharp and acidic coffee-cocoa taste. A far second follows and then the toffee, caramel, and bready malts come into play. Hop flavor is at bay but do portray the same grassy-pine-citrus character found in the nose. This beer relies heavily on those roasted barley kernels.

Quite sharp, bitter, and astringent with those burnt grains. Hop bitterness and hard water definatly accentuate the bitterness. As sweet as the caramels are to taste, the texture is very dry from mid-palate on. A hoppy and chalky bitterness ride deep into the finish.

A bit of a different animal here. I'm still not convinced that a Schwarzbier proportion isn't at work here- just at the scale, gravity, and hopping rates of an American Stout.

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Photo of BeerImmediately
2.7/5  rDev -31.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Came into this one with high hopes given all the recent hype around here. On draft into pint glass.

Color was deep brown, with a thin tan head. About as expected for a bar pour.

Not much to the smell - little bit of sweetness from molasses and maybe some bittersweet chocolate.

Taste just didn't do it for me - Seemed more like a Smoked beer than anything else. Had a hint of the dark chocolate, accompanied by bitter bark, and harsh, astringent smokiness.

Really sharp, yet thin mouthfeel, which I was not expecting. While ASA varieties are varied, most have a thicker, heartier quality than this. The mouthfeel does improve with higher temperature, so I'd recommend serving at 50 degrees to make this a bit smoother.

If I were a smoker, I imagine I'd dig this beer, but this one just smoked me out and it killed the drinkability for me.

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

Pours an opaque black with about a 2-finger, milk chocolate colored head that dissipates quickly with spare lacing.
The smell is dark chocolate and dark roasted malts which dominate the smell as it warms.
The taste starts with a bit of alcohol followed by some dry, bitter chocolate, bitterness from a burnt coffee taste and more dark roasted malt.
Mouthfeel is smooth and dry with little carbonation present.
Drinkability is very nice though one at a time serves it's purpose very well.

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Photo of jeremyd365
3.6/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a nice oil slick dark with some light brown head the dissipated quickly. Smelled of chocolate and coffee and tasked it also. The mouthfeel was a little thin but overall it was a decent brew and pretty drinkable. I'd say it was a fair mix between a stout and a medium ale.

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

Much thanks go out to fellow BA EPseja for this sampling. Served between fridge and cellar temperature in the trusty new SABL glass.

Appearance- Black. Like Imperial Stout black. Even the three finger head carries some of the rich, deep chocolate color. Viscous and oily, it has a tremendous presence. There's some slow, trudging lacing that creeps down the inside of the glass.

Smell- A rich aroma of what seems like oats, dark roasted coffee, and bittersweet chocolate swim together with a prominent hop nose.

Taste- The tongue is stinged nicely with hops right away, then the ebb and flow of rich, decadent malt and chocolate takes hold. There's a spicy edge to the flavor too, not quite licorice or molasses but something bold and similar. The finish is superbly bittering and goes on for quite some time.

Mouthfeel/Drinkability- Absolutely sublime texture in the mouth... it's medium bodied with a richness matched by the beer's stunning palate. Powerfully robust, it's an easy drinker that demands respect and appreciation.

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Photo of stevenseg
3.91/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dark Horse's Reserve Special Dark Bier, which was brought to my city of Columbus, Ohio by some Dark Horse representatives direct from Marshall, Michigan to Barley's Smokehouse and Brewpub Alehouse No. 2 for a tasting, was Dark Horse's earliest creation. Before the tasting, I did a little research, and the Reserve Special is what I was most looking forward to.

The Reserve Special Black Bier was a beautiful sight resting in a Dark Horse souvenir pint glass. It was black as night with a dark tan head indicating the level of roast of the malts used. The head poured about 1 1/5 fingers, and 10 minutes later the head was still holding strong only dissipating about 50%...in 10 minutes!

The aroma indicated a bit of roasted coffee and nail polish remover. Dark Horse claims that the Reserve Special is neither a stout or a porter, but this beer is clearly a stout. A great stout at that.

The Dark Horse Reserve Special has an incredible roast level. I could definitely taste the smokiness.

The bite of the alcohol and richness of the malts make this a sipper. The beer is very smooth and has a nice soft bubble feel. It's definitely a great experience you can easily get lost in.

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

Lightly chilled and poured into a Duvel glass. Glass of cold water on the side to sip from periodically.

Appearance: The beer pours out as black as any stout and immediately the aroma of dark roasted malts can be picked up 2 feet away. The ½" thick medium brown head recedes fairly soon leaving behind a nice thick ring of foam with a patch of foam in the middle of the liquid. Initially sipping leaves a healthy sheet of foam with a few holes and speckles. Later on, well before the half way point in the beer, sipping results in very faint spots of lacing and there little or no foam left.

Smell: The aroma is predominantly dark roasted malt with traces of burnt charcoal or wood smoke, some strong black coffee, some dark molasses and some dark unsweetened chocolate.

Taste: The flavor of the beer is pretty consistent with the nose. There is dark roasted, almost burnt malt with dark bittersweet chocolate, dark molasses and some espresso flavor in the mix. The bitterness all seems to come from the dark roasted malt rather than the hops. There is also a pleasing note of sweetness both at the beginning and present in the background that brings some balance to the burnt character and keeps it from becoming unpleasant while still leaving it bitter.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and smooth but the carbonation is very light and is more a slight prickling sensation than anything else. The finish is quite long, burnt bitter and dry. Even near the end there is a smoky character that is almost unpleasant but then fades into the dryness in the mouth.

Drinkability: This is one of those beers where drinkability is a bit of a judgment call in that I don't want more than one tonight, but I like it and want more in the future. So I'll go with this being high in drinkability because I regretted seeing the end even if I don't want to open another right now.

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

Thanks to deliriumfest.

This beer pours a deep black, opaque with a nice dark mocha head. The aroma is mostly roast with a touch of malt fruitiness. There's just something missing for me. The flavor has a touch of chocolate but again is mostly a mild roasted maltiness. There are some hops in there providing an interesting bitterness. It's a clean stout that sticks to roastiness for its character. I wish there was a bit more of this character, but I'm just being picky. The mouthfeel is smooth. Drinkability is good.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.03/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. Literally pours black with no transparency. Nice foamy light brown head keeps a decent retention and leaves some lacing on the glass. Aromas are good - roasted malts, coffee, chocolate with a hint of oatmeal (I'm not sure if any oatmeal was used in the brewing process, but the aroma was definitely reminiscent of an oatmeal stout). Tastes were of bitter roasted malts with notes of coffee and chocolate. Bitter roastiness really rides out all the way to the finish. Mouth-feel was smooth with plenty of carbonation. Overall, I really enjoyed this ale, but the style blurs the line as far as what to compare it to. It seems like a stout to me, but the brewer does call it a "strong black ale". Very good whatever it might be!

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Photo of WYVYRN527
4.3/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

American strong ale my ass... No doubt about it, Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Bier is clearly a stout. It pours An opaque black with a thin tan head that settles to a thin film on the surface. There is little to no lacing on the glass, and carbonation is subtle. Aromas of this beer are intense, with roasty malt and coffee, with a hint of fresh potting soil. Flavors are similar to the nose, but much more prominent. The roasted malt gives the beer coffee notes along with bitter chocolate and hints of damp forest floor. It's exceptionally thick. You don't sip his beer. You chew this full-bodied beast. It's a very tasty beer, and I think it should be given credit for the style it truly is.

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Photo of ABOWMan
3.74/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours a nice finger and a half of chocolaty colored dense head. The appearance is deep mahogany and this ale is completely opague. I don't even thin you can glean a color holding your glass up to the sun. The head disapates quickly and there is little lacing on the glass.

The aroma is of dark roasted malt, coffee, chocolate and raspberry?

The flavor is Bitter up front, then sweet malt with notes of chocolate and ripe fruit. Given how smooth this ale is, you'd never guess it was over 7%abv. Quite well blended and complex.

The mouthfeel si very thick and coating. It lingers on your palate and as a result, the flavor stays with you for quite some time.

Given the intensity of flavor, I am not sure I would rate this beer too high from a drinkability standpoint, however, one could easily enjoy several back to back.

This is a wonderful brew. Go Dark Horse!

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Photo of aggiearcher13
3.65/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the brewery on 7/17/09.

A: Jet black, about a half inch of brown head.

S: Smells very roasty. Coffee and chocolate.

T: Rich dark malts. Dry, chocolate and coffee. Bitter, quite hoppy actually.

M: A little thin maybe. I would say medium mouthfeel, medium carbonation.

D: It was good, not something I would particularly seek out, but a solid brew.

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

A--Dense black with a small dark brown head in my 25 oz. snifter

S--Stale coffee, floral hops, caramel, vanilla, maple

T--The only thing that transfers over well from the smell is the stale coffee. I'm not saying that is a "bad" thing...it is a characteristic that I have always found reminiscent of brewpub stouts and have somewhat enjoyed. I just wish there was a little more depth.

M--Normal for the style, perhaps even leaning to the full side

D--This is a beer I would order if I was out for dinner, but it may be a tad too one-dimensional to get excited about

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Photo of KarlHungus
3.57/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer pours a nearly opaque black color. The head is an inch of tan foam that recedes slowly into nice lacing. The aroma is of roasted malt, graham cracker, cream, hints of blueberry, and only a faint gesture of hops. It reminds me of Tres Blueberry Stout, but a lot lighter on the blueberries. The taste is considerably more hoppy than the aroma both in the mouth and in the finish. There is still a strong presence of the roasted malt and graham cracker, but they are firmly in the background. The mouthfeel is a little fuller than medium bodied with lively carbonation, and a smooth texture. Overall, this is a nice beer, but the style just isn't my thing. I'm eager to taste a beer that is traditionally malty that is successfully made hoppy. As is this beer has a very nice maltiness going on, but it is made into a mess by the hops. What is even more of a disappointment it that the malt is so easily visible, yet its goodness is completely unattainable due to the mess of hops.

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

Bottle courtesy bulletrain76. Pours blackish with brown highlights and a dark tan head. Aroma is straightforward milk and dark chocolates, with maybe a lactose note. Super roasty flavor with black, roasted, burnt barley notes and an even bitterness. Dry, maybe a bit astringent. Still pretty good.

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Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.93 out of 5 with 1,257 ratings
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