River Horse Special Ale ESB | River Horse Brewing Co.

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River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB
162 Ratings
River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB

Brewed by:
River Horse Brewing Co.
New Jersey, United States

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by BeerAdvocate on 06-01-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Bros Score:
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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 162 |  Reviews: 134
Photo of wiseguy142
4.55/5  rDev +43.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

First thing I notice: SHIT- bottle conditioned. Get to eat hop flakes this whole time. Should probably pay more attention to the bottle next time. That being said, this is the most sediment I've ever seen in a bottle conditioned beer. Lots of very large hop particles left clinging to the bottom/side of the bottle after the pour, not to mention what I got in the beer. No biggie, I guess I'm used to drinking homebrew anyway, but it's definitely something that could be improved.

Pours a great murky iced tea color.. VERY unfiltered and authentic looking. Amazing creamy, frothy head. Really pleased with that. I love it when ou get little dollops of foam on top of the beer even after most of the head has subsided. (Note: even further into the review this head is still creamy and amazing. It's like it keeps getting regenerated)

Aroma smacks me in the face immediately with the sweetness. Lots of crystal malt with a unique fruity character to it. My nose is a little stuffed so I'm sad I'm missing out on some of the complexities I know are in here. Reminds me of a candied apple of all things.

Taste is rich and malty. Reminds me of a lighter version of an Altbier or a English Pale Ale blended with a Dopplebock (that would be weird..). Slight honey character to it with a good backing of pure hop flavor and balanced bitterness. Damn. This is one of my new favorite beers.

Mouthfeel is almost like the beer evaporates in your moth, but not due to excessive carbonation. It's just that smooth. There's something nagging me a bit towards the finish of the beer about the mouthfeel but I can't pinpoint it.. reminds me too much of my own homebrew I guess. Maybe a little dullness in the hop taste towards the end or slight oxidation... but seriously this is good.

I feel slightly seduced by this beer. It's like the hot girlfriend I never had. Every time you take asip you get a nice forthy head back on top. It doesn't taste like hop soda like a lot of American craft beers and doesn't have the consistency of Diet Coke. This is a real beer with some real flavors. Will definitely pick up some more later.

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Photo of tlinner
4.1/5  rDev +28.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a dark amber that would be pretty clear if there wasn't so much sediment floating around. And seriously, there's a LOT of sediment. If I swirl the glass, it moves as if trapped in Jell-O. The head is big and frothy and leaves behind nice lacing. The smell is very sweet. Melon, caramel, and something that's indescribable; like that smell of "clean" when you walk into a Wal-Mart. The taste is, again, very sweet. There's caramel, honey, light fruits, and there's that "clean" feeling again. It's actually reminding me of a really crisp apple when you first bite into the skin. The mouthfeel is slightly acidic, but pretty smooth overall. I'm puzzled by the less-than-average reviews of this beer; I really liked it, even though it certainly doesn't taste like any ESB I've ever had. Maybe it's that mysterious crispness that makes me enjoy it so much...wait a minute, after a second glass, I figured it out. Apple crispness? Caramel malt? It tastes like a candy apple!

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Photo of MrHungryMonkey
4.02/5  rDev +26.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Bright fruit with citric pop and plenty of juicy malt. Smells wonderful!

Hazy orange, little head, good retention.

Citrus overtones with more bright fruit. Hop smack. Plenty of malt flavor and body. Roasted edge but mainly biscuit toast with caramel bit. Nicely balanced with an enticing sweet edge and an ever-citric nose. A little bitterness. Medium body, ample carbonation.

Spot on and ever-so-tasty, with a great aesthetic to the label.

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Photo of dedrinker
4/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Full amber color with off-white head. Aromas - fruity, malty, and slightly nutty with jelly and biscuits. Tastes totally like a UK bitter/pale/ESB. Total English yeast strain going on here. More on the malty side with a slight butter cookie taste on the finish. Medium body and a great U.S. copy of a U.K. style. Not for American craft lovers of hop-town.

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Photo of mrgrinch
4/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance - Caramel brown with light carbonation. It was served in a plastic sample cup at the brewery, so I could not really get a good look at the clarity.

Smell - A sweet buttery smell.

Taste - Sweet tastes that fades to a bitter.

Mouthability - Thick and nice.

Drinkability - ESB is not my favorite style, but this one is one that I would try again if I was in the mood for such a thing. I did enjoy it more than the Ship Inn ESB I had earlier in the day.

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Photo of Slatetank
4/5  rDev +25.8%

Photo of patm1986
4/5  rDev +25.8%

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well, I must have gotten a good batch or something. I thought this beer is a solid, though not spectacular ESB. Pretty drinkable.

It pours a clear amber with minimal head which goes down into some lacing. It smells like a standard ESB. English hops dominate with some malt coming through.

Taste, again, is solid and can be thought of as standard for an ESB. Very well balanced, but straightforward.

Very good for a session brew.

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Photo of LarryKemp
4/5  rDev +25.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I started to review this beer as an ESB because that is what the label called it. It was not a good ESB. In fact, I would not say it is anykind of ESB. Then I changed my review ot an American Amber Ale. It does not fit into that category either. So I will just review it as a beer. It poured a very nice clear medium dark golden with a firm off white head that lasted a fair amount of time. I found little evidence of hops either in the nose or on the tongue. Both the aroma and flavor was balanced toward the malt. There was a very nice malitness in the aroma which inreased the pleasure of sipping the beer. The malts were present also in the taste with a slight amount of carbonation playing with the tip of my tongue. It had a medium mouthfeel. It is a very nice session beer. Too bad they don't sell it in Texas. I would buy more of it.

 841 characters

Photo of Gavage
3.95/5  rDev +24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours an amber color with a thick bubbly head. Lacing was produced on the glass as it emptied. The aroma was pleasant, fruity and sweet overtones were very noticable. The body was thinner than expected, but flavorful with a nice balance of malts and some slight bitterness. The malt lasts long on the tongue. Extremely drinkable and enjoyable.

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Photo of emsroth
3.94/5  rDev +23.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

App: Slightly darker than amber. A small, one finger head that turned into a thick lace on the top of the beer.

Smell: Sweet floral and piney hops. Smells great but much more like an APA

Taste: A malt in line with the british ale styles: slightly toasty and a bit watery. A little bit sweet. Ends with a slight bitterness. Light taste.

Medium body; very drinkable.

Not the best of the style, but a tasty, highly drinkable brew.

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Photo of generallee
3.92/5  rDev +23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Presentation: It was poured from a brown 12oz bottle into a pint glass.

Appearance: It has an orange amber colored body with lots of yeast fine sediment floating around inside. This is cap off by a tall, light and foamy head. It is light tan in color and slowly fades to thin filmy covering which leaves behind a little slick lacing on the glass.

Smell: I get some really nice sweet bready and doughy maltiness with a faint hint of English hops.

Taste/Palate: There is a nice base of bready maltiness and yeast with pleasant sweetness. I get some mellow notes of honey like sweetness, sugar cookies and even a touch of light caramel and vanilla. The hops come in at the finish and offer some pleasant herbal character and light bitterness for balance. The mouth feel has a firm medium feel with soft carbonation.

Notes: My overall thought is that it may not be the prettiest beer but it has some good flavor notes and nice balance. Also I could see myself drinking more then a few of these at 4.5% abv.

 1,008 characters

Photo of ATPete
3.92/5  rDev +23.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

Pours a hazy brown orange color with a small screen of a white head, some soapy sticking. Sweet bready malts in the nose with a spicy hop character. The beers malt character over powers the semi-bitter hop character it has going on. A good, and welcomed, hop bite just before the finish. Although not true to the ESB style this ale remains, light, drinkable and some what refreshing. A well balanced beer.

 418 characters

Photo of mschofield
3.9/5  rDev +22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Listed as an amber/red ale here, but an ESB on the label. I'll review as an amber ale (brings the beer up in all ways).
Pours a clear copper with a two finger tan head, leaves rings of lacing behind, mapping out your drink.
Caramel and floral aroma, buttery and fruity.
Sweet, nicely bitter for an amber - quite mild, a little honey, the flavor is dominated by a caramel note.
The taste is full, but the body is medium.
Very easy to drink, but there is a bitter-honey note that could grow overpowering, otherwise this would be a good session beer.

 552 characters

Photo of williamherbert
3.88/5  rDev +22%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A light cranberry red. Clear but for the fog on the glass. One half finger of foamy off-white head. Lots of bubbles. Diggin' the look.

Strong alcohol aroma, just this side of a barleywine. Some sweetish leathery malt notes. Hints of dark berry. A light barleywine smell.

The taste is strong and a bit puckery sour. Some leathery malt, almost like a porder in its darkness, but balanced by some dark berry. Hints of dark caramel. Strong malts. Hops are English and subdued.

The feel is thick, almost like a cream ale; full bodied. It's a drinkable "special ale." They call it an ESB but it's far stronger. Nice and substantial.

 630 characters

Photo of KTCamm
3.83/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass.

Pours chocolately brown with touch of white foam. Laces.

Smells malty with some spices. Good blend.

Caramel malty taste with some hop. Light cola taste. Bitterness is buried and not overly dominant.

Evenly carbonated.

Tasty, good drinnker. Nice ale.

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Photo of magnj
3.8/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

A - Deep copper body is very clear though I stopped pouring when I saw some yeasties coming out towards the end. Head is generous with an off white color. Some small carbonation bubbles apparent. Some lacing.

S - Malt forward obviously, slightly musty like a standard brew pub type ESB or amber. Caramel and vaguely toasty and a little bready. Nice smell reminiscent of many others I've had but rarely find in a bottle.

T - Well balanced, starts of malty with toast and mild caramel. Towards the middle I get a bit of hop flavor an bitterness, it finishes dry and bready. Nothing really dominates and that's the point, well balanced, full flavored and enjoyable. After going back and reading some reviews, I definitely get the apple thing.

M/D - Carbonation is there but not a ton, pretty average mouthfeel. Not too thin, not really silky or chewy. It's just there. Not much residual sugar, which when coupled with its balanced flavor and low ABV makes for a great session beer. My only gripe is that it's still close to $10 at my local shop, RH would make a killing if they could undercut other craft brews.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.8/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

poured into nonic pint glass
A - deep ruby copper color, thin tan head, opaque. nice lacing
S - crisp sugary malt, just a touch of hops
T - nice mild balance of malt body and hops finish. clean finish.
M - moderate to high carbonation, fairly thin body
D - nice mild flavors and low abv would make this a good session beer

 322 characters

Photo of GrandpaGeorg
3.78/5  rDev +18.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

From the sampler pack (from Perfect Pour, of course). Poured a soft brown in the glass, with a huge fluffy head of foam that fell quickly but left a nice lacing of foam all the way down. A touch more carbonation than expected, but a nicely drinkable mouthfeel. Mild biscuity malt flavor with a subtle malt bitterness to round out the flavor profile. No strange aftertastes and was easily quaffed even after it warmed. Would make a nice session beer. Nothing fancy. Just flavorful and refreshing.

 495 characters

Photo of wrightst
3.75/5  rDev +17.9%

Photo of Brianmerrilyn
3.73/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

@08 Long Island Brew festival, poured into heffe glass, the color was beautiful caramel with dark red accents. A somewhat disappointing small head which faded into a cap quickly, almost no lacing. The taste was low sweetness and Mouthfeel was very light. Pleasant experience overall and would recommend as a nice starter.

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Photo of woodychandler
3.72/5  rDev +17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This poured with a thick, off-white head that actually had decent retention. The nose had a malty sweetness to it. The color was a sightly cloudy orangish-amber. The mouthfeel was medium and I got a big, malty flavor on the tongue. The finish was more hoppy than what I experienced in the mouth, but there was still a good bit of sweetness to it. I wouldn't mind drinking this beer on a regular basis, regardless of the time of year.

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Photo of maddogruss
3.72/5  rDev +17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Got a bottle of this in a River Horse mixer.

A: Pours a murky, amber body with a small, white head with decent retention and lacing until the finish.

S: A sweet, toffee roasted malt smell with some bitter notes.

T: A decent, roasted toffee, malt taste that was pretty nice. Slight bitterness was evident underneath the malts as well as within the aftertaste. As it warmed up, a slight muskiness developed later one to really start balancing out the bitterness.

M: A fairly smooth and crisp mouthfeel that was nice in complimenting the beer.

D: A nice mouthfeel and taste combination makes this beer pretty drinkable. The crispness is refreshing and a slight muskiness of the sweet malts did well to balance the beer later on.

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Photo of GnomeKing
3.72/5  rDev +17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The carbonation is vigorous at first, with bubbles that you can feel popping on your tongue and lips. At this point, you'll taste moderate hops well blended with sweet malts. About halfway through your pint glass, the mouthfeel will smooth out, even become slightly thin. By now, you'll notice, surprise, some banana flavors and heightened, but not overdone, sweetnees.

I'm surprised at how low this beer is rated. It's really drinkable and pleasant. Granted, it's not interesting or provocative, but not all beers can be or should be. This is a textbook session ale.

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Photo of JDV
3.69/5  rDev +16%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from Kramer17801. Thanks man!
Pours a nice amber color. Mostly clear with a short lived white head. Smell is fruity, nutty and toffee like, with light chocolate. Really nice for an ESB. Taste is lightly chocolatey, with toffee and some pecan like flavor, and fruity tones. Richer than expected and much better that the ratings indicate. I liked this one.

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River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
Beer rating: 3.18 out of 5 with 162 ratings
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