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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Ratings: 162 |  Reviews: 134
Photo of PEBKAC
1.78/5  rDev -44%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Nice seeing fresh River Horse around town again. Say hello to the handsome hippo on the label posing for the portrait. :)

Big forceful spurt as the cap comes off. Poured into a cheapie pint glass.

Not a gusher, but it pours like one. Several inches of off-white insulation foam stiffen up & park it. Underneath, it's murky & gunky, & a little less appetizing then your standard amber. Pebble-sized bits & floaters litter the bottom of the glass.

Smell is a lot of caramel that I wasn't expecting. ...and a whole lot of butter. Really obvious amounts of greasy margarine. Was this recipe part of the list of reformulated beers? I was assured this was fresh. Oh man, that is ugly. I mean, I sort of like this is some beers, but that's not what I was looking forward to.

Taste is... gah... really sweet. "...careful addition of carapils malt adds a slight sweetness you might mistake for honey." Eek! Maple candies, honey spread, buttermilk creaminess. Not much stickiness, just spoonfuls of sugar. A little toast & burnt newspaper on the very back of it, & maybe a squirt of orange zest in there somewhere, but that's it. This is like a really bad attempt at a Biere de Miel clone.

Carbonation is well to do, but that alone won't help me finish this. The pale is a so much better sessioner then this weak reach around. Not really offensive, but just impossible(for me at least). Probably could waste the rest of this on an orange glaze for some chicken though.

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Photo of OriolesFan1008
2/5  rDev -37.1%

Photo of lackenhauser
2.03/5  rDev -36.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Decent enough orangeish color.No head to speak of.Carbonation seems low.Very earth/bready and not much more.Green bananas?Flavor isnt extra or special or bitter.Smooth but really lacks something.Doesnt seem to go anywhere or do anything.Drinkable enough but theres a lot more out there at the same price that packs a lot more flavor.

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Photo of dickroop
2.29/5  rDev -28%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured a clear bronze with not much head and only a faint aroma, so faint I couldn't really discern anything but a kind of beery smell.

Taste was not much there, every-so-faint hops presence and kinda flabby malt flavor that gave a kind of sourish finish. Mouthfeel was weak and watery, at least the carbonation was OK. Have I been drinking so much DFH that I've burned out my taste buds? I don't think so. This is just kinda ordinary beer, like the rating says "not impressed". One could drink a lot of this... if there wasn't anything good around. And it would be better than BMC... but not much. I got this ESB in a variety-pack case, a Pennsylvania special, would never have tried the stuff if not for wanting to get some of the "Hop Hazard". This stuff is a "No-hop Hazard".

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Photo of Gyle41386
2.31/5  rDev -27.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a pint glass. Thanks, mikereaser.

Pours a hazy amber color. Tons of carbonation. Big head doesn't really retain well, and practically none of it sticks. Flurry of activity in the glass.

Really weird musty aroma. I'd be lying if I tried to describe it as anything else.

Just a weird flavor overall. Doesn't make me think ESB at all. It's pretty malty sweet, with a weird metallic kind of finish. Maybe some fruitiness, but there's just not much depth to the flavor.

Medium body. Feel starts out creamy, then is broken up by the lively carbonation. Decently smooth, although it's a bit of a chore to drink it all.

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Photo of cubedbee
2.32/5  rDev -27%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a dull caramel color with a thin white head that fades right away to a ring, no lacing to speak of. Smell is decent and simple; a grassy hops scent over a biscuity malt. Tastes is very underwhelming--some sweet malt and butterscotch flavors, maybe a tiny bit of hops, but mostly just a weak washed out iced-tea taste. The taste isn't helped by the very thin body. This is from the River Horse sampler pack, and is supposedly their special ale, but it is the weakest and least flavorful of the bunch.

Second bottle from the sampler pack was more of the same, but had an horrid strong disgusting smell---like a mix between soy sauce and vinegar. Don't know how this didn't carry over to the taste, but I wasn't tasting anything, but boy, I don't think I've ever smelled a less appealing beer.

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Photo of abents
2.41/5  rDev -24.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to mikereaser for the brew. Busy red and whit label with no dating.
Explodes out of the bottle causing me to spill a little on the floor; because, of course, I had no glass ready to pour it into. Needless to say this one's got a huge white head made up of larger bubbles. The beer itself sits a murky amber that you can almost see your fingers through as I hold the glass. Smells slightly sweet with caramel malts and a tinge of lemon/citrus. Woah, we got the funk. Was not expecting that one. Need to regroup and figure out what's going on here.
I'm guessing this is not what they were going for, it's got a distinct lemony funk to it, but with nothing else going on this beer it is not pleasant. Kind of an off weird tasting beer that has little to no hop flavor and on the lighter watery side.

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Photo of JoeyBeerBelly
2.43/5  rDev -23.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

12oz bottle served in a standard pint glass.

L - dark amber color with a light beige head that thiined out leaving a little lacing.
S - an odd bitter aroma.
T - again it is bitter but has an odd sort of bitterness, almost buttery.
F - light/medium body with a flat feel.
D - I got halfway through and decided enough was enough... 1/2 drain pour.

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Photo of Jacobier10
2.49/5  rDev -21.7%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a hazy amber/orage color with almost no head at all. Leads me to believe that maybe this beer wasn't fresh. Decent smell nonetheless, nothing great though. Slight hop bitterness in the taste, but the beer was very flat and lacked carbonation. I wouldn't recommend this beer, but I would like to try it again to see if it was just a bad sample.

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Photo of bonbini26
2.5/5  rDev -21.4%

Photo of cde1218
2.5/5  rDev -21.4%

Photo of bluehende
2.5/5  rDev -21.4%

Way over carbonated....gushers

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Photo of jurbanik
2.5/5  rDev -21.4%

Photo of jwc215
2.51/5  rDev -21.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours copper - decent clarity - with a thin head that soon disappears to nothing - poor head retention. Little spots of quickly canishing traces of lacing on glass.

The smell is indescribly off - seems like a homebrew that didn't quite come out right. Fortunately, it is mild. Other than that though, can't say there's much to it.

The taste is rather raw. Again, like an off home brew. It almost has something to save it - almost. Swwet malt balanced out by water more than anything. This is the most un-ESB ESB that I;ve had. Sweetness is not overwhelming, so something is balancing it out. A fruitiness is hinted at, but lost. There is a tea-like earthiness. That must be it. But, other than controlling some of the sweetness, adds little to the taste.

There is a watery thinness, and an unusual grittiness. The body is on the upper side of light. There is some fleeting coating effect. But, the feel falls apart enough to bring it to mediocre at best, even forgetting style.

I understand that styles are open to interpretation, but this one misses the mark. It's not very good, ESB or not. It does have something, a lightness about it perhaps, or a mildness, that doesn't make it drain pour, but it comes pretty close.

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Photo of MuddyFeet
2.52/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Not what I was hoping. A very lifeless beer with not much going for it--but also nothing hugely negative about it. Pours a brick red, and at first it was clear but upon further inspection it appeared rather hazy. Also, I could not get a head to form on this beer. Full bodied, but flat feeling. Flavor is almost sour apple juice. I can barely find the presence of any hops. Malts come through rather thick and almost tastes as if some rye was added into the hop bill. Reminds me of really bad homebrew.

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Photo of Hagbard
2.59/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours deep orange with a small white head. It's hazy and cloudy, apparently unfiltered. The aroma is almost nonexistent, but what's there is a malty sweetness with a strange soapy note in the background. The taste is very underwhelming. There's not much there past a vague malty sweetness. Hops seem nonexistent. It finishes like it starts...there's a serious lack of flavor here. This is clearly a "crossover" beer, but I think it fails at even that. There isn't very much taste and what's there isn't terribly interesting or appealing.

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Photo of HeroicDoses
2.59/5  rDev -18.6%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured a midnight copper with a long lasting fluffy head. Looks pretty good in a pint glass. Smell is average at best...nothing to write home about. Has a caramel taste, but falls a little flat. Overall nothing really jumps out about this beer. Almost like you really have to search for it's character. In the end though it's not that bad, it basically comes off as just an average beer. To me River Horse overdoes it more often than not (Hop A Lot A Mus for example), but this beer does the opposite (it doesn't do enough). The finish is like eating an actual caramel...sticky and sweet. Would I buy this again? No. But would I say it's crap? No. It's just an average beer.

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Photo of Thads324
2.61/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a bottle into a perfect pint :

A: pours a deep amber/copper with a honey glow, white head that dissipates quickly to nothing.

S: smells of sour fruit and old apples. Very little hop aroma, just sweet and then sour fruit.

T: a sweet malt followed by more of the sweet and almost old fruit flavor. There's a hint of hop towards the end but it isn't all that noticeable with all the odd sweet fruit flavor.there's a biscuit malt after taste with a slight hop at the end.

M : little carbonation with a slight linger of this fruit.

D: weak, real weak

Disappointed in a brewery I'm usually high on. Seems like a poor blend of malts. I don't know if it's old or what. Not a fan at all...not an esb at all

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Photo of droomyster
2.63/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

I like a few River Horse beers this is not one of them. Pours a clear copper with a small head and lots of sediment. Smell reminds me of the essence of a watermelon sucker with a tootsie roll in the middle; it doesn't smell beer-like at all; no trace of hops. Tastes not at all like and ESB. In fact, it hardly tastes like a beer at all. Cloying malts and over-yeastiness is not tasty to me in the slightest. I hope that RH either reworks this beer or else scraps it, because I know from other styles that they are able to make some pretty good beer.

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Photo of ToasterChef
2.65/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Poured from a cellar temperature beer into a pint glass. The beer is clear with a light brown color. There was a large head of small off-white bubbles. There is a lot of carbonation rising within; A lot of bubbles are clinging to the sides and bottom of the glass. It looks as though it is over carbonated. It has a mild hop aroma that is slightly off in some way. Maybe it is all the gas coming form the dissipating head that is influencing the smell. There is touch of hop to the flavor, but it's hardly strong enough to call this an ESB. Otherwise it tastes watery and slightly piney. It has a light body and a ton of carbonation. I can feel bubbles in every corner of my mouth. There is a little coating, but nothing memorable. What is more noticeable is the feeling my stomach has with all of this gas in it, even after just a few sips. I'm afraid this beer is going to make me burp a few times. All of this carbonation makes this glass hard to finish. I will say that this bottle is a little old, and that may be why the flavor isn't that bitter and there is so much carbonation. I don't think I get another bottle of this, unless I knew it was very fresh.

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Photo of AsburyParkJMH
2.66/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This one pours a decent looking but somewhat watery amber colour wit ha very thin head that dissolves to nothing with little to no residue left on the glass.

The aroma is a weird concoction of some sweetness, mixed vegetables and hints of what can best be described as vomit. Not very impressive at all.

The flavour axes the vomit-esque qualities but brings in an over the top sweetness that is reminicscent of bubble gum at times. Hops and malt mix nicely in the background but you can't avoid said sweetness. Mouthfeel is average and is, like the appearance a bit watered down.

The weird aroma and uber sweet characteristics of this brew are amongst the reasons I hadn't sampled a River Horse brew in quite some time until recently. Their limited amount of seasonals/special beers are pretty good to very good, but the regular lineup has always seemed to be littered with various problems. Can't really recommend this one.

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Photo of moulefrite
2.68/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Starts out alright with a fairly clean caramel color and a fluffy/sticky beige head. That's where the story ends. Aromas are average at best, and feature sweet malt extract, and a hoppy aroma redolent of hairspray? Some buttery elements as well rise to the nostril(s). In the mouth the beer is quite dilute-watery in fact. Roasted grain, buttered popcorn, and a rather un-refreshing level of sparkle. This is a pretty boring beer, and I don't really want to finish it, but it was part of a beer of the month club purchase bought by a buddy-and it is free...ok I'll finishit.

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Photo of hops4me
2.69/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

I am an instructor to 15 Marine Corps captains. During the holiday leave block we all said we would bring back a six pack from the state we were taking leave in. This was my selection. After reading some mediocre reviews, I decided to test it. I wish I bought the Oatmeal Stout instead. The appearance is the only thing good about this beer. It pours a bright gold to amber with a big fluffy head. Ample lacing sticks to the side of the glass. I don't get too much in the aroma. Maybe a little grainyness and no real hop aroma to speak of. The taste is the same. A little malt sweetness but nothing else. The mouthfeel is light with a weird drying happenning to my mouth. I guess it has "drinkability" due to its light nature but the flavor is not there. I would rather spend a dollar or two less and get Yuengling if I am looking for something light and quaffable. Looks like I am going to have to purchase something else because I am not giving this to my students.

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Photo of JunkYardJake
2.7/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

12oz bottle poured into pint glass.
Redesigned bottle says nothing about being an ESB. Pours a dark amber wich looks brown at certain angles. Small head that fizzles quickly. Smell throws me for a loop since I was expecting an american amber, which is what the bottle says. Heavy toffee malts with some toasted grain and a little butterscotch. Taste follows the nose pretty well. Malt forward, a little buttery and some caramel and licorice. Tastes much bigger than 4.5% as I notice bit of alcohol on the palate. Mouthfeel is a little chewy. Went down easy enough but I'm glad I only have one.

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Photo of Pencible
2.7/5  rDev -15.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

This poured a hazy honey color with tons of off-white head (foamed out of the bottle as soon as I popped the top). It smelled like polished copper and grass and lemon hops, with fresh wheat and dusty barley. It tasted like copper and wild yeast and lemon hops, with some barley. It was watery with tons of carbonation, and had a bitter aftertaste. Overall this was a super fizzy beer that had decent flavor but was pretty bland. It was tough to enjoy or critique through all the carbonation. I'm not a fan.

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