River Horse Special Ale ESB | River Horse Brewing Co.

Log in or Sign up to start rating.
BA SCORE
74
okay
134 Reviews
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB
BEER INFO

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

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.

BEER STATS
Reviews:
134
Ratings:
162
Avg:
3.17
pDev:
14.51%
 
 
Wants:
1
Gots:
2
For Trade:
0
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 134 | Ratings: 162
Photo of GnomeKing
3.72/5  rDev +17.4%
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.

 570 characters

Photo of whartontallboy
2.78/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Light copper pour, medium-sized white head that didn't retain very well. Not much carbonation, either.

Smell is thin malt with a significant off note that has an almost metallic scent. There's some baked bread, etc, but that's about it.

The flavor is similarly weak with bready malt, but the off note in it just keeps coming through. It's kind of a metallic sweetness that I've noticed in some other River Horse beers. The maltiness could use some notable hop presence to round it out; as it is, it's just kind of malty with the metallic note and a hint of diacetyl.

Overall: Eh. Pretty weak, especially to call itself an ESB. The "S" stands for "special!"

 666 characters

Photo of jakester
3.47/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I got this sampler case from Shelbourne Beer Dist. No dates on the case, bottle, or label. I drank this in a pilsner glass.

Pours a slightly hazy copper, with a 1/2 finger head of off-white foam. The head quickly drops to islands and a ring. Sparse splotches of lacing are evident. Not much carbonation.

Earthy type malt smell, caramel-y and toasty, with an herbal hop nose. Fruity, and maybe a touch of diacetyl. Pleasant.

The first flavor is slightly singed caramel malt, with a decent hop bitterness. Pretty fruity, with flavors of golden raisins and dates. Fairly sweet for style, but not bad. Aftertaste is sweet toasted malts.

Mouthfeel is medium sweetness, with soft carbonation. Pretty much to style. Finish is pretty sweet, but nice.

If this beer had more depth of character, it would be pretty damn good. It's within style parameters, but with just a little push, could be so much more.

 911 characters

Photo of woodychandler
3.72/5  rDev +17.4%
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.

 433 characters

Photo of cubedbee
2.32/5  rDev -26.8%
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.

 799 characters

Photo of MuddyFeet
2.52/5  rDev -20.5%
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.

 502 characters

Photo of Dogbrick
3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours clear reddish copper with a thin beige head and minimal lacing. Roasted malt aroma with a bit of hops. Medium-bodied with caramel and earthy malt flavors, as well as mild grass and hops. The finish is short and slightly bitter. This beer will not win any awards in the category, nevertheless it is a straightforward and easy to drink brew.

 345 characters

Photo of Jacobob10
2.49/5  rDev -21.5%
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.

 350 characters

Photo of GeoffFromSJ
4/5  rDev +26.2%
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.

 437 characters

Photo of necoadam
2.83/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The label states that it's their special ale with the letters ESB on the bottom right side. So, they say this is an ESB huh...

Poured out a copper/amber head with a thin layer of carbonation on top. Smell consisted of caramel, malts, and a biscuity aroma. Taste was a bit of a let down. Started off with a malty biscuity backbone with some caramel and sweetness mixing in the middle, but that was it, and even those flavors were on the light side. Mouthfeel was medium with a lack of carbonation I thought. Quite a disappointing brew. Not a true ESB, or even an amber ale. These guys are capable of producting much better beers I would think.

 645 characters

Photo of WesWes
3.12/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The beer pours a golden color with a thin white head that fades to lacing. The aroma is decent. I has a pale and carapils malt scent with a musty breadlike aroma. The taste is average. It has a thin, bitter flavor that boasts of pale and some light crystal malts. It goes down quick and finishes dry with some hops in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is average as well. It is a low bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a decent drinker, but I'm really not sure what style this is. It's not really and amber/red ale and it's not really a ESB. If anyone can figure it out, please let me know.

 594 characters

Photo of NJpadreFan
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

River Horse Special Ale

My first River Horse.

Appearance- orangy yellow with a thin fizzy head.
Smell- grassy hops and malt. not bad.
Taste- light and watery. yet decent malt with some grassy hints.
Mouthfeel- watery with a dull dryness in the back end.

Overall- a decent is not forgetable beer. Wouldn't seek this one out but wouldn't mind drinking another.

 370 characters

Photo of beveragecaptain
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle. Very clear copper. Malty aroma with a touch of honey. The malt and hop flavors are pretty evenly balanced, and there is a nice lemon zestiness, but all the flavors are too weak. Watery mouthfeel, and the carbonation is too high. All the beers I've had from River Horse remind me of each other: nothing really bad about them, just not all that interesting.

 372 characters

Photo of Citadel82
2.95/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

This was a fair beer, not good nor bad just fair. Like many River Horse brews it was not very well balanced, nor full bodied. But it was very drinkable. The carmel malts gave it a rich color and a hint of malty sweetness. There was a litle too much citrusy hopping present for my tastes however. I will buy it again as I am trying to culture some friends into being more respectful of beer and this is a good starter.

 417 characters

Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
2.98/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

12oz. amber bottle with no freshness dating. "You'll never miss the water!" on the label.

Poured a dark copper in color with a very smooth and creamy off-white head that dies quickly and sparsely covers the glass. Aromas are tough to pick out, but are comprised mostly of a doughy sweetness...like cinnamon roll dough. Flavor is more of the same, with a shallow malty-caramel flavor supported by a bit of diacetyl input. Finishes with nary an aftertaste....nothing. Mouthfeel is very thin and not to pleasing to the palate. Drinkable, but not overly so.

Notes: Bottle clearly notes "ESB" on the bottle but there's no way that this fits the ESB mold.

 655 characters

Photo of joshlara
2.97/5  rDev -6.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

My first offering from this brewery. The bottle says it is an ESB style ale. Listed here as an amber ale so we shall see. Very disappointing appearance. The coloring is okay as it's a light amber burnt orange color but there is literally no head immediately after a strong pour and no collar afterwards. Butterscotch and caramel aroma. Tastes like the sun tea my wife makes during the summer. Almost spot on. Absolutely no hop seem to be present. It seems to be almost an unsweetened iced tea. Has a different flavor, caramel and diacytel. I guess more of an ESB than an amber ale in my opinion albeit an uninspiring one. Is drinkable but I would not purchase it again.

 669 characters

Photo of Billolick
3.1/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle, Boring and nondescript are my words to describe this brew. As said below this one does not go anywhere. Mushy flavor profile, malty? hops? nothing really is destinct.. Poor brew to roll out as your "special" ale. I'm sure these guys are capable of better.

 272 characters

Photo of lackenhauser
2.03/5  rDev -36%
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.

 333 characters

Photo of LarryKemp
4/5  rDev +26.2%
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 mschofield
3.9/5  rDev +23%
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 Foxman
3.25/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

It pours a brownish copper, clear, crisp, and carbonated, with a beige head of pillowy froth that retains well. There is some moderate lacing on the glass that drips away quickly.

The aroma brings a very rounded but discernible balance of toasted malt and hops bitterness, with the sweetness slightly more poignant. At the close the bitterness lingers just a bit longer then fades away.

The first wash of flavor carries a biscuity darker malt essence, with a slight caramel cream note. The hops play some small role, but in more a sensatory manner than as a component of taste. A yeasty tang, almost tinny, asserts toward the end, before a dull hops bitterness lingers at the finish.

Just a little more than light bodied, it slides across the palate, spending little time on board. The dry hops tingle is no much for any food that gets heaped upon it.

So it seemed to me that choosing the beer of a relatively local brewery would be a good way to go when we took my oldest to his favorite wings place for his birthday. Well, I think I was wrong, because they had Sam on tap as well. The overall effect is certainly one of balance, but the contributing factors are bordering on insubtantial. With no distinct malt or hops profile to sink my teeth into it comes across, in the end, as disappointing. And yes, it is certainly drinkable, and a better choice than the macros available there, but considering there was at least one stronger option, then I'll consider this a lesson learned and pass on it the next time.

 1,529 characters

Photo of moulefrite
2.68/5  rDev -15.5%
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.

 574 characters

Photo of marc77
3.2/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3.5

Hazed copper hue covered by a lean, but dense and steadfast off white head. Sparse lace remains. Medium lovibond caramel with a slight buttery biscuit twang upfront in aroma. Sweet floral, mildly perfume like hop nose. Maltose rich, wort like hints surface as the brew breathes. Clean and tame aromawise. In flavor, the prevalent malt character is a combination of dilute toffee and toasted pale malt. Mellow butterscotch undertone. Mild in hop bitterness, but appropriately matched to the stately, simple residual sweetness. Leafy hop flavor melds with toasted malt component to lend a sweetened, cool black tea like impression. A tad skimpy in body and well attenuated, with a thinnish, lanky mouthfeel. Finishes with fading hints of watered down biscuit and brown sugar. An underwhelming amber that lacks inspiration but succeeds in passable drinkability. Balanced, but prosaic.

 881 characters

Photo of smcolw
2.83/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This amber pours with a slight chill haze and features a modest head with a mild lace that slides down the glass side. The aroma is predominantly caramel with a touch of hop. I also detect an unpleasant metallic smell.

The caramel aromas translate into caramel flavors that last into the aftertaste. This has a very light hop for the style. The carbonation is moderate to high and the body is thinner than the coloring would suggest.

Much more malty than most ESB's, and certainly more watery. I wouldn't recommend it past a curiousty tasting.

 549 characters

Photo of ElGordo
3.17/5  rDev 0%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This one showed up in the BOTM shipment for February. Pours a strange-looking coppery/orange color with a smallish creamy head that lingers on the glass. Really strong nose of toffee, biscuit, caramel, and roasted malt. Palate is caramel malt, more bread/biscuit, very light hops, hint of orange. Creamy mouthfeel with a muted aftertaste of sweet roasted malt. The bottle says this is an ESB, BA says it's a red ale,and I have to side with BA. A decent beer, but not very true to style.

 486 characters

River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
3.17 out of 5 based on 162 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest┬« Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!