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River Horse Special Ale | River Horse Brewing Co.

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River Horse Special AleRiver Horse Special Ale

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

Style: American Amber / Red Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
A variety of specialty malts are the backbone of this American Amber Ale; a perfect session beer.

Added by rfgetz on 09-22-2010

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Reviews: 43 | Ratings: 212
Photo of metter98
3.7/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: The beer is slightly hazy and a dark shade of amber in color with a moderate amount of visible carbonation. It poured with a finger high beige colored head that has very good retention properties and left a short head covering the surface and lots of lacy rings of bubbles down the sides of the glass.
S: Light to moderate aromas of toasted malts and earthy yeast are present in the nose.
T: The taste has flavors of caramel and toasted malts along with earthy yeast. A light amount of bitterness is present. The earthiness lingers through the finish.
M: It feels a bit shy of being medium-bodied on the palate with a little smoothness and a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: I liked the malty nature of this beer because there were just enough hops to help balance this off and keep things drinkable. It's pretty tasty for a beer with a low abv.

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Photo of WillieThreebiers
3.6/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Pours a medium dark and cloudy mahogany brown with lots of suspended particles and a 3/8 inch head that rapidly fades to a thin layer.
S - Slightly malty hints of caramel
T - A nice balance of bitterness fading to a sweet finish
M - Medium to full bodied
0 - That's Special .... although I can not tell if it's Dana Carvey's or George Carlin's voice that I hear this beer in.

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Photo of Slatetank
3.67/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

this is the last bottle I picked up as part of a sampler pack from the brewery in Lambertville -poured from the chilled 12oz into a double walled tumber.

The amber has good deep ruby color which borders on bronze with a translucent clarity and 3 fingers of rocky ecru which settle to a 1/4 inch. The lace collection on the glass is good with a fine bead. The smell is good, which is a mix of hops that have a herbal and pine blend of scents and some light sweetness from the malt with a mellow ester of yeast fruitiness in the nose with a subtle toasted toffee-like aroma. The feel is very moderately bitter within style and standard carbonation with mild sweet entry and balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness is good with some subtle diacetyl and semi-dry finish with light cream and toasted accent.

This amber tastes malty up front with subtle toasted tinges and slight caramel notes which fade into a slight sweet relaxed taste and the hops come secondary with some light herbal/pine flavors which accent the yeast and malt well. The hops keep things balanced but don't move into the flavor realm much more than bitter with slight diacetyl in the background which is countered by slight pepper and mild fruit elements from the yeast. This is a good amber over all, not one I would revisit but nothing seriously flawed about it either. It might be good for a cookout to have on hand - a little on the sweet side as it finishes and could use a little more complexity in the malt and yeast but in general I liked it and it is better than average.

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Photo of woodychandler
4/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My thanks to tone 77 for coming by with a buncha bottles for me to try. It is nice to have someone local with whom to trade.

From the bottle: "Many of us here in the U.S. of A. consider ourselves to be "Special". We think this American Amber is pretty Special as well. Hope you enjoy it!"

I enjoyed pouring it into my glass and watching a dense finger of light-tan head being produced and experiencing decent retention at the outset of yet another sweltering afternoon. I also enjoyed gazing at its reddish-amber color with NE-quality clarity. I further enjoyed the pleasant admixture of grass hops and caramel malts on the nose. I gained enjoyment from its medium-to-full mouthfeel (not quite creamy, but close) and its taste with a seeming emphasis on hops. Finally, I enjoyed the extreme finish, which is when the malt really came into play. I had not tasted it much until then, but it lingered well after the swallow. Overall, an enjoyable beer.

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Photo of tone77
3.7/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a pretty dark amber color with a small head. Smell is of malts, some hops. Taste is the same, some malts up front with hops kicking in at the end, a touch of caramel is present. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall makes for a solid offering.

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Photo of VelvetExtract
3.41/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A-Pours a red/crimson color. Good head. Off-white and compact. Leaves a ton of lacing. Beer is transparent.

S-A light nose. Sweet with mellow hops. Sweet caramel. Doesn't smell like it will be a very hoppy Amber. I absolutely love hoppy Ambers. This one seems like it will be a sweeter take on the style.

T-More sweet than hoppy. Hops are slight. Light hop flavors of grass and flowers. Mostly sweet. Light bitterness. Sweet caramel. Mellow flavor.

M-Lively carbonation. Medium to lighter body. Very light bitterness.

O/D-Okay beer. Not memorable. Easy to drink, but hard to savor. Just a middle of the road beer.

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Photo of DrDemento456
3.15/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Actually quite clear since most of their beers are "unfiltered" with a 1/4 inch of opaque colored head. A touch darker than I expected for the ABV.

S - Slightly dirty malts clash with mild hops and mild caramel malts. Smell is less than expected.

T - Well it's not a bad amber it's just not that great. Hops are mildly herbal almost citrus like with a caramel base. Basic and boring.

M - Light to medium it's on par for the ABV.

Overall I am becoming more disappointed with this brewery every beer. Don't buy this if you can avoid it.

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Photo of tigg924
3/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Appearance: minimal head, hazy, dark amber in color, high carbonation

Smell: toasted malt and some pine hops

Taste: caramel, toasted malt and some pine hops

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, medium carbonation, sweet with a slightly bitter backbone

Drinkability: A decent amber that could use a bit more hops. Not bad, but nothing that really jumps out and makes me want another either.

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Photo of rfgetz
3.8/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clear amber color with minimal cap of white head. Scent is of weak carmel malts with a decent fresh pine and citrus hop note. Taste is a little better than scent dictates, decent light carmel matls combine with piney and citrus hops to form a decent, uncomplicated beer. Lighter side of medium bodied, moderately high carbonation. A decent beer, unspectacular yet drinkable.

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Photo of claspada
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep red with a very large off white head with good retention.

Aromas begin with sweet pale malt and some light caramel. As it warms you get some slight brown sugar, roasted malt with a bit of earthy hoppiness.

The tastes follow the nose with light caramel, toasted bready maltiness with some light toffee flavors as well. Light and clean earthy hoppiness emerges more as it warms.

The mouthfeel is light bodied with medium to high carbonation. Finish is lightly dry and earthy but mainly clean and crisp.

Overall this is a decent, flavorful and balanced amber ale. Nothing to mind-blowing but quite satifying considering the ABV, nice daytime outdoors beer.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
3.58/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – The beer pours a hazy copper/mahogany color with a two finger cream colored head. The head has a great level of retention, holding on for quite some time, fading slowly to leave a good level of lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell- The aroma is mainly of a lightly roasted malt smell mixed with a decent showing of caramel and some toffee. Along with these aromas so too comes a tiny bit of dark fruit, which overall creates a rather sweet aroma.

Taste – The taste begins with a lightly roasted malt flavor and some fruit flavors of apple. A caramel sweetness is present upfront as well, with it slowly fading throughout most of the taste. More toward the middle, with the caramel fading some, come some flavor of a more bitter hop nature. They are mainly of an earthy and herbal flavor and remain relatively light till the end. While the caramel faded steadily from the beginning it picks up again at the end, and when mixed with the rest of the flavors, it leaves a nice easy going taste of a bready caramel and light hop to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is average in terms of its creaminess and thickness with a carbonation level that is average as well.

Overall – A nice drinking brew, but overall nothing extraordinary.

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Photo of KTCamm
3.79/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

River Horse variety pack. Twelve ounce bottle into a pint glass.

Pours medium dark brown, some red hints. Some white foam. Strong caramel smell. Toffee. Taste is alight sweet caramel with a modest bite. Hints of butterscotch. Light mouthfeel from the modest carbonation. Good amber.

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Photo of MDDMD
3.08/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A-dark amber color with a nice thick white head and decent lacing

S-malts and caramel, slight floral scent

T-roasted malts and caramel sweetness with a little hop character, not much bitter flavor

F-medium body with moderate carbonation, smooth

O-an OK amber but too sweet and malty and not enough hop character for my taste

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Photo of woosterbill
3.31/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle, courtesy of a non-BA rugby teammate of mine, into a Duvel tulip.

A: A fairly rough, careless pour produces a perfect two-finger head of tight tan foam above a clear dark amber body. Average retention and some spotty lacing. Maybe not as lace-heavy as I'd like, but a great looking beer nonetheless.

S: Fairly light aroma of slightly toasty caramel malt. Maybe a little nutty as well. Quite restrained, but entirely inoffensive.

T: Follows the nose precisely in its lack of complexity, although it does deliver considerably more intensity. This is actually a bit of a problem for me, as there aren't nearly enough hops to balance out the single-minded maltiness of this beer. The flavor isn't bad at all, but it gets remarkably cloying for a sub-5% brew. What bitterness there is seems to come from the lightly toasted edge of the up-front malts; on the finish, there's nothing but malt sweetness. A little out of whack, but not too bad.

M: Light-to-medium body with a moderate dose of sharp carbonation. About what I expected, and decently lively, but not terribly pleasant.

D: For the style, it's pretty good. For the nigh-sessionable ABV, it really isn't. I've had many 6% beers that were easier to quaff.

Notes: This tastes right on the borderline between an amber ale and an ESB, which apparently it used to be called. I'm not sure which designation does it more justice, actually. It's not really hoppy enough for either, which is a disappointment. Still, not a bad one to try if you're into beers that pack a good deal of flavor into a low-ABV package.


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Photo of JayQue
3.56/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Fairly Average Amber Ale. Looks great and has a low abv. WOuld be a worthy session beer.

Pours a dark amber color with a huge antique white head. Excellent retention and thick lacing. Looks good.

Ok aroma....roasted and sweet malts. A little floral hops.

Mostly a malty beer but there is some balancing hoppiness and a floral aspect.A little on the sweet side but tastes ok.

A little light, but this is expected from a 4.5% beer.

This isn't one to savor, but a few pitchers t a session would be welcome.

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Photo of jsanford
3.62/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Extra received from THECPJ. Thanks! Poured into a pint glass.

A - Pours a slightly hazy amber with a thin white head that quickly recedes to a ring.
S - Strong caramel malt with a bit of pine and citrus.
T - More sweet caramel malt with a faint nuttiness. Earthy hops provide some balance, but the malt dominates.
M - Medium-light bodied with crisp carbonation.
D - Pretty quaffable. Tasty, if a bit bland.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.53/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked this up in Totowa since I hadn't had a chance to give this a go. While I love American Ambers/Red Ales this was a slightly above average beer and didn't have any qualities to it that would make it stand out. It was relatively easy to drink, but most of that was because the alcohol was weaker than I anticipated.

By far, the best aspect to this beer was the head. It was just like that of a root beer float and lasted for a while. It wasn't repeated in the lacing and the aroma was pretty unmemorable. Like so many of their other offerings, this had a strong amount of Belgian Sugar in the smell and taste with some dirty earthiness on top of it. The hops didn't come out until the aftertaste and they were also quite earthy and funky. Just a hint of brown sugar could be found here too, but by no means was this sweet.

Between the low alcoholic content of this and the somewhat easy drinkability of this beer, there wouldn't be too many people who couldn't give this a go. With so many beers of this style available on the shelf, this wouldn't be the first I'd reach for nor would I not have it again. It's nicely crafted and unpretentious, in the same fashion as the other River Horse beers that I've enjoyed.

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Photo of Amalak
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had off the tap at Wicked Monks in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

Nice deep red/brown color. Thick foamy, off-white head which leaves a good deal of lacing. Very slight malty scent.

This has a very pleasant nutty taste. A slight bit of chocolate. Some bitter hops, but slight. There's a soapy aftertaste in there. A slight sweetness. It's a dry taste, almost like a cask.

Nicely complex with nothing overbearing.

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Photo of TheBigBoy
3.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Solid Brew...Have had several River Horse's over the years with mixed results. By far this is the best beer that I've had from this brewery.

Good Amber/Red beer flavor that's slightly crafty but not overpowering at all. COuld not drink these all night but definitley 2-3 not a problem.

Do give this one a try, if tasty amber/red beers are your thing. You will be happy with this one.

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Photo of mvanaskie13
3.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into fluted pint glass, nice tan head, pretty thick at first, dissipates to nice froth on the top, a little clinging. Color is a dark, deep amber, somewhat dense.

Smell is mild, sweet malt comes through hints at some moderate bitterness.

Taste is a nice mix of roasted and caramel malts, with a very nice citrus/pine bitterness that cleans it up.

Mouthfeel is mostly on the tongue, flavors cling to the top but sweet and bitter balance well with mild carbonation.

Overall, a very nicely done brew, solid malt flavors and hop bitterness.

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Photo of facundoCNB
2.88/5  rDev -19.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - a somewhat flat pour, some bubbling and slight showing of head. cloudy deep red in color

S - smells of honey, mushrooms and dirt

T - very mellow on the palate, slight sweetness and a slight hint of humidity.. a fungus of sort?

M - very refreshing, sweet finish makes you want more

O - not the brewery's best, but a good session ale. tastes and smells are odd enough to fulfill any curiosities.

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Photo of NolaHopHead
3.71/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle. Pours deep cloudy amber, medium foamy head with good retention, lace. Sweet malty aroma with a tad of cinnamon spice. Tastes of sweet caramel malt with mild bitterness and spice on the end. Medium soft mouthfeel. Overall tasty amber ale, mostly on the sweet side.

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Photo of Jimmys
3.08/5  rDev -14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A: deep amber red, almost brown in color. rich 1 finger head died down before i could take my first sip. a little hazy, perhaps this one is unflitered, with tiny carbonation bubbles racing to the surface.

S: toasty sweet malts. caramel and brown sugar. not getting much hops with this one.

T: sweet, tangy malt with hops used more for balance rather than flavor. finishes with a bitter linger, caused more from some roasted malt rather than hops. if this is in fact unfiltered, not getting much from the yeast here. this one is all malt.

M: a solid medium body made up entirely of malt. good carbonation.

D: if im looking for a sweet brew, i could drink one of these. otherwise, not really gonna be craving one of these.

granted i like my reds much hoppier than this, i still feel like this brew is far too one dimensional. in my opinion this recipe could use some tweaking in the hop department.

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Photo of Act25
3.44/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Re-reviewed, got a better bottle 2nd and 3rd try. But each one different, so I continue to distrust this brewer for consistency. I only get River Horse in WFM mystery craft packs, which at 11.69 for 12 with case discount are an outstanding price even if you need to trade or give 2 of 12 away. I just bring the ones I dont like to parties or events. Hence, river horse and St Johns always get given away along with most veggie / pumpkin beers.

A: Pours an OK head with good retention. This one laces very well. The beer is a hazy, almost muddy, cola dark amber, mahogany, with low visible carbonation. Not that inviting a color.

S: The appearance and the nose are the best parts.
Toasty, moderate aromas of malts and earthy yeast. Rich. Almost root- beer like.

T: The taste has flavors of caramel and toasted malts along with earthy yeast. A light amount of bitterness is present. The earthiness lingers through the finish, almost too much so. Not refreshing or tingly enough.

M: Smooth, creamy feel, medium bodied. Solid.

O: Good pale ale. Must try. Creamy, Very complex and flavorful, but one bottle was not fresh tasting.
2nd bottle (months later was much better) 3rd bottle split the difference, and in the end was too sweet and too much like a root beer.

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Photo of jtierney89
3.3/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep auburn hue with dark ruby highlights and a big off white head. Good lacing. Lots of roasted malts on the nose along with some burnt caramel. Hop presence is faint but perfumey. On the lighter side of medium in body which thins very slightly on the swallow. Sweet caramel laces the side of the tongue while lightly roasted malts shine through from beginning to end. Subtle amount of fruit with a faint hop presence giving the beer it's crisp feel and smooth finish.

Pretty Decent flavor with great drink-ability. Not anything amazing but good for what it is. A session brew I could come back to.

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River Horse Special Ale from River Horse Brewing Co.
3.58 out of 5 based on 212 ratings.
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