Beer Description

Dark Horse Brewing Co is from the upper Peninsula of Michigan, started by Brewer Aaron Morse. Their company website touts the slogan “Making badass beer in Marshall, MI” The brewery seem to be small yet with a dedicated audience base. The beers can be found all around the mid-west USA and parts of the Bible belt. About this particular beer, the brewmaster provides the following description:

Conceived in a dimly lit room on a blistery cold night in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Reserve Special Black Ale is the oldest beer in the Dark Horse portfolio. This beer has a dark, almost eerie presence with rich flavors that explode onto your taste buds with balanced, yet heavy malt-roast, and chocolate. The Reserve Special Black Ale drinks like a porter and finishes like a stout, so it fits nicely into the category of a delicious strong black ale.

ABV: 7.5%
IBU: 67
Best Served: Snifter or Goblet

Beer Review

I bought this beer as an experiment. At first glance I was not entirely enticed, due to the “look at how much of a bad-a$$ I am” labels. I honestly think whoever designed the label is just trying to hard. There are skulls in all 4 corners of the label, along with a deviant looking horse, and for some reason a pirate being struck by lightning. The label itself shouts cheap and budget-like.

The beer itself, however, is described by the brewer as malty, toasty, and chocolate. I got none of those notes. Not even one. The battering hops seemed to be normal for a strong stout except this stout wasn’t that strong. For my own personal taste, I thought it was too bittered. It does not appear to be bitter like roasted barely bitter, but only hoppy bitter. If there was some chocolate malt used, it decided not to show up in my batch. Most of the malt was in the nose. It did have a malty aroma.

Personally, this beer is drinkable but doesn’t live up to the hype of being bad-a$$ or special. I am sure there is a market for this beer but it’s not me. In the world of beers this one is trying to be way more than it really is and trying way too hard to seem “hard-core”. A good hard-core beer (or person for that matter) doesn’t have to try. They just are. Case-in-point, the Dark Apparition. It doesn’t try to be bad-a$$…… it just is.

Tasting Notes

Aroma: A faint malty aroma with a slight hoppy scent. The hops are not quite floral but also not quite earthy.

Taste: Bitter. Very bitter. Very mild malty flavor if any at all.

Texture: The texture is the only true winner in this show. It’s smooth with a good head, though very little head retention.

Finish: The finish isn’t bad either. It moves into more of a coffee stout as it finishes.

Comparisons: None yet.

Reserve Special Black Ale













  • Not terribly expensive
  • gets better as it warms to room temp


  • Way too bitter
  • Possibly too "hard-core" for the like of me

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