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River Horse Special Ale ESB - River Horse Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
River Horse Special Ale ESBRiver Horse Special Ale ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.

134 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 134
Hads: 162
Avg: 3.17
pDev: 14.51%
Wants: 1
Gots: 1 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
River Horse Brewing Co. visit their website
New Jersey, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  4.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 06-01-2002

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (30) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 134 | Hads: 162
Photo of NeroFiddled
3.62/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A quite hazy - almost cloudy - and deep-amber colored body topped by a thin & creamy white cap that has limited holding capabilities. The aroma is richly malty (similar to Munich malt) with a touch of diacetyl, gently fruity, and displays a minor hop note if you swirl the glass enough to bring it up. The body is medium with a very fine, restrained carbonation that gives it an oily, smooth and lightly creamy mouthfeel. The flavor reflects the rich malt first seen in the aroma, although it's more caramelish here, with a firm hoppy balance that's more bitterness than flavor. It finishes dryish with some gently lingering maltiness, a mild fruitiness, a soft note of buttery diacetyl, and a touch of hop bitterness and flavor. Although it may sound complex here, it's actually quite straight-forward. I actually enjoy the light diacetyl here as it works well with the other characteristics of the beer and adds to the richness (as it sometimes seen in brown ales).

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Photo of oriolesfan4
3.62/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A darn solid beer right here. Pours a cloudy brownish color, some lacing seen on the glass. Smell is of caramel and some roastiness. Taste is medium bodied, some nice caramel notes come through with subtle hops. Nice smoothness to this one.. a little bit boring taste wise but a good beer overall.

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Photo of daliandragon
3.54/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Aquired a mixed twelve of these Jersey beers this afternoon at St James Beverage in the suburban hamlet of the same name. Color is pale, golden brown with los of carbonation and minimal head. Looks almost like a cider or a cream soda or something. Nose is mild with hops and fruit and that pleasant bitterness associated with English ale.
Taste is slightly watery for a bitter and could stand to have the principal flavors juiced up forty percent or so. Mouthfeel, again, is agreeable but fairly flat and not overly impressive.
This isn't a horrible effort but needs to focus the aim and produce a unifying taste that can be strengthened by continual repetition, this is just not quite right. However, if you like the style this is worth taking a flyer on.

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Photo of EPICAC
3.53/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This was another beer served on cask. Again, it was served lightly chilled in a mug. River Horse ESP pours a very cloudy, copper color. The aroma is mild overall, but what's there is pleasant: toasty malts, and citric and fruity hops. The aromas could stand to grab you a little bit more.

Toasty malts first hit the tongue followed by a light, bready sweetness. The flavors quickly move into a citric and herbal hop finish. The flavors are pleasant, but seem a bit muddled, with nothing really standing out. This ESB is light-bodied with low carbonation and a husky texture in the finish.

This is a decent session beer, though I think it could be a bit bolder without sacrificing drinkability.

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Photo of SLeffler27
3.53/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This ESB builds a nice firm head that quickly recedes to a patchy lace. The ale itself is a clear, new-penny copper with columns of fine carbonation. Also, the label has great artwork.

The aroma leans more to the sweet side of the spectrum with fresh apples. This is a pleasant aroma, but lends little to a discussion.

River Horse's ESB is a simple, lightly-bittered ale with definite bready malts. In the finish, one will find some butter tones and minimal pine.

This one has a medium body that is smooth and easy flowing.

A nice beer for a tailgate party or the game itself. The simple flavors compliment the activity rather than taking center stage. And... it comes from a great New Jersey town on the banks of the Delaware River.

Date consumed: 6 July 2008

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Photo of thespaceman
3.51/5  rDev +10.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a pint glass:

Appearance: Pours a light amber in color, a small head emerges and quickly dissipates into thin wisps of lacing. Bubbles stream up the glass from the carbonation. This beer shows nice and clear with minimal haze.

Smell: Up front is a plethora of fruit, a touch of butterscotch and some caramel malt shows off a nicely balanced backbone. I get bits of light esters, almost apple like. Not a boring nose just not enough to write home about.

Taste: The maltiness shows off nicely in the taste, as in the taste, I get a lot of caramel properties, it's sweet yet well reserved. Bits of apple, and lighter side of fruit florals show a well balanced beer here. Finish consists of a drop of honey and some sweetness from the malt.

Mouthfeel: Slightly bitter, good carbonation all around. Medium bodied mouthfeel with a slight bit of slickness on the tongue.

Drinkability: Overall, a very drinkable ESB. I like the notes of honey like sweetness and caramel in here, they really smooth things out. At 4.5%, it's very drinkable and east to throw back a few. A good offering from a very solid brewery.

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Photo of plaid75
3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a murky dark copper hue with a half finger foamy white head. There was decent retention and lacing.

The smell featured soft caramel malts and a tea like herbal hop.

The taste consisted of a light grainy malt and a slightly herbal hop. A touch of sweetness toward the finish.

The mouthfeel was toward the thinner side of the style with little carbonation.

Overall a decent ESB. Not something I would search out.

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

First had: bottle from Total Wine, Cherry Hill, NJ

A very nice and smooth ESB. Nothing extraordinary here, but still a good simple selection. At least I thought so. Maybe I need to revisit with my somewhat updated palate.

Poured a murky, reddish-brown with a small whitish head. Toasted malts in the aroma, with a bit of sour fruit coming through. Caramel malts in the taste mostly, nutty, with some sweet fruitiness in the background--orange and apricot--and some hop bitterness for balance, but with the malts clearly taking control. Medium mouthfeel, leaves a bit of a film in the mouth, but still fairly drinkable.

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Photo of Stunner97
3.5/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance- amber color beer with slight carbonation as bubbles stream slowly up glass, murky and cloudy, head starts white and fades to slight foam lacing,

Smell- Sweet molasses, caramel, and loads up sweet maltiness on the nose, smells a nice and sweet beer, sweet caramel apple,

Taste- sweet caramel malts lead off out of the batters box's in this one but are mellowed out by some strong bitter hops balancing it out pretty nicely, very mild citrus tones, its overall a little light in flavor in a way but the strong point to me is the decently nice long bitter finish, flavor grew on me a bit after first sip or two

Mouth- medium body to this beer though still pretty light and refreshing to drink

Drinkability- A decent esb, not necessarily the best but also not terrible, its definitely easy to drink and worth a one time shot but probably wont blow you away to crazily, for what it is its not bad, certainly a decent option as a session beer but for the price better could be found for my own preference

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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.

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

Pours a lightly hazed copper with a medium-small head. Nose is malt, husky grain and some caramel. Fairly dry in flavour, with a light toast and some faint herbal notes. Light in body but not overcarbonated and finishes fairly cleanly. Good, sessionable ale.

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Photo of dacrza1
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Situation: Final exams have began--time to celebrate prematurely!
Glassware: Kisatsky's Pub shaker...
Appearance: Burnt orange-brown body with a crispy, fresh white head that settles to a lacing-less moustache..
Aroma: Robust, hoppy scents--a bit much in the hopper for an ESB (though indeed this is an American brewer)...
Palate: medium-bodied and rather smooth finish after an abrupt start; the throat is stoked ablaze with each passing sip...
Taste: buttery with sweet toffee and vanilla (?); hops provide initial runch but ease off; aftertaste is pleasantly even...
Overall: No insult, but can't think of something more to say either way--works as the twelve-pack filler with a sessionable sweetness....

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Photo of beerluvr
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

"Extra Special"? Hardly. "Bitter"? Not very. Pours out with a decent looking off white head that settles briskly over attractive reddish/amber clear liquid. The nose is clean, biscuity, somewhat weak maltiness with some caramel notes strewn about...where's the hops? The taste offers somewhat thin mouthfeel with tastes of crisp maltiness with a biscuit edge, very little fruitiness, very little hop bitterness...where's the hops? Finishes spritzy, light, unexciting...you win some, you lose some. This time I lost. I'll say this though, it would make a mighty fine lawnmower beer at the very least. But where's the hops??

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Photo of Martin2D
3.48/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - Golden amber with a large, carbonated type head that fades with no lacing

S - Just hints of hops, some malt and some soapiness

T - Malt on the forefront, hops in the background. Mild bitterness and dry on the finish.

M - Medium carbonation and light in body.

D - Very low ABV and not much extreme flavor going on. Very good session beer, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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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.

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Photo of Phatz
3.46/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 4.5

Okay, so this is a decent tasty beer but *ESB* hardly. That is what it is actually classified as from the brewery but even on the Variety case (from which I got this beer) it is labeled as "Special Ale - a smooth amber ale" which is pretty accurate IMO.

Appearance: Pours a dark amber color decent head. Mediocre lacing.

Smell: There is very little aroma in this beer. Upon very harsh scrutiny you can find a hint of toasty butterscotch and a bit of soapy buttery diacetyl.

Taste: The taste here is quaffable but boring. It is very clean and thin upfront. It almost seem like drinking water to start and the flavor only begins two thirds across the palate. When the flavor kicks in it is a buttery candied malts flavor with a gentle hop character which makes it very balanced. The beer is oily and somewhat juicy with even a bit up fruit showing through the folds. The aftertaste is the biggest part of the beer and it comes in two parts; initially sweet and fruity followed by a drying mild diacetyl taste in the mouth.

Mouthfeel: It is hard to say about the mouthfeel because it changes on the way through. It appears to be very thin week and watery but yet the oiliness add a slickness and smoothness to this very 'flat' beer.

Drinkability: Really it is a straightforward chugger beer. This is one for parties, hotwings and session drinking; not one for contemplation. Unlike other fascinating ESBs this beer is not interesting but it is approachable and easy to drink.

Hope this is helpful.

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Photo of dsa7783
3.45/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Single, twelve-ounce bottle just copped from Super Saver Liquors on Route 22...
Pours a dark-copper hue with hardly any head and very minimal lacing...
Faint, malty aroma with hints of butter and biscuits...
Taste strongly complemented the smell, with a strong nuance of bread, butter, light caramel, and candied sugars...
Overall, a decent stab at the style, yet mild in taste and unassertive in flavor...
Nothing to write home about...

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Photo of TheFightfan1
3.43/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This was the last beer to review in the variety pack. Poured a hazy amber color with a decent white heading.

Smell has an ok roasted malt aroma but immediatley is overrun by burnt sugar. Very feint aroma's of each but I got something finally after swirling for a while.

Taste and Mouth is decent in malts but has a oily buttery aftertaste.Burnt caramel with some bittering hoppiness to this beer which is medium bodied and good carbonation. A sugary kiss that stick's to the lips for a little while.

Drink is decent a good beer to try but nothing worth seeking out .

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Photo of hungryghost
3.43/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Amber, copper in color, small, short lived head.
Sweet malt aroma with a hint of hops.
Smooth honey like sweetness (I know its not honey cuz the bottle said so), with a slight, hop tang. Nice balance between the two flavors. Not as sweet as expected.
Mouthfeel is good, pretty clean finish, becomes a little sticky halfway through first one. Overall a very drinkable beer.

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Photo of RonfromJersey
3.4/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Copper color body. Decent head which doesn't linger. Little to no lacing. Very malty without being overly sweet, a little chocolate tone in the taste/aftertaste. Not spectacular, but went nice (3 bottles nice) with dinner at deli where single selections were running a little low, so I went local.

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Photo of Amar
3.39/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I poured this into a pint glass but didn't notice much froth (becasue ESBs apparently have low carbonation).

Smell was sweet and really estery with strong fruity hints.

The flavor was slightly dissapointing: it was neither pronounced nor subtle. In other words, it wasn't there. You could easily sense the sweet undertones but it was very impossible to identify any flavors per se. This ale has such a light body and feels just like water especially right after you swallowed it. I had part of this ale with blueberry waffles and ended up appreciating it a little bit more but I wouldn't call this ale anything but slightly above average. So much for it being the flagship ale of River Horse!

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Photo of RBorsato
3.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Tasting #2: Not even sure that it's exactly the same beer but obviously not far off considering I did my second review blind of the first and not much different in the score dept...

Golden copper color with a low white ringed head, no to low carbonation, and no lace. Lightly sweet caramel malt aroma. Sweet caramel malt flavor but not quite overly sweet; certainly not balanced to the ESB style. Medium bodied but flat.

Overall a malt heavy ESB with little hop character... Pass.

Per label: "Caramel malt, Carapils malt"

($6.99 / 6-pack)

Original Tasting notes from mixed pack on 7/21/03:
All 3.5's scored...

Dark gold, light amber color with a low beige head and fairly low carbonation. Light spicy malt aroma (maybe a touch of Vienna or Munich Malt ?). Malty "Oktoberfestish" type flavor with no hop characteristics. Medium bodied and smooth.

Per 12-pack Carrier: "Smooth Amber Ale"

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Photo of originalsin
3.37/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The pour is a deep amber with little head.
Smells somewhat interesting. Floral hop aromas and caramel malts dominate.
This beer doesn't exactly taste like an ESB- there are too many sweet malt flavors going on for me and the bitterness is very mellow.
Otherwise, the beer is medium bodied, well carbonated, and pretty drinkable.

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Photo of Gambrinus1184
3.35/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Sunset Grill & Tap pint glass.

A: Pours a light, golden amber color with a chilled haze and a thin head of white bubbles which leaves little to no lace.

S: Smells of British malts, a bit of spiciness and a sweet herbal aroma. Toasted bread and a bit of honey are noted too.

T: The label says certain malts might be mistaken for honey, and they are correct. A semisweet honey, toasted biscuit and malt flavor comes through this disappointing bitterness. Very mild and drinkable, but not enough flavor going on.

M: Mouthfeel is thin-medium bodied and slightly bitter in the finish.

D: A drinkable brew, but only because of the lower ABV and mouthfeel. The slightly sweet and bitter taste might satisfy some palates, but even in a style mimicking a milder English ESB, I'd expect more flavor and complexity. You're better off sampling and moving on.

Not a terrible beer, but a bit of a letdown. Clean, drinkable and subtle with its sweet and bitter flavors. Water shares a few of these attributes as well. I could have stood a bit more spiciness and bitter English malts, but instead, was left with a mediocre ESB. All in all, it's worth a try.

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Photo of saccro
3.33/5  rDev +5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - straight-up amber. nice lasting head. good belgian lace. Cream-colored head. A little hazy.

S - very fruity aromatics from yeast. very little hop aroma. good bready malt aroma.

T - fruity. Tastes kinda like fruit cocktail (peach/pear). grainy aftertaste. delayed bitterness. no real malt flavor. Kinda average. Clean.

M - medium body. medium carbonation.

D - easy to drink. quenching. nothing special (despite name).

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River Horse Special Ale ESB from River Horse Brewing Co.
74 out of 100 based on 134 ratings.