like winter warmers, but it’s rare I have one that truly amazes me
anymore. Dark Horse 4 Elf fortunately is one of the exceptions to that
rule. It has the right spice palette in the right proportion and at the
right strength for my preference. It definitely succeeds as a liquid
Christmas cookie – and isn’t that what a winter warmer should be?
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 10/30/14 and cost $3.65 ($0.30 per ounce).
Appearance: Black, stout-like body with brown highlights. Pours to a
two-finger, tan, frothy head which laces and retains very well.
Smell: Classic Christmas cookie spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, plus some Belgian-like dark fruit character.
Taste: Dark Horse 4 Elf is, admittedly, a bit simple of a brew. The
spices dominate the palette, and there’s not much distinctiveness in the
way of malts and hops. That being said, the actual taste of the beer is
so delectable that I don’t even really care if it’s simplistic. There’s
a Snickerdoodle-like sweetness right away. Akin to gingerbread, pumpkin
bread or even banana bread. Light spice character tap dances on the
tongue. It’s not until the second half when a rush of even stronger,
spicier, almost herbal-like seasonings emerge that you realize how
gentle the initial spice character is. An intense, almost smokey flavor
creates for a dry spicy astringency. It’s so potent, in fact, that it
can be felt in the sinuses afterwards (not unlike horseradish – but not
to that extent). There’s a mild chocolate flavor lurking in the
background as well as some mild dark fruits or fruit cake taste as well.
These flavor combinations repeat after every swig and it never grows
old. That’s what makes for an excellent brew.
Drinkability: I’m not sure the base brew style of this beer, though it
appears to be a porter or some kind of dark/black ale. The mouthfeel is
thicker than most winter warmers – but not thick, chewy and sticky and
definitely not crisp. It has a soft, smooth texture and finish to match.
The 8.75% ABV definitely creates for some gentle warmth, but at no
point does Dark Horse 4 Elf drink or feel like a boozy sipping beer.