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Criminally Bad Elf - Ridgeway Brewing

Not Rated.
Criminally Bad ElfCriminally Bad Elf

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299 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 299
Reviews: 196
rAvg: 3.42
pDev: 16.37%
Wants: 3
Gots: 20 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Ridgeway Brewing visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  10.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: jwc215 on 11-08-2006

No notes at this time.
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 299 | Reviews: 196
Photo of t0rin0
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%

Photo of spycow
3/5  rDev -12.3%

Photo of GRG1313
4/5  rDev +17%

Photo of metter98
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is clear amber in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured into a snifter glass with a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass and a thin film covering the surface in the center.
S: There are sweet aromas of apples and hints of alcohol and raisins in the nose.
T: The initial taste is slightly sweet and is followed by flavors of caramel and toffee along with some hints of fruit.
M: It feels medium-bodied, smooth and slightly thick on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation. There is alcohol warming in the finish.
D: The beer is surprisingly drinkable for its strength because for the most part the alcohol is masked from the taste.

Photo of olradetbalder
3.79/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Photo of brentk56
2.89/5  rDev -15.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Pours a hazy amber without much of a head and what does appear fails to retain or lace

Smell: There is a bit of toffee and some alcohol

Taste: We start out with a toffee liqueur flavor that builds in toffee character by mid-palate; after the swallow, the disappears and is replaced by a repugnant hot alcohol flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium body and low carbonation

Drinkability: This isn't awful but it sure is criminal to put a barleywine of this quality on the shelf under the Shelton Brothers name; I guess this series is the craft beer equivalent Nutcracker ballets that dance companies use for their moneymakers this time of year;

Photo of BEERchitect
3.65/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer certainly shows the strength that you would expect from the name. But the beer has a lot of maturing to do in order to fall into balance. Very richly malty, sweet, alcoholic, and fruity in the nose. Flavors are malt-dominant, showing a lot of barly sweetness, estery fruits (peaches, cherries, plumbs, and pears), phenols, and fusal alcohols. These alcohols become more abrasive as the beer wears on. Finishes with a huge burst of sweetness, booze, and a little bitter and salty. Certainly some quality ingredients in here, just going to take more time to properly round out.

Photo of Knapp85
2.58/5  rDev -24.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Prior to this beer the only other barley wine I had tried was Skull Splitter from Scotland. I found that this brew wasn't as good nut it could have been much worse. This beer offers up a big time abv that surely tells you this is not a walk in the park. The taste is boozie and fairly strong with malts througout. The color was on the amberish side. All in all, not my favorite Barley Wine, nut it's worth giving it a try.

Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.76/5  rDev -19.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bright pumpkin with butterscotch borders, beneath a beautifully bubbly cap of pastel orange tinted bone. This is, without a doubt, the lightest barleywine that I've ever laid eyes on. I'll be interested to see if the color has implications for the flavor. I'm fine with the look, but it certainly doesn't qualify as special.

The aroma is lacking in... well... aroma. No hint of alcohol is a plus, but I need something to go on here. Pale malt (maybe), along with mild English hops (possibly), and that's about it. I don't usually go lower than average when a beer has no trace of offensiveness, but this one is so weak it's pathetic. I'm not holding my breath that it'll open up with warming either.

I liked Bad Elf and I liked Very Bad Elf at least as much. Criminally Bad Elf is a whole nother story. One sip is all it takes to tell me that this is the lightest and least flavorful barleywine that I've ever had, by a fairly wide margin. Let me get used to that fact before I slam it mercilessly for being the wussiest big ale in the history of wussy big ales.

The malt backbone is as spindly as they come for a beer of this style. Since there's very little malty flavor transfer, I have to believe that nothing darker than pale malt was used. Maybe a hint of caramel, but that's a stretch. Hops contribute almost no flavor and very little bitterness. Alcohol, unsurprisingly, is the most generous member of an ungenerous flavor profile. This is not good beer by any measure.

Strangely enough, the mouthfeel is acceptable. It's light-medium for the style and has a silky slickness that may be the best part of the whole damn shootin' match. An incredibly mellow feel to the carbonation is just how I'd have drawn it up.

It looks like I missed Seriously Bad Elf somewhere along the way. When I finally manage to locate a bottle, I hope it's closer to the earlier beers in the series rather than this most recent one. What's next Ridgeway, a 13.0% Russian Imperial Stout called Thoroughly Evil Elf? What the hell, despite the fact that this beer is anything but the dog's bollocks, I'd give it a go.

Photo of StonedTrippin
3.6/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this to me is the quintessential holiday barleywine. its got all of the barleywine characteristics, and a little extra oomph in the abv department and some sweet and spice that make it perfect for the christmas season. it pours a whisley color with a bubbly slow tan head. the smell is alcohol and english malts, caramel, and walnuts. the flavor is about the same, with an oaky residue on the tongue after each sip. i like the upbeat feel if it too. its a little more carbonated and a little lighter in body than many of these, which make it frightfully quaffable. there is some vanilla and bourbon notes in the finish, and a touch of allspice or anise that resounds long after youve swallowed. i know its a little early in the season for a beer like this, but i cant help myself sometimes. its way underrated on BA, and is overall one of my favorite wintertime barleywines.

Photo of oberon
3.01/5  rDev -12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I remember when there was just a bad elf damn that seems so long ago,this poured into a impy pint glass a light copper/bronze with a tight but thinner white head that didnt have much lasting power.Wow first whiff after the cap was popped was a real skunkiness but Iam quite sure this wasnt skunked almost rotten fruit-like, as it settled a dark raisiny quality came thru making it easier to take in.Pretty thin for a barley wine not big and or chewey at all,somewhat boozy with flavors of dark fruit and brown sugar mainly I did get a hint of minty hop in the finish.Uhm this is one not to go out of your way to buy because of the lagel gimmick or anything like that its just not that good,next years elf I'll pass on I think.

Photo of ChainGangGuy
2.53/5  rDev -26%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearnace: Pours a light copper body with a medium-sized beige head. Spotty lacing.

Smell: A distinct, piercing aroma of banana slices and bubblegum along with all kinds of Christmas-type spices and yeasty notes.

Taste: A heavily sweet raisin and spiced fruit flavor that dries out quickly to an alcholic bitter finish. There's a noticeable plastic that is hard not to dwell on.

Mouthfeel: Medium-thin body. A bit watery, too.

Drinkability: Mediocre at best. To me, a flimsy body and a weak flavor doesn't make for a good English barleywine.

Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, amber/orange color with a foamy, bubbly, off-white head. It left thin trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled very malty and slightly oaky. Some earthy herbal notes, too.

T - It tasted of tons of molasses with a sweet caramel malt flavor. It had a floral taste with a grassy/earthy taste.

M - It was fairly crisp with a chewy mouthfeel. A medium to full-bodied beer.

D - This was pretty good. One of the better brews from Ridgeway.

Photo of NeroFiddled
3.95/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear deep copper with an auburn cast, golden highlights at the base of the glass, and a spot of ruby more towards the center. Creamy, short white head. Maintains surface covering... a thin lace curtain. Short walls of lace rise up against the sides of the glass.

Smell: Malt. Fruit. Scorched caramel. Apple. Plum. Raisin. Cherries. Alcohol.

Taste: Caramel. Alcohol. Almost burnt sugar. Toast. Sharp fruit... dark skinned... juicy plum, cherry, raisin. Some dark berries and some minor Granny Smith. Spruce! Slather of alcohol. Solid bitterness, but the alcohol really does the work to dry it. A touch hot. Finishes dry with a note of cherry, then caramelish malt, and finally, sherry!?

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Dextrinous. Seemingly short on body. OK. Low-key carbonation leaves it really smooth. Silky, but not quite creamy.

Drinkability: is hindered by the alcohol.

Photo of RblWthACoz
3.98/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear amber with some head. Nose is minimal really with very little coming up except a slight sweet tone. There might even be just a wee bit of apple there. Flavor is very, very sweet with just a slightly noticeable alcohol presence. I also feel like I am getting a slight wooden edge to it in the back of my mouth. Mouth-feel slightly thin with a slightly thick carbonation on the tongue. This one masks the 10.5% very well, which makes it very drinkable. I just get the feeling that if this one were laid down for a year, or many more, it would be even more well rounded and even better.

Photo of WVbeergeek
2.61/5  rDev -23.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a deep orange copper hue into my chalice glass with an off white head forming thick and even with fine detailed lacing. Aromatics offer up some fusel alcohol notes with a light citrus booze character going on. Hops have a creamy floral and citric aspect coating the whole experience. Some sweet dark fruit notes blend in as well, they just seem to take a back seat next to the rest of the party going on. Flavor provides a deep sweet cereal honey tone with slight syrup notes and deep raisin and caramel malts wafting in. Big bitter backing from the English perspective the citrus and tobacco toned hop profile adds a good amount of bitterness to a typically hoppy American style. Mouthfeel is a bit cloying with thick layers of residual sugars sitting around on the palate carbonation is mellow but it doesn't carry the big body around too well. Drinkability overall is pretty poor in both body and flavor characteristics, maybe next time I will dig the beers from this seasonal brewery.

Photo of russpowell
4.14/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber with 1/2" of of off-white head. Good head retention & lacing

S: Fruitty, bready with dry candied fruits & honey

T: Fruitty, bready & boozey up front. A bit of smokeyness as this warms along with plums, apricots, honey & much sweetness & dryness. Finishes with loads of honey taste & touch of lemony hops

MF: Syruppy, chewy with low carbonation & a bit too much dryness

Drinks a bit slow because of the intense dryness, but a solid winter warmer

Photo of DrunkinYogi
3.27/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.87/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Okay, who much worse is this Elf gonna get? Are we going to meet up with Morally Repugnant and Maliciously Vile Elf next year, or his brother, Danger to Himself and Others Elf?

Clear, with ruby tones, big carbonation, small layering of foam above, soon gone.

Bright, sweet nose, cherries and berries, orange and grapefruit, a little candyish, like candy orange slices, maybe...I like it. Robust, and mellow at once, urging me to discover what happens when I drink it...

Big mess of bold fruity flavors in the mouth, a blast of juicy malt, some hops, and big booze. Tasty, and like I said before, mellow, but big. Well-tempered.
Not as full-bodied as I'd like from a barley-wine, especially one this strong. I've half a mind to chase it with another bw that fits my favor, for comparison.

Criminal Elf gets hotter as we go, the bite getting bigger. I'm liking it more, but it's still not exactly what I loveh. Felonious Elf, you taste good, but you don't drive me crazy. I like you... a little.

Photo of jwc215
3.85/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber with nice clarity. The thin head doesn't last too long, as expected for the high abv. A lasting ring is around the edges.

The smell is of sweet, bready grain with a hint of fruity hops and slight alcohol notes.

The taste is of sweet barley and warming alcohol. The alcohol is powerful, but doesn't seem to mask much of the flavor. Some lemony hops balance out the sweetness to a degree, though the sweetness certainly rules. Overall, it is a medium to full bodied maltiness with spicy alcohol notes. Some mildly spiced apple-like fruitiness hangs subtly in the background.

There is something of an alcohol rawness in it, but it's not too harsh because of the malty smoothness. Some sugary sweetness lingers in the long finish.

It's a little too sweet, but otherwise it's a nice slow-sipping brew.

Photo of smcolw
3.63/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Moderate head but it leaves a great coating of blanketing lace. The color is a dark gold and fairly cold.

Lots of caramel and alcohol to the nose. Slightly sweet, somewhat candy like with a touch of hop.

Strong caramel sweetness to the taste, but there is a good hop counterpoint that prevents this from being too cloy. Good body with an appropriate carbonation level. The alcohol is deceptively light, but the impact is very strong.

Photo of Rochefort10nh
3/5  rDev -12.3%

Photo of Mora2000
3.57/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours orange with basically no head. What head is visible is a white color. The aroma is very fruity with some caramel malt. The flavor is strongly fruity with lots of pineapple as well as some malty sweetness. You also get a ton of alcohol in the flavor. There is a slight amount of hop bitterness as well. The booziness hurts the drinkability but it is still a decent beer. Thin-medium mouthfeel and low carbonation. The alcohol is warming.

Of the five Ridgeway Christmas beers I tried (Bad Elf, Reindeer Revolt, Criminally Bad Elf, Santa's Butt and Warm Welcome) this was easily the best. It is the only one I would even consider having again, although I doubt I will see this one out again.

Photo of Gueuzedude
3.32/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A reasonably vigorous pour produces a scant, one-finger thick, tan colored head. The beer is a light amber color and shows a hazed, light copper hue when held up to the light; this is definitely pale colored for a beer of this strength. The aroma smells of slightly sticky, almost unfermented malt, golden raisins, brandy, concentrated apples, somehow slightly tart and it has a fair amount of hop character under the more noticeable malt notes. Hop notes that lean towards herbal, perhaps a touch of menthol, clean citrus and a bit of a green note towards the end. Not a bad nose, it is a clean mix of malt and hop notes.

Sweet with notes of golden raisins up front, but then a herbal hop character kicks in that then moves to a solid, though slightly astringent, bitterness in the finish. Thick and chewy, though this is certainly not sticky. It has a certain viciousness and heft that makes it a sipping brew, but not overly heavy. Somehow the simple malt character can actually disappear underneath the fairly mild hop character; at these times the beer tastes too green and astringent. This is actually quite hoppy for an exported English beer (especially the ones usually exported to the states). It has a touch of hot alcohol to it in the finish, though is actually fairly mild for a beer of this strength.

Not nearly as bad as I expected for some reason, but then it is not all that great either. I have a feeling that the bland malt character will pick up some character with some age. This could age for quite some time (though the lack of bottle conditioning is disappointing), but the fresher hop notes will certainly fade).

Purchased: Plaza Liquors; Tucson AZ

Photo of wrightst
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%

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Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
78 out of 100 based on 299 ratings.