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Criminally Bad Elf - Ridgeway Brewing

Not Rated.
Criminally Bad ElfCriminally Bad Elf

Educational use only; do not reuse.

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 kirok1999
3.85/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber copper with no head and just a touch of foam on the top. Smell is pretty sweet, stands out as an English barleywine. Fruity with banana, caramel, and mild malts.
Taste is super smooth and has almost no carbonation. This fits really well in a snifter to focus the malty smell. Taste is a bit more bitter than the smell. Not as sweet as JW Lees yet has some of the same characteristics. Fruitiness in the start, apple, banana, slight citrus hop note and lush malt aftertaste.
Feels slightly thin and doesn't coat the tongue like some do.
The alcohol is very well hidden on both the swallow and exhale. Something about the high ABV and how easily it's hidden hurts the drinkability a little.

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

Criminally Bad Elf pours a clear copper color with a small white head on top. The foam dissolves quickly to a thin ring around the surface and leaves a few spots of lace on the glass as it disappears.

The aroma is sweet malt with notes of apples, oak and alcohol. Each sip of this medium bodied beer is very smooth and slightly chewy. The flavor also has a fair amount of sweet caramel malt. Mixed in are oak, vanilla, apple and a hint of cherry. It finishes tart with a medicine/alcohol taste.

Unlike American barleywines, this beer is more malt than hops. It's quite drinkable and tasty.

Photo of Gusler
3.92/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer as it sets in the glass after the pour from the 500ml bottle appears as slightly hazy burnished copper with the head modest in size, off white and frothy, it vanishes rather quickly leaving the a patchy coating of lace. Nose is cotton candy sweet, hints of fusel alcohol, caramel, malt and a touch of spice, pumpkin like is what I’m trying say. Start is obnoxiously sweet, malt present adequate, alcohol bite noticeable, top is medium in feel. Finish continues the heavy sweetness, hops overwhelmed, a tummy warmer, and the aftertaste sticks to your palate like the “Peanut Butter From K Rations”, but as I’m “Abbynormal”, I like this beer? lol

Photo of SammyDavisJrJrJr
3.67/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2 | overall: 3.5

A - Decent head, but no lacing. Orangish-brown body. Not bad...

S - An interesting fruit (papaya) aroma mixes with standard, balenced barleywine aromas. Nice.

T - Alcohol does make itself known in this beer. After the initial bite, the malt sweetness takes you to the lightly citric and bitter finish. Nice and balenced, an enjoyable drink.

M - Very light body... I feel like this part could use some work.

D - Was it great? Not really, but was it a balenced, enjoyable barleywine? Yes.

Photo of RoyalT
3.92/5  rDev +14.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance – This came out looking like orange liquid sugar with little head and a bit on the thin side.

Smell – The sugar is more like cane than anything else, which is nice to smell. There are also some lightly-toasted malts, which makes me think of morning cinnamon toast.

Taste – It's a little milder at the taste but the sugar and toasted Wonder bread come out pleasant. The flavor is nicely balanced, but its mild nature may disappoint some who have difficulty appreciating the subtleties of a fine EBW.

Mouthfeel – This is light for a BW, just barely medium-bodied, but no alcohol sting.

Drinkability – The lack of a big boozy kick makes this quite quaffable for a 10+ ABV ale.

Photo of Dogbrick
3.24/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This brew is a bright copper color with a medium white head that dissipates steadily. Minimal lacing is evident. Aroma of earthy malt and pungent fruit, as well as some citrusy hops. Medium-bodied (watery at times) with malt and spice flavors, along with touches of hops and alcohol. More hoppy in the finish, with a lingering alcohol aftertaste. As a Barley Wine I feel it should be more robust. Pretty average on everything except the aroma.

Photo of Crosling
2.52/5  rDev -26.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Deep tawny in color with a small white head. Powerfully aromatic, with hints of raisins, toffee, prunes, caramel, red apple. Not a complex or deeply satisfying aroma, but it is powerful. Flavors are really dull and muted. It’s lacking depth and describable character.

Photo of shirfan
3.51/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Copper with a 1-finger but short lived head.

Aroma is a bit odd -- tea, warm malt liquor, brown sugar.

Taste -- Nuclear Malt Bomb. Brown sugar, white fudge, pecan pie. Very sweet but a shade under cloying. Chewy, malted milkshake mouthfeel. There may be some hops here in the background with a slightly leafy tea character, but wow are they drowned in a sea of barley. Mild warmth from alcohol but by no means is it pronounced.

Nothing like a typical American Barleywine, yet this is a tasty brew. On a 90 degree day in June, it's a bit much...on a 10 degree day in January, it would be just right. Still, hooray for the clearance shelf.

Photo of Oxymoron
3.55/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Is there a criminally good elf too? The poor is a mostly clear and darker bronze color. A good pour with a nice soft white head. Good retention that lasted through the full tasting.

The nose was malty mostly but other hints of alcohol and fruits were noticeable. The malt is rather limited with some grainy finishes, but some caramel and sugary molasses aroma. Some earthy bitterness is light but other hints of off flavored raisins and some solvent touches that let you know it’s a barleywine.

The taste is similar with malt playing a big role. The malt is more complex then the nose would indicate. A nice caramel and some toasty almost borderline astringent taste. Touches of molasses sugary notes are a little bit of a deterrent. The hops are also more present with some bubblegum flavors and some spicy complexity as well. Some high alcohol tastes are noted as well with some paint and hot flavors.

The body is full with a strong sugary feel. The fusel alcohol leaves a hot finish. But good light carbonation and a nice balance of hops leaves a drinkable finish. This might be a bad elf, but I would say it’s a good beer.

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 roblowther
2.86/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Barley wine that fizzes? Now I'm interested. And a bit afraid. The lack of carbonation has always deflected me from REALLY enjoying barley wines. This could be trouble. The color is golden, btw. The smell is pears, honey, and a note of hops. Nice. The taste is good, but cloyingly sweet. The honey flavor shows up in spades. No hops within a mile of this thing. The mouthfeel is syrupy and shows none of the carbonation that the pour hinted at. Drinkability? Sorry, just not my style and as hard as I try to rate this within the style, just can't get there. Read someone less biased review of this one. I'm just not an evolved enough beer geek to give this brew its fair shake.

Photo of dherling
3.67/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured out a cherry brown clear color, minimal head, fierce carbonation. Nose was alcohol, malt, fruity esters, not much else. Kind of tame. The taste offered some nice warmth, toasted malt, heavy fruit, cherry and prune, some alcohol. It's a bit of a heavy mouthfeel, but the flavors play well together and it goes down like a smooth whiskey.

Photo of jdhilt
3.91/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a three finger off-white head that fades to a thin layer leaving a good lace. Nice clear amber color. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied. Faint malty nose. Flavor sweet, some tartness keeps the sweetness down, high ABV stays hidden. $7.60 for a 500ml bottle from Tully's Beer & Wine Wells, ME.

Photo of Metalmonk
3.2/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Interesting to see this get such a relatively low rating from a bunch of BAs who embrace most barleywines. But maybe this isn't most barleywines...

Pours a thin head on top of a rusty orange/brown that has excellent clarity and some bubbles that patiently swim their way to the top.

Aroma has a yeasty, doughy, light sweetness, some caramel, with a lightly smoked element coming in. Some grape comes in too, after huffing on it quite a bit. Weird aroma, nice one, but hard to put a finger on.

My first impression upon tasting is how sweet this is, and then that's immediately bowled over by another impression: tart. Like bitterly tart lemonade that makes your whole mouth pucker. And it leaves an aftertaste that, while I've never licked an ashtray, is what it must feel like to lick an ashtray.

Some nice flavors come through all this hardship, like grape, brown sugar, apple, cinnamon, and grapefruit rind. But geez, this thing is really weird. What's with the spearmint and Pinesol? I'm actually really glad I tried it, and melbatoast93 got a nasty Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat in trade for it, so thanks to him for putting up with that. Me, I prefer the Seriously Bad Elf.

Photo of barleyman
3.2/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured from the brown glass 50 cl. bottle into my straight sided pint glass. Initially a good head, rather light colored pale amber color. The smell is a very nice if light aroma of malt, raisins and bread. Taste is well balanced between malt and hop, with the malt ultimately winning. Mouthfeel is quite nice and light as well, without the clove and hop one would find in an American barley wine. The drinkability is wonderful, being very light, one does not detect the 10.5 alcohol by volume at all. Overall very nice, on the light side for a barley wine, but worth a try.

Just a thought,


Photo of IntriqKen
4/5  rDev +17%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Distinctively different from the typical American Barley Wines I drink.
A golden orange liquid fills the glass with a half finger of white head that melts to top covering, side mapping lacing.
Aromas are not as fruit/malt intense as American versions I'm used to.
Still candied fruits and brown sugar fill the nose with a hint of red cherries.
Flavor is light brown sugar, over ripe banana, again with the cherries, a touch of red or baking apple, maybe a little bubble gum, alcohol ending.
Drying hops kills the sweetness nicely.

4.32/5  rDev +26.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fun holiday themed beer continues this year with this offering. Pours to a perfect honey colored body with a light tan head that fades from 2 inches to a quarter inch with some lace. Very sweet nose with notes of red liqurice, toffee, malt and earthy vanilla. Enters the mouth very smooth and flat out delicious. Slightly sweet with woodsy richness. Long mineral tones on the finish. Amazingly well hidden alchol untill it hits the belly. Leaves a thick mouthfeel. Very enjoyable, cant wait to have another.

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 briman
3.03/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served from bottle into standard pint glass.

Pours a clear golden amber color. About a half-inch off-white head, average retention. Decent lacing.

Aroma is caramel malt, with some light fruity hop notes, & backed up with alcohol.

Flavor is sweet and malty. Caramel, brown sugar upgront turning to some dark fruits towards the end. Hops make a cameo, and only deliver a mild bitterness into the finish. Alcohol clearly evident in the aftertaste.

Medium body, low-to-moderate carbonation. Syrupy mouthfeel. Balance is decent, though the hops have a tough time getting much notice. Alcohol present throughout, and warming is evident as well, and honestly this is the most dominant characteristic of the beer. Average drinkability, as this is the type you're likely to only have one of in a session.

Photo of Drew966
2.93/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Criminally Bad Elf pours a very light copper color with a white head from a brown 50 cl bottle. Aroma has a little carmel and a little fruit, it is kind of underwhelming for the style, I expect more strength to the aroma. There is a fairly strong carmel flavor, and a hint of fruit, and quite a bit of heat from the alcohol. This one is fairly hot and might benefit from a couple years of aging. I'm not sure it would be a great beer then either, but fresh its only average at best. I like the name more than the beer, my suggestion for the next round would be Lewd and Lacivious Elf.

Photo of fank2788
3.48/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

500ml bottle into a pint glass
This beer pours a classic copper color, with little to no apparent head, just a thin fim of white bubbles on top that laces a bit on the way down. The smell is caramel malts and spicey hops with a touch of more floral hops. A bit of alcohol as well as a solvent like smell come through also, may be some fusel alcohols. The taste mimics the smell, the alcohol hotness is very prevelant on the tongue and in the mouth, more so than I would prefer. Hop bitterness dominates any malty sweetness. The mouthfeel is good with medium body with low carbonation and a nice alcohol warmness. The drinkability is also ok as the abv climbs drinkability is always going to suffer a bit but this one suffers a bit more because alcoholic taste is not masked well enough by the hops and residual sweetness.

Photo of benmiliron
3.75/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Received as a xmas gift. No real head to speak of, but a beautiful hue. A pale aleish orange/yellow/brown, with glints of red in the right light. Smell is heavy barleywine - hops, malts, alcohol. Unfortunately also a bit of cleanser in the back, but barely noticeable.

Taste is good. Nice malt/hops interplay. Hops maybe a hair dominant, but I usually prefer the malt domination so I'm biased. Fantastic at first crack, but the cleanser (ammonia?) comes in at the taste as it warms.

A bit winey in the mouth, but good carbonation. Drinkability is high for a barleywine, but the crash flavors drag it down a notch.

All in all, for the UK this is an impressive shot at an "extreme" beer. I hope to see more/better like this come out from the UK.

Photo of kmo1030
3.55/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

reddish amber witha good sized not quite white head.
The aroma is full of fruit and booze. grape, plum, apple, cherry, and raspberry, along with some light brown sugar, powdered cocoa and caramel. a relatively high amount of booziness.
the taste is HOT with booze. it's like rum soaked fruit. all the fruits from the aroma show up here, as well as the brown sugar, and caramel, and significantly less powdered cocoa. herbal biterness and warming booze at the finish.
A little thin bodied for the style and "bigness" of the beer.
not the most drinkable beer due to a pretty severe booze factor, but ionce you get passed that it does taste good, though a tad plain. this could probably benefit from some time in the cellar to remove some burn.

Photo of budgood1
3.85/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours out of the half litre bottle a clear copper/amber colour with a big frothy head. nice lacing on the glass. aroma of ripe fruit and cured leather with some musty sourness. the taste is all about the alcohol dimensions and the flavours imparted such. wooden notes of spicy alcohol dominate the profile...some rum soaked raisins and whiskey barrel figs. gin soaked fruitcake and some choco and caramel apple notes make for a genuine english barley wine experience. hints of yeast and some bitter hopping just for balance and show. a big body and a pretty nice smooth and pleasing mouthfeel lead to an above average drinkability (sippability) for this one.

the last of the ridgeway brews i'm sampling for the season and this one isn't too bad. a nice representation of an english style barley wine. i might revisit this one...although i am scared of that damn elf looking all menacing behind bars on the label.

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