1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Criminally Bad Elf - Ridgeway Brewing

Not Rated.
Criminally Bad ElfCriminally Bad Elf

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

287 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 287
Reviews: 191
rAvg: 3.42
pDev: 16.67%
Wants: 3
Gots: 14 | 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:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: jwc215 on 11-08-2006)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 287 | Reviews: 191 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of dherling
3.7/5  rDev +8.2%
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
3.93/5  rDev +14.9%
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
3.18/5  rDev -7%
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.

4.35/5  rDev +27.2%
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
3.78/5  rDev +10.5%
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
3.53/5  rDev +3.2%
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
3.88/5  rDev +13.5%
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.

Photo of tavernjef
3.65/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear copper. Lathery foamed top of creamy white froth builds to a small amount. Fades to a bunch of soapy suds and film across the liquids' top and coats the glass with a nearly immoveable wall of thick lace.

Aroma is lightly sweet, simple and clean with malts that have a touch of apple, caramel, some soft raisin notes, and a flint of hop pine. As it warms it becomes evident in heat and slips to a more earthen note of dried twigs to its dryness.

Taste is soft and supple with an easy going malt base that lends to caramel sweetness blended with a favorable little amount of fruityness. Kinda tropical with a hint of dark skinned berries, raisins, and a tad of cherry and plummy stuff finishing it up as it grows a heated warmth very late. The heat carryies a bit of hop pine heat to it and has a tender dryness thats touch and go with a feathery dried leafyness. An interesting effect which helps add some character to an otherwise simple, borderline boring barleywine.

Feel is short and simple, not overly complex in any fashion. Nearing a medium body, but not, always needing and wanting to gain a presence, but doesn't quite pull through. Even as the finish helps gather interest and defines the overall character with its warmer side and brief touch of earthen hop notes, it never quite makes a full impression.

However, this is a fine ale to drink down with an unwavering ease of simplicity that's actually the best aspect of the entire session. As you will welcome its bigger 1pt: 9 oz bottle with a one drinkable glass of good looking ale and a mouth full of feathery hop heat.

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 oberon
3.03/5  rDev -11.4%
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 Gavage
2.8/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: pours a clear orange color with no head other than a few surface bubbles. No lacing develops.

Smell: caramel candy sweetness abounds.

Taste: big malt sweetness dominates this beer. Bread, plums, and very little bitterness rounds it out. Alcohol is noticeable and doesn't marry with the flavors at all.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth from start to finish. Very short sweet aftertaste that seems to stick to your tongue.

Drinkability: not good. For the style this beer just does not cut it. Pass on this.

Photo of feloniousmonk
3.88/5  rDev +13.5%
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 Brent
3/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Despite having been pretty underwhelmed with past experiences with this line of beers, which seem to get as much mileage out of the seasonal label as the beer itself, I decided to give this one a try. While not a standout, it was a rather nice beer with sturdy caramel-sweet malt and a touch of dried fruit in the background. Lacked much depth beyond that, and didn't do much to hold my interest. Pleasant enough.

Photo of ZAP
2.63/5  rDev -23.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Amber colored..aroma of mineral/hard water, butterscotch and caramel....relatively mild nose to this.

The taste is much harsher...spicy and alcholic...some underlying butterscotch and caramel lend a malty english BW tone to this but this is a bit difficult to drink due to its abrasiveness....It's not that it feels real big...in fact, the body would barely qualify as full...it's just very spicy and alcohol laden on the taste buds and on the finish....

Not a horrible beer but nothing I would want to try again.

Photo of shadow1961
3.25/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Ridgeway Brewing's Criminally Bad Elf pours out a fluffy
head over a pretty, clear ruby brew. Carbonation is active,
and the nose has a yeasty sharpness under a bright fruity
and malty odor. The flavor is of fruit and molasses, with a
scotch flavor in the background. There is a definite sharpness
to the feel and the taste from the 10.5% alcohol by volume
which is not quite as well moderated as it could be. Still, it
does get the job done.

Photo of MrSeth
3.58/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The suds are busy and leave remnants throughout the drinking experience. Otherwise it looks like a standard ale in this style. There is very little complexity to the nose. It is however extremely sweet smelling underneath which is a grainey aroma. The taste and mouthfeel is dry, heavy in barley character, but not nearly as sweet as it smells. The balance of elements in the profile is commendable even without inspiring any words on the hops. It turns out to be a very approachable barley wine: not wimpy, not overpowering. The length is also commendable and it isn't syrupy or sticky like so many barley wines are. There is clean finish that leaves you wanting more. The 10.5% ABV is well blended into the profile making it a pleasure to drink. This is a classy barley wine, forget the hype!

Photo of CWiggins
3.08/5  rDev -9.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Samuel Smith pint glass. I thought the color–medium amber with golden highlights–was quite nice, but it didn't square with my earlier incursion into barleywine territory. No aroma was really noticeable, just the slightest hint of hops and a bit of toasty-ness. Very odd for this style, I must say.

The flavor is mainly concentrated in the hops bitterness area, with a bit of the sweet barleywine characteristic hovering in the background. This is unlike any barleywine beer I've tried. It seems to be more along the lines of a slightly-sweet English Pale Ale or IPA, but with a bit of sweetness. The hops bitterness is unmistakeable. The main difference is the alcohol content: at 10.5% ABV it feels like a barleywine!

I'd probably drink this again, but not if I'm in the mood for a true barleywine. It's got a nice thing going; it just doesn't seem to fit the style.

Photo of jrodvog148
1.45/5  rDev -57.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Has a cool bottle with an elf behind bars is what first caught my attention. Has an alcohol percent of 10.5 which lets you know this is no push over drink.

Upon opening I was not fond of the strong smell. Had good amberish color going into glass. Taste was fruity and a little bit of oats. Like cereal with bananas. Has a bit of an after taste that didn't sit well in my mouth.

If you never tried a barleywine ale before, i would not start with this one. I wouldn't buy it again, but at least I got a cool bottle for my collection.

Photo of DogFood11
3.38/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The last in a 3 part series picked up recently from ridgeway brewing. At 10.5% I saved this for a midweek nightcapper. Pours into a tulip it forms an off white head that falls to a cover and holds up pretty good for such a high ABV brew. lace is ring like. Clear.

First whiff besides the alcohol is a light fruity presence. First drink and I get bananna mixed with total cereal. A nice mix really. Surprisingly soft around the edges and a light malt bill allow the bitterness to show through. Mouthfeel is rather odd in that its kind of dry and wheaty in the middle then in the finish its syrup and an alcohol smasher in the end. Spices tend to linger and never clean up. Tobasco'ish in the late late finish.

A bit hot even regardless of the style, as its harsh and spicey. Not much in the way of depth or character. To sum it up this is a high alcohol bomb and don't expect a whole lot more.

Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
79 out of 100 based on 287 ratings.