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Criminally Bad Elf - Ridgeway Brewing

Not Rated.
Criminally Bad ElfCriminally Bad Elf

Educational use only; do not reuse.

297 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 297
Reviews: 195
rAvg: 3.42
pDev: 16.37%
Wants: 3
Gots: 18 | 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: 297 | Reviews: 195 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of cbutova
2.74/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked this one up because it was on sale at my local store. Pours a clear golden amber color with a one finger creamy tan head that retains fairly well and leaves good lacing down my glass. Smell starts out as malts and alcohol and slowly turns into total fruity raisins with alcohol. Tastes of malts, a slight bit of hops and some alcohol,Apples and lots of sweets in here as well, this taste also eventually becomes the fruity taste of a Belgian beer with alcohol, seems like the original flavors of the beer fade very quickly on this one. The mouthfeel is medium, alcohol warming the mouth and a taste of raisins is left on the tongue. Drinkability is low because the beers good flavors seem to fade out fast to straight dark fruits and raisins, alcohol taste gets bad before the bottle is finished, good to try, not very good to buy again. Aftertaste of fruits gets to me, taste became unberable after the first few sips, nothing really going on here, enjoyability ends after a few sips.

Photo of twiggamortis420
3.05/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Pours a very clear amber hue with a thick, large-bubbled light yellow foam. Fades fairly rapidly and leaves some spotty lacing on the glass.

Sweet, lightly caramely maltiness infused with light fruits and minerals. This is a smell that seems to be quite typical with Ridgeway beers.

Very fruity flavor - green apples, pears and maybe even some melon rinds. Dont think the malts support the high alcohol enough. There is some earthy hops in there, but not enough, even for an English BW. This one is pretty disappointing, especially considering that I really enjoyed the Bad Elf and Very Bad Elf. Maybe too many elves are a bad thing!

Photo of SLeffler27
3.62/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

After pouring, a clear, dark amber ale with gold highlights into a Palm snifter glass, a quarter inch head of white foam provides a coating of lace. After swirling, a clear film is noticeable.

An aroma of fruit is carried aloft by white fumes of alcohol. Malts are presented with apples, raisins and eventually sweet white wine as it warms.

After laying down for two years, the alcohol is still very prominent. Generally, the flavors follow the nose, lacking complexity, yet still a barlywine with some hops. The malts still win out through a short finish including a last bite of alcohol. This one develops raisin flavors with warmth.

The sharpness of the alcohol does mellow as this medium-bodied beer warms.

A fine ale, however, Santa's little helper lacks the wow factor I have come to expect from barleywines. This said, it is still worth the wait and I'll finish this bottle with dinner tonight.

Photo of beerdoc1
5/5  rDev +46.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a classic Abbott Ale, lower half dimpled, Plimsole lined, pint glass.

Clear amber; tight 1/4" head which lasted to the final sip. Good lace.

Dried vine fruit, background diacetyl and warming alcohol in the nose.

Full, rich, fruit, malt and appropriate alcohol for this big beer. Dangerously more-ish. This is my second "Elf" beer. Loved them both.

This reminds me not one whit of the justly famous and lauded Brakespeare Bitter. I was fortunate to have toured the brewery in a CAMRA guided, bicycle brewery and pub hejira many moons ago. Thrilled to see the spirit lives on!

Photo of Foolmonkey
3.14/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

This was my first Barleywine ale. It poured a bright red/orange color with a white and tan head that quickly dissipated. The smell was the best part of this one, hints of apple, grape, and sweet barley. You could also notice the alcohol.

The taste was overpowered by the alcohol. Most of the other flavors were masked by it. The mouthfeel was fairly thick and warming. I definitely would have liked this beer better on a cold night. Drinkability was not great, but of course these beers are meant to be sipped.

Photo of ccrida
3.38/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pretty sure this 50cl bottle is from Fall/Winter 2007. Poured into my Delirium snifter, Criminally Bad Elf is a clear bright orange with a pretty big white head that leaves nice lace.

Smell is sweet and sugary, cotton candy, some light fusels, rubbing alcohol. The smell is better then the taste, where the alcohol dominates, even at at least 18 months of aging.

Taste is similarly boozy and sweet, candy like. Pretty strait forward booze bomb here, lots of sugar I'd guess and not much depth. Not hard to drink or anything, but not that good either.

Mouthfeel is bone dry and spicy, solvent like, but with decent carbonation for an aged English BW.

Drinkability is average. This is just a generic strong sweet English barleywine. I thought the age would be enough to give it a far chance, but this is one that probably will never really get that good, just fade away over time. I don't get any kettle caramelization like you find in the better English stock ales, and I'm guessing this used a high proportion of sugars...

Photo of Offa
3.6/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I had ried a 2007-vintage bottle bought in December 07, which I drank a year later, and it was rather tasty but a bit too rough and alcoholic.

Dark, faintly hazy gold orange, it had a medium, solid pale tan head slowly shrinking to a thin lasting top and leaving a little lace.

The aroma was rich, raisiny, bready, with toast, a lot like a strong pale bock.

The taste was at first quite flavourful and pleasant, strong and alcoholic but good with burn raisin, some winey fruitiness, strong pale-bock qualities with a bit of a bite and a little burnt caramel. However, it soon degraded a bit, becoming more just sweet with rough alcohol and rough bitterness, ye never got bad. In the end, this is notup to Ridgeway's best beers but is better than any of Ridgeway's other "Christmas" beers in my book, atleast when aged a year.

Photo of charlesw
3.24/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

I see everything now...

Anyway. Yeah. Straw colored. Micro head. They've used one of the bottles that forces glug-glugs. They did this on purpose, seems to me, to make it appear to have carbonation when it doesn't... Well, too light in the color/opacity. Not enough head (none???).

Refreshing and light smell. Ah. Right. Shouldn't score so high since it's not to style. Flowery and sweet. Not sweet like caramel - sweet like sugar water...

Sweet, bitter, twang, sweet. Weird. Yeah... A little oxidation going on, here. Interesting and different. Not an English Barleywine - much more American in the hop aroma and bitterness to it. But not a good example of the style - a little off.

Not thick enough to be a barleywine of any kind.

Seems like it's almost an America DIPA. It would certainly score higher as such - the color wouldn't be a problem and the body is a lot closer. You might want to ramp the bitterness up a little for that, but it is really close. For a barleywine, well, I'll pass.

Photo of barleywinefiend
3.23/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Recieved in trade as extra from Cakanator
Poured a orangish color with good carbonation and a nice sized white head. nose is alcohol, english malts, hops. Taste is boozy and thin with a grainy taste and english malts/hops. Mouthfeel is boozy, thin and not to impressive.

Photo of SilentSabre
2/5  rDev -41.5%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Honestly, I felt this was below average in every category. While not a terrible ale in its own right, as far as being an English Barleywine, this was certainly not. Poured up a light orange/amber colour with a two finger thick white head that vanished in about 40 seconds. This didn't even look like any English Barelywine I had ever seen. Smell was a bit boozy and had more attributes expected of any number of Belgian varieties than what it was supposed to be. There was, however, a trace of the sweet malt aroma so closely associated with this style. Taste begins in the mouth pleasantly sweet with some unidentified maltiness which quickly turns both bitter as well as assertively warm from the booze. All around a disaster, IMO. This hardly resembles what the brewers were clearly going for. I absolutely do not care for this at all, and honestly, I'm rather disappointed.

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

(Served in a snifter)

A- This beer has a crystal clear deep copper body with a thin bubbles that creep up to a creamy beige head of sticky foam.

S- The smell is pretty clean with faint caramel malt notes and some green bitter notes to follow.

T- This soft herbal green bite comes through first. With more sipping comes the thin caramel sweetness of malt followed by a fusel note to finish the beer. The fusel note is soft enough that it cleans up the taste but doesn't linger.

M- This beer has a medium mouthfeel with a faint alcohol warming in the finish.

D- The malt flavors are softer that the hops which are already soft in flavor and the whole beer is pretty one dimensional.

Photo of ZimZamZoom
3.77/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured some of a 25 oz. bottle into a tulip glass. Cellar temperature. A very clear and vibrant deep golden color with a thin white head that leaves evidence of its passing on the sides of the glass.

Aroma is of sweet golden raisins and ripe pear. Very sweet but unique malt profile here. A touch of spiciness in the background, and alcohol tingles the nose as well. Also some caramel in the aroma. Flavor is sweet with fruitiness, apples and raisin, Alcohol twists its way around the palate with a bitterness that promises much but fails to satisfy in the end. Finishes rather quickly with a slight dryness lingering on the tongue.

Not huge bodied at all, some thickness to it in the mouth but it's smooth and just carbonated enough. Not overdone in any category I'd say. I dare to say this is a pretty drinkable 10.5%. Almost no alcohol in the flavor though I can feel the warmth its carrying already :-)

So many better beers of this style, from England and the U.S. but I am happy for having tried this one.

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

Appearance:Clear amber in color with creamy white head.

Smell: Sweet of alcohol.

Taste: Robust, roasted and notes of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied and rich.

Drinkability: Good if you can tolerate the alcohol.

Drinkability: Great if you can get by the alcohol.

Photo of MTNboy
3.68/5  rDev +7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

It poured like a soda which I think is unusual for barley wine it is highly carbonated. It made a lot of head with a lot of fizz to the body. The head didn't go anywhere it stayed there the whole time I was drinking it died down a little but for the most part it had great retainability. Great brown amber body it omits a strong odor of alcohol and malt. There was not much for hops as there is with most barley wines. It is pretty sweet with a lot of malt to the flavor. A Toffee tone is the majority of the flavor. Easy mouthfeel.

Photo of IRONRakkasan
3/5  rDev -12.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The Elf had the aroma of caramel, toffee, and honey. It had a strong honey taste, more like mead. The tang and carbonation kept the sweetness in check.

The first few sips caught me off guard, but the more I drank it, the more I was able to appreciate the flavor and carbonation. Its not a beer I would hurry in downing.


Photo of Pencible
3.9/5  rDev +14%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This poured a clear copper color with off-white head. It smelled like caramel malt with some applesauce, cinnamon, yeast and alcohol. It tasted like applesauce and apricots with honey wheat malt, copper hops, and sweet yeast. It was thick with a bit of carbonation, and had a mild bittersweet aftertaste. Overall this had the biggest and best flavor of any Ridgeway beer. It was fairly unique and clean, and hid the alcohol pretty well. So it was pretty easy to drink, and had good body too. Definitely worth drinking, although still not a superstar. I could imagine more sweet maltiness developing with age, which could help this beer reach a more critical acclaim.

Photo of Cyberkedi
3.1/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Pours a nice clear coppery amber; head is sort of thick and does not stick around. Aroma is strong and more fruity than hoppy, like a cider. Flavor is rather cider-ish with a fierce alcohol bite, about what I expect from a barleywine. There is a harsh, smoky undertone and a bit of unpleasant bitterness in the aftertaste. Still, worth a try if barleywines are to your liking.

Photo of hopsleeroy
2.83/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

Bottle shared with the girlfrieng
A-Clear Copper, with some lacing after quick dissipating head. Farily average look.
S-Kind of sweet citrus flavors, smell improves while warming but overall nondescript, girlfiend thought weak lager
T-Sweet toffee and orange, Overall very sweet with alcohol bite at the end that has slight copper taste, Not so fantastic, Medicinal flavor throughout
M-Coating and and medium to full in mouth, nice mouthfell.
D-Didn't subject my liver to the whole bottle so wouldn't drink again

Photo of mdm46410
2.78/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 500ml bottle and served in a snifter. This beer poured a clear copper hue with a thick head of creamy beige foam that resulted from an aggressive pour. Great retention and lacing. The aroma consisted of oranges, apricot, sugary toffee, and a bit of perfumey alcohol. The flavor included sticky sweet caramel, biting dull alcohol, and a bit of astringent orange. A lingering finish of metallic orange makes this one increasingly hard to choke down. The mouthfeel was medium-bodied and had light carbonation. Definately not one of the better examples of the style.

Photo of bmwats
3.47/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured 16.9 oz. bottle into a snifter.

A: Amber. Medium light pours into a bubbly white head. Bubbly carbonation builds up where the surface meets the edges of the glass. Spotted lacing remains as you drink.

S: Sweet syrupy malt, hops, raisin, banana. Brandy-like.

T: Hops and malt, with a slight sweetness. Peat, and a little pecan shell bitterness.

M: Bouquet infiltrates the nose. Hops and malt first, strong alcohol taste lingers, really dry finish.

D: Decent drinkability. A sipper.

Due to strong alcohol taste, needs to be sipped. Decent atmosphere and flavor although not overly complex. . . nose is mush more so. Unfortunately, because of this, the flavor underwhelms after you get the nose. Overall, worth a try, if you like the style. Decent quaff.

Photo of echdk3
3.98/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A_Glowing orange color, dark white head that dissipates quickly. Beautiful and unique color and sheen

S_Fruity, maybe apples and pears, sharp funk similar to a lambic

T_Starts fruity, strawberries and apple cider, ends with a very warming alcohol

M_Not as chewy as I had hoped for. High carbonation

D_Alcohol is very present, but the taste is so pleasing and complex that I want more

Photo of HopEnthusiast
3.51/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured a light brown color. Small white head with partial lacing. Has a very mixed aroma and flavor. Has a very sweet ands spicy flavor to it. Not very bitter but has a stong malt flavor that seems to stick around. Not at all what i was expecting. Decent barleywine but definitely nothing great.

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 biegaman
3.38/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Ripened summer apricot with a touch of yellow daisy - not at all what I'm looking for in my Yuletide barleywine. I have had a few barleywines (nearly) this light in colour, at least a couple of which were really quite good, but I bet at least a half dozen other styles would come to mind before I'd ever guess this one right.

Its thin white trim manages to produce a couple of notable prints along the sides. It has a healthy glow, clear and bright shine, an all around flashy complexion that looks in all regards just like an IPA. As fine a look it is, granted, I keep doing double takes and checking the bottle again to see if I've made an error. This is a barleywine? Apparently so!

While appearance might surprise, aroma might disappoint. Apart from a faint note of dried fruit, this is missing nearly all components of the great style. Nowhere are those dark, sticky, sappy, fudgy caramelized malts that shine through so nicely in English style barleywines. That whole persona, and anything resembling complexity or refinement, is wholly absent.

Ok, so the beer doesn't rival a fine tawny port or well matured whiskey. So what if it's no where near a J.W Lees Vintage or Thomas Hardy's? It must still have a thick, rich, hearty, warming character, right? Well, yes and no. I wouldn't say it has all of those aforementioned qualities but it may have some...

'Some' would include sticky butterscotch, a touch of pine resin, dried and candied fruits and maybe just a splash of alcohol. It is far from great by barleywine standards but it does make some appeal to the palate. Despite being nothing overly tasty I do catch myself going back to the glass with eagerness, which surely speaks to something.

Once again, and not to sound like a broken record, but this was nothing like what I look for in a barleywine. I liked the beer just as well for what it is, and now almost feel guilty holding style guidelines against it. Final verdict: 'Criminally Bad Elf' is certainly nothing worthy of locking up - whether it's worthy of picking up, you'll have to make that call.

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

Pours an orangish copper color with some nice initial head, a bit of lasting head, and a bit of nice lacing. Wicked mixed scent, a very strong malt (although not as deep as many barley wines I've had) with an interesting English hop aroma (odd for an English style). Interesting taste, as well; same as the scent, very malty but with a higher than usual hop characteristic, although the aftertaste is still a strong, semi-bittersweet, malt. Goes down fine, if not overly smooth. A nice Christmas barley wine!

Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
78 out of 100 based on 297 ratings.