Mad Elf, Tröegs’ Belgian Strong Ale, Gets A New Look

Label Approval by | Dec 2016 | Issue #119

The holiday season is ushered in at Tröegs with an impish elf, who’s clearly been enjoying the brewery’s Belgian Strong Ale. This year, the little guy looks a bit different, though. Mad Elf is the latest Tröegs label to get an illustrated, streamlined look as part of the Pennsylvania brewery’s gradual rebranding.

“We felt like the time was right,” says Chris Trogner, who co-founded Tröegs with his brother, John. “We wanted to still stick with our overall concept, which is hand-drawn illustration, but make it a little more simple, more identifiable, but also unique to Tröegs.”

They tapped Philadelphia-based artist Lindsey Tweed for the makeover, who’d worked on some of their labels while she was part of an agency. “We’ve worked together so long now that we just vibe with each other,” says Tweed. Tackling one beer at a time, they pared down the color palette and added info about hops, color, and glassware to each label.

“Despite the big, gleaming brewery that kicks out some of the best beers in the country, Tröegs is a tight-knit family that still loves to get their hands dirty,” she adds.

When it came to Mad Elf, drawing a cartoon figure was something different for Tweed—she calls it her “best John Kricfalusi impression,” referencing The Ren & Stimpy Show creator. “But as with all of their more iconic labels—Troegenator and Nugget [Nectar] come to mind—I was very conscious of staying true to the spirit of the original while putting my own spin on it,” she says.

The original was actually a drawing on a bar napkin back in 2000, when Mad Elf was still a taproom-only beer that the Trogner brothers conceptualized while assembling variety packs in their warehouse. This is the third variation of the holiday elf on the label, explains Trogner.

“We’ve always felt like the elf himself is a little mischievous, jolly, and almost like he’s up to no good,” he says.

As Tweed puts it, “It’s the only label I’ve seen that has a warning about the 11 percent ABV plastered across its mascot’s face.”