4 Elf
Dark Horse Brewing Company

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Winter Warmer
Ranked #41
Ranked #25,453
3.83 | pDev: 11.49%
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
Very Good
Notes: 4 Elf is holiday cheer in liquid form. Spicy aromas like cinnamon and clove give this dark brown winter warmer a proper holiday welcome. Balanced between malt, hops, and spice at 8.75% ABV this beer goes great with all holiday foods—from sweet snacks to the roast beast.
Reviews: 212 | Ratings: 854 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of GuyFawkes
GuyFawkes from Illinois

4.06/5  rDev +6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottled 9/1/16; drank 12/12/16 @ the Yarchives.

Opaque brown/purple appearance.

A mild pour yielded a small khaki head; decent lace.

Caramel, plum, leather, light roast coffee bean & allspice notes in the nose; complex & enticing!

Smooth medium thick mouthfeel.

Caramel, plum & dry leather flavors up front; allspice, milk chocolate & faint booze heat notes on the finish.

A complex, drinkable winter warmer. I'd have another!

Feb 14, 2019
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damndirtyape from Ohio

3.9/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle served in a tulip glass. Date 9.25.17 KAR 219.

Appearance: Dark brown with ruby red highlights - looks like sediment came along for the pour, but sank to the bottom of the glass. Thin off-white head with no persistent lacing.

Smell: Lots of spices with cinnamon and ginger dominating. Some underlying caramel and toffee sweetness as well.

Taste: Lots of spices again - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. There is some underlying caramel malt, but it's well hidden under all the spices. There is also a bit of herbal/leafy hop flavor at the end - a bit bitter tea like.

Mouthfeel: Nice thickness - quite smooth. Very warming from all the spices. Light carbonation.

Overall / Drinkability: Not sure about this one given the date stamp. The spices held up well, but I'm wondering if this beer didn't age well. Very spice heavy to the point I felt the beer got lost - more caramel malt sweetness to counter the spices I think would have made this a better winter warmer.

Dec 30, 2018
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EMV from Pennsylvania

3.83/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a Dogfish Head tulip

L: Dark mahogany brown pour with 2 fingers of fluffy white head. Nice lacing.

S: Sweet dark sugars and spice. Clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Holiday mix.

T/F: Follows the nose... with toasted grains, brown sugar, and all of the above spices. Not obnoxiously spiced which helps, and some hopping to balance out the sweet. Medium bodied.

O: A decent Christmas spiced beer. Not one I'd want a lot of, but a nice change of pace.

Dec 18, 2018
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bushbeer75 from Michigan

3.99/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz brown bottle - not dated

Dark Horse 4 Elf has a very dark brown almost black color. A 3/4-finger tan head was formed that left behind very spotty lacing. The nose is dominated by spices common during the holidays; cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. The taste starts out with all those spices noted by the nose then a flavor of caramel and chocolate come through. The mouth feel is high-medium with moderate carbonation and a spicy finish.

Overall, if you like the Winter Warmer style that is to the spicy side then this ale is for you. 4 Elf is a flavorful easy drinker.

Jul 12, 2018
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AmeriCanadian from Tennessee

3.49/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Probably the specific combination of spices, but the overall effect is porky BBQ for me. And that’s not what I’m looking for in my Winter Warmer beers.

Jan 06, 2018
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Eamonn-Cummings3 from New York

4/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a Teku glass.

Look is a dark brown with an off white head.

Aroma is of coffee malt and dark dried fruits.

Taste is a lot more of the spicing and more of that roast coffee.

Dec 25, 2017
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PatrickCT from Connecticut

3.65/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Black body with a 1 finger off white head that dissipates in to a ring with a bit of spotty lace.
Roasted malts dominates the aroma with hits of warm milk and spices.
The malt flavors aren't as robust as the aroma would suggest, however, the overall taste is more complex. Roasted malts, chicory, strong coffee are raw spices are all there. Finishes with a nice nip of alcohol, even after sitting for a year.
Lighter body than one would expect. Medium body and carbonation.

It's a Christmas themed winter warmer with an elf on the label and I am drinking it on December 22nd. It does it's job.

Dec 22, 2017
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Nephilium from Ohio

3.64/5  rDev -5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Rich spice aroma, with some hints of brown sugar. Pours an opaque black with a ring of light tan head. Moderate spice flavor, with some roasted notes, fades to an earthy bitter finish. Thin bodied, and fairly simple.

Dec 22, 2017
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beerguy04 from Illinois

4.31/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Black in color with brown around the edges. Finger width of tan head. Smells of oatmeal and chocolate. Taste is similar, but with coffee added on the finish. Mouthfeel is heavy. Overall, really good beer.

Feb 11, 2017
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AdmiralOzone from Minnesota

3.62/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours coca cola in color and thickness. Smells of all the regular Winter Warmer spices that I'm familiar with, but heavy on the clove. Flavor is cinnamon and cloves. Passable overall.

Jan 11, 2017
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goingbrokeonbeer from South Carolina

3.4/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark brown with a quarter inch head that disappears quickly. Smell is spice for days, a little over the top for me so take this for what it's worth. Taste is nutmeg, cinnamon spice, and bitterness. Not my thing for sure.

Jan 07, 2017
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ScruffySouthpaw from New York

3.79/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Served in a pint glass right from the growler.

Appearance: Tranprarent dark Amber with medium bubbles to the body creating an off-white head rising maybe half a finger's length off the body. Drops to nada after two or three sips with zero lacing.

Smell: cinnamon and nutmeg scent when with a light dose of hops to go with.

Taste: Sweet apples and cinnamon with a bitter to sour malt feel. The alcohol seems more evident factoring in it's not so stronger abv level. I like it, makes me think a bit of rum raisin just a bit.

Mouth: Medium carbonation and definitely above average stickiness.

Overall: Good brew and nice way to start the new year, smooth and easy to like. Good after dinner and even better in a glass. Salud!

Jan 01, 2017
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avalon07 from South Carolina

3.85/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L: Poured from a bottle to a pint glass. Had a dark brown color and a thick texture. There was a quarter inch of foamy, off white head that lasted a short amount of time. Sparse lacing.

S: A nice aroma of nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, and dark fruit. A lot going on here.

T: Tasted of a decent amount of malt, several different spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves), a little bit of chocolate (could've used a bit more), dark fruit (raisins, in particular), and brown sugar. A solid enough flavor that doesn't quite live up to the expectations of the aroma. Still, not a bad flavor.

F: A good amount of carbonation with a mostly dry finish. Medium-bodied.

O: This is a slightly uneven, if ultimately likable beer. Worth a look.

Dec 23, 2016
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Tone from Missouri

4.29/5  rDev +12%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours a black color. 1/4 inch head of an off-tan color. Great retention and great lacing. Smells of strong sweet malt, slight chocolate, hint of spice, hint of yeast, slight alcohol, pale malt, and a hint of biscuit. Fits the style of a Winter Warmer. Mouth feel is smooth and clean, with an average carbonation level. Tastes of caramel malt, sweet malt, hint of biscuit, slight spice (cardamon), hint of alcohol, hint of yeast, slight roasted malt, and a hint of pine. Overall, good appearance, aroma, body, blend, and complexity.

Dec 22, 2016
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basaywhat from Illinois

3.88/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle. Pours dark brown with some reddish highlights. Small beige head. Aroma features spices, along with some roast and chocolate, molasses, light fruitiness.

Dec 21, 2016
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Dragginballs76 from South Carolina

3.83/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance - The beer pours black and pretty thin with off white to tan head. Lacing streams down the glass as you drink it.

Aroma - The biggest thing I notice is the cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. There is nutmeg and all spice as well nose is what I would want in a winter warmer.

Taste - The taste has more roasted malts than I detected in the aroma seems to make it a little bitter. The cinnamon and nutmeg is there very similar to the aroma maybe not quite as strong. Clove and brown sugar are pretty noticeable as well.

Feel - This beer has a medium feel maybe a little high on the carbonation and a bitterness that seems to linger.

Overall - The beer is pretty bitter initially which is a little off putting but as it warms it seems the cinnamon and spices help to balance it. I am not a huge fan of winter warmers but this may be my favorite so far.

Dec 15, 2016
Photo of mvanaskie13
mvanaskie13 from Pennsylvania

3.8/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Poured into tall glass: color is dark brown, head is light tan with fine bubbles; head presents about 1 inch deep then dissipates to a ring and light top with some lacing on the glass.

Smell is moderately spicy: prominent flavors are not overdone and include ginger, cinnamon, clove, allspice - the blend is very good and not too heavy in one way.

Taste is more malty than the aroma with the spice providing balance: malt is light toast, some roast and chocolate; spices are similar to the aroma but with less depth.

Mouthfeel is malty and a little sweet at first, then it becomes crisper, carbonated than maybe necessary for a winter spiced ale.

Overall a good winter ale with moderate spice aromas and nice malt balance in the flavor. ABV is hidden very well.

Dec 06, 2016
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jzlyo from Iowa

4.13/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Aroma is nutmeg/cinnamon/spices and malts. The flavor is nutmeg/cinnamon, malts, mild fruit/berries and a mix of mild sweetness and slightly sour in the finish.

Dec 03, 2016
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Jugs_McGhee from Oklahoma

3.33/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up at a Whole Paycheck in Manhattan for something like $2.99 USD.

BOTTLE: 12 fl oz. Brown glass bottle. Pry-off crown cap. Artful label art with a red and white holiday theme.

8.75% ABV. "Winter warmer spiced ale." 36 IBU.

HEAD: ~3-4cm in height. Pale khaki colour. Nice even consistency with a nice thickness to it. Soft enough. ~8 minute retention. Leaves no lacing as it recedes.

BODY: Opaque dark brown-black. Floating yeast particles are visible within.

Appears well-carbonated. Not unique or special, but generally appealing. Head retention is better than you might expect in an 8.75% ABV winter warmer.

AROMA: Whoa - big vivid spice presence redolent of nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar (not a spice, I know, but it fits into that schema), cardamom, vanillin, and clove. Vague dark malts (brown and schwarz, I guess?) lend this its backgrounded sweetness. Some raisin, maybe? Yeast profile is clean, not estery; I suspect an American ale strain instead of an English strain (to its detriment).

Aromatic intensity is average. I find no overt hop notes. No off-notes. Not boozy; the aroma suggests maybe a 5% ABV beer.

TASTE & TEXTURE: Cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, brown malts, schwarz malts, brown sugar. The marriage of spiciness to malts works well, but I'm missing yeasty complexities and any hop presence whatsoever. Some sprucey/evergreen-forward hops would be at home in this build.

ABV is well-disguised, but some alcohol warmth wouldn't be unwelcome, and might play to the clove-forward medicinal vibe nicely (think clovey hot whiskey on a snowy night).

Balanced but not perfectly dialed in. Texture suits the taste without really being in perfect harmony therewith. Medium-bodied, smooth, wet, slightly sticky, and unrefreshing, with moderate thickness and weight. A more gooey, soft, warm mouthfeel would better suit the spiciness of the flavour profile. This texture fails to elevate the beer as a whole or to accentuate specific flavours.

Average flavour duration and intensity.

OVERALL: A competent winter warmer with a nice spice profile and a well-hidden ABV, but little else. Discerning drinkers might find its relative simplicity underwhelming, and there's definitely room for improvement, but it's nice middle-of-the-road holiday season fare from a wonderful brewery. I'm glad I tried it once, and I'd probably buy a 4-pack if offered at better prices elsewhere in the U.S., but it wouldn't be a repeat purchase for me at the $2.99/bottle pricetag.

B- (3.33) / WORTHY

Nov 20, 2016
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tone77 from Pennsylvania

3.94/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a brown 12 oz. bottle. Has a black color with a 1 inch head. Smell is of spices, nutmeg in particular, roasted malts. Taste is roasted malts, spices, chocolate, tasty. Feels full bodied in the mouth and overall is a good beer on this 40 degree night in late April in PA.

Apr 29, 2016
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SD-Alefan from South Dakota

4.13/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

On tap.
Arrives a deep, dark brown, nearly black with virtually no head. No lacing to speak of.
Aroma is roasty: coffee and chocolate with a bit of nutmeg, tree nuts and cinnamon.
Tasty beer. Lots of chocolate goodness as well as those yummy holiday spices in just the right amount as well as a bit of fig and a bit of booze.
Mouthfeel is rather thin.
Nice holiday beer.

Feb 14, 2016
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

4.16/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I am continuing to eradicate the Bottle Backlog here at Chez Woody while alternating with The CANQuest (tm). The forecast snowstorm may be helpful in my being successful in this endeavor!

I Pop!ped the cap on the Bottle & utilized a gentle pour as is my new wont. I am coming to realize that I may have been doing even the freshest of beers a disservice with my heavy-handed pours & inverted Glugs, so I am backing off. If the idea was to raise head, I can accomplish that with a swirl once the beer is in the glass. Having done so, I had a finger of fizzy, foamy, light-tan with low retention. Color was Dark Brown to Very Dark Brown (SRM = > 27, < 34) with NE-quality clarity & ruby highlights. Nose was heavy with cinnamon, but there were other spices in there, also, just none that I could easily discern. It also had a dark bready maltiness so that it smelled like spice cake. Not space cake! That is for later. Mouthfeel was medium-to-full, not quite full, but close. It was a thick beer on the tongue, as though a dollop of something had been scooped onto it. The spices were just what I needed on a cold winter's day in January in advance of a creeping snowstorm! It definitely had a warming quality without being overwhelming, or worse, making me feel that it was oversaturated with spices. The prevalent taste was cinnamon, but the hops seemed to impart a cool wintergreen/peppermint flavor, also. The finish was quite dry, as you might imagine, thanks to all of the spices involved. I was really happy with this warming up my winter's day!

Jan 20, 2016
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hoptheology from South Dakota

4.38/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Pours chestnut brown with a cream colored almost beige 3 finger head. Light accentuates cranberry hues around the sides of the body.

If there were a festive smelling beer, this is it. Cranberries, holly, nutmeg, pecans, cinnamon, gingerbread, Red Hots, peppermint, hot cocoa...there's no better smelling holiday beer, I guarantee you.

The flavor starts out slightly piney, but quickly develops into banana nut bread, gingerbread with red hots, prune, cinnamon, nutmeg, followed by slight baked brown sugar and molasses. It's just so incredibly festive I can't help but rate it so high.

Buzzing carbonation, alcohol heat, and a dry rubbed finish.

Overall, as a Christmas/Holiday ale, 4 Elf NAILS it. I mean just NAILS it. Nothing better captures the aromas, flavors, and warmth of the holidays. Best holiday beer, and beyond impressed.

Jan 20, 2016
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jp32 from Michigan

4.62/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a color somewhere on the fence between deep, dark brown, and pure black. A decent head sits atop as well. The beer is pretty darn dark for a christmas ale, and that is all good in my book.

The aroma is hoppy and spicey with notes of pine, nutmeg, and cloves. Some roasted malts appear in the background the more the beer warms.

The flavor is also big on both cloves and nutmeg, but with a strong malt backbone that really beefs this up compared to other christmas ales. Chai tea is present, as well as some faint hints of ginger.

Mouthfeel is a well carbonated medium bodied beer. Exactly what you'd want this one to be.

Jan 14, 2016
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delta490 from Virginia

3.78/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a really deep brown with a little tan head that just won't quit. Leaves spots of lacing. The aroma is like a spice cookie, mostly cardamom. The taste has more going on with the addition of ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. The body is lighter, slick and smooth.

Jan 03, 2016
4 Elf from Dark Horse Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 854 ratings