The Mad Elf | Tröegs Brewing Company

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The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf
Very Good
The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf

Brewed by:
Tröegs Brewing Company
Pennsylvania, United States

Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 11.00%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
Hop Bitterness (IBU's) : 15
Color (SRM) : Ruby Red
Availability: Seasonal, 12 oz. & 3L bottles, 1/2 and 1/6 kegs (contact your local retailer to pre-order)
Malts: Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate
Hops: Saaz, Hallertau
Yeast: Spicy Yeast
Pennsylvania Honey West Coast Cherries

User Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 1,310 | Ratings: 4,083
Photo of jkblr
3.94/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz can freshest by 10/29/2019 poured into a Chimay goblet at fridge temp 11% ABV. The beer pours bright reddish amber with very light brown head. The head recedes to a thin ring and single layer of fine bubbles. Very little lacing is left behind. The aroma is Belgian yeast, honey and cherries. The taste is semisweet cherry wrapped malt with honey showing up mid to late palate. The spicy notes from the yeast build to a climax at the barely bitter finish. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, adequately carbonated and mostly dry in the finish. The spicy yeast and gentle tartness from the cherry keep the sweetness pleasant and not cloying. Overall, very good. This is a very nice and unique take on the BSDA.

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Photo of BeerAndGasMasks
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the can, it pours a solid clear amber with a modest head. In the nose, malt and a bit of alcohol (not a surprise there!). In the mouth, a sweetish malty flavor coats the tongue. Nice!

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Photo of lastmango
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured ruby red with a tan one finger head, light retention. Light lacing was present. Nose of malt, cherry and cinnamon.
Pronounced malt taste with cherry overtone and hint of light honey. Booze is hidden at the first few sips but then jumps out and says Boo . . . ze! Not getting any chocolate notes. Could be a bit more complex, which would raise this to an outstanding brew. Moderate body and carbonation. For a Belgian Strong Ale, the carbonation is a tad light.

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Photo of MrOH
2.84/5  rDev -26.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 2

Clear ruby, not much in the way of a white head, not much retention, but ok lace
Smells like cherries and honey, however faint. Not a bad thing, don't like be banged over the head with these things.
Tastes like the smell, but not as good. Alcohol is far too present. Very sweet.
Very cloying. Boozy. Some more carbonation would help, as well as being a bit drier.
Could be a great beer, but it kinda sucks. I've been trying it out here and there for about a decade, and have always wondered why there was any fuss over it.

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Photo of izraelc
3.81/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Ruby red pour. Smells like cherry brandy. A nice malty character. With a sweet cherry finish. A little spiciness. Burns a little going down. A true winter warmer.

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Photo of JamFuel
4.03/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

On tap at The Belgian Cafe in Philadelphia.

Pours a dark reddish brown with fine, soapy head.

Smell is sweet and a bit spicy with notes of cherries, honey and cinnamon.

Taste is sweet, but with some bitterness to it. Note of cherries, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. No booze and nice balance.

Mouthfeel is medium to full, well carbonated.

Overall, a really nice dessert beer. Hides it's ABV almost too well.

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Photo of MoreBeer4me
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

If I didn't know this is 11% ABV, I would have never guessed it. Alcohol is extremely well hidden. Overall, very good and an excellent after dinner or late night treat. You'd likely only want one of these in a sitting. Not due to the booze, but due to the intense flavors of honey, cherry and spices, more than one is overkill. Move onto a beer that tastes like beer after one of these.

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Photo of JustCamIt
3.8/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

A: darkish-cranberry-light brown color with scant head
S: canned brown bread, cloves, and a bit farty
T: cross between cherry twizzlers and molasses
F: medium bodied and light carbonation
O: Sweet treat. The alcohol was not noticeable. Had two the following day. One while hanging holiday lights outside and the another during dinner. I could drink these all day if it wasn’t for the high calories.

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Photo of HorseheadsHophead
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Looks clear ruby red as the label indicates, with a small bubbly off white head. Decent retention. Some lacing left.
Smells like overripe bananas dried sweet cherry, Maraschino cherry syrup, fig, raisin, pumpernickel bread, hay, clove, and black pepper.
Tastes quite sweet upfront--honey and cherry candy hitting immediately, followed by date, plum, fig, and raisin. Lots of brown sugar, toffee, and molasses. Toasted brown bread malt in the middle. A faint overripe banana bread presence throughout, mostly banana bread. Finishes dangerously dry and spicy, lots of clove, ginger, coriander, and a bit of black pepper. Feels warm going down.
Highly carbonated, but deceptively medium-bodied and seemingly crisp. Dry on the finish, but a bit slick and oily from sugars. Dangerously drinkable for its abv.
A really nice Belgian strong dark ale; a nice winter warmer and dangerously drinkable. A good beer.

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Photo of HellsRanger
4.4/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

I actually cellared this brew since fall turned out superbly.
It pours a brilliant ruby amber glow with nice off white foam along with very nice lacing.
The aroma has done nothing, but grow with the cherry and ABV coming thru very nicely.
As for taste...FORGET IT! It has gotten so bold and adventurous and smooth...its hard to stop and write this review. It is definitely something to relax and enjoy.
With the feel...the ABV is smoother and the rest has mellowed as to not be very edgy.
Overall...It was a good choice to cellar.

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Photo of daliandragon
3.99/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This strange thing pours a ruby port color with no head and notes of dark cherries, wood, brown sugar and vanilla.

Big, bold, sweet, boozy flavor with a thick, luxuriant texture and little carbonation. Flavors include molasses, honey, figs, and black pepper. Yeast lingers in aftertaste. A little sweet for regular imbibing, but not a bad end of the night brew.

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Photo of CoryIanShafer
4.41/5  rDev +14%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I initially did not like the first sip of this Mad Elf Ale, I thought what a disappointment this is and it was my thanksgiving beer 2018, in fact I said to my wife i will have to acquire a taste for it seeing that it was 19.99, but after letting it sit for a bit in the glass I found it much more enjoyable, in fact the longer it was sitting in the glass the better it tasted . This beer needs some temporal taming. It sat beckoning me from it glass prison, It spoke in colors of Ruby red with deep tinges of brown, the beautiful rich color of a northern reindeer, it was was headless warrior, it poured decapitated, but smelled instantly of fresh chopped cherries with a slight tinge of honey aromas, there is a huge candy flavor here as well, lots of sugars, high esters but so sticky and good, my fingers feel s though I've been playing with candy for the day, taste of sugar, cherries and (maybe honey), tastes a bit like a sweetened Gulden Draak, i also pick up a nice oakiness somewhere in the middle, initial bitter sweetness in the front end, rounded in the middle with a sweet tart finish. I could imagine a spiced version of this would be brutally beautiful. Fell free to do with these whatever way you see fit, I feel possessed by a mad elf.

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Photo of NJBarstool
3.91/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Look- honey with a slight red tint
Smell- yeast, cherries, bit o honey and Mary Jane candies
A 12 oz bottle is best shared, it's tad sugary although pleasant at first

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Photo of Ronl12
3.79/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

12 oz bottle into tulip, Best buy date of 9/20/19,
Look is dark ruby red. Nose is sweet cherry malt. Taste follows nose, more cherry as it warms. Feel is medium and crisp. Overall nice for a change (for me), easy sipper for the season.

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Photo of CaptainHate
3.87/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I can't believe this is the first time I've had this; maybe Troegs didn't market it well to whatever segment I'm part of. Anyway in case you think I'm pushing the season, this has been in the stores for at least two weeks AND yesterday the temperatures didn't get out of the twenties.

This freshest by 9/24/19 12 ouncer looked good in the Abbey long stemmed tulip, with a nice head over a rich ruby color (as an aside, in my anecdotal universe everything that's been sold to me previously as a "red beer/ale" has been a massive hop bomb that challenges my obdurate frugality in refusing to pour anything out). The cherry and honey rise, along with the booze, to the forefront of the smell and taste. Looking at other reviews, I see some people don't like the cherry presence being so upfront. That's ok, I'm not here to badmouth anyone, rather to contrast this with Bell's 30th Anniversary Cherry Stout (and I'm a big Bells fan) where I was wondering "where's the cherry", plus it's a natural tasting cherry and not this medicinal crap where you wonder "is this infected or did some nitbrain think this was a really really good idea". And don't get me started on the diabetic coma inducing Better Half, which I'm aging to salvage what I think was a good idea.

So I like it fine.

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Photo of pjwaldron
3.45/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

The cherry and honey "undertones" have totally taken over this beer, and given it an unpleasant juice-like character. It's too sweet, though it looks and smells pretty good. Also deceptively non-boozy tasting for such a big beer. I think it has real promise, but they just got carried away ramping it up.

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Photo of erk0607
4.35/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Enjoy by 9.19.19 poured from bottle into tulip. Definitely remember to warm it up from the fridge.

Look: Tan head of small individual bubbles, dissipates at a decent pace. Ruby gold, clear body.

Smell: Belgian yeast, sugar, honey, candy/candi sugar, clove, bread. Slight stone fruit.

Taste: Cherry first. Candi sugar. Belgian yeast funk. Sweetness from honey. Peppery esters.

Feel: Alcohol heat (but the alcohol flavor is well hidden). Medium body. Lingers on the tongue.

Overall: Excellent winter eve beer. The amount of cherry that comes through that the complementing that the yeast provides makes for a tasty brew. I'd drink this outside of winter if it weren't for the 11% ABV. As another review mentioned, they did well with the cherry this year compared to prior ones.

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Photo of RacerX5k
4.33/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Always have one or two used to be bombers now couple singles every year and always, just ok. Honey, Belgian yeast, very strong. This year I think the cherry really pops, and is easily the best vintage I've had. Real, authentic, cherry taste which i did think very medicinal in year's past. So, kudos, for fixing this, or did they just get lucky this year? Either way, great cherry.

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Photo of RichardCheryl
3.87/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

I got this October 20, 2018. Label said "freshest by 10/5-19". Pretty boozy, cherry and honey flavors could be more pronounced. Does this improve with age ? Good fall/winter beer. I wouldn't have more than one if you're out, though!

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Photo of LarryV
2.95/5  rDev -23.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

A friend gave me a bottle of this, freshest by date is 9/18/18 so it's still got a couple of months before reaching that date. Aroma is mostly malty, very faint cherry smell in the distant background, Poured a red tinged dark amber color with no head. Taste is sugary, boozy, malty with just a hint of the cherry showing through but not in an enticing manner. Slightly sour note, the flavors of this beer don't seem to blend in a harmonious fashion to me. It's certainly not an offensive beer but it isn't something I would seek out, especially at the $16+ price the locals were asking for it. I found it somewhat of a chore to drink a bottle. I usually really like Troegs beers, but this one just isn't one that I can recommend, I can understand why my friend gave this away.

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Photo of BilleGibbons
4/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Great winter brew, look forward to it every Christmas. Love the chocolate and cherry. It's a very smooth drinking beer given its strength. More than one and you will need a cab.

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Photo of Bobolinksy
4.14/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.75


You have been warned.

So I just finished a 21st Amendment "Baby Horse" which followed a coupla Stone Ruinations... I want another beer and it isn't quite bedtime, but I'm all out of beer that I'm not aging... I don't even have any skunk or otherwise lousy beers that I hold onto because my neighbors know I manage a beer store and always have something in my fridge.

Poured gently into a snifter.

L - Clear, dark amber. Almost no head.

S - Immediate cherry aroma. Some booziness in the background.

T - Nope... No... You bet I'll finish this beer but 11% beers are supposed to age better. All I got was a hint of cherry... I guess it was cherry.... followed by a malty finish which left a sugary aftertaste in my mouth. I remember a much bolder cherry flavor when I drank it back in November and there was no maltiness.

On the bright side, the booziness of the fresh Mad Elf is mitigated. I didn't detect any.

F - I truly suck at this one. It's.... typical? Not like a milk stout or a shandy... It's... typical.

O - Disappoint. I guess I shouldn't be. Or more accurately... I guess I should be disappointed.... in myself. Freakin' DURRR!!!!!! Aging beer does NOT accentuate or "refine" a cherry flavor... Aging beer accentuates and/or refines BEER flavor.

So yeahhhhh.... Gotta reassess...Maybe aging isn't what I want to do. I got a bottle of Mad Elf Grand Cru 2017 in the back of my fridge that will definitely get poured within the next week. I have another bottle of Grand Cru that I'll decide on based on that.

So that's it. My drunk review of a bottle of 2017 Mad Elf by Troegs Brewing.

I liked it better when it was fresh.

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Photo of woemad
3.7/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz bottle courtesy of bl00. I believe it's my 1st from Troegs. According to the label, it's "Best Before 100218."

Ruby-brown in color, with a thin, beige head. Said head dropped faster than Trump's approval ratings among the non-MAGA crowd. Not surprising given the high abv.

Sweet and boozy aroma. Smells like cherries and honey. Belgian yeast aromas were not so distinct beyond a whiff of spiciness.

Sweetness in the flavor as well. Honey and cherries, as advertised. A little more cinnamony Belgian spiciness emerges in the flavor, but it's still way in the back compared to a typical beer of the style.

Carbonation seems low. Mouthfeel kinda flat and heavy.

Not a bad beer, but the carbonation issues hurt things. As for the sweetness overpowering the Belgian yeast notes, I'd be interested in trying one that was closer to that best by date, maybe things would be melding a little better by then. If I come across it again, I'll sit tight on it a while longer. Regardless, my thanks to Dan for something I'd not get a shot at locally.

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Photo of Djoneil
3.77/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz snifters of the 2017 & 2015 @the Brass Tap in Baltimore

Edited (180714) to correct a typo - I'm a terrible typist

Edited again (181118) to reflect my upward opinion based on a draught 8oz snifter of the 2018 version at the Brass Tap

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Photo of GeorgianBayPackr
3.73/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

If it weren't for the sour notes, this Holiday ale would rate higher for me. It seems to be a bit conflicted because the honey & cherries are there, but they simply do not shine through against the sour Belgian yeast. Still a very enjoyable "one bottle" pour

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The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 4,083 ratings