The Mad Elf
Tröegs Brewing Company

The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf
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Beer Geek Stats: | Print Shelf Talker
Style:
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Ranked #85
ABV:
11%
Score:
88
Ranked #11,514
Avg:
3.91 | pDev: 14.83%
Reviews:
1,315
Ratings:
4,092
From:
Tröegs Brewing Company
 
Pennsylvania, United States
Avail:
Winter
Wants
  242
Gots
  1,227
SCORE
88
Very Good
The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf
Notes: 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
Reviews: 1,315 | Ratings: 4,092 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by MaxSpang:
Photo of MaxSpang
4.03/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Christmas tulip!

APPEARANCE

This Elf is a lovely deep copper red color. It's more translucent than expected. The head was about a one finger khaki color, and disappated in a hurry. None of it remained. Looks like a lovely brew! I feel like the cherries were added to give it a good amount of color, but not so much on the flavor (more on that later).

SMELL

There is some definite big Belgian character coming through. Surprisingly, alcohol isn't that present. There is a lovely honey aroma, but not a lot of the cherries. There's a good bit of raisin bread character, and the Belgian spiciness is met with some dark fruitiness. Smells amazing.

TASTE

Yum - this is a big bad ass beer. There's a lot of chewy breadiness, and some wonderful dark fruit character. The sweetness is definitely high, but not cloying. The honey comes through at the back of the tongue and hangs around for a little while after the swallow. The cherry flavor is present, but it's not very noticeable. The Belgian spiciness is a nice addition to to overall flavor, but isn't the focus of the beer. Alcohol? Schmalcohol, this beer doesn't appear to have the stuff.

MOUTHFEEL

This Elf starts off big and chewy, and feels slightly syrupy (the good kind of syrupy). At the end, there's a bit of dryness that ups the drinkability. It's nice and warming after each sip, and even though you can't taste the alchol, you can feel it! There isn't much carbonation. The beer is pretty drinkable, but demands to be savored.

OVERALL

This beer is excellent. This is definitely not a beer to drink every night, but is great for winter nights. It doesn't have as much spice character as other Holiday beers, but is a MUST for this time of the year. I don't know what made the Elf Mad, but this beer makes me very happy. Plus, I love the fact that they sell it in a variety of ways - 22 Oz Bombers, 12 oz. Singles, and even six-packs instead of four-packs! It gives you the opportunity to buy a sixer, drink a few, then age the rest.

Cheers.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of theFLZA
5/5  rDev +27.9%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Mad Elf didn't start out as one of my favorites, but over the past 5 years I've enjoyed it more and more each year. It is now my most anticipated seasonal release of any brewer.

It is described perfectly by Troegs on the beer's own label: "brewed with honey and cherries".

It tastes like it is capable of creating life and ending wars. It's that good.

I love high ABV beers (like Mad Elf) that don't taste as strong as they really are. In addition, this beer is delicious and continually drinkable at any temperature, with no bad aftertaste whatsoever.

Troegs hit it on the head, as far as my own personal tastes go. Favorite beer of all time.

Thanks for everything!

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.12/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Candied fruits woven in soft, caramelized grains is a breif descriptor. Alcohol strength providing the power to fuel the malts and esters. This beer shares a lot of similarities to Ommegang's Three Philosophers with it's candied cherry additions, higher alcohols, all leading into a fruit cake meets cough syrup taste; just tempered into a malty flavor that lures beer lovers like moths to flames. This beer begins with a bright copper color, low head formation and retention, with lacing substitued by legging. A real Barleywine appearance. Aromas are chocked full of esters and alcohol sweetness. Cherries make a definate impact along with notes of rum, roses, and delicate nectar sweetness. All that trancends nicely into taste with malt sweetness becomming the forefront elements- soft, bready, caramelly, and flavorful. Alcoholic heat makes the transition from flavor to body an easy one. Malty and sweet, this beer again takes on Barleywine proportions. The low hop character screams English Barleywine even though the maltiness is subtle and delicate. What a lovely beer that displays a lot of character from sweet to spicy; floral to alcoholic; fruity to bready;... the complexity descriptors can go on and on.

Thanks ShadesOfGray!

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Photo of BeerAdvocate
3.62/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Review from BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #47 (Dec 2010):

A cult classic among, beer geeks in the know. From the label to the ingredients it screams Christmas. Crystal-clear red color garners a thin white lacing. Yeasty phenols to cherries to ripe fruit to spice, an amazing nose. Creamy mouthfeel with a bit of crispness to lift the full body. Alcohol chimes in first with lots of warmth, spice and rose water. Cherry juice, candied fruit and faint medicinal flavors hit the middle with a small tartness within. Spice picks up middle to end, making way for the alcohol to really warm. Sweet, spicy finish. This is one of those slow- sipping nightcap brews--after a long day of holiday bustling, you'll probably need one of these.

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Photo of EvoRich
3.68/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Aged one year

Look: Copper/red in color. Pours with one finger head which fades quickly.

Smell: Cherry cough syrup, A slight hint of alcohol.

Taste: The honey comes through on the flavor, right up front and the cherries, half way through, with a malty finish. Again, only a small hint of alcohol.

Feel: Fairly medium bodied with a good deal of carbonation.

Overall: I used to like the beer much more than I do now. It's a bit hyped.

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Photo of angrybabboon
3.2/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Split with Goblinmunkey7

Consumed 3/25/14

Appearance: Clear, ruby red - pours with a medium-sized, off-white head - fades to a wispy cap, leaves a few streaks of lacing

Smell: Dark malts and a ton of cherries - cherries to the max, kind of like a cross between cherry preserves and cherry-flavored cough syrup - some honey, but it's more of a straight-up sugar - some Belgian yeast, with some spices, clove, banana, and bubblegum - very sweet and very boozy overall

Taste: Sweet, boozy, spicy - apparently this is a winter warmer of sorts that was meant to be slowly sipped over the course of a multi-day snowstorm - a borderline absurd amount of cherry, with a side of cherry cough syrup - lots of honey flavor - like with the cherry, there's a bit too much honey - Belgian yeast, with some serious clove, banana, bubblegum, and a big dose of phenols - some dark caramel malts, with more sugar - the sweet malts, cherry flavor, and phenolic yeast create something that definitely tastes reminiscent of some kind of medicine

Mouthfeel: More or less a full body, with some syrupy stickiness, finishes with booze

Overall: Elf medicine, engineered to cure sobriety (may cause diabetes)

Cherries, honey, and Belgian yeast are all good things. But in excess, I can't say I'd recommend it. I'm glad I didn't have to drink the whole bomber.

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Photo of JRed
1.92/5  rDev -50.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

Pours a dark red color with no head to speak of which is quite a turn-off. The scent makes up for dull appearances with a strong cherry, sweet aroma. There's some false advertising going on here, the cover is way more pleasant than the book. An initial stale fruit gives way to rotting plums and cough medicine. Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of flavor here but I can't imagine a palate that would enjoy this for more than one sip. Either this elf really is crazy or I've been bad all year cause he just brought me coal in a bottle.

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Photo of jcipa88
4.49/5  rDev +14.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This brew at 11% will put hair on your chest. It's absolutely delicious, but relax wen you get it, you'll be dying to try, just take a step back. Let it sit on the counter for 10 min. Then open it, let it sit another 10min. Then either pour into any glass you want, who cares! Then just smell, great malty / cherry aroma. The head is white and it's lovely. Now have a Cape Cod potato chip and have another taste. Just a great to have during those chilly days / nights. Cheers

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Photo of BilleGibbons
4/5  rDev +2.3%
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 Jtg66821
2.85/5  rDev -27.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Drink it while it's cold or it tastes like cherry cough syrup

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Photo of JooJooEyeballs
1.24/5  rDev -68.3%
look: 2 | smell: 1.75 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Amount of Honey used is over-the-top with the amount of Cherries being over-the-top-of-the-top. A simply ridiculous beer by the master brewer Chris Troeg!

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Photo of MoreBeer4me
4/5  rDev +2.3%
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 ManapuaMan
3.74/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Amazing that 11% ABV can be so subtle. High marks for the beer's ability to subdue any hints of burn with a great balance of flavors from cherries to cinnamon to bready malt. A seasonal treat that could be enjoyed all year.

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Photo of goldbot
2.3/5  rDev -41.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Pours a deep, brilliant, ruby red; clear, with essentially no head - which isn't too surprising. Any aroma is very subdued at first - just a barely detectable hint of malt and dark cherries and raisins. Seriously, how does this beer have almost no aroma? There is some flavor, at least. Malty and sweet but lacking any complexity. Hints of bread, raisin, cherry. A subtle, spicy yeast flavor tries to come out but is held back. There's flavor but not very much of it. Somehow the alcohol is very well hidden but I don't know how. Slight bitterness; full bodied but with a thin, watery mouthfeel. Maybe I'm doing it wrong but this beer lacks any character whatsoever. Alcoholic malt water.

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Photo of JudgeRoughneck
2.22/5  rDev -43.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

Mad Elf is dark maple colored brew with a thin tan head. It is strongly perfumed with an aroma of cherry-flavored cough syrup that quickly overwhelms faint wisps of hop.

Taste opens spicy with phenols, then sweet malt kept in check by cherry vapors and alcoholic burn. I get a slight tartness in the background and possibly a banana note. The mouthfeel is viscous, thick, flat and syrupy, but I was only able to feel that once my tounge had been numbed to the scorching alcohol.

This is a valient attempt at a new take on x-mas beer but I am not into it. I have been very impressed with the other Troegs beers I've tried, but find Mad Elf a little to close to Mad Dog.

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Photo of HorseheadsHophead
4.15/5  rDev +6.1%
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 astrocreep2000
2/5  rDev -48.8%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

dunno how this beer is so highly rated. this beer tastes like cherry cough syrup, or nyquil. however, it looks nice in the glass and its 11 percent. overall i cannot recommend.

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Photo of goochpunch
1.84/5  rDev -52.9%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1

Pours out a hazelnut/maple syrup color with a still body and just a ring of white bubbles. Smells terribly grainy with tons of honey and cherry cough syrup. Candyish sweetness explodes in the nose. Tastes of, yes, candy sweetness, overripe fruit on the verge of rot, Belgian banana esters going wild, cough medicine, and hot alcohol. Mouthfeel is slick, viscous, syrupy, is harsh with bubbles. Drain poured this since I didn't want to get ROBO-FRIED. This is a prime example of an American craft brewery totally messing up a Belgian-style beer. I'd take a Bud over this, please.

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Photo of Arinthos
1.59/5  rDev -59.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1

I had this brew at a christmas eve party out if a 24 or so oz. bottle. The break down goes something like this

A- This was a great dark ruby red aboslutelly th best part of this otherwise >>>>>> beer.

S- unfortunatelly the only smell was of bad alcohol kinda like a old english on steriods.

T- unfortunatelly the only taste was of bad alcohol kinda like a old english on steriods

M- Decent carbonation, but way overpowering alcohol burn in the throat horrible burn felt like a cheap cheap booze.

D- never again this was a really bad expierence didn't even finish it.

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Photo of threeviews
4.5/5  rDev +15.1%

12oz bottle (BOD: 09/25/14) into a Rastal Teku 2.0 glass...absolutely fresh!

A- Pours a beautifully clear, ruby red with <1/2 finger of a white head which disappears as quickly as it forms. (4.0)

S- Sweet, heady aromas of chocolate, stone fruits (cherry, plum, raisin), banana, honey and clove-like spice are all represented which blend very well. (4.5)

T- The fruity components are noticed first followed by a milk chocolate flavor across the palate. The finish is long and lingering, but far from cloying. (4.5)

M- Despite the lingering milk chocolate sweetness, it finishes quite dry, making this full-bodied beer easy to consume. Although not much head formed, the beer's carbonation is near-perfect. (4.75)

O- Regardless of category, this is a well-crafted beer...and perhaps one of the best in Troegs' profile. It blurs the lines between a Belgian Quadruple, Belgian Dark Ale, Fruit Beer and English Strong Ale. Very Unique and again, very well executed. If you have a love for big Belgian inspired beers, this is a must try! (4.5)

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Photo of BigTomZ
1.82/5  rDev -53.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

A - Pours a nice looking red with decent white creamy head that stayed around.

S - Smells like sweaty ball sack, with some cherry notes.

T - Taste was like cherry cough syrup with pennies and band-aids in it.

M - Mouthfeel was thick and syrupy.

O - That thick mouthfeel combined with the sweetness and metallic taste did not make for an enjoyable beer. I really enjoy most beers from Troegs, but not this one.

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Photo of Overlord
2.04/5  rDev -47.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Thanks to a generous trader!

Pours a dark amber, slightly ruddy color. No head, just a thin white crust around the borders. Pretty color, worried that it has no carbonation. Then again, upon checking the ABV, it's 11%. That surprised me.

Smells like sweet malt (no honey, just really sweet). That's about it. Maybe a vague fruitiness. Cherries, perhaps, or maybe just an indistinct dark fruitiness.

Taste is a blistering assault of sugar. Whoa. A tinge of cherries, but mostly just straight up sugary malt. Lots of bread-y yeast. I can feel my teeth dying from the sugar. The sensation I get is cherry listerine or cough syrup.

Flat. Super boozy.

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Photo of ChrisBowers
2.4/5  rDev -38.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Maybe this thing needs to be cellared for awhile but I am not a fan. It reminds me of Robotussin. In the words of Chris Rock "Out of Tussin? Put water in the bottle and shake it up, More tussin!" It definitely has a lot of stuff going on, I'll give it that. Tons of alcohol in this one with a big malty sweetness. The cherry aftertaste though is horrid. Truely horrid. A very unbalanced beer, the alcohol is very evident and makes it an unpleasent, if warming, drinking experience. Lots of people seem to like this so maybe my tastebuds are tweaked the wrong way but this stuff tastes like cough medicine to me.

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Photo of johnshuster
1.82/5  rDev -53.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

So, having finished those tasty draughts at the pub I went out the next day to pick up a case of the Mad Elf at the local distributor. That nicked me for almost 50 bucks-you pay for the ABV in there, to say the least.

To my dismay, the Mad Elf is a shadow of its tap greatness when coming from a bottle...at least that's my take.

The bottle itself looks cool-brown glass with a little elf that apparently has a nice buzz going himself. For me, the bottle is the best part of this beer.

The smell is much more concentrated and pungent from the bottle. Note that I drank out of the bottle, not a glass. This may affect what I experienced. Gone were the pleasantly sweet and cherry-like scents. Think more along the lines of cherry robotussin.

The taste was much worse from the bottle than the tap. The beer was far thicker, and the alcohol pervaded the taste throughout drinking, whereas when I had this ontap you only got a slight sensation of the ABV in the aftertaste. This stuff for me was just way too thick and sweet out of the bottle.

Mouthfeel wasn't great either-very heavy and not much carbonation. I am not a big heavy beer drinker, so anything that is thick is not my cup of tea. This stuff's pretty thick, but maybe that's your thing.

Drinkability-Getting one of these down takes a while. There was no possibility of chugging or gulping this stuff-slow sipper only baby, unless youhave powers far greater than mine.

I want to like this beer due to its high ABV and local relevance (went to school near where it's made) but I just can't get the stuff down from the bottle. On tap though, ooo yeah that's the stuff.

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Photo of nrbw23
2.26/5  rDev -42.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

A- Pours a pretty, clear dark red with an off white head. Head has decent retention, forms a thin layer of bubbles and leaves some nice lacing.

S- Smells of raisins, figs and quite a bit of spices (ginger and cinnamon). Cherries are also pretty strong here as well.

T- Tastes way too sweet!! Other than that a ton of booze, sweetened cherries give way to a yeasty aftertaste and also the honey just adds to the sweetness.

M- Medium body, maybe a touch on the watery side and low carbonation.

D- Tried this one a couple of times and no thanks I'll pass on this one.

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The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
Beer rating: 88 out of 100 with 4092 ratings