Tröegs The Mad Elf | Tröegs Brewing Company

very good
1,270 Reviews
Tröegs The Mad ElfTröegs The 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

Added by WilliamPhilaPa on 12-14-2002

For Trade:
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Reviews: 1,270 | Ratings: 3,913
Photo of warnerry
3.56/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

From notes: Bottle 8/19/10 consumed 12/24/10

A Christmas Eve treat? We'll see...

A - Pours a beautiful clear reddish brown with one and a half fingers of off white head. The head dissipates rather quickly.

S - A sweet cherry smell predominates, with some honey also coming through. A rather faint hoppy aroma is present as well, along with a decent amount of malt.

T - Sweet cherries up front. Some faint hop presence followed by malt and more cherries. Has some of the faintly medicinal taste on the finish that often comes with cherries.

M - Nice full mouthfell, but not overly heavy.

O - the ABV and heavy cherry presence reduce drinkability a bit, but still rather easy drinking. I saw someone taking down a 6-pack of this at the MSU-PSU football game last fall, which I definitely don't recommend, but I would have this again.

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Photo of b_sters
3.56/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Overall I like the beer, but I have two complaints. The lack of a strong Belgian yeast flavor and the lack of head retention. Otherwise, its perfect for the season. I tried vertical batches from 2012-2014 and it does age well.

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Photo of ThickNStout
3.56/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle from GreenMonster12 (thanks Jay!). Bottled 9/13/12. Served in a goblet.

Pours a ruby hued chestnut with about one finger of pale cream head that quickly receds to a thin cap before disappearing completely without leaving any lace.

Aromas of cherry skins, raisin, caramel and a yeasty apple-like note.

Flavors of bright cherry preserves, bitter fruit skin, dark fruit, caramel, Belgian yeast, a little honey and a pretty healthy dose of alcohol. The booze blends a little better as it warms up. Pretty good

Medium body with fairly sharp carbonation. Boozey finish with cherry skin, caramel and yeast.

While I think 1 is plenty for me in a sitting, this is a decent American take on the Belgian strong dark ale style. The cherry and honey additions give it character that helps elevate Mad Elf above other similar brews. I won't go hunting more but this is something I would certainly enjoy again someday.

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Photo of SawDog505
3.56/5  rDev -7.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a 13 oz tulip glass. Pours a beautiful amber, with a half inch of off white head, that leaves some lacing. Smell is cherry, banana, clover, and biscuit. Taste is all of those things, really well balanced. Body is maybe medium, not much life, a little dry, and very approachable for its heft. This isn't my favorite style, but I do enjoy this beer.

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Photo of warriorsoul
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Thanks to Pentathlete for this one...not the most recent release.
Pours a bright mahogany color with less than 1/2 a finger of bright white head...most disappears quite rapidly and a small amount of lace produced.
Nice aromas filled with cherries, citrus, raisins, sugarcane and a hint of alcohol...a lot going on here.
The taste is where the honey comes into play, sweetening it up a obvious cherry bomb with a hefty dose of malt and a decent hop bitterness for being less than fresh. A dry finish with some of the alcohol coming through...not overly distracting, but adding a slight medicinal feel that goes away a few seconds after each sip.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied...not syrupy or cloying and the carbonation is where I like to see it.
A sipper for doubt, one to enjoy as the temps dip below freezing tonight. I will look to pick up a fresh bottle to compare, but can't imagine it will change that much in the time that has passed. Another nice offering from Troeg's even if it is not one of my favorites...recommend giving it a try, just maybe not snagging a case without tasting it first.

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Photo of far333
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served in a brandy snifter. Pours caramel colored with pomegranate highlights. A low head rises up to greet me, and settles out quickly.

Smell is fruity, very sweet, with some malt, raspberry and cherry, plus some yeasty funkiness.

Mouthfeel is a bit thin, somewhat watery, leading to flavors of cherry and honey, and some light brown sugar, and some clove in the finish. Also a bit of a metallic notes underneath, perhaps from the alcohol, but no other indications of the ABV strength. Average drinkability due to the rich and yeasty flavors and the alcohol strength.

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Photo of TheycallmeTim
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a chalice.

A--Miniscule white head dies almost instantly to a ring even though I left plenty of room for it in the glass and poured like an Ommegang bomber. Body is a cross between apple cider vinegar and cranberry juice--really unique and inviting.

S--Honey and yeast. Just tons and tons of yeast drenched in a rich sweetness, like you had pizza dough rising from wild yeast inside a honeycomb. Alternately peppery and honeyed, with a tang of acidic cherry juice that's almost vinegary. Some heat from the alcohol.

T--No idea what yeast strain this is, but it's a gutsy move even in a seasonal for American drinkers. Not sure the experiment paid off, though. Has a periphery of cherry tang and sour, enrobed in honey and Belgian yeast. The malt is also present in a sort of rugged whole grain character in the very back, which pairs nicely with the honey. Mostly, though, there's so much booziness here that it makes everything almost Vicks vapo-rubby, or like you're drinking a Luden's cherry cough drop. The weather is right for it, I guess, but I don't really want to be reminded of sickness and the throat lozenges in my medicine cabinet during the holiday festivities.

M&D--Mouthfeel is a bit of a train wreck: bubbly (no doubt to temper the syrupiness of the boozy cherries), chalky, and spicy both from alcohol and the yeast. A wild ride. Again, the ABV really spoils it for me by being over the top.

This seems worth cellaring for a year or two. Right now it's a decent beer, but with time and mellowing I bet it would be an orgy in your mouth. Right now it's just too hot for my taste. Still, a worthwhile contribution, even if I didn't like it as much as I wanted to, from a brewery I'm beginning to think I should regard as preeminent.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a tulip glass. Getting a head start on Christmas I guess.

A real nice ruby and clear red body, but with a very fast and falling foamy off tan brown head. Lots of noticeable sounding carbonation as well. Barely a collar manages to hang on shortly after and leaves barely a whisp of a top.

Nose is big on Belgian like candi sweetness and some sense of cough drop cherry. A real sense that something sweet is coming.

A kind of juicy light jammy cherry sense on the palate, mixing in with a little bit of bready malts. Surprisingly not as sweet as I thought it might be coming from the nose. Texture actually feels pretty solid, this very nice juicy body almost jammy.

Overall not too bad, nothing real crazy that I am getting excited about though either. For eleven percent abv, it doesn't feel like a boozy mess or hard to drink, which is a nice surprise. However, I am not finding myself really drawn to this.

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Photo of blackie
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

appearance: The pour into the snifter creates a low off white head that recedes to just a collar around the glass. The beer is a burnished copper colour, with minute floaters suspended throughout.

smell: Smells good. Plenty of darker fruits (raisins, dates) and candi sugars give a complex sweet aroma. Reminds me of the aromas in the kitchen when my mom bakes the Christmas cookies. The hop aroma is about just right. Plenty of balance. Hard to believe this one is 11.00%, as I can barely smell it.

mouthfeel: The carbonation is on the lighter end of the high range, and the body about medium.

taste: A solid strong dark belgian, but nothing too impressive. The fruits and sugars seem less complex on the palate than they did to the nose. There is a flavor in there I really don't like, almost reminiscent of overripe orange and vegetables. A light hop bitterness give some balance in the finish.

drinkability: tasty and very, very drinkable considering the ABV.

Another sample courtesy of dirtylou's cellarfridge.

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Photo of ZimZamZoom
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured some of a bomber into a pint glass. A nice deep copper color, with a fast rising and faster sinking tan head. No lacing to speak of here.

Aroma of tart fruit, some yeasty esters, and a touch of warm alcohol. Nothing noticeable from hops here, and not getting any direct malt notes either. The taste is does have some sweet maltiness to it upfront, quickly drying out though (thank you honey) with cherry and alcohol taking over in the middle and pretty much riding it out to the end. Again, no hops are detected at all. Cherry can take over a beer, but this one does so is a more subtle wine like way. I like the taste of this, but having trouble grading it as Belgian Strong Dark ale.

Not a huge body, which adds to my style confusion. Works well here though and again makes me think of wine. A nice smooth feel, with only mild carbonation more detectable in the back of the mouth than visually.

No doubt this is a very good and interesting beer. I have been wanting to review it for a while and glad to finally get the chance!

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Photo of FosterJM
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

1646th Review on BA
Bottle to Goblet

2012 Bottling
Thanks to TroyG2352 for this one.

App- A almost pure ruby red color with a good amount of density and weight behind it. Poured out of the bottle a bit thicker than I was thinking for some reason. A good bit of deeper reds on outside with only a small 1/4-1/2" head that was there and gone. No lacing or cling.

Smell- Right upfront I get most of the cherries and that honey kick is there. I am pretty against honey but will try it when its in beers. Hell maybe one day Ill like it. The spices come into play and seem to be so-so on this. Not the most well integrated with the style but drowned out a bit by the 11% as well.

Taste- This just reminds me of a spiced beer blended with Wisconsin Belgian Red. Big bold cherry with some good honey note (still not sold on honey in beer) A lot of spices from the style direction but just tastes flat and un balanced to me. Not necessarily a harmonious thing.

Mouth- A big full medium body with a good medium carbonation level. Residual cherry and spice are there and this was the best aspect of the beer.

Drink- I was given a few bottles of this. I will hold some back for a year or two and see what happens as the 11% mellows and fades and just changes this beer. I can see good things but not really fresh.

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Photo of mountsnow1010
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2

2009 Mad Elf - aged in pretty reasonable temps but transported around quite a bit. Poured into a chimay goblet.

Funnily enough I didn't intend to age this - I found it in March having purchased it last November - and figured what the heck, and let it sit until now.

A - Hazy brown with a pretty much nonexistent head/lacing. Almost looks like a dark apple cider.
S - Belgian yeast funk smell, bananas, cloves, cherries (nearly as much as a fresh mad elf IMO), a bit of an acetone like odor/sort of general ketone-y, a bit spicy as well
T - Starts quite sweet with a fruity taste, a bit of a sour kick at the end with dryness and mustiness, quite alcoholic. Spices again. I don't know what the year of age did- I think it brought the cherry down a lot - I can't really taste it.
MF - Starts off fairly creamy, and then ends with drying sensation. Pretty thick too, feels like it coats the lips.
D - I find the alcohol to be pretty apparent here. This is definitely a sipper, even with a year of age on it. Just one would be enough for me.

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Photo of ToasterChef
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A cellar temperature bottle is poured into a tulip glass.

A dark amber liquid fills the glass. Clinging carbonation is visible, as are a few rising streams of bubbles. The head is modest—a layer of tan bubbles that settles to a skim. A good amount of film (with sparse patchy foam) coats the walls of the glass.

The nose has aromas of cherry juice and hints of honey. A whiff of alcohol can also be detected.

Fruit with a mild spice and strong alcohol define the flavor of this beer. Lots of cherry juice at first. Some mild tannins and honey can be tasted as I swallow. Strong alcohol is also present, but it helps this beer feel like a real winter warmer.

This is a full-bodied beer and the carbonation level is good. There is some stickiness, but not as much as I'd expect from an 11% beer. The coat packs a good amount of flavor.

A pretty good winter seasonal, albeit a strong one. I don't think I'd have more than one of these at a time, but I enjoy it enough to be glad that I bought a 6 pack.

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Photo of alexhammond
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

pours a nice looking redish-orange color with a very thin head. smells of cherry and honey, but this is clearly noted on the label so maybe it's just because I'm looking for these scents. a bit of orange and cinnamon are also noticeable.
the taste is a little too sweet, but I really enjoy the mixture of flavors, and the extra sweetness (especially with the cherry) was kind of a nice surprise as I was expecting a much spicier/darker brew.
very light carbonation, served it at almost room temperature, and I think this is probably the best way to drink it in order to really bring out the full range of flavors. the high ABV and sweetness make this beer something I would probably only have one of at a time, or even split a bottle with someone. a sipping beverage for sure. all in all, definitely a great beer for the holiday season, as it warms the insides, and caters to being shared with good friends or family.

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Photo of Jwale73
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Review #700. 22oz. bottle served in my Bruery tulip. Poured a translucent mahogany with a one inch, bubbly, off-white head that eventually settles into a skim and a band of bubbles; no lacing on this one. Nose smells like cherry cough syrup. Taste consistent with nose - yep, cherry cough syrup. Mouthfeel is medium-light with a consistent background carbonation just shy of prickly; finishes somewhat dry. Interesting, but not what I expected. Seems to be missing some of the complexity of the style; although I have to say that the alcohol is very well-hidden on this one. Glad I gave it a try, but wasn't blown away by this one.

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Photo of teamizm
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A bottle from last year. Figure it's close enough to Christmas, so why not. Plus, there's no seasons in LA, so its all the same.

A - Pours a medium amber color, almost like ice tea. A little head, but recedes pretty quickly. Not too bubbly. For a Belgian dark, seems a bit light in color.

S - Cherries and honey with some nice winter spices. Lots of malts. The one off-putting smell is a slight cherry cough syrup note, reminds me of SA CW.

T - Definitely can taste the cherry, honey, and spices. Again, a slight cherry cough syrup taste as well at the back end.

M - Despite the lack bubbles, the carbonation actually feels about right on this one.

D - Can't really tell its 11%, so definitely drinkable.

The reviews seem to be all over the board on this. I think I'm taking the middle ground, but there's much better interpretations of winter BSDA out there (Delirium Noel comes to mind, I'm sure there's others)

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Photo of kasper
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a murky copper color with strong auburn. highlights. Heavy, slightly creamy minimalist head that quickly reduces to a ring and swirls, producing some spotted lacing.

S: Strong aromas of bubblegum -- the kind you used to find in the back of Topps baseball card packs. I attribute this to the Belgian yeasts. Aside from that, some honey and tad of sweet fruit.

T: Taste is more of the bubblegum, honey, some grenadine and tad of alcoholic bite, but overall pretty damn smooth.

M: Medium to heavy, but not overwhelmingly so. Lighter than expected. Really mild carbonation, slightly sticky, but overall pretty smooth.

D: This is a strong winter warmer. Too sweet to drink all night. Overall, an interesting brew but I'm not sure I'd seek this one out on my own accord.

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Photo of pbr85
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a pint glass...
App: Pours a cherry red with absolutely no head. It would be a great looking beer if it had some head but it looks more like syrup than beer.
Taste: First sip is very malty. There are strong hints of cherry as soon as it hits your tongue. Malts stay strong throughout, which makes it a very sweet beer. Alcohol is strong and prominent. Mild hops, more prominent in the aftertaste than in the beer.
Mouthfeel: Great amount of carbonation. The beer goes down smooth.
Drinkability: Though it goes down smooth, the alcohol presence would likely make it difficult to drink more than one. I had one last week from the same six pack and enjoyed it more that time.

This is a good beer to drink when it is cold. The prominent alcohol leaves you feeling warm inside, and the appearance and cherry taste make it a good beer to drink during the holidays.

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Photo of peensteen
3.55/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Deep ruby/blood red colour, ring of soapy white head, no lace at all. Smell is fruity and lightly funky, belgian yeast, some sweet cherry notes, spicy with some alcohol heat as well. Taste is spicy at first followed by tart cherry, some funky yeasty flavours, some alcohol in the first few sips but pretty much completley hidden after that. Medium-High carbonation, medium body, good full feel throughout. Not bad but nothing about this blew me away, dont think I would go looking for this but if it was offered its quite drinkable.

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Photo of aluskungs
3.54/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Red like scotch and it looks like a scotch. When I pour the beer it sounded like ginger ale. Fizzing and popping and a head gone so fast if you blinked you would miss it. Now there so few bubbles left in my glass you could count them.

The smell is quite good. Reminds of Sam Adams cherry wheat. A big sour cherry smell and some alcohol.

Taking a sip you get whooped by a sour cherriness, followed by an alcohol burn, and a honey flavor to put out the flame. Complex flavors, a hint of spices, cloves. Maybe brewed with a wheat yeast.

Goes down smooth. The glass is half empty already, drinkable and likable. Sneaky beer, I am felling the effect of this high gravity beer already because it goes down quickly.

A very interesting unique beer. Could use better carbonation, less carbonation, to bring out more flavor.

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Photo of BurgeoningBrewhead
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4

Poured into chalice; dark orange to red, slightly cloudy, with a single-finger fizzy head that dissipated quickly leaving no lacing. Smell is yeasty and wheaty, maybe a bit of some spicyness or fruit (could be the cherry it's brewed with). Taste is smooth and sweet, finishing pretty cleanly with warming alcohol. Quite drinkable, but best in slow sips. Mouthfeel is pretty smooth and full.

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Photo of aranheaney
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Got this one a little after the holidays, but still psyched to find it:

Poured from a 12 oz. bottle into a DFH snifter:

A-Ruby-red, little head and a tiny bit of lace

S-cherry, malt and booze

T-kind of a mess, maybe my sinuses are throwing me off, but it's a bit like cherry cough syrup

M-kind of thin

O-I expected more...

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Photo of wingman14
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a dark red/copper with a small off white head that didn't stay for long. The smell is sweet and yeasty with cherry and malt. The taste is very sweet, the yeast and fruit are very pronounced, but just a sweet beer overall. The high ABV is noticeable while sipping, but doesn't detract from the beer or mouthfeel. A medium body, good carbonation, and decent flavor balance. If the sweetness was taken down a bit this could be a top notch beer, but overall enjoyable.

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Photo of Amalak
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I had off the tap at the Burger Shoppe in Downtown Manhattan. It has a red/copper color, clear, bubbly, with a good tan head and some lacing. Slight hoppy scent.

It's very malty and has a strong alcohol taste. Very biting. I think this would do better aged, but it's extremely flavorful. Aftertaste is sourish...kind of detracts.

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Photo of SeamusDoyle
3.53/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours deep copper with ruby highlights and a thin tan head. Aromas of yeast, banana esters, bubble gum, and spices. Present in the background are sour cherries, dark fruits, and orange-poppy seed muffins. Cherries become more pronounced as this warms. Flavor is sour yeast and cherry, astringent spices, and a sour/spicy finish. Nice sweet and tangy mouthfeel, medium carbonation.

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Tröegs The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
3.85 out of 5 based on 3,913 ratings.
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