The Mad Elf | Tröegs Brewing Company

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The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf
BA SCORE
3.87/5
Very Good
4,074 Ratings
The Mad ElfThe Mad Elf
BEER INFO

Brewed by:
Tröegs Brewing Company
Pennsylvania, United States
troegs.com

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

BEER STATS
Ranking:
#16,047
Reviews:
1,308
Ratings:
4,074
pDev:
14.99%
 
 
Wants:
240
Gots:
1,221
Trade:
25
HISTOGRAM
 
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 4,074 |  Reviews: 1,308
Photo of beergeek279
4.62/5  rDev +19.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Served in the 12 oz. bottle. The color is a very reddish-amber, with a wispy white head. The smell is of cherries and honey. The taste is dominated by the tart cherry, though a nice honey comes through, and somehow the beer is balanced and not cloying; alcohol is not at all apparent in the beer. Mouthfeel is very thick. As for drinkability, I'd definitely have these as long as I could.

Probably my favorite Christmas beer from last year. A rich mix of honey and cherries that's perfect for a cold December night. Simply delicious, and this is certainly a beer I'll be getting plenty of next Christmastime!!

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Photo of nomad
3.17/5  rDev -18.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

A deep red color, glowing, but showing nothing else. Smells of dark honey with wonderful natural tones to it, like the floral scents of a fresh and natural honey. Bare black cherry scents behind, as the smell of wonderful sweetness is never cloying or noxious.

Tastes of sweet honey, barely some cherry, and a caramel flavor like crystal malt. In fact feels like there is a big malt base to this beer. A large and largely creamy finish, it becomes oily near the end, wiping out the quick first flavors. Thinnish mouthfeel.

A decent holiday beer.

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Photo of AragornUnplugged
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Interestingly dark orange/ruby pour. I have found it is necessary to get aggressive to produce a head, but doing so nicely mellows the first sip. The label proclaims that Mad Elf is brewed with honey and cherries and there is no doubt upon drinking that they mean it. You can smell both, along with some spice, and they are layered in the taste. I would like this beer to have a bit more body, as that would firm up an otherwise great and unique product. Carbonation is light, alcohol is noticably present but quite drinkable. Strangely enough, this is the beer that rescued my sister from the grasp of a heavily imported green bottled macro, causing her to liberate my stash. Good thing I have a source. I need more.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.73/5  rDev -29.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Reddish copper, emphasis on the red, and as clear as a pealing Christmas bell. The head is beige in color, fluffy in consistency and starts to recede even as I'm pouring. It does leave a little bit of nice lace, but only a fingernail-thin film on top of the beer.

Alcohol is appreciated in the nose, which isn't surprising given the lofty ABV. I'm trying to convince myself that there are cherries in the nose, but I can't quite manage it. I started drinking at an estimated 55 degrees and got quite a bit of alcohol in my first sip. Bear with me while I let it warm a little more...

There's some fruity sweetness, but again, I'm not certain that I can pick out the cherries. The beer is definitely malty and isn't hoppy in the least. Even with warming, alcohol plays too big a role. 'Medicinal', as a previous reviewer stated, gets it about right.

I drink scotch and bourbon (90-100 proof, neat), but I don't appreciate tasting alcohol, at least to this extent, in my beer. In Mad Elf's case, it overpowers the flavor of cherries and honey, which should be quite nice. An even higher ABV can be almost completely hidden in a fuller, richer beer, but this one isn't either of those. The mouthfeel is merely decent.

I really thought I'd like Mad Elf and was looking forward to the entire sixer. That is, until I drank the first one. If I want a good Christmas brew, I'll reach for a Great Lakes Christmas Ale or a Corsendonk Christmas.

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Photo of bditty187
4.22/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Many fellow BAs have advised serving this beer warmer than normal, while I don’t like babying beers to make them adequate I’m not going to spite my palate and serve it cooler. I let it warm-up for a good 30+ minutes after it left the DBF. I hope that was enough coddling… ;-)

Clear, lively reddish hue with a slight coppery highlight, modest animation, the slightly off-white head reached a very modest fourth of a finger, it faded to a soapy collar quickly. No lace was produced as I sipped, that is not too surprising. The aroma has vague cherry influences above a dash of raw honey and spice that are blended with an aloof fruitiness and ordinary maltiness. The potency is modest in strength, it is a little disjointed and kind of hollow. As a whole it is interesting and it provoked me to sip it. The palate is much more complex than the nose indicated, brandy heat upfront, raisins, clove, bread, cherries, a kiss of apples, wavering chocolate hints, slight toastiness, sugar, honey, and more alcohol heat. This is very well constructed and the unvarying alcoholic cherry taste is heavenly! The throat feels the alcohol punch, as does the tummy and mind. I’m impressed that this very sweet beer isn’t cloying and it still has a somewhat dry finish. I wish the body was fuller, this is medium at best and too thin for the punch it packs, if it was fuller this would truly be a marvelous beer that could only be sipped at a leisurely pace. The carbonation is appropriately low and the mouthfeel is smooth albeit kind of slick. A bigger malt backbone would really propel this beer, oh well. While the alcohol is detectable it doesn’t seem to be near 11%, impressive. Even with the multiple layers of flavor this is a very drinkable beverage. Simply lovely. Mad Elf is a beer that needs to be sought out; it is very unique and worthy of a quaff by everyone. Thank you beerluvr (and the Holiday Beer Exchange 2003) and thank you francisweizen for the bottles of this tasty nectar! It is very much recommended!

It was well worth letting this bad boy warm up!

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.9/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served at 58°F. Pours an amber copper color with a tan head that quickly dissipates. It has an alcoholic fruity nose with a hint of cherry. A soft subtle beer, with a hint of cherry in it. There is quite a bit of sweetness (though not overly so), and it has quite the alcoholic kick in the finish (though not in a bad way, it is in no way a harsh kick). There is a mellow fruitiness that pervades this beer throughout. It is quite light bodied, especially for an 11%'er. The honey probably helps to dry it out. An interesting interpretation of the holiday ale class of brew. Quite tasty, me thinks.

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Photo of canoehornpoint
4.06/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The only beer my wife really likes and it's nearly impossible to find, even in season. This pours a deep amber with a nice rich head that lasts longer than most. The aroma is a fruitiness that is not really discernable but pleasant. If you didn't know it was cherry, you would just think "fruity". Nothing is overpowering in this beer. the cherries, malt and hops blend together for a fruity wine taste that is pleasant, even for a guy who doesn't want fruit in beer. this hits the lips light and finishes full. I was pleasantly surprised and will try to homebrew something close.

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Photo of ViveLaChouffe
4.02/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep cherry red with virtually no head and quite still. Smell is of sweet malt, apples, cherries and spice.

Taste is very sweet and malty, overpoweringly so. Lots of fruit flavors in here. Apples, cherries, some citrus and just pure honey creeps up as well. Caramel flavors are evident. Hints of underlying spice and just sweet, sweet, sweet. Almost too sweet but not quite. Mouthfeel in sticky and syrupy. Wish there was a bit more taste in the finish and/or aftertaste. I was shocked to see that this brew is 11% ABV (didn't notice that on the bottle). Incredibly smooth and drinkable for that strength! A very good winter warmer but not at the top of my wish list.

Thanks to PintofAle for the sample.

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Photo of SheepNutz
4.15/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12oz. bottle poured into a tulip-style glass. It pours a deep ruby red color with one finger of head. There is minimal lacing left on the glass. The smell is very sweet with overripe cherries, honey, and a hint of alcohol. The taste starts tart with a zing of alcohol up front. The cherries are very present in the middle of the taste, with a slightly hoppy finish. There is a bit of toffee and honey on the finish as well. The mouthfeel is super thick and smooth. The drinkability is fantastic for an 11% brew. A great holiday ale!

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Photo of NearerMyBeerToMe
3.87/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Time to compare the on-tap to the bottled experience. Pours bright, glowing ruby red. No head, just a ring of lace around the edge of the glass; decent viscous, liqueurish alcohol cling but no bubbles. Aroma is of sweet... very sweet cherries and a mellow yeast-based spiciness. Slightly medicinal and herby, again I believe I detect juniper with an alcohol spiciness at the back of the nose. Flavor is of big sweet cherries (again) and a bit of bready yeast, with the honeyish flavors showing up much better from the bottle than from on tap (for whatever reason). Seems much sweeter than my previous tastings--almost a cola note--verging on cloying IMO. Mouthfeel is still respectably smooth with more alcohol tingle; I would almost say a slightly thick, yogurty (?) finish is left behind. Drinkability is a bit better than fair. Sorry folks, I've been trying; I still find this good but it is just not mindblowing.

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Photo of oberon
4.23/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A nice find last night at the Spring House Drafting Room,pours a nice ruby red with a nice creamy,sticky head,aroma is spicey with a light smoky tinge to it.I got the flavors of spiced cherries with tha light smokey flavor with some alcohol note as it warms.Troegs is one of my favorite PA brewers and this offering reinforces that thought.

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Photo of lackenhauser
4.08/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours an absolutely gorgeous reddish amber color.Very slight head and carbonation.Slight aroma of cherries-some citrus,malt and a backround yeasty-ness.Malty sweetness dominates the flavor with a hint of cherries.The 11% ABV is very well disguised.Wonderful mouthfeel-really smooth and full bodied.What a great beer I must say.I have not been a Troegs fan in the past-just didnt think they were as good and "special" as some of the others out there.I'll take that back with this beer however.Some of this will definately be getting "laid down"-ENJOY!!!

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Photo of DrewBeechum
3.98/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Sampled after a long Xmas day to celebrate my glorious victory in our Annual Bloodmatch Trivial Pursuit Game. 12 oz brown bottle provided courtesy of PisskyNights. (Thanks!)

Beer was sampled cool at first (~55F) and allowed to warm up over the course of an hour.

Beer drops into the glass with a thud and no carbonation. As it settles in the glass the drinker is presented with a deep red leather colored beer.

As the beer comes up to room temperature, the cherries and spicing becomes stronger melding with a very evident alcohol presence.

The flavor is filled with cherries and a bit of honeyed sweetness. As the beer lolls on the tongue, the combination of alcohol and cinnamon begin to sweep the thickiness of this beer form the palate.

Decent warming beer for the occasional slow sipper during the winter time.

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Photo of Gusler
4.42/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The color a limpid luxurious ruby on the pour with a smallish head that is frothy in texture, light tan in color and as it disperses rather quickly the resultant lace forms a rather thin velum like sheet that just does cover the glass. The aroma of over ripe fruit, such as pineapple greets you first, hints of fusel alcohol along with the malted grains brings up the rear, bubble gum like tones also present with the start ambrosial and rich in malt with the top middling to almost full in feel. Finish is vinous, sternly acidic, the hops delectable in their spicy bite, desert dry and somewhat tart aftertaste that leaves you longing for another sip. Quite a pleasure to drink, big time tummy warmer, a great “Winter Warmer”, and one I wish was more readily available.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
4.4/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I've had two beers in a row this Christmas Eve that feature that smiling sap Santy Claus on the label and it's about time to genuflect in honor of the unrecognized working class hero, in this case, a certain Demented Dwarf!
So, let's to it!
Appearance: a brilliant bright and shiny crimson color...gorgeous! And adorned with a fuzzy, cream-toned head that's lives too briefly.
Aroma: big on the fruit, but never too sweet, somehow, and damned interesting, feeling like it's rife with spices, and I can pick up the honey hinted at on the label, and the cherry factor is flowing over, in much abundance and joined with a brandyish character, ushering in the full effect of the alcohol content...oh, yeah, 11%, how about that, huh?
So, let's taste!
Dark, rich, fruity, utterly alcohol-drenched cherry goodness! The booze is king here, and it's sublimely delicious! Malt is in command in this beer, and I don't believe hops have a word to say, it's not their show tonight, malt and booze is all, but the sweetness never cloys somehow, and balance is acheived, but not if you account for the monstrous alcoholic component.
Sadly, the mouthfeel gets a bit thin in the middle, and I wish the body was fuller, but that rich, delicious taste seems to redeem any/everything...and then, the booze kicks in for real, and nothing has no excuse! That's how a Mad Elf is born!
My second bottle downed, and this review is done "live" while drinking it and referencing my notes, however scribbly, from the last taste. And I'm nothing short of wowed by this amazing creation! These guys got guts! I've had other Troeg's beers that were commendable and tasty, but not overwhelming and utterly incredible! I really, really, really like this beer!
Domo Arigato, Mr. ManekiNeko for getting this beer to me!

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Photo of sulldaddy
4.23/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

WOW! I finally score some of this treat. I had a case waiting for me when I got to Harrisburg area for the holidays. I split about 10 of them with some friends tonite.

I drank mine at room temp since I have heard/read that they are better that way.

The brew pours a amber/red color with a pinkish head foaming up nicely. The aroma is all cherries and alcohol. No hop presence at all.

The first sip reveals an off sweetness and cherry undertones are evident. The alcohol is only faint on the swallow with some belly warming action occurring. The body is medium thickness with some vinous characteristics, maybe a little viscous. Overall very drinkable. I actually had three of the bottles tonite over a 2 hour span and definitely feel the alcohol a little by the 3rd even if I didnt taste it. this beer is definitely worth the wait. Hopefully you have tried some and if not try to get it and good luck!

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Photo of Globetrotter
3.45/5  rDev -10.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Hand delivered from the Washington area to Moscow as part of a fiver set of U.S. winter brews. Definitely not my favorite of the five, although I had entertained very high hopes. Poured clear copper under a thin tan head that fades quickly. The nose is mildly sweet, with a touch of cherry. The mouth is fairly flat and heavy with sweetness and fruit. The taste opens with mostly sweet cherries, backed by malt and a touch of honey. I could detect no hops anywhere, but there is some alcohol burn in the finish. The aftertaste is all cherry. It's OK, but I'm not thrilled.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.66/5  rDev +20.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Clear deep scarlet red hue. A medium sized beige head literally fizzes away in seconds. Not even a thin coating is left. Only a creamy edging that leaves sparse lace. The aroma is really quite remarkable. Beautiful belgian yeastiness, breadiness and mustiness. Sweet brown sugar. And delicate cherry notes. I love it. Oh man, this is one dangerous brew. The taste is fine. The mouthfeel is luscious. And the alcohol is nowhere to be found. This all adds up to an exceptional drinkability. The flavors are subtle, but quite discernable. Chocolate covered cherries. Bready yeastiness. Dark belgian malts. Raisin and rum. A little sweet honey. But I can hardly find a hint of alcohol here. And it's 11%?!? Damn. Maybe just a bit of a lingering bitterness on the aftertaste derived from EtOH. The beer feels like silk in the mouth and the body is medium at best. I understand the "Mad Elf" hysteria now. This is damn good.

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Photo of yankeeheel
3.2/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Served at cellar temp, which here in Maine is a wee bit cold. Poured a cough syrup red with a reddish head that was gone in 20 seconds. Smells very medicinal.

The taste is somewhat akin to cough syrup with a lot of xtra alcohol. Really sweet up front with a thin middle and alcohol/medicine burn at the end. Not really all that incredible. Just kind of big with alcohol and thin on flavor. I have anoher bottle that I'm going to let cellar for a while and I'll re-visit it.

Thanks to PisskyNights for the hook-up.

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Photo of pbrian
3.2/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Cellar temp to start. Deep reddish brown, I missed the color of the head it dissappeared so quick. Had to splash the beer around to get an aroma. Oh, there it is- cherries. Anything else? I don't know, I got sick of having to work for it. Taste was sickly sweet up front, cherry juice with minimal spicy hints. Quite thin for such a high abv beer. Lots of candi sugars? Finish was a bit drier with hot alcohol hits. Overall, just an average attempt IMO, yes, even warm.

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Photo of soulfly967
4.36/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had this on tap at Fat Heads in the Southside of Pittsburgh. Poured a ruby red, very little head that quickly vanished. The smell was of cherries and a bit of alcohol. The taste was amazing. Cherries, alcohol, and a hint of chocolate. A very exellent beer for the holiday season, I only wish that they would have made more of it... maybe next year. Beware, that 11% abv will come back to haunt you in the morning, but it's well worth it.

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Photo of HossMcGraw
4.25/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a great looking burgundy color with moderate tan head. Aroma is sweet cherry. Taste is more of the same. Very sweet, but not cloying. Mouthfeel is quite smooth
. Drinkability is pretty good despite ABV, although I'm ready for a nap after one of these.

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.83/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2003.
Reddish crimsony color with the tracest white head. Carbonation very sparse. Alcohol is evident in the nose as well as sweet and sour aromas, brandy, candied green maraschino cherries and fresh black cherry, too. Tastes fantastic! Biscuity and nutty malt in the front, a touch o' fermented honey, and cut then by the 11% ABV; finished like a Rodenbach Grand Cru, fruity with a slight soury dryness. Very impressed.

2004.
Sampled this years version and not quite as impressed. Lacked the high notes that last years had. Cherry and honey present. Seemed too alcoholic, synthetic and sweet; and the nose was more yeasty and nutty, with perfuminess looming. Not as impressed compared to last years.

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Photo of CRJMellor
4.2/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Ah the Elf ! Thanks to Brluvr (Ted) for making it happen. I haven't been this excited about a beer for some time, I even bought a Mad Elf goblet/chalice from the brewery for the occasion.

Pours a beautiful reddish brown color with small head that is very intricately laced. Carbonation looks very lively.

Aroma is much deeper and complex than color would indicate.
Immediate is hit was a little licorice, followed by some honey and other complex malt flavors, I only got a very subtle cheery note after some time warming. Almost had a Trippel aroma to me.

Let sit for about 30 minutes before opening and 10 minutes after pouring (based on recent discussion about best temperature)

Here comes the first taste. . . .
Boy that's good. Excellent powerful malt taste upfront with just a hint of sweet cherries on the aftertaste and slight bitterness. Mouthfeel is very full and smooth yet you know you are drinking a high gravity beer. Reminds of a gentler Piraat with some nice fruit undertones. Ingredient bill says chocolate malt and I only got them as the beer really warmed up and the flavors really opened. i'm going to drink another at room temp (at least high 60's) and see what other flavors may open.
first experience with Troeg's, have a feeling I have to go on a pilgrimage at some point.

Great beer, I think 2 would be my limit.

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Photo of RonfromJersey
4.28/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A snap, crackle, pop accompanies the head, with bubbles bursting at the surface. Soon settles down into an off-white table top. Very nice lacing stretching across the glass. Body is a deep, clear red. Cherries shine thru the aroma, as soon as I started to pour. Taste features prominently everything mentioned on the label: cherries, honey, alcohol, and also the malt and hops don't get lost. The malt, honey, and the sense of alcohol create a sort of dopplebock quality, and the cherries are well balanced into the mix, featured but not overwhelming. I feel if you left the cherries out, you would still have a good beer. But I'm not suggesting that. I think the honey is really pulling everything together, balancing flavors, rounding the mouthfeel. I have never been a big fruit beer fan, but I am pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this. The stock is going fast, but give it a try if you have the opportunity. Tröegs continues to impress.

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The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
Beer rating: 3.87 out of 5 with 4,074 ratings