Tröegs Mad Elf | Tröegs Brewing Company

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1,241 Reviews
Tröegs Mad ElfTröegs Mad Elf

Brewed by:
Tröegs Brewing Company
Pennsylvania, United States | website

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: 1,241 | Ratings: 3,809
Photo of ccrida
3.81/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz bottle, cellared 1 year, poured into my Mad Elf snifter. I've had this beer way to many times, from bottles and draft, but this is the first time I've had one with any significant age.

Appearance is a bright, clear dark ruby, with a 1 finger light khaki, large bubbled head quickly recedes to a decent collar, leaving moderate lace. I'm impressed with the amount of effervescence it still has, and I love the color.

Aroma is dark fruit, classic BSDA, but more figgy then the bright cherry it exhibits when young. Sweet honey like with the slightest bit of a metallic tinge to it, as well as a punch of alcohol. Overall, very sweet and thick.

Taste is incredibly rich, but I'm immediately struck by how rounded out this has become, in a most enjoyable way. Seems likes it's gotten softer yet thicker. There's still a nice spicy yeast character...young, I though it tasted a lot like Dupont's yeast, but now I'm leaning more abbey, with the mild phenols. I'll have to reassess that when I have this year's...While I like the punch from the cherries when fresh, I'm really like how it's softened, but I think it's still got more potential to run. Luckily I've got quite a few left! Overall, I really like the complexity, in spite of the fact that it's really quite assessable for a big ass Belgian style noel. Still, the richness dominates, although paradoxically, it seems less so as it warms, where the fig morphs into more grapelike notes. Strange though, since I served this at cellar temps! The alcohol warms the back of the throat and lingers on the tongue, but is easily lost in the depth of taste.

Mouthfeel is very thick, in spite of the spritz and lighter color. Very cloying from the honey, which is not really my style. Belgians should be digestible, and that's probably the biggest knock here, especially as I think it's thickened with age. But again, as it warms it seems to lighten up, crazy. Guess I'll get to know for sure soon enough, when I visit my folks for the holidays...This cellar sample tonight has got me in an xmas state of mind...bring on the noel's!

Drinkability is fairly low, in spite of how much I really enjoy this special treat, as it's so thick and rich. You don't want to rush it, and you probably shouldn't have more then one, or maybe 3! That being said, when I lived in Pittsburgh and it was readily available, I pigged out on it more then once, and it still has a fond spot in my heart...So I'll say average.

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Photo of Kadonny
4.09/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured from a bottle into my European style glass. This was the 2007 version of Elf purchased just a few days ago.

A: A nice reddish amber color with a thin head. Very little carbonation came through with the pour. Lacing was minimal.

S: Not a lot of smell for that strong of an ale. Cherries, fruit, malt, sweetness and a hint of spice, but nothing really bowles you over.

T: Sweet cherries and fruit with a nice subtle malt undertone, I can get a little of the honey, but mostly it's just a sweet flavor. Also this years beer had a decent amount of spice included that came through on the middle to the finish of the beer. The taste here is very different, but the more you drink it, the more you start to really enjoy it. By the time I got to the end of the glass, I wanted to pour another.

M: I read from others how it had too strong of an alcohol feel, but for me it was just the opposite. I could feel the alcohol, but it was blended in very well with the flavors, in fact I would have never known it was an 11% beer based on mouthfeel and taste. Overall I thought the mouthfeel was just fine.

D: For me, drinkability was very good. As I said earlier, it takes you a few sips to settle into this beer, but from that point on the drinkability builds. By the time I got to the bottom of the glass, I for sure wanted another one. Is this sessionable? Maybe, but watch out for the 11%.

Overall I really enjoyed this beer, even though it is a little early to be drinking a Holiday beer, but there is not doubt this beer warms your belly with the spice flavor. I'm not a huge Belgian style guy, but I really really like this beer. One word sums up Mad Elf. YUMMY. Enjoy it.

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Photo of imasickboy
3.98/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Yet another courtesy of the frog. 2006 season, drank September 2007.

Poured a beautiful reddish amber with a nice two finger, semi-dense head. Truly an outstanding looking beer. I am a sucker for a red-tinted beer.

The smell was no surprise. Cherry and honey. Neither was a overpowering aroma, which was a relief.

It had a medium body, and felt very smooth in the mouth. There was a bit of alcohol feel to it, which is the only reason this one didn't rate even higher.

Tasted simply of a decent, medium bodied beer, with a bit of cherry and honey. Aftertaste was the same, only the cherry and honey seemed to stick around just a bit longer. So ridiculously simple, but extraordinary. I wish I had more to say about this one, but I don't. It is what it is, and it is a mighty fine beer. Unfortunately, with the ABV being so high, drinkability suffers. I could easily drink MANY of these, would it not kill me.

Despite the steep cost, I will be purchasing either a case or a sixtel of this one when it comes out the end of next month. This is a top-notch beer. I love it.

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Photo of barleywinebrewer
4.08/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I assume this brew was last winters release. No date on the bottle to indicate otherwise.

A - orangish brown in color with a small off white head
S - sweet almost vinous brown sugar malts, honey and cherries.
T - similar to the aroma but with a honey softened effect. Kind of like the edge was taken off and an injection of warmth added. Quite tasty.
M - medium to full bodied, mildly carbonated smooth
D - at 11% this one hides the abv deceptively well. Aging nicely and was great as an evening relaxing drink.

I would buy this every season. quite a treat.

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Photo of alexgash
3.38/5  rDev -12.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Tawny orange-copper body with golden edges, sparkling bubbles, and a dense, creamy, concave, dirty off-khaki head. Nice. Rich nose of sweet yet tangy fruits (melons, tropical fruits, pears). Noticeable cooked vegetable aroma makes for an interesting mix. Notes of honey, spice, and alcohol too.

Taste starts off with hints of toasted malts and moves quickly to cherry and tropical fruit sweetness with a tart edge. Detectable alcohol burn early on as well, which is not a good thing. Tart fruits and vinous flavors dry out early sweetness near the finish. Medium-full body dissipates in the finish with a shot of alcohol warmth. A little too ethanol-y. A pretty good beer up until the rough, boozy finish.

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Photo of John_M
3.68/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on tap at Max's during their X-mas in July last night. This was the first beer of the evening for me, which was a good thing, as I never would have been able to appreciate it after a couple of imperial stouts and barlywine.

The beer pours an interesting red mahogany color, but without a great deal of head retention and only adequate lacing. I don't really get a lot on the nose, just some cherry medicine and some noticeable alcohol. On the palate this is pure cherry cough drop, but with some navel orange and grapefruit on the finish. The beer is sweet, but not overly so, and it really doesn't come across as a big beer (despite the abv.). Still, the alcohol is certainly noticeable, and the beer seems to lose something in the finish. I'm almost wondering if the beer has lost something with age, as it really seems a bit lighter then what I recall from previous samples. As the beer sits in the glass the sweetness turns a bit cloying, with more honey and cherry flavor. The drinkability is still pretty impressive for such a big beer, but I have to say I'm not as impressed with this beer as I thought I would be.

A good beer, but not a great one.

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Photo of mcallister
3.15/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Fiery earthy orange/ruby/scarlet pour. No head except for some minimal traces around the edges of a tan formation.

Very belgain spice driven aromas and something in there I'm just not crazy about but also I'm not sure what it is. Bing cherry, orange marmalade, belgian yeast, herbal suggestions as well. Fruits and lively aromas.

Lots of evaporating alcohol on the tongue and the chest. Medium bodied to slightly thin especially for the style. Some cherry, spicey, herbal, earthy belgian yeasty aspects. Nothing says "stand out" about this beer. Just seems like an everyday run of the mill American brewed belgian style beer. However it is not a bad beer by any means.

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Photo of bort11
3.6/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to DuqTroops for this one. He got me a 2005 and a 2006 in a trade. I had these one after another, starting with the '05

12 oz bottle, 2006 vintage poured into a Duvel tulip. Thin white head that recedes to a thin ring. Color is a clear reddish tint, a lot lighter than the 05. Smell still has a distinct Belgium yeast aroma, with a slight hint of the cherries. The cherry taste is more prominent but is still blended well with the honey sweetness. The yeast gives it a bit of tartness as well.
Mouthfeel is is a bit thinner but still a solid medium body. Mild carbonation.
This is still a pretty drinkable beer, but I think the 05 really benefited from the aging.

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Photo of Tyrawlings
3.87/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. Bottle poured into a pint glass.

A: Dark ruby red in color with muted copper hues. Dense off white head pours two fingers thick. Some retention. Thin sticky lacing.

S: Bread like malts. Hints of cherry. Sweet honey. Bitter phenols and warm alcohol.

T: Big, sweet bready malts are followed by a splash of cherries and honey. Clean and soft hop presence is taken over by tastes of raw husk and bitter phenols. Wet earth and a touch of citrus juice are finished off by a spicy warming alcohol.

M: Smooth and full bodied. Moderate carbonation. Warm and dry.

D: An altogether different interpretation for the style. The cherry and honey are blended in perfectly. Dangerously drinkable for the high alcohol content. Recommended.

*EDIT* Jan. 21,2010: Recently sampled perfectly aged 2007 batch and this brew is specatcular.

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Photo of atsprings
4.47/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired in a trade with ThomasHardy. The beer pours a crisp red amber with a thin head that quickly diminishes to a ring. The aroma is dominated by cherries and sweet malts. The taste is an extremely unique blend of cherries, sweet fruits, and even a touch of caramel. The beer is medium bodied and the alcohol warms, but is altogether well hidden. I must say, this is a truly unique beer that can be enjoyed any time of year. I look forward to trying some next year and see if enjoying it in the winter makes it taste even better.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.47/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I tried this from a 3L bottle on Dark Lord Day (thanks Todd). This is one of only 2 beers I'll rate from that day (out of God knows how many others I tried "splashes" of), because it really stood out and I was able to get a decent sized glass of it...

Deep brown color with a wispy almost-foam on top (bearing in mind it was poured into a cognac glass). Delicious aroma of cherries and dark fruits, not unlike a lightly muted Trois Pistoles but with a spice component. The flavor was much better than I'd hoped, lots of fruit and fruity esters, definitely cherry comes to mind.

The beer was thick enough to coat my mouth and keep the flavor long after each sip. Outstanding, I was really glad to have tried it.

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Photo of emerge077
3.9/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Akorsak at Dark Lord day for this one...

Pours a translucent red, with a finger of foam.

Aroma is spicy, and lightly sweet and spritzy. A little bit of bubblegum.

Taste seems balanced, with a nice residual pepper & spice in the aftertaste. Label states that honey and cherries are added. Honey is there in raw form, not especially sweet, and not much cherry. Deceptive ABV, never would have guessed it's 11%.

Nice carbonation carries it along, fairly easy to drink, but watch out, that elf looks pretty crazy.

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Photo of PBRstreetgang
4.24/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to FroggyFrog for the sample! Pours a clear amber hue with a fizzy, pale tan head of two fingers. Dismal retention and no lacing but thats forgivable given the ABV. Wild berry and tropical fruit phenols; more alcoholic than Belgian. Vanilla bean and toasted malt aromas in the background, with undertones of champagne yeast and honey. First sip is sweet with toasty pale malt, a touch of caramel, and some errant dextrins. A flash of zesty marachino cherry, reminiscent of a young Kreik. Subdued Belgian Phenolics are more tart than funky, and combines with the other flavors to mask the alcohol very well. The aftertaste is a little boozey, and further dries out the palate after the mild hop bitterness balances the malts. The mouthfeel is ultimately well-balanced, dancing from sweet, to tart, to dry, and finally a clean alcoholic heat with all flavors receeding- leaving no cloying or residual sugar. The medium-light body is well-attentuated and well-carbonated- thus giving the mouthfeel a light and spritzy character- capable of lifting the powerful elements displayed. Finishes surprisingly mellow, as the malt, alcohol and yeast profile seem to apex, then fade away rapidly leaving only faint white-wine notes on the tounge for the last few swigs. Solid drinkability given the high alcohol, and an impressive interpretation of the style.

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Photo of edskirk3
4.41/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've been saving this for a while and today I was thirsty enough to drink it.Just one bottle (12 ounces) from Holiday Season 2006. Served in a Cognac glass.

Pours an attractive red (like a sunset).Off-white head that tries to stay around but doesn't, instead leaving cirrus-like whisps on the surface. Nice aroma of cherries laced with alcohol.

The palate is sweet and malty. Quite delicious if I must say. Like drinking candy. It starts off like what I can best describe as a hard candy, which then gives way to a note of alcohol before finally getting to the bready part. I'm really enjoying the whole thing. Honestly, the alcohol is barely there at this point. Mad Elf was worth the wait and I really wish I had bought more than one right now.

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Photo of scott
3.93/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

V.06 - Thanks Tony...
Deep red pour with a medium rocky head of tan. Fair amount of passive carbonation happening.
Smells of raisin, cherry, bread.
Sweet interpretation of the aroma on the tongue. Full-bodied & creamy, well balanced & clean. Great mouthfeel. Finishes very nice.
Easy to drink, and the alcohol is barely noticeble as it warms.
Pulled this from the cellar (not remembering the style, only that it was a seasonal) and on the first sip, I thought I was drinking Chimay.

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Photo of rhythmguitartz88
3.73/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The appearance was nice although the head did disapear quite quickly. The smell was hard to find but once found it was pleasent some bitter-esque qualities coming through the smell but overall nice. The taste was nice with a strong finish that stays on your tongue. The mouth feel was above average.

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Photo of klewis
3.74/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Extra thanks to ThomasHardy for providing this extra.

A: Pours a clear reddish caramel color with no head or lacing.

S: Smells sweet with generic fruity aromas, cheap red wine, and alcohol.

T: Fruity malt taste with a prominent cherry flavor and a bit from the honey in the back. Sweet and a bit cloying, but interesting.

M: Full-bodied, sticky, and syrupy. Much less carbonation than your average Belgian style beer.

D: Decent, but one bottle is enough. Worth a try.

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Photo of BeerIsland
3.7/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thought I'd celebrate the end of winter with a 2006. Head's totally gone in a few minutes; looks OK otherwise. Not a lot of aroma left in this one. Tastes great all the way through; oogles of complexity, well balanced, nice carbonation, pleasant lingering finish.

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Photo of Redwood21
3.15/5  rDev -18.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer is one of the few that I've tried that has a prominent aroma. It smells sweet, and of fruit, which since its made with cherries and honey makes sense. I wouldnt say its a smell that really reminds me of beer, but i do like it. It has this nice amber color with very little head. It has an almost sugary sweet taste, which is a little too sweet for my taste. It's worth a try.

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Photo of cichief
4.08/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beers a deep amber, with a thin off-white head. It smelled of fruit, although cherries and honey are used in the brewing, I couldn't say it was cherry. It tasted fruity, sweet and warm. It was smooth, not at all over carbonated. At 11% alcohol, I wouldn't drink too much of it.

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Photo of MmmIPA
3.83/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Ruby red body with no head what so ever,there is a small ring around my glass.The smell is phenols, I believe and maybe some candy sugars and some cherry.I taste tart cherry in the first of the mouthful then leads to a honey taste seems creamy and coats the back of my tongue.Smooth texture and a bit thin and the carbonation is the norm for the type of beer.Alcohol is hidden pretty well.I cant see why this is a "Winter" beer,the same goes with SN Celebration.This could be a year round beer with a different name.I look forward to to saving the other five beers and aging them.


2006 bottle

I heard this was doing good about now so I decided to try it.I had it at Capone's about 6 months ago and it was superb.

4.5-A-Still ruby red with a small head.

4.0-S-Notes of alcohol with yeast also present.Sour cherry is also noted.I don't think the smell has toned down any.

3.0-T-Sweet.I cant see how either.Thin mouthful,seems to be going down hill.It still has that alcohol to it.Tart cherry taste.

3.0-M-Very thin and once it leaves your mouth,its clean sailing from there.

3.5-D-I would say drink this up soon.It may be how Ive taken care of them.My cellar fluctuates about 20 degrees over the year and they are stored in the dark.

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Photo of kpantz
4.35/5  rDev +12.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Executive Summary: I'm consistently amazed by the quality of the stuff coming from the Troegs brothers. The Mad Elf, year in and year out, is one of those "must buy a case or two" seasonals for me. As my 2006 supply runs out, I look forward to August, when it's been brewed again and I can start the countdown to late autumn when I can get my grubby paws on it.

2006 version.

Appearance: Ruby-amber pour into my chalice with very little head. Barely even a film remains...more of a ring. The color sure is purdy, however...

Smell: Belgian yeasts and cherries. The honey is present as well. Smelling this just reminds me of decorating for Christmas.

Taste: Sweet and tart at the same time. Definitely can discern the pilsener malt as well as both the honey and the cherries. Warming alcohol to finish. Not much in the way of hop presence, but what is there is nice - Czech, I would imagine. A great add-on strategy for a Belgian base. The flavor combinations work wonderfully.

Mouthfeel: Moderate and tight carbonation - very pleasant, enhancing the flavors. It's a sweet brew, but manages not to be sticky.

Drinkability: Unfortunately for my wife, my toilet, and eventually my liver, this is one damn drinkable beer. I could easily put back a full sixer of these in a session. Hopefully I'm done decorating the tree by then. ;)

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Photo of objectivemonkey
4.27/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Into a ping glass, pours a nice reep red, clear as water, red going on copper slightly, with little beginning whitish head and none later, just a ring around the collar, and no lacing. Aroma is pretty nifty, all kind of stuff in here, a little confusing, but ultimately neat. As the label says, the cherry is evident, the honey not so much, more subtle, theres a bit of brandy in here, some Xmas spices, fruity malts, and some brown sugar if i'm not mistaken.

Taste is equally crazy, if much more delicious. And ater it warms, it shines. Theres a whole lot of subtle warming going on here, a carefully hidden 11% I'd say, and its reaaaally smooth, a thick, sweet, warmness, like drinking the essesnce of being cozied up in front of a fireplace. The malts are just as fruity as the nose suggests, a little tart, a wholey yummy. Thankfully, no hops in this, they would only detract.

The mouth is good, good carbonation and quite smooth and velvety on the tongue. I though it started a bit thin, but it was about right as it warmed. Overall, after letting it warm, this turned into a very delightful beer, and I have mad props to give to leftmindedrighty for the chance at this one. Cheers!

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Photo of stereosforgeeks
4.23/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: A nice rube red color filled my pint glass. Nice head but there was little retention to speak of.

Smell: Well as advertised there are the cherries and honey, but there are also hints of some spices, mild floral hops, and maybe some plums.

Taste: Where is the alcohol? You certainly cant taste it. The honey sweetness comes through first but soon following are the cherries and spices. The spice lingers on the tongue after each sip.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied beer that manages to be sweet without cloying to your mouth with thickness. Mild carbonation is present.

Drinkability: I enjoy these on nice cold winter nights. Warms you up while still managing to be sweet and drinkable.

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Photo of tempest
4.02/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Not sure what to expect at first, but this sure smells belgian. Lots of spicey aroma up front. I'm used to this being in the paler belgians, but I guess this one might be in the middle. More spice (corriander? in the flavor mixed with the honey and cherries and a little earthy bitterness that blends with the fruit. This is certainly different. It kicks outs at the end with a cherry tang and a hint, albeit an unsubtle one, at the alcohol. Definately not my favorite, but I recommend giving it try. It's worth it.

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Tröegs Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
3.86 out of 5 based on 3,809 ratings.
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