Tröegs The Mad Elf | Tröegs Brewing Company

very good
1,271 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:
User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,271 | Ratings: 3,922
Photo of clayrock81
3.38/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a snifter glass and received very little head, although there were some lace patches that were left. A dark copperish color that is somewhat see thru when you hold up to light.
Got a very good smell but I guess I expected more. I picked up the hops immediately due to high ABV, and I then picked up traces of honey and fruit, but it didn't necessarily smell like cherries which they print right on the label.
As soon as the beer it hit my tongue there was an initial crisp bitterness that dried out my mouth, but the honey smooths it out keeping the body rather light for a Belgian Dark Ale-style and there is some taste of fruit on the backbite.
You can detect a hint of cherry, or some fruit like cherry (nothing citrus like an orange or sweet like a banana) but the alcohol is right there with it.
This is one of those drinks that improves as you drink and it warms the mouth, not burns.
Because it is over 11% alcohol, I might have this once in a while but I wouldn't constantly drink it. To me, the recipe is there if there was less alcohol (I'm just talking a percent or two - it would still be pretty strong). That is just my opinion.

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Photo of genog
3.95/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a muddy, and murky brownish red color with a thin layer of light colored head. The head disappears to leave a thin layer with no lacing what so ever. Smell is of amber malt and dried cherries. Taste is sour at first, followed by a bitter sweet taste. Taste is strong on cherries, with a limited watery carbonoation. Strong warming alcohol presence as this one warms after a spell.

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Photo of sjohansen
4.24/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

I had a chance to check this out in bottle at Teresa’s Next Door, in Wayne, PA. I couldn’t pass it up a second time when I saw it at Capone’s and brought another bottle home. The review is from the bottle I took home. Mad Elf has been brewed since 2003, and after the first taste, I knew I made a mistake by waiting this long to try it. Fantastic.

This Troegs brew pours a clear amber. There was little to no head, and the little head there was had vanished almost as quickly as I poured.

The smell is great. There is a definitely fruit bowl smell of cherries that is present throughout. Along the way I picked up hints of honey.

The Mad Elf definitely has characteristics of a Belgium Ale. But it is the honey and cherries that it’s brewed with that make it different. The taste surprised me after I saw that it clocks in at 11% abv. It’s balanced extremely well. It has a light caramel base at the start, finishes with a slightly bitter cherry aftertaste. It’s the stuff in the middle that’s hard to describe. It reminds me of a Belgium Trippel, spiced just right. It is syrupy and slightly bitter from the yeast. Easily the most complex "winter ale" I've had this season.

It's very drinkable, which is extremely surprising for the alcohol content. The 11% makes it impossible to have more then a few, but this is definitely one to enjoy. I have and will recommend this to anyone who will listen.

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Photo of goochpunch
1.84/5  rDev -52.2%
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 pwoods
3.63/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I've gotten 3 of these as extras in trades so thanks you guys!

12oz brown bottle poured into a pint. No visible dating.

A: Pours a cinnamon brown with good visibility. Maybe 1 finger of off white head that dies quickly to a thin skim. No lacing.

S: Yeasty and bread-y. Undertones of clove and banana. Bottle says Honey and Cherries, though I can't detect any, maybe due to it having a pretty soft scent. No detection of alcohol(11%? really?)

T/M: Not bad at all for a Belgian strong dark... not normally my favorite style but this is very manageable. Yeast isn't overpowering but holds its own. Bananas and black cherries. Sweetness is definitely honey. Mouthfeel is just slightly on the light side. Alcohol is present but adds warmth instead of burn. Dry throughout.

D: 1 of this style is enough for me, though this one is very tasty. 11% also restricts the possibility for a session, too. Easy of consumption still helps.

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Photo of mj71
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours a red-twinged dark gold. Almost no head, which completely disappears quickly. Zero lacing.

S- Almost cough-syrupy. Alcohol fights with cherries for dominance

T- Cherries start and finish the sip with honey poking through as the carbonation flares. Very alcoholic, slightly spicy back-end.

M- As the beer warms the maltiness comes to the forefront. Not many hops detected

D- High ABV limits the sheer volume you'd want to down, but as a sipping beer, the complexity and originality make it a winner.

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

Got this one from my "Syracuse" brother, number1bum, as well as leftmindedrighty. Thanks a bunch guys, 'tis the season!

12 oz. bottle with a nice imprint announcing, "HAPPY HOLIDAYS", poured into my Selin's Grove goblet thanks to KRAMER17801. Season's Greetings ya'll!

Pours a dark brown ruby with a one finger off-white head that fizzles down to a thin pillowy layer. Very nice color, but the lacing could use some help. Smell is big on honey, cherries, and yeast. Robitussin aromas make an unwanted appearance in the nose. Alcohol and some out of place banana show up as well. Sour cherries and a whole bunch of yeast up front followed by banana, ugh. Rich caramel with a spicey pepper warms the mouth. Booze from start to finish but it's much less noticable served a bit warm. Medium bodied with a cough syrup like texture. Carbonation that tickles the tongue. Nice holiday brew, but the bottle should probably be shared. Very powerful this Mad Elf can be, watch out!

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Photo of ffejherb
3.65/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

2007 - 12oz. bottle into Mad Elf snifter.

A - Clear ruby red body with modest off-white head that disappeared quickly and left virtually no lacing around the glass. Very nice color!

S - Moderate Belgian yeast aroma with dark chocolate malts, tons of cherries and some honey sweetness. Slight cherry cough syrup aroma.

T - Sweet initial flavor with cherries up front and some honey goodness, followed by a very spicy, yeasty finish with a slight pepper aspect on the tongue.

M - Full body with a pretty syrupy texture and soft carbonation. Finish is quite spicy on the tongue.

D - Nice holiday ale that's quite unique and complex. The Belgian yeast blends nicely with the cherries, honey and chocolate malt. While the 11% ABV is well-concealed, this is a brew to sit back and appreciate during the holiday season.

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Photo of PhageLab
3.28/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12oz bottle poured into a sifter.

A - Deep ruby red coloration. Produced a fingertip's worth of froth that stuck around for a bit, then faded out into a ring around the glass. Minimal lacing.

S - Hmmm, cherry and citric acid. A bit pungent for my tastes. Alcohol also shows up here.

T - Quite hideous chilled, but once it had time to breathe and reach room temperature, some flavors actually came through. Cold it tastes like citric acid, but as it warmed more of the spices came through, as well as the cherry flavor. Not bad, but not great either.

M - Medium body, warming from the abv, low carbonation, pretty smooth on the palate.

D - Okay I suppose, although I wasn't too impressed. I think I just bought into the hype a bit much, which one should never do. I doubt I'll seek another out, though I wouldn't turn one down if offred. Maybe cherries just don't belong in my beer. Recommended if that's your thing.

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Photo of Traquairlover
2.77/5  rDev -28.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12-oz bottle poured into a 22-oz snifter.

A = Deep, clear reddish brown, small head which quickly dissipated, light carbonation bubbles, no real lacing at all.

S = Very sweet smell, the cherries come through but I find the whole presentation a little strong. I can smell the high alcohol and an earthy, yeasty base.

T = Too sweet! Without the light flavor of cherries and honey, I think this would be simply an average copy of a Belgian ale. However, the syrupy taste prevents it from being quite that. I plan to age this to see if it improves it. Perhaps next year this time, I can replace this review with a more positive one.

M = Thick body, somewhat flat.

D = I just found this a little too sweet and overpowering to want to drink much of it or to look forward to drinking it again.

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Photo of JamesS
3.99/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours a nice red/copper color, although with very little head and lacing. Has a nice scent to it, a very nice cherry aroma to go with the deep ale scent. Nice hop/malt mix with both the scent and taste. Very nice taste, one of the strongest ales I've had in a while while just hinting at the high ABV in the taste. Nice splash of cherry in the flavor without taking over. Not the smoothest, but that's to be expected at 11%. I will not have any trouble finishing the sixer. I may even get the large bottle to take back home for the holidays.

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Photo of meatyard
3.87/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The appearance is a very pretty, clear, red-amber color. A hard pour delivers a short head that disappears in a few seconds and no lacing.
The smell is of raisins, a hint of cherry and malt.
The taste is cherry, honey and the yeast with a slight bit of alcohol.
Mouthfeel is on the thin side but has noticeable carbonation feel on the tip of the tongue.
Drinkability is pretty good though the 11% alcohol would limit me to two at a time.

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Photo of Biscuit033
4.17/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Clear, reddish brown, with no head, just a ring of bubbles around the top.

S: Spicy yeast, sweet malts and and then the cherries hit you.

T: Cherries and honey upfront, spicy yeast flavors of coriander and pepper, orange peel all balanced by malts and alcohol. You find more in every sip.

M: A lot more carbination than expected but it helps balance the sweetness and the alcohol.

D: This is a great winter warmer that is complex, different, and well balanced. Could easily down two or three servings of this after dinner.

The only thing I would like to know is why isn't it bottle-conditioned.

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Photo of cordelia3310
3.67/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

2007 Winter Release

A: Not what I've come to expect out of Troegs. Absolutely no head or lacing throughout the glass. A deep amber color, almost red.

S: Exactly what they advertise on the bottle, lots of cherries and some honey. Actually a very nice smelling beer.

T: A tasty brew with honey and cherries. Also some caramel as well as peanut flavors come out.

M: The mouthfeel is my biggest problem with this beer. Very weak with some carbonation.

D: The drinkability is very good in a bad way. Because this beer is so thin it's very easy to down beer after beer. Hell mad elf is so thin and drinkable it could almost be a session beer. Overall not impressed.

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Photo of jscondon
4.07/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

pours with little head, but the ring along the snifter stays present throughout. the amber color is deep and very red, while the nose has a strong alcohol scent emenating cherries and a slight maltiness. this is a think mouthy beer having an immense flavor, a very subtle cherry flavor that is not over bearing nicely balanced with hops. i really like this beer, and it will store!

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Photo of bigeyedfish
3.94/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into a Mad Elf glass which was purchased solely to drink Mad Elf out of. Where a screened on date would normally appear, happy holiday's appears. No born on date, vintage to be found.

Really nice dark-ruby color. Almost like a brown that has some red injected into it. One finger of head dissipates kind of quickly, though not uniformly. Some parts still have 1/2 finger of head when the first holes in the wedding-dress-white head come through.

A delicious smelling beer. Cherries, honey and Belgian yeast; everything the beer said it had. Some alcohol present as well, but at 11%, that's to be expected. A really nice smelling beer.

Really big finish, with a lot of cherries and a lot of alcohol both present at different stages featuring different intensities. A real nice sweet honey flavor on the tip of the tongue that is probably the highlight of the beer. No really transitory flavors; kind of goes from a honey/nectar bomb to a cherry/alcohol bomb, although the finish kind of has a ginger ale-type quality to it; it's alcohol, but alcohol that tastes like Canada Dry Ginger Ale. Obviously, it's a young, young beer, so that will probably be smoothed over over time. I think I remember on the Troegs tour the guy mentioned Mad Elf was fermented for some ridiculously short amount of time, something like 9 weeks(though I may be mistaken), so this beer needs a lot of time. This beer has the potential to be great in 12 months. As for now, two big distinct flavors, not much in between. Like a sandwich on fresh out of the oven olive-oil and sun-dried tomato cibada bread with a kraft single in the middle.

There's some, but there is not a lot, which I think goes back to the needing more time problem. It does not have much carbonation, so it's no real problem to swallow. It's pretty well made, and it's a very smooth beer, which the alcohol hidden for most of the mouth. Some really big palate gripping in the back of the mouth, almost offensive at times. Nice mouthfeel; let's age it and see if it gets a Barry Bonds in the late 90's level mouthfeel. It's got the potential to.

Can you drink one and not realize it's 11% ABV? Absolutely. Can you drink more than one and not realize you're drinking an 11% alcohol beer? Now we're getting into the land of 'maybes' and 'probably nots' Even in the first one, some nice warming alcohol is present. For one, the drinkability is almost perfect; for more than one it's less than impressive. So it's above average but not quite good.

Why write last remarks on this beer so early? I'll be back in 12 months. And probably 24. This is a 'Lost:Season 1' beer: total cliffhanger with a huge reason to believe it's going to be fantastic.

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Photo of JudgeRoughneck
2.22/5  rDev -42.3%
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 jtrockchalk
3.48/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to Clockwork Orange for this one....An extra in a package I recieved today.

A - Beautiful shade of amber with ruby like tones. Poured nice finger to finger and a half head that quickly receded to wisps.

S - Not as much going on here as I'd expect. I smell honey and yeast can't pick up the cherries that the color makes me expect.

T - Nice Belgian style dark ale. I pick up just a wee bit of the cherries here, along with toffee/caramel malt and just a hint of that circus peanut finish that is usually more prevalent in Hefes and Belgian Pales.

M - Kinda thin, not much lingering on the palate here. Carbonation is nice and cuts the alcohol well.

D - Still kinda finding my way in this category. Overall this beer is very solid and while I would have it again, I won't seek it out or likely drink more than one in a sitting and that's not because of the alcohol content which is well masked, but the fact that there are many more interesting brews out there to try.

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Photo of jjayjaye
3.45/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A crystal clear reddish brown color. When poured aggressively a faint wispy head formed and faded quickly. The smell is sweet and very coriander spice and fruity. Light-Medium bodied, the mouth feel is whoa fully under carbonated, but the spiciness and tingle from the alcohol keep things interesting. The spicy coriander cinnamon character is slightly overwhelming. I understand that its made from cherries. I am definitely not getting the dark fruit fig taste that i expected. Oh well, just another interpretation i guess. Give it a shot.

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Photo of younger35
3.48/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Received this wonderful creation in a trade with ClockworksOrange. I’m quickly becoming a huge Troegs fan since I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve tried. Drank from my Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale pint glass.

Appearance- Pours a beautiful shade of crimson with bits of yellow highlights. A decent one finger foamy head forms leaving a spotty cap and thin collar. A small amount of lacing is left but nothing to write home about.
Smell- A bit of spice up front with hints of banana esters. Lightly fruity with a bit of cherry but not as much as I expected. A bit of alcohol shows it head but not as much as I was expecting from the other reviews.
Taste- There are the cherries! Starts with a bit of sweetness from the cherries and the toffee malt. Hella boozy too! Mixed into all this is some banana spice and a bit of a citrus bite. This all culminates at the end to leave a lingering banana fosters like after taste that teeters on cloying.
Mouthfeel- Kind of thin with a bit of warming and a nice zesty carbonation.
Drinkability- This is a pretty interesting brew. I like the direction it’s headed but it seems to lose it’s way midway through. I’d like to see a bit more balance to cut the sweetness. Definitely worth a try though and big thanks to ClockworksOrange for the opportunity!

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Photo of vikingloki
3.25/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a pint glass with a small head that disappeared almost immediatly.

Nice red orange color, nothing about the small is overwhelming, just a brief whiff of hops.

First mouthful is tart, might be the carbonation, medium mouthfeel, no hint of hotness from the whopping 11% ABV.Very crisp, good balance, I would think this beer would smooth out and more flavors will come out with ageing.

Just a hint of honey and cherries, but obviously they were the big reason the ABV is high as it's not a malt monster of a beer. It's kinda wierd the ABV is high and the beer is not dark at all.

Very drinkable - very warming - 3 beers and I wouldn't recommend driving! I was hoping I'd like it more, but it's ok. The more I drink, the more I like. It reminds me of a barleywine more than anything else.

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Photo of marcpal
4.39/5  rDev +14%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from glass into a pint glass. Tremendous beer- extremely impressed.

A: As listed, ruby red with thin head that dissipated. Lacing was minimal, nothing drastic.

S: Spicey with some alcohol/wine character. Is it from the cherries? Didnt notice the cherries but enticing.

M: Toastiness and just warming to the palate and the head. The alcohol kick in the background was very comfortinig. Respect others opinions, but I think this one really shines through.

T: Couldnt tell at first but it was definitely the honey that was coming through. Didnt really catch the cherries but a nice fruitiness that was really pleasant. Dellicate and unique balance between sugary and spicey. Such a tight seasonal. I had a few with a turkey pre-thanksgiving feast. Pefect for the meal.

D: Deception is key here. Although the warming alcohol is there, I could happily drop many of these ina row. Couldnt be more appropriate for the holidays. My favorite holiday beer, taking over for Anchor Christmas. Not a fan usually of Troegs either, but this is really good. Gotta load up for 08.

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Photo of Beerbuddha
3/5  rDev -22.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

This beer poured a copper color with a thin white head which disappears quickly and leaves minimal lacing. The smell was a bit lacking. It had a very dominate sweet smell. The taste was of honey and not much else. I really expected cherries but in this particular bottle I had none. It wasn't bad but when I see cherries I expect cherries. The really good thing was the 11% ABV wasn't dominant. The mouthfeel was medium body with medium carbonation. Overall drinkability was fair. It would have been great had I tasted cherries. I'll have to try another bottle.

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Photo of BWH3
3.25/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Mad Elf Troeg Brewery
12 oz bottle in Goblet at 50 degrees F

Belgian Strong Dark Ale brewed with honey and cherries.

Appearance: Clear copper brew with above average and steady stream of carbonation. Head pours bubbly light beige but dissipates rapidly to leave stable ring around glass. Simply head is weak for Belgian ale. Color is on lighter side for style and gas is perfect. (3.0)

Smell: Dark fruit, honey sweetness, and spiciness dominate the nose. Fragrant banana like esters are just beneath the surface buoying the other scents into the air. Some malt sweetness similar to Munich also is detectable. Some warm alcohol notes as well. The aroma is pleasant and well done but not insanely complex or bizarre. I’m not impressed by the cherries contribution to the aroma. (3.0)

Taste: A fair dark fruit and malt sweetness initially with additional sweetness of honey. The cherry flavor or tartness is undetectable. The alcohol warmth is perfect for a cold fall day, but the taste is not that gentle on the palate. The spiciness from phenols produced by the Belgian yeast could be more expressive but is present. Lastly the finishing hops clear the tongue nicely. Overall, average for style in general, but very good for an American interpretation. (3.0)

Mouthfeel: Lighter in body than I anticipated. I think this is appropriate for a Belgian Ales which typically have a discrepancy between the alcohol content and the body of the beer thanks to adjuncts like honey and candi. Carbonation is great for style. The carbonation even has that gentle carbonation common to Belgian styles which doesn’t cause one to belch too much. (4.5)

Drinkability: Fairly quaffable at 11% ABV. Not heavy or overly sweat. In fact, not too filling despite above average gas content. My only complaint is that the beer does not exceed my expectations of a superb Belgian Strong Dark Ale or some of the ratings on Beer Advocate (3.5)

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Photo of bosco7
3.68/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Very pretty ruby-brown color topped with a foamy head that sticks around a bit.

Cough syrup cherry, banana, some yeast, and alcohol in the nose.

Nice tripelesque flavors backed with some cherry. I pick up a lot of lemon zest, earth, and banana. The cherry hides in back and is quite dry.

Drinkability takes a hit because of the fruit and alcohol becomes a little tiresome on the palate. Overall a nice little beer that is truly warming.

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Tröegs The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
3.85 out of 5 based on 3,922 ratings.
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