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:
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,270 | Ratings: 3,919
Photo of kpantz
4.35/5  rDev +13%
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. ;)

 1,345 characters

Photo of objectivemonkey
4.27/5  rDev +10.9%
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!

 1,194 characters

Photo of stereosforgeeks
4.23/5  rDev +9.9%
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.

 704 characters

Photo of tempest
4.02/5  rDev +4.4%
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.

 515 characters

Photo of ByTor2112
3.41/5  rDev -11.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This was the 2006 edition.

Pours a beautiful reddish amber. Great color held to the light. head is non-existent except for a good swirl.
Aroma-Tart sour notes, almost like red wine vinegar. a little sweetness from the honey is barely detectable.
Mouthfeel-Just like the 2005, this tastes nothing like the aroma! Wonderfully sweet. The cherry flavors are there and the honey sweetness is the dominant flavor characteristic. Alcohol is noticeable, but warming with no sting. A nice froth on the palate sweetens it up and releases the alcohol a bit more. Finishes quite clean. This brew will give you a warm fuzzy. The 2005 I drank had aged for a year and really mellowed. This brew is good fresh and also ages well. Troeg's does it again! Cheers.

 749 characters

Photo of bjohnson
3.62/5  rDev -6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Thanks to fitzIPAtrick for letting me snag this from this cellar.

A: Pours a ruby red color--almost like a cran-grape color with a cream colored head that dissipates slowly. Not much retention on this.
S: Cherries, strawberries, and raspberries all coated in honey. Sweet sugary presence.
T/M: Syrupy cherries and strawberries. Sweet fruit notes mixed in well with yeasty and spicy belgian esters. Thick and juicy fruit bursting in the mouth. An interesting brew with a nice blend of flavors. Dry yeastyness in the finish coupled with thick and juicy fruits. Almost too sweet for me.
D: A good change of pace for me with this brew as I would possibly only pull this out once a year during the holidays. Nice and warming in the chest with the high abv.

 760 characters

Photo of akorsak
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 10oz serving as part of the Belgian dinner at Iron Hill's Belgium Comes to West Chester. Appearance and smell are copied from an earlier growler review.

A: The ale is a copper color with some distinct orange highlights. The head is big on pour but does not retain very well.

S: The aroma is cherries and honey with a bit of medicinal tartness.

T: The ale, served fresh, has a stronger alcohol character. That warmth assists the cherry flavors in coming out. As the ale continues to warm, the cherry character becomes more sour, losing a sweeter character that is present when the ale is cold.

M: The alcohol and cherry pair nicely together and were a nice compliment to the salmon carpaccio that it was served with. The sweet cherry and honey in the beer were a nice fit with the honey-topped salmon and pepper.

D: Well made, the cherry is a nice component that adds strong character. I never imagined that this would pair well with a seafood dish, but it does and is worth a look.

 988 characters

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.

 826 characters

Photo of pvsob
3.73/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Ruby/orange color with a nice head that fades quickly and leaves some lacing.

Smell - Cherries, honey, some spices, and a little alcohol as the brew warms.

Taste - Pretty much the same as the smell.

Mouthfeel - Light to medium with very little carbonation.

Overall/Drinkability - Definitely a sipper. A great warming brew that needs to be enjoyed slowly. This beer seems to be on the threshold of greatness, but needs a tad more character to really blow me away. Not my favorite offering from Troegs, but give it a try if you run across a single or sixer. I going to cellar the rest of this six pack and see what its like come Spring. Cheers!

 667 characters

Photo of Westsidethreat
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Vibrant cayenne color with strawberries highlights with a lot of chill haze. Head is fizzy, white with a pink highlight that fell to a small ring.

S: Wood, cherries, cream, honeysuckle, strawberries, fresh cut grass and spicy yeast.

T: Begins yeasty with honey tickling the tip of the tongue. Slightly acidic and mild sour cherries around the sides with more slick honey down the center of the tongue. Bit of saison funk moves in next; grassy, spicy with a smidge of vanilla. Finishes with apricot, orange, marmalade with just a touch of bittering hops.

M: Medium body, fairly thin but smooth.

D: Not as complex as I was expecting. Very smooth and easy to drink though especially considering the 11%. Good but not great.

 735 characters

Photo of aforbes10
3.31/5  rDev -14%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I had this on tap at The Drafting Room and liked it a lot but didnt review it so i bought a bottle to review later. This is in regard to that bottle: Pours cherry red wine-colored with a small thin white head. Fruity alcohol odor. Cherries pretty obvious on the nose in kind of a candy-like way. A ton of alcohol obvious in the taste at first but it ramps back a bit after a while. Cherries come through later, along with a heavy maltiness. Sticky syrupy mouthfeel. A sipper i think. Overall it's good but it was better on tap with a meal in front of me.

 554 characters

Photo of doppelmeup
3.15/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light reddish pour into a chalice with a half inch head that faded quickly to a ring of lace. Very clear brew.

Tart pie cherries lead the way, just as advertised, with a slight cough syrup feel. Reminds me of Three Philosophers.

Kind of odd flavor. Slightly tart cherries prevail, pretty much drowning out any other flavors. Very one dimensional.

Dry, sticky mouthfeel. High ABV well hidden. Fizzy.

Overall, IMO this is a mediocre beer, kind of gimmicky. Lots of marketing but little substance. Not recommended.

 523 characters

Photo of jdg204
4.1/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I'm from Central PA and had tried this on tap while visiting family and enjoyed it so much that I had to get a 6 pack for Christmas at home.

Appearance - Gorgeous ruby color with a nice head, incredible that you can still clearly see through the beer with that tint.

Smell - Cherries and honey (as they bottle states) are the most evident wonderful holiday smells, also has some nice spice aromas.

Taste - Very sweet, again cherries and honey were the order of the day, along with a bit of spice which frankly I expect a bit more of when having this type of brew. Still, this flavor will put you in that holiday spirit.

Mouthfeel - It was a bit thick and heavy (but hey look at the ingredients) to be honest, but still quite enjoyable. Definetly a sipping beer, but hey isn't that what you want sitting by the fire waiting for St. Nick ;).

Drinkability - Good brew though a bit sweet and not quite spiced enough for my liking. However, my wife who's less of a beer drinker LOVED it, so I recco this for all guys looking to get their wife to join them in a brew around the holidays. This will definetly put everyone in the holiday spirit.

 1,152 characters

Photo of guinnessfan
3.98/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz bottle poured into oversized wine glass.

A: Stunning clarity, beauty and color. Pours a deep, golden red, with an orange hue. Small off-white head quickly fades into a lacing ring. Slightly better head would warrant a 5.

S: Sweet but mild, vague cherries and a perhaps a hint of spice, but I'm not sure about the spice.

T: Amazing, like a Belgian without the astringancy or the spice. Milder flavor than a Belgian, but the alcohol is pronounced, without being overbearing. The alcohol takes you right up to the edge, without crossing over the line. Sweetness from honey and cherries and alcohol, but not like cough syrup.

M: Smooth as silk, lightly carbonated, and leaves a nice sweet aftertaste.

D: As good as it is, the alcohol taste and effect keep the drinkability lower than ideal. 1 or 2 at a time would be plenty. I probably only drink a 6 pack/year of this wonderful brew. Kudos, to Chris and John for creating another great product. I'm trying to get to the brewery when they have this in the tasting room.

 1,036 characters

Photo of psinderson
4.23/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in official glassware at the Sharp Edge Creekhouse.

Appearance: Beautiful deep amber red color with a thick, foamy white head. The color of this beer is a perfect compliment for the holidays.

Smell: Fruity and malty. I detect a bit of honey and maple, maybe also cherries. Smells yummy.

Taste: Extremely well blended and smooth. A great combination of cherry, honey and caramel. There seems to be a bit of citrus in there too.

Mouthfeel: Nice body and carbonation...great going down!

Drinkability: Anything with this much alcohol needs to go down slowly, but Mad Elf hides its strength well.

 613 characters

Photo of BlindPig
4.51/5  rDev +17.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Cheers to Todd1 for hooking me up with a bottle of this.

A- Thin off white head on a clear deep amber body. Has a tint of orange in it too.
S- Big cherry aromas. Other candy like fruits also. Maybe some candyish sugar? Light spices, not much hop aroma, and a little pale malt in the back ground.
T- Some big cherries come up front right away which then fades into a more subtle sweetness with honey and some mellow spices. That then changes to a very light bitterness with the warming of alcohol at the same time. Maybe just a tad harsh on the warming but is still a nice touch. They do very well on covering up the alcohol in the taste.
M- Full body (maybe just a tad on the medium side) and low carbonation.
D- It is a very interesting and different brew. I really like it and probably would get it if I could. It is nice and complex and a lot of different levels of flavor.

 886 characters

Photo of RBorsato
3.22/5  rDev -16.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Amber-chestnut color with a low tan ring for a head, low-no carbonation, and no lace... :-(. Light spicy cherry aroma with some maltiness. Sweet malty cherry-ish flavors ... a bit cloying with some honey-ish character. Medium bodied and flat with a light spicy sweet malt finish.

Not sure what all the hype is about since this is the second time in a few years I've tried this and I've not been impressed at all either time.

Per label: "Ale brewed with honey and cherries"

Per TBC website:
15 IBU's
Malts: Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate
Hops: Saaz, Hallertau
Pennsylvania Honey
West Coast Cherries

Bottled: 10/27/?? ('03' emb on bottom)
Tasted: 12/24/06

($1.79 / 12 oz.)

 688 characters

Photo of jwc215
3.52/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Pours ruby red with a thin head that soon becomes a patch.

The smell is of cherries, honey and alcohol.

The taste is of tart cherries. Subtle hints of sweet honey and spicy, doughy yeast. Sharp alcohol. Malt and yeast dominate, with little input from hops. Sweettart, alcohol finish. Aftertaste is medicinal - almost like a cough drop. Medium-bodied and sharp. (Cellaring for a good while might mellow it.)

An interesting brew - fruity and sweet. A slow sipper.

 470 characters

Photo of OStrungT
4.37/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This beer pours a golden color with a light brown tint. It has a thin, off white head. The head fades quickly, leaving minimal lacing.

This beer has a fruity aroma. I smell raisins, and figs. It also has a slightly clovey spicy aroma. It has a slightly biscuity malt aroma also. The high alcohol content is very well hidden in the aroma.

This beer has a sweet malty flavor. I can taste some spicyness. It has a slight cherry flavor to it that I didnt pick up in the aroma untill I tasted it. As with the aroma, the ABV is well hidden in the taste.

This beer is smooth. It is full bodied, but not overly aggressive. It is only lightly carbonated. It leaves a sweet cherry like aftertaste.

This beer might not be the greatest session beer just because it is rather high in alcohol. It tastes good, and it mild enough that it might be easy to drink a few though.

Overall: Thanks go out to ggaughan for generously hooking me up above the agreed trade. This beer was good, and I am happy to have had the chance to try it.

 1,031 characters

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

This beer is a nice orangish red. There is not a lot of head to speak of but there is plenty of yeasty sediment. The smell is sweet and slightly alcohol like, but the beer smells like Cheerwine. The taste is sweet, the cherries are somewhat evident. The honey is detectable a little in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is smooth considering the higher abv which is masked well. The drinkability is good. I could sip on these from time to time.

I have had this beer in the fridge for about a year and I figured tonight would be a good night to reveiw it and it seems as if several others thought the same thing. I will pick up some more of this beer the next time I am in Bristol, Va.

 684 characters

Photo of Luchman
3.9/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

12oz bottle poured into a snifter, thanks to akorsak .

A: Just like the label says, a clear, ruby red color with light hints of amber to it. I got little head on my pour, which seemed to just race towards the sides. Reminds me of a red Jolly Rancher.

S: .A sweet, malty and spicy smell. The cherries can also be found, but it is subtle.

T: Yummy stuff right here. Malts, cherries, plums come in a first, ending with a nice finish of light spice. Has a long, slightly dry, finish that stays with you until your next sip. Alcohol comes into play as it starts to warm up, but nothing compared to what I expected from its 11% ABV.

M: A nice medium body that fits this beer great. Goes down smooth.

D: I personally, am not too big of a fan of the spices in any beer (so pretty much, I’ve never been too fond of Belgians), but I enjoyed this treat.The high alcohol percentage does hinder me from wanting to drink more than one of these in a sitting, but it does not stop me from wanting to revisit again. Find a Mad Elf for your self and enjoy!

 1,061 characters

Photo of Imstillthegman
3.7/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Merry Christmas to the Mad Elf.

He poured out of the bottle a beautiful ruby red color with a nice to it. Fingers worth of white head really put me in the Christmas spirit...well maybe not, but it looked good. Lacing isn't a factor with this one.

The aroma is a funky Belgian one with some cherries, honey, caramel, and sweet bread.

Flavorful seasonal with tastes of holiday spices, funky yeast, sweet cherries and oh yeah...alcohol. Woo. I think I can breathe fire right about now. This is good, but I think it needs a little aging. Bit rough around the edges although I can see the tasty light at the end. I think I'll sit on some of this for a while.

Body is thinner than expected, yet a bit syrupy. Definately believe a little time in the cellar will help this one out. Right now one bottle is plenty, but with some age this should be even more enjoyable.

 871 characters

Photo of russpowell
4.16/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours an effervescent caramel/red with a thin filmy head. Minmal lacing & no head retention

S: Sweet, fruitty & hints of cherry& oakyness& a little booze as it warms

T: Dry with berry/cherry notes up front. Some woody/oaky character & a slight medicinal twang comes through. I also catch a little vanilla as it warms. A little warming alcohol is present as it warms. Finishes winey with cherry notes, slight chocolate & dryness

MF: Extremely low carbonation & slick

Drinks really easy for the abv, something a little different, but 2 of these beauties & you're done, This took the chill off a brutal winterstorming evening & certainally got me in the holiday mood! This would work with turkey or fruitcake. Mad props to GnomeKing for this one.

 755 characters

Photo of albo
4.25/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I wait for the Christmas Season just so that I can get a case of the Elf. It truly does bring joy to my heart.

Anyway, on to the review.

Pours with little head that last a few seconds before disappearing.

Color is a brilliant, deep red.

Smell is traditionallly Belgian with faint hints of cherry.

The mouthfeel is smooth as silk like a great full-bodied wine.

The boys at Troegs have been tweaking the recipe nearly every year since its inception, but it seems as though they have finally hit the consistency that they have been shooting for. The bottom line is, it's a great beer for an equally great season!

 633 characters

Photo of jhicks12
4.3/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured this beer into a pint glass, first thing I notice was the glowing ruby red color and white head. Beer had a sweet cherry aroma with just a slight honey nose. First taste really got a lot of cherry not some much sour on first taste but more so as I drank. Slight alcohol warming. Not as much as I would have expected from an 11%. Very drinkable and a nice beer to warm you up with out being too overpowering.

 414 characters

Tröegs The Mad Elf from Tröegs Brewing Company
3.85 out of 5 based on 3,919 ratings.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • BeerAdvocate Microbrew Invitational

    Join us June 2-3, 2017 in Boston, Mass. for beer, cider, mead, kombucha and sake from over 70 small producers.

    Learn More
  • Subscribe to BeerAdvocate Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.