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:
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Reviews: 1,271 | Ratings: 3,922
Photo of mzwolinski
3.07/5  rDev -20.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Hazy red in color, with a thin uneven top.

The aroma is sweet and malty. Cherries and honey are understated at first, but give signs of a bit too much sweetness down the road.

The flavor is not bad right out of the fridge. A bit sweet with hints of cherry and very little in the way of hops. Alcohol almost completely undetectable. Nothing terribly stand-out about it, but certainly drinkable

As it warms, the malt and alcohol combine to give the beer a cinnamon-bread character. This is one of the more pleasant aspects of the beer.

As it continues to warm, however, the beer becomes a bit cough-syrupy … too sweet and sticky in the throat. And the warmer it gets, the worse it gets. Even at 55 degrees, it's pretty awful.

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Photo of arguemaniac
4.4/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Pours a deep, reddish copper color with a fairly robust head and generous lace (especially for 11% ABV). Fruity and alcoholic aromas in the nose. The very malty flavor features a multi-layered estery, fruity character (primarily cherry), a pleasantly sour tartness, and well-masked alcohol bite. Mostly grain with a distinct touch of fruitiness in the finish. A creamy mouthfeel with mildly active carbonation.

For an 11% ABV brew this one is very drinkable; you would never guess how alcoholic it really is. Add that to really tasty sweet and tart flavor with a somewhat silky mouthfeel and it’s clear that Mad Elf is one of those beers that can get you into a bit of trouble. Highly recommended, but imbibe carefully….

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

I popped my one to enjoy after meeting with a damn wedding photographer. Red kool-aid color and a hint of a head in my duvel tulip. Smells of a mild fruityness and alcohol. The taste is not what I was expecting, not nearly enough of the cherry flavor and I wonder now about the color. The alcohol is prevelent and there is a background fruityness and some malt flavor with a tannic bitterness. I had a decent mouthfeel and was very clean finish and a good drinker even at 11%, but not really my bag.

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

Pours an amber color with tinges of ruby red. No head to speak of. Honey and cloves in the aroma, with a trace of sour cherries. The honey really stands out in the flavor with a subtle cherry in the background. Also a little spice and cloves. Full bodied and well carbonated.

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Photo of HugoGrim
4.19/5  rDev +8.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I was lucky enough to find this on tap at a local bar. Body is a coppery color with a white head.

Excellent full smell of fruit, mostly cherries. High alcohol content is evident in the scent, though definitely not overpowering.

Flavor holds on to the sweet bite of cherries throughout, but also adds some spicy elements. An excellent balance of sweetness and spices. A bit of breadyness in the finish. Had I not known I would have never guessed this as an 11% ABV.

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Photo of ski271
4.32/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear, medium reddish-copper with a very small, frothy, slightly off-white head that quickly diminishes to a thin film. Actually didn’t even know what style this beer was until I smelled it. Obvious Belgian with moderate wheat, sweet malts, cherry and some other fruit esters accompanying the light alcohol presence. Toward the end of the bottle when it really warmed up, I was picking up some light clove and a light woodsy smell. Flavor-wise, it starts out with rather typical Belgian flavors, mostly because I had served it too cold. it then opens to reveal a wonderful malt backbone and a complex array of flavors, but it’s the duo of cherries and sweet malts that steal the show. I admit at first it threw me a bit, but the second try was much better. And it kept getting better all the way to the bottom of the glass. It has a medium body, lightly oily texture and soft carbonation. This is a real holiday treat that is well done. Hard to believe this beer is 11%! Use with caution.

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

Appearance: Deep brilliant dark mahogany red with good clarity. Not much head and lacing was spotty.
Smell: Spicy, peppery, tart cherries and cidery.
Taste: The spiciness is strong and really hits you, alcohol taste is at a minimum and I would never have guessed 11%. Some pepper and also cherries, but it pulls off a nice balance.
Mouthfeel: One of the best textured beers I've ever had. Light carbonation provides just enough crispness to a very light and smooth beer.
Drinkability: A good brew and a nice surprise from one of my favorite breweries.

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Photo of Gaisgeil
2.9/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Obtained through Secret Santa '05, thanks ManekiNeko!

Not really sure what to make of this one, a bit funky, a bit disjointed, interesting but not particularly appealing either somehow. Pours a medium intensly clear amber in color with no head to speak of. Nose is powerful, lots going on, sort of nutty and spicy, but a lot of cherry character going on here as well, almost lambic-like in a certain respect. Flavor is slightly malty, lots of tart cherry and spice, a little bit of cinnamon noticable. The flavors don't blend particularly well though, and I don't know how one can call this a Belgian Strong Dark, this is unlike anything in that category I've ever had. Mouthfeel is slick and oily, sticks to the palate like syrup. Drinkability is so-so, decent enough, hides the alcohol well, but in the end I didn't crave another.


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Photo of Zorro
4.27/5  rDev +10.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

12 Oz bottle Sampled through the efforts of Boxing Day BIF and Pentathlete.

This is a beer I have wanted to try for sometime. This is last year’s version but it is a big beer that can take a year of aging!

This pours a clear copper colored ale with a warm red glow. Carefully poured to leave the sediment behind no head forms. To be honest the careful pour probably killed the head more than the beer itself.

An intensely aromatic beer, this is another beer that can fill a room with smell from the glass. This has almost too aromatic to sniff closely. Fairly sweet scent with an intense fruity nature. Strong honey, vanilla, and cherry scents. Lesser aromas of cinnamon, caramel and black pepper. This is a beer that makes you seriously as the question if it is possible to have too much scent? I am sure that this has stunned my sense of smell, it is that intense.

Taste is not as amazingly intense as the smell. The first sip hits you with sweet malt and vanilla. Cherry and caramel are the next flavors that I can taste with a black pepper in the finish. Brown sugar and cinnamon come near the end of the glass. There are also fairly strong lemon and orange flavors to this. This is one hard ale to describe, it is very intense.

Mouthfeel is syrup thick.

The only downside of this beer is in the drinkability department. This is a very intense experience, almost too intense. This is strong enough that you could use it as syrup, just briefly bring this to a boil and you could pour it over pancakes. It is the syrup intensity of this that cuts its drinkability score significantly. This would make an amazing glaze for a ham or just pour over ice cream like hot caramel. An amazing beer that is probably too intense for 99% of most people.

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Photo of Frozensoul327
2.98/5  rDev -22.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Damn, this brew isn't playin' around. Pours out to a oil like flat presentation with a small foam head. Low levels of carbonation. Very orange in color. No lace. Aromas are strong, lots of dark fruits and some fermented malt. Touches of spice and herbs round out the smell. Taste is full and powerful; acidic alcohol, spice, thin malts, some citrus fruit. Wow. Quite a bit going on. Mouthfeel is thick and uninspiring, could've used more carbonation. Drinkability is average. Once a season is probably enough for me. Not my idea of the typical Belgian dark ale. Special thanks to MaltyGoodness for the sample.

THE BLOODHOUND FACTOR: The hounds sniffed this, and maybe it was the alcohol, but they ran. No way they were gonna try this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another sample courtesy of dirtylou's cellarfridge.

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Photo of dirtylou
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

split 12oz with some sam adams schwillin dude, named blackie

appearance: a full amber, cranberry, bubbly white head with bubbly lacing around the rim...bright and lively

smell: very floral, belgian yeast characteristics, sweet and fruity, light cinnamon and other holiday spices

taste: pretty nice...alcohol noticeable but not offensive, bursting with sugary sweet, plum, grape. lightly toasted malt, light yeast, some tart cherry, a touch of chocolate, slight cinnamon, holiday spice

mouthfeel: medium bodied, well carbonated, slick, not as full as I'd like

drinkability: for the style, a little above average

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

Twelve ounce bottle with no evident dating method

Pours deep copper body capped with a dense light tan finger of foam. Nose is Belgian yeast and ripe red cherries like those of upper Michigan variety. Clarity is outstanding.

Entry is...oh my...this is good! Carbonation brushes by the cheeks while the midtaste highlights a slick honey mouthfeel and sturdy malt. The finish is where this beauty really shines...a crisp hop bite followed by a lingering of holiday spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and corriander followed by the sweet taste of ripe juicy cherries.

The flavor belies the elevated alcohol content...this crazy 'ole elf will really sneak up on you! A holiday winner!

Kudos to fuzzyfrog & SwillinBrew for each flinging me a bottle of this.

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

12 oz. bottle with no freshness date, but sure it's this year's version - served in a big wine glass. It pours with almost no head and remains that way. It is a clear, brilliant red/orange that is fit for a gemstone, but looks lifeless with no head or beads of carbonation and, hence, no lacing. It smells Belgian, with fruits (maraschino cherries?), malts, pepper/spiciness, and alcohol near the end. The taste has this plus medicinal phenols, banana, hints of clove, and perhaps some bubblegum. The body is medium and the drinkability is about what I would have expected. Not the best from Tröegs, but we'll see what the cellar will do to it.

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Photo of dnrobert24
2.62/5  rDev -31.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Purchased at the Gingerbread Man in Carlisle, PA. Had to see what the hype was about, and I was not impressed. The beer had a dark red hue, with a very thin head that did not retain much aroma. Something mildly fruity was there, like watermelon. The first sip was metallic and stingy. Hot alcohol abounded. Midway through, the fruit came through more predominantly--strawberry mostly, and other juicy red fruits. It reminded me a bit of Juicy Fruit gum. I could not detect the spicy yeastiness normally associated with Belgian-style beers. The pint I had felt a little thin. It was not what I was expecting or hoping for in an American-made Christmas release of a belgian strong dark.

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

Presentation: Funky 12 ounce bottle. A rather annoying big eared wazzack is sneaking over the bannered word “Tröegs”. Seems like the Elves have some kind of rights these days, so now they have to properly scare children and not appeal to them when on a beer label, nice. Listed as a “Holiday Ale” and a weed-whacking 11% abv.

Appearance: Dark orange with ruby pomegranate hues. Watermelon flashes have a lovely soft red sunset feel. Minimal head, little pockets of smattered white lacing and some very lazy carbonation.

Nose: Light malts licked with a faded cherry cough syrup. Creamy grainy malts are here also. Malty aromas build and dominate with a dark skinned fruity aspect. Light on the cherries but it has some tasty fusel alcohol too.

Taste: Sharp fruits, acidic grapefruit and a star-fruit entrance the beginning. Middle has some cherry but it is soaked in a pink grapefruit body. Weird brew that likens to an English Bitter soaked in a resilient Cold fighting Cherry Cough syrup. Sweet finish with yet more grain and hints of spices. Erm....weird but sort of nice.

Mouthfeel: This one has a mixture of alcohol and mixed fruit blended with a rather thick body. Feels big, I’m sure the alcohol helps out here too.

Drinkability: For a double digit brew this one is rather a monster missive but it is not that hard to drink which surprise me. Neither is it sickly sweet, in fact it is rather clean overall.

Overall: Not sure what I make of this one, it’s a strange brew indeed………OK, I thought about it, I still don’t know what I make of this one. It’s one of those beers that is hard to ascribe a style to.

Thanks to OCBrewFish for this one!

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Photo of DuqTroops
4.22/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

reviewed - December 21, 2005

Appearance -- reddish in tint. You could tell this is a holiday ale through the color of the beer. Not much head to it as well. Looks enjoyable.

Aroma -- smells of cherries and malt. Not too hoppy. Wants me to take a sip of it.

Taste -- tastes a little bit of honey and malt. Very enjoyable.

Body -- not too heavy. Smooth on the way down and is definitely going to get more.

Drinkability -- not going to drink all the time. Only in the winter months where alcohol is needed.

Price - had to pay $50 for a case of beer. Not worth spending for th entire case. Should get it at brewery with a six pack rather than getting a case.

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

Appearance - Brilliant reddish beer (very Christmas-like!) with about a half finger of head that disappears pretty quickly to a ring around the edges and little islands of fluff drifting around.
Aroma - Lots of malts and certainly a honey presence. The cherries came through but a little like cherry medicine.
Taste - Lots of honey, it’s like chewing on honeycomb (not the cereal). A bit of a flowery taste that I assume is from the honey. The cherries show themselves in the end. For something with all this sweet stuff it finishes remarkably clean.
Body - No lack of it.
Drinkability - No matter how hard I look for it I cannot find the alcohol presence, match that with the super clean finish and you get a pretty drinkable beer. Still don't think I could drink 3 litres though.

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Photo of cubedbee
4.05/5  rDev +5.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Pours a bright brick red with a small off-white head that neverthless has good retetention and leaves some moderate lacing. Nose is nice natural cherries, not syrupy, a honey sweetness, and a slight clovelike spiciness. Taste is a nice smooth cherry with some other pear/apple fruitiness, a nice bready malt, and a decent spicey and hoppy finish. Mouthfeel is medium/full with a nice smoothness. Overall this is a really nice beer, hides the alcohol well, nice to sip on a cold day.

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Photo of Phatz
4.43/5  rDev +15.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

What a treat! Although I am new to this beer, this year, it is now a beer I will look for every holiday season; it’s a new personal favorite and was very well received by my family at thanksgiving. We also had it around through the Christmas season.

Appearance: This beer pours cherry red with a small frothy head. Served in my snifter. It has a unique ruby glow to it that just simply does not look like beer. In fact the first time I had this beer was at a friends house with dinner. The table was set and a snifter was at my place setting. There were wine bottles on the table and I assumed it was wine in my glass before I picked it up. This is a very unique beer!

Smell: Cherries! First and foremost is the obvious aroma of sweet cherries. It smells a lot like a wine with the hints of alcohol seeping into the back of your nose. I also detected some spices like cinnamon and nutmeg in there. It’s very pleasant and yet not overwhelming.

Taste: It tastes as good as it smells (infact similar to the smell). It is cherry up front followed by the gentle malts and as you swallow a very cinnamon taste with an ever so subtle hint of hops and alcohol hanging in your mouth for a moment to finish it off. It is so gentle on the palate that I believe this beer could accompany almost any horderves, meal, or desert.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is a bit lighter than I'd prefer; but it is very crisp, very refreshing, and pleasantly carbonated. It has somewhat of an 'apple cider meets the spiced Christmas punch' feel to it. It just slips right past your mouth and into you bloodstream before you know it.

Drinkability: This is PROBLEM ZONE drinkable. Wow! You would never know that it has an 11.00% ABV until you stand up after the third or fourth one. It is so easy to drink you almost need to drink it while you are distracted with dinner or something, or you may get hurt. I have now picked up several 6-packs of this stuff, intending to review it. Every time I was ready to review it I realized I'm all out again. I think that even many non-beer-drinkers would enjoy this beer. It is a perfect choice for all of your holiday events.

I went back to by 6-packs of this so many times I should have just bought a few cases. My brother in-law loved this beer as well as my sister-in-law who only drinks wine (says she doesn’t like beer). There is such a wide appeal Tröegs Mad Elf I am absolutely astonished. Way to go Tröegs this beer is a fantastic success.

Hope this is helpful.

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

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

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

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

Pours a brownish red color, with a 1 finger head that dissipates quickly. Medium level of carbonation. No lacing at all and the head that completly dissapears hurt the appearance a little.

Smell is bready/toasted biscut with just a touch of the added cherries. Can't really detect the honey. Taste is also very bready with just a hint of cherries. Where is the alcohol? It is hidden amazingly well. Medium bodied mouthfeel with a mildly spicey (nutmeg) aftertaste.

This is a nice holiday brew, but one at a time is plenty. I enjoyed it and look forward to next years offering. Probably a little on the pricey side but worth it once a year. I wasn't sure what i would think about this one, i normally don't like beers with fruit added, but this was just subtle enough to be enjoyable.

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Photo of JerzDevl2000
3.8/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I've had a few of the Troegs beers in recent months, and all of them have been quite enjoyable. Between that and the worth of mouth that other users said about this brew, I was pretty excited when this came into my liquor store a few weeks ago. After drinking it, however, I was a bit let down...

Don't get me wrong, this is a fine brew. Poured a nice mahogany reddish-brown, about a finger and a half worth of head that quickly settled down. The taste was very maltly and bready, with hints of banana and cherry as well. Can't quite taste the honey in this, and the 11% ABV is hardly noticable either. It's quite drinkable, with a fairly filling aftertaste and a lacing that gently slid down the glass after I took each sip; although the beer itself could have been a bit less thin.

I was led to believe that the $13.99 price for the 6-pack and the supposed ruby red color would make this a standout, but the Mad Elf seems to be better suited as just the only American version of a Belgian Strong Ale that I've ever seen or drank. With my experiences with Troegs in the past, the bar for this was set quite high, and even though I was a bit disappointed, I enjoyed this beer and look forward to their other offerings that I haven't tried yet. Worth a shot but not worth the price in my opinion...

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Photo of SwillinBrew
3.77/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I finally got to have this thanks to beerbeing.

A - an apple cider color with strawberry skin hues and what little white head was present left pretty fast. Very nice color.
S - A bit bready with some fruit and malt. Maybe a hint of cherry. I though tthe aroma would be a bit more present and strong.
T - Toasted biscuit and spice dominate this brew finishing on the sweet side with maybe some hints of cherry and honey, i think i detected that. Again, it was rather faint on my expected taste. I do believe i should go into a tasting without any expectations.
M&Dr - A dry and light medium bodied brew that is very drinkable. You cant even taste the alcohol on this spicey treat.

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Photo of bruachan
3.74/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

i poured as aggressively as possible, but the beer didn't care. i coaxed a sizeable head out of the bottle but POOF gone. brilliantly-clear-orange-tinted ruby color

tart raisiny fruit with an earlier slight cherry flavor. some bitterness. the 11% hides well amongst the esters; this elf is generally less mad than i was expecting. there's definitely balance it fair to call it bland?

the standard yeasty belgian aroma is missing. i get caramel malts and a spicey hop and alcohol zing, but little of the classic belgian character, almost as if troegs didn't use an authentic yeast

EDIT: after i saw the bottle again, and the "holiday ale" label, i decided that to judge this beer as a "belgian strong ale" is missing the point. there was a nice spicing that was quite holiday-ish and it was actually incredibly drinkable

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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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