Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale
Ridgeway Brewing

Very Bad Elf Special Reserve AleVery Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale
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Pale Ale - English
Ranked #266
Ranked #45,851
3.51 | pDev: 12.82%
Ridgeway Brewing
England, United Kingdom
Very Bad Elf Special Reserve AleVery Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale
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Reviews: 181 | Ratings: 335 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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jkblr from Indiana

3.99/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500mL bottle stamped F17 248 (around 20 months old) poured into a nonic pint glass at fridge temp 7.5% ABV. The beer pours bright medium amber in color with off white head. Minimal lacing. The head recedes to a puffy ring. The aroma is faint with a little English malt and hop character and light fruit. The taste is faded English hops over a earthy malt base. There is a touch of oxidation, but not bad considering age and the finish is pleasantly & moderately bitter. Mouthfeel is medium bodied with adequate carbonation and a mostly dry finish. Overall, good plus. I am enjoying this one more than I expected for its BA score and age. The label was marked and so was the bottle so I'll know where to look next time. Nice English character which is harder to find all the time.

May 23, 2019
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.12/5  rDev -11.1%
look: 2.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 2.75

L- Pours very deep amber/pale chestnut, with 3mm fine off-white head reducing to lacing (and later entirely gone).
S- Toasted grains are the primary smell for me here.
T- Woah-k! This is pungent with alcohol! I'm not yet sure quite how they've managed to get quite this alco-impact from 7.5% I've had Begian tripels/quads around/over 10% with less bang than this. But I'm by no means concluding this impact is good vs my tastes.
F- Very much in the category of winter-warmer. The feel is very full-on so I couldn't do other than take this one easy.
O- Certainly different; and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. As a more mature ale-loving kind of drinker I approach beers styled (both named and labelled) like this with some caution. Especially outside the UK where they can be pitched for a younger (less worldly and developed, naturally ;) palate). The neck lable refers to it as a 'Christmas beer brewed for the USA'... most curious. The main lable lists ingredients in English, Finnish and Swedish, and carries US bottle deposit refunds. I think in conclusion the alcohol is too prominent for me and I'm not noting here^ many of the flavour characteristics at all. So it's not one I'd buy again, perhaps a bit too much of a blunt weapon.
500ml. Bought from BeersofEurope. I'm unable to find a BB date anyway on the bottle/cap etc., but bought recently.

May 12, 2019
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Retroman40 from Florida

3.75/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A brilliant clear copper color with a creamy white that is quite persistent. The smell is bready malt with just a hint of hops and the taste follows on. There is not the slightest hint of alcoholic heat in spite of the 7.5% ABV. The mouthfeel is smooth with very light carbonation. Overall this is a great easy drinking beer that was particularly nice on a chilly Florida night. Definitely worth a try. I was originally drawn to the Ridgeway seasonals by the very cool label artwork but the taste and quality keeps me coming back.

Nov 28, 2018
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HopsAreDaMan from Missouri

3.49/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

16.9 oz bottle, no bottling date, bought on sale at World Market.

Look: lots of sudsy, white head that clings nicely to glass when it settles, with a clear, copper color (and a few bubbles from the carbonation when swirled).

Smell: From what I know about English beers, this is what it is supposed to smell like: malty/bready, with a decent amount of hops, and perhaps a bit of yeast.

Taste: Lots of malt and sweetness, with mildly bitter bite in the finish, but that's about it; perhaps a bit more flavor than an industrialized "tasteless fizzy yellow beer".

Feel: light-bodied and reasonably carbonated.

Overall: Reasonably easy drinking. I can imagine really enjoying it while sitting in a traditional English pub. A beer worth checking out.

Jan 06, 2018
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rudiecantfail from Pennsylvania

3.4/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Imperial pint bottle poured into an imperial pint glass.

A---This is a really good looking beer. Rich golden color (colour--it's an EPA after all). Clear as a bell. Pretty white head that stayed around and left good lacing.

S---Sweet & malty. Some toffee, but mostly bready/yeasty.

T---Follows the nose. Toffee is there, but sits behind the breadiness/biscuitiness. Malts dominate over hops.

F---A little thicker than I would've guessed. A little bit of astringency leaves a tiny bit of pucker.

O---Pretty good. Not as good as I was expecting/hoping for though.

Jan 04, 2018
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daliandragon from Maryland

4.01/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Picked up on a whim from State Line Liquors off I-95 while picking up some holiday growlers. This is a handsome beer, which pours clear and copper into my Sam Smith's pint glass with a wet off white head and a malty, biscuit and fruit nose.

Plenty of flavor up front, with broad notes of biscuit and earthy hops. Some outlying sweetness and sugars that kind of tag along in the flavor without being a real impediment. A little yeasty in the finish. Texture is nice but could stand to be a touch dryer.

Everyone likes Christmas themed beers. This one is really good if you like traditional English ales.

Jan 01, 2018
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Nephilium from Ohio

3.32/5  rDev -5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Mild fruity aroma, with some hints of earthy hops. Pours a clear amber with a white head. A sweet beginning, and a full mouthfeel start this beer out, which fades out to a mild earthy/herbal hop note. Which then fades to a lingering bitter finish.

Dec 27, 2017
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doktorhops from Australia

3.35/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

So it wouldn’t be Christmas if at some point I didn’t at least try reviewing a Christmas-themed beer, which this Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale is. My decision making process rested on finding the most interesting Christmas-themed beer I could without going out of my way. My local had this and the other Ridgeway Christmas beers and the things that really caught my eye were: 7.5% ABV English Pale Ale, using an original 1795 recipe, with a special pale amber malt that is rarely used now, and Fuggles hops. I just really like Fuggles hops, I even like saying it “Excuse me, do you have any Fuggles?” “We need more Fuggles.” “Where's the Fuggles? No Fuggles!?”... ahhh, Seinfeld references.

Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.

A: Classic EPA right here! Clear golden/amber body with a white head like the cliffs of Dover towering over the English channel sea. A good upstanding British ale, enough to make you want to hum “God save the Queen” whilst arranging dollies and lamenting the lack of a formidable English cricket team... “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.

S: It’s a toffee malt and tea Fuggle hop bonanza. Diacetyl, hells yeah! (perfectly acceptable if you’re an English beer) Herbal/floral/tobacco background notes round out a good upstanding British ale, as British as scones at high tea and awkward teeth. Jolly good stuff old chap... “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.

T: Then it takes a turn for the “holy Jesus, son of the big guy upstairs” and makes you realise why most English Pale Ales and English Bitters clock in at an odd 4-5% ABV - these flavours at 7.5% (toffee and butterscotch specifically!): they’re all too much. Too much toffee, too much butterscotch, too much herbal/floral/tobacco background notes. It’s a touch “assault on the senses” when it should be more like enjoying a pint whilst humming “God save the Queen” in your local English-themed pub whilst discussing the Brexit. That said the sweet edge dulls slightly as you press on, however it’s not an EPA as I know it. 6/10.

M: Mouthfeel is alright - mid to light (English beers usually are thinner than counterpart nations brews) with a reasonably flat yet prickly carbonation. 7/10.

D: Had a bit of challenge (due to the flavour) to finish this. It’s not a bad beer, just a bit too much with Diacetyl amped up to 11. Makes me want a lighter version of this very same brew, something around 4.4% would nail it I reckon. 6/10.

Food match: Man, got a mad “scones like my nan made them” craving right now.

Dec 26, 2017
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BeerAndGasMasks from Virginia

3.61/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From the bottle, it pours a solid darker amber with a modest head. Sweetish scent overall. In the mouth, it tastes of crystal malt and a bit of toasted malt. Pleasant overall!

Nov 19, 2017
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

3.67/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

I am continuing my 2017 Christmas in July celebration, inspired by the good peeps at The FGBS who held Christmas in July on Tuesday. I had meant to drink these on Christmas day 2016, but I got rather blotto early on & set them aside as part of The Bottle Backlog at Chez Woody. Today is my series of entries for New Elf Christmas Beer in July Sunday (Week 649).

From the bottle: "One of our range of very special Christmas beers brewed in England for the USA. We all know of course, that Santa is really from Lapland!"; "'Is it just my imagination,' queried old Santa, surveying the scene, 'or is my Elf getting worse and worse every year? What's next? Seriously Bad Elf, I'll wager. Mark my words.' This Very Bad Elf is one fine ale - rich, hardy, and flavorful, brewed to an original 1795 Thames Valley recipe, with a very special pale amber malt that is rarely used nowadays, and balanced by a modest addition of English Fuggle aroma hops. 'Ere's to your elf! [undersigned] Peter Scholey (Brewer)".

I Pop!ped the cap & began a slow, gentle pour as dictated by my New Year's Resolution in high def to have a lighter touch with my bottled beers. Once sufficiently decanted, an in-glass swirl raised two-plus fingers of dense, foamy, tawny head with decent retention. Color was Amber to Deep Amber/Light Copper (SRM = > 9, < 13) with NE-quality clarity. Nose was all Fuggled up with a grassy earthiness that always puts me in mind of freshly-plowed fields in the spring. My maternal grandparents' house abutted a working farm when I was a kid & I often think of those relatively innocent days as I grow older. Mouthfeel was medium. The taste had a dry, grassy/hay-like bitterness along with an equally dry biscuity maltiness. It was very tasty and a nice change of pace from its American counterpart(s). I was finding it to be very drinkable, but perhaps too much so as at 7.5% ABV, it was going down rather easily! Finish was dry, but not overly bitter. Instead, it retained that grassy, crackery flavor that had been inherent in this beer since the outset. Once again, its price point really made it just that much better.

Jul 30, 2017
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macrosmatic from Florida

3.58/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Reviewed from notes. Poured from a 16.9 oz. bottle into a Fat Head’s pint glass.

A: Nearly clear (i.e., barely hazy) gold, with fairly low visible carbonation and a finger’s worth of white head that lasts.

S: Crystal malts, lesser amounts of toasted toffee malts, and some grassy noble and English hop bitterness. Comes across as slightly biscuity sweet overall.

T: Malty sweetness - biscuits and toast – up front, with mild toffee. A light fruity (apple) flavor as well - almost like Belgian yeast. A light grassy hop bitterness in the hang, balanced with the sweet malts.

M: Light-bodied, average carbonation sensation, and more alcohol than expected but not overly hot.

O: Not great, but one of the more drinkable of the Ridgeway Christmas series that I’ve had.

Jan 20, 2017
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Brutaltruth from Ohio

3.71/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Enjoyed form the bottle in a snifter. This nice pale pours a lightly chill hazed yellowish amber with a moderate head of white foam that dies down to a thick ring, thick layer, and very nice lacing. Nose of light citrus, light grains, and sweet honey. Flavors follow the nose with honey touched malts on all sides, medium bittering hops and a moderate herbal note of spice on the middle to back that is reminiscent of coriander with a touch of crisp apples and pears on the back. Nice mouth feel, warming and crisp with a medium mouth feel with very nice crisp carbonation. An excellent example of the English pale that is more beefy on the warming booze. Overall a great experience.


May 21, 2016
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DrMullet from Florida

3.75/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours a pale yellow amber.
Very faint sweet fruit aroma.
Taste is a strong pear/apple up front. Some alcohol and hop bitterness.
Bit of spice on the finish. Fairly complex, almost an ESB taste.

Apr 09, 2016
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BeerBobber from Nevada

3.93/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

This one poured from a tall bottle, just over a pint. A very nice copper color with amber tones and a fluffy off white head.

The smell was very bready, yeasty and malty.

The taste was of a little toasted malt with toffee and caramel. Also mix of sweet caramel and toffee. The balance of hops and the barley's and malt's was very nice.

Jan 14, 2016

3.75/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

My wife's cousin brought this beer over my mother-in-law's house during Christmas 2015. I've been wanting to have this for a while, so I jumped at trying it. Neat bottle! Nice drawn out notes while drinking this. It looked and smelled great. Felt heavy in the mouth but light going down the hatch. Overall, a nice holiday, cold weather drinking beer. Would love to have another!

Jan 07, 2016
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Jaysauras from California

3.44/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

L: Deep bronze color with a thin soapy head. Plenty of carbonation, exceptional lace.

S: Sugar, molasses, maple, slight hint of maybe a dark fruit of some kind. Maybe raspberries or fig. very sweet smell.

T: There is a very good blend going on here, but it is a bit sweet up front for my liking. Nevertheless, the malt balance on the aftertaste is very good when mixed with the sweet, sugary, fruity flavor up front. The fruit flavor is somewhere between maple syrup and the unmistakable flavor of dried figs. Bit of a boozey and smokey kind of flavor to it as well. Almost like a whiskey or bourbon barrel aged ale. It's a good flavor, not anything outstanding but pretty good overall.

F: The sugary sweetness can be a bit much to deal with right up front. It soured my face up real quick. It blends exceptionally well though. RIght to the last taste. The malt balance on the backend saves it from being an altogether too sweet, too much to drink beer.

O: It's a decent beer. Good. Not outstanding. Not bad. I found it easy to drink once I got into the complexity of the sweet versus malt balance. The fruity mixture of fig and maple worked well with the bready backend, and altogether it makes for a pretty good and warming holiday drink. It is not the best English Pale out there (Fullers makes a fine one), but it is certainly worth picking up for a winter availability only beer. Looking forward to trying some of Ridgeway's other efforts as well.

Dec 31, 2015
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superspak from Michigan

3.48/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle into tulip glass, bottled on 9/10/2011. Pours slightly hazy/cloudy deep orange/copper color with a 1 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a thin cap that lingers. Light spotty soapy lacing clings around the glass. Aromas of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, toasted biscuit, light nuttiness, plum, pear, herbal, floral, light pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and earthy hop notes; with solid strength. Taste of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, toasted biscuit, light nuttiness, plum, pear, apple, herbal, floral, light pepper, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Light-moderate herbal/spicy bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, toasted biscuit, light nuttiness, light fruits, and herbal/yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Good complexity, balance, and solid robustness of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and earthy hop flavors; with a good malt/bitterness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Light-medium carbonation and medium bodied; with a very smooth and lightly creamy/silky/buttery mouthfeel that is okay. Feels too thin for an English ale of this ABV. Alcohol is very well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish. Overall this is a solid English strong ale style. All around good complexity, balance, and solid robustness of dark/bready malt, fruity yeast, and earthy hop flavors; and very smooth and easy to drink for the ABV. A pleasantly enjoyable offering.

Sep 19, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4.25/5  rDev +21.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: A brilliant garnet tinted amber liquid fills the glass crowned by a thin, clingy, sudsy dirty white foam collar. S: Biscuit and fruit aromas with a dash of spice. T: Moderate hops, biscuit, toffee and a surprisingly dry finish. F: Medium body and medium light carbonation O: A very easy to drink, satisfying beer.

Jul 22, 2015
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Smakawhat from Maryland

4.23/5  rDev +20.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

Wow, just perfection. Deep perfect bronze dark and golden looking body, super bright and crystal clear with some faint carbonation. Thick creamy three finger head, with whipped up retention and light lacing, and a soft white appearance. Just a gorgeous looking beer, and looks like a superior English Pale Ale.

Big aroma. Creamy sensing malts and some light toasty notes. Lots of thick cream aromas, with this incredibly sense of dense biscuit like malts. Slight sweetness but not overboard, and a mild floral hop sense. Very inviting.

Palate subdues a bit but gives way to much sweet notes but in control. BIg blast of honey on the front, with a bit of bile bitterness which quickly disappears. Mid palate just loads with a honey coating feel but not a huge syrup rush. Light hop pine to herbal like finish, but tiny, through a thick malt backbone. Hint of mixing biscuit, hop, and liquid sweetness.

A fun brew, and certainly one to keep in mind every year.

Dec 31, 2014
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arizcards from Arizona

3.59/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Da Boss picked up a bottle for me at Cost Plus for $5.99. Bottling code F16 - 225 - whatever that is.

Beer poured golden orange with a nice white head upon the initial pour.

Nose is light pear and apple with some toasted grains.

Taste is a bit uneven, nice notes of pear and apple with toasted grains. Initially I was thinking this is like Fat Tire's big brother. Finish is odd, an abrasive toasted pine lingers on the palate long after the sip.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied, not overly smooth nor refreshing.

Overall not a bad beer, just that aftertaste that throws the balance of the beer off.

Dec 27, 2014
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UCLABrewN84 from California

3.43/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear dark orange with a foamy khaki head that settles to wisps of film on top of the beer. Small dots of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, earth, pepper, and herbal hop aromas. Taste is much the same with toast, caramel, nut, and herbal hop flavors on the finish. There is a medium amount of hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer with solid caramel and nut qualities that are interesting along with the herbal hop aspects.

Serving type: bottle.

Dec 25, 2014
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Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

3.77/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Bottle marked F16 226 B at 50 degrees into imperial pint
Aroma of faint apples, grain
Head large (6.5 cm, aggressive pour), off white, frothy, slooowly diminishing to 4 mm ring with plateaued layer
Lacing good – partial rings of moderately thick foam
Body golden yellow, clear
Flavor slightly grainy; no hops, no alcohol, no diacetyl
Palate light to medium, creamy, soft carbonation

Appearance 4, Aroma 3.75, Flavor 3.75, Palate 3.75, Overall 3.75

Dec 22, 2014
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Darkmagus82 from Texas

2.91/5  rDev -17.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Poured from bottle into a pint glass

Appearance – The beer pours a golden amber color with a big three finger head of white foam. The head has a great level of retention, slowly fading to leave a tons of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – The aroma of the beer is rather strong of a more grainy and wheat like aroma with some other smells of a light sugar sweetness. Along with these smells are some notes of a lighter fruit nature as well as a light hop smell of an earthy aroma.

Taste – The taste begins quite bready and doughty with a moderate level of sweetness upfront. The sweetness is mainly of a caramel flavor but contains flavors of some light fruits of pear and peach. As the taste advances the sweeter flavor fade some, with an even greater doughy taste developing. All while the doughy taste builds some spice flavors come to the tongue. Some grassy and herbal hop tastes come at the end of the taste, and with the loss of fruit, the increase in doughy and bready tastes, and bit of spice, one is left with a sorta odd and slightly unbalanced taste to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer is on the thicker and creamier side with a carbonation level that is very low. The thick feel was rather nice, but the lack of carbonation was a poor for the spice and herbal and grassy tastes, giving them too much potency and making them somewhat overwhelming for the tastes.

Overall – The look was fantastic, but other than that, this was a fairly unbalanced and slightly off putting brew. Not one I will go to again.

Dec 08, 2014
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WhiteHillsStore from Connecticut

3.68/5  rDev +4.8%

Pours a light orange color with a little bit of lacing. The smell had a lot of spice such as pepper to it as well as pear and apple scents. The taste starts off strong with dark fruits like plum and apple with pepper and vanilla flavors coming in at the end. The alcohol flavor was definitely there but was not overpowering to the rest of the beer. A little forgettable but not a bad beer by any means.

Nov 14, 2014
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seedyone from New York

3.5/5  rDev -0.3%

01/02/13 On tap at Rattle n Hum, NYC. Definitely like Aventinus' little sibling. Less sweet & a tad more toasty, but having seen the light it reflects a bit dim.

Nov 07, 2014
Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale from Ridgeway Brewing
Beer rating: 80 out of 100 with 335 ratings