Criminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style Ale
Ridgeway Brewing

Criminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style AleCriminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style Ale
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Barleywine - English
Ranked #252
Ranked #46,500
3.47 | pDev: 15.85%
Ridgeway Brewing
England, United Kingdom
Criminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style AleCriminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style Ale
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Reviews: 212 | Ratings: 338 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of BeerAndGasMasks
BeerAndGasMasks from Virginia

3.77/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From the bottle in the basement where I found the copperhead snake, it pours a nice coppery color with a modest head that soon reduces to a ring and island. In the nose, it is a nice scent of malt and spice. In the mouth, it is nicely malty with a slightly sweet aftertaste.

Jun 17, 2020
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schoolboy from Ohio

4.26/5  rDev +22.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

It's pandemic time and I have been in quarantine since returning from the Caribbean three weeks ago. And I only have the beers from my aging box. I'm not sure that this style really needs aging, but it was from 2018.

It pours a nice copper with little or no head. The aroma is a pleasant malty smell. The taste is full, dark, and malty. A mouthful. The aftertaste lingers pretty clean and only a bit boozy. Overall, though, this is a very smooth barleywine.

From looking at other reviews, aging made this smoother but flat.

Highly recommended. I will pick up another bottle if I ever get to a store again (it's been three weeks since I set foot in any public place).

Apr 06, 2020
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scootny from New York

3.74/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A simple tawney fluid with an tight creme head. A bit of lace.

Nose is full of sweetness. Cherries and toffee. Figs and dark fruits. Toasted malt and a bit of dough.

Taste is malty and sweet with those cherries toffee as the dominant flavors. A bit of herbal hops to bring a sharp clean-ish finish. Alcohol is well hidden.

Feel is slightly syrupy and modestly carbonated a touch of creaminess

A decent and quite drinkable brew.

Jan 04, 2020
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chitoryu12 from Florida

3.97/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Look: Pale brown and cloudy like ditch water, with tons of white bubbles on the side of the glass. One finger of thick white head with excellent retention.

Smell: Sweet treacle, banana, and dough.

Taste: Mild bready malt with slight yeast and alcohol bite. Light hop bitterness that continues through the finish.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, average thickness, highly carbonated.

Overall: Starts off well but ultimately becomes a rather unspectacular example of the style.

Dec 20, 2019
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Premo88 from Texas

3.82/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

16.9 oz. bottle poured into snifter tulip

L: bronze-copper, some amber in it but not a ton, with an almost 1/2-inch head of offwhite foam that dissipates quickly; keeps a week but noticeable collar of loose bubbles; no sticking/lacing

S: super sweet honey, peach, lilac ... the floral sweetness is so strong it's like an air freshner or laundry detergent/fabric softener

T: sweet honey and apricot, almost braggot-level sweetness but with a pretty stern bit of earthy hops to offer at least some balance; a slight bit of medicinal alcohol burn builds in the aftertaste when I drink it fast ... it's not overpowering but there's also no mistaken this for a session beer

F: solid midweight, decent crispness from the carbonation despite an arguably flat look at times

O: not nearly as good as Ridgeway's Reindeer Revolt or their Lump of Coal but still plenty tasty and easy to sip for so big a beer; considering it's 10.5% ABV, I'd personally like a bit more of something, but that might be my anti-barleywine bias speaking out ... it's hard to put a finger on but the malt doesn't quite have the same pop as the other two Ridgeway beers, and in a barleywine I'd expect the malt to pop big time; the earthy hop buildup is a nice touch and keeps the beer from coming off like a sugary syrup

Dec 23, 2018
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patre_tim from Thailand

3.76/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Copper filtered, with moderate carbonation and a half finger of off white head.

Smells of crème brûlée toasted malts and vanilla pudding.

Taste of crème brûlée, toasted Malts and candy apple candy.

Medium, Syrupy body, with moderate carbonation.

I got this at world market and I’m drinking in Redding December 21, 2018.

Dec 22, 2018
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Suds from Missouri

3.75/5  rDev +8.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From a large bottle, this brew is a golden amber color. Slim white head. The aroma is malty and sweet-smelling. Small in fruit and a little toasted notes. This brew is full, sweet, boozy, and interesting. It's not an over-the-top brew, but is subtle and drinkable.

Dec 21, 2018
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Ozzylizard from Pennsylvania

3.44/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

$ 7.47 (Including tax)/500 mL bottle ($ 0.441) from World Market, The Forum, Live Oak, TX. Reviewed 11/22/18.
Bottle marked “F20 225” on back of label. On shelf in store, stored at 42 degrees at home and served at 60 degrees in a hand washed and dried Jester King snifter.
Appearance – 3.5.
Body – Light orange, clear.
Head – Average (Maximum three cm, aggressive center pour), off-white, creamy, short duration diminishing to a partial one-bubble ring and no layer.
Lacing – None.
First pour – Light amber, clear.
Aroma –3.25 - Sweet, caramel malt, weak.
Flavor – 3.5 – Sweet and malty, mostly caramel. Ends with a bit of bitterness, not much, just enough to notice. No alcohol (10.5% ABV), no diacetyl, no dimethylsulfide.
Palate – 3.5 – Medium, syrupy, soft carbonation.
Impression and interpretation – 3.5 – An OK brit barley wine. The initial sweetness is balanced by the ending bitterness. The flavor is rather one-dimensional, being that of caramel malt, which is surprising since the brew contains barley, wheat, rye, and oats. Several minutes after you finish drinking, the alcohol produces a mild gastric burn.

Nov 22, 2018
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rudiecantfail from Pennsylvania

3.73/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

50 cl bottle poured into a tulip glass.

L---Clear, light copper color. Nice off white head that. had little retention, fizzling down to a film quickly. Actually left quite nice lacing

S---Boozy. Alcohol is clearly there. Raisins and dark fruit.

T---Followed the nose. Booziness is there, but not at all overwhelming, which is nice from such a potent beer, Some cherry & plum. Raisin is in the forefront.

F---Nowhere near as heavy or cloying as I was expecting from such a high ABV. Actually feels more wet than astringent. There's even a touch of creaminess.

O---Very nice effort by the brewers. This was a gift from someone a few states away, so I don't know if I'll ever see it near me, but if I do, I'll definitely pick it up.

Feb 17, 2018
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Retroman40 from Florida

3.54/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a straw color with a fleeting head. Very strong malt smell with some hints of alcoholic heat. Taste follows and is very malt forward with minimal hop note. While smooth, the finish certainly gives some hint to the high alcoholic strength. Low carbonation rate makes for a very neutral mouthfeel experience other than the slightly dry finish. Overall this is a decent enough beer but I am not certain I can justify recommending it to anyone at the rather high (6.99 US for a 50cl (16.9oz) bottle.

Nov 23, 2017
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woodychandler from Pennsylvania

2.96/5  rDev -14.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

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!"; "It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, of course - wrong place at the wrong time, but Claus was soon back on the street with the polite apologies of the authorities - no questions asked. All's well that ends well, surely, but still, the reporters wanted to know ... it takes its toll, doesn't it? 'Indeed,' sighed Claus, 'my elf is going crazy and I fear I shall soon go crazy as well.' And with that he hoisted a great flagon of his favorite Barleywine-style ale, silently contemplating the future and straining to remember why he got into this particular line of work in the first place. [undersigned] Peter Scholey (Brewer)".

I Pop!ped the cap with a bit of a cringe. 50 cl of 10.5% ABV Barleywine?!? It seems criminal to me. I poured it very gently & followed that up with an in-glass swirl to raise two-plus fingers of foamy, fizzy, tawny head with modest retention. Color was Deep Amber/Light Copper to Copper (SRM = > 13, < 17) with NE-quality clarity. Nose was rather faint, honey-like in its sweetness, but making no attempt to hide its fusel alcohol quality. Phew! Mouthfeel was thin-to-medium, not watery, but definitely thin for this style. The taste was simply boozy, very hot, but lacking depth or perceptible taste. Finish was dry, hot & boozy, but that was about it. This lacked depth, character or anything much to redeem it, especially for its style as proclaimed on the label. At least, it was a fairly inexpensive drink, but beyond that, there was little to redeem it.

Jul 31, 2017
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superspak from Michigan

3.9/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle into snifter, bottled on 9/16/2016. Pours fairly crystal clear deep orange/light 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 on the glass, with a light amount of streaming carbonation. Aromas of big golden raisin, peach, apricot, plum, cherry, berry, orange, pear, apple, honey, brown sugar, caramel, toasted bread, light nuttiness/toffee, herbal, and yeast earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of fruity yeast, dark/bready malt, and light earthy hop notes; with great strength. Bit of diacetyl, but not overwhelming. Taste of big golden raisin, peach, apricot, plum, cherry, berry, orange, pear, apple, honey, brown sugar, caramel, toasted bread, light nuttiness/toffee, herbal, light pepper/pine, and yeast/toasted earthiness. Light pine/herbal/spicy bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of golden raisin, peach, apricot, plum, cherry, berry, orange, pear, apple, honey, brown sugar, caramel, toasted bread, light nuttiness/toffee, herbal, and yeast/toasted earthiness on the finish for a while. Very nice complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity yeast, dark/bready malt, and light earthy hop flavors; with a great malt/bitterness balance, and no cloying sweetness after the finish. Light dryness from bitterness, lightly increasing through the glass. Light-medium carbonation and medium-full body; with a smooth, creamy/silky, and lightly slick/sticky balanced mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden; a mild warmth, with zero booziness lingering after the finish. Overall this is a very nice English barelywine. All around nice complexity, robustness, and balance of fruity yeast, dark/bready malt, and light earthy hop flavors; very smooth, clean, and easy to drink for the big ABV. Very well balanced with well rounded malt/yeast complexity for the style; without being bitter or boozy. A very enjoyable offering.

Mar 11, 2017
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bbtkd from South Dakota

3.28/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf, 10.5% ABV. Pours thin and light orange, just a little white head. Nose is alcohol, fruit, and sweetness. Taste follows, with a slight bitter close. Poor mouthfeel since it went flat quickly, and overall extremely meh. Actually better than expected and better than previous barleywines, though nothing to write home about.

Mar 05, 2017
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GreesyFizeek from New York

2.99/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

On tap at the Tap and Mallet in Rochester, NY.

This one pours a clear ruby red, with no head or lacing. Looks pretty still.

This smells like booze spoked cherries and raisins, caramel, more booze, and fruitcake.

This is quite boozy and sweet, with a lack of depth of flavor that I usually look for in barleywines. It's mainly fruity sweetness, just feel like liquid boozy fruitcake. I wish this had more malt complexity.

This is light bodied, a bit too thin for the style. There is very little carbonation..

This is a pretty poor example of the style.

Dec 25, 2016
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Pegasus from Texas

3.5/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Light amber in color,rather clear, with as modest white head, somewhat coarse, which soon fades to a coarse ring about the glass walls. The lacing is ultra-fine in character.

Aroma: Vinous alcohol and caramel dominate the aroma. Dark bread, bitter apple rind and raisins add to the aroma. The alcohol has a hot, solvent quality.

Taste: Begins with somewhat hot alcohol, caramel, and toasted dark bread. Soon after, dark fruits rise, particularly raisins and plums. Sweet alcohol is a persistent undercurrent throughout the taste.Late in the the taste, some earthy and herbal hop flavors appear, helping to bring the taste to a balanced close.

Mouth feel: Smooth, and pleasant, full and soft.

Drinkability/notes: A bit boozy, but not bad. Definitely a nightcap beer.

Presentation: Packaged in a custom sixteen ounce glass bottle with a pop-off crown, served in a standard pint tap glass.

Jan 12, 2016
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UCLABrewN84 from California

3.43/5  rDev -1.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Best before 8/27/16.

Pours a clear dark orange with a foamy tan 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, caramel, candied fruit, honey, and slight nail polish remover aromas. Taste is much the same with toast, candied fruit, honey, and earthy hop flavors on the finish. There is a mild amount of toast and hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a lower level of carbonation with a slightly crisp and sticky mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer that tastes solid, but the nail polish remover scent only dissipates somewhat as the beer warms up.

Serving type: bottle.

Nov 26, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L: Pours brilliant crystal clear copper amber crowned by a clingy 1” white foam collar that dissipates quickly. S: raisin, dried fruit aroma T: Big mouthful of delicious malt with caramel, fruit and boozy alcoholic warmth and tastes on the end rounded out by a spicy hop bitterness. F: Medium body and medium low carbonation. O: Has big alcohol and flavor but is a little light for a barleywine.

Jul 22, 2015
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DrDemento456 from Pennsylvania

3.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

My beer store was clearing these out for 6 bucks. Seeing the reviews lacking I still will drink it.

A - The beer actually looks good bright clear amber brown deep hue with a 1/4 inch of head that doesn't fizz out super fast and actually makes for a good lace ring.
S - Slightly sour but loaded with sweet malts and little ethanol smell which is good. I am not expecting much.
T - Very little actual barley wine notes I agree with others it taste like a sweeter/maltier malt liquor. Slightly sour vinegar notes make it unpleasant.
M - Slightly smooth stingy alcohol notes but drinks light.

Overall I regret buying this but will finish it since I am not a pussy. Don't buy this unless you prefer craft malt liquor.

Mar 17, 2015
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hreb from Washington

3.03/5  rDev -12.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

50cl bottle served in a wine glass. Deep amber, tinged with brown, with minimal head formation, and crystal clear, revealing ultrafine carbonation. Aroma, however, is all apple juice. It smells like this is going to be way sweet. The flavor itself is not so much sweet as it is strong. If I were feeling charitable, I'd point out the flavors of fresh grape juice, lightly toasted white bread, and the off-dry finish. Or I could admit this is just overly strong, somewhat adjunct-y, and tastes of malt liquor, i.e. alcohol. Basically, this delivers all of the alcohol I want in an English Barleywine, but hits none of the flavor notes. Drinkable, but not recommended.

Jan 22, 2015
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Smakawhat from Maryland

3.7/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass.

A real impressive appearance. Crystal clear and shimmering, practically like glass isn't even full, but a nice golden bronze and amber body, with just enough ultra fine carbonation rising up. Head grows creamy to a nice easy two fingers, maybe taller, but a real bleach bright white top, maybe a hint of yellow to it, and creamy retention. Settles slowly, to a nice thin puck, and wide top. Gorgeous looker.

Nose smells very candy fruit like. Nice herbality going on with some spice cinnamon hop like angles. Muted caramel and a sense of thick pine spruce to match with a big bitterness. Very interesting.

Palate actually comes much more lighter and subdued than expected. Lots of honey coating and similar textures and flavors but with a lighter feel. Treacle and honey with a big soft pine blast at the end. A little wet tasting which makes some of the flavors not really last on the tongue. Hints of leafy green tea come out in some aromatic ways also.

A nice simple barleywine, which also forgoes some of the big heaviness, but sacrifices a little bit of flavor and texture. Not bad, memorable at least with a good honey angle.

Dec 27, 2014
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mdcrouser from Missouri

2.87/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I received this for Christmas two years ago and it's been in the basement fridge since - at the time, I had a beer from the same brewery and wasn't impressed, so have been less willing to enjoy this one. Never a better Saturday to give it a shot than this one.

A previous review says "apricot" of the color - I'd add "dried" to that description and it's spot on. Deep orange, very little head - strange for a barleywine, as it looks more like a big IPA.

Caramel, biscuit malts - little else though. Tough to pull out anything more than what's immediately apparent.

More herbal than most barleywines with fairly hot alcohol, some caramel, but little else. Disappointing to even have"barleywine" on the label. More like a malty pale ale.

Decent mouthfeel, but with nothing supporting it, it doesn't truly resonate.

Meh - criminally bad barleywine.

Dec 14, 2014
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vinicole from England

3.7/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Lovely burnt marmalade colour.
Smells of candied peel and rum. A little like my rumtopf. Sweet caramel present.
Candy floss and fruit cake taste. Boozy. Harsh bitter finish.
I'm glad I left it to mellow for a couple of years.
Really getting ready for xmas now.

Dec 13, 2014
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Bouleboubier from New Jersey

4.23/5  rDev +21.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

(on cask 2 nights ago at Victoria Freehouse - served at about room temp in a snifter)

L: clear amber-garnet liquid, holds a thick 1/2" head till the end... very minimal lacing, however

S: spicy, pleasant mild phenols... fruit jam atop a huge bed of caramel... lovely, overall, though not a waking intensity even in a snifter

T: caramel and fruit brandy, with its booze trailing on the end as well... brute malt, with a soft side... lil bit of hop and phenol bitter in the finish

F: smooth and still... pillow soft... delicate boozy flare in the finish, comforting warmth in the belly

O: it took me sitting down at the computer and looking at the specs here to realize this was 10.5%... had no idea - one would never know... quite nice, but now I feel like I have to try a bottle of it to compare... it never ends...

Dec 10, 2014
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bluejacket74 from Ohio

3.57/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle. More often then not I end up buying some of these cheesy Christmas beers, and this one I bought last weekend. Served in a snifter, the beer pours a mostly clear reddish/copper color with about a half inch light tan head that didn't stay around for too long. The brew smells like raisins, bananas, caramel, dried fruit and a bit of sweet spiciness. It tastes like dried fruit, raisins, caramel, over-ripened bananas, plums, and apple/apple skins. The 10.5% ABV is hidden pretty well. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a bit creamy and coating with low/moderate carbonation. It's OK overall, but not one of the better barleywines I've had. With that being said, it's certainly worth a try at least once. $6.49 a bottle.

Nov 23, 2014
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WhiteHillsStore from Connecticut

3/5  rDev -13.5%

Pours a bright translucent orange with a thin head. The scent is full of sour fruits such as raspberry and cherry with the alcohol coming through on the nose in the end. The taste was more spicy than I was expecting with pepper and all spice in the beginning before mellowing into dark fruits and tobacco flavors. I was expecting more of a burn but this was surprisingly drinkable for 10.5%.

Nov 15, 2014
Criminally Bad Elf Barleywine-Style Ale from Ridgeway Brewing
Beer rating: 80 out of 100 with 338 ratings