Criminally Bad Elf | Ridgeway Brewing

199 Reviews
no score
Send samples
Criminally Bad ElfCriminally Bad Elf

Brewed by:
Ridgeway Brewing
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by jwc215 on 11-08-2006

For Trade:
View: Beers | Events
User Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Reviews: 199 | Ratings: 315
Photo of beerdoc1
5/5  rDev +45.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Poured into a classic Abbott Ale, lower half dimpled, Plimsole lined, pint glass.

Clear amber; tight 1/4" head which lasted to the final sip. Good lace.

Dried vine fruit, background diacetyl and warming alcohol in the nose.

Full, rich, fruit, malt and appropriate alcohol for this big beer. Dangerously more-ish. This is my second "Elf" beer. Loved them both.

This reminds me not one whit of the justly famous and lauded Brakespeare Bitter. I was fortunate to have toured the brewery in a CAMRA guided, bicycle brewery and pub hejira many moons ago. Thrilled to see the spirit lives on!

 591 characters

Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.71/5  rDev +37.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf has a very thick, frothy, cream-colored head, a somewhat hazy, yet brilliant, orange-amber appearance, and fairly significant lacing left on the glass. The aroma is strong, and I could smell it from a considerable distance. One will pick up a pungent, very sweet, syrupy, sugary, fruity, caramel. Taste is of rich, sweet, caramel, black pepper, unusual fruit components, bread, bread crust, celery, peanut butter, and even a shade of nuts. Mouthfeel is fairly light, and Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf finishes wet, rich, sweet, and delicious. I recommend this in the strongest way!


 613 characters

Photo of BeerManDan
4.42/5  rDev +28.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

It poured semi thick and the color was a reddish copper with very little foam that disapated within seconds. The smell had an aroma of roasted malts, candy, spice and fruit too! A complex ale with all the sweet smells.

The taste was of a mild bitter/sweet, roasted malts, spice and fruit on the palate. Fruit as in rasins and spice as in coriander and candy as in caramel. Nice pleasant surprise for this Ridgeway Barleywine Ale.

Also, the warmer you leave it get, the more the complex flavor. I finding this out with most British Ales!

 539 characters

4.32/5  rDev +25.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Fun holiday themed beer continues this year with this offering. Pours to a perfect honey colored body with a light tan head that fades from 2 inches to a quarter inch with some lace. Very sweet nose with notes of red liqurice, toffee, malt and earthy vanilla. Enters the mouth very smooth and flat out delicious. Slightly sweet with woodsy richness. Long mineral tones on the finish. Amazingly well hidden alchol untill it hits the belly. Leaves a thick mouthfeel. Very enjoyable, cant wait to have another.

 507 characters

Photo of JoeAmerican77
4.25/5  rDev +23.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Copper colored off white head...

Smells of tums light cocoa brown sugar and malty yeast

Wow, on the tongue malt, belgian candy/yeast and booze all in a few seconds, some fruity ice pop flavors, grape, and dark cherry

The mouthfeel is medium bodied and creamy, warmed by the alcohol

Overall this was a great purchase, huge flavor, not sure why the belgian elements have been so prominent from this brewery but then again i haven't checked their website or anything... only paid three bucks for the bomber

 510 characters

Photo of Bouleboubier
4.23/5  rDev +23.3%
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...

 820 characters

Photo of adamette
4.22/5  rDev +23%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Live review. Poured from the 50 cl bottle that I bought at Reider's in Painesville last week. This is the second of four in a series from Ridgeway Brewing Company focusing on Christmas that I will be tasting and rating. Poured into my Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale goblet glass. F11 223 stamped on bottom of back label.

A Golden orange translucent body glows even without being held up to direct light. Nice light brown creamy head that sticks around for about 3 minutes. 3.5

S Nice, gentle sweetness hit me first. Repeated sniffs reveal a nice, earthy malt sweetness with a near absence of hop smell. I like the smell of this English Barleywine. I do not smell any alcohol. 4.0

T The nice malt sweetness carries right over into the taste. I certainly pick up the alcohol in the taste where I did not perceive it in the smell but it is not at levels suggested by the ABV on the label of 10.5%. Very nicely hidden. Tastes like maybe a 7.0%. There are, of course, more tastes than just malt sweetness and a bit of alcohol. There is a nearly sugar like sweetness that stays on the lips well after the last sip. I do pick up some distant hops too and some barley as well. This is simply a really good tasting beer. 4.5

M The Candy sugar sweetness that stays on my lips, the very well hidden ABV and a slight syrupy stickiness make this feel very good indeed. 4.5

D Good for the style, great for the 10.5% ABV. 4.0

Notes: This is a nicely done English beer. The Christmas themed bottle is very gimmicky but inside is a finely crafted beer. I would certainly pick this one up again and it is my favorite from The Ridgeway Brewing Company.

 1,650 characters

Photo of russpowell
4.14/5  rDev +20.7%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber with 1/2" of of off-white head. Good head retention & lacing

S: Fruitty, bready with dry candied fruits & honey

T: Fruitty, bready & boozey up front. A bit of smokeyness as this warms along with plums, apricots, honey & much sweetness & dryness. Finishes with loads of honey taste & touch of lemony hops

MF: Syruppy, chewy with low carbonation & a bit too much dryness

Drinks a bit slow because of the intense dryness, but a solid winter warmer

 461 characters

Photo of acrawf6
4.1/5  rDev +19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

Pours out a clear dark orange amber with a thick white head.

Smell. Has a potent malty sweetness thats nice. Has a very strong apple fruityness in the aroma with a nice hint of a honey character.

Taste. The apples stick through nicely from the aroma. Has a strong sweetness like a light brown sugar that leaves my lips quite sticky after each sip. Balanced well with the hops for being more of a malt bomb. Leaves my mouth warm after each swallow.

Mouthfeel. I really like this aspect of the beer a whole bunch. Body is quite full, with a presence of carbonation that really struggles to make it known in the beer. Because of this, it leaves the body with a very thick and creamy texture, which i thought was very nice.

Overall, I really enjoy this beer. I liked their other 2 Christmas beers, but this one i think stands out very well. Certainly one to look out for next season.

 883 characters

Photo of Stoneman78
4.09/5  rDev +19.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a Duvel tulip glass
A- Pours a clear light orange hue, head is a thinner layer of creamy white bubbles that dissipate, very slight lacing on the glass
S- Nose is mostly dark fruits, sweet bread malts, alcohol, and apples, some slighter tones of brown sugar, caramel, oak, and winter spices
T- Initial taste is sweet malts and apples, interesting transition to a creamy, fluffy light chocolate marshmallow in concert with some dark fruits, finishes with a stiff alcohol warming
M- Medium-bodied, creamy texture is very pleasant, prickly carbonation
D- This is one interesting barleywine that has a very unique creamy texture, the alcohol is present but not overwhelming, this is an interesting one-shot but I am luke warm about a possible repeat performance
Buy again? Undecided
Personal score- 80/100

 812 characters

Photo of rajendra82
4.08/5  rDev +19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

The beer came in a light brown bottle that proudly exhibited the bad elf behind bars. The generous 50 cl. size and the 10.5% ABV meant a serious session ahead for this solo drinker. As I cracked it open and poured into an oversized wine glass, the clarity of the pale amber body surprised me. The beer also looked thinner and more fluid than a typical barleywine. The aroma, although mild, was distinctive with a balance between spicy hops and orange marmalade like malt sweetness. The taste was well crafted with neither of the bitter, spicy, and sweet flavors dominating the others. The finish was dry and dusty, and the alcohol was notably absent throughout. The only fault I could find is the lack of richness in the thin body. But considering the drinkability of the concoction, this was but a minor quibble.

 813 characters

Photo of DCon
4.07/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bought a bottle of this @ Lukas Liquor in Ellisville, MO for $6-7 (can't remember because it was over 5 months ago). Has a cool cap with the Elf Skiing! Poured into my Schlafly Tulip Glass and has a date of F12 239?

Aroma- Begins with a sharp malty and spice combination with a slight bubblegum aroma. Very bready as well. Light alcohol smell and very surprised!

Appearance- Pours a clear, copper color body with 1 finger of white, bubbly head that dies down quickly. Has nice thick lace on the sides afterwards.

Flavor- Very sweet from the start, has tons of different flavors and spices and an alcohol flavor that is huge! Afterwards, has a bubblegum flavor that is light but easily found. Low bitterness but has a definite alcohol finish.

Mouthfeel- Medium bodied, Very thin but then leaves a hint of rum on the palate and a rich maltiness. Medium carbonation but doesn't have the chewy attribute I was looking for...

Overall Impression- While aged for at least half a year (one of my first aged beers I've opened), this was great! I'm wondering if this is a beer people should age because my experience was awesome with it! Could drink 1 or 2 in a night and certainly was rich, complexed, and had a lot of character! Something you should look for!

 1,260 characters

Photo of Gehrig
4.07/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear copper body with a thick finger of off-white froth on top, with decent duration and minimal lacing--a pretty good first impression. Very boozy nose rife with molasses, lots of fruit such as cherry, apricot, and orange. It's better than I expected, a very good smell.

This translates into a good taste, not great but good. The fruit and molasses come through strongly, reflecting good flavor. While a sour flash emerges now and then, in addition to occasional boozy heat, this is by and large a fairly sweet barleywine, and a pretty good one. What it lacks in my opinion is a good infusion of hops. The mouthfeel is on the thin side, reflecting an imbalanced texture that is rather disappointing.

Yet on the whole, this is pretty damn good, a distinct barleywine on the smoother side than Old Ruffian or Bigfoot, my favorites by far. This is in the vein of a strong but smooth ale, one well worth trying.

 912 characters

Photo of Dodo2step
4.02/5  rDev +17.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

P- Pittsburgh friend..thanks Ray.

1 pt 9 oz bottle

A- a shockingly bright amber pour in color. The bottle makes it look darker than what it is. A one and half finger head that runs off quickly and leaves lil lacing on my glass.

S- apples is the first aroma i notice. roasted caramel malts with a scent of some sort of tea. Sun tea type of smell or black tea.

T- sweet toffee caramel taste. Kind of like a werthers original candy. A roasted but quality also appears at the back end.

M-sweet and juicy, like biting into a piece of fruit. Not as creamy as you would want though, but good.

D-at 10.5 % you wouldnt know it, it goes down easy but im sure it will hit me in a matter of minutes.

 693 characters

Photo of pat61
4/5  rDev +16.6%
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.

 397 characters

Photo of IntriqKen
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Distinctively different from the typical American Barley Wines I drink.
A golden orange liquid fills the glass with a half finger of white head that melts to top covering, side mapping lacing.
Aromas are not as fruit/malt intense as American versions I'm used to.
Still candied fruits and brown sugar fill the nose with a hint of red cherries.
Flavor is light brown sugar, over ripe banana, again with the cherries, a touch of red or baking apple, maybe a little bubble gum, alcohol ending.
Drying hops kills the sweetness nicely.

 549 characters

Photo of John_M
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Well, I've tried all the other beers in the bad elf series (except for insanely bad elf), so figured I might as well give this one a shot as well. I still think the very bad elf the best, but this one wasn't bad.

The beer pours an attractive amber brown color with good head retention and lacing. The beer is pretty malty on the nose, but there is also some underlying citrus from hops as well. While not particularly complex, the beer does smell pretty good. On the palate this beer is not bad at all. The flavors replicate the nose, but what surprises me is how light this beer comes across given the abv. It's not heavy at all and there's enough hoppy bitterness to counter the sweet malt, keeping it from becoming tiring to drink. The beer is surprisingly drinkable, though I wouldn't be crazy enough to try more then one bottle at a sitting.

A nice enough beer. Need to try insanely bad elf next I guess.

 911 characters

Photo of dedrinker
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I like the appearance of clear amber colored English Ales. Like This one. Light aroma of apples and candy sugar. Tastes a bit the same too. The candy sugar smell and taste is almost like a dark strong Belgian ale - almost.

The alcohol is up front, but the full soft body, and mildly sweet fruitiness keep it in check.

Very light hoppy finish that combines with the alcohol to curb the sweetness a little bit. Makes it easier to go back for more sips on this big beer. The weight is apparent, but well worn.

 508 characters

Photo of Hex92
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I'm a big fan of barley wine and I think this is a good representative of the style.
T doesn't look like much in the glass, but I thin it smells great. The high alcohol content is we'll hidden. I wish it had a slightly thicker mouth feel, but the flavor is dead on.

I am surprised that it doesn't rate higher than it does. I would definitely pick this up again.

 364 characters

Photo of Onslow
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very nicely balanced ... wow! crazy well hidden alcohol ... a wad of cookie dough ... pleasing aroma, makes me want to trounce a maitre de ... dark maple syrup smell .. one of those beers that makes you wonder if the abv is truly what they say .. sweet plum, sugar flavours .. not a bad effort!

 294 characters

Photo of gdodd12
4/5  rDev +16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured an amber color. I really caught some apples and some sweet malts with the aroma. As far as taste, it was light and crisp with some maltyness and some citrus. Not very hoppy at all. The carbonation was not bad and neither was the alcohol. IMO, this is one of the easier drinking barleywines around.

 304 characters

Photo of BeardedBoffin
3.99/5  rDev +16.3%
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A barleywine in mid July...

The beer is a clear amber hue with a big creamy head floating above it. This cap of foam is impressive for the style. Creamy with tons of lacing. The carbonation keeps the foam stoked. The aroma is inviting with some caramel malt and a touch of fruit. Heavy on the palate, as expected for the style. Malt all over the place in the flavor--bready, caramel, fruity--with the deftest touch of bitterness at the end. It seems that the sweetness is somehow additionally balanced by a hint of starch in the grain--a good thing. Some fruity esters emerge as the beer warms and the booze begins to hold court. This would be a wonderful sipper along side a crackling fireplace, immersed in a Dickens novel. But alas, it is July with a warming grill and baseball on the radio...To hell with it--all these rules governing craft beer and its seasonal pendulum swings. Let's get together and agree that Barleywine (or even a summer ale) should be a year-round brew. Why must we wait for the good stuff?

 1,018 characters

Photo of echdk3
3.98/5  rDev +16%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a snifter

A_Glowing orange color, dark white head that dissipates quickly. Beautiful and unique color and sheen

S_Fruity, maybe apples and pears, sharp funk similar to a lambic

T_Starts fruity, strawberries and apple cider, ends with a very warming alcohol

M_Not as chewy as I had hoped for. High carbonation

D_Alcohol is very present, but the taste is so pleasing and complex that I want more

 410 characters

Photo of RblWthACoz
3.98/5  rDev +16%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear amber with some head. Nose is minimal really with very little coming up except a slight sweet tone. There might even be just a wee bit of apple there. Flavor is very, very sweet with just a slightly noticeable alcohol presence. I also feel like I am getting a slight wooden edge to it in the back of my mouth. Mouth-feel slightly thin with a slightly thick carbonation on the tongue. This one masks the 10.5% very well, which makes it very drinkable. I just get the feeling that if this one were laid down for a year, or many more, it would be even more well rounded and even better.

 597 characters

Photo of edchicma
3.97/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a light copper with very little head. Smell is a nice blend of malt fruit and subdued alcohol presence.Taste is tart, but with a distinct malt presence that gives a good blance. Alcohol is there but no way resembles 10.5abv. Mouthfeeli is very good for the style. AAlmost slightly chewy but with a nice warming presence. This lends itself to an easy drinkability factor for a barleywine.

 393 characters

first ← prev | 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75  | nextlast
Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
3.43 out of 5 based on 315 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

    No fake news here. Get real beer content delivered to your doorstep every month.