Criminally Bad Elf | Ridgeway Brewing

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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

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Reviews: 201 | Ratings: 317
Photo of jrodvog148
1.51/5  rDev -56%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 1 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Has a cool bottle with an elf behind bars is what first caught my attention. Has an alcohol percent of 10.5 which lets you know this is no push over drink.

Upon opening I was not fond of the strong smell. Had good amberish color going into glass. Taste was fruity and a little bit of oats. Like cereal with bananas. Has a bit of an after taste that didn't sit well in my mouth.

If you never tried a barleywine ale before, i would not start with this one. I wouldn't buy it again, but at least I got a cool bottle for my collection.

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Photo of ChadQuest
1.8/5  rDev -47.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Pours a clear light amber color and does have good head with decent lacing, but at first whif you get some dark cherry, like cherry nyquil, and then you drink it and yup, some medicinal notes, with quite a bit of sweetness that is rather cloying as the sweetness lingers quite awhile on the finish. cherry and fruit, with a bit of caramel malt, but the medicine and sweetness cover up most notes.
medium syrupy with a sticky sweetness that makes you want to brush your teeth after every sip.

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Photo of ryan1788a5
1.93/5  rDev -43.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

1pt .9oz bottle poured into a New Belgium globe.

A: Orange with a brilliant clarity. One-inch white head quickly sputters into nothing. Not too surprising given the high abv. Very spotty lacing. Looks to be rather fragile and thin in body.

S: Very fruity on the nose. Smells young. Heavy pear/green apple esters. Apple juice. Maybe some plum and grape too. Light scent of English hops. Not much malt depth on the nose. Light buttery biscuit and some caramel notes. Very disappointing.

T: Follows the nose. Very estery with lots of apple, pear, and green raisins. Grassy English hops with a light citric edge. Fusel alcohol is a bit harsh. Some chewy caramel. A bit of bready and nutty malt with a slight hint of cocoa comes out in the finish. Lacks a sturdy malt backbone.

M: Rather thin and light for the style. Not at all full and robust as it should be. It is somewhat syrupy. Coats the mouth. Alcohol burn is just a bit too harsh. Lacks cohesiveness.

D: I was immediately turned off by this beer.

Notes: Just not a good representation of the style. Young for sure, but even time in the cellar won't fix this beer. Lacks body and malt depth; two very essential parts of the style. I didn't enjoy this one at all.

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Photo of SilentSabre
2/5  rDev -41.7%
look: 2 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

Honestly, I felt this was below average in every category. While not a terrible ale in its own right, as far as being an English Barleywine, this was certainly not. Poured up a light orange/amber colour with a two finger thick white head that vanished in about 40 seconds. This didn't even look like any English Barelywine I had ever seen. Smell was a bit boozy and had more attributes expected of any number of Belgian varieties than what it was supposed to be. There was, however, a trace of the sweet malt aroma so closely associated with this style. Taste begins in the mouth pleasantly sweet with some unidentified maltiness which quickly turns both bitter as well as assertively warm from the booze. All around a disaster, IMO. This hardly resembles what the brewers were clearly going for. I absolutely do not care for this at all, and honestly, I'm rather disappointed.

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Photo of heygeebee
2.02/5  rDev -41.1%
look: 2 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

BB 10 13 - from Platinum

Pours a cloudy amber/copper. The one finger head dies to leave no film , no lace, no nothing.

Aromas or apricots, prunes and a whole lot of moonshine-like booze.

Taste is a booze-fuelled journey into bad and dulled malt-land. Some apricots cut thru but the whole is very dull and quite muddled. Dear dear.

Mouthfeel is watery, which is really quite some feat given the 10% plus ABV. Little carbonation.

Overall, quite clearly a bad bottle, and badly travelled.

I need a scotch! The only Criminally Bad element of this is what is in the bottle not on the label.

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Photo of goochpunch
2.16/5  rDev -37%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

Pours out a honey-caramel with lots of bubbles racing to the thinnish head. Leaves some streaks of lace on the glass. Smells of vague sweet, bubblegum, spicy alcohol, and not much else. Flavor is a yawn. Big, sweet, syrupy malts with an odd bitter finish. This is like simple syrup mixed with booze and weird esters/phenols/whatever. Mouthfeel is a little thin, considering the sweet and booze. This is weak. Drain pour.

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Photo of paco1029384756
2.16/5  rDev -37%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 1.5

Pours a golden brown color with a decent head.

Scent of honey, cinnamon, and copper. One of the more offensive scents I have come across, even compared to an American Macro Lager.

Taste is no better, strong sweetness with more cinnamon and copper. Finishes with a strong presence of alcohol, too much for me.

Mouthfeel is crisp, at least there is one redeeming quality of this beer.

This was very hard for me to drink.

I will never purchase this beer again, but if offered I may try it to see if the bottle I purchased was bad.

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Photo of Jerzdevil1116
2.38/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2

1 pt. .9 oz bottle. Purchased at joe Canal's on Fire Rd. In E.H.T., NJ.

Appearance: Very pale copper. Clear, with minimal carbonation. fluffy white head disiipated after a few minutes. Lacing left on the height of the glass.

Smell: Very sweet and malty with some alcohol.

Taste: Sweet maltiness, hints of toffee and apples. Strong alcohol in the finish and brief after taste.

Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Alcohol fueled warmth.

Drinkability: Very average. Not sure i'd drink this one again.

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Photo of dirkchivers
2.42/5  rDev -29.4%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

poured with the mosher method... which doesnt work well with sedimented bottles.

A. tight white lace, slight haze, orange/amber.
S. phenolic, alcohol, banana, very wheaty, mild cleaning solution smell.
T. pretty flat for an english barleywine, i expect more character. there's some nice sweet malt going on, but no complexity. slight unpleasant bitterness and metallic taste on the finish.
m. very soft, lightly carbonated, a bit more would do.
D. pretty drinkable for 10.5, can't say i would buy again.

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Photo of jmdrpi
2.43/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

500mL bottle, into nonic pint glass. bottle stamped F12 239. Best by 239th day of 2012? assumed to be bottled last Fall.

clear dark golden color, with 1/2" off white head that fades quickly into soapy covering.

fairly tame aroma. a bit fruity, a little malt, and mild grassy hops. tastes like a watered down barleywine. it's got none of the bold malty flavor that I'd expect out of the style. way too thin for the style. okay carbonation.

overall - I continue to be disapointed by this "Elf" series. they seem like more of a gimmick.

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Photo of Hopswagger
2.48/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

P: Clear copper body with a short lives crown that rests to a nice thin white film.

S: Vanilla, French oak, booze, banana taffy, sweet toffee, acidic, candied malt, Christmas spices, barley is present but faint. Very malty and syrupy.

T/M: Heavy malt base with almost a dairy creamer taste. Super sweet candy, banana snow cone syrup, and toffee. Again barley is not really a player and faintly bitter apple peel hops. Thick chewy body with little carbonation and a spicy finish.

O: I see why they callbthis Criminally Bad Elf because IT IS crininally bad. Not what I expect from a barley wine style brew. This is more of a winter warmer with banana influence. A search and rescue team is required to find the barley and the overall delivery is not great. I think this beer is confused on what it wants to be. I can honestly say I would not purchase this again.

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Photo of jzeilinger
2.48/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

A - Pours a clear toffee color and mild to moderate carbonation. The foam is large bubbled and very soapy looking.

S - Light on the aroma with fruit, toffee, and somewhat boozy.

T - Echoes the nose with fruit, light caramel malt, and alcohol presence. Malt breadiness is in the form of "diet bread"...pretty bland. Alcohol warming on the way down stays in the throat for several minutes afterwards.

M - The first thing I noticed was the unusually thin and watery body for a barleywine, needs more substance. Lighty sticky on the lips.

O - Unfortunately, this one falls flat on its face, I unfortunately couldn't finish the bottle. I will definitely give this one another try next year to see if it changes and will revise my reviews accordingly.

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Photo of Crosling
2.52/5  rDev -26.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Deep tawny in color with a small white head. Powerfully aromatic, with hints of raisins, toffee, prunes, caramel, red apple. Not a complex or deeply satisfying aroma, but it is powerful. Flavors are really dull and muted. It’s lacking depth and describable character.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
2.53/5  rDev -26.2%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearnace: Pours a light copper body with a medium-sized beige head. Spotty lacing.

Smell: A distinct, piercing aroma of banana slices and bubblegum along with all kinds of Christmas-type spices and yeasty notes.

Taste: A heavily sweet raisin and spiced fruit flavor that dries out quickly to an alcholic bitter finish. There's a noticeable plastic that is hard not to dwell on.

Mouthfeel: Medium-thin body. A bit watery, too.

Drinkability: Mediocre at best. To me, a flimsy body and a weak flavor doesn't make for a good English barleywine.

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Photo of magictrokini
2.54/5  rDev -25.9%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Another bust from Ridgeway. Pours light brown with red highlights. Small white head with partial lacing. Vanilla, bubblegum, caramel, and peaches. Sickeningly sweet, spicy flavor, with molasses, dates, and something like a cigarette in the finish. This beer is a mess. This one got me to quit Ridgeway, permanently.

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Photo of Knapp85
2.58/5  rDev -24.8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Prior to this beer the only other barley wine I had tried was Skull Splitter from Scotland. I found that this brew wasn't as good nut it could have been much worse. This beer offers up a big time abv that surely tells you this is not a walk in the park. The taste is boozie and fairly strong with malts througout. The color was on the amberish side. All in all, not my favorite Barley Wine, nut it's worth giving it a try.

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Photo of WVbeergeek
2.61/5  rDev -23.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Pours a deep orange copper hue into my chalice glass with an off white head forming thick and even with fine detailed lacing. Aromatics offer up some fusel alcohol notes with a light citrus booze character going on. Hops have a creamy floral and citric aspect coating the whole experience. Some sweet dark fruit notes blend in as well, they just seem to take a back seat next to the rest of the party going on. Flavor provides a deep sweet cereal honey tone with slight syrup notes and deep raisin and caramel malts wafting in. Big bitter backing from the English perspective the citrus and tobacco toned hop profile adds a good amount of bitterness to a typically hoppy American style. Mouthfeel is a bit cloying with thick layers of residual sugars sitting around on the palate carbonation is mellow but it doesn't carry the big body around too well. Drinkability overall is pretty poor in both body and flavor characteristics, maybe next time I will dig the beers from this seasonal brewery.

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Photo of ZAP
2.65/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Amber colored..aroma of mineral/hard water, butterscotch and caramel....relatively mild nose to this.

The taste is much harsher...spicy and alcholic...some underlying butterscotch and caramel lend a malty english BW tone to this but this is a bit difficult to drink due to its abrasiveness....It's not that it feels real fact, the body would barely qualify as's just very spicy and alcohol laden on the taste buds and on the finish....

Not a horrible beer but nothing I would want to try again.

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Photo of kbnooshay
2.65/5  rDev -22.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Pours a light copper-orange color with a think beige colored head. Aroma sweet with hints of bananas, booze, christmas spice and hard candy. This beer is wayyy to sweet, and I have had some great sweet barleywines. The sweetness helps in hiding some of the alcohol taste but it can't cover it all up. There is some hints of dark fruit and christmas spice. Body is kinda thin. Not impressed.

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Photo of macrosmatic
2.66/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 3.25 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

Reviewed from notes. Poured from a 16.9 oz. bottle into an El Catador Barrel Aged glass.

A: Pours a hazy deep gold, forms a thin white head that fades quickly. Fairly low visible carbonation after the initial blush from the pour.

S: Sweet malts, caramelized brown sugar. Mild booziness. Some sweet esters that are somewhat fruity and probably shouldn’t be in here – really smells like the apple prevalent in Belgian yeast esters. Nothing to get excited about on the nose for sure.

T: Sweet malts, biscuity and some toffee. Fusel alcohol flavors. Still some weird fruity esters – apple and pear. The fusel alcohol lasts into the hang, along with the fruity flavors.

M: A light body overall, and even more so for style. Low carbonation sensation. It drinks like a really strong barleywine, and I don’t think the ABV is particularly high – I think the ethanol is way to too prominent for what the listed percentage is.

O: This is…poor. Way too much ethanol, and the fruity flavors (I still think yeast esters) are atypical of style - these aren't the big dark fruity flavors that you often find in English Barleywines. There are no brown sugar or caramel flavors. It isn't good for style, and it isn't particularly enjoyable overall. Ended up a drain pour in the end, but I guess I’d drink it on a dare.

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Photo of FatTireGuy215
2.71/5  rDev -21%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A - light bodied cranium, almost copperish color, clear
S - Strong alcohol smell, spicy
T - bourbon, spices, vanilla...
M - lot of carbonation
O - Good to try once... A lot going on and not sure that it all comes together quite like they hoped. Don't go out of your way to get some.

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Photo of cbutova
2.74/5  rDev -20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Picked this one up because it was on sale at my local store. Pours a clear golden amber color with a one finger creamy tan head that retains fairly well and leaves good lacing down my glass. Smell starts out as malts and alcohol and slowly turns into total fruity raisins with alcohol. Tastes of malts, a slight bit of hops and some alcohol,Apples and lots of sweets in here as well, this taste also eventually becomes the fruity taste of a Belgian beer with alcohol, seems like the original flavors of the beer fade very quickly on this one. The mouthfeel is medium, alcohol warming the mouth and a taste of raisins is left on the tongue. Drinkability is low because the beers good flavors seem to fade out fast to straight dark fruits and raisins, alcohol taste gets bad before the bottle is finished, good to try, not very good to buy again. Aftertaste of fruits gets to me, taste became unberable after the first few sips, nothing really going on here, enjoyability ends after a few sips.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
2.76/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bright pumpkin with butterscotch borders, beneath a beautifully bubbly cap of pastel orange tinted bone. This is, without a doubt, the lightest barleywine that I've ever laid eyes on. I'll be interested to see if the color has implications for the flavor. I'm fine with the look, but it certainly doesn't qualify as special.

The aroma is lacking in... well... aroma. No hint of alcohol is a plus, but I need something to go on here. Pale malt (maybe), along with mild English hops (possibly), and that's about it. I don't usually go lower than average when a beer has no trace of offensiveness, but this one is so weak it's pathetic. I'm not holding my breath that it'll open up with warming either.

I liked Bad Elf and I liked Very Bad Elf at least as much. Criminally Bad Elf is a whole nother story. One sip is all it takes to tell me that this is the lightest and least flavorful barleywine that I've ever had, by a fairly wide margin. Let me get used to that fact before I slam it mercilessly for being the wussiest big ale in the history of wussy big ales.

The malt backbone is as spindly as they come for a beer of this style. Since there's very little malty flavor transfer, I have to believe that nothing darker than pale malt was used. Maybe a hint of caramel, but that's a stretch. Hops contribute almost no flavor and very little bitterness. Alcohol, unsurprisingly, is the most generous member of an ungenerous flavor profile. This is not good beer by any measure.

Strangely enough, the mouthfeel is acceptable. It's light-medium for the style and has a silky slickness that may be the best part of the whole damn shootin' match. An incredibly mellow feel to the carbonation is just how I'd have drawn it up.

It looks like I missed Seriously Bad Elf somewhere along the way. When I finally manage to locate a bottle, I hope it's closer to the earlier beers in the series rather than this most recent one. What's next Ridgeway, a 13.0% Russian Imperial Stout called Thoroughly Evil Elf? What the hell, despite the fact that this beer is anything but the dog's bollocks, I'd give it a go.

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Photo of mdm46410
2.78/5  rDev -19%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

Poured from a 500ml bottle and served in a snifter. This beer poured a clear copper hue with a thick head of creamy beige foam that resulted from an aggressive pour. Great retention and lacing. The aroma consisted of oranges, apricot, sugary toffee, and a bit of perfumey alcohol. The flavor included sticky sweet caramel, biting dull alcohol, and a bit of astringent orange. A lingering finish of metallic orange makes this one increasingly hard to choke down. The mouthfeel was medium-bodied and had light carbonation. Definately not one of the better examples of the style.

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Photo of allengarvin
2.78/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Into a pint glass, this is a crystal clear gold color with a small but persistent head. Fruity aroma with a strong fusel alcohol scent underlying it. Very sweet malt followed by a hugely alcoholic bite. Fruity as well, but the alcohol makes it quite unpleasant.

Bleagh, I couldn't finish it. A poor beer.

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Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
3.43 out of 5 based on 317 ratings.
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