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 UCLABrewN84
3.43/5  rDev 0%
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.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.6/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

this to me is the quintessential holiday barleywine. its got all of the barleywine characteristics, and a little extra oomph in the abv department and some sweet and spice that make it perfect for the christmas season. it pours a whisley color with a bubbly slow tan head. the smell is alcohol and english malts, caramel, and walnuts. the flavor is about the same, with an oaky residue on the tongue after each sip. i like the upbeat feel if it too. its a little more carbonated and a little lighter in body than many of these, which make it frightfully quaffable. there is some vanilla and bourbon notes in the finish, and a touch of allspice or anise that resounds long after youve swallowed. i know its a little early in the season for a beer like this, but i cant help myself sometimes. its way underrated on BA, and is overall one of my favorite wintertime barleywines.

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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 metter98
3.5/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is clear amber in color and has a light amount of visible carbonation. It poured into a snifter glass with a ring of bubbles around the edge of the glass and a thin film covering the surface in the center.
S: There are sweet aromas of apples and hints of alcohol and raisins in the nose.
T: The initial taste is slightly sweet and is followed by flavors of caramel and toffee along with some hints of fruit.
M: It feels medium-bodied, smooth and slightly thick on the palate with a light to moderate amount of carbonation. There is alcohol warming in the finish.
D: The beer is surprisingly drinkable for its strength because for the most part the alcohol is masked from the taste.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.65/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

The beer certainly shows the strength that you would expect from the name. But the beer has a lot of maturing to do in order to fall into balance. Very richly malty, sweet, alcoholic, and fruity in the nose. Flavors are malt-dominant, showing a lot of barly sweetness, estery fruits (peaches, cherries, plumbs, and pears), phenols, and fusal alcohols. These alcohols become more abrasive as the beer wears on. Finishes with a huge burst of sweetness, booze, and a little bitter and salty. Certainly some quality ingredients in here, just going to take more time to properly round out.

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Photo of brentk56
2.89/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: Pours a hazy amber without much of a head and what does appear fails to retain or lace

Smell: There is a bit of toffee and some alcohol

Taste: We start out with a toffee liqueur flavor that builds in toffee character by mid-palate; after the swallow, the disappears and is replaced by a repugnant hot alcohol flavor

Mouthfeel: Medium body and low carbonation

Drinkability: This isn't awful but it sure is criminal to put a barleywine of this quality on the shelf under the Shelton Brothers name; I guess this series is the craft beer equivalent Nutcracker ballets that dance companies use for their moneymakers this time of year;

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Photo of zeff80
3.97/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - Poured out a clear, amber/orange color with a foamy, bubbly, off-white head. It left thin trails of lace on the glass.

S - It smelled very malty and slightly oaky. Some earthy herbal notes, too.

T - It tasted of tons of molasses with a sweet caramel malt flavor. It had a floral taste with a grassy/earthy taste.

M - It was fairly crisp with a chewy mouthfeel. A medium to full-bodied beer.

D - This was pretty good. One of the better brews from Ridgeway.

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Photo of superspak
3.9/5  rDev +13.7%
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.

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Photo of oberon
3.01/5  rDev -12.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I remember when there was just a bad elf damn that seems so long ago,this poured into a impy pint glass a light copper/bronze with a tight but thinner white head that didnt have much lasting power.Wow first whiff after the cap was popped was a real skunkiness but Iam quite sure this wasnt skunked almost rotten fruit-like, as it settled a dark raisiny quality came thru making it easier to take in.Pretty thin for a barley wine not big and or chewey at all,somewhat boozy with flavors of dark fruit and brown sugar mainly I did get a hint of minty hop in the finish.Uhm this is one not to go out of your way to buy because of the lagel gimmick or anything like that its just not that good,next years elf I'll pass on I think.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.95/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Clear deep copper with an auburn cast, golden highlights at the base of the glass, and a spot of ruby more towards the center. Creamy, short white head. Maintains surface covering... a thin lace curtain. Short walls of lace rise up against the sides of the glass.

Smell: Malt. Fruit. Scorched caramel. Apple. Plum. Raisin. Cherries. Alcohol.

Taste: Caramel. Alcohol. Almost burnt sugar. Toast. Sharp fruit... dark skinned... juicy plum, cherry, raisin. Some dark berries and some minor Granny Smith. Spruce! Slather of alcohol. Solid bitterness, but the alcohol really does the work to dry it. A touch hot. Finishes dry with a note of cherry, then caramelish malt, and finally, sherry!?

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied. Dextrinous. Seemingly short on body. OK. Low-key carbonation leaves it really smooth. Silky, but not quite creamy.

Drinkability: is hindered by the alcohol.

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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 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 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

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Photo of smcolw
3.63/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Moderate head but it leaves a great coating of blanketing lace. The color is a dark gold and fairly cold.

Lots of caramel and alcohol to the nose. Slightly sweet, somewhat candy like with a touch of hop.

Strong caramel sweetness to the taste, but there is a good hop counterpoint that prevents this from being too cloy. Good body with an appropriate carbonation level. The alcohol is deceptively light, but the impact is very strong.

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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 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.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.7/5  rDev +7.9%
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.

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Photo of jwc215
3.85/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours amber with nice clarity. The thin head doesn't last too long, as expected for the high abv. A lasting ring is around the edges.

The smell is of sweet, bready grain with a hint of fruity hops and slight alcohol notes.

The taste is of sweet barley and warming alcohol. The alcohol is powerful, but doesn't seem to mask much of the flavor. Some lemony hops balance out the sweetness to a degree, though the sweetness certainly rules. Overall, it is a medium to full bodied maltiness with spicy alcohol notes. Some mildly spiced apple-like fruitiness hangs subtly in the background.

There is something of an alcohol rawness in it, but it's not too harsh because of the malty smoothness. Some sugary sweetness lingers in the long finish.

It's a little too sweet, but otherwise it's a nice slow-sipping brew.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.87/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Okay, who much worse is this Elf gonna get? Are we going to meet up with Morally Repugnant and Maliciously Vile Elf next year, or his brother, Danger to Himself and Others Elf?

Clear, with ruby tones, big carbonation, small layering of foam above, soon gone.

Bright, sweet nose, cherries and berries, orange and grapefruit, a little candyish, like candy orange slices, maybe...I like it. Robust, and mellow at once, urging me to discover what happens when I drink it...

Big mess of bold fruity flavors in the mouth, a blast of juicy malt, some hops, and big booze. Tasty, and like I said before, mellow, but big. Well-tempered.
Not as full-bodied as I'd like from a barley-wine, especially one this strong. I've half a mind to chase it with another bw that fits my favor, for comparison.

Criminal Elf gets hotter as we go, the bite getting bigger. I'm liking it more, but it's still not exactly what I loveh. Felonious Elf, you taste good, but you don't drive me crazy. I like you... a little.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
2.98/5  rDev -13.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a bottle into a snifter, the beer is a vibrant, clear, ruby-copper coloring with a thin ring of film around the perimeter of the surface. The nose is a total malt bomb, with a slight roasting to accompany caramel, toffee, and pineapple sweetness. Definitely some boozey characteristics from the increased ABV, also. Flavors are mild, with pineapple and tropical fruits first onto the tongue, and a smokey roast quality throughout. The sweetness turns tangy towards the end of the palate, with a slight peppery hopping to clean it all up. The aftertaste is syrupy sweet, with a little bit of spice to it, but not much. The finish is slick and slightly lingering, with a little bit of a cloying feeling in mouth. Meh.

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Photo of GreesyFizeek
2.99/5  rDev -12.8%
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.

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Photo of Gavage
2.84/5  rDev -17.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Appearance: pours a clear orange color with no head other than a few surface bubbles. No lacing develops.

Smell: caramel candy sweetness abounds.

Taste: big malt sweetness dominates this beer. Bread, plums, and very little bitterness rounds it out. Alcohol is noticeable and doesn't marry with the flavors at all.

Mouthfeel: heavy in body. Smooth from start to finish. Very short sweet aftertaste that seems to stick to your tongue.

Drinkability: not good. For the style this beer just does not cut it. Pass on this.

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Photo of Wasatch
3.83/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice clean/clear dark golden orange color, nice carbonation, nice little creamy tan head, not much sticky lacing. The nose is malty and lots of caramel. The taste is slightly sweet at first, then lots of malts and caramel. The alcohol is hidden very very well though for a 10.5 ABV brew. Medium body. Very Drinkable, this is a tasty English Barley Wine, recommended.

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Photo of Mora2000
3.57/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Pours orange with basically no head. What head is visible is a white color. The aroma is very fruity with some caramel malt. The flavor is strongly fruity with lots of pineapple as well as some malty sweetness. You also get a ton of alcohol in the flavor. There is a slight amount of hop bitterness as well. The booziness hurts the drinkability but it is still a decent beer. Thin-medium mouthfeel and low carbonation. The alcohol is warming.

Of the five Ridgeway Christmas beers I tried (Bad Elf, Reindeer Revolt, Criminally Bad Elf, Santa's Butt and Warm Welcome) this was easily the best. It is the only one I would even consider having again, although I doubt I will see this one out again.

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Photo of biegaman
3.38/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Ripened summer apricot with a touch of yellow daisy - not at all what I'm looking for in my Yuletide barleywine. I have had a few barleywines (nearly) this light in colour, at least a couple of which were really quite good, but I bet at least a half dozen other styles would come to mind before I'd ever guess this one right.

Its thin white trim manages to produce a couple of notable prints along the sides. It has a healthy glow, clear and bright shine, an all around flashy complexion that looks in all regards just like an IPA. As fine a look it is, granted, I keep doing double takes and checking the bottle again to see if I've made an error. This is a barleywine? Apparently so!

While appearance might surprise, aroma might disappoint. Apart from a faint note of dried fruit, this is missing nearly all components of the great style. Nowhere are those dark, sticky, sappy, fudgy caramelized malts that shine through so nicely in English style barleywines. That whole persona, and anything resembling complexity or refinement, is wholly absent.

Ok, so the beer doesn't rival a fine tawny port or well matured whiskey. So what if it's no where near a J.W Lees Vintage or Thomas Hardy's? It must still have a thick, rich, hearty, warming character, right? Well, yes and no. I wouldn't say it has all of those aforementioned qualities but it may have some...

'Some' would include sticky butterscotch, a touch of pine resin, dried and candied fruits and maybe just a splash of alcohol. It is far from great by barleywine standards but it does make some appeal to the palate. Despite being nothing overly tasty I do catch myself going back to the glass with eagerness, which surely speaks to something.

Once again, and not to sound like a broken record, but this was nothing like what I look for in a barleywine. I liked the beer just as well for what it is, and now almost feel guilty holding style guidelines against it. Final verdict: 'Criminally Bad Elf' is certainly nothing worthy of locking up - whether it's worthy of picking up, you'll have to make that call.

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