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 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 KajII
3.38/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

[Best served in a Snifter]

The pour was a hazy reddish copper with an average sized (1-2 finger) off white creamy head that was mostly lasting and had some pretty good streaks of lace.

The aroma was very sweet with a strong dark fruit presence, some biscuit malts and a sweet doughy yeast and had notes of honey, caramel, toffee and a mild white wine scent.

The taste was extremely sweet and boldly malty with notes of honey and caramel from the onset with the finish being sweetly acidic and having a big note of dark fruit (raisins and plums), a bit of toffee and a decent white wine alcohol presence towards the end. The flavor stuck around for a nice long time after the swallow with a thick sweet fruity taste left to settle on the taste buds.

Mouthfeel was just a few shades under medium in body with a light syrupy texture and a mild carbonation.

Overall a boldly sweet Barleywine with a nice strong fruity presence...

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Photo of korguy123
3.33/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle into snifter.

A- Crystal clear copper pour. Finger width head that won't go away. Lacing is excellent.

S- Slight alcohol, huge malt presence. Sweet and buttery.

T- Alcohol and grain, sweet and buttery with a touch of stone fruits. Lingering aftettaste.

M- Medium bodied, slightly boozy and sticky sweet.

O- Not bad, not great. Very traditional. Quite forgettable.

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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 Scotchboy
3.48/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

From notes, sampled 1/15/12.

Criminally Bad Elf, 2011 bottling. Poured into a New Belgium globe.

A: Pours a mostly clear golden honey color, with a pretty bright white head. Alcohol content keeps the head size down but it retains remarkably well.

S: Definite toffee. Sweet malt character, slightly buttery. Light spices, touch of a fruity yeast ester underneath. Malt bomb for sure.

T: Toffee and caramel dominate. Buttery complexion, light spices and moderate grassy hopping. Light fruitiness as well, with notes of sugary bread. Touch of alcohol burn but unremarkable considering the abv.

MF: Light to medium thin mouthfeel, slightly watery and cut by the alcohol.

O: Not my favorite style, but paletteable. For a warming beer in the winter months its passable - the sweetness and buttery character is not overwhelming.

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Photo of Drinkerofales
3.55/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear light amber with a huge off-white head, which leaves behind some lacing.

Smells of roastiness, and astringent booze. Very dark and rum smelling.

Taste is bold. Alcohol has a presence. Roasted malt and spice enter the fray, with some hops to round it out.

Feels medium bodied, and the toastiness make this not easy to drink.

Wow, huge flavors and huge abv make the a great beer, but harshness makes it hard to drink.


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

Pours a clear orange color with a 1 finger foamy off white head that faded slowly and leaves a creamy layer on top and good foamy rings of lacing.

Smells of sweet malt, caramel, lightly toasted grains, wheat, yeast, light floral hops, herbs, spices and alcohol; the nose is sweet and boozy, like a rum was poured into an ale.

Tastes like sweet malt, brown sugar, caramel, toffee, grains, light yeast, cinnamon, herbs, tea leaf, spices like pepper, allspice and coriander, and of course the rum like booze that's sweet and evident. The booze is not offensive, especially for a barleywine, so this works. This is strong and has a kick, but the malt and grains are sweet enough that this goes down without any trouble. As expected, it gets better and more complex as it warms.

Mouthfeel is creamy and smooth with just enough of a boozy bite that lets you know that this is a barleywine with average heat; medium to heavy body, light carbonation and a sweet, chewy / grainy feel that accents the malty earthy ingredients. A very enjoyable winter warmer and a solid barleywine.

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Photo of JayS2629
3.97/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a clear amber with a two finger head that fades fast but leaves ok lacing.

The aroma is fruity with cherry tinges and plum notes with a sweet underlying malty, honey-like scent. Nice spice notes and an earthy hops peek through.

The flavor follows the nose with fruity, and honey tones on an earthy background that lets itself be known. Hints of subtle spice and hints of cherry.

Overall, smooth and medium bodied with a slight booze burn on the finish.

Nice seasonal style to sip.

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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 snpub540
3.45/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear pale orangish hue. Small white head leaves hardly any lacing on the glass.

Smells bready with some caramel sweetness.

Taste is sweet upfront with some raisins and some nice fruity esters. Quite boozy but I like it.

Mouthfeel is slightly thin. Taste is mostly boozy but not harsh. I enjoyed this beer very much. Not a complex barleywine but it had enough to keep me interested.

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Photo of Zorro
3.92/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Clear amber colored ale with a small white colored head.

Smells sweet and malty with lots of toffee scent. Smells spicy, mostly cinnamon. Little bit of butter in the scent giving it a Cinnamon roll smell.

Starts out sweet with a strong buttery cream flavor. Typical English flavors, lots of tobacco and leather with a mild woody bitterness. Deceptively strong though tastes nothing like a 10% beer.

Mouthfeel is full.

Overall tasty, but not exceptional. I could see drinking this again, but there are some better ones out there.

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Photo of Krakistophales
3.66/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: Pours a dark orange with very little head but good carbonation

S: Miscellaneous spice, bread pudding, caramel malt, slightly fruity aromas but very faint

T: Some fruit, a banana bread sort of sweetness, and caramel malt. Good, but very simple.

O: This is okay. Nothing special and the smell is faint enough to be average. Probably wouldn't get again, but not bad to drink.

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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?

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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!

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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

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Photo of woemad
3.03/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

1pt.0.9oz bottle purchased at Enoteca in Post Falls, ID, for $7.99, with F12 24D stampted on it being the closest thing to a best-by date.

Poured an dark apricot color, with an inch of beige foam that quickly receded to a soapy skiff.

Bubblegum, booze and cotton candy are in the nose.

Initially just a rather insipid sweetness in the flavor, but as it warms things become much more boozy. There's also some tropical fruit and some caramel. No real balance to this at all.

Rather watery mouthfeel for a barleywine, even an English one.

A thoroughly mediocre sipper beer. Useful only as a one-off nightcap, and there are much better ones out there that answer to that description. Too boozy and too sweet for anyting else. A disappointment.

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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 jayhawk73
3.47/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A- Pours a Medium Gold color w/ a sliver of off white head. This is really light for a Barleywine. I barely see any carbonation at all. Lacing is average on this one. All in all, pretty pedestrian.

S- Smell is that of caramel, malt, and maybe a touch of alcohol. The smell definitely goes along w/ the lightness of the appearance. I wish this had a stronger smell profile. At 10.5%, I'm surprised there's not a stronger alcohol presence.

T- There's the alcohol, in the taste. There's also something in there that I can't put my finger on, but I don't like it. The malt is there, the caramel, but this beer seems a little off balance and taste-wise to me. Not bad, just not among the best in the category.

M- I keep coming back to the fact this beer is a little light for the style, and mouthfeel follows that pattern. I want it to be a little more substatial, especially for a 10.5% beer. Pretty smooth though, but the alcohol burn peters out on the aftertaste. The malt also feels too light to me as well.

O- Glad I got to try this one. It's not my favorite in the category, but it's not bad either. Worth a pick up if you want to try something new, but if you have better options.. I'd go w/ the other options.

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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 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 srandycarter
3.82/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - Deep copper ... Pretty clear. White head leaves to disk fast. Lots of wispy cling lace.

S - Banana bread. Weird for style would have thought Belgian. Underlying sweet malt and booze.

T - Yep. Banana bread and booze. Bitters at end so not cloying.

M - Fat in mouth, ban bread and booze nicely balanced with carbonation and bitter. A little cloy sweet finish stays in mouth, but not too bad.

D - I would tire easily but fun to 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 nickthetick
3.74/5  rDev +9%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

A: pored a lot like a bad elf into my duvel tulip except with only a thin layer of white head.

S: apples and pears are there, as are a sweet malt.

T: a lot like the nose but add some white grapes. The alcohol isn't noticeable and the flavors blend well.

MF: its warming and full bodied, fairly effervescent.
D: great english barleywine, wish it was around all year.

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Photo of SkeeterHawk
3.32/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I have had this bottle for God knows how long. I just raked the dust off of it to see what it was and here we go. Hopefully this beer ages well...

Appearance: The beer pours a cloudy brownish orange color with a very small 1/8" head of tan bubbles that immediately fell back into the beer. There is a tad of lacing left on the glass after swirling.

Aroma: I didn't realize until after I poured this beer that my sense of smell isn't 100% right now. I initially got plenty of alcohol with the associated spices and some warming in the nose. Otherwise it is somewhat earthy with no hops noticeable at all.

Taste: The flavor pretty much follows the aroma for me except that it has a decidedly bitter edge from hops that I didn't pick up with my apparently busted nose. Otherwise, there is noticeable alcoholic warming on the palate after the finish and a mild astringency left on the back of the throat too. The overall mouthfeel is somewhat thin for a Barley Wine and the light carbonation makes it come across a bit watery if it weren't for the alcohol.

Opinion: Again, to be fair to this beer, my sniffer isn't in the best shape, and this is obviously affecting my sense of flavor as well as I am not picking up the details in this beer that I would like to. That said, I am not completely numb and there are a number of things about this beer that are mediocre for the style. I would probably try a sample of it sometime in the future to know what my palate missed, but I won't be seeking it out for that reason as I feel pretty confident that I am not missing much.

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Photo of SnowGoon99
3.76/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Serving type: bottle into a Sam Adams glass

Pours a dark straw or golden color. Nice head that stays down the glass but no lacing. Aromas are dominated by alcohol esters. Other aromas include some fruit either from the hops or more esters and an interesting wine-like note.

Flavors are dominated again by the alcohol but it's not overwhelming or "hot". Some bitterness but mostly malt driven. Some caramel to it but it's actually really dry. Almost surprisingly dry. It definitely lacked the body that i expected from this high a percentage of alcohol but it made for a very drinkable beer. Almost surprisingly drinkable. It drank like an ESB or English IPA. Very easy drinking, not a sipper like most barleywines.

Overall this beer was not what i expected. I was definitely looking forward to a big beer with incredible body with crazy flavors that were in your face. But instead i got an easy drinking beer that lacked in any real complexity. I don't think i would buy it again due to the price point but if offered i wouldn't refuse.

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