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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: 197 | Ratings: 310
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.

 726 characters

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 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 Brent
3/5  rDev -12.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Despite having been pretty underwhelmed with past experiences with this line of beers, which seem to get as much mileage out of the seasonal label as the beer itself, I decided to give this one a try. While not a standout, it was a rather nice beer with sturdy caramel-sweet malt and a touch of dried fruit in the background. Lacked much depth beyond that, and didn't do much to hold my interest. Pleasant enough.

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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 big...in fact, the body would barely qualify as full...it'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.

 519 characters

Photo of shadow1961
3.3/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Ridgeway Brewing's Criminally Bad Elf pours out a fluffy
head over a pretty, clear ruby brew. Carbonation is active,
and the nose has a yeasty sharpness under a bright fruity
and malty odor. The flavor is of fruit and molasses, with a
scotch flavor in the background. There is a definite sharpness
to the feel and the taste from the 10.5% alcohol by volume
which is not quite as well moderated as it could be. Still, it
does get the job done.

 449 characters

Photo of MrSeth
3.56/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The suds are busy and leave remnants throughout the drinking experience. Otherwise it looks like a standard ale in this style. There is very little complexity to the nose. It is however extremely sweet smelling underneath which is a grainey aroma. The taste and mouthfeel is dry, heavy in barley character, but not nearly as sweet as it smells. The balance of elements in the profile is commendable even without inspiring any words on the hops. It turns out to be a very approachable barley wine: not wimpy, not overpowering. The length is also commendable and it isn't syrupy or sticky like so many barley wines are. There is clean finish that leaves you wanting more. The 10.5% ABV is well blended into the profile making it a pleasure to drink. This is a classy barley wine, forget the hype!

 794 characters

Photo of CWiggins
3.08/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a Samuel Smith pint glass. I thought the color–medium amber with golden highlights–was quite nice, but it didn't square with my earlier incursion into barleywine territory. No aroma was really noticeable, just the slightest hint of hops and a bit of toasty-ness. Very odd for this style, I must say.

The flavor is mainly concentrated in the hops bitterness area, with a bit of the sweet barleywine characteristic hovering in the background. This is unlike any barleywine beer I've tried. It seems to be more along the lines of a slightly-sweet English Pale Ale or IPA, but with a bit of sweetness. The hops bitterness is unmistakeable. The main difference is the alcohol content: at 10.5% ABV it feels like a barleywine!

I'd probably drink this again, but not if I'm in the mood for a true barleywine. It's got a nice thing going; it just doesn't seem to fit the style.

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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.

 538 characters

Photo of DogFood11
3.37/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

The last in a 3 part series picked up recently from ridgeway brewing. At 10.5% I saved this for a midweek nightcapper. Pours into a tulip it forms an off white head that falls to a cover and holds up pretty good for such a high ABV brew. lace is ring like. Clear.

First whiff besides the alcohol is a light fruity presence. First drink and I get bananna mixed with total cereal. A nice mix really. Surprisingly soft around the edges and a light malt bill allow the bitterness to show through. Mouthfeel is rather odd in that its kind of dry and wheaty in the middle then in the finish its syrup and an alcohol smasher in the end. Spices tend to linger and never clean up. Tobasco'ish in the late late finish.

A bit hot even regardless of the style, as its harsh and spicey. Not much in the way of depth or character. To sum it up this is a high alcohol bomb and don't expect a whole lot more.

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Photo of taez555
3.83/5  rDev +11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

This beer pours a bright, light amber/tan body with little to no head.

Very subtle nose. Caramel, malt, sweet sugar, old baseball card style bubble-gum with a mild alcohol burn.

Taste is surprisingly medium bodied for a 10% abv beer. Starts very clean and light with a light caramel malt and explodes in the back end with a huge hop flavor and bitterness. Malts are simple in this beer, just simple caramel and clean grain malt flavors with again subtle hints of bubble-gum. Hop bitterness is balanced at first, but again rises in the back end. Citrus hops with a minty, pineapple and pine needle character. There's a warming alcohol as it warms. Ends very dry with a huge hop leaf character.

What an odd english barleywine. It sort of starts like a mild English barleywine but ends super American DIPA. English Craft beer.

 833 characters

Photo of longarm
3.23/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Nice head, but it doesn't stick around. Not special, but for a high alcohol brew not bad. Amber color but a maybe little light for a barley wine.

Aroma: Hot, hot, hot alcoholic aroma bites. Seems to have a heavy dose of piney hops and a little bit of bubble-gum aroma in there too.

Flavor: Not too much of a bite relative to the alcoholic aroma issues just mentioned. Some sweetness on the palate that's scrubbed away by the alcohol and heavy dose of hops. A flavor resembling cotton candy or bubble gum is in there too, but it's subdued by the hops. Still there's something out-of-whack. Not very balanced.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied beer, bitter finish.

Drinkability: A moderately drinkable beer. Probably needs to age a little more. It would probably go better with some food to help balance flavors.

 824 characters

Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.88/5  rDev +13.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer poured into the glass clear medium amber with a tannish medium and well lasting head which lasted to lace the glass.

The aroma was lightly caramel and nutty through the head. As the head fell and the beer warmed the aroma became more estery and lightly floral. Some light mineral aroma was notable.

The flavor was light caramel with a decent level of bittering to balance. The flavor was well balanced with the scale leaning slightly toward malt, but with enough hop backbone to keep the beer in check. The hop flavor was fairly low with only a bit of grassiness in the mix. As it warmed more bittering character emerged.

The finish was heading toward dry with lasting caramel and light bittering into the aftertaste. The body was medium full with a low level of carbonation. A nice beer, but nothing complex.

50 cl bottle.

 844 characters

Photo of RedHaze
3.21/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a very bright coppery red with a one finger head that is slow to fade to a thin cap. The lacing that's left behind is thicker than expected, especially given the high alcohol content.

Smell; this has a very grainy aroma, with a little bit of caramel malts. I'm not really picking up any other aromas from this. It doesn't smell bad, it's just a not that interesting.

Taste; once again, very grainy and slightly earthy. There's some hints of hops, and hints of some dark fruits, but both are hard to pick out. Just like the aroma, there's not a whole lot going on here. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, and pretty smooth, with a decent drinkability.

Overall, this is a decent beer, but not one I plan to revisit, especially considering the price tag.

 759 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.

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Photo of pmatz2
3.03/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a rosey amber. An aggressive pour produce a small head that quickly disappears leaving a thin ring at the edge. The ring lasted the entire time. Lacing is evident after each sip.

The smell was predominantly alcohol followed by a malty sweetness

The taste is predominantly alcohol, however there is the sweetness you would expect from a barleywine. There is a slight bitterness to the finish that decreased as the temperature rose.

The mouth feel was thinner than I would have expected for a barleywine. But overall it was a medium body.

Overall I'm not disappointed that I bought it but I don't think I would purchase it again.

 646 characters

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

Presentation: Distinctive Half-Litre brown glass bottle that has a wide body and a tall long thin neck sealed with a standard looking metallic red colored crown cap. Main label has the moniker ‘Criminally Bad Elf’ above a picture of a jailed dwarf behind bars raising a pint. Below which the words ‘Barleywine-Style Ale’ give away the type of brew to expect. Listed at massive (for the UK at least) 10.5% ABV. Lots of self-promoting blurb on the left hand-side of the label.

Appearance: Very clear mid-amber body with some light bronzed copper tones, the first surprise as I expected something darker. Light frothy head rises on the pour; it has a faded tanned look. Sadly it soon goes and hides far too quickly and submerges into the body leaving all but nothing. Subsequent top-ups do seem to invoke some pride though, and the head does last a little longer, but it can’t keep it up for long. Carbonation levels are moderate.

Nose: Pale malts and a soft mustiness against a very feint caramel hint. Some soggy cardboard and strange hint of damp potatoes and Hessian sacks mix with a fruity nature. Rather underwhelming overall.

Taste: The flavors are a little understated, simplistic with a gentle piquant alcohol and some breaded malts. One redeeming feature is the nice crisp bitterness that snaps in the finish and, if given enough time between swallows, induces some lactating cheeks. Sadly though this bitterness is just below a level that it teasingly promises, you expect more but like the #37 Bus, it never seems to arrive.

Mouthfeel: There is a rather thin feel to this one at first. A gentle mild warming sensation breaks from the liquid and tends to vaporize, is picked up in the back of the throat and nose - but it is hardly enough to instill a “massive” feel to this Barleywine-style ale. At 10.5% I expected more.

Drinkability: Surprisingly easy to quaff I have to say, perhaps this could be considered a strength for some, but for me, I want my 10.5% Barleywine to linger and remind me of its powerful nature and complex flavors. I wanted to sip this one but found that I was drinking it like any other brew, there is no complexity and the thin mouthfeel and simplistic malts make this easy to do. Despite this fact, I can cut some slack and honestly say that I had no issues with this and managed to demolish the bottle with some aplomb.

Overall: Listed as a Barleywine, my initial reaction was how, well pale it looked. Given its high strength and the taxation sliding scale in the UK, this one is not cheap and could be considered rather expensive. Despite the high end pricing, the beer is rather ordinary, average to be honest, Joe average, typical, middle of the road, standard, run-of-the-mill, stock, neither here nor there, so-so, arghh OK….yeah it’s just a 3/5. Criminally expensive for what it is.

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Photo of dotlikeimpact
3.8/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pint bottle into an imperial pint glass.

Even though I haven not been a big fan of the other elf beers from England, (although those elves from other places are a different matter entirely) I have a long standing rule to never turn down anything with the words 'barley wine' on it, so here goes.

Pour: small white head, gone in a few minutes, a little lacing remains.

Smell: must, malt and alcohol. Not much interesting beyond the basic building blocks of beer.

Taste: Good bready flavors that seem to darken as the beer warms. Alcohol comes through less and less with time, good mid-palate of strong dark fruit and leather. Finish is almost non-existent.

Very drinkable and by no means bad, but in the realm of barley wines this one falls short of the majesty and multi-faceted nature of so many of my favorites.

 828 characters

Photo of lordofthewiens
3.27/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A 50cl bottle, nice clear amber color with a small head that nevertheless leaves some decent lacing. A sweet, caramel aroma, with some hints of bread. I thought the taste was somewhat underassuming. Some alcohol, a little hops, not much else there. Thin and mild in the mouth. At 10%ABV, this is a beer to sip.

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Photo of kmpitz2
3.9/5  rDev +13.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

50 cl bottle. This beer fills my glass with a true amber colored liquid bubbling with very tiny and fine bits of carbonation. There is only a small head that forms, but falls very fast to less than a coating over top. Clarity on the initial pour is very good An inspection of the aroma finds a lot of sweet caramel overlaid by a very nice sweet raisin. A swirl of the glass elicits some toasty British malts that provide a nice bit of balance to the sweetness. Flavors that I find first are strong toasted malt infused with alcohol spiceyness, with a chunky caramel sweetness and a nice fruity raisin. The aftertaste has a small earthy hop and bitterness along with the really nice toastyness from the malt. The alcohol flavor is a little strong to me, but it is not harsh. Mouthfeel is moderate to thick, with some slickness, and a mild carbonation. The slickness stays on my tongue for a while as well. Drinkability on this one is okay. It is a little hot in my stomach, and giving me a little acid feeling in my esophagus. I think the toasty flavors really make this one work and keep it from being cloying and overly harsh in the alcohol. I think it is worth a look.

 1,170 characters

Photo of MaltyGoodness
3.91/5  rDev +14%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16.9oz bottle

Pours a crystal clear copper color with ruby highlights. Has a creamy eggshell head that thins. Thick lacing on the glass.

Light aroma of sweet caramel malt.

Sweet & rich caramel malt taste upfront leading into just a slight hop flavor and mild bitterness. Finishes with a residual sweet and malty taste.

Full body, solid carbonation.

Quite drinkable for the ABV. A very nice English barleywine, but I think that this could use some additional maturation. I suspect that a year in the cellar would make this even better.

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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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Criminally Bad Elf from Ridgeway Brewing
3.43 out of 5 based on 310 ratings.
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