Christmas in July Cellar Review: Dark Horse 4 Elf

In Cellared Beer Reviews by The Guys

Dark Horse 4 Elf
Spiced Beer, 11.5% ABV

Sayeth the Guys:

Karl: Oh, Dark Horse. We owe you bigtime. Without you this little Xmas in July experiment would have been a tale of woe, a comedy of beer error, a whimiscal tale of three guys befuddled by winter beer on a hot day in July. Then you entered the fray. A Winter Warmer is what we really wanted, and a Warmer is what we got. Thank you.

The scent of nuts and raisins come out of the bottle immediately and the deep brown color brings chocolate cake to mind; the lack of head on the bottle and lighter than expected body combine to a beer that is a little sparkling, a little more watery than it is fresh, but still a combination of cloves, nutmeg, spice cake, cinnamon, dates, and so on. It’s still got it, despite being a long ways off from freezing temps and snow days.

This is what I thought the Anchor was going to be – and maybe it’ll be like this again come December. But right now the Dark Horse has given me what I wanted.

Andrew: Pours what looks like very dark, until you hold it up to the light and see that it’s just an extremely dark red, with very little tan head. Spices and nutty malts in the nose.

It tasted much spicier than what I picked up in the nose – a ton of Christmas spices, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, with a very nice sweetness from some dark fruits (figs or cherries or something). Good carbonation and just a hint of booziness.
Fantastically flavored and a very warm beer – perfect for those cold winter nights in front of the fire.

Ryan: 4 Elf, I’ll never forget the night we first met. It was a chilly December Friday night and my girlfriend (now wife) and I popped in to Dark Horse in Marshall, MI for a beer or two. You and your goofy elf faced stared back at me from the flier on the wall announcing your tap room only release.  Who could turn down that charm…or a winter warmer on this frigid night? It poured dark and smelled like a Christmas tree.  Tasted like one too, although less pine needles and more cloves.  I’ll save you from the rest of the mushy details of my instant love affair with 4 Elf and just say I left with a case of this.

4 Elf, on this particularly balmy July night, poured a dark brown in color with almost a purple hue to it.

The nose was full of raisins.  In fact, I noted that it, “smells like trail mix.”  The taste followed suit with bursts of raisin, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  This, my friends, is a true winter warmer.  Let it warm and those flavors become more pronounced.  I think this is what we were expecting out of the likes of Anchor’s Our Special Beer and maybe even Schlafly’s Holiday Ale.  Christmas in a bottle indeed.

Our experiment with this beer doesn’t end here.  There is a bottle from 2008 and one from 2009 awaiting a three year vertical tasting this winter once the 2010 batch is released.  After a 7 month sampling we’re pretty excited to see how this beer develops over a three year stretch.

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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