“The Mad Elf, a cheerful creation to warm your heart and enlighten your tongue. The combination of Cherries, Honey, and Chocolate Malts delivers gentle fruits and subtle spices. Fermented and aged with a unique yeast, this ruby red beer has significant warming strength that underlies the pleasant character of this intriguing yet delicious Ale. The Mad Elf, a jolly and delicious beer for the Holidays.”
Troegs Mad Elf
Belgian Strong Dark Ale, 11% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
(Editors Note: This beer was purchased in December of 2009. It was sampled in July of 2010 and December of 2010. Below are the tasting notes from the 6 month mark and the year mark of cellaring.)
Ryan: From the goofy, three-sheets-to-the-wind elf on the front to the unassuming copper in color pour to the light body and hints of fruit and cinnamon; there is nothing about this beer that screams Belgian Strong Dark Ale. And that is what is downright scary about it.
This beer pours, as I noted above, an almost translucent copper in color. There is very little head and no noticeable lacing to accompany this beer. I know that a Belgian Strong Dark Ale doesn’t have to be dark but this pours more like a session beer than a double-digit ABV sipper.
The nose is full of fruit and cherries – almost like opening a box of Fruity Pebbles. The sweetness and tartness of the cherries hit the palate first followed by a mellow, light honey flavor. I also noted just a little bit of cinnamon on the back-end of the Mad Elf.
This beer was very light and easy drinking. Frankly, I’d happily drink it during the summer months – or any time of year for that matter. Oh, and the 11% ABV in this beer is absolutely, positively, without a doubt NOWHERE to be found. Normally, I’d recommend taking it easy on this one or classifying it as a “sipper.” But it’s not. It goes down way too easy and tastes too damn good to be drank slowly.
Karl: While Troegs has decided that this too is a holiday release, it doesn’t resemble anything close to a traditional Christmas beer. In some instances across this series of beers, we see that that isn’t always a good thing. In this case, however, it’s perfectly fine. It’s not what anyone would expect but the Mad Elf has its own place in the holiday drinking process and fits right into a niche you probably didn’t know even existed.
The Mad Elf, brewed with honey and cherries, obviously isn’t going to be fruitcake in a bottle. It pours without a head to it, with a nice reddish-orange hue and a nice clear body, and no sediment. Whereas most other cherry-based beers, like Founders’ Cerise or even a Bells Cherry Stout, counts on the tartness of the cherry to cut through and add a different dimension to the brew, the honey in the Mad Elf melds with the sweetness of the cherry, cuts down on that sharpness that’s on top of many cherry brews, and combines to create a light sweetness.
For some reason, I always expect honey to add a certain heaviness despite repeated evidence through mead drinking and other honey-brewing experiences to the contrary. I don’t know why; that’s just how my brain works. Again, a fermented honey acts here as a lightener and the Mad Elf is crisp, bright and holy hell this stuff is 11% alcohol? Where in Santa’s name do they put all of it?
Remember when I said that the Schlafly Holiday Old Ale would probably be good alongside of dinner, but doesn’t stand out on its own? The Mad Elf’s niche is that it’s the beer you drink after that dinner. It’s got it’s very own holiday thing going on that would pair great with some gingersnap cookies or a cinnamon dessert or just on its own. Barring that, you could walk out your front door with a glass of it right now into 90 degrees with humidity and still find it just as refreshing. The label says holiday, but this is a beer for all occasions.
Andrew: The Mad Elf poured a light brown/amber color with decent head that dissipated quickly. Sweetness, citrus and cherries were right up front in the nose – couldn’t detect much booze at this point. At this point the cherries are dominating.
Mad Elf also had some very lively carbonation that I didn’t expect to find in a beer that is one year old. And the 11% ABV is still very well hidden.
This beer is starting to impart some of the flavors that I would expect to find in a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, namely the dark fruits and toffee. That being said, the bursts of tart cherries is what made this beer unique. I’d really like to see what happens to this after two years in the cellar but, alas, this was the last bottle. If I were to guess the outcome, I’d like to think the dark fruits and sweet malts would come to the forefront even more with a bit more time in the cellar but there’s no guarantee that would happen. Maybe Karl’s right, maybe this beer does peak at six months.