Saturday, December 7, 2013

Troeg’s Mad Elf Ale (9/10)

One of my favorite beers of the Christmas season is Troeg’s Mad Elf.  Mad Elf is an ale brewed with Pennsylvania honey and both sweet and sour cherries.  At 11% alcohol by volume, it also packs a bit of a punch.  It comes from Troeg’s Brewing Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The beer pours a deep reddish brown that’s also transparent.

The head is a finger-thick off-white soft-drink-like affair that dissipates within seconds.

The aroma is very clearly that of cherries and honey, with a hint of malt underneath.

The flavor is where Mad Elf shines for me.  While I like cherry flavors well enough, I’m not someone who seeks them out in desserts or candies.  I’m far more likely to get something orange flavored, chocolate, or grape flavored than cherry.  In spite of that, what really draws me in with this beer is that sweet cherry aroma and flavor.  At 15 IBUs, this is a beer that’s about flavors other than hops bitterness.  (Yes, hops makes an appearance in the form of Hallertau and Saaz varieties, but it’s no more than a bit part.)

Compared with Scaldis Noel, which has a 12% alcohol content and a strong warming presence, Mad Elf with its 11% alcohol content hides that alcohol pretty well.  Yes, there’s a warming note, but it’s the difference between the subtle tap on a cymbal and a whack on a bass drum.  Mad Elf’s 11% is the cymbal.

I’m pretty much in alignment with the Beer Advocate crowd on this one.  Beer Advocate gives Mad Elf an 85-87/100 or “very good” rating, which matches with my 9/10.  RateBeer likes it a little bit better, giving it 93/100.

I’ve seen Mad Elf at most Columbus area craft beer retailers.  I’ve seen it at The Hills Market Worthington, Ale Wine & Spirits of Powell, Kenny Road Market, and many others.  It’s available from mid-October through December (but I’ve seen it as late as April in some retailers).

Flavor Profile:

Malty, Hoppy, or Balanced:  Malty

Sweet, Bitter, or Balanced:  Moderately sweet

Strongest Flavor Notes:  Cherries, honey

ABV:  11%
IBU:  15
My Rating: 8/10

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