Troegs Brewing Co – Mad Elf Ale

This is a beer I have somewhat wondered about for a little while now.  I had heard of it, but I never really went in search of it.  So, when I saw it at the store the other day, I decided to pick up a small 12 0z bottle to give it a try.  There were a few reasons I didn’t think I’d like it.  It’s brewed with cherry and honey.  Those two factors don’t normally have me running to the shelves for something.  However, it is over 11% abv; therefore, it intrigues me.  After purchasing the bottle, I put it in the fridge thinking I’d give it in a couple of weeks. However, the post of a fellow blogger had me thinking I’d better try it earlier to see if I liked it.  If you take a look at the post I linked to, stockpiling cases of the stuff has to mean I’m missing out on something.  Therefore, if I ended up loving it too, I would have the time to build up my stocks a little.

I’m actually pretty excited about the upcoming winter season for beer.  I started this blog last April, and I haven’t gone through the winter season really looking hard at the different types of seasonal brews that are released.  I actually believe this could be my favorite season for beers.  Even over the summer, I really enjoy consuming beers that are of a darker and more full-bodied nature.  Therefore, I didn’t end up drinking too many pilsners, wheats, or Hefes.  I will definitely go with anything that has hops, but really, bring on some browns, porters, or stouts.  So I have this beer kicking off the winter/holiday season for beers.

I find Mad Elf to be a really intriguing type of beer.   A lot of times breweries will produce a beer like this as a one off experiment; however, this is actually a yearly release, and people actually look forward to it quite a bit.  This beer is interesting because it is brewed with honey, cherries, and chocolate malts.  I have had beers that have these individual ingredients in them; however, I have never had one that took a shot at all three.  Really, my research only had me even more interested in tasting this one.

The color of this one wasn’t really all that surprising.  I feel like this beer kind of gets promoted at a candy beer, and it has a deep red candy color to it.  There is very little head development on the pour; however, there is some light white foam that ends up lining the beer close to the glass.  Swirling the glass results in some rather plentiful lacing that manages to last for a little while.  Holding the beer up to the light, there is some obvious hazy quality to this beer, but you can see the visible carbonation in it as well.

The cherry is very prevalent on the smell.  For some reason, this is the second cherry beer I’ve had this week.  Stay tuned for the other one at the start of next week.  This one, however, actually has a slightly lighter cherry smell to it.  The cherry seems to combine with the sweet honey odor to produce a rather sweet aroma here.  I feel like I get a little bit of a deja vu feeling here with the smell as well.  I think it has an almost citrusy Belgian quality to it as well.  There is a little bit of a spicy scent that comes out here as well.  I can’t tell if that is the hops or something else.

This beer starts with a definite sweet quality to it.  Although this is exactly what I was expecting, this opening does worry me a little.  I just tend to not enjoy beers that are too sweet.  I have to expect that the sweetening agent here would have to be the honey.  The cherry flavor comes in strong following that initial sweetness.  However, the cherry doesn’t have long before a very interesting quality arises.  There is a strong spicy, almost clove, flavor that dominates close to the end.  Really curious why that flavor is there, I looked at the neck of the bottle and found that they use a spicy yeast in this recipe.  I’m at a loss as to whether I’ve ever really had this type of yeast before, but for me, this could be the saving grace of this beer.  It now has me thinking of some type of clove based warm apple cider.  The spicy factor clams down for the finish, and the strong cherry flavor makes a comeback.

The mouthfeel here works out well.  At first, based off the ingredients, I really worried it would be a little syrupy; however, there is enough carbonation here to counteract that syrupy quality.  I definitely like the high carbonation, and I think that, aside from the spicy clove flavor, it could have been the saving grace of this beer.  Had the beer been too syrupy, I know I would not have enjoyed it.  Personally, I like the way the cherry comes back in the aftertaste following the little kick of spice.

I feel I may have made a bit of a mistake in consuming this beer.  I drank it while it was very cold, and I have a feeling the taste would have benefited from a little bit of warming.  This beer confuses me a little.  I want to say I either liked it or hated it, but I feel like I’m middle of the road right now.  Therefore, I’ll most likely revisit this one.  Hopefully when I visit the store this week there will be a few more bottles.

Teacher Grade: C+ (but subject to change)




  1. Glad I inspired you to crack ‘er open! I usually drink these straight from the garage, which is about 62 degrees these days. They warms allows the earthier qualities of the beer the come into play and balance out the sweetness.

    • You definitely were the inspiration to get this one open, and I will get another bottle for sure. But, I know I won’t be stockpiling this one. However, I think on the second time through I’ll like it more.

  2. One of my favorite beers. I just picked up a six-pack on Tuesday. But, it definitely does benefit from a little warming as opposed to straight out of the fridge.

  3. Ouch. C+. I happened upon this stuff last year on tap, and was excited to pick some up this year. I was not as excited after the first one this year, but I still like it quite a bit. I think the Haybag might be in your camp, though; and since I am married, and she is a beer drinker, this will affect the number of Mad Elves placed in service this year. 🙂

    • Well I am questioning if it had to do somewhat with the temperature I had it at. Now it is definitely not moving up to an A, but I think at the proper temp it could be more like a B

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