While I may not be in PA anymore, that didn’t stop me from enjoying on of my favorite seasonal beers, Mad Elf. Made Elf is made by Tröegs Brewing Company in Harrisburg, PA. They only make it for two months of the year and it can even be tough to find when it is in production. Mad Elf is classified as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale and it is brewed with honey and cherries. It also rocks in at 11%, so that wonderful warming feeling is sure to help on a cold winter night. And if you noticed, or care, winter officially beings today, so our winter seasonals will be coming in on the site.
The beer pours a nice clear ruby color, with a thin head that fades pretty quickly. The head is fully white, with no off colors and is made of mostly tiny bubbles, with a few medium ones mixed in. The nose of the beer is decidedly Belgian. It smells a lot like a Tripel, with everything you would expect out of a Belgian Ale yeast. I did not pick up much of the honey notes from the nose, but the cherry component comes through very nicely. There is some malt in there is well, but minimal hops.
The taste is complex and rich. The Belgian yeast flavors are in there, and so are the cherries. The cherries are not as strong as the nose might suggest. The honey comes through a bit more in the taste. I can really only describe the flavor as rich and creamy. It finishes dry with a wonderful aftertaste. The esters from the yeast and a bit of the hop leave the pallet pleased. As the beer warms it gives way to some heat (alcohol), though you would never suspect that this beer is coming in at 11%.
Mad Elf is carbonated nicely and has a nice and full mouthfeel. I really enjoy this beer and it reminds me of home. I know last year at this time I enjoy more than my fair share of it to the point that the guy at the beer store would have me ready to check out before I even picked out my beer. Rarely do I do a repeat case of beer, but with seasonal beers I take a “get as much as I can” approach. I know some people will by two cases a year; one to drink and one to let sit for a year.
I have never had this beer when it was aged, but in general I am not a fan of aging beers. I feel like you get a fresher flavor and more accurate taste the newer a beer is. The one exception is when there are a lot of hot notes, as they tend to fade with age. Getting back on track, Mad Elf is a nice winter seasonal that will warm you. The 11% sneaks up on you and can throw you for a loop if you are not careful. But if you enjoy a Belgian beer with a more complex grouping of flavors, enjoy. It is going to be more sweet than a normal Belgian and also not as spicy, but a great balance overall. (more…)