It’s Humpday, everyone! We can finally see Friday glowing in a pool of weekend light. And to finish the week out strong, I have a series of three beers that’ll send us into the weekend in full festive mode, and keep the fire going through these frigid nights (hopefully). The three beers in question are Ridgeway Brewing’s Elves, and tonight’s particular Elf is Bad Elf, a golden ale with a bunch of hops thrown in. Tomorrow and Friday will feature Criminally Bad Elf and Insanely Bad Elf respectively, but we’re just going to take things slow today (or as slow as this Elf will allow). Brace yourselves everyone, it’s time for a bit of Elfin magic.
The initial aroma is a massive pilsner bloom of floral hops and mild, biscuity malts. As that fades, the malts shift into a deeper bread vibe, drizzled with honey, and sporting some fruity hints of apples and pears. There’s a touch of grass clippings at the back of each breath, adding a bit of earthy freshness without forcing itself into the bouquet. Some spicy hop notes show up around the sides, mellow and hiding any true hop aromas from the nose. There aren’t any holiday or winter spices that I can detect, but that doesn’t matter too much because it smells downright delicious.
The first taste is even more complex than the aroma. It starts out like a Belgian Golden Ale. Mouth-filling bread malts show up with a distinct taste of spicy Belgian yeast, along with hints of apple, straw and pears. However, a massive helping of hops changes things up near the beginning. A back-of-the-tongue bitterness shows up first, followed by a floral spiciness. As it mingles with the yeasty malts, it creates spice notes similar to a spice drop candy. There aren’t any pine or tropical fruit notes of bitterness, just an essence of hop that chills out at the back of the mouth. The malts remain the dominant flavor, flowing rich and bready over the tongue. The aftertaste is a toasty, sweet bread flavor, laced with subtle fruits and lingering bitter notes.
Poured out into a chalice, the aromas subdue quite a bit. A pilsner backbone starts things off, with mild aromatic hops and underlying bread malts working in harmony with each other. Next, notes of ultra-mild apples and pears mingle with some drops of honey and hints of flowers to add an air of sweetness to the aroma. Visually, it pours a mildly burnt gold, under a super-fluffy white head that clings to the glass.
The post-pour flavors are much like they were from the bottle, except they’re fuller and a bit more potent. the bread malts fill the entire mouth from the beginning, followed by notes of apples, pears, and a touch of lemon juice. Spice drop spicing shows up next as the hops arrive and bring out the yeast. East taste flows smooth and stays nicely drinkable from start to finish, ending with a mouthful of bread, honey and a mild hoppy bitterness.
This Elf may be bad in name, but in flavor he’s wonderful. Building on a strong Belgian base, big bread malts and spicy yeast combine with floral and spicy hops to create a multi-layered beer that’s as tasty as it is complex. It’s not super strong in the alcohol category, but its spice drop spiciness gives it a bit of a holiday vibe. A bit pricey compared to other seasonal crafts, the complex flavors of pilsner, hops, and golden style ales create a brew that’ll deliver your money’s worth every time.
I recommend this beer as a slow drink over a later, chilly afternoon. It’s not quite strong enough to battle those super frigid nights, but it’ll definitely get the party started before you break out the potent brews. Ridgeway’s Bad Elf delivers in a big way, earning a mother elfin’ A.
Overall: 9.3/10 A
Winter Warming Bonus: 6/10