It’s night two of our Elf Beer series. Yesterday, we allowed the Bad Elf to delight our tongues with a hoppy, golden ale tastiness that set the stage for great beers to come. Tonight, we move on to Bad Elf’s older brother – Criminally Bad Elf, a 10.5% ABV Barley Wine who presumably found himself in jail for beheading a reindeer (probably). I’m sure this one is going to bring the heat needed to keep us warm at night, but how will the flavors fare? Let’s find out.
This aroma starts out with a massive malty punch, laced with sweet honey notes and an alcoholic oomph that provides a tang just under the surface. Hints of apples, plums and cherries add a fruity freshness. The fruits lend the alcohol some strength and create a powerful aroma of warmth that cuts through the winter chill like a roaring fire. Unlike Bad Elf, there aren’t any hints of spice at all – winter spice or hop spice. But, I can already tell this is well beyond Winter Warmer levels just from the aroma.
The first taste is malty and potent, with an alcoholic burn showing up at the beginning and lingering throughout the entire drink. Strong spicy yeast flavors combine with notes of apples and lemon juice to create a mouth-filling flavor of freshness. At the back end, hints of banana keep the fruit freshness going strong, while potent bread malts stay huge from start to finish. on the tongue, it flows thick and heavy, clinging with a flavorful tingle. The alcohol is partially masked, but it shines through strong more often than not. despite that, the flavors stay nice and balanced. The aftertaste ends fairly quickly, dissolving from the tongue after just a few moments.
The post-pour aromas are huge, creating a fruity bloom of apples, lemon juice, and bananas that splash across a bed of rich, bready malts. A big alcohol tang reaches up and caresses your face. Hints of toffee and sweet caramel finish out the aroma, ending remarkably similar to a Belgian Dubbel, which automatically makes it a winner in my book. Visually, it pours a rich, burnt pumpking under a fluffy white head.
The post-pour flavors pull back on the fruits a bit – choosing to boost the malts and alcoholic kick. Flowing thick and smooth over the tongue, potent bread malts mingle with super mild hints of apples and bananas, as well as a tiny pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a drop of vanilla to create a massive flavor explosion within your mouth. The touch of spicing gives it a nice winter vibe, and the huge, tongue-burning alcohol strength creates a warmth that spreads over you from the get-go, keeping you toasty enough to do midnight snow angels in just your nighty. The aftertaste lasts a bit longer than from the bottle, with big bread malts mixing with mild fruits in a tongue-clinging mellowness.
To me, this beer is the perfect drink for those cold winter nights. Huge flavors of savory bread and sweet fruits, and a potent wave of alcohol that’ll either warm you up, or make you not care about the cold anymore. Every flavors works with each other better than a flash mob, and leaves you sad that the bottle is empty. Like Bad Elf, it’s a bit pricier than other seasonal craft beers, but this is tasty enough to warrant buying three or twelve.
I recommend this beer as a follow up to Bad Elf. Once you finish the first one, move onto this to ensure proper heat retention. There’s an underlying sweetness to the beer, so it would pair nice with some non fruit desserts, and really just about anything you can think of. Earning the glorious title of Most Tasty Convict, Ridgeway’s Criminally Bad Elf earns an A.
Lasting Strength: 9/10
Overall: 9.5/10 A
Winter Warming Bonus: 10/10