Rejoice, my friends, for the weekend has finally arrived! These past few days we’ve delved into a world of elfin power and increasing mischief, reaching the pinnacle of the Elf trio with Insanely Bad Elf, an Imperial Red Ale topping out at 11.2% ABV. Not only that, the label shows a straight-jacketed Elf drooling onto a plate of Christmas cookies, so if nothing else, the artwork is just awesome. But, if this Elf has anything in common with its brethren, this bottle should be quite a treat. As always, the only way to find out is to actually drink it, so everyone get comfy in your festively decorated padded cells and join me in starting the weekend out right.
The initial bottle aromas are a bit of a mystery. Rich, bready malts peek up from the opening, a bit shy and subdued. Hints of spicy Belgian yeast make an appearance once again, adding some spice-drop qualities while staying mostly hidden. The faintest notes of apples and bananas also show up here and there, but despite just how complex the aroma appears, it’s all very subdued. What I can smell is lovely – with a Belgian vibe that’s making my mouth water – but I’m not getting any alcoholic strength or even any winter qualities, aside from the yeasty spiciness.
However, the first bottle taste demolishes that aura of mystery. Much like criminally bad elf, huge spicy notes of yeasty bread malts pour out of the bottle and wrap around your tongue like an alcoholic blanket. There are notes of apples, bananas and lemon juice, but they take a back seat to the more savory flavors. Despite that, there is an underlying sweetness that boosts the malty strength and seems to bring out the alcohol strength the front lines. As was the case in Criminally, the alcohol washes over the tongue with a slow, strong burn without leaving any lingering, overly-boozy tangs and flavors. The spirit of a Belgian Dubbel runs through this one, carrying a torch made of pure alcoholic warmth, that’ll get you toasty after just a few drinks. The aftertaste is a mellow malt experience, with notes of spice drops, apples and bananas lingering at the back of the tongue for a while.
Poured out into a tulip glass, the aroma almost explodes right in front of your face. Huge notes of bready malts create a base upon which apples, lemon juice, bananas and spice drops mingle and form a bouquet of power and complexity. Notes of caramel and toffee slide in after, adding a bit of sugary sweetness that compliments the existing sweetness of the bread malts. Ripples of alcoholic strength are visible here and there, creating instances of sinus-clearing potency before slipping back below the other scents. Visually, it pours a reddish-gold, with a bubbly white head.
The post-pour flavors are similar to Criminally Bad Elf, except buffed up and more intense. Big bread malts create the backbone, with the same fruits and spice drop spicing falling into place. Hints of bubble gum and brown sugar add a touch of sweetness from the top, while richer notes of toffee work their way in from the bottom. From the bottle, it flowed over the tongue with a clingy, almost syrupy smoothness. Poured, however, it brings a moderate amount of bubbleage that teams up with the alcohol potency to create a drink that almost burns the tongue as it goes down. Don’t worry, it retains a wonderful drinkability, but you’ll have to take your time. Go too fast, and you’ll end up sharing a windowless white room with the mental elf himself.
The third member of our Elf Series, Insanely Bad Elf continues the theme of increased flavor and power – bringing the heat in a most righteous manner along with flavors that fill your mouth whether you’re ready or not. Big Belgian flavors of malts, spicy yeast, and hints of fruits and caramel mix and mingle like guests at an ugly sweater party – except there’s nothing ugly here. So, like a tasty sweater party. The alcohol shines through in strength only, without adding any overly alcoholic tang to the mix, but don’t let that fool you. You’ll realize just how potent this beer is after a few drinks. As far as price, this bottle wasn’t as big as the other two Elves, and so it was a bit cheaper, but really, for beer this good, forget the price.
For recommendations, you could drink all three Elves on the same night, but by the time you finish Insanely, your basic motor functions would probably be compromised. But, to each their own. Otherwise, drink this one by itself over the course of a snowy winter night, relaxing in front of the fire while the snow piles up outside your window. Bringing the heat and the flavor, and delivering a perfect end to these rowdy elfish bastards, Ridgeway’s Insanely Bad Elf earns a jolly ol’ A.
Lasting Strength: 9.5/10
Overall: 9.7/10 A
Winter Warming Bonus: 10/10