Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tröegs The Mad Elf Ale

The second installment of my Christmas-themed beer reviews, this time we stay stateside (and fairly close) with a Troegs beer. It's been almost two years since I reviewed one of their beers (I think). The Mad Elf Ale is one I always see getting a lot of attention around Christmas time and since I've never had it before I figured the time was right to review this American take on a traditional Belgian noel beer.

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (590) - Albany, New York, USA - DEC 14, 2011
I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass.

Appearance: Beautiful shade of burnt umber/cherry red; crystal-clear; forms a small head initially, but it fades away quickly.

Smell: The Belgian yeast imparts familiar esters of fruit and spice. The cherries are quite aromatic, but not overpowering. A flowery fragrance as well.

Taste: American beer nerds tend to rate big beers quite highly, but I’m not afraid to say the emperor has no clothes. Not that Troegs Mad Elf Ale is a bad beer, but just because it’s big and uses Belgian yeast doesn’t make it great in my book. Great beers taste great, but this beer only tastes good, and that’s how I’ll rate it.

It begins with a strong dose of confectionery sweetness and slightly earthy fruitiness. Maraschino cherries, honey, toffee, and a general bready maltiness make up the entire first half of the palate. There’s a touch of bitterness through the middle, but for a very brief moment. Then the palate transitions completely to its Belgian side with the spicy Belgian yeast dancing across the tongue. It’s not so much spicy as it is boozy, though. Instead of cinnamon or nutmeg I get rum. Alcohol definitely makes itself known and imparts a dry warmth and a sense of energy. It finishes with banana and clove notes, making for a slightly dry, slightly sticky aftertaste and sensation. The authentic fruit notes are quite pleasant due to their authenticity, but the combination of fruits, syrupy sweetness, and Belgian qualities doesn’t automatically equal amazing deliciousness.

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with a sense of energy and weight in the mouth. Not as effervescent as most Belgian beers, but not exactly tepid, either.

Drinkability: For a big beer with a lot of flavor, Troegs Mad Elf Ale is quite drinkable. The spices and alcohol light up the tongue, but do not tear it up. It’s quite smooth going down, although there is significant heat in the throat which isn’t surprising considering this is an 11% ABV beer. Afterwards I don’t feel full or light-headed, but content. Probably a good choice to pair with cherry cheesecake, but works quite well as a nightcap.
Grade: 7/10

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