Ridgeway Criminally Bad Elf (11.2 fl ozbottle10.5% ABV)

Ridgeway’s ‘Elf’ series of beers have become something of a Christmas institution. The range now consists of seven brews in various different styles, including this 10.5% kick to the baubles. Criminally Bad Elf is a barley wine, so called because it’s basically a wine strength beverage, but with the warmth of malted barley rather than the tartness of fermented grape.

Strangely, this one seems destined for the American market, what with its volume in fluid ounces and its government alcohol warning that seems designed to ruin any hint of festive good cheer.

This Elf stinks of booze and caramelised sugar. That’s no way to get Santa’s sacks packed!

It’s not a beer for hopheads. In fact, there’s almost no discernable hop character, making me suspect the hops are only there to prevent the malt from being too sweet. But malt there is aplenty, bringing intense flavours of toffee and caramel to soften the onslaught of all that alcohol. It’s heavy, syrupy and smooth. You almost have to chew your way through it.

The aftertaste is yet more delicious malt and throbbing booze and the vague feeling that there suddenly aren’t enough shopping days left before Christmas and you really should be doing something about it.

If the elves are on this stuff, it’s pretty much certain your stocking’s going to be empty this year.

Written by Richard Salsbury

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