Beer geek 101: Winter is the time for big beer. The extra alcohol will warm the cockles of your heart - and your cheeks, too. In my mind, there’s a reason Santa has rosy cheeks: he stopped in Belgium on his way to your house. And now, in January, I’m drinking my way through the holiday leftovers. So currently, while the wind whistles outside my window, I’m sipping on a Troegs Mad Elf. A three year old Mad Elf.
I look forward to Mad Elf every year. It’s sweet, spicy, and just generally beautiful. Seasonal beers are usually pretty fun, especially in the winter. Everything in the winter is flavorful, malty, on the darker side. Winter beers just put hair on your chest, so to speak. Porters (like Founders), Scotch Ales (like Old Chub), Chocolate Stouts (oh, Black Chocolate Stout, how I love thee), these are my winter friends. If you want to put a snowy smile on your face, any of those will do the job quite nicely.
But, back to Mad Elf. It’s an unabashedly big beer, ringing in at 11%, so proceed with caution. But it’s always sweet and spicy, and it tastes like Christmas. I put up four bottles three years ago mainly as an experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I let it age for a while. So now, I’m dusting off a bottle cracking it for you fine people.
It’s aroma, which is always a bit alcohol forward, is a bit stale. But, after it breathes for a while, it settles down. The spiciness of the yeast definitely mellows with age, so the whole thing is even sweeter than when it’s new.
It’s color is a nice, deep amber cut with red. This is probably a feature of the cherries. Speaking of the cherries, you can definitely taste them, whenever you drink this beer. But, after the aging, they’ve settled back into the maltiness just a bit, and it’s really very nice.
The flavor is pretty much unassailable. It’s rich and fruity with a malty base to balance it out. The alcohol is not nearly as strong a flavor as you would expect, but it still tastes strong. It’s nearly impossible to not be jolly - yes, jolly - while imbibing this beverage. See for yourself if you doubt me.
Long story short, this beer is always delicious, provided you have a place to stay for a while. And aging it alters it, slightly, in some nice ways. Would I age it again? I don’t know. It’s pretty damned good when it’s new, so why not just enjoy it right now?
Now, pardon me while I polish this off.