It seems only fitting that I start this year’s list with what was, honestly and truly, my first winter beer: Tröegs Mad Elf. My first memory of it is one of tracking down this elusive beer, stalking it at Market Cross. It became something of a quest, I remember, although I think more because it was anxiously anticipated than because it was actually hard to find. We first heard about it on our brewery tour for my friend Sam’s 21st, when we got to smell Mad Elf during two parts of the brewing process, before and after adding the cherries. Either way, we managed to get our hands on some of it, and it was love at first taste. Chris and I attended the Mad Elf party at Blue Dust when they tapped the first batch of it. (We were at the Mad Elf release party on a Friday. It was the weekend of the school play, so I had a show on Thursday and another one on Saturday and Sunday, and this was my only night free. And we went to Blue Dust instead of seeing Harry Potter on opening night. That’s dedication, folks.) As Chris pointed out last weekend at Sharp Edge, where he enjoyed yet another glass of it, it’s become something of a tradition now. It’s a marker of the holidays. And it tastes a little like Christmas.
Besides for tasting like Christmas, which is a pretty vague way to describe something, it also tastes primarily of cherries with some subtle spices. The cherry is obviously a real-cherry flavor, not an overly-sweet imitation, and the spices take a backseat here. The beer has a nice sweetness to it, though not cloyingly so, and a beautiful deep red color. There’s a hint of alcohol in there–not surprising, because it clocks in at 11%–but I don’t find it to be overpowering in the taste or aroma. It’s just an expertly balanced beer.
Definitely at the top of my list so far, though admittedly, my tasting of it was tinged with the glow of nostalgia! I just got myself a six-pack from Dee’s last night, so I’m ready to continue on with my holiday beer explorations. Beer #2 will be coming up soon!