This is one of the oddest series of beers I think I've come across from one of the oddest breweries. Ridgeway seem to release this series of Elf based beers with full label back story every year and, as last year proved with two entries on the Advent Calendar, to very good effect. Yet they still remain a brewery with no official website or social media presence that I can find. I rather like that fact though. What little I have found about them is listed here explaining how they were founded ten years ago by a former Brakspear head brewer and like to specialise in bottles, though this doesn't explain why they are still so reluctant and shy about adding their name to the said bottles.
Whilst drinking this particular bottle I randomly recalled that this series of beers was introduced to me by an assistant at Beer Ritz in Leeds in 2011. I wasn't getting to the shop frequently at the time but, now I think about it, this assistant was probably Ghost Drinker. It was before I really used Twitter or the internet for beer purposes I suppose so wouldn't have recognised this meeting and it was odd I remembered this. I can't remember which one of the Bad Elf series I bought that day, only that I enjoyed it, though I have a feeling it was possibly this one.
"And so Happy Christmas
We hope you had fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young"
Criminally Bad Elf 10.5% is a Barleywine Style Ale in the very traditional sense. I feel I've rather been spoilt by the hoppier, American Barley Wines in recent months as my palate took a while to adjust to this particular style. Sitting amber in my glass with decent carbonation this beer is all about sticky toffee and caramel warming malts burning through your innards with a silky, yet fiendish sting. The apple juice tartness and quiet leafy hoppingis domineered by an aggressive sweet fudge that doesn't mask it's strength at times. It's a sipper and a savourer yet not unpleasant. Warming in that Ebenezer Scrooge, high back, fireside chair style, it's a wonder we don't see more Barley Wines at Christmas. However, in the interest of this holly themed Calendar in it's mistletoe shadow, this is not a Christmas beer. I enjoyed it though
Purchased at Beer Ritz, September 2013