Very Bad Elf English Ale Pretty Much Lives Up to Its Name

I know I’ve beaten this reindeer to death, but I like my holiday brews to taste like “Christmas” to me.  Many of our readers disagree, saying that they can take only so many winter warmers until they get bored and long for holiday seasonals that break the mold a bit.

While I could happily drink beers like Mad Elf and Hibernator all season long, I’ve tried to open myself up to other less malted, honeyed, and cherried tastes during the holiday season.  I’ve been enjoying my hoppy stash of Lagunitas Sucks, and have begun to see that every holiday release doesn’t have to confine itself to a certain set of flavors, it just has to be special or interesting. 

I can say with confidence that Shelton Brothers Very Bad Elf  is neither of these.  It’s basically a 7.5% ABV bitter English ale with an elf on the label.  Not only does it not taste like Christmas, it doesn’t taste like anything special. In fact, by American standards, it’s quite ordinary.

The pour is very clear amber with an average head on top.  The nose presents a promise of a malty backbone laced with citrus notes.  The flavor delivers what the nose projects, with bready notes of grain and caramel giving way to a sharply bitter yet approachable herbal hop finish.  This isn’t a sweet IPA, more of an ESB cranked up to 11.

The recipe from this beer dates back to the late 1700’s and It uses a very old strain of Fuggles hops which date back to the mid-1800. I’m sure it was quite the wild child two hundred years ago, but by today’s standards it’s rather average.

All in all this is a nice beer, but nothing to put on your Christmas list.  If this were an Elf, it would be one lacking the Christmas spirit, which is a very bad elf indeed.




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Categories: Beer, review


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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17 Comments on “Very Bad Elf English Ale Pretty Much Lives Up to Its Name”

  1. December 16, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    Isn’t this the beer company that releases a bunch of different Christmas stuff like one call Santa’s Butt? I’ve seen a bunch of these around and been wondering if they were any good, but there has been no real buzz about them, and I haven’t wanted to spend the money on a gamble like this one.

    • December 16, 2011 at 11:10 am #

      I think you’re right. I see them all the time. I tried something called “Lump of Coal” last year and it was just a weak English porter or something equally unimpressive. Pretty forgettable. Haven’t see the Santa’s Butt yet, but I’ll probably steer clear if I do.

      • December 16, 2011 at 11:36 am #

        BTW, the Brewery is actually Ridgeway. Shelton Brothers is the importer.

        • Rob
          December 16, 2011 at 11:56 am #

          Ridgeway makes an English Bitter that’s a very nice example of the style. Quite sessionable too at 4.0%. I thoroughly enjoy the standard bitter style though, so YMMV.

        • December 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

          This wasn’t a bad beer, it just wasn’t anything “wow” or particularly seasonal. I bet their stuff would be awesome in a real pub.

        • December 16, 2011 at 11:57 am #

          I actually had Ridgeway in the headline but took it out to make it pithier. Shelton Brothers is more prominent on the label, so I figured that’s what people would see most.

    • December 16, 2011 at 11:58 am #

      Yup. I had lump of coal and enjoyed it (at least it was a dark beer!) but I tend to stay away from all of this stuff because it seems so gimmicky.

      I picked this one up with the intention of doing and “Elf Wrestling” post, where I pitted it against Mad Elf, but the beer was such a dud I didn’t bother.

      • December 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

        I think I would have enjoyed an elf wrestling match. There has to be someway to still have one!

        • December 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

          Maybe I’m thinking it through the wrong way. Maybe it should be Mad Elf fueled wresting. I just need to pick up some baby oil, which is a key ingredient. 😉

  2. John
    December 16, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Jim is an Elf Hater. There, I said it first

    • December 16, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      Not true – I love Mad Elf – it’s my go-to holiday beer. But I do hate THIS elf, so you got THAT part right!

  3. December 16, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    I am going to respectfully disagree. I am sorry but I don’t appreciate spiced beers and I cannot even tolerate any of the Bad Elf beers.
    This season my favorite winter beers are Ska’s Euphoria and Goose Islands Mild Winter.

    • December 16, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      You tell ’em sister!

      • December 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

        Now, now!

    • December 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

      I’m not sure how that’s in disagreement with what I wrote above (it’s not spiced and I didn’t think it was a good holiday choice) but I’m excited you’re doing so respectfully!

  4. Jeff
    December 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

    I just bought a bottle of the Lump of Coal for a Yankee swap at work…and half a case of Dark Intrigue for my girl and I…LoC was bought strictly for its name and label…DI is going in the cellar.

    • December 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      Don sent me a Lump of Coal a couple of years ago, probably figuring it’s what I deserved. He was right – it was pretty tasty. I deserve only the best!

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