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.