Total Score: 6.6/10
So it wouldn’t be Christmas if at some point I didn’t at least try reviewing a Christmas-themed beer, which this Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale is. My decision making process rested on finding the most interesting Christmas-themed beer I could without going out of my way. My local had this and the other Ridgeway Christmas beers and the things that really caught my eye were: 7.5% ABV English Pale Ale, using an original 1795 recipe, with a special pale amber malt that is rarely used now, and Fuggles hops. I just really like Fuggles hops, I even like saying it “Excuse me, do you have any Fuggles?” “We need more Fuggles.” “Where’s the Fuggles? No Fuggles!?”… ahhh, Seinfeld references.
Poured from a 500ml bottle into a nonic pint.
A: Classic EPA right here! Clear golden/amber body with a white head like the cliffs of Dover towering over the English channel sea. A good upstanding British ale, enough to make you want to hum “God save the Queen” whilst arranging dollies and lamenting the lack of a formidable English cricket team… “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.
S: It’s a toffee malt and tea Fuggle hop bonanza. Diacetyl, hells yeah! (perfectly acceptable if you’re an English beer) Herbal/floral/tobacco background notes round out a good upstanding British ale, as British as scones at high tea and awkward teeth. Jolly good stuff old chap… “hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm”. 8/10.
T: Then it takes a turn for the “holy Jesus, son of the big guy upstairs” and makes you realise why most English Pale Ales and English Bitters clock in at an odd 4-5% ABV – these flavours at 7.5% (toffee and butterscotch specifically!): they’re all too much. Too much toffee, too much butterscotch, too much herbal/floral/tobacco background notes. It’s a touch “assault on the senses” when it should be more like enjoying a pint whilst humming “God save the Queen” in your local English-themed pub whilst discussing the Brexit. That said the sweet edge dulls slightly as you press on, however it’s not an EPA as I know it. 6/10.
M: Mouthfeel is alright – mid to light (English beers usually are thinner than counterpart nations brews) with a reasonably flat yet prickly carbonation. 7/10.
D: Had a bit of challenge (due to the flavour) to finish this. It’s not a bad beer, just a bit too much with Diacetyl amped up to 11. Makes me want a lighter version of this very same brew, something around 4.4% would nail it I reckon. 6/10.
Food match: Man, got a mad “scones like my nan made them” craving right now.