Recently I have been mulling over a very serious issue, specifically which beer to have with Thanksgiving dinner. Now, this is a nontrivial question. I think a heavy lager like a bock would go great, but these beers are somewhat difficult to drink in quantity, and certain people just don’t like them at all. Wheat beers, on the other hand, are some of the most approachable beers and would complement the meal well, but are looked down upon by many lager drinkers. However, after the requisite research, I believe that I have found the perfect beer for the season: Troegs Mad Elf.
Troegs was founded by the Trogner brothers in late 1996 and sold its first keg of beer July 18, 1997. The original brewery was located in downtown Harrisburg, and unlike a microbrewery in the U.S., it did not have an attached pub. The demand for their beer expanded quickly, and Troegs broke ground on a new 90,000-square-foot facility in Hershey, Pa. This facility is constructed in a rather unique manner with a large, window-lined hallway running through the brewhouse. This allows visitors to take self-guided tours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The new facility also boasts a 5,000-square-foot tasting room, which is available for special events. Personally, it sounds like the perfect place for a wedding reception, although not everyone may share that view.
The particular brew in question, Mad Elf, is an October-December seasonal for Troegs and is a modified Belgian strong dark ale. The beer is brewed with cherries and honey using a Belgian yeast strain plus just enough Saaz and Hallertau hops to fill out the flavor profile. This beer should be served in a chalice or tulip glass, and Troegs suggests serving it at 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much warmer than most commercial beers (coughcoorscough) because the warmer temperature serves to accentuate the aromas and flavors. I would recommend pairing this beer with Thanksgiving dinner or with sharp or blue cheese and red meat. A vegetarian option would be a good vegetarian chili, as this will have a strong-enough flavor to complement the beer.
Mad Elf poured a clear, coppery red color, which faded to a reddish gold at the edge. The head formed a thin layer of very coarse, light cream foam which dissipated quickly but did leave some lacing behind. The aroma was a combination of sweet and tart berry character, with little or no malt, yeast or hop aroma. The carbonation was fairly low, and when combined with the medium body, the mouthfeel just faded into the background. A sour cherry character dominated the taste with some sweetness from the honey and a bit of depth from the chocolate malt backing it up, which faded into a tart finish. All told, this was a surprisingly clean and smooth beer, and I was impressed that there was no medicinal, cough syrup-like flavor at all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this beer, and I recommend giving it a try, especially at a holiday party. The taste is clean enough to not offend someone used to drinking lagers, as long as they like cherry, and is fruity enough that non-beer people will enjoy it.