1. Troegs Mad Elf
Style: Belgian dark strong
How does the best holiday gift stand out from the rest? By being the boldest, most colorful and most cheerful item under the tree.
Every year, without fail, Mad Elf is just that gift. Its swirly cartoon-elf label hides a ruby red brew that sits like a holiday wine and sparkles like Rudolph's nose when poured.
Its flavor, however, doesn't pander to holiday convention and combines the best elements of Belgian and German styles to do Pennsylvania's traditional and craft-brewing communities proud. The Saaz and Hallerstrau hops are bold without delivering an IPA-style bite while the pilsner, munich and chocolate malts provide the smoothness of a stout or dark bock.The core of its sweet, strong taste comes from a mix of honey and cherries that coats the tastebuds like holiday candy but stops just short of being syrupy. At 11% ABV, Mad Elf has Santa-sized kick, but slow sips of it at the holiday table or on a wrapping-paper-strewn sofa are like drinking from the North Pole's municipal water system. It's the closest the brewing world gets to bottling holiday spirit. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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