Mad Elf has been a wild ride from the very first batch.
Back in the fall of 2002 — in the days when our founding brothers Chris and John were busy brewing, cleaning, bartending, giving tours on weekends, and in between all that making sales calls up and down central Pennsylvania – they hatched a plan to have a little holiday fun.
They decided to brew a big, bold Belgian-style ale made with cherries and honey. Loads of cherries and loads of honey. They were all in on this beer, but one question came up: They figured they needed about 300 pounds of honey. Just where do you get that much honey?
At that point in their lives, their experience with honey had been limited to those little bears you get at the grocery store. Three hundred pounds, in the words of John, seemed like a “sh*t ton.”
Well, as luck would have it, they found a guy in Carlisle, PA, only 30 miles from the brewery, who calls himself The Happy Beekeeper. The Happy Beekeeper not only keeps bees himself, but he sources from other small Pennsylvania beekeepers. He got the 300 pounds for the very first batch of Mad Elf. And maybe more importantly, Chris and John got an education in honey.
While visiting home-brew shops and beekeepers and researching honey in central Pennsylvania, the brothers realized how much time and effort went into every pound. “It was mesmerizing and astonishing,” says to John.
They also got to taste different honeys: clover honey, wildflower honey, locust honey. And they were able to first-hand discover that the sweet, floral wildflower honey helped brighten the sweet and sour cherries and the Belgian strong ale base.
Of course, our priority is buying the best ingredients in the world. A lot of times that means Germany or England or the Pacific Northwest. But we’re lucky, because sometimes we can find the very best ingredients right here in central Pennsylvania. Today, we still buy all of our honey for Mad Elf from The Happy Beekeeper, and that 300-pound order has increased to 25,000 pounds a year. Happy beekeeper, indeed.
But honey isn’t the only ingredient that makes Mad Elf special. Five varieties of tree-ripened cherries help ring in the celebration. Bing, Lambert, Van, and Royal Ann contribute a bright and juicy sweetness, while Montmorency adds a touch of tartness. The combination of honey and cherries – paired with chocolate malt and a spicy Belgian yeast strain – make Mad Elf taste like the holidays is a glass. We taste: cherries, local honey, chocolate malt and subtle spices.
For many beer drinkers, the holidays don’t truly start until they’ve had their first Mad Elf, and we think Tröegs has a place on every table this season. Use our Brew Finder to snag this holiday icon in 12-oz. bottle and cans everywhere our beer is available. And look for Mad Elf on draft at your favorite tap room, bar or restaurant in mid-November.
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