Day 4 brings Dark Horse 4 Elf. This is the first beer in the “winter warmer” category of the 12 Beers for the New Year I have reviewed. Winter warmer beers tend to be characterized by big malt presence, low hops, and alcohol warmth.
4 Elf hails from Marshall, Michigan and weighs in at 8.75% ABV. Marshall is just east of Battle Creek Michigan. Historically, 4 Elf was only released at the brewery for the Dark Horse 4 Elf party. Now the beer is released to the masses in addition to being available at the party. This year, the 4 Elf party took place on December 12th. I picked up a 12 oz. bottle at Premiere Gourmet on Maple Road.
Another event at the Dark Horse brewery is the annual Mug Sale. This year, the event took place on December 19th. Dark Horse Brewing Company currently stocks over 4100 mugs in its tap room. The cost of a mug is $60, and you must wait in line “Black Friday style” to get a shot at possessing one of these coveted containers. The mug holds about 6-7 more ounces of beer, but only costs $0.25 more to fill. Once you get 6 fills, your next fill is only $0.50.
There is quite an extensive mug club rulebook, but perhaps my favorite quote states:
UNFORTUNATELY, MUGS ARE SOMEWHAT FRAGILE AND THEY DO GET BROKEN. IF YOUR MUG IS BROKEN BY ANYONE, WE WILL ATTEMPT TO FIX IT BEFORE REPLACING IT. IT MAY BE A LITTLE “FRANKENSTEIN-ESQUE”, AND LESS BEAUTIFUL THAN BEFORE, BUT IF THE VESSEL HOLDS LIQUID, IT STAYS IN BATTLE.
A “Frankenstein-esque” mug doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, does it? Adds a little character, I suppose. Here is a picture of my Dark Horse 4 Elf:
Dark Horse Brewing Company: 4 Elf
Style: Winter Warmer
Rating: #25 in style at Beeradvocate.com
Here is a video of two Dark Horse employees tasting 4 Elf:
This beer is definitely an all-pupose holiday ale, combining Thanksgiving and Christmas spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, vanilla, and pumpkin dominate the flavor. The cinnamon and clove provide a nice shield for the malt. The color of 4 Elf is a dark roasted brown with amber highlights when held up to the light. The malts are strong enough to stand up to the spices.
One spice brewers always need to be careful with is clove. Clove can easily dominate a beer to the point of “that’s too much “. This beer rides the edge of that clove concentration, but has enough other interesting spices to round it out. The clove, other spices, and malt do a good job of doing is masking the 8.75% ABV. And keeping with winter warmer style, this beer is warming and has a bit of an alcohol tinge.