Multiple Beer Review: Scratch 394, Scratch 395, Scratch 396, and Mad Elf (Troegs Independent Brewing)

Multiple Beer Review: Scratch 394, Scratch 395, Scratch 396, and Mad Elf (Troegs Independent Brewing)

My flight of beers from Troegs on Thanksgiving Eve – Scratch 394, Scratch 395, Scratch 396, and Mad Elf.

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
And all of Troegs was all-a-bustle,
So loud was the taproom,
That nobody even heard The Great Turkey,
There were friends and families commingling,
There was new friends and old friends all meeting,
For it was the night before Thanksgiving,
When The Great Turkey appears,
And all who are grateful hold each other so dear,
The day before the consumerism takes over for Black Friday,
And thousands of ‘craft beer seekers’ go running for Goose Island Beers,
But on this day, at this time, it was the night before Thanksgiving,
And with a mighty big cheer, one and all shouted:


So, after working a very stressful day on Wednesday, and before going home, I stopped at Troegs where normally I would pick up essentials for Thanksgiving (ie. the cranberry porter scratch beer); but alas, this year there was no cranberry scratch beer made, so I contented myself with ordering a flight, enjoying it, and then going home and running some errands with my daughters.

Unfortunately given my job, I don’t get ‘extra days off’ or even get holidays off unless they fall on my natural days off – and my natural days off are Thursday and Friday. So at least, each year, I have one holiday off – Thanksgiving. And as I said in the previous blog post – my review of Azathoth – my plans were the in-laws followed up by my sister’s.

But on this Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, it was me time, and it was Troegs time. So I ordered a flight – Scratch #394 Mango Tangerine Lime Tart Ale, Scratch #395 Pineapple Passionfruit Guava Cherry Tart Ale, Scratch #396 Dry Hopped Pale Ale, and Mad Elf.

I’m only going to go over Mad Elf lightly, as I may/may not do a full review on Mad Elf. The thing about Mad Elf is that its the staple and the one that put Troegs on the map. While Nugget Nectar and Nimble Giant might be their best beers, its really Mad Elf that got Troegs known, and what everyone really knows them for, and why people flock to the brewery in Fall/Winter. So, on one hand I want to review it because its so popular, and well known, and on the other, thats precisely why I don’t want to review it. I tend to stay away from doing the staples, the beers that have been made for 15+ years, the beers that are the flagship ultra-known beers. But, I think there is a place for these beers to be reviewed as well, so I’m going to be flipping a coin about a hundred times in the next few days to decide if I should do it.

Scratch 394 – Mango Tangerine Lime Tart Ale – by Troegs Brewing

Beer: Scratch 394 – Mango Tangerine Lime Tart Ale
Brewery: Troegs Independent Brewing
Style: Fruit Beer
ABV: 5.6%
IBU: None
Untappd Write-Up: We’re aiming to add a fourth beer to our Tart & Fruit Series sometime down the road, so we’ve been testing new fruit combinations on our Scratch system. For this week’s release, we’re betting on sweet and juicy mangoes. Tangerine adds depth to the fruit profile, a hint of lime adds a citrusy kick, and a dash of sea salt amplifies the refreshing flavors. We taste: ripe mango, sweet citrus, hint of lime.

Appearance is light, shiny, see-through translucent, sour (non-smoothie sour) looking, clear, and crisp. It has the light yellow straw coloring. A thin head. Nice bubbles.

Aroma is fruity through and through. You get instant notes of mango and tangerine. You can a subtle hint of lime, and some citrus. But upfront its all mango and tangerine. It has an overall tart smell to it that you expect.

Taste is a tart kick in the teeth. It is tart, it is tasty, it is crisp, it is refreshing. Its a mixture of all of these things all rolled up in so much and in so small a space, its a wonderful explosion. The mango and tangerine work really well together, and the lime provides a nice kick especially at the end of the drink. Its like at HersheyPark with those new soda machines that let you add flavors to regular sodas (love doing grape and lime with mountain dew).

My Untappd Rating: ****
Global Untappd Rating: 3.71 (as of 11.29.19)

Scratch 395 – Pineapple Passionfruit Guava Cherry Tart Ale

Beer: Scratch 395 – Pineapple Passionfruit Guava Cherry Tart Ale
Brewery: Troegs Independent Brewing
Style: Sour – Fruited
ABV: 6.2%
IBU: None
Untappd Write-Up: This week’s small-batch Scratch release is all about fruit. Guava, an aromatic fruit grown in the tropics, lays down a backbone of juicy pear and mango notes, and fresh passionfruit pulls in a pleasantly sweet-and-tart tang. Pineapple adds refreshing tropical notes that are amplified by the Horninal Kveik yeast, and a dash of cherry juice gives this beer a soft pink hue. We taste: fresh guava and passionfruit, juicy pineapple, pleasant tartness.

Wow, this is an interesting one to even begin on. On all three fronts (well, at least on aroma and taste; the appearance is pretty clear cut). Its dark, its hazy, and its dank. Its sour, but it has the sour – smoothie style look, though its not really a smoothie, and its not really thick despite its appearance.

Aroma is a bomb of fruity notes. Just like scratch 394, this one is all over the place as well. I think this concoction is a bit too much though. And perhaps its just me with Guava, but I’ve had it in a few now – Wolf Prints (review here) and Fatum Guava (review here) – as well as others, like Tattered Abomination, some various Troegs scratch one-offs, etc. ….and the more and more I have guava in a beer…. I think I’m becoming less and less of a fan of it. There is just too much to it and it dilutes and changes the taste and aroma of the beer too much. And for this one, it has to compete with passionfruit (one I like), pineapple (one I’m indifferent to) and cherry (one I’m not a big fan of in beer). So this concoction of a beer has a lot to it, and so much competing notes.

And taste is the same way as the above. There is almost too much here. Its not altogether bad, it is certainly different, and it is certainly a lot to take in. There is the passionfruit and pineapple, and the guava, and the cherry, and its all mixed up in a thick tart sour. The passionfruit and guava take center stage, with the pineapple and cherry kind of playing backburner. But there is just so much here, that it is kind of overwhelming. The tartness is nice, and the flavors aren’t abhorrent, but its just a lot.

My Untappd Rating: ***.75
Global Untappd Rating: 3.81 (as of 11.29.19)

Scratch 396 – Dry Hopped Pale Ale by Troegs Independent Brewing

Beer: Scratch 396 – Dry Hopped Pale Ale
Brewery: Troegs Independent Brewing
Style: Pale Ale – American
ABV: 5.5%
IBU: None Listed
Untappd Write-Up: We’re starting to fine-tune an aromatic hop combination that we’re planning to use for something special down the road. This Scratch pale ale showcases Citra, Idaho 7, Chinook and Azacca. Look for notes of passionfruit, orange, grapefruit and subtle white pine. London 3 yeast will keep the beer dry and allow subtle malt and nut notes to come forward.
We taste: passionfruit, citrus rind, white pine

Appearance is similar to the above scratch 395, a thick, orange yellow beer color. The amount of hop in it creates the dank, heavy-set look to it, and it is certainly that. Its got a juicy, thick, hazy, sediment free, dank near-IPA like orange glow to it.

Aroma is pretty hop strong. You get the notes of the Chinook, Citra, and Azacca hops upfront. This is where you get the notes of passionfruit, orange, grapefruit, melon rinds. Its a bright powerful hop burst inside your nostrils.

Taste is juicy, but it has a dry component to it. Its got a very strong finish to it, and its got a nice thick mouthfeel. It is only 5.5% so its barely alcoholic, and you won’t get a big buzz from this, but you will get that sweet hoppy tiredness. This is bursting at the seams with hoppy goodness. You get the citra and chinook fruity citrus hop notes, and the azacca is similar just a bit more muted. There is flavor of passionfruit, orange, not much grapefruit, but I get a little bit of pine and some melon rinds. Its a nice finish that lingers on the tongue very well.

My Untappd Rating: ***.75
Global Untappd Rating: 3.86 (as of 11.29.19)

Mad Elf by Troegs Independent Brewing

This is going to be a quick, brief, glossing over of this. As I’m pretty certain I’ll be doing my own review for Mad Elf. A beer I’ve had regularly, quite often, and nearly religiously now every year for the past 10-11 years. I’ll do much more in-depth on it, and I’ll do some discussion on its history, as well as the off-shoot variants of it like Naked Elf and Wild Elf (as well as the Grand Cru).

Beer: Mad Elf
Brewery: Troegs Independent Brewing
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 11.5%
IBU: 15
Untappd Write-Up: The holidays at Tröegs start with our inner Mad Elf momentarily taking over the brew deck. So blame “him” for this cheerful ruby red creation brewed with honey, cherries and Belgian yeast reminiscent of cinnamon, clove and allspice.

So lets just say, this was my first Untappd check-in. This was how I fully got introduced to Troegs back in the day, (back in their Paxton Street days) before the move from Harrisburg to Hershey. Every year Troegs splurges and puts out the money to get a badge for this on Untappd as well (or at least usually every year).

I will say a cautionary note on the beer, I’ve become less and less in love with it as I’ve gotten older, as I’ve had more different and various craft beers, and as the brewing system at Troegs has grown, changed, and evolved. I’ve left my original rating for the beer what it was when I first had it, and was a pretty naive beer drinker – a five star beer. Each year’s vintage, I check in fresh, and then later on when I drink an aged bottle of it. And I give a different rating for it fresh; as well as for it aged. So if you look through my vintages and my actual Mad Elf ratings, you’ll notice a fluctuation in changes almost per time I drink it. Is this a five star beer? Probably not. And its definitely not anymore. Is it still a very good beer? I think so. Was it ever a five star beer? Probably not. Is there really any five star beers? Eh. Thats a matter of debate and dispute. What constitutes five star? For movies, for literature, for wrestling matches, for everything, five star either symbolizes complete perfection, or the extreme best. It depends on the critic, the rating system, those involved, the time of day, mood, etc. There is just so many factors. If I had this beer now, for the first time, I think it would be consistent with whatever I give the vintage for that year.

Some stats:

My Mad Elf Untappd Rating: ***** (like I said above, for why, and why it hasn’t changed in the system)
Global Untappd Rating: 3.83 (as of 11.29.19)

My Mad Elf 2019 Untappd Rating: ****.25
Global Untappd Rating: 4.12 (as of 11.29.19)

My Mad Elf 2018 Untappd Rating: – Fresh – ****.25 – Aged – ****.50
Global Untappd Rating: 4.06 (as of 11.29.19)

I will break down some of these statistics, and my full thoughts on the beer, more thoroughly when I do the full Mad Elf review. So please look for that. I would really appreciate hearing all of everyone’s thoughts on Mad Elf, it is a very interesting beer to discuss with craft beer enthusiasts.

Until that time, cheers everyone!

-B. Kline

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