Ridgeway Brewing out of South Stoke, England gets into the Christmas spirit in a major way. In addition to brewing seasonal favorites like Reindeer Droppings and Lump of Coal, Ridgeway offers an entire line of Bad Elf beers that get progressively “worse” by degrees. There’s Bad Elf, Very Bad Elf, Seriously Bad Elf, Criminally Bad Elf, and Insanely Bad Elf (weighing in at a whopping 12 percent alcohol by volume!). Being a moderate sort of fellow, I went with Very Bad Elf. If you’re a bottle collector, you’re gonna want the entire line since the artwork on all of them is really freaking cool. But from purely a drinker's perspective, I feel like I made an excellent choice. Technically, Very Bad Elf is more of a winter warmer than it is a Christmas ale. I don’t taste a lot of holiday spices. What I do taste are the time-honored elements of an English Special Bitter, kicked up to 7.5 percent ABV for the cold weather season. This ale is based on a recipe going all the way back to 1795. It uses “an ancient pale malt” and a “rare variety” of Fuggles hops. So it doesn’t taste exactly like every other English ale you’ve had. It’s got a little uniqueness to it. All in all, though, it’s a classic tasting ESB with a nutty, sweet-roasted malt character and a balancing leafy hop bite. I enjoy beers that prominently feature caramel malts, and this one fits the bill nicely. The alcohol is well-hidden, so you get the “warming” features of a winter beer without the boozy taste. This is quite the tasty beer – sweet and roasty with a rich flavor and high drinkability. Very nice. Apparently certain states have banned the sale of these Ridgeway Christmas beers due to the artwork potentially appealing to children. Seriously? Do state legislators have nothing better to do? What a bunch of Scrooges!