In Oxfordshire UK, lies a classic British Brewery, one which we are lucky enough to enjoy distribution of several of their beers in Ontario and across North America. Many people will recognize them by the fiendish goblin on the bottle lable, or by their winter beer called Bah Humbug. Quirky, and effective. But there is more to the beer than just the label. The Wychwood Brewery produced high quality ales that are distinctly British in flavor, composition, and feeling.
This is a quality which I greatly appreciate right now when many beers from across the world seem to be migrating to the heavily hopped, or outrageously styled brews that were made popular by the American Craft Brewers. Classic British Ale is delicate, soothing, calm and delicious. Its biscuit and bready notes show you exactly what malted barley can do, and you end up with the perfect pint for the end of a hard day, or the beginning of a wild night. The Hobgoblin is no exception.
The Hobgoblin is a 5.2% English Brown Ale that comes in a dark 500ml bottle that is available year round at the LCBO and pretty much any well stocked liquor store. It is a straight forward beer not designed to confuse you, but rather to sooth. Pale, Crystal and a touch of Chocolate malts are used, as well as Fuggles and Styrians hops. All nice and simple, all nice and delicious.
I opened the Hobgoblin cool around 12 C (54F), right at the edge of cellar temperature, and poured it into a stemmed tulip glass. The pour was very gentle and smooth – you could see a golden brown beer leave the bottle and a dark mahogany brown beer building in the bottom of the glass. This is really a masterfully constructed beer, and you can tell. The pour resulted in a deeply amber golden beer with bronze, deep reds and purples, bright mahogany and rich golden browns everywhere. Into the light it glowed with a golden orange haze peering through the lightly transparent beer. The head was a 1 inch dense and creamy cap with an eggshell, off-white, almost khaki color. Very appealing.
The nose is round and soft with gentle malt aromas lifting off of the beer easily. This is all fresh malt right here. I get fresh baked bread, biscuit, light banana, warm apples, touches of apricot, raisin and brown sugar. It is soft and warming without a trace of aggression or tartness. A soft earthy hop bitterness glides in surfacing over the beer with touches of wood, and fresh fields. Very gentle.
If I were you, for the first sip let in a big wave of Hobgoblin – let the beer fill your palate and touch your tongue, cheeks, tips and throat. You will see what I mean by creamy malts. The nose showed light hints of roast, chocolate, and toffee, but the taste brings these sensations right to the front. The soft bread and biscuit aromas are now rich and warming – but they merely facilitate the round flavors of warm barley roasting over a soft heat. Gentle fruity roast and toffee like toast becomes immediately apparent as the beer hits your cheeks, and now the soothing and creamy nature of the Hobgoblin is apparent.
It is soft and light, with an easy drinking feel – as it should be. This beer is not large, just slightly above 5%, but it shows greater character than you may expect. Notes of fruit warm to the surface as the beer mellows into a relaxing treat. Stewed raisins, pears, and brown sugar play in the middle with hints of spice, maybe cinnamon. Soft hops bring enough bitterness to balance and relax the beer creating a gently crisp finish, with warming malt sensations.
The Hobgoblin is a refreshing and soothing beer ready for any moment. I will work perfect with pub fare of all sorts, steak, burgers, anything off the grill, or soft cheeses.