by: BeerAdvocate on 03-03-2007
Ever since American craft brewers turned up the volume, it’s been much more difficult for the subtler beers of the UK to be heard, let alone compete. Many American beer geeks find UK offerings to be quite boring in comparison. Us? The ales of England inspired us years ago—they’re part of the reason why we do what we do today. So the other day while browsing in the store, we spied some English Ale and heard nostalgia’s recommendation, which leads us to this week’s tasting.

The Legendary Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale from Wychwood BreweryTouted in England as “The Legendary Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale” at 5.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) in the bottle or can, and 5 percent ABV on cask, Hobgoblin from the Wychwood Brewery in England is actually more of a Brown Ale, which isn’t considered all that strong here in the US—the English tend to think anything above 4 percent is strong. Maybe they’re aware of this regional difference, which is why our sample is labeled simply: “Imported Dark English Ale.” But who cares? Let’s crack one open.

The Taste
Flipping the tab on the 500 ml can issues a crack and a hiss, and an immediate scent of steel, mustiness and toasted malts. We pour the beer into a nonic glass, noting its deep (but clear) brown and copper hued, topped with a short-lived white head that drops to a thin ringed lace. The aroma is a bit gummy, with some mustiness and a good dose of toasty caramel beneath, and notes of biscuits and cellared apples. Silky-smooth on the palate, with a full, even and rounded body. Up-front sugary sweetness paves the way for more complex flavors of toasted malts and toffee; and subtle notes of chocolate, roots, chicory and jam-like forest fruits. Dots of honey here and there, with some watery molasses. Hops are soft, with light floral and herbal flavors, and complement the malty sweet backbone of this beer quite nicely. Sweet and toasted bread lingers in the finish, with herbal tea notes and a touch of dry biscuit and underlying nuttiness.

Final Thoughts
Is Hobgoblin the most exciting beer on planet Earth? Nope. But it’s quite drinkable (despite the slightly overpowering sweetness for such a low ABV beer), has some tasty depth, actually gets better as it warms, and could make a decent session beer if you’re in a pinch. Still, it’s not something we’d buy on a regular basis or even seek out ever again, unless we were visiting a pub in England and saw it on draught—as beer tends to taste better on its home turf. Try pairing this with something simple: Fresh toasted bread and butter with a side of jam in the morning would be most ideal (and it was).

We picked this one up as a four-pack of cans for $7.99. Give it a try.

For more info: wychwood.com

Respect Beer.
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