Old Hooky
Hook Norton Brewery Co. Ltd.

Old HookyOld Hooky
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Bitter - English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)
Ranked #113
Ranked #35,834
3.73 | pDev: 12.33%
Hook Norton Brewery Co. Ltd.
England, United Kingdom
Old HookyOld Hooky
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Reviews: 75 | Ratings: 125 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
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Sigmund from Norway

3.44/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500 ml bottle, from Selfridge’s food store, London. ABV is 4.6%. Brown to copper colour, large off-white head. Aroma of malts, toffee and caramel. The flavour is medium sweet and malty with toffee, caramel and a little fruit. A sharpish hoppy bite in the finish.

Apr 19, 2021
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flyingpig from Scotland

3.69/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

500ml Bottle from Beers of Europe (£1.99):
Caramel amber with a clear body & a 0.5cm, foamy white head that covers the surface well with a little lacing on the sides. The nose is semi-sweet with bread notes, caramel malts & a few subtle, earthy aromas. There's some toasted notes towards the middle with some background fruity esters before the taste opens with more of the pale & earthy malts. It has a medium bitterness to it throughout with some bread & toasted flavours, & quite a smooth, creamy feel to it that has a lingering bitterness at the end too.

Jun 26, 2020
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James94 from England

4.27/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Reddish amber colour, good lacing
S: Cherries, dark fruits, toffee, rich malts, cinnamon
T: Caramel, dark fruits, strawberry, wafers, herbs
F: Well-bodied, quite complex, somewhat overcarbonated

O: 4.25

Jun 03, 2019
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JonnoWillsteed from England

3.81/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L- Pale chestnut, clear, 1cm just off-white fine foam head. Slowly later to lacing.
S- Subtle, light toasty malts is all I get.
T- Quite bitter hopping into some measured richness. Quite a distinct toastiness to it too. Very nice.
F- It is refreshing beer whilst in my view coming over as a touch more substantial than it's 4.6% ABV, I'd have guessed 5-5.2%.
O- It's eminently sessionable. If I knew of a local stockist to my home in London I'd certainly buy this again.
Bought from Waitrose Windsor at £2/500ml bottle. BB 15/Aug/19.
ps. The lable has changed from above on the bottle I have. Most of the front and neck lable is a deep claret red, within a copper coloured 'frame' that incorporates a simple stylised image of the brewery.
Trivia: My family used to live near this brewery and in the local pubs it was their Best-Bitter on draft hand-pull that was called 'Hooky' by the local-yokels. Interesting to see the brewery incorporate that short-hand into a more recent variation.

Nov 11, 2018
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Beginner2 from Illinois

3.93/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Old Hooky is listed on the "1001" and should be. I wish Hook Norton had broader distribution in the U.S. as this might show brewers how to make a pleasant and subtle bitter.
Old Hooky actually looks a darkish amber and a nice head recedes quickly. I smell the fruits and malts, but detect no hops. They come in after two or three sips... which is the right time for me ... for a balanced ale.

MJ's "1999" guide gave Old Hooky 2.5 of 4 starts and said it "is tawny, smooth, clean and fruity."
Reviewed in Roger Protz' "300 Beers To Try Before You Die!"

Jul 17, 2016
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Spike from England

3.68/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

L: Tawny colour. Clear with minimal carbonation (odd stray bubble). Thin, off-white head reduces quickly to a patchy cap. No lacing.

S: Little nose up front, but a wave of sweet malts comes through after gentle swirling.

T: Malts. Fruit cake. Dark treacle. Traditional English strong bitter flavour profile.

F: Light to medium body with a little 'pick-me-up' of light carbonation. Gentle bitterness.

O: Pleasant, robust, ESB.

Apr 04, 2016
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patre_tim from Thailand

3.78/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Amber and cloudy with no visible carbonation, and 4 fingers of soufflé like beige head. Nicely layered lacing.

Caramel, toasted malts, a hint of apple, creme brûlée. A hint of orange pith as well.

Caramel and creme brûlée, a hint of apples, a fair amount of toasted dull bitterness on the finish.

Almost no carbonation, slightly weighty body.

Really well done brew. Not had a brown ale like this before, but its certainly British in character. Found it at Villa Market in Bangkok, drank in Chiang Mai Aug 5th, 2015.

Aug 05, 2015
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pat61 from Minnesota

4.25/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: Pours reddish amber under a 1” quickly dissipating white foam cap that quickly dissipates while leaving thick lace.
S: Earthy English hop aromas, fruity and malty
T: Bready and malty with a slight initial sweetness that dries on the finish. Slightly astringent finish with a lingering bitterness.
F: Creamy and soft on the mouth with medium body and medium lo0w carbonation.
O: An easy to drink flavorful sessionable beer.

May 18, 2015
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charlatan from Scotland

3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Half pint at the new 'spoons in Dumbarton. Mahogany colour but with a reddish hue and offwhite head. Smells of pear and perhaps a little dried fruit. tastes very fruity with pear dominating again, particularly early on. Then a rather more pleasant, less soapy, cereal flavour kicks in. The more I drink the more the flavours merge with a little hoppy bitterness to produce something close ot a tobacco flavour. Eventually this seems well integrated.

Jun 28, 2014
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dogin26 from Australia

4.21/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured from a 500ml Bottle served in a standard pint glass

light orange appearance similar to a english pale ale

Sweet scents of honey on the nose with marmalade and orange

On taste there is sweet fruits which brings on some mellow honey and jam

decent mouthfeel with medium carbonation

Overall a pleasant drinkable beer that surprised me with the larger then expected flavour profile

May 18, 2014
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chogm54 from Australia

3.99/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

a favourite from my days living in somerset, time to see if it is as good in bottle as it is on tap

a - hazy orange brown, almost like honey. very thin head almost instantly disappearing into a beige lacing.

s - honey smell to match the colour. also a whiff of cereal malts.

t - sweet, slightly fruity, biscuit like malt taste with a, light bitters coming through, slightly more than other english bitters. its the malty taste that lasts the longest.

m - lightly carbonated, medium body, dry on the palate

call it nostalgia, but this is just like i remembered. will now be my go to ESB.

Mar 06, 2014
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lacqueredmouse from Australia

3.82/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

500ml bottle served to me blind by @tobeerornottobe.

Pours a lovely clear amber, bright and clean. Head is a pleasantly foamy beige, that settles to a pocked head of film. Some fine specks of lace as it goes down. Carbonation is fine, body looks like it has a bit of weight to it. Looks good.

Nose is slightly sweet and malty, but with some English estery notes coming through, a little rose and blackberry. Some slightly herbal, slightly earthy hops come through as well, giving a moderately peppery tone to it as well. It's quite pleasant.

Taste is pretty clean and pleasant: light malty entry, some grainy notes with a couched fruity sweetness towards the back. Clean, leafy hop character just dries out the back slightly, but it retains enough sweetness to keep the back palate going. Feel is nice and smooth, but with a lightness that helps the drinkability.

Yep, very drinkable, and really very enjoyable. It's well-made, very clean and consistent, but with enough flavour to keep it interesting. I enjoyed it a lot.

Feb 15, 2014
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hansavijaticar from Croatia (Hrvatska)

4.5/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Not really a brown ale. I would say premium bitter.

A: Amber, orange.

S: Apricot marmelade.

T: Same as smell.

M: Moderately bitter. Not very lasting, but enough.

Another great bitter that goes very well with meat dishes. Similar with London Pride and Young's Bitter, even Young's London Special.

Dec 28, 2013
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admiral from Australia

4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Very enjoyable beer that is full of flavour: a quality English ale

aroma: mineral and fruity with caramel/toffee

taste: on the sweet side (in a good way) - has a rich fruity, citrus, spice taste with a smooth delicious malt backbone that displays nice caramel/biscuit character with a smattering of white wine

excellent beer that is full of flavour and easy to drink

Nov 10, 2013
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EmperorBevis from England

3.44/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a burnished bronze body with decent white head
peppery aroma
Flavour is malt is very bready, with a lightly sweet, bitter finish. Balance is tipped toward hop bitterness.

Nov 01, 2013
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vinicole from England

3.84/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle and very frequently draught. Clear amber with a very light tan head. Quite thick and frothy.
The froth is hoppy but is soon dispelled by the malt underneath.
A balanced flavour of English hops and malt (which is more forward of the two).
Soft carbonation and medium body.
Regularly imbibed by me. A decent English Best Bitter.

Sep 07, 2013
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Jetulio from Spain

4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 ml bottle poured into a Pint glass
Appearance... amber/copper beer with head colour white of 1 finger
Aroma... floral and hops. Fresh and not too strong smell with a little touch of malty aroma
Taste... fruity with a tangerine touch, bitterness appears soon lasting until the end
Mouthfeel... full body and medium/soft carbonation
Overall... nice ale, bitterness is present in balance with malt and fruit presence

Aug 12, 2013
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IchLiebeBier from Virginia

3.5/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Effervescent; amber; medium head with good lacing

Aroma: Malty; sweet; dried fruit

Taste: Malty, creamy on start; dry in the mid with slightly bitter finish with nutty aftertaste

Remarks: Did not score A, T, S, M at that time; disregard those scores

Jun 15, 2013
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soju6 from Missouri

3.1/5  rDev -16.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Pours a dark hazy amber color with an off-white head that fades to bits of lacing.

S: Aroma of citrus and fruit, mostly of berries.

T: Taste of citrus, berries, some caramel sweetness and bit of spice. Decent bitterness and a fairly dry finish.

F: Medium body, smooth but too much sweetness.

O: Decent beer but too fruity to really enjoy.

May 31, 2013
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SmashPants from Australia

3.47/5  rDev -7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: a tall, solid dark brown 500mL bottle with an old-school English macro label.

Appearance: dark amber in colour with ruby and brown highlights. A decent and semi-solid head with good retention.

Aroma: typical English ale characteristics on the nose - toffee and caramel, nuts, plum, cherries and a touch of spice.

Taste: the combination of flavours come through on the palate, but in a typically English ale style they are quite demure.

Aftertaste: lingers for a time, but again not much to it.

Mouth feel: fuller in body with a low carbonation, with a touch of bitterness.

Overall: a decent English ale, and one which I would certainly have again. It isn't amazing, but a good standard English ale when you feel like the style.

Apr 21, 2013
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Radome from Florida

3.97/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served from a 500 ml bottle bought in England.

A - Color is a crystal clear deep copper with red highlights. The head is off-white and starts thick and creamy but fades quickly to a thin sheet. Some light lacing on the glass.

S - The aroma is faint an muted, but what is there is clean. Some biscuit-like malt, a bit of earthy hops. No additional complexity.

T - Initial taste is of earthy, slightly fruity, English hops with a light bitterness to match. Then in comes some graham cracker-like malt. A light touch of plum and raisin create a bit of complexity at the end, but the finish is dry.

M - Medium body with just a hint of mouth-coating sweetness. Light to moderate carbonation. Some moderate hops bitterness. No alcohol presence.

O - A very well-balanced session beer. Everything about this beer is done with a subtle, feather-light touch but has enough complexity to be interesting. It would be a great one to share in large quantities with friends at your "local".

Mar 28, 2013
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biboergosum from Canada (AB)

3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

500ml bottle. I like the sentiment inscribed on the cap - 'Where progress is measured in pints'. 'Nuff said.

This beer pours a hazy medium golden amber hue, with two fingers of puffy, foamy, and bubbly off-white head, which leaves a decent array of skewed honeycombed lace around the glass as it gently subsides.

It smells of bready, honeyed caramel malt, fruity blended herbal tea, a bit of tart, further drupe fruitiness, and mildly peppy grassy, weedy hops. The taste is somewhat crisp, grainy malt, a touch of inert caramel, a kind of muddled, musty orchard fruitiness, some earthy, herbal vegetative notes, a mild flinty character, and more grassy, slightly acerbic leafy hops.

The carbonation is a tad astringent, but mostly just duly supportive, the body medium-light in weight, kind of watery for the style, and a little too edgy to be deemed all that smooth. It finishes off-dry, the now stale-seeming fruitiness having overcome the waning malt, as the various earthy, leafy, and grassy essences continue to mull about.

A rather so-so brown ale - it ain't all that brown to begin with, and the bready, nutty characteristics have I have come to prefer are overlooked here for the other, more fruity take on the style. They have more or less succeeded by this measure, but this far in, I'd put this barely above a Newcastle in the quest for another, especially given the dear per-serving cost.

Jan 08, 2013
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FLima from Brazil

3.93/5  rDev +5.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Copper red color. Made a two finger thick head with a medium retention but always leaving a thin lacy.
Malty and fruity aroma, hints of plum with a floral touch.
Sweet malt taste with marked fruity hops. Bitter but well balanced given its bold flavor. Hints of tangerine with a zesty refreshing feel. Aftertaste is mild but long, dry and bitter.
Full body with a medium carbonation with small bubbles. Very good beer, lots of flavors.

Dec 16, 2012
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CrazyDavros from Australia

3.72/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Pours dark amber with a fading head.
Nose shows toffee, caramel and bready and nutty malt. Pretty tempting.
Similar flavours, very moreish. Caramel, bready malt, soft diacetyl. Finishes with a mild bitterness.
Carbonation is too high.
Pretty drinkable stuff.

Nov 08, 2012
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cavers from Canada (BC)

3.43/5  rDev -8%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

500 mL bottle poured into a glass pint mug. Best before date is August 5, 2013.

A - ruby-copper in colour and brilliantly clear. A rather thin head, though, which quickly dissipates to a rim of largish bubbles and leaves no lacing whatsoever.

S - underneath a smell of stale beer (!) are some very appealing plum-cherry aromas, with hints of fresh hay and sweet malt.

T - rich. There’s toffee, sweet whole wheat bread, and a touch of vanilla atop a very pleasant bitterness. Perhaps a touch of grassy hop flavour. The stale-beer aroma, though, interferes with all that deliciousness.

M - smooth, silky - or rather, it would be these if there was a touch less carbonation. As it is, the bubbles prickle the tongue somewhat and it takes a couple of swishes around the mouth to disperse them.

O - passable, but only because there are no casks of Old Hooky here in Canada. The bottled version is identifiable as the same beer, but it doesn’t have anything like the appeal of the real ale version I’ve quaffed at the brewery and in Oxford. Too fizzy, and the stale aroma shows that a little travel can rob a beer of all its freshness and life.

Oct 11, 2012
Old Hooky from Hook Norton Brewery Co. Ltd.
Beer rating: 84 out of 100 with 125 ratings