Monday, January 3, 2011

Wychwood Brewery – Hobgoblin

For the Tenth Beer of Christmas, we travel 225 miles south east of Dublin to the Wychwood Forest and the brewery that shares its name.

I’ve heard a number of people say that Hobgoblin is a good beer. But looking at the label (click the image to see the full size photo), my first thought was that this must be the official beer of Dungeons and Dragons. Don’t get your knickers in a knot, though, I can tease about it since I spent so many years playing it.

The half liter (16.9 oz) bottle poured out with a quickly growing head. I had to be careful not to overflow the glass. The head dissipated slowly with a light, lush smell. Chocolate, toffee, and coffee with a bit of malty sweetness. I sat here for a long time just inhaling the scent. The best description I can give is that it was as welcoming as the smell of my grandmother’s kitchen when she wasn’t cooking. My grandmother was the best cook I’ve ever known. When she was cooking, the kitchen smelled like heaven. In between meals, the lingering aroma whispered a promise of bliss. Hobgoblin whispers, too. Pour a glass, hold it to your nose with both hands, inhale, enjoy, repeat.

The ruby brown ale delivered on that promise. Full bodied, with a silk smooth feel, Hobgoblin carries the chocolate and coffee into the taste, along with a clean, almost subdued bitterness from the hops. One thing I found particularly interesting was that the pleasant bitter aftertaste came as an echo, several seconds after the swallow.

The Fourth Beer of Christmas, Flying Dog’s Classic Pale Ale, was dubbed “my favorite so far.” While very different in taste and structure, Hobgoblin just surpassed it in this year’s list. But the great news for Flying Dog is that Hobgoblin is $4 per bottle while Flying Dog is about $1.50. Ounce to ounce, Hobgoblin (in a bigger bottle) is twice as much.

If you get a hankering, grab your 20-sided dice and head over to my house. We’ll break out the Hobgoblin and storm the gates of Mordor. I get to be the ranger.

Brewer: Wychwood Brewery
Location: Whitney, Oxfordshire, UK
Style: English Brown Ale
Alcohol Content: 5.2% ABV
Interesting Note: The website includes a fun and highly interactive design. Animated hobgoblins (the larger cousins of goblins, of course) and page turning spell books full of lore and history dominate the site.  However, the odd “forest sounds” coming from your computer speakers might drive your dogs a little crazy.

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