Wychwood (part of the Marstons Group – and the makers of the rather good ‘Status Quo Piledriver Ale‘) have for a number of years, brewed ‘Hobgoblin’ which they describe as ‘the unofficial beer of Halloween’.
The Wychwood Brewery is located in Witney, Oxfordshire, about twelve miles west of Oxford or about sixty miles north west of London, in what’s known as the “Thames Valley”. The brewery was founded in 1983, on the site of the maltings for Clich’s brewery, built in 1841 and closed down in 1961. The brewery was named ‘Wychwood’ in 1990, after the nearby ancient woodland
Hobgoblin is currently the fifth best-selling bottled beer here in Blighty, it’s Wychwood’s flagship brew and was one of Michael Jackson’s 500 Classic Brews. It’s now joined by King Goblin at 6.6% ABV and Hobgoblin Gold at 4.5%. I’ll make a point of looking out for those brews, but let’s look at the ‘classic’ Hobgoblin – better still, let’s look at it and taste it!
First things first… the bottle is embossed with witches on broomsticks on the shoulder, that’s the Wychwood style. The bottle cap bears a hobgoblin, and for the Halloween edition I’m sampling today, they’ve replaced the cap with an amber ‘pumpkin’ colour.
I’ve started noticing bottle caps recently, I really should get out more!
The beer pours a rich, dark amber, burnished copper; the head is full and off-white; the nose is subtle, with hints of spice and treacle toffee.
The mouthfeel is medium bodied, but that works for me, not too heavy, not too light.
The flavours are complex, the sweet treacle flavours from the roasted malts – Chocolate, Crystal and Pale malts – are balanced nicely with Fuggles and Styrian Goldings hops. There’s some spice in there, and apple; I’m reminded both of spiced baked apples, and fairground toffee apples. Those flavours are ideal for the autumn season, the evenings are drawing in, it’s getting misty, and there’s woodsmoke from bonfires.
For a mainstream brew from a major brewer, and indeed for the fifth best-selling bottled beer in Britain, it’s complex.
This is an ideal beer for late October, and it sits well as the ‘unofficial beer of Halloween’. I can’t imagine myself drinking it in the summer, but in a pub with a log fire crackling in the background this would go down very nicely.
I’m happy giving this three and a half Brewclub stars, it’s verging close to four stars, but I would have wanted a little more spice for that extra half star.
And… in 2010, at the G20 summit in Toronto, the British Prime Minister – David Cameron (the Member of Parliament for Witney) – presented President Barack Obama with a dozen bottles of Hobgoblin. It was the result of a bet between the two leaders regarding the result of a match between the USA and England at the 2010 (soccer) world cup. The game was drawn, so Obama also presented Cameron with a case of Goose Island beer from Chicago.