Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Ruby Beer

MOST ales are aimed at the same people. With their utilitarian brown bottles. And their labels describing a heritage going back to the ice-age. And countryside ingredients scraped off the head brewers boots. The types of people that type of packaging is aimed at, is the ale aficionado. Someone with mutton-chop facial hair and a green Land Rover.

It is with some glee then that I found this unusual ale at my local Tesco.

Wychwood Hobgoblin bottle

What Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin does is to stand out. And to do that by appealing to a different group of people entirely. Here are the signs. See if you can spot the image being built up by them…

The Wychwood Brewery logo is a witch riding a broomstick.
That logo is embossed around the shoulder of the bottle.
The ale is called ‘Hobgoblin’.
There is a prominent illustration of a hobgoblin on the front label.
Wychwood Hobgoblin front label

Any guesses from these observations, whom this bottle may be aimed at? No, it’s not young women heading out to the town centre in a pink stretch-limo for a hen night.

The target I think this drink is aimed at, is that noblest of social groups: the nerd. Where this bottle is apparently designed to fit right in, is next to a game of Warhammer. Or next to the keyboard of someone playing World of Warcraft. Or beside someone reading a Tolkien or Pratchett novel. You get the picture.

Let me know if you agree in the comments.

What does it tell us about the drink? Unlike my last review of Jamaican Dragon Stout, Wychwood tell us quite a bit. We learn that it has a decent 5.2% volume. That it is a “Ruby Beer” (whatever that is). And that Wychwood hails from Oxfordshire. The one message that gets constant reinforcement is that this drink, and the brewery, have “character” and “mischievous character”. How a drink can be mischievous, we’ll learn with the taste test.

Wychwood Hobgoblin back label

We are also treated to a thorough description of the ingredients and flavours to expect. Always a good thing as it means we can compare it to what we actually taste. In this description, “chocolate and crystal malts” receive a mention. What crystal malts are, again I haven’t a clue. In between references to familiar words like “bitterness” and “citrus aroma”, things take a turn for the peculiar. If you know what an “English Fuggle” or “Styrian Golding” is, can you please leave a message at the end of this post explaining what it is please?

Poured into a glass, this 500ml bottle stops short of producing a full pint of liquid. The colour is like that of cola and the head very tiny indeed. Unusual as I would have expected to see a big head to reflect the boastful label.
Wychwood Hobgoblin poured into a glass

The smell is definitely one of barley. But not overpowering. Nor unconventional. Maybe the character is in the taste, not the smell? Let’s see…

Upon your first gulp, the first thing that hits you is the fairly strong taste of bitter. This is swiftly followed by a sour aftertaste. Bear this in mind if you prefer your drinks largery.

Working through the bottle, it was easy to get used to this bitter/sour taste combination. In fact, I would go so far as to describe it as quite drinkable. A fact evidenced by it all disappearing surprisingly quick. Surprising because I don’t normally like drinks on the bitter end of the scale.

Summing Wychwood Hobgoblin up isn’t easy. It’s not a bitter, but it has bitter qualities. This must have something to do with that mischievous character we heard so much about on the label. Did I like it? Yes. Why? Because it aims to be something unique and achieves it. Will I buy it again in a hurry? As I’m not a fan of bitterness, probably not. That said, I will look out for it for just the right occasion. Does anyone want to play Dungeons & Dragons with me?

Rating: 4 or thereabouts

Have you tried this beer? What did you think?
Any suggestions of what I should look at next?
Leave your comments.

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26 Responses to “Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Ruby Beer”

  1. Beer Review: Black Sheep Ale « Bloggy Woggy Says:

    [...] Bloggy Woggy Just another WordPress.com weblog « Beer Review: Wychwood Brewery Hobgoblin Ruby Beer [...]

  2. wolfnotes Says:

    I just opened up a bottle of this, did a search, and found this post. I don’t drink often, but I’m enjoying this beer. It does remind me of bitter-type beers, maybe a cross between an IPA and a stout. Does that make sense? Anyway, amusing beer review.

  3. admiralperpetual Says:

    did you drink it warm (room temp) or cold?
    I’d been looking for this beer locally for awhile, and found some the other day..
    first bottle I drank had been chilled in the fridge for awhile and was quite bitter/sour as you are describing.. but then my mother (who I was having dinner with) pointed out to me that as it was a ENGLISH ale it would be more proper to drink it warm.. so the 2nd bottle I left at room temp (on top of the fridge actually) and then drank.. not nearly as bitter. in fact I’d agree that it tastes much better.
    perhaps pick up another bottle and try it this way?

  4. Andy Says:

    Aroama – Slight malt, a little more ‘hoppy’.

    Head retention – 5/10

    colour – dark/red

    Feel – slight fizz

    Taste – high hop and low malt, bitter. Treacle notes. Very nice but too many hops.

    Drinkability – One bottle hits the spot, but more than one then the taste of hops is slightly overwhelming for me.

  5. mc Says:

    I am normally a lager boy, but I wanted to try something with a bit more taste to it as it is now winter. The beer has a stronger more full flavoured taste then I am used to and It also has a faint stout finish. However I am enjoying drinking it. The really strange thing is I am sat here waiting to be logged into World of Warcraft whilst typing these comments.

  6. Andy Brown Says:

    “English Fuggle” and “Styrian Golding” are varieties of hops. Hobgoblin is a hoppy beer which I enjoy in the winter months. It has quite a chocolately character and is a touch on the sweet side. Must be served at room temperature – which in fact means about 8c (room temperature was a term invented before central heating). I do find that after two bottles the inside of my mouth is coated with a sweetness that is not altogether desirable – but I am a fan.

    If you’re after a light bitter which would have more appeal to lager drinkers, then a strongly recommend Summer Lightening from the Hop Back Brewery. Superb bitter – one of the best for a warm day.

    Can be bought online by the way – check out our grocery delivery company reviews if you like – http://www.onlinegrocerystore.co.uk

  7. thejoereview Says:

    I have tried the Wychwood Hobogoblin & really enjoyed it. Next time I’m having some mexican food with it.
    Haven’t tried the other ones yet, but will keep them in mind.

    http://thejoereview.com/category/beer/

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Hobgoblin in cans is the most ultimate tasting beer in the world. The taste starts of with a rich dark cocoa chocolate taste which then develops into a pine tree kind of taste and with hints of dark plum fruit before finally finishing with a really malty chocolate woodland taste. NO JOKE!

    It is very complex tasting in cans and always tastes the same where as in bottles the taste can vary all the time and overall just not as strong and tasty as in cans. BUY IT IN CANS!!!!!!

  9. scunnyD Says:

    just got back from the pub and my first 3 pints of hobgoblin its a fantastic beer gonna go to tesco tomo hope the bottles r as gr8 as the cask

  10. Marita Says:

    Found the beer yesterday in a British Shop here in Berlin and I really liked it. The bottle looked very funny, so I took one with me. I have to admit, that I do some of the geeky stuff like roleplay, reading Pratchett (or better: listening to it), larp, ect. I enjoyed it very much and I think, I’ll try to buy it again. Wish me luck. I have to keep my eyes open and maybe I’ll find it in Duesseldorf as well.

    Best wishes from Germany. :)

  11. tony Says:

    superb taste ,my favourite bitter and i won a free t shirt in wychwood competition

  12. Barry Says:

    I like the advertising posters that Wychwood put ot

    “What’s the matter, lager boy?? Afraid you might taste something????
    :)

    Barry

  13. Ringzlord Says:

    Ok so I’m a big lord of the rings fan. I fancied a old age type of ale one day. Something that gave me a medieval feeling.

    Down I went to the local co-op and after seeing this bottle with the logo I thought perfect. It had all the feel of a old age ale. I couldn’t have found anything so perfect to satisfy that old age feeling I had.

    The taste matched everything too. Sweet bitter .the best I’ve had.

  14. Trenchfoot Says:

    Enjoyed your review – especially the speculation about the target audience. Wychwood is a local brewery here and I’ve been in a couple of their pubs. I can confirm your suspicions about the nerdiness of Hobgoblin drinkers. My made the Dandy is a big fan.

    I also reviewed this beer in my site. Check it out: http://www.whatwouldjesusbrew.co.uk/2011/02/beer-review-hobgoblin-wychwood-brewery/

  15. al rotundo Says:

    NOT A BEER DRINKER but i discovered Wynchwood HOBGOBLIN on a recent trip – WHAT A GREAT BREW!!!

  16. Anonymous Says:

    I really like this beer

  17. hobgoblinmonkey Says:

    For some reason a smaller local convenient store sells this beer temporarily and i couldn’t resist and bought a bottle.

    What it taste like to me: A winterbeer same as the belgium beers but it tasted quite good.

    The mystic idea behind the beer is that maybe someone secretly brought back this bitter cave people which in that time centuries ago already had exelent knowledge about good brews.

    Cheers!

  18. Jason Says:

    Fuggle is a hops smells like dustly hay with a vegital smell that kind of bites the nose. The other hops Styrian Golding is related to fuggle but i have no experiance with it.
    Crystal malt is a lighter colored malt that gives it a sweetness or that starchy mouth satisfying feel you get from a full flavored beer pale beer with not much hops.
    Chocolate malt is a dark colored malt mostly giving it a distinct flavor. (similar to chocolate) it is more of a specialty grain. It also gives the brew its dark color.

    As for this beer. I enjoyed it. It is a solid brew but not the best. and for the 6 dollars I paid after taxes better to buy a six pack of sammie (samual adams) for a dollar more. The art work is nice and It looks good on my wall.

  19. John Says:

    This is the best beer in the entire world!

    Goes especially well with a hand crafted pewter mug and some hurdy-gurdy music, maybe even while dancing around a timber framed hall wearing a set of medieval clothing. I’m fortunately enough to have had this experience. Otherwise it’s a great beer for general drinking, much better than the yellow stuff that most people drink these days

  20. Anonymous Says:

    help!!!! Check the crown corking machine my bottles are chipping bits of Glass!!! into my brew!!!!!PHFFFTTT!!!!!!!

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Sorry that’s me

  22. nigel robinson Says:

    Fantastic beer, taste it, to believe it. Chocolatey malty hoppy bitterness throughout. one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking. 5 Stars..

  23. renumeraredfrog Says:

    I hated it after the first sip, but I loved it after I finished the whole bottle. It is definitely a sipping beer where each taste hits you taste buds like a hammer, unlike a lager which goes down so smoothly as to be barely perceptable.

  24. G.WILKINSON. Says:

    A BEAUTIFUL SMOOTH FULL BODIED BEER BEST AS DROUGHT.

  25. Ken Robinson Says:

    It was Halloween last night, So i thought I would give ‘er a try. Awesome beer, nice colour, had a nice head after i poured into a glass, hoppy taste, thats a bit bitter, but overall I am a VERY satisfied man. Now to try out my box of Hop Circle IPA by Phillips brewing :)

  26. imajoebob Says:

    Great beer. Classic English construction: Chewy, hoppy, and not too fizzy. Don’t drink it warm. The Brits don’t drink “warm” beer. they drink it at 40 degrees, slightly higher than North America’s 35. If you like Hobgoblin for it’s bitter notes, you’ll LOVE Wells Bombardier. If you like a little more “American” style try Wychwood’s King Goblin. A little paler, fruitier taste.

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