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.
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.
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.
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.
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.