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CRAFT spotlight: Hobgoblin beer

Craft Spotlight: Hobgoblin (Wychwood Brewery)

Drinks

Craft Spotlight: Hobgoblin (Wychwood Brewery)

Staying with the IPA trend that I set myself last week, I was looking to try something a little more gnarly this time around. In my last blog I remarked that Brewdog’s Punk IPA was a great starter craft IPA to wet the whistle on a nice occasion, so I decided to push the boat out a little further this week with Wychwood’s flagship beer, Hobgoblin

Hailing from Witney in Oxfordshire, Wychwood differs from the last two craft beers I’ve talked about in that it actually isn’t an independent brewer. Wychwood Brewery belongs to Marston’s, a parent company that owns six brewers and 1,700 pubs. Annually Wychwood produces 8,200,000 litres of craft beers that are shipped all over the world, enjoyed everywhere from your local down the road to Israel and Singapore. 

But enough about the facts – what about the beer? Well, in some ways Hobgoblin tastes more like a stout than an IPA to me. To my taste buds, craft IPAs are characterised by a nutty, hoppy taste, whereas Hobgoblin has a distinctly malty flavour that reminds me of a Turkish coffee. In cans Hobgoblin is only a 4.5% abv, but it tastes a lot denser than that percentage might suggest due to its deep, dark character. 

Jeremy Moss, Wychwood’s head brewer, describes Hobgoblin as “full-bodied and well-balanced with a chocolate toffee malt flavour”, which I think hits the nail on the head. Whereas the last two craft beers I’ve covered have been light, refreshing beverages easily enjoyed on a hot day, Hobgoblin has a much fuller, richer flavour that better suits it to the warmth of a tap room than an August day out. 

And that sentiment is more than reflected in Hobgoblin’s popularity. Its titanic production is needed to meet a great demand, as in 2015 Hobgoblin was Britain’s 2nd most popular bottled craft beer. That could be in part due to Hobgoblin’s unique marketing. It was the first beer in the UK to feature an illustration as part of its design, which displays a gnarled, mythical hobgoblin creature as its focus. Wychwood have leaned heavily into this aesthetic, bearing the tagline: “new look, still ugly”. That heavy folklore imagery is prevalent throughout many of Wychwood’s beers, and in fact all of the creatures and critters that appear on Wychwood’s designs are inspired by the myths surrounding Wychwood Forest. 

As I stray further into some more obscure craft beers, I think this attitude of ‘quality over appearance’ will become more and more evident. Whereas large corporate brewers focus heavily on branding and sales to keep their enormous operations afloat, craft brewers can afford to produce beverages with more esoteric flavours and production techniques at the expense of brewer fewer units. Though Wychwood is by no means a small brewer, it is a good way into a niche style of beers, one that I can’t wait to get stuck into.   

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