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A 2006 World Beer Championships Gold Medal winner and rated Exceptional (91 points) by the Beverage Tasting Institute, Hobgoblin pours a dark amber/ light brown color with an attractive head that leaves good lace. On the nose, rich aromas of caramel, toffee, and maple syrup come forth, along with a bit of true-to-style butterscotch, dark fruits, and a touch of nuttiness and chocolate. There’s also a certain woodiness, as if the beer had been drawn from the cask. On the palate, expect a sweet richness that is restrained and well-balanced by light hop bitterness. Notes of caramel, butterscotch, and raisins are joined by woody, tobacco-like tones, and it finishes with an earthy, almost musty, yeasty character. This is quite a treat, and a great rendition of a dark English ale. We recommend pairing it with a snack of red grapes and cubes of cheddar or cotswold cheese.
Wychwood Brewery is one of only a few independent brewing companies left in England. Is it their array of fantastical forest-lore creatures that keeps them safe from the brewery consolidation trend that has swept the country in recent decades? Legendary spirits like the ‘Hobgoblin,’ ‘Scarecrow’ and the ‘Black Wych’ do seem to stand guard over the brewery, keeping the conglomerate nasties away while luring new fans in England as well as here in the US.
So how did the Wychwood Brewery become friends with this strange cast of characters? The brewery’s history begins in 1983 when Paddy Glenny, an English brewer who had lived and trained in Germany, decided to start a brewing operation in Witney, an historic market town amidst England’s Cotswolds. He bought Clinch’s Brewery, which had been founded in 1841 but closed since the 1960s, and set to work. Paddy called his new brewery the “Eagle Brewery”. A small operation, the brewery originally produced only about 800 barrels per year. In 1985, Paddy was joined by Chris Moss, and the pair set about ramping up production.
In 1988, a local landlord hired the brewery to craft a special beer for his daughter’s wedding (an opportunity no brewer should pass up, considering Oktoberfest began in a similar fashion). Chris Moss accepted the challenge and produced the famed Hobgoblin Ale (which we have to assure you did not bear that name at the time – imagine the bride and her father’s reaction if their celebratory wedding beer was called “Hobgoblin”!). Some ale remained after the wedding, which was sold to the public and was an instant hit. Chris and Paddy brewed more, and “legend” has it that a sketch of a Hobgoblin was left on a firkin of the beer when it was out of the brewers’ sight. The name stuck, and the brewery embraced the theme, renaming the operation “Wychwood” in 1990 after the local Wychwood Forest.
It’s worth noting that Wychwood also brews organic beer under the Duchy Originals brand for Prince Charles (yep, that Prince Charles—The Prince of Wales). In this capacity, they are the largest maker of organic beer in the UK.
To learn more about the brewery, check out their quirky website at www.wychwood.co.uk.
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