There’s a good reason I didn’t write about Hobgoblin on Hallowe’en, even though the people at Wychwood have closely associated this beer with that date on the calendar. Bonfire Night seems much more fitting for this smoky, roasted beer.
Bonfire Night means pulling out the winter clothes that have been in hibernation since before summer. Gloves, scarves, woolly jumpers and hats. It means the clocks have gone back and the curtains are being drawn before the 6 o’clock news. It’s about re-discovering gorgeous winter foods like beef in ale stew and apple crumble with custard. And that’s why this beer is perfect for drinking down at the local pub annual bonfire party; its shimmering ruby red colour and malty caramel flavours are like cinder toffee and toffee apples combined.
Created for a one-off occasion, Hobgoblin was produced by Oxfordshire’s Wychwood brewery. However, too much was made and the surplus was supplied to a local pub. A worker in the pub drew a picture of a hobgoblin and stuck it to the as yet un-named beer’s tap. It took both the pub and Wychwood by surprise with its success, as customers came back asking for more of the “hobgoblin beer”. In my local, there is still a tatty, battered poster – one of the first produced – with the now legendary phrase:
“What’s the matter, Lagerboy? Afraid you might taste something?”
Hobgoblin’s popularity is a combination of genius marketing and genuinely good, well thought out beer. For novice beer drinkers who don’t want huge levels of bitterness, this is a great ‘starter’ beer to have with bangers round the bonfire.