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Nothing ever to fear from this Hobgoblin

10:52 PM, Jun. 14, 2012
Beer Garden-Hobgoblin
This week's beer selection from Hopjacks Filling Station, Wychwood Hobgoblin Dark Ale. / Tony Giberson/

Let’s get this out of the way first off: I am not a Harry Potter nerd. Okay, I grudgingly read the books some years ago after much prodding and encouragement from my more well-read peers and family members. I will admit that J.K. Rowling was commendably successful in crafting such an ambitious tale — attention to detail, European language and historical referencing, accurate portrayal of adolescent development, action, romance, drama, etc.

Being a Brit from Gloucestershire, she probably grew up hearing tales of mythical woodland creatures from the medieval forest of Wychwood in neighboring Oxfordshire. I’d wager that the inspiration for her story’s house elves came from hobgoblins.

Locals there swear that hobgoblins — larger versions of your run of the mill regular, underachieving goblins, I guess — would find their way into homes and perform handy little fix-it tasks and cleaning chores. After a while they’d find themselves emotionally attached to the domicile and become a quiet part of the family … like a cat, but useful.

It was in Oxfordshire that there used to be a popular brewery owned by a John Williams Clinch. For more than 120 years, his family ran the business that included 71 pubs, with their beer raking in numerous awards. As it happens quite often, the brewery finally closed doors in the 1960s, changed hands and names a couple of times before becoming Wychwood Brewery in 1990.

They were the first in England to break tradition and print bottle labels with full artwork and not just lettering. That first beer to do so displayed the illustration of the legendary hobgoblin.

Despite Hobgoblin’s arsenal of bow & quiver, sword and notch-bladed axe, there’s nothing sinister or malicious about this fine English ale. Its dark brown hue with ruby highlights is reminiscent of the deepest part of its namesake’s forest and its attendant willo-wisps. The nice creamy head pours tall but dissipates quickly leaving minimal lacing due to low hop content. Hobgoblin’s scents also emulate a forest-like sensory input; floral hops hide behind earthy smells of nutshell, chocolate and bread with a biscuity, caramel malt front. Mildly chewy texture with ample carbonation, it possesses well-balanced flavors of toffee, brown sugar and toasty malt with the slightest hint of bitterness.

See, no fantasy nerdiness here! Went an entire review of a beer called Hobgoblin and not one mention of him fighting Spider-Man. D’oh! Too late!

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