[Note: since this is an early review Ale to the King thought it best to cover to basics before we go in too deep].
Hobgoblin is easier to taste than Ale to the King‘s first review as there’s simply a lot more flavour on offer.
There’s an aggressive fizziness here, but one that keeps its potency almost all the way through to the after-taste.
The first element that hits your tongue after the crackling bubbles fade is a nicely mild orange zest. Its really nicely tempered which is a shame as its hidden behind all the physical sensation that bombards the mouth. What you do get a real taste of, however, is heavy licorice. Its like the bubbles have forced this round your trap and your mouth is left feeling coated in a thick, viscus, layer of the stuff.
A subtle ale this is not.
But then its the beer that bullied its way into being the most mainstream ‘craft ale’ under the tag-line “What’s the matter? Afraid you might taste something, lager boy?” A phrase I’m sure we’ve all felt like saying at some point as pints and pints of stellar have been sold over local, lovingly brewed craft beer.
Due to this success however, Hobgoblin does seem to be treated with derision and scorn in many proper beer lover’s circles. Its the ‘mainstream’ ale, but that’s a ludicrous concept, just because something we like has gained popularity, we should be glad the general public has wised-up and joined in, not scorn the product for ‘selling out’ if it hasn’t or wanting to selfishly keep it for ourselves. Its not derision and scorn this beer deserves. There’s a fine, gummy chewiness that few beers manage to balance so well, between heavily sugared water and milk which is a stand out texture. Slightly fired cloves hit the nose in a similarly meritorious way.
Its not the most flamboyant and boisterous of beers like the sumptuous Old Wobbly (Mitchell’s Waterfront Brewery), nor the most delicate and balanced like White Swan (Thornbridge Brewery) or even the most unrepentant and belligerent like the machismo of Skullsplitter (The Orkney Brewery). But it is a good, solid, moderate dark ale, that’s quite underrated and deserves a better appreciation.