12 October 2007

Roundtable #31 - Brown is Boring - Wychwood Hobgoblin

Warning: post contains soccer talk

Last evening four of the knights met up with six guests at Mass Ave's Chatham Tap for an evening of introductions and beer conversation. We were led by Cavalier Distributing's Mat Gerdenich, who provided us with a full plate of beer topics - from the struggles of a beginning beer business, the methods in which beer is introduced to a state, to the upcoming beer price hike (futher explained in this post at the Clipper City beer blog). Mat's advice? Stock up now, and expect to see price hikes in January.

We also reviewed a few beers. Because the Chatham Tap is an American bar aspiring to be British, I started the night with BBC's Nut Brown Ale - an English style brown made by an American microbrewery. This was a coke-colored, dead and dark looking beer, with a caramel and nut nose. It had a chewy mouthfeel and a smooth finish, with a taste that echoed the nose. It was a very agreeable beer, but I just felt like it needed a bit more "life" in it. Or maybe some hops, although that probably wouldn't fit the style profile.

Our featured beer was Wychwood's Hobgoblin, an authentic English brown ale. It had the same coke-color as the BBC, with a faint metallic alcohol nose, and a thin head. While the nose was somewhat promising, the beer was watery, with no front or middle, and a sweet peppery bite on the back.

Wychwood's website had this to say about the Hobgoblin:

Hobgoblin is strong in roasted malt with a moderate hoppy bitterness and slight fruity character that lasts through to the end. The ruby red coloured Hobgoblin is full-bodied and has a delicious chocolate toffee malt flavour balanced with a rounded moderate bitterness and an overall fruity character.

Sound really good, doesn't it? Too bad I didn't drink what they're describing. In any case, this wasn't a bad beer - it just wasn't a great beer. 2.3 Mugs

As for the Chatham Tap, it seems like a pretty nice place - soccer friendly, clean and classy, decent food... I'm not so sure about the England soccer scarf over the bar. They couldn't have gone with US Soccer? But maybe I just dislike Eurosnobs, and I'm afraid that the place is run by one. I guess in the end it's nice that we've got enough soccer-friendly options that I can complain about the scarves on the wall. At least they were nice enough to put the MLS game on the tv.

One of our guests noted that he had come in on a Saturday to catch a Fulham match and was turned away because football was on... not a good sign, especially considering that they've got Liverpool and Manchester United scarves on the wall. Hopefully this was just a mixup within staff - I can't imagine the owner is paying extra money for soccer channels just so people can be turned away. It makes me nervous though - I had considered coming downtown to watch a game, but knowing I might not be able to means I'd rather stay on the couch at home.

Chatham Tap also has a nice beer selection, but I wish there was a little more varience in the options. It's nice that they've got 15 English beers, but I anyone really interested in 15 English beers? Having drank my first two browns, I looked for a "go to" beer, a beer that I knew I was going to like. There really weren't a lot of options there, and I ended up with a Bell's Two Hearted - not a bad beer, but not a favorite, either. There's not really anything on the menu that's going to knock you out.

Having said all that, I enjoyed the Chatham Tap, and I'll be back - but there's definitely room for improvement.


  1. Regarding the increase in the price of beer in January, what might we be looking at? $1-2 per 6-pack? Higher?

    Just to get a rough idea, I'm thinking that for a $10 per 6-pack beer, it's probably about 50/50 between brewer/distributor/retailer profit and the actual cost of production. So $5 to make, package and advertise the beer. Maybe $2 of that is the actual ingredients? If the ingedients become twice as expensive, that makes the $10 6-pack now a $12 6-pack. That's not good, but I think I can deal with it.

    Those dollar amounts are just speculation. Feel free to correct me if I'm way off.

  2. i've been hearing that hops and barley are going to go up in price as well. hops becaose of a bad grwoing season and barley because farmers are getting incentives to grow more soy and corn for alternative fuels. anyway, as a homebrewer i'd say the raw ingredients for me to brew a middle of the road beer (25 ibu's, 5 percent alcohol) is maybe $1.75 a sixer and that's from maybe a 20 gallon batch. so how much can that price really go up? 25 percent on the high end? when you're churning out thousands of barrels i can't see how anyone can justify too much of a price hike. that is, if this is just a raw ingredient issue.

  3. I think it will just really depend on what goes into the beer. Certain types of hops will be scarce while others won't be from what I've read. Barley is also going to be at a premium, and up as much as 50%.


    That's a pretty good little synopsis of what is going to happen not only in the states, but world wide as well.

    The only silver lining I see in all this is how creative the brewers are going to have to be. I love big beers like IPA's and big stouts, but I am going to have to learn to relove the mild easy drinking beers. I would think you will see more and more places doing that to keep costs down and will still be making some good beer. The same thing happened all over Europe during WWI and WWII and they got creative and some of the beers we drink today from Europe still use the same formulation from those times.

  4. Stocking up on beers is ok if it is the big "laying down" beers. Time is the enemy of most beers. Beer is best consumed fresh, don't stockpile too much or you will end up with stale beer!

  5. I think the anonymous poster was the Commissioner of the More Taste League. No carbs, no calories, no taste. Bingo.

  6. update: just got back from buying grain. 50-55 pound bags seem to have jumped about 25 percent for us lowly homebrewers. that frankly surprised me. this could have a noticable affect on commercially available beer, but still i think volume buying of grain by microbrewers will cushoin some of that upcharge. i could see a dollar a sixer upcharge, but that;s just wild speculation, really.