Since we met at a pub that prominently displays the Three Lions and St. George's Cross in the front window, I thought it only proper to focus on the Tap's English beers. On that note, I started the night with a Boddington's Pub Ale, which is an old standby for me from the many soccer tailgate parties I've been to. On the occasions that I've had this nitrogen-infused beer out of a pub draft can, it had a creamy mouthfeel and a smooth, drinkable flavor. But the Boddington's I had at the Tap was somewhat watery, lacking the typical Boddington's creaminess. I could only guess that my taste buds have become "shot" from drinking so many flavorful beers over the past year, or that perhaps the keg was old.
Wychwood Hobgoblin Ale--Sammy Terry's beer of choice?
Undeterred by the lackluster warm-up beer, I moved on (with the rest of the group) to our feature beer, Wychwood Brewery's Hobgoblin Ale. The Hobgoblin seemed like a well-suited beer for us to review at this time of year considering its billing as "The Unofficial Beer of Halloween." While Wychwood classifies Hobgoblin as a "Strong Dark Ale," it seems to me that it's really a brown ale (indeed, that's what every beer review site I've visited lists as Hobgoblin's style classification). I found Hobgoblin to be dark (it has a nice mahogany hue), but I certainly didn't find either the nose or the flavor to be strong. Part of the problem, I believe, was the temperature at which this beer was served. The proper serving temperature for an ale of this type is cellar temperature (in the mid to high 50s). But the Hobgoblin arrived at the table as if it had been stored in a walk-in cooler. As a consequence, I didn't get any nose off of this beer at first, and the taste was bland, albeit slightly coffee-ish. As the beer warmed, the nose pepped up a little, giving off slightly caramel, coffee, and toffee notes. But the flavor, in my opinion, was still underwhelming.
Mike is right on the money with his rating of 2.3 mugs on this beer. Hobgoblin is not a bad beer, and one that I'd be willing to try again. But there are better offerings from the U.K. out there (cf. Young's Double Chocolate Stout).
Before I close, I have to thank the HBG readers who joined us for the roundtable (come again!) and to Mat Gerdenich of Cavalier Distributing, who wowed us with his beer IQ.