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Beer Review #250 Wooly ESB

I have reached the 250 beer review mark. I consider myself accomplished, my wife and parents think that I drink too much. Today’s beer review is the second of three beers that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me. The bottle says that this beer is an ESB, or Extra Special Bitter, with spruce. I’m not generally a fan of spruce flavored things as it makes me think about tree sap a bit too much. Extra Special Bitter is a bit of a misnomer for many newcomers to craft beer. They are expecting something really hoppy, and an ESB just isn’t that. ESB is an English beer style that, while significantly more bitter than an English Mild, is not all that bitter in the grand scheme of things.

Wooley pours a wonderful clear orange color. It has a thin white head that clings to the side of the glass. The nose is nice and malty. It’s an interesting mike of sweet and dry that you often find in English style beers. There are also some dried fruit odors that are probably the result of the yeast strain used to make this beer. There is a slightly spicy hop smell that lingers in the background along with a slight hint of spruce. Since the spruce was so light in the nose, it gave me hope that it wasn’t going to overwhelm the beer/my taste buds.

There is a nice dose of malt and biscuit on the front end of this beer. It is followed with the fruity esters found in the nose, mainly small bits of plum and cherry. The hops come in on the second half and do a nice job of replacing the other flavors in a balanced way. The hops are slightly spicy and the spruce gives a nice resin taste that adds to the bitterness. Everything mixes nicely to give this beer an earthy quality that I always enjoy.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m usually not a fan of spruce flavored anything,but this beer does a good job of keeping that flavor in check. I really enjoyed sipping on this one while getting caught up on episodes of American Horror Story. This beer comes in at 4.5% and I can imagine downing one of these after shoveling some snow when you don’t want something heavy but you also want something with some balls. It’s refreshing and crisp, while delivering plenty of flavor.¬† (more…)

Beer Review #200 +/- (Plus Minus)

Disclaimer: This beer was sent to me by the brewery as a promotional sample

The second beer that Magic Hat Brewing Company sent me is called +/- or in English, Plus Minus. Plus Minus is an English style beer that Magic Hat classifies as a Dark Mild. Sorry no intro video to share for this beer, but their website does have this to say about the beer, “Brewed with the tradition English style in mind, +/- aims to bring drinkers a truly sessionable craft beer experience.”

Plus Minus pours a deep copper to ruby color with a thin off-white head. The nose is very rich with caramels. There are also some roasty components to the nose, but overall there really isn’t a lot happening. I didn’t get any hops or any other notable odors from this one up front.

This beer has a very interesting flavor combination. It starts out bready but then a dry caramel flavor comes in and dominates for awhile. Right when you start to get tired of the caramel  some nice clean bitterness kicks in. The hops are not super strong, but they do their job of cutting the bitterness and drying out the beer more than it already was. Like the last beer I tried, Plus Minus is very clean tasting. There is a slight dry roastiness that sits with you for awhile and I thought it added a nice touch to the ending of this beer.

At 4.2% this is a beer that you could drink several of and not have many problems. I really liked the interesting mix of flavors but I do have to warn you that this beer isn’t for everyone. I have found that a lot of U.S. beer drinkers do not care for many of the dry English styles of beer, and this one falls right into that area. If you dig dry English beer with flavors that are more dull than bright, this one is right up your alley. I would really like to try this one on cask and see how it changes in that setting. (more…)

Beer Review #49 Hobgoblin

For some reason I have been in an English beer kick for the past few weeks. Maybe it is because I have been watching a lot of Band of Brothers on HBO recently, but I am really digging the English style ales right now. Unfortunately Lubbock does not offer much in the way of English style ales, however I did find the subject of today’s review, Hobgoblin from the Wychwood Brewery. The Wychwood Brewery is located in Oxfordshire, England and they make about two dozen or so different beers since I last checked.

Hobgoblin pours a dark brown to ruby color and has a thin off-white head that quickly fades into the beer. It is perfectly clear and the head that started with the pour comes in medium sized bubbles. Just like most English ales the malt is showcased on the nose. Toffy and caramel are a few of the highlights, followed by the malt itself. There is also a slight hop smell in there as well.

After tasting the beer, Hobgoblin was exactly what I wanted. Biscuit, malt, nut, and a slight hop bit were all there to be found on the tongue. Sadly my bottle also had a few skunk flavors in there as well, but there did not overpower the beer like some skunk can. I am going to blame Lubbock on the skunk and not the beer itself. There was also some dried fruit in there, mainly grape. The mouthfeel was very thin and the beer was lowly carbonated.

Hobgoblin is very easy to drink and exceptionally dry. When people who have not tried a lot of beers see a “darker” beer the immediately assume that it is thick and high in ABV. This beer is a great example of how assuming things makes an ass of of… well you know the rest of it. It comes in at 5.2% ABV and is almost watery. I found it very easy drinking and a sure thing for anyone who appreciates English ales.

Hobgoblin comes in 500 ml bottles that have a unique design to them. I don’t know about you, but an interesting shaped bottle and almost make be buy a beer without loving the style. Luckily this beer did both for me. If you have a chance to pick it up, I suggest grabbing a bottle or six pack (they sell those too) as you will not be disappointed. And make sure that you are getting it from a place that replaces it’s stock regularly, skunked beer is no good.¬† (more…)