I was almost tempted to call this comparison Which Wychwood? But I managed to resist the temptation, well done me. For a long time Wychwood has been one of my favourite breweries as much as anything for the magnificent ' What's the matter Lagerboy? Scared it might taste of something?' Marketing strategy from a few years back. While the brewery has an extensive range of beers beyond any shadow of a doubt the Hobgoblin range is by far the most well known and widely available. The only question is which ones best?
Hobgoblin Ruby Beer Review
For years Hobgoblin Ruby was simply referred to as Hobgoblin, it was the one and only until Hobgoblin Gold become hugely popular and forced a minor re-brand. It might not feel like a big thing to us, but how do with think the original Hobgoblin felt? It'd be like if another singer called Cher came along and she suddenly had to go by her full name of Cherilyn Sarkisian, it just wouldn't feel right anymore. But anyway I somewhat digress.
Hobgoblin Ruby is a proper thick dark red (or some might say ruby) bitter. You'll always get a decent head from a Hobgoblin bottle or draft pint. There's a heavy malty taste with a hint of fruits or berries which is certainly pleasant enough to make it enjoyable. I've had many a night drinking this beer as it shows up in a lot of pubs that aren't particularly ale based so it's an excellent go to pint. The truth is when I first started drinking ales I always went dark and this is one of my first loves from an excellent brewery.
When you see Hobgoblin available it'll never let you down, sadly as other breweries have got more experimental Hobgoblin has remained a more standard dark bitter, old reliable, but perhaps past its peak. Similarly when I started going out a 5.2% beer like Hobgoblin was a bit of a luxury and only really Sneck Lifter from Jennings compared, but these days 5.2% feels fairly standard. It's not Hobgoblins fault that it's now a bit of a relic, it still works so why change it after all? I just miss the days when it felt like it had an edge. Still a solid 8/10 beer though.
Hobgoblin Gold Beer Review
So here we have the younger, lighter, and at only 4.5% weaker brother, Hobgoblin Gold. This beer has been around a while now but for years I wouldn't touch it just because in my head the dark one had to be better. This all changed however as a result of a friends stag do where we had a huge quantity of both, and I discovered sometimes light beers can be pretty good, but can they be better?
Straight after you open the bottle or smell your pint you'll realise this is a very different beer, there's a much more hopy feel to it with quite a distinct citrus smell. You can really taste the fruit in this beer, and it's not unpleasant or overpowering, I find some citrus beers barely taste like ales anymore but this one maintains that essential beer flavour. Like the ruby version Hobgoblin Gold is now readily available in a lot of pubs and supermarkets, many of which do mini kegs which always makes a nice birthday treat.
Due to the lighter feel of Gold, and the lower alcohol content this actually works much better as a session pint than the Ruby which can leave you feeling quite full after a few. This is where things get complicated for me, I really want the original to be the best, and as a one off it probably still is, but if you said I could only drink one all night it'd have to be the Gold. It may seem like a bit of a cop out but I've got to give this excellent light beer an 8/10 too. I just can't really separate them.
King Goblin Beer Review
OK so we've dealt with the kids, now here's the big daddy. This is a beer for the serious beer drinker, and at 6.6% it's certainly playing in another league to Ruby and Gold. This is also where Wychwood finally got their mojo back when it came to marketing. They claim it's only brewed on a full moon, which when it first came out as a specialist beer I could believe, however now it's available in most supermarkets I somewhat have my doubts, but it's still a nice touch.
King Goblin feels like a return to where it all began with a dark red beer with a bit of an edge. You'll get a minimal head with this beer, and a smell that has a lot going on, it feels like the malts haven't so much been toasted as burnt alive. It's a proper full bodied beer that almost tastes like the Ruby with a bit more kick. And here in lies the problem. I could be wrong but it feels like Wychwood have tried to create a new Hobgoblin to keep up with the times, it feels like they are trying too hard. There's honestly nothing wrong with this beer, it's an excellent choice, and certainly a one off treat, but while Gold felt like it was something new, this feels like a rehash of an old classic film, all the components are right, and it's technically excellent, but give me the original anytime, it just has more magic to it. 7/10