Hook Norton: Double Stout


Ah, lovely old Hook Norton Brewery.  My local brewery.  They’re always there when I need a drink to depend on.  Even though they might not be the most exciting and dynamic of brewers, you know that whatever you choose from their range will almost certainly be solid and well-crafted.

Double Stout when in a glass is broodingly good looking, dark and possesses a splendid head of dense tan foam. As stouts go, this stuff looks the part.

Roastiness, dark grains and a nice almost whiskyish, lightly-charred barrel, sort of thing are going on in the aroma.  My imagination made me think I might have picked up a touch of vanillin too…a bit like it’s been conditioned in wood; but I’m fairly certain it isn’t.  Let’s just say that it’s quite a complex nose.

A good solid, creamy mouth feel with a mild, befitting, carbonation makes for a velvety, smooth texture.  An overall theme of gentle roastiness, light dryness and a non-intrusive bitterness helps to complete the picture.

This is probably one of the best introductions to stout that you’ll get. No acrid black malt/over-roast barley in the taste at all…whereas Guinness is sometimes prone to the mouthful of manky old pennies taste which I know is off-putting to a lot of non-stout drinkers.

Light roastiness on the aftertaste and a little bitterness that helps to accentuate the roasty theme.

It’s not a world-shaking taste at all, but it’s good, well-made, solid and dependable.


Hook Norton: Haymaker


Look everyone, summer’s here.  No really it is.  Make the most of it, as it’ll be sharting it down in about a months time.

If it’s summer then it must be time to try another summer-type beer (even though Haymaker is available all year round) and also because Hook Norton are just up the road from me, and because the label on the bottle evokes misplaced bucolic reverie…That’s what it’s like around here, you know…rustic rosey-cheeked simpletons in smocks lean heavily on their pitch-forks and dispense sage weather advice from betwixt corn-stalk clenched teeth…


When poured Haymaker comes out a brilliantly clear high-summer sun gold, with a nice head that retains well to the end of the glass.

There’s an abundant aroma which seems to be all heather honey, cornflakes and floral hops…in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if maize was used as a small  adjunct in this beer, but feel free to correct me if you like, Hooky folks.

First taste lays an arrow straight line of sweetish malt down the centre of your tongue, that gets followed up by a well-judged lightly refreshing hop bitterness…the mouth-feel is solid, but light enough not to cloy.

With a really lovely sweet ‘n’ bitter aftertaste this beer fits the bill for summer drinks after work, rest, play or anything else that you might get up to in the summer…yes, even THAT.

I paid a £1.95 ransom to rescue my bottle of Haymaker from the icy fridge in the Kidlington Co-Op.  A fridge where they were also keeping the Old Hooky – which is just plain madness.  Someone from Hook Norton please tell them to stop doing this…

I hear some people even drink Guiness ice-cold these days, too, whatever are they thinking of?

Hook Norton: Flagship

flagshipAs far as stirring sea battles go, you can’t beat Trafalgar…and as far as beers celebrating this particular British naval victory go, you can’t beat Hook Norton Brewery’s Flagship.

Hook Norton is only about five or six miles away from where I live and I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the -still family owned- brewery on a couple of occasions. It appears lost in time, and retains so many original features that are still in daily use. If you’re ever up this way it’s well worth a visit.

Anyway, on with the review and accompanying naval analogy that I’m literally going to stretch to breaking point (you have been warned)

Flagship pours with a lovely polished brass binnacle colour, a hearty but steady-as-she-goes bottle-conditioned effervescence bears aloft a stable head the colour of a Napoleonic flag of surrender.

Admiral hops contribute to a subtle hoppy aroma that could almost be that of Nelson Sauvin (and I’m not just saying that for the sake of the Nelson reference!) crisp white wine, lemon and pine feature strongly.

The first taste was a broadside of extraordinarily clean bitterness, which blasted across the poop deck to leave a satisfying, and not at all cloying, malty character and a tot of alcoholic warmth; all of which quickly dissipated at the swallow to leave a really fresh bittersweet citrus dose of grapeshot hops to the back of the tongue.

This is a really great English style IPA, with just the faintest influence of the American style craft IPA.

At 5.5% it’s a bit of a dreadnought, but it’s so well crafted that you’ll barely notice the strength – until you’ve had three, after which you’ll be pitching, rolling before eventually finding yourself wallowing in the troughs.

Buy some if you see it; take it out on a boat, don an admiral’s hat and eye-patch if you must, but definitely try it.

You won’t regret it.

My wife bought this for me, from somewhere…probably the co-ey, as she goes past there on the way home.  She did tell me that it was about £1.95 or something.  Which I think represents excellent value.