Of trends in British bottled beer; Hook Norton AD 303

From a recent unex­pect­ed trea­sure trove (an off-licence in Stoke New­ing­ton) – Hook Nor­ton AD 303, a bot­tled beer which exem­pli­fies sev­er­al trends to be seen in British bot­tled beer.

1. The “patri­ot­ic” thing. The large inde­pen­dents just can’t get enough of St George, bull­dogs etc. (see Young’s St George’s Ale, Charles Wells’ John Bull.) Seems to be a lack of imag­i­na­tion amongs the mar­ket­ing guys.

St George enjoying a pint 2. Have a sig­nif­i­cant year, the old­er the bet­ter. Fuller’s 1845 may have start­ed the trend; not to be out­done, Shep­herd Neame went for 1698. AD 303 is sure­ly just tak­ing the p*ss though.

3. Sea­son­al beers. This I’m a great fan of in the­o­ry, although by the time you pick it up in an off-licence you may have gone round the whole cal­en­dar at least once. (We also picked up their Hay­mak­er in the same trip – accord­ing to their web­site, avail­able July-August, so pre­sum­ably last year’s batch). James Clarke, MD of Hook Nor­ton has since informed us that they bot­tle the sea­son­al beers all year round.  See Com­ments.

The oth­er trou­ble with “sea­son­al” beers in the UK is for some rea­son they all seem to trans­late into very bit­ter pale beers, what­ev­er the sea­son (OK, I’m being unfair. In the win­ter you might get a “win­ter ale” which may even be more than nor­mal bit­ter with extra caramel).

AD 303 is not buck­ing any trends here. It’s (sur­prise sur­prise) pale and very bit­ter. Pleas­ant enough, but not up to HN’s usu­al out­stand­ing qual­i­ty.



  1. Hook Nor­ton is a 150-year old “fam­i­ly run” brew­ery in the Cotswolds (a pic­turesque part of Eng­land near Oxford) . There’s an arti­cle about them by Roger Protz here (although I think it’s quite old). I’ve only had the plea­sure of try­ing Old Hooky, Dou­ble Stout and Hooky Bit­ter, and I’ve gen­er­al­ly been impressed so far. I look for­ward to try­ing Hooky Dark, which sounds entic­ing and orig­i­nal.
  2. Ad 303 is appar­ent­ly when St George was mar­tyred in Pales­tine. Born in Turkey, he is also the patron saint of Aragón, Cana­da, Cat­alo­nia, Ethiopia, Geor­gia, Greece, Mon­tene­gro, Por­tu­gal, Ser­bia, Rus­sia, and Pales­tine, as well as the cities of Beirut, Istan­bul, Ljubl­jana, Freiburg and Moscow, as well as a wide range of pro­fes­sions, organ­i­sa­tions and dis­ease suf­fer­ers. There is no evi­dence he ever set foot in Eng­land, let alone delight­ed in our brew­ing tra­di­tions.

7 thoughts on “Of trends in British bottled beer; Hook Norton AD 303”

  1. Old Hooky, when on form, is an amaz­ing beer. Recent­ly I stopped at the Black­fri­ars with my mate Alec for a quick pint, hav­ing met him on the bridge by chance. We both ordered a pint of OH. We were both knocked side­ways at how com­plex and enjoy­able it was.

    The same brew­ery’s bit­ter, how­ev­er, leaves me cold. I was in an HN pub in Oxon. on Fri­day and tried it there.

  2. Old Hooky ben­e­fits from “hav­ing the accent” (as they say) on the malt, which is a bit unusu­al in Eng­lish beers. I’ve nev­er had a bad one.

  3. Just to cor­rect a point, our sea­son­al ale pro­gramme in cask runs on a two month­ly cycle, how­ev­er we endeav­our to have the beers in bot­tle avail­able year round, so we brew for bot­tling as required. Just because a sea­son­al cask beer is found on sale in bot­tle out of the “sea­son­al slot” does not mean it is “last year’s” brew. If you are not sure of facts, rather than assump­tions or pre­sump­tions, drop me an e‑mail via http://www.hooky.co.uk. Thanks. James Clarke MD Hook Nor­ton.
    PS our sea­son­al ales range from Dou­ble Sout (black) to Cotswold Lion (very pale).

  4. hi boak (and bai­ley), thnaks for drop­ping by the bel­gian beers. haven’t been post­ing as i had o taste some more beers to post on 🙂
    thank you for remind­ing me ‘the ses­sion’ – som­plete­ly slipped my mind. will see if i have some­thing to post on.
    and yes there will be new posts very soon, as we man­aged to taste about 6 new beers…

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