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

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.

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.

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 Thanks. James Clarke MD Hook Norton.
PS our seasonal ales range from Double Sout (black) to Cotswold Lion (very pale).

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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