beer reviews

Hogs Back brewery — some of it our cup of T.E.A

Various Hogsback Brewery beers
Various Hogsback Brewery beers

Lots of people seem to rate T.E.A. (Traditional English Ale) by the Hogs Back* brewery. We’ve had it on a number of occasions (on cask and in bottle) and never really liked it. There’s just something a bit acrid about it. So we’ve never made much of a point about seeking their stuff out.

However, the other night we were in Stonch‘s pub, and he got out some of their OTT, a 6% old ale. As he says in his post, it had a “surprisingly sour, funky character”, tasting almost like an Oud Bruin. It worked extremely well and was very tasty, but we did wonder whether it was supposed to taste like that.

We’ve just drunk a bottle we’ve had stashed away for a while, and it’s a very different beer. There are elements of a dark Belgian beer like Ciney Brune in the nose and mouth. I suppose there’s a hint of sourness right at the end, but you would not call this a sour beer. It’s much more fruity. It’s very pleasant. I don’t know which I prefer — this version, or the potentially “off” bottle we had the other night!

Anyway, this made us keen to try the rest of the Hogs Back stash we’d accumulated over the years. Burma Star Ale is 4.2%, and a percentage of the revenue goes to the Burma Star Association. It’s a well-rounded, red ale, with spicy, fruity aroma. An almost creamy maltiness gives way to a nutty, dry finish. Nice.

Then came Wobble in a Bottle, which packs a powerful punch at 7.5%. It didn’t look all that great — the head vanished almost instantly — but this tasted like a good Belgian abbey brew. Similar sugary-fruity-chewiness. I really enjoyed this one.

Finally, we had to try T.E.A. again. I would love to say that the conversion process was complete, but it still didn’t work for us. But it made wonderful beer-rye bread.


*And there’s another lack of apostrophe to wind the Beer Nut up.

12 replies on “Hogs Back brewery — some of it our cup of T.E.A”

Dave the Goon was in the pub last night and at his request I cracked open another OTT. Again, it was sour. From your post it seems my bottles are indeed “off”, but with interesting results.

I’m not a fan of TEA either, to be honest. Hog’s Back remain a hit and miss brewery for me.

We used to stock TEA in our late beershop. I sold reasonably well, but I suspect not to repeat customers. I didn’t care for it much either. It sort of put me off trying any more of their beer.

I too do not really care for T.E.A. I recall having a couple from the more obscure end of the Hogs Back range a year or two ago in the Charles Dickens, Southwark. Both were really tasty but having looked on the website are not listed in the ‘Our Beers’ section. Perhaps they’ve scaled down and are now focusing on a core range or maybe they’ve renamed certain products? There’s also a place on Croydon High Street that serves various Hogs Back beers from gravity, including the dangerous A Over T occasionally.

Which reminds me, I took a friend to his first ever beer festival at Earls Court in 2006. He went off to find his first beer and returned with a pint of 9% A Over T, having not checked the strength. Amateur!

It’s nice to know it’s not that we’ve got faulty tastebuds when it comes to TEA.

Maieb — what do you think of it…?

The sour OTT reminded me of Nostradamus (can’t recall who makes it).

Paul — their packaging is brilliant, and TEA is a great name. A much better way of invoking Englishness than covering the bottle in George flags and knights. I’m not surprised people were tempted to pick a bottle up and give it a go. That and its (weirdly inflated) reputation, of course.

Beer Nut — have you been drinking?

Seriously, though, what’s with the lack of apostrophes? Though it sounds like a question I should wait to ask Mr. Cornell.

And yes, that’s a period after the titular abbreviation.

My tasting notes for OTT:

Bottled. A dark brown beer with a purple hue and a small tan coloured head. The aroma has notes of plums and sweet caramel together with a little licquorice. The taste has more dark fruits together with a little chocolate malt and a feel of oil or petrol. A nice tasty fruity, quite full-bodied beer

I’ve never had TEA in a bottle, but enjoy it on cask.

Maieb – that sounds familiar from our tasting.

Eric – it seems to be quite common to drop the possessive apostrophes in pub signs. My pub-degree explanation for this would be that use of the apostrophe in English didn’t really settle down until 18th-19th century, and therefore missing it could signify either (a) an old pub / brewery or (b) a pub / brewery trying to emphasise its historic roots.

[German doesn’t use an apostrophe to denote possession (eg “Peters Auto”), and I believe old English is the same, eg hundes = “of the dog”, or “the dog’s”]

Well, I’ll be damned. That’s good to know, actually. I’ve got this interest in linguistics, mainly the formation of slang, accents, and the origins of language. It’s a hobby that leads me nowhere professionally but is a topic I indulge in from time to time. Any way I can combine these odd pursuits with beer is welcome!

I have had Hogsback TEA on occasions and been very impressed, I have also had it when the sour character has been on the edge of of distracting. I wonder if they have trouble with their yeast mutating down the generations. The sourness never seems like an outright infection to me.

I seem to remeber A Over T and a strong golden ale (‘Baby in a Bottle’ or something) being pretty decent.

I never understood why Mr Protz included Burma Star in the IPA section of his 300 Brews book.

Being from the States I have rarely tried T.E.A. but loved every pint. All have been on cask and most from the Mitre on Craven Terrace before it became a Youngs pub.

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