Beer Reviews Hockley Valley Dark Ale

Buying from craft breweries can occasionally be a crap shoot, and here’s why. Sometimes the brewer likes to take an established beer style and turn it on its ear. The problem with this is said brewer can take a perfectly good beer and turn it into something unrecognizable and not in a good way. Hockley Valley Brewing decided to get creative with the English brown ale, combining the northern and southern versions of this classic beer.

On a recent trip to the beer store, Hockley Dark’s label caught my eye. The label boasts that Hockley Dark is a traditional English ale with full flavor and a mild, light body. Looking them up on the internet, reveals much of Hockley’s history. Starting with Hockley Valley Brewing opening in 2002 in the back of a small general store. In 2007 they moved to their current, 2500 sq ft location in Orangeville, Ontario.

Today Hockley Valley Brewing produces over 250,000 litres of beer annually split across three brands. Hockley Dark was intended to be a combination of two English ales. Specifically, a cross between northern brown ale and a Midlands mild. Brewers gave the beer a lighter body, to suit north American tastes. To me this is an interesting idea, combining similar two beer styles with their own distinct personalities.

Both styles are light to dark brown in color, with mild ales sometimes skewing towards a deep copper color. Both styles boast a malty aroma with mild expressing it in notes of caramel, grain, nuts, or chocolate with hints of roastedness. Whereas northern browns have more fruit esters and a mild hop presence. Flavors tend towards malty as well with the northern brown giving us malty, chocolate, nutty flavors and the English mild having similar flavors with notes of fruit, licorice, molasses, and plum.

Looking forward to the results of Hockley’s experiment, I let my ale come to temperature and pour a glass. Hockley Dark is a deep ruby colored ale with leathery highlights. Minimal carbonation supports an off white mousse colored head. Retention is not bad. Hockley Dark starts off with roasted malts that give me a pleasantly chocolaty aroma. Chocolate malts move into aromas of raisins and hints of leather. These aromas are supported by an enjoyable nuttiness. Aromas come together nicely, giving Hockley Dark a sort of understated roasted quality.

This medium bodied ale tastes very much like it smells. Flavor starts out with chocolate and cocoa in the front. Center gives me a pleasant combination of toffifee and hints of leather. Chocolates are supported by a not over present through note of nuttiness and a slight acidity, leading into Hockley’s dry finish. Hop presence here is low with bitterness seeming to come from the beer’s gentle roasted quality.

Overall not a bad offering. Hockley Dark is an interesting interpretation of the combination of two different styles of English ale. Hockley Dark takes elements from both English ales and combines them in a way that is balanced, flavourful and enjoyable. 8 out of 10.

Pre: Next: