A pairing of unusual English beer reviews for The Brew Club… Twice the value of a regular beer review!!! ‘Old Crafty Hen’ brewed by Greene King, under the Morland label, and ‘Old Speckled Hen‘.
John Morland started brewing back in 1711 and moved production to the Abingdon (Oxfordshire) brewery in the 1880s. Morland beers are still brewed using a strain of yeast that can be traced back to 1885.
In 1979 Morlands brewed a beer to celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of MG Cars opening their factory in Abingdon. For many years MG used a black car that got spattered with paint in the factory as their runabout and this car became known as the ‘speckled hen’. The beer was brewed to 5.2% and the pump-clip (and bottled beer label) was octagonal to reflect the MG Cars badge.
In 2000, Greene King, a brewer based in Bury St Edmunds (Suffolk) took over and promptly closed the Morland brewery, moving production of Old Speckled Hen to Bury St Edmunds. In 2006 they reduced the strength of the draught ale to 4.6% – partly to keep prices down and partly in response to growing protests about ‘binge drinking’. The bottled stuff is still full strength, so I guess you’re reduced to binge drinking at home!
Old Speckled Hen
Old Speckled Hen is widely available here in the UK, both on draught and in bottles. It’s a bright copper colour and produces a rich white head that disperses quite quickly. There’s a slightly hoppy nose, but not excessive.
The flavour is rich and malty, but not excessively so, with a tangy hop bite that balances the maltiness nicely. There’s a hint of butterscotch in there, just a hint.
True beer geeks will tell you that the butterscotch is DiAcetly, and is the same substance that gives Timothy Taylor’s ‘Landlord’ its nutty flavour. They’ll also tell you it’s produced when yeast is starved of oxygen… oh, does that make me a beer geek?
Anyway, it’s not too heavy, a good session ale, I think I might manage a few of these if the occasion arose.
– a good beer, almost a great beer.
Old Crafty Hen
Late last year Greene King launched a new brew, Old Crafty Hen, a blend of Speckled Hen and about 10% of Greene King’s own 12% ABV ‘Strong Suffolk Ale’ – the resulting 6.5%ABV blend is then aged in oak. A blending and aging technique Greene King have adopted from Rodenbach in Belgium.
The resulting ale is a deeper copper colour, than Speckled Hen, and while Speckled Hen is known for having a slight ‘butterscotch’ flavour, Old Crafty Hen is spicier, with hints of sultana and fruit cake, the oak ageing gives the merest hint of vanilla. This is a well balanced ale, with malty richness vying with spicy hops to produce a genuinely satisfying ale that lingers.
Not one for everyday drinking, (the Speckled Hen will do for that) but worth looking out for.