This beer has been around for years and I have enjoyed a pint or two on many occasions. Sometimes though it is nice to revisit some old favourites to see if they still stand up today. So is Old Speckled Hen A Decent beer?
When this beer was first produced it would have been a crowd favourite, a proper English ale. However things have moved on considerably in the beer world. So can the old timer compete with the new kids on the block?
Is Old Speckled Hen A Decent Beer?
It is a decent beer, there are no bells and whistles, but it has its own true character that I like. Once poured it settles a mid brown with a thin head. The nose is malty with sweet toffee caramel notes and slightest hint of fruit. The taste is a similar experience with a hit of malt laced with sweet toffee caramel. A mild carbonation makes it a little jumpy in the mouth. It ends with a mild bitterness that lingers nicely. Old Speckled Hen has still got it and gets a rate my beer score of 4.2 – 5.0.
I am quite surprised how much I still like the old hen. It takes you back to the days before the hop explosion.
Morland Brewery was founded in 1711 by John Morland a farmer in Oxfordshire, England. He brewed ales and porter for pubs in and around London.
The brewery saw success and after John’s day expanded in acquiring first Abbey Brewery and second Eagle Brewery. This led to Morland moving its operation to Abingdon, also in Oxfordshire.
Acquiring other breweries led Morland to change its name to United Breweries. The growth continued under this name with other breweries and pubs coming under its wing.
For reasons I’m am not sure of the brewery decided in 1944 to go back to the old name of Morland.
Fast forward to 1979 and the motor company MG who also worked out of Abingdon asked Morland a favour. Which was to brew them a beer to celebrate their 50 years of production.
Old Speckled Hen was brewed and named after the MG Featherlight model which sported a silver and black speckled coachwork.
MG was closed the following year, but lives on in Old Speckled Hen.
In 2000 Morland was bought by Greene King who not only still produce Old Speckled Hen, but have added to the range.
Is Old Speckled Hen A Decent Beer?
Old Speckled Hen use to be labelled as a Strong Fine Ale. However now it is labelled as a Distinctive English Pale Ale. I am sure I remember a beer clip some years ago that said English Fine Ale.
I suggest the pale ale has been added to bring this beer up to date, which if true is not needed.
The bottle and label is simple and this beer is always recognisable and well known throughout the land. In fact it is known throughout many lands.
Like I said, I have had this many times over the years. However this is what I got from it today.
Drinking Old Speckled Hen
The beer is obvious through the clear glass bottle, so you know what you are getting in terms of look.
A mid brown clear beer with the slightest hint of amber. Once poured into the glass it is exactly the same with a thin white top. This does fade to nothing and little lacing decorates the glass.
On the nose it is subtle but distinctly malty with a sweet toffee aroma. This is backed up by a tiny fruitiness.
You get the same with the taste, just in a stronger way. A full blast of rich malt hits the mouth with a sweet toffee caramel smoothness. There could be a little fruit hanging around back there, but this goes before it gets established with a nice bitter hit.
It is well balanced and the mouthfeel has just a little jumpy fizz. But the end is a lingering mild bitter beauty.
I like it, but it comes across these days as nothing special. However I think it is a bit special, its dependable, like a leather seat in an old MG.
At 5.0% Vol its on the edge of session, an old English rich malty ale to be enjoyed to the bitter end.
It gets a respectable 4.2 – 5.0 on the rate my beer score. Lou also thought it a decent beer, however scored it slightly lower at 4.1 – 5.0.
Overall I would say that Old Speckled Hen has stood the test of time.
More Beer Ratings
The Speckled Hen Range
Obviously the Morland Brewery is now closed with the take over from Greene King. At least OSH survived and we can still enjoy it today.
Seeing as Morland Brewery is no longer I thought I would feature a few of the Speckled Hen range. These are now brewed by Greene King Brewery.
Old Golden Hen
The Old Hen goes light with this refreshing golden ale. Apparently pretty aromatic on the nose with tropical fruits of mango and grapefruit.
You still get a good hit of sweet malt, just finished with a clean citrus hit that produces a decent level of bitterness. At a 4.1% Vol if its good then it may warrant a second just to make sure.
Old Crafty Hen
Old Crafty Hen is a hybrid of two beers. One being Old Speckled Hen and the other being the very strong (12% Vol) 5X from Greene King.
A rich deep ale that has plenty of malt flavour with dried fruit and toffee sweetness. It is strong at 6.5% Vol and is described as vintage oaked ale.
Old Hoppy Hen
Release the hops for this Old Hoppy Hen a promising bitter ale with tropical grapefruit aroma and flavor.
Four pairing hops give this pale ale its tropical layout and at 4.2% Vol it sounds a crisp refreshing beer.
I may just hop on board and get me some Old Hoppy Hen.
Although the Morland Brewery has gone, at least a legacy stays behind in the form of an Old Speckled Hen. Which is good news because it would be a shame if this beer faded away into the beer yard in the sky.
For me it is an old classic that manages to keep afloat in a deep sea of new age craft beer. It won’t blow your socks of with whacky citrus flavours, but it is a dependable beer.
One you can go to when you just want a pint of beer for the sake of having a pint of beer.
What about you, are you an avid fan of the Old Speckled Hen? Or would you prefer it to disappeared with the brewery. Either way, share your thoughts below.
14 thoughts on “Is Old Speckled Hen A Decent Beer”
Drank Old Speckled Hen for years at The Penny Black pub on Boat Quay in Singapore whenever we made it to Singapore. Thoroughly enjoyed it on draft and chilled as outside temperature often 30+ centigrade.
On draft in Singapore, the old hen travels well. It is still a good pint and one I would like to try on draft again.
Thanks for your thoughts
Owned an english pub in florida in the 90,s my best seling beers were old speckled hen, abbott ale and john smiths smooth.boy were they good….
Owning an English pub in Florida, WOW that is amazing, great fun I imagine too. The Hen, the Abbot and Smiths were all great beers in their day. However with all the different style beers around today, they don’t seem anything special now. Having said that, I think they are all still decent beers and have and will continue to enjoy them.
I first discovered Old Speckled Hen on our wedding anniversary cruise, on P&O’s ship Arcadia in 2009. Since then it’s been my favourite Ale. I’ve had it draught, canned and bottled, but I think bottled is best.
It is a good dependable beer that has stood the test of time. Interesting that you prefer bottled as opposed to draught, normally a beer is better from the tap.
Thanks for your thoughts
It used to be a fabulous toffee strong ale at 5.2% in cask. Since the GK takeover, reduction to 4.5% and moving the Brewing to Bury St Edmunds its lost its distinctiveness.
A good point, maybe they lower the ABV to bring it into session territory, not sure. Many people think the same, that it has lost some of its distinct character. I’m not sure, but I think its still a pretty good pint.
Thanks for you thoughts
Greedy King hoovers-up old breweries & moves the brewing to Bury St Edmunds.
Too true. I drank it in my local for years when it was 5.2%. Called in one day and I said you’ve made a mistake, you’ve poured me the cheaper real ale. No he said, read the poster…. “Old Speckled Hen is proud to announce it’s reducing the strength to 4.5%… but keeping the same price!!”
I made the last bit up though l haven’t bought it since.
This is my go to beer, always good, very suppable, classic flavour and just a legendary beer imho
Old Speckled Hen refuses to bow down to the crafty beers of today. It is a solid old timer that still holds its own, and still pleases a good solid fan base. It could just be a legend.
Old Speckled and Old Crafty are about best beers i’ve tasted in the massive range of bottled beers. Abbot and Bishops Finger come close.
Some of the citrussy beers possibly suit better on very hot days in Summer…i.e Shipyard Ale.
There is a range of beers here in Cornwall from Keltek Brewery. ..of which the two strong ones. ..Beheaded 7.5 and Grim Reaper 6.0 are seriously good..dark and liquoricy..unbelievably tasty – mainly sold in Co-Op .
The Old Speckled Hen is a popular old favourite, Old Crafty, Abbot and Bishops Finger are all on a par. Shipyard is a decent ale, nothing outstanding, but a good solid beer. Keltek are on my radar, they look an interesting brewery and have a good range. The two beers you mention from Keltek sound great, however pretty strong too, but I will be seeking them out.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts