Morland Brewery’s Old Speckled Hen
From Great Britain, by way of the Bert’s Better Beers UK import section, comes Morland Brewery’s “Old Speckled Hen.” A draught ale, the Hen pours with a tremendous amount of cloudiness at first, which at the outset had me wondering just how long the apparent head would take to subside. However as this is nitrogen and not the brew’s own actual head, the rich brownish cloud which formed within the glass settled almost immediately and was remarkably distinct from the thicker white foam which formed atop it. Brown in color, with little in the way of real aroma, save for perhaps a slightly yeasty note, underwhelming hints of malt come through both the nose and upon the palate when first drawing a sip.
This, upon my first time sampling came as something of a surprise as upon its tall can, the brewers boast of it possessing a “distinctive rich malty taste, bursting with character and aroma, and deliciously smooth.” To my own sense of smell and flavor, the only word to really ring true in this statement would be “smooth.” Perhaps by virtue of my own American palate, little if any malt or aroma were found and instead, a dry, somewhat flat, almost bitter overall taste profile causes me to wonder just why it is I sell so much of this.
Likely due to the English yeast, this, compared to other brews boasting rich malt and character, comes across less as “bursting” with anything and causes me instead to consider the soggy, subdued nature to most British stereotypes. In point of fact, I would even go as far as to say that “Old Speck” tastes quite a bit like what I would imagine British weather might taste like were one able to put it in a can.
Now to be fair to this old style brew with its semi-creamy flatness I find in it could be the result of several simple factors. The first is the nature of its delivery. As with many other ales, the difference between having a sip from a can or bottle and having one from a poured draft line can put the two worlds apart. Between carbonation, temperature and the overall pressure with which the brew may deal with, the final product upon a sip can (and generally is) different between varying methods of packaging and pouring. Even between bottles and cans, the differences accorded by way of light exposure and carbonation can give a single brew two somewhat distinct profiles.
Next, there is the nitrogen. In my own previous experiments with nitro as such relates to beer, the differences between that provided from a tap and that from a can are substantial. With the last experiment being the sampling of a particular scotch ale, known for bite and boldness, to the same scotch ale with added nitro, both out of cans, the richness I had appreciated from the former seemed greatly subdued in the latter.
While I find the Old Speckled Hen to be underwhelming if not, to my own palate, less than spectacular, I would remain open to sampling it on draft. As far as the canned offering goes however, I do not expect this will be one I will return to any time soon. Should you be looking for a relatively flat flavor with a creamy overall body and mouthfeel and absentee malt profile, this may very well suit your needs. Yet if you seek a genuinely malty UK offering, there are doubtlessly many others which may satisfy your desires better than this ale.
Nicholas Goroff is a beer lover, writer, actor, ex-political professional and devoted anti-ideologue. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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