Morland Brewery can trace it’s history all the way back to 1711, when it was founded by farmer John Morland in West Ilsley, Oxfordshire. After a number of takeovers and name changes over the centuries, since 2000 it has been under the wing of Greene King (along with seemingly every other regional UK brewery!). But it was in 1979 that they first brewed arguably their most famous and popular ale, Old Speckled Hen.
Named after a mud-spattered old MG car used by the local MG factory, the ale was created by Morland to celebrate the Abingdon factory’s 50th anniversary. Primarily produced purely for promotional purposes (try saying that after a few, oh wait, it’s AF) the ale proved so popular that they quickly had to whip up a second batch for the factory’s main anniversary celebration, as the first batch had already disappeared down workers and locals throats.
Although sales declined in the 1980s as the brewery focused more on lager productions, by the 1990s the ale was back in production with new promotional campaigns, earning Beer of the Month in January 1993’s The Independent, and helping Morland Brewery’s profits grow throughout the decade. The beer is still the brewery’s most popular offering, so have they managed to keep the quality levels up with their non-alcoholic version?
Straight from the bottle we can see a wonderful copper shade of liquid, though how much of that is down to the caramel colouring added we’ll never know. The head froths up a bit, and then froths back down again pretty sharpish. Lovely sweet malt notes crowd the nose, with caramel and toffee aromas both there.
The sweetness continues into the taste, with a brown sugar flavour mixing with some leafy hops and even a touch of tea leaf. Similar to the original version but lighter and sweeter. I found the ale to be rather flat and lacking in carbonation. Each of the 3 bottles I bought had the same mouth feel, and it unfortunately makes it rather watery with a disappointing finish.
Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol has enough of the flavour of it’s originator to make it drinkable, but the watery body certainly detracts from the experience. I’m not sure what method they’ve used to remove the alcohol, but from the flat feel and the ingredients list, I suspect it may just have been distilled and then tinkered with.
Nutritional Information (per 100ml)
0.5% alcohol by volume
22 calories energy
(taken from the side of the bottle)
Water, Malted Barley Extract, Malted Barley, Natural Hop Flavouring, Hops, Colouring: E150c
Morland Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol Review
The Old Speckled Hen you know and love but a bit lighter, sweeter and flatter.