Old Speckled Hen – 5.2% bottled/4.5% cask

15 11 2010

So often these days product names come about as the result of million pound research campaigns by marketing executives with perma-tans and expensive hair cuts, this thankfully isn’t the case when it comes to real ale.

Quite often there are quaint little tales of why this brewery is called this or why this beer has such a name Old Speckled Hen has one of these little tales all of its own.

The beer itself is named after an old MG which was used as a runaround for workers in the MG factory. Over years of service, the car became so covered in flecks of paint it earnt the nickname “Owld Speckled ‘Un”,  which Morland changed to “Old Speckled hen” when they brewed a special commemorative beer for the factory’s 50th anniversary in 1979 The name being thought up by one Ian Williams who worked in personnel in the factory at that time.

These days Morland is just one part of the huge brewing machine that is Greene King but thankfully the name has stayed the same and so has the beer.

Old Speckled Hen used to be 5.2% across both cask and bottled versions but in recent years Greene King have reduced the ABV of the cask version to 4.5% in order to promote it as more of a session beer; this certainly seems to have paid dividends for them as the availability of Old Speckled Hen on draft has increased quite significantly since then. Personally I still prefer the kick of the bottled variant though.

So onto the beer itself;

There is a fairly good level of aroma to Old Speckled Hen, it has a predominant smell of medicine or cough syrup with a  nice hint of malty richness coming in as a background note.

The beer pours to a nice bright and clear amber colour that looks very inviting and rich with an off-white head that stay well throughout drinking.

There is a lovely sweet malty taste to Old Speckled Hen along with a slightly burnt caramel taste not dissimilar to cinder toffee. Underlying these sweet malty flavours are delicious spicy hints along with a lemony citrus note that helps to balance out the richness and sweetness.

The mouthfeel of Old Speckled Hen is most enjoyable, there is a real body and richness that balances perfectly with the dry finish.

Whether bottled or cask Old Speckled Hen makes a great session beer  but is also rich and robust enough to hold its own alongside food.

4.5/5

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Cornish Coaster 3.6% bitter – cask

2 11 2010

 

Cornish Coaster is a bitter from the normally very good Sharps brewery in Cornwall, I have only ever seen Cornish Coaster available on draft and as far as I am aware there is no bottled variant.

I have tried CC 3 times now, all from decent enough pubs that know how to keep and pour a beer, I make this point for a reason, sometimes with cask beer it is possible to end up not enjoying a particular pint due to how it has been poured or how the beer has been kept.

This time this is not the case.

I have tried hard to like Cornish Coaster I really have but I just can’t bring myself to do it, there isn’t anything that is overly offensive about it but at the same time there is nothing that would make me want to drink it again!

When poured you notice that there are some very subtle aromas of citrus, malt and caramel that you can just about pick up but they are very faint indeed.

CC is a very pale golden colour and looking nice and attractive with the light sparkling off of it, the head however is very light and looks almost oily on the top of the pint – not the most promising of starts!

There aren’t really any flavours that you would say are predominant in the beer, the hops come through as being grassy at best and there is a little bit of citrus but you would could be excused for missing it. There are some hints of caramel and a little maltiness but again it is all very wishy washy, not bad but you wouldn’t write home about it.

The big thing that I have to fault Cornish Coaster for is how it feels in your mouth, it is very thin and very very wet, there is no body to it at all, sure this makes it easier to drink as a session beer but there are limits! I have also noticed a slight oily /buttery feel to CC in the past suggesting that there is a bit too much diacetyl for it to be pleasant.

If I were being nice I would say that Cornish Coaster is quite well balanced , if a  little bitter and that it would be easy to drink as an un-inspired session drink, particularly on a hot day when all you wanted was refreshment.

All in all a little bit grim.

2.5/5

 





Hobgoblin Ruby Beer

12 07 2010

I realised yesterday evening that  I have been rather tardy in posting any new beer reviews lately so I decided that it was time to start clearing out the backlog and what better way to do it than with a beer that always keeps me coming back for more.

Hobgoblin from the Wychwood Brewery

I have been a fan of Hobgoblin since I first encountered it about 12 years ago and it’s  not just because I like the oft fantasy inspired artwork that Wychwood use on their labeling.

Because Wychwood are the UK’s largest brewer of real ale and Hobgoblin is its most popular beer you can find it all over the shop and I have known a few people turn  their noses up at it as being a “gateway beer” or “too mainstream” well yeah it IS a gateway beer for many people and you know what I say to that – GOOD…

If more people were drinking something like Hobgoblin maybe the brewing industry in the UK wouldn’t be in the state it is and there would be more decent beer around as opposed to just superchilled flavourless rubbish.

Well rant over.

Hobgoblin is indeed widely available across the UK and overseas, most people will have seen it in it’s bottled form at some point or another gracing the shelves of their local supermarket or offy, it is also available in a can and can be purchased on tap in an awful lot of good pubs across the country.

The bottle bears the Wychwood logo of a Witch riding a broomstick and the Hobgoblin label shows it’s namesake wielding a rather nasty looking axe against a dark blue background, all in all fairly unmistakable!

The beer itself is 5.2% a.b.v in it’s bottled form and 4.5% a.b.v on cask (I do remember years gone by when cask hobgoblin was tipping the scales at 5.6% but ce la vie) and regardless of which you get your hands on is a dark ruby red beer which is clear when poured and has a nice compact creamy head to it.

The aroma that you get from a freshly poured pint of hobgoblin is one of almost chocolate like toffee with a nice background hint of citrus, it’s not overwhelming but it’s very definitely there.

Hobgoblin is a wonderfully smooth beer to drink and although it isn’t the most complex beer around it has a lovely full-bodied feel to it, not watery in the slightest. The predominant flavours are that of toffee coupled with a nice hit of roasted malts.

There is a refreshing fruity background that has just the right level of citrus to cut through the sweetness from the toffee and stops it from being cloying.The finish to the beer has a light yeasty taste to it  and you get a nice crisp hint of alcohol dryness on your tongue.

Because of its ease of drinking and the fact that its flavours are well balanced I find hobgoblin to be a great beer to accompany food as well as being a superb session beer.

Whether you are a seasoned beer drinker or someone who is just trying to find their feet in the world of real ale consumption hobgoblin will have something for you, the bottled beer is excellent but it is even better when you find it on tap.

A real English classic

4.7








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