Did you know that Old Speckled Hen was created back in 1979, when the MG car company asked Morland & Co. to brew a special commemorative beer to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of its move from Oxford to Abingdon?
Ever since then, Old Speckled Hen has been a popular drink with ale drinkers, mostly those of a certain older age. And when it was first created, I bet there were many that would have scoffed at the possibility of an alcohol free version being created a few decades later.
But here we are. The creation of a low alcohol version of Old Speckled Hen shows that drinkers of all ages and eras are demanding lower alcohol alternatives of their favourite tipple.
Let’s see how it tastes!
Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol Initial Review
Prior to cracking open the bottle of ale, I had to take a look at what a typical Old Speckled Hen looks like. I can only remember ever drinking it from cask, but were aware they came in red and white cans.
If you are familiar with the normal bottle of Old Speckled Hen, then you can see in the below image that the two are similar – except for a switch in colour scheme.
As with most non-alcoholic drink alternatives, the bottle design has adopted blue to replace the red – indicating the low alcohol difference. The design is simple, with ‘Morland’ around the shoulder of the bottle.
Colour wise, the ale is a nice amber colour, which looks just like a normal pint of Old Speckled Hen – however, there is E150c colouring listed as an ingredient which also raises some concern.
But what about the aroma and taste?
Before even pouring it into a glass, you get a strong whiff of malt. Not too much of a surprise from a cask-style ale, and the malted ingredients. But it is strong. Even for a low-alcoholic drink too. It has a hoppiness to it – Challenger, First Gold, Goldings and Pilgrim hops – but nothing too overpowering here.
Other than the malt, there is a hint of sweetness, and a hint of cask beer aroma. They are slight, but definitely present.
Pouring gently into a sloped glass, the beer gives a large foamy head, meaning I need to settle before finishing off the pour into a pint glass. Once completely poured, there is about an inch of head, which quickly settles.
It does somewhat resemble pouring a fizzy drink – coca cola in particular. It is very foamy, and there are an abundance of bubbles on the inner wall of the glass.
Of course, it doesn’t have the same colour of cola. But held up to a white light, it looks remarkably like irn bru, but more like a beer in less glaring light.
Before sipping, the aroma has somewhat evolved. There is now a strong copper aroma, which evens out the malt. It smells more like a cask beer to me now.
From the aroma, I was expecting a strong sweetness.
My first sip, I get a hit of sweetness, but quickly subsides by the bitterness. A second sip and it tastes much more like an Old Speckled Hen that you would expect.
Although the bubbles gave the appearance it would ‘taste’ fizzy, it is light and smooth. With the lack of alcohol, it is noticeably less viscous, but not too much so.
As I made my way through the drink, it quickly became a bit bland and generic. It had lost the original ‘ale’ taste characteristics, and became more of a malty, sweetened, slightly carbonated water. Maybe I left it a bit too long to drink it all, or I quickly noticed the lack of flavour profile.
Where Can I Buy Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol?
Although low alcoholic lagers tend to dominate the low alcohol beer market, the popularity of Old Speckled Hen has meant that it can be found in quite a few places.
You can buy low alcohol Old Speckled Hen directly from Greene King (£1.60 a bottle at the time of writing), from supermarkets such as Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Iceland, Waitrose and Tesco, or from a raft of online retailers, listed below:
Old Speckled Hen Ingredients, Nutritional Information and Calories
The ingredients in the low alcohol Old Speckled Hen as as follows:
Water, Malted Barley Extract, Malted Barley, Natural Hop Flavouring, Hops, Colouring: E150c.
|Nutritional Information||Per 100mL|
|Energy (KJ / KCal)||92 / 22|
|Of Which Saturates (g)||<0.1|
|Of Which Sugars (g)||2.0|
Malted barley extract and malted barley are the two allergens to be aware of in this beer.
Low Alcohol Old Speckled Hen Final Thoughts
Although I enjoy a cask ale from time to time, Old Speckled Hen is not one I would typically consider in my purchasing decision. I’ve enjoyed a few Old Speckled Hen’s in my time, but there are plenty of others I would choose.
Based on my drinking experience of Old Speckled Hen – mainly mediocrity – I was expecting a sub-standard non-alcoholic version here, but I was pleasantly surprised.
If you enjoy cask, particularly Old Speckled Hen, this is a great first non-alcoholic beer to get into. It tastes as similar as you can get, and I enjoyed the one-off bottle I had.
Based on how readily available this is already – online, in supermarkets, and a range of pubs – I suggest you try this beer, as it is rather good for its price point.
Overall, it is pleasant to drink, and think this stuff is reasonably acceptable – as an Old Speckled Hen alternative of course. Yes there are other better non-alcoholic beers available, but if you enjoy a nice ale, then this is something to consider when you want to cut back on the alcohol.