Given my druthers, I'll drink ale rather than pilsner, lager, or any other varietal. I'm particularly partial to Belgian styles, which tend to be rather potent in both taste and strength. But I also appreciate some select English style ales, which are radically different than the Belgians. English ale tends to be smoother, unobtrusive, simple beer.
Then there is Old Speckled Hen, which has a bit of an edge to it that's hard to put your taste buds on the first time you try it. Then, I discovered its little secret: toffee.
Old Speckled Hen was my First Beer of Christmas, which was a little present to myself; I hand-selected a dozen specialty beers to try during the Christmas season.
Toffee and malt combine with bitterness on the back of the tongue to give a balanced sweetness. This is followed by a refreshingly dry finish.
"Old Speckled Hen" was first brewed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MG car factory in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Named after an old MG car which was used as the factory run around, they would park the old MG Featherweight Fabric Saloon outside the paint shop where it would normally get spattered in paint and so it became known as the ‘Owld Speckl’d Un’. This turned into "Old Speckled Hen" when the beer was unveiled.
Since then the finely balanced beer with a distinctive rich malty taste and fruity aroma has attracted many fans, including the fox, who is always on the hunt for his Hen.
The Hen has warmed its way into my lexicon of beer. At first I found it an annoying flavor, but one that changed three times on the palate: first the sweet, then the bitter, and then the dry finish. And the toffee notes were a different tantalizing sweetness than the malt. It piqued my curiosity to try it again, and I liked it much better the second time. Now it is a taste experience to be savored.
Old Speckled hen is really fun to drink; try it and see for yourself!