Beer Tasting: Old Speckled Hen Clone

After a month of keg conditioning, it’s time to do a taste test of my Old Speckled Hen clone attempt!

Old Speckled Hen Clone

  • Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.055; final gravity = 1.011; abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 37
  • Appearance
    • The beer is a rich amber color with orangish hints; a modest bit of chill haze. Head is low, creamy and ivory-colored; fairly persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Light caramel notes, with a bit of maltiness at the core.
  • Flavor
    • Lightly malty, with a lingering bitterness on the finish. Very hop-centered. Unfortunately, I think the bitterness overrides the maltiness more than I like. This becomes a better beer as it warms up a bit, though.
  • Mouthfeel
    • In the mouth, the carbonation has an almost creamy effect that is quite nice. The overall body, though, is moderately thin and a bit thinner than I prefer in this type of beer.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • In it current incarnation, probably not. The aroma is delightful, but the bitterness:body ratio is just a too high for my preference. I attribute this primarily to the fairly low mash temperature called for in the recipe, as well as use of the highly attenuative Nottingham yeast strain. If I were to do this again, I would mash higher (maybe 156°), use a different yeast strain (perhaps WLP002), and cut back the bittering addition just a touch. As it is, the current iteration just doesn’t hit the round, malty notes that the original OSH does.
  • Overall rating
    • 4/10
Note (19 July 2015): After a few more weeks in the keg, this is a much better beer. The bitterness has rounded out quite a bit, and more balanced relative to the maltiness. So, I would up it to 6/10; brew again, with modifications to the mash temperature and a longer conditioning time (probably 6 or 7 weeks).

Brewing Update: Old Speckled Hen Clone and Red Oak Ale

Red Oak Ale sample

Tonight I transferred the Old Speckled Hen Clone and the Red Oak Ale (right) out of their respective primary fermenters and into their kegs. Visible fermentation had long since ceased for both.

Old Speckled Hen Clone
This beer had been in the primary fermenter for 10 days, with a reasonably vigorous fermentation. The Nottingham dry ale yeast was a little slow to start relative to the liquid yeasts I’ve been using lately, and didn’t display signs of active fermentation until nearly 24 hours after pitching.

This beer had fermented down to 1.011, and is still a little hazy. I’m expecting that should settle out as the beer chills. The beer has a nice toffee color, and was a little more bitter than I expected. I think it is mainly because I had memories of a much more malt-forward beer; I expect this will come back to the fore as the beer conditions and the yeast continues to drop out. The distinct hops flavor is also probably due to the “spicier” English hops (where I usually have been using American hops in my other beers–I had forgotten how big the difference was!). Starting gravity was 1.055, which works out to 5.8% abv.

The kegged beer (~4.5 gallons) went directly into the keezer, where it is force carbonating under 13.5 psi at 42°.

Red Oak Ale
This beer showed vigorous fermentation within 9 hours of pitching the yeast. I agitated the beer a bit after 3 days (and once or twice more after that), following notes from yeast reviewers that the WLP041 strain tended to slow or stall out if left alone. I figured this was a good idea given the relatively high starting gravity, too (1.070).

The beer had fermented down to 1.015 over the past 18 days, with a gorgeously clear burn umber color (see above picture). This works out to 7.3% abv, one of the “bigger” beers I’ve done in some time. So far, I’m pretty happy with how it is turning out.

Before sealing up the keg, I added a mesh bag with 2 oz. of Willamette hops pellets for dry hopping. They’ll stay in for ~14 days (or maybe even permanently). Tomorrow, I’ll add 2 oz. of French oak chips (medium toast), boiled in water and contained in a mesh sack. Those will stay in for just a week before being pulled. I’m leaving the keg at room temperature for at least the next week.

Old Speckled Hen Clone

Time for another new recipe. One of my favorite English beers readily available in the USA is Old Speckled Hen, an ale that falls somewhere in the English Pale Ale / Extra Special Bitter style. A quick internet search turned up this recipe at (also available on the BeerSmith recipe cloud). BIABrewer user hashie posted the recipe, so it has their name at the helm. The original recipe was developed for the brew-in-a-bag technique, so I had to modify the grain bill slightly for my own batch sparge setup.

Hashie’s Old Speckled Hen
  • 8.25 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 120° crystal malt
  • 0.90 oz. U.S. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha, 4.6% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 0.50 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 lb. Lyle’s golden syrup, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham yeast (Danstar)
  • I mashed in with 3 gallons of water at 164°, hitting 151.4° for the mash start. The mash temperature was at 148.5° after 35 minutes and 146° after 60 minutes. 
  • I added 1.3 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 151°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 2.75 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash bed temperature to 168°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.2 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.043. This works out to ~69% efficiency. It’s a little less than my best brews (~75%), so I wonder if that’s because I didn’t use 5.2 pH stabilizer on this batch.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the Northern Brewer hops.
  • After 45 minutes, I added the first dose of Goldings. After 50 minutes, I added the Irish moss. After 55 minutes, I added the second dose of Goldings and the golden syrup. The syrup has a really nice toffee note to it–I am interested to see how that will translate into the overall beer.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort down to ~78°.
  • I transferred ~4.9 gallons of wort into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.055.
  • After pitching the yeast, I sealed everything up and put it in the fermentation chamber. Temperature is set for 66°.