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Des de Moor
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Des de Moor


Greene King Morland Hen’s Tooth

Originally published in What’s Brewing January 2003

Origin: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
ABV: 6.5 per cent
Buy from most supermarkets

Greene King Morland Hen's Tooth

Morland Hen's Tooth

Back in 2000 Greene King, now one of Britain’s biggest independent brewers, acquired and closed the old-established family brewery, Morland of Abingdon. Among the brands it acquired was a bottle-conditioned strong pale ale, Hen’s Tooth, launched in 1998 and already established as a supermarket favourite.

The name derived from the expression “rare as a hen’s tooth”, but also recalled the company’s popular cask ale Old Speckled Hen, originally named after a vintage car from neighbours MG. In fact Hen’s Tooth resembled a beefed-up bottled variation of this beer, using a similar recipe, with Pipkin pale malt, crystal malt, maltose syrup, Challenger and Goldings hops.

GK transferred production to their Bury base, taking with them the century-old Morland yeast culture. Indeed, you wouldn’t know this is a GK beer except for the Bury address that now appears on the label. They also kept the clear glass bottle: a shame, since such immodest packaging doesn’t do a long-maturing BCA like this any favours.

This bottle was still in superb condition despite being a week or so past its best before date – it was so eager to be drunk that some of it jumped out of the bottle of its own accord! Thankfully a very sticky sediment helped me pour it clear despite the liveliness.

The beer is deep amber with a warm orange glow and a lingering smooth white head. There’s a complex, fruity aroma (melons), with sharpish hops and yeasty creaminess, and some intriguing esters recalling cider or Belgian lambics: perhaps some wild yeasts have crept in? A firmly malty and fruity palate has plum and orange tones and a slight sharpish edge from the crystal malt. Chocolatey denseness and a fine bead give richness without the heaviness you might expect from the premium gravity.

Hops emerge as you swallow, with a slightly peppery and roasted coffee bitterness developing round the sides of the mouth, well-balanced by lots of fruit. The finish is lengthy and eventually quite drying but delightfully mellow, with a soft, almost salad-leaf quality about it.

Greene King might have abandoned Hen’s Tooth as an unwelcome anomaly; to their credit they kept it on, obviously going to some trouble to match the taste and quality of the Morland version. BCAs are still almost as rare as hens’ teeth on the average British high street as they were back in 1998, and examples such as this are far too good to lose.

Try also: Ceredigion Barcud Coch, Dolle Oerbier (Belgium) Freeminer Speculation Ale, St Sylvestre Sans Culottes (France)


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