British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

10 April

Recipe Update – Theakston old Peculier (10/10)

With the sad passing of my DoA Shakespeare stout clone I decided to crack open an early sample of my Theakston Old Peculier clone, the first of the Old Ales series started back in the beginning of February. Well its been at least 2 months so it must be worth a try.  Old Peculier truly is a classic with its rich, almost porter like quality with heavy molasses and bitter sweet fruit.

What a way to begin a series. The English Pales series started late in 2009, got off to a slow start, finishing strong with a great Flowers Original clone and a Fullers London Pride to die for.  In the case of the Old Ales I seem to have struck gold early. I must admit to being a little worried about this brew. The recipe had a lot of ingredients, some of which I had never worked with before including black molasses and Lyles Golden Syrup. The speciality grains also packed a punch with Chocolate, Black, Crystal and Torrified Wheat all included.

The biggest concern was the use of Trappist Ale, a real leap for this recipe. We were looking for a high attenuating, high fruit yeast, a characteristic that is hard to find. With some inspiration from the Pretty Things Old Ale, inspired by Theakston Old Pecuilier amongst others, and their use of German and Belgian strains we were lead to the Belgian ale strains.  The Trappist Ale yeast worked, I am now convinced Old Peculier uses Belgian yeast as the final flavor characteristics in this clone are on the money with the original.

First the colour and head.  Head is thick, rich and a caramel colour similar to the original. Colour is as close a dark Old Ale can get.  It is almost indistinguishable from the original. The mouthfeel is that of a big Ale. Smooth at the front, hitting you hard at the back. Watch out cause this ale packs a punch.

So what about the taste, something a little difficult to demonstrate on a blog.  It is close, which is why I gave the brew a 9/10.  As a reminder the The Real Ale Almanac presents the following as the flavour profile we are trying to recreate:

Dark and vinous old ale bursting with complex fruit flavours. Massive winey bouquet of rich fruit with peppery hop notes.  Toffee and roast malt in the mouth, deep bitter-sweet finish with delicate hops

The taste definitely lives up to the billing. All of the above is in this clone, its hard to explain how complex this ale is. The hop load is lite considering the amount of malt and the final alcohol content but the peppery Fuggles come through perfectly.  The toffee and roasted malt hit the front of the palate but give way to heavy fruit at the end laced with the peppery hops. Quite delicious.

Despite my initial concerns around the ingredients the ale was easy to brew. The White Labs Trappist Ale yeast (#WLP500, Attenuation 75-80%, Flocculation: Medium-low) worked as advertised, the ale went into the primary with an OG of 1064, was in the secondary for 3 weeks and in the bottle for 4 weeks with the FG coming in at 1012 producing a whopping 7% ABV (the original 5.6% so a little upgrade here but not something I am complaining about).

This recipe is going to be posted on the permanent recipe page, the first of Old Ales to get there. 1-1 is not a bad start. In a week or so we will get to try the Speckled Hen, another popular brew. There are many eyes on the outcome of this batch and I hope it lives up to expectation. 🙂

28 February

Recipe: Old Speckled Hen (version 1)

Old Speckled HenOnline version with calculator can be found here.

Next up in the series on Old Ales and Browns is another classic Old Ale available in both the UK and US, Old Speckled Hen, brewed by Greene King after its acquisition of the Morland Brewery in 2000.  We have already covered the history of Greene King with the Abbot Ale recipe last year but Morland also has an interesting past.

Prior to its acquisition by Greene King, the Morland Brewery was located in Abingdon, now part of Oxfordshire, in the UK and has a history dating back to 1711.  The original brewery was located in the town of West Ilsley started by a local farmer John Morland to brew stouts and porters, the popular ales of the time.  Over the next 150 years the brewery slowly grew, remaining a family business, eventually acquiring 2 small breweries in nearby Abingdon in 1860.  By 1880 Morland had moved its operations from West Ilsley to Abingdon and by 1885 they incorporated as a limited company registered as United Breweries.  From this point on the company grew rapidly, buying out a number of local breweries.  The company went public in 1994 and was acquired by Greene King in 2000.  Throughout its history the company had a reputation for respecting the breweries they acquired, maintaining the original brewery names and brews.  Post Greene King acquisition though only the Morland name survived, the Abingdon brewery did not and all production is now in the Greene King brewery based in Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, UK.

The history of Old Speckled is not so old but is definitely one worth noting.  I found this description on wikipedia:

Old Speckled Hen was first brewed by Morlands of Abingdon in 1979. MG cars celebrated the 50th anniversary of their move to Abingdon, from Edmund Road in Cowley. They asked Morland to brew a special commemorative beer for the occasion, for which they would suggest the name and they would design the bottle label. The name chosen was Old Speckled Hen which took its name from a car which was brought to Abingdon, when the factory moved.

The car was called the MG Featherweight Fabric Saloon made from cellulosed fabric stretched over a wooden frame and was black speckled with gold. It became the factory’s demonstration model and general runabout and as it chugged about the factory people would say “There guz the Owd Speckl’d un”.

The original beer label bore the MG colours of cream and brown. The bottle dressing was finished with a green foil capsule, which matched the background colour of the Borough of Abingdon Arms. The beer was an amber colour and was brewed at a gravity of 1050 to denote 50 years (i.e. 1929 – 1979) of production of MG cars in Abingdon.

According the company website the ale is described as:

“Old Speckled Hen” has a full, smooth flavour and is very easy to drink. Its rich amber colour and superb fruity aromas are complemented by a delicious blend of malty tastes.

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.

I can attest to the validity of the above notes for the pre-1999 version. In my experience the current export version is not as balanced or as rich and comes across a little dialed down in the flavour department.  Not to worry though as is what this blog is about, trying to recreate the original and sample the ale fresh  as John Morland intended.

The company website gives nothing away around ingredients, colour, or bitterness. It states the ale comes in 2 varieties, a cask version at 4.5% ABV and a bottled version at 5.2%. We will focus on the bottled.  I consulted with the The Real Ale Almanac (5th edition, last published in 1999, so prior to the Greene King acquisition. Important to note considering many experts on this beer claim the recipe was changed) and it confirms the bottle strength is 5.2% ABV, with an OG of 1050 (a given considering the history of the ale), uses Pipkin Pale Malt as a base, Crystal Malt, brewers sugar, Challenger hops for bitterness, Goldings and Challenger for aroma with a range of 30-35 IBUs of bitterness.

Here are the tasting notes from the Almanac:

Nose: Superb Goldings hop aroma (considering using Goldings for a flavour addition at the end of the boil)
Palate: Full hops and fruit in mouth, long dry finish with hops and delicate fruit notes
Comments: Rich coloured and fruit flavoured strong ale with generous hop support.

(my italics) The only hint we have for colour is it is “Rich” and “Amber” (from the company website). My own experience put the colour as a light amber almost a dark golden colour.  Given we have the OG and final ABV, bitterness and fermentables I believe the colour is a variable that will resolve itself. For yeast I will go with Wyeast #1275 Thames Valley Ale, its high attenuation will give the dry finish and both yeast and ale hail from the same location. So lets get busy and input the ingredients into the beer calculus system on and balance the quantities in order to create a workable recipe conforming as best we can to the constraints above.

Morland Old Speckled Hen (BJCP Beer StyleStrong Ale, category: Old Ale)

  • 2.5 Gallon, 60 min boil
  • OG 1050, FG 1011
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 35 IBU
  • 10° SRM (Gold to Copper)
  • Ready to drink in 2+ Months

Base Malt and Fermentables:

  • 2 lb 4 oz Light Dry Malt Extract (60 mins)
  • 4 oz Cane Sugar (0 mins)

Specialty Grains:

  • 6 oz Caramel Crystal 60L


  • Bittering Hops – 0.5 oz Challenger (60 mins)
  • Flavour Hop – 0.125 oz Challenger, 0.125 oz Goldings, East Kent (15 mins)
  • Aroma Hop – 0.5 oz Goldings, East Kent (0 mins)


  • Wyeast Thames Valley Ale (1275)

Other Additions

  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (15 mins)
  • 1/4 tsp Yeast Nutrient (10 mins)


  • Please follow the process guidelines outlined in my post here.  You will require all the equipment specified here.
  • Primary Fermentation: 7 days at 65-75°
  • Secondary Fermentation: 2 weeks in the same location as the primary
  • Prime and store in the bottle for at least 4 weeks before consuming
  • Peak flavour will be reached after 4 weeks in the bottle
27 December

Recipe: Swampswill 6X (version 1.0)

The recipe and process can be found online here. My wife came up with name Swampswill as a play on Marshfield, with our house backing a large marsh swamp, can’t think were she came up with swill, more like nectar in my opinion.

This is my first attempt at replicating another British Real Ale Classic, Wadworth 6X, brewed at the Northgate Brewery in Devizes, Wiltshire.  This is probably one of the independent classic ales of the South of England with its predominantly malty fruit, full bodied flavour.  It is hard to classify, its sold as a Best Bitter but the hop IBU level is low, below the recommended BJCP minimum for an ale of this class.  I really don’t care, its a fine session brew and something I hope to replicate, if I can, as this beer is VERY hard to come by in the US.

A brilliant example of traditional ale at its best – biscuity, fruity, gently hoppy and wonderfully refreshing.The Real Ale Almanac, Roger Protz

The Wadworth Brewery Ltd was founded in 1875 by Henry Wadworth, an already accomplished brewer at 22.  He went on to design the impressive Northgate Brewery in 1885 when he, and business partner and friend John Bartholomew, ran out of space. It is is run today as it was then, as a family business.  When built the brewery at Northgate was state of the art with Henry Wadworth building the brewing equipment into the fabric of the building, much of which is still used today.  Back in 1885 power was hard to come by so much of the brewing process incorporated old fashioned gravity to move the wort from mash tun to fermenter to fermenter with cylinders being built inside a grand tower atop the brewery, a similar technique employed by many all-grain homebrewers today.  Northgate is one of the only remaining breweries to employ a full time cooper to build oak casks to ship the ale, (note to self, oak chips to be used in this recipe).

The first 6X was first brewed on June 16th 1921 and has been brewed ever since.  The name XX’s comes from medieval monastic times when literacy levels were poor so monks would mark X’s on oak casks to define the strength of a brew, the more XX’s the stronger the brew.  Between the 2 world wars Wadworth also brewed an XX Mild, XXXX and XXXX pale ale.  It is rumored a young employee at the brewery whose job it was to stencil the XX’s on the casks decided to write 6X instead of the XXXXXX and the name has stuck ever since.

On to the ingredients, as with our last couple of recipes the company website and almanac are very forthcoming with the basic ingredients and parameters for the brew.  The website is kind enough to provide the malt as % with 93% pale malt, 4% crystal, and 3% cane sugar, 85% fuggles and 15% Goldings for the hops.  The SRM is approx 16 and an ABV of 4.3%.  This is probably the most forthcoming brewery I have found yet, these % help a lot but our final breakdown will change as we convert the pale malt into DME.

The almanac provides some additional details, specifically the low IBU level of 23 and confirms the ingredients listed on the website.  It lists the OG as 1040, FG 1008 and an ABV of 4.3%.

Next stop is to input the ingredients into the beer calculus system on and balance the quantities in order to create a workable recipe conforming to the constraints above and ingredients available to homebrewers.

Base Malt: Given this is an extract recipe we need to replace the Pale Malt with Light DME. Had no problems balancing the the OG and colour between the base malt and specialty grains so we do not require an additional darker base malt.

Specialty Grains: Both the Almanac and the web site state the use of Crystal as the specialty grain.  After fiddling around on the calculator it became clear we need to use Crystal 120L to get both the malty caramel flavour and the rich colour.  After our apparently successful experience with the Fullers ESB clone (though it is still too early to really tell) it looks like we will also need a little Black Malt to kick the SRM to 16 without having to add too much to the OG and providing some additional rich malty flavour the tasting notes call for.

Hops: As stated in the almanac and the website, we shall be using Fuggles and Goldings. Given the alpha content of the Fuggles hops I have in inventory are higher than average we can use less to gain the stated IBU. The calculator calls for 2/3 Fuggles and 1/3 Goldings.

Yeast: The yeast profile for this brew definitely calls for fruit. The high ABV relative to the lower OG calls for a yeast with high attenuation. The choice for version 1.0 is Wyeast London Ale.

Swampswill 6X (BJCP Beer Style: Special/Best/Premium Bitter, category: English Pale Ale)

  • 2.5 Gallon, 60 min boil
  • OG 1043, FG 1011
  • 4.3% ABV
  • 23 IBU
  • 16° SRM (Copper to Deep Copper)
  • Ready to drink in 6-7 weeks

Base Malt and Fermentables:

  • 2 lbs Light Dry Malt Extract (60 mins)
  • 3oz Cane Sugar (at the end of the boil)

Specialty Grains:

  • 5 oz Crystal Malt – 120L
  • 1 oz Black Malt


  • Bittering Hop – 0.5 oz Fuggle (60 mins)
  • Aroma Hop – 0.25 oz Kent Goldings (15 mins)


  • Wyeast London Ale (#1028) (Attenuation 73-77%, Flocculation: Medium Low)

Other Additions

  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (30 mins)
  • Packet of Isinglass Liquid (to help remove any lingering proteins given the low flocculation level of the yeast)
  • 1oz Oak Chips in the secondary


  • Please follow the process guidelines outlined in my post here.  You will require all the equipment specified here.
  • Primary Fermentation: 5-7 days at 65-75°
  • Secondary Fermentation: 2 weeks at 55° (if you can otherwise just 5-7 days in the same location as the primary), add oak chips to the fermenter after soaking the chips for at least 24 hours and sterilizing them.
  • Prime and store in the bottle for at least 2 weeks before consuming
  • Peak flavour will be reached after 4 weeks in the bottle