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Old Crafty Hen | Greene King / Morland Brewery

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86 Reviews
Old Crafty HenOld Crafty Hen

Brewed by:
Greene King / Morland Brewery
England, United Kingdom

Style: English Strong Ale

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
A strong fine ale combines the malty taste with a smooth raisin finish.

Challenger provides a key herbal dry hop character, First Gold and Goldings give some citrus fruit and crystal malt provides warming toffee in the main beer of this blended ale. The use of some old 5X 12% ale adds dried fruit and raisin and produces a complex flavoured and richly satisfying ale. The tradition of brewing a Strong Suffolk Ale and maturing in Oak Vats is one that unlike other UK brewers, GK have continued - the practice is mentioned in 1810 in connection with GK.

Added by GreenCard on 10-17-2008

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Reviews: 86 | Ratings: 262
Photo of R_J_FearNoBeer
2.74/5  rDev -27.7%
look: 2.25 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

A - Pours a amber color, head fades quick. Very little to no lacing
S - Light hints of carmel, almost a slight smell of hops but nothing exciting
T - Taste comes through with the same ammount of hops as the smell, almost absent. And maybe a hint of fruit. Somewhat earthy.
O - An alright beer not the worst ive had. Will not seek out again

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Photo of polloenfuego
3.71/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From a 500 ml bottle to a Morland Greene pint glass.

A: pours a clear amber with a huge three finger soapy head that breaks down quickly leaving little behind but a small film.

S: malts up front followed by a small touch of oak and wood.

T: malts, caramel and a touch of dark fruit.

M: full body with lower carbonation.

O: not the best of offering from Morland but it's a fair beer. I'm still not a fan of the clear bottle and I have to wonder if that affects the taste. I'd like to try this on tap and see if there was a difference.

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Photo of biegaman
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Say what you will about British dental hygiene but their ales are often perfectly manicured and make a stunning first impression; Old Crafty Hen is tanned, polished, and drop dead gorgeous. It has a lightly coppered auburn colour, deep tone but perfect clarity, and just a sprinkling of bubbles. Its head is fine as moss and sits on the beer like fresh dew over blades of grass.

The bouquet is an intriguing combination of toffee and hazelnut, with a hint of iodine and peat; it's vaguely scotch-like owing to the sharp maltiness, earthy hops and subtle wood spice. I can't even smell an English Old Ale like this without fantasizing about how magical it must be to drink from a fresh cask. Alas, I do not live in Britain, and that is my misfortune.

This beer is a blend of Old Speckled Hen and the allusive Old 5X (which is aged in oak vats for two to five years). The resulting flavour produces a perfect balance of wood spice, tannins, dried fruits, toffee biscuits, nut brittle, and lots of wholesome breadiness. Despite its substantial maltiness a strong sherry-like profile constantly intrudes. No issue there though.

Hence, the palate also features a lot of raisin flavour, but isn't sugary or overly sweet in the least; pungent and resinous Target hops add a taste of grassy, vegetal spice and a bitter (almost astringent) taste of spent green and black tea leaves. These resins are earthy and, owing to the oak, make for an aftertaste loosely reminiscent of moss and peat.

The Brits have a particular talent for making intricate ales without compromising their drinkability, without making them boozy, steroid-driven monsters (like the Americans do). Old Crafty Hen is as mellow and manageable as any pint of plain, but it is just that much more alluring and complex. It is a drink most refined; a perfect fireside companion.

Indeed, if Rhett Butler wanted to find somewhere there was left in life charm and grace, he should have settled in Suffolk, right next to the Morland brewery - Old Crafty Hen is nothing if not charming and graceful. English Old Ales like this one - and the Fullers Vintage Ale, which it strongly resembles - teach one how to relax, properly reflect, and appreciate life.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.74/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a crystal clear amber in color with light amounts of active carbonation slowly rising from the bottom of the glass as well as some orange and garnet red highlights. The beer has a quarter finger tall foamy dark beige head that reduces to a mottled thin film covering the entire surface of the beer and a medium thick ring at the edges of the glass. Moderate amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of fruity yeast (apple + pear) along with moderate flavors of toffee malts. Light notes of earthy hops as well.

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of biscuity malts with some light notes of toffee sweetness. That is followed by moderate flavors of light fruity (apple, pear, and white grape) yeast and just a hint of something oak-like. Finally there is a light amount of earthy hop flavors towards the finish. Very light notes of bitterness in the finish which fades almost immediately.

M: Slightly heavier than medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation.

O: This is more of a sipping beer even though the ABV is not too high - enjoyable flavors and aromas but it seems a little bigger than it is.

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Photo of thehyperduck
3.71/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 mL bottle from a 4-pack picked up at the LCBO. Other than the flagship Old Speckled Hen, this particular line of beers is pretty sparsely distributed in these parts, which makes this sampler a rather nice opportunity to sample some offerings from one of the first English brewers I ever took an interest in. Served slightly chilled.

Pours a bright, clear orange-amber colour, topped with a half-finger of dense, light tan-coloured head that quickly seeps away. A filmy cap and narrow collar remain, with minimal lacing. Malty aroma typical of paler English ales - bready malts, toffee and butterscotch, with some non-descript fruity esters. A little woody, with a very slight touch of ethanol - not bad.

Tastier than the nose lets on, though there's still nothing earth-shattering here. Malts are the area of focus here, with a mixture of bready malts, biscuits and toasted nuts comprising the backbone. Toffee is also quite noticeable, with some fruity notes of sultana raisin and fig coming through as well. The finish becomes increasingly earthy as the hops begin to take charge, culminating with a spicy, almost woody feel in the aftertaste, in addition to caramel and some faint warmth. Medium-bodied, with moderate carbonation and a slick but spritzy mouthfeel. Fairly easy to drink quickly, but this is something I'd rather sip slowly for a while.

Final Grade: 3.71, a B grade. Old Crafty Hen is a tasty strong English ale, though 'old ale' probably wouldn't have been my first guess on a blind tasting. Style aside, fans of Innis & Gunn will probably appreciate this one, as it offers a somewhat similar flavour profile with a noticeably more varied hop presence (and thus better balance IMO). A great beer to warm your bones on a cold winter's night, and something I'd consider getting again - it paired nicely with some beef stew.

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Photo of spinrsx
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

500ml Bottle from the Ottawa LCBO part of a mixed 4 pack for $13

Appearance - Clear copper colour with an average size beige oloured head. There is an average amount of carbonation showing and there is some fair lacing. The head lasted for around 2-3 minutes before it was gone.

Smell - Malts, hops, pears, an earthiness

Taste & Mouth - There is an average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, hops and pears/apples. There is also some caramel/toffee and a bit of a woodiness.

Overall - Another very tasty enjoyable beer from this brewer. Lots of malty flavour and some nice earthy/fruity flavours to go with it. I'd pick this up again if it was available in single bottle/can formats locally.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
4.21/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Old Crafty Hen has a very thin, off-white head, and a mostly clear, deep, brilliant, amber appearance with some bubble streams and lacing. The aroma is of of rich, sweet caramel and toffee, bread crust and maybe some raisin. Taste is of those elements, with some mellow, but distinguished bitterness at the end of the sip. Mouthfeel is medium and soft, and Old Crafty Hen finishes wet, sweet, rich, and delicious. Overall, a most excellent beer!


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Photo of schoolboy
3.96/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Although this style can be a little difficult to take at times (that malty badness, like other European styles, it can taste like it's gone bad), I have been in the mood to feel like a piece of England. So I bought a few of these to sample. Many of these I probably tried a long time ago, but never reviewed.

This one looks OK - a little flat. The aroma is typical - slightly funky and even more slightly skunky. The taste has that malty hoppy badness - like it's turned, and that's how it lingers in the mouth.

But I am putting up with these authentic old school ales so I can feel more a part of the All Creatures Great and Small world I am visiting through TV. They are constantly drinking ales like this.

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Photo of M_C_Hampton
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: poured from a 500 ml bottle into a glass, rich red amber brown colored with a large off white head, clear

S: heavy on malt, caramel, dark fruits, breast

T: malt forward, caramel and dark fruits, prune, raisin

M: heavy with lower carbonation, warming and rich

O: a nice old ale with emphasis on malt, nice at room temp

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Photo of mrfrancis
4.01/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

A: Pours a dark burnished amber with a creamy whitish head that recedes quickly, leaving only a modest amount of lacing.

S: Aromas of leather, toffee, caramel, roasted nuts, heather, tobacco, black pepper, black tea, mild citrus, biscuit, raisin, and oak slowly reveal themselves.

T: Earthy and spicy up front with nicely layered flavors of oak, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, black tea, moss, black currant, leather, heather, tobacco, bitter orange, and lemon. Around mid-palate malty notes of caramel, toffee, brown sugar, molasses, sweet cream, and biscuit kick in and balance the peppery, woody notes from the hops. On the finish, a delicate, complex blend of herbs, lemon, oak, pepper, tea, leather, biscuit, and toffee gives way to subtle flavors of raisin and prune.

M: Relatively full in body and dryish, though well-balanced. Carbonation is firm, but not exactly crisp. Alcohol presence is nonexistent.

O: A really nicely executed and wonderfully balanced old ale. While Old Crafty Hen is not the sort of lactic, oaky old ale for which I normally reach, it is still very appealing. All of the traits of Old Speckled Hen, The Tanner's Jack, and Hen's Tooth that I admire seem to have been amplified in this ale. I could see this beer being a wonderful introduction to the world of traditional English old ales and strong ales.

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Photo of scotorum
3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The last of the "Hen House" fourpack of pint + bottles by Greene King/Morland I have tried. Poured from the 16.9 oz. clear bottle into a Samual Smith English tulip pint glass.

a. Deep rich delicious-looking medium amber grows a 3/4 inch white head which dissipates slowly to a heavy white surface film with ringing and light lacing.

s: Nothing notable at first, but on drinking, a light malty aroma.

t&m: Smooth and very pleasant, little hop bite or fruitiness. But then if I want the latter, I'd buy a good IPA. Aftertaste telegraphs that you've just had a damn good beer.

o: One of the best British ales I've had in years. Superb with the lobster dinner it accompanied.

Bottom line to my Hen House experience is: if you like British ale and have a chance to buy the fourpack, don't pass it up. They're all good and all a little different. Only drawback is the clear bottles risk skunky aromas, but just one of mine even suggested that.

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Photo of dwren89
4.07/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: great clarity, surprisingly pale gold color, much lighter than most English IPA, white, sticky, fluffy head

Aroma: Strong citrus aroma of grapefruit, orange, very little to no detectable malt aroma, clean yeast

Taste: fruity, citrusy, spritzy carbonation, much more American than English, very soft pale malt backbone that is only detectable really in the body; hops flavors ring through start to finish with a mildly bitter medium finish

Mouthfeel: Spritzy, carbonation lightens the body, you can only tell its medium bodied if you hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing; very easy drinking, medium bitter, somewhat dry finish
Overall Impression: For a beer that is ranked this highly on Beeradvocate’s top beers in Britain, I honestly expected more. It is a little too light in body and malt character, and uses obviously American hops, to be considered an English IPA. When compared to the best Ameican IPAs, this would not have a prayer to make the top 50. That being said, it is quite refreshing, light on the palate, and thirst quenching.

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Photo of Brenden
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Darker than amber, this Hen is almost red, with sharp, bright clarity. About half a finger is what's ultimately left after puffing up tall on the pour. It's a sturdy head, though, and it sticks around for a full session, depositing steady, even lacing as it does.
A little bit buttery, as I'm coming to expect in some cases, it's otherwise grassy with a biscuity malts backbone. Some citrus zest and a surprisingly sturdy floral and citrus hops, and fruity esters sans the big alcohol bite some Americans bring to it adds up to a good, strong beer with a nice balance. The flavor brings out a touch of caramel sweetness and a spicy bite, as well as a touch of brown sugar and more dark fruits for more underlying sweetness, but certainly not cloying.
Interestingly, the body, while on the light side of medium, has a powdery touch of dryness to it. It never gets too slick or thin, and displays a consistent crispness while still being smooth, though the crispness just nips.

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Photo of Bouleboubier
4.19/5  rDev +10.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

A: orange-y-amber, initially hazy... lil more than 1/4" head stays after a more voluminous stand on the pour, messy collar later, nil on lace... clears a good bit as it warms, but not totally.... there IS some legs?!

S: weird - almost like a Euro pale lager while it's pouring (Heineken?!?!).... estery and surprisingly hoppy while the head still exists.... as it settles, straight caramel chews and a clean English fruity ester

T: plant flavor and bitterness? dandelion greens come to mind.... a standout, enhanced malt richness and depth compared to their other products.... slightest warm, spicy alcohol in the aftertaste... almost white wine vinous set against a mildly-burnt caramel.... dense caramel with some slickness and a honey-ish quality.... bit of toasty pale malt late and a grassy bitterness.... one whose familiar could taste the Old Speckled....

M: soft and smooth with a touch of a powdery feel... little bit of a tart prickle up front on the tongue tip.... kind of medium-bodied.... warmth gradually builds while a mild phenolic burn lingers (made me think of Carlsberg Special Brew for some reason).... quite dry enough actually

O: has some certain qualities worth savoring... increases exponentially in enjoyability as it goes... comes of like an enhanced Old Speckled... very well-balanced aside from the mild alc/yeast bite

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Photo of kvnstfrd
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a dark, amber color with a frothy, long-lasting head with plenty of lacing.

Aroma: Raisins, spicy hops and cereal grains with a woody aroma.

Taste: Initial taste is brandy-like with dark fruits, oak and a subtle taste of liquorice while on the palate. Aftertaste is a perfect blend of sweet, dark fruit flavors and a dry bitter. Mouth-feel is medium with almost no detectable carbonation. A smooth and buttery swallow.

This is a difficult-to-find brew that I've been hunting for 3 or 4 years. I am happy to report that it has been well worth the hunt and the wait. This one just might make it into my top-10 list!

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Photo of breakingbland
3.91/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 1 pt., 0.9 oz. (0.5 liter) clear glass bottle (not dated) into a pint glass.

Appearance: Slightly hazy honey golden. There is slight effervesce from the bottom of the glass. The head was a very thin layer of foam that dissipated quickly into a ring that persisted.

Aroma: Very slight skunkiness (but not objectionable) followed by sweet maltiness with some hops and grassiness. Not a strong aroma overall.

Taste: Hits the tongue initially with a rich but very well balanced malt/hops pairing. After swallowing, there is a marked honey-like sweetness that gives way to a grassy, hoppy bitterness that persists for a while.

Mouthfeel: Moderate to low carbonation. The rich flavor works with the moderate body to give this beer a good feel in the mouth.

Overall: I bought this in a 4-pack with three other "Old Hen" offerings from Morland based on my good opinion of "Old Speckled Hen". This one is called a "superior fine ale" on the bottle, and by comparison to OSH, it is -- mainly due to the rich maltiness and sweetness (both of which I am a fan). I will look for this again and would consider it something of a special occasion beer. (This has been discussed in the forums [http://beeradvocate.com/community/threads/clear-bottles.23175/], but I'm surprised that there's so little skunkiness [only a slight skunky aroma] as these beers are sold in clear bottles.)

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Photo of ONUMello
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

500ml bottle poured into a pint glass
A: Burnt orange color with a one-finger head that settles to a thin lacing
S: Sweet caramel/toffee, roasted grains, & a bit of fruitiness
T: Matches the nose - brown sugar & its associated candies initially, some malt & a fruit-driven finish
M: Medium-bodied but the sweetness makes it a bit syrupy; I would prefer more crispness
O: Very solid brew. I bought a four-pack "hen house" sampler from the brewery and this is by far the best of the four

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Photo of Drink_AK
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance is great, beautiful amber in an ice-cold mason jar.

Smells sweet, like the inside of a brewery.

Taste is a bit too sweet for my taste, as I enjoy the bitter. But a great beer after a dinner, I'd love to try it on tap. Dessert like for my tastes.

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Photo of tonton
4.4/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Having this beer now at Trafalgar Pub in Wanchai.

Poured from a 50cl clear bottle into an English pint. Beautiful golden ale with a gorgeous 2" white head.

Smell - nice, common pale ale smell.
Taste - Banana, walnut, malt, hops.
Mouth - Moderate to high carbonation, nice linger on the tongue.

Overall - Excellent example of a strong English Ale. Recommended!

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Photo of droomyster
3.94/5  rDev +4%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear dark copper body with a brief head that settles to a white collar. Big and sweet aromas of predominantly toffee, followed in strength by dark fruit (very fig-like) and a hint of vanilla. Taste carries a big toffee and biscuity blast on the front and mid-palates, with dark fruit (figs, prunes, raisins) and sherry-like notes emerging on the mid to back-palates. A lightly earthy, wet wood-like bitterness lends some balance to the finish. As far as old ales go, this isn't nearly as potent as some of the American best-sellers, but its relatively mild intensity makes it potentially more appealing to a broad audience, while the austerity of flavor profile gives the geekier beer consumer something to revel in.

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Photo of jmdrpi
3.18/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

500 ml clear bottle, no date

appears a brilliant dark copper color with amber highlights. small thin head. sweet malty aroma. brown sugar, a touch of golden raisin and earthiness. taste is unfortunately not as complex. a bit too sweet, could use a bit of hop balance. medium body, medium to higher carbonation.

overall - a bit disappointed. doesn't seem much different than the regular Old Speckled Hen.

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Photo of vinicole
3.77/5  rDev -0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Re-review:18/10/2016 L-4 S-3.5 T-4 F-4 O-4 - on cask (a rare sight) - Much better. Less aroma but more caramel and fruit in the flavour. Smooth and very drinkable for the ABV.

Chestnut colour. Thin wispy head.
Malt and alcohol nose. Almost perfumed.
Rich malt. The oak comes through. Sweet fruity esters.
Rather hot for barrel aged. Low in complexity.

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Photo of Huffs
4.26/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Poured into a pint glass and developed a nice creamy, biscuit colored head which lasted and laced reasonably well. Appearance was clear, amber / ruby color with a light aroma of cream and toffee. Taste had notes of caramel, toffee and vanilla with a light, bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel was full and creamy. Classic English Ale.

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Photo of pkalix
4.34/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

nice copper color, clear, little head on top; smells of sweet malts.
tastes of sweet malts, lots of caramel; a lot like some of these other versions of english beer i've been having lately with the sweetness in the middle. nice, mellow taste, easy to drink with a higher abv at 6.5%
overall, i like the style and i like the taste. lots of character and easy to drink a few in succession. i like the malitness and want to know how these english beers get this particular taste which no one else seems to be able to produce. the closest thing to them are the german commercial caramel-y beers like the oktoberfests, but these have totally different twists which i really enjoy. anybody know?

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Photo of Pencible
2.53/5  rDev -33.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A: This poured a clear dark copper with a little white head.
S: It smelled like strong skunky lager yeast, with some sweet raisin and toffee, and a little biscuit and maraschino cherry.
T: It tasted like strong skunky lager yeast, with a little sweet raisin and subtle nutty malt and biscuit. It had a lasting skunky aftertaste.
M: It was watery with some carbonation. Fairly light body.
D: Clear glass strikes again. Moreland needs to fix this, since I can only imagine ever getting skunky beers from them in the US. The scent and taste were not pleasant, and the body was pretty weak. The finish was rough, so it was not easy to drink in any regard. Boo.

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Old Crafty Hen from Greene King / Morland Brewery
3.79 out of 5 based on 262 ratings.
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