Last night (Sunday), Sarah and I took a stroll up to The Sportsman for something to eat. This is our nearest pub, and we go up there reasonably often for a meal (more often in the nice weather, as it’s about a 15 minute walk). This was one of the first pubs I went to in Reading when I moved down here in 1975; I’ve moved around the area a few times since then, but now we’re again within walking distance. It’s changed a bit in the intervening 34 years, as you can imagine – but then so have all pubs – more emphasis on food, smoking ban, etc. The Sportsman was my first experience of Morland beers, and I got quite a taste for their bitter. Now, of course, the Morland Brewery is no more, having been bought up by Greene King in 1999 and sold off for redevelopment. Greene King still brew beers under the Morland name – Old Speckled Hen is probably the best-known. They also brew Morland Original (which is what I was drinking last night). Now, I think that calling it “Original” is a bit of a cheek. It’s brewed in Bury St. Edmunds, which is quite a long way from Abingdon where the Morland Brewery used to be, and although my memory isn’t what it used to be, the beer doesn’t taste anything like I remember it – in fact, it tastes quite similar to Greene King IPA – is that a coincidence? But that’s not to say that it isn’t a nice beer – I found that it slipped down very nicely (accompanied by The Sportsman’s toad in the hole, mash and peas) and managed 3 pints of it!
Another couple of indicators that Morland Original is one of the poor relations of the Greene King stable – the handpump advertises “From the brewers of Old Speckled Hen” (obviously nobody has heard of Morland, but they have heard of Old Speckled Hen) - and the Greene King web site has no mention of it – not even under “other Greene King ales”. It’s sad that this local brewery is no more – but they are hardly unique in that – and I suppose that being part of Greene King is better than going out of business altogether. I’m not really criticising Greene King for taking over Morland (and a lot of other small breweries) – they are at least still producing good quality, good tasting beers – and I suppose that the Morland name is still around, so that old fogeys like me can reminisce about how things used to be!