Abbot Ale

Greene King Brewery

Greene King is a British brewery established in 1799 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. It has grown to become the largest British owned brewery in the UK by a series of takeovers which have been the cause of some controversy. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 share index.

History

Greene King's Westgate brewery is in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK. It was established in 1799 by Benjamin Greene, the great-grandfather of the writer Graham Greene and his brothers Hugh (television executive) and Raymond (Everest mountaineer and physician). There is a visitor centre next to the brewery, and tours can be arranged. The company also owns pubs and hotels including the Hungry Horse pub chain. Greene King dominates the pub scene in many parts of East Anglia, with a large number of both urban and rural establishments. It also has a stand named after it at Ipswich Town's football ground, Portman Road. The company has won awards for its pubs in recent years and Greene King IPA won the Gold award at the 2004 Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Great British Beer Festival in the Bitter category and runner-up in the Champion Beer Of Britain category.

Notable beers

Greene King's beers are sold under several brands:

Greene King Brands

  • Abbot Ale - A strong ale (5.0% abv) available on cask nationally and in bottles from most supermarkets and off-licences. In 2007 Abbot Reserve (6.5% abv) was also launched. Its taste derives from the Challenger and Fuggles hops.
  • IPA - A cask bitter (3.6% abv) served in pubs and cans available from supermarkets and off-licences nationally. It is the best-selling cask ale in the UK. It is made using the Challenger and English First Gold hops.

Ruddles brands

  • Ruddles County - A 4.3% bitter available on cask nationally and pasteurised in bottles in most British supermarkets.
  • Ruddles Best Bitter - A traditional 3.7% session bitter with national distribution.
  • Ruddles Orchard - This 4.2% cask bitter consists of Ruddles County with the addition of apple concentrate. Also available pasteurised in bottles.

Morland brand

  • "Old Speckled Hen" is a popular bitter, available both as a cask ale and pasteurised in bottles. First brewed in 1979 by Morland Brewery in Abingdon, Oxfordshire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MG car company setting up in Abingdon, and named after the brewery's own MG car - the paint splattered Owld' Speckled 'Un. Brewed since 1999 by Greene King. Greene King has retained the strain of yeast first used in 1896.

In August 2006, Greene King announced that the abv of draught Old Speckled Hen (cask and keg) would be reduced from 5.2% to 4.5%, though the bottled and canned versions would remain at 5.2%

  • Hen's Tooth - A 6.5% bottle conditioned beer.
  • Tanners Jack - abv 4.4% - Regularly seen across the country as a guest beer, often found in Wetherspoons, like many Greene King beers. Also available in 500ml bottle.
  • Morland Original - abv 4.0% - Not seen as much as it was but often pops up in the old Morland heartlands. Also available in 500ml bottle.

Ridley's brands

  • Old Bob - Still popular in Essex despite the beer's new journey from Bury St Edmunds; it is 5.1% and available both on cask and bottled.
  • Ridley's IPA - A beer on the verge of extinction, this 3.5% session bitter is now only seen in former Ridley's "tied houses" (i.e. those that were owned by the Ridley's brewery before the Greene King takeover). It is not known how much longer this beer will be available.

Hardy's & Hansons brands

  • Olde Trip - A 4.3% Premium Ale. As of September 2007 this was for sale in the Brewery Museum in 500ml bottles.

Takeovers and controversy

Greene King's ongoing business expansion has sometimes been the cause of controversy. As a result of its active acquisition policy it has come to be known by beer protestors as Greedy King (or Greed/Greede King).

As of 16 April 2007, the Managed Pub division operated 510 local pubs and 280 Destination Pubs (i.e. food-led or hotels). This division was restructured in April 2007 with the appointment of Jonathan Lawson as MD for local pubs and Jonathan Webster for Destination Pubs. A further 1400 pubs are operated on a tenancy or lease basis by the Pub Partners division.

Greene King has grown organically and via merger and acquisition. Key acquisitions in recent years include Morland (1999) inc Ruddles, Ridley's (2005), Belhaven (2005) & Hardys and Hansons plc (2006). Of these, only the Belhaven Brewery remains open, with the surviving brews of the other three now being produced at Bury St Edmunds.

In August 2007 Greene King announced it had acquired the 35-strong Loch Fyne fish-restaurant chain.

Lewes Arms controversy

The British consumer group CAMRA, claim that Greene King is in danger of becoming a monopoly by buying out other breweries and thus potentially limiting choice for the pub consumer . These claims are based on the fact that Greene King proposes the buyout of these breweries while not promising to continue the sale of the current range of ales. Production of key product lines has previously often been switched to Bury St Edmunds while lesser brands cease production. Groups like CAMRA generally oppose such brewery closures and any loss of variety in cask-conditioned or "real" ales. The growing consumer reaction to this shift was demonstrated towards the end of 2006 when a pub in Lewes, East Sussex started a well-publicised protest against Greene King for removing the locally produced Harveys Sussex Best Bitter from sale while continuing to sell other guest beers.

Sponsorship

Greene King sponsored Ipswich Town Football Club during the late 1990s and early 2000s, notably at the time of their Division One playoff triumph in 2000 and fifth-place Premier League finish the following year.

References

External links

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