As anybody who has followed me in the past should know Greene King are not my favourite big brewer. In fact it is a brand I personally will not drink due to the blandness and inconsistency of the beer. Only a few months ago, I wrote about moving onto coffee when Greene King and Guinness were the only non lager alternatives. I have even spoken to landlords who run Greene King pubs and have the same non consumption attitude towards the beer.
However, I appreciate that they are a gateway brewer that bring people into real ale and then hopefully onto good real ale. They are now spending £4 million to try and bring younger drinkers into a market which they define as being dominated by males aged 35+. While people of that demographic do make up a large section of real ale drinkers, dominate is too strong a word. They state the growth in the sector for 25-34 year old males is up by 19%, this figure is realistic in my opinion when compared to simply observing the people who do drink the product on a day to day basis.
To this end, they are going to introduce two new drinks. Greene King IPA Gold at 4.1%, to quote them is a “a golden ale aimed at experimental younger drinkers looking for refreshment”. The second beer is Greene King IPA Reserve (5.4%) is “a warming, full bodied, quality ale with a rich aroma – is aimed at cask ale aficionados looking for an indulgent treat” according to their marketing team.
I am not their target market, but this extra choice will be good for the customers of their tied houses, as long as the beers are not slightly different, but equally bland and inconsistent brews. The first beer reads to me as “ale lite”, maybe a hybrid beer, to tempt lager drinkers. However no more details of the beer have been given, so it is hard to make a more informed opinion, but I don’t hold out a great deal of hope.
The description of the second beer comes across as an oxymoron, most people drink Greene King beers or are “cask ale aficionados”, rarely do the paths cross. The same can be said of “indulgent treat” and the company’s brews. Many of these aficionados did probably once drink Greene King, but have moved on. There are so many small and medium craft brewers creating distinctive high quality beers now, that the choice for such a person is extensive without the need to resorting to a big brewery beer. Personally I have a wish list of about 50 beers currently, its not about to become 51. Again very little detail is given about the beer, so the output at the pump is hard to predict.
Many free houses stock Greene King IPA or one of its sister beers as one of their core ales, along with a number of guests, and I can’t see these new beers breaking onto the guest pumps, so the logical guess is that if these new beers are picked up where there is a choice, it will cannibalise an existing Greene King pump. Will this increase their sales and profits? Probably not to any great degree, there will be some growth, but cannibalisation of their existing beers sales will make up a good proportion of the new beers sales.
Going back to hybrid beers, don’t read it as dislike of them, there are some good hybrid brews out there with lager (or more lager style) hops included in the brewing process, in fact I am visiting the Bridgehouse Brewery to talk to the brewer about such a beer they are brewing for Lewins in Halifax this week. When I popped into Lewins over the weekend, he had 2 such hybrid beers on to see how the customers took to them.
Trying them both, Wharfedales Chalkies White was a nice light refreshing ale, with the lager hop element coming through as a good dry flavour for the life of the pint. Rudgate True Brew matched it in colour, but was a more complicated beer, out of the pump, citrus dominated the hop element of the flavour, but as it moved towards ambient temperature sitting on the bar, the dryer notes emerged and started to take over. Both good beers, but overall I’d lean towards the Wharfedale brew more as my personal taste is towards the dry. Both these beers sit in the low 4% range ABV wise as you would expect.