My normal writing cycle is a eight hundred word article every week to suit the publication of Pubpaper, where these articles are normally printed. I’ve had a rare couple of weeks off as the piece for next week has already been written in conjunction with a local ale house and brewer for prior fact checking. Normally I try to write only one CAMRA piece a month, same with Greene King, the two topics which seem to pop up again and again. So I face a week where I don’t have to write and I’ve already covered both topics as a full column already when they are hitting the blogosphere and promoting discussion. I’ve got the itch to write (and also my 2 year old has got me up at 6am and I have an hour to kill before the Chinese Grand Prix starts).
I should say I haven’t tried the beers, not planning to go hunting them out either. 2 out of 3 of the beer writers mentioned below got sent review samples, Zak Avery also received samples from the company (corrected from earlier copy).
Greene King IPA Gold seems to have split beer bloggers, CAMRGB didn’t like it, Boak and Bailey said it was finishable and Zak Avery said he liked it. CAMRGB captured what I don’t like about Greene King beer in the simple phrase “there’s that Greene King taste that so many of us don’t like”. I’ve never thought of it that way before, but it sums it up perfectly. Their review said there was no hops, no balls, and like me, wasn’t surprised, but disappointed by the results. I worry about a beer however when the review mentions “ashtray” as a constituent flavour.
He gave the IPA Reserve and extremely poor review, with it finishing “What this is is a moderately unpleasant, definitely uninteresting beer with a scouring alcohol that has just started to give me acid burn in the pit of my stomach.”, enough said.
Going back to the IPA Gold, Zak Avery admitted in public that he liked it, and confirmed it to me in discussions on Twitter. Something which surprised me, but it is horses for courses I suppose. Boak and Bailey said it was moreish once you let harsh carbonation and skunkiness drift off, and that it is lager like while being reminded of orange barley water, concluding it is designed to appeal to the lager boys. They think it is better than the standard IPA (not hard), not bland or nasty, but there are plenty of other beers they’d choose from the shelves first.
Boak and Bailey said that the IPA Reserve was finishable and that the stronger ABV should make it more tolerant to travelling from Bury St Edmunds. It should be noted that they admit they have a prejustice against Greene King, as do I, mine is probably bigger, intolerance of them is proabably more accurate.
Both reviewers however mentioned the clear bottles and the affect on taste of “Light Strike”, something they have been criticised for in the past.
Looking at the GK website, their official description of the IPA Gold is “This light golden ale brings the best out of the Savinsjki Goldings hop variety. The timing for introducing these hops is all-important because this creates the balance between the hoppy aroma and the bitterness of the aftertaste. For Greene King IPA Gold, our brewers add the hops at a later stage of the boil than with the Greene King IPA – this brings out tropical fruit aromas and spicy notes, which are followed by the clean, bitter flavour and crisp, dry finish.”
For the Reserve IPA, they say “This warming, full bodied ale has a reassuringly rich appearance and a mellow fruit aroma. Grapefruit and orange citrus tones combine with the floral and herbal Styrian Goldings hop variety deliver a reserve ale of exceptional quality with a dry, bitter finish. Greene King IPA Reserve is distinguished by a higher alcohol level, and this premium-strength ale feels and tastes more powerful, robust and warming. Very popular with ale connoisseur”
Looking at the statements above, B&B and CAMRGB didn’t find the same set of flavours, and I think the Reserve has fallen well short of “Very popular with ale connoisseur”, while the experiences with IPA Gold could be a totally different beer. Casting a wider net, only one person has reviewed the Gold with a score of 10/20 and rating of 2.5/5.0, the Reserve has no reviews as we speak. Beer Advocate has reviews for neither. This could be down however to limited distribution in the initial rollout of the brand. Beer Beauty gave them a general thumbs up (at a Greene King marketing event), but the site seems to republish too many press releases for my liking, so the weight I attach to this review is lowered. I can’t find the link, but Roger Protz gave them qualified approval from memory, and calls on us not to dump on big brewers around the same time.
Otherwise its hard to find any more reviews at the moment, the key measure for Greene King is the sales and it will be interesting to see if the £4m is well spent.