We recently wrote about Greene King’s new beers, IPA Gold and IPA Reserve, in somewhat positive terms, welcoming cautiously what we saw as the pepping up of their range. As a result, we got an email from John Bexon, their head brewer (did they read this?) offering to send us some bottles, and suggesting where we might find them on cask in Exeter.
We’ve now tried the bottles (thanks, John) and can confirm that:
- we’d be much happier drinking these than bottles of standard Greene King IPA
- they are not bland
- they are not nasty
- we enjoyed drinking them.
On the other hand:
- clear bottles really don’t do them any favours
- nor does the aggressively fizzy carbonation and
- there are a number of other beers readily available in the supermarket we’d recommend over them.
IPA Gold is the kind of beer other breweries have been making for years — more full-bodied and less dry than we now expect of pale beers, golden rather than white-blonde. It is actually sort of moreish, once the initial fizz has died down, and the slight skunkiness has drifted away. The hops, though they are Slovenian, seem very English to us, all subdued citrus, cut grass and… well, they say tropical fruit, but we’re reminded more of Robinson’s Orange Barley Water. Nonetheless, distinctly lager-like, which is presumably the idea.
IPA Reserve is a crystal malt bomb, toffee with a touch of fruit, but very… finishable. We abandon quite a few beers, but not this one. Nope, definitely nice enough to finish. (Is the phrase ‘damning with faint praise’?) We suspect this will be a lot better from a cask and, with a good whack more alcohol than standard GK IPA, should be better equipped to survive the journey out of Bury St Edmunds.
It’s hard for us to write about Greene King because we know we harbour prejudices towards them. Did we think the beers were a little skunked because we’ve got a thing about clear bottles? Would we have enjoyed them more if they’d come from a new, small, trendier brewery? On the other hand, are we being generous because they sent us samples, or because we don’t want to be seen to be having a knee-jerk reaction to a big, ambitious brewery? So complicated… need therapy.