Those Greene King IPA Spin-Offs

Greene King IPA pumpclips in an image from their website.

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.

24 thoughts on “Those Greene King IPA Spin-Offs”

  1. Fin­ish­able’ – I love that! I try too many beers which are not fin­ish­able so I get this. How­ev­er, it’s one of those words which I’d apply to a beer that I was expect­ing to taste and dump but then end up drink­ing the whole lot…

    Like the idea here but not sure whether the brand line exten­sion helps or hurts Greene King IPA

    1. Cur­mud­geon – did­n’t get round to try­ing OGH (they did­n’t send us any and we did­n’t go look­ing for it…) but I think that they use dif­fer­ent yeast for the Mor­land beers; and OGH used Galaxy hops (pret­ty pow­er­ful) while this one uses Sav­in­js­ki Gold­ings.

      Mark – that’s prob­a­bly exact­ly how we are using it here, in fact. In pure­ly com­mer­cial terms, it makes total sense to extend the IPA brand, but it’ll play mer­ry hell with any attempts to clar­i­fy what IPA does or does­n’t mean. (Or did and did­n’t.)

      Steve – yes, and a beer we’re not review­ing at that.

  2. they sent you free beer and told you where to get it…in Exeter!!!,Ive not seen a drop of it for sale yet in Suf­folk, in super­mar­ket or in any of their pubs, though I know some free­hous­es have had deliv­er­ies this week.

    But its the East Anglian beer fes­ti­val in Bury St Edmunds in a few weeks time so maybe it will make a ‘launch’ appear­ance there as St Edmunds, GKs oth­er gold­en ale they still make, I think won beer of the fes­ti­val a few years back.

    Which think­ing about it ought to be the near­er com­par­i­son to hold Gold­en IPA up against, albeit again its still a dif­fer­ent hop vari­ety, but cer­tain­ly OGH and SE were defi­nate­ly dis­tinct from each oth­er, and youd assume SE was made with GK yeast.

    Im just hap­py to hear its not anoth­er Ale Fres­co 🙂

    as far as the brand­ing thing goes and extend­ing it which I think makes sense for them, even if it does con­fuse things, Ive seen GK IPA as far afield as Mel­bourne Aus­tralia, sold as “British Beer”, to them GK IPA means “British Beer” you might find that slight­ly alarm­ing but con­sid­er Fos­ters = Aus­tralian beer to us :),but its a brand name thats hit­ting very high lev­els of recog­ni­tion both inter­na­tion­al­ly and in UK non-beer enthu­si­ast cir­cles, which is their major mar­ket, and thats a hel­lu­va lot of invest­ment to chuck away just to sat­is­fy a nam­ing con­ven­tion. A beer like GK Ale Fres­co would­nt have any­where near the same lev­el of recog­ni­tion that GK IPA would, so I get what they are doing with it.

    oh and if John Bex­on is read­ing this, please send the free beer to Hap­py Dude,742 Ever­green Ter­race…

  3. The clear bot­tles are inex­plic­a­ble. ESPECIALLY for export. You send a 3.5% beer to Ore­gon in a clear bot­tle, you’re pret­ty much spend­ing good mon­ey to poi­son peo­ple against the brand. I have implored them to switch bot­tles, at least for export, and the result sug­gests Amer­i­can blog­gers don’t hold a lot of sway.

    On the issue of IPA confusion–it is fas­ci­nat­ing. Britain is going its own way there, tack­ing against head­winds of the biggest cur­rent trend in ales. But it’s not that you have a dif­fer­ent definition–especially with this GK thing, you have many, con­tra­dic­to­ry ones.

    1. If you can have Black IPAs and Red Rye IPAs, I don’t see any rea­son in prin­ci­ple why you can’t have an IPA Gold or IPA Reserve.

      1. As it hap­pens, St Austell Prop­er Job IPA is paler than IPA Gold.

        But what we are see­ing here is def­i­nite­ly ref­er­ence to “GK IPA” as a brand, rather than IPA as a type of beer.

        Jeff – on clear bot­tles, they seem hung upon the idea that it helps peo­ple to know what colour the beer is, but labels and text can get that across, sure­ly?

        1. You could plau­si­bly argue that IPA is a brand in the US too – all those drinkers who will buy a beer if it says IPA on it.

          1. Bai­ley: sure­ly so. And since oth­er mak­ers of beau­ti­ful pale beers seem to man­age sell­ing their prod­uct in dark bot­tles, I have a hard time think­ing GK can’t, too.

            Barm: absolute­ly. IPA is in the process of dis­plac­ing pale ale as the king of ale styles. We have a pret­ty nar­row def­i­n­i­tion, too. ABV can vary from the mid fives to mid sev­ens, but an IPA must be vivid­ly hop­py. In the Amer­i­can fash­ion, fans are wont to sep­a­rate these into sub-styles (very bit­ter, less fla­vor and aro­ma in San Diego styles, fuller and rounder on the East Coast, huge­ly aro­mat­ic and juicy in the NW), but that’s fan­boy silli­ness.

  4. That float­ing Twitter/Facebook/etc tool­bar that’s appeared next to the com­ments does­n’t play well with my main brows­er (Fire­fox) – every time I go to look at com­ments I get a blank page and a “load­ing” mes­sage (it seems to be the link to Stum­ble­Upon that it has par­tic­u­lar trou­ble with). It is a brows­er thing, as it’s fine with Safari on the same machine (which is what I’m using now). Is any­one else unable to see or respond to com­ments… oh. Nev­er mind.

    1. Thanks for let­ting us know, Phil. We’re using Fire­fox, too, but on PC – guess you’re on a Mac? Any­way, we’ll turn it off and try anoth­er social linky wid­get thing.

      1. Yes, Fire­fox 3.6 on a Mac. I feel a bit guilty about rais­ing it, because it’s prob­a­bly a spe­cif­ic ver­sion of Fire­fox / one of my plu­g­ins / a spe­cif­ic ver­sion of a plu­g­in and I real­ly ought to track it down at this end. But if you’re hap­py replac­ing the tool­bar, that would work!

      2. I’ve had the same prob­lem. The page works fine in Fire­fox on my home PC, but it went blank all day on my PC at work (again using Fire­fox – though I don’t know if it’s the same ver­sion). I gen­er­al­ly find that floaty thing a bit annoy­ing to be hon­est any­way…

        I may well try these new Greene King beers next time I see them, though they don’t sound all that thrilling. What odds would I get for bet­ting on a Greene King IPA Black or Green King IPA Sin­gle Hop Series being added to the brand any time soon? ;o)

        1. Hel­lo, Anony­mous. We’ve deac­ti­vat­ed it, so you should­n’t have a prob­lem.

          Marston’s have just done a sin­gle hop series, and St Austell do a black IPA

  5. Jeff – I don’t know what GK are play­ing at; they’re a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery wrapped in an echid­na. Apart from them, though, I’m not sure there are that many dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions of IPA around. I grew up know­ing “IPAs” as best bit­ters in the South Coast style, with a bit more strength and a bit more tan­nic bit­ter­ness than the usu­al. To the extent that brew­ers are still brew­ing to that def­i­n­i­tion, it’s not so much that they’re going against “the biggest cur­rent trend”, more that they’re doing what they were doing before and don’t see the need to change.

      1. No, GK are def­i­nite­ly a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery wrapped in an echid­na. And the echid­na was­n’t pleased.

  6. When ever I see the word reserve, for what­ev­er rea­son I think of cig­a­rettes.

    The smooth, and sat­is­fy­ing taste of King’s Reserves—Yeah, that’s the stuff.

  7. Like the phrase “fin­ish­able”, that is faint praise.

    I sus­pect­ed here that this would be the kind of result and I am being proved cor­rect.

    The only GK beer I’ve liked at all recent­ly is Old Gold­en Hen, but it was noth­ing spe­cial. Noth­ing I’ve read will make me try these two out over oth­er beers.

  8. I dun­no, I take a week off work, get on here 8 hours ear­li­er than nor­mal – and am still a day late!

    Any­hoo, re (on top­ic) GK’s new ales, despite my prej­u­dice, mine is not osten­si­bly an anti GK fam­i­ly. Wee Fatha often buys their bot­tles, so I reck­on I’ll end up try­ing these. I won­der though, more espe­cial­ly if I like them, if they’ll ever be seen in cask form any­where but Suf­folk?

    I nev­er saw Hens Tooth or Old Gold­en Hen or that oth­er one on cask any­where. Such a shame, when these prod­ucts, and beers such as Strong Suf­folk are com­par­a­tive­ly com­mend­able. Maybe putting more of their inter­est­ing beer in cask (and mak­ing more mild, sure­ly?) would alter the per­cent­age of good GK beers encoun­tered? Instead of see­ing dross like IPA, or stolen homogenised beers like Hardy Han­sons, more drinkers would see beer that GK could and should be proud of.

    At present ask any­one to name a GK beer and they men­tion, usu­al­ly with­out any enjoy­ment, their IPA. Chang­ing that would do won­ders for their image, even for mis­ery guts anti Greedy King moan­ers like me.

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