'Greene King is serious about making IPA a top class pint again'
The Bar Man column, Friday, September 27, 2019, by Jeff Hoyle
It was almost like the old days. Off on a Saturday afternoon to see Bury play.
There was even a chorus of ‘We hate Bolton’ on the train from fans going to another match, though the amusement soon faded when they started describing acts they would like to do to women in their squeaky prepubescent voices.
They were on their way to Ipswich, and sadly I was not going to Gigg Lane, but Ram Meadow, home of Bury Town.
Before the excitement of the game, a quick look at the cathedral and also St Mary’s church next door which contains the grave of Henry VIII’s sister Mary who became Queen of France provided brief diversions before big attraction in the town, Greene King.
I was keen to drop into their Beer Café which has just made its debut in the Good Beer Guide. It is attached to the shop and is the departing point for the brewery tours and the post visit samples, so if ever there is a place where the beer is likely to be at its best, it is here.
I think it is fair to say that since it was awarded a silver medal in the CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain competition in 2004, the reputation of their flagship IPA has been in decline.
Once it was an uplifting sight to see the pump clip on the bar, but more recently it smacks of desperation when spotted among the bargain basement beers in a Wetherspoons, posing the question ‘If it is that cheap, how can it be any good?’
But hold on, steps are being taken and measures put in place to restore IPA to its position of pre-eminence.
They have introduced a cool storage facility at the brewery to keep the hops in better condition and are doubling the amount that they add in the whirlpool stage of brewing.
A cold store will keep the casks at the perfect temperature before they are loaded onto the dray.
Enhanced training and cellar management systems have been introduced for licensees while cooling systems have been upgraded, hand pumps re-evaluated and smaller casks used to speed turnover.
A form of cask breather is available in pubs with lower sales to slow the deterioration of the beer and it was interesting to note a poster by the bar at the Wildfowler at Terrington listing some of the strategies to ensuring that the IPA was in perfect shape, and what to do if there was a problem.
It seems that Greene King is serious about making IPA a top class pint again, and here at the brewery was my chance to test their progress.
And, dear reader, I bottled it. Faced with around six of their finest ales, I couldn’t bring myself to drink the IPA. I had a pint of their Yardbird instead, and I have to say that it was pretty good.
After the game, I made my way back via Ely.
The Doncaster fans I was sat with were the very model of good behaviour, but as the train stood in the station an altercation broke out between some of their fellow fans and a few Ipswich followers.
A brief bout of fisticuffs culminated in a touch of bottle throwing, disgracefully encouraged by a torrent of foul language and taunting from some middle-aged guys safely across the tracks, waiting for the Lynn train.
Perhaps I was trapped in a 70’s time warp where football violence is once again acceptable and IPA is a great pint.
Ah ... the Good Old Days.