Saturday, 3 August 2019

Good or Shite?


Back in the old days of Usenet and rec.food.drink.beer (a discussion group on all things beery, mostly involving Americans, but a healthy smattering of Brits and others) the merits of beer were, tongue in cheek, boiled down to is "Is good or is it shite?" That sort of still works today if you put aside all caveats, qualifications and ifs and buts.

A few short weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting our Club of the Year Award to Dobcross Band and Social Club.  We enjoyed a most convivial afternoon there. Beers on sale were Lees Bitter, Bradfield Farmer's Blonde and Morland Original Bitter. All were in splendid form.  Now Morland used to brew in Abingdon in Oxfordshire and were famous for Old Speckled Hen and Hen's Tooth, now of course brewed by Greene King who took them over in 1999 and closed them in 2000.  I hadn't seen Morland Original Bitter in this neck of the woods - or in fact, anywhere else - and it seems possible that the beer has been recently resurrected by GK. If you know more, do tell me.

Of course I commented on this on Twitter with a rather provocative comment, just to see if I could raise a Pavlovian reaction to this Greene King brewed beer:
Now it seems that GK are not exactly loved on Twitter. Is this fair?  I rather like their beers when they are served in the peak of condition. With the demise of Tetley Bitter, I rather miss the lactic finish that beer had and the nearest thing to it is GKIPA though admittedly I rarely see it up here. That beer is often despised by what I decribed as the "Beer Bubble" but actually by many more sensible people too.  This new version of Morland Original Bitter wasn't a million miles from its orginal taste, described in the 2000 Good Beer Guide as "Copper coloured with plenty of bittering hops and hints of fruit. Subtle aroma and a short, dry, bitter finish."  OK it didn't have a subtle aroma, but rather, the lactic tang of GKIPA. Nonetheless, I liked it. It was well made, very well kept and at a sensible 4% abv, suitable to be rattled down by the pint. Most certainly not shite.

I wonder too if Greene King, now that they have outlets all over the UK, including many in the North, are looking for something that can be readily drunk in those parts of the country where their core beers aren't well received?  I know of one local licensee in my neck of the woods, a former Spirit Group pub with "reserved rights" to guest beers, had a strict admonishment from the Area Manager asking why sales of Greene King are so poor.  He was able to answer honestly, that it was because nobody liked them.  Oh and the result of my provocation?  Well I didn't get a lot to be honest, but I liked the one that simply said "I like my beer bubble where Greene King beers are shite"

So do GK get a fair crack of the whip beerwise?   Let me know what you think.  

If you want to see some of the orginal good or shite debate here is some of the original argument back in the dog days of the group in 2001. One or two well known names there too. 

 Sparkling the Morland beer didn't do it any harm either.  Yet another case to be made for God's chosen method of dispense.

16 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

I don't think Morland Original ever went away in its traditional trading area. I had a very good pint of it in the Deansgate in Manchester city centre earlier this year.

Good to see you return to blogging more frequently on general topics, btw :-)

Birkonian said...

I quite like GKIPA and don't care who knows it. They still brew a very good Mild which is to their credit. Here in Wirral, which is pretty crap for beer, most, if not all their pubs sell cask beer, usually in good condition. Of course, they don't appear in the GBG because that isn't allowed. In Newcastle recently I was very tempted to seek refuge in a Greene King pub from the endless variations on the American IPA theme, 'Juice Bombs' and 'Ice Cream' beers.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that "Hen's Tooth" was brewed by Morland - is it not a GK invention ?

Tandleman said...

No. I still have a bottle of the original.

John said...

I don't mind GK ales, but it does cheese me off when they are in sometimes really poor condition in GK's own estate. I stayed in a GK hotel in Banbury IIRC, and their Abbot was basically off every night, but still being served. Mind you, that inspired me to walk around town a bit, resulting in finding a Hook Norton pub that had their fantastic mild on, so it was happy days in the end.

Chris Pickles said...

I had a lovely pint of Greene King IPA in Ely, walking up the hill from the station to the cathedral. I was the only customer in the pub. This would have been about 20 years ago. Later the same day I had a pint in a pub by the river and it was crap. Yet the pub was crowded.

I wonder if people resent losing their local beers and GK coming in and taking over. If GK IPA was reliably good it might be less of a problem.

I live in Australia now. On my last visit to the UK the first beer I had was GK IPA. And it was crap.

m.lawrenson said...

Usenet....now those were the days. I'd send every idiot Tweeter or Facebook muppet to Usenet to learn netiquette if I could. But sadly I can't, because it no longer really exists. By god, if you ever put a foot wrong on a newsgroup, you were slaughtered...

@WestBromEL said...

I used to run a pub in Hackney late 1990's/early 2000's and GKIPA was our our one cask, although we occasionally took the XX Mild too, we comfortably sold 240+ pints a week, it's fair to say that twenty years ago it didn't have the blanket coverage it has garnered since, looked after it's a perfectly acceptable session beer although it will never set the world alight.

RedNev said...

I'm not a Greene King fan, but some people must be, otherwise it wouldn't sell. There's a big difference between a beer not being to your taste, and it being badly kept. A well-kept pint of GK is, to me, okay - nothing more - but that's what they are going for: bland, middle-of-the-road beers that will have a broader appeal.

I'm not being a beer snob; people who find a beer that's okay and stick to it are the people who keep pubs open. We beer butterflies that flit from one beer to another in the search for the perfect pint are not a brewery's ideal customers. A lot of people love GK IPA, Doom Bar, Deuchars, etc, and, as I said, they help keep pubs open.

stymaster said...

I'm a GK hater, as a rule, though i will say that I did find some I liked in GK Central, Bury St Edmunds. My main problem with GK IPA is it isn't an IPA, at least in today's terms.

Birkonian said...

It's the current IPAs that have hijacked the term. GK were brewing IPA long before the Americans discovered the term. Carrington IPA was quite sweet, The recent Meantime IPA was closer to a beefed up GKIPA than the excessively graperuit flavoured beverages that are in favour today.

Stono said...

no I dont think Greene King beers get a fair rep,IPA on form is a classic beer, St Edmunds shows golden beers dont have to be like fruit juice, Abbot Ale though we always think Abbot Reserve is more like what Abbot used to be is still a great strong bitter, and then theres 5X.

but theres GK the brewer and theres GK the pubco. The pubco side pushes tenants hard to make profits, understandably, but some might say they push unsustainably hard which has a real impact on the quality of the beer sold in their pubs, we've all heard the stories Im sure about what landlords get put through, some manage to make it work, others dont and the beer is usually the first thing to suffer, then its the food, then its the state of the pub.

the problem is if the beer GK brew ends up mostly only sold in GK pubco pubs,and a fair few of those are struggling to handle cask so the beer is never consistently at its best, to put it mildly,is it any wonder it gets a bad reputation.

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Andrew said...

A timely article given that Greene King looks set to lose its independence to a Hong Kong property company. https://news.sky.com/story/greene-king-in-4-6bn-hong-kong-takeover-11789261

The Sum of All Beers said...

One of my locals when I was in London was the Prospect of Whitby, Wapping by the river. It always had a decent cask selection and kept it well, but got acquired by GK when they snapped up Taylor Walker.

There wasn't too many changes - London Pride got kicked out, as did Taylor Walkers 1790 ale (obviously, but it was made my westerham and I thought it was quite good). GK IPA became the fixed ale. A lot more of the 'guest beers' were taken up by one offs form Bury St Edmunds. But on the whole Cellarmanship stayed at the same level, and turnover was high.

So I had a pint there, and it was meh. Drinkable, bland, but with an unlikeable hop character. I was also informed by herself, that there would be no snogs forthcoming until I had purged my breath of it.

Bottom line its a cheaply made and cheaply sold ale, I would rank it lower than Doom bar, but not a toxic waste of bar space like the twitter verse proclaims.

However GK IPA is a bit of a talisman - if you have to make a snap judgement on a pub and see it on the bar, its a good sign to keep walking along.

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