Monday, 25 January 2010

Greene King: A Prelude

I was cooking dinner the other evening, and I was thinking about what beer I'd like to go with it. I was cooking steak with caramelised onions, potatoes, and a rocket salad. Simple food, which would be nothing without the caramelised onions - they add a really sweet burst of flavour that seems to intensify everything around it.

I knew I wanted a fairly big beer, with some darker malts and a bit of sweetness. Nothing too flashy - the Port Brewing 3rd Anniversary I had a few days ago went great with enchiladas, but would grate against the simplicity of tonight's food.

I've been enjoying quite a few Greene King beers lately - I like their defiant Englishness, the peppery, almost minerally edge to the hops and the sweet, chewy malt. I'm not saying that they are how English beer should be, or how it used to be, but there is something very distinctly English about them.

In the end, I plumped for a bottle of Abbot Reserve. When I visited the brewery a few months ago, brewer Craig Benett mentioned that they'd aced the first brew of Abbot Reserve - it went to a tasting panel, and they all said "don't change a thing". Naturally, I was a bit sceptical.

Predictably, I was wrong. Abbot Reserve is a lovely drop of beer. It doesn't dazzle with a symphony of citrus and tropical fruit hops, beguile with smoky malts, or punch you in the throat with a big dollop of alcohol. What it is is very well balanced, full of flavour, rich, classic English ale. If I have any criticism of it, then like so much large-production beer, I find it a bit over-carbonated - but that's my favourite gripe about most bottle beers.

Did it go well with the steak? Hell yeah. Some people say that Greene King beers don't taste of much. This is simply rubbish - they taste of plenty, and they do so in a way that harmonised and enhanced flavours of the simple but tasty food I was preparing.

I know it's not fashionable, and I'm not being deliberately perverse, but Greene King Abbot Reserve is a great beer. There's something almost austere about it, something subtle that doesn't shower you in fireworks, set your clothes on fire, and roll you in glitter. But at the same time, it's packed full of chewy malt and dense, peppery hops. It's a great food beer. It's a great beer to drink on its own. Look, I know you won't believe me, but it's just a great beer.


  1. I like Abbot and its more grown up sibling Reserve, though I reckon the problem with Abbot is getting it in decent condition. There’s a GK pub near me where I rarely go, but when I did last year during the heavy snow, I found a pint of their bitter very tasty.

  2. I think both Abbot and Reserve are perfectly decent beers, and was surprised how tasty they are. I don't know if it's a case of lowered expectations, but now I actually want to seek them out on cask and try them.

  3. Get yourself down the Spoons, Zak. £1.85 a pint for Abbot Ale.

  4. Greene King IPA, when served cool enough, properly conditioned and through a sparkler is a far better beer than its normal flat and tired offering. It has that slight sourness that Tetley bitter has, though isn't half the beer.

    Mind you some say Tets isn't half the beer it was, so GKIPA may only be a quarter the beer Tets is.

    GKIPA would never be my beer of choice, though Tetley Bitter still is on occasions.

  5. I'm not sure I get the sourness in GK IPA, Tandleman. And without getting into an involved discussion about whether it used to be a great beer, I'd find it hard to choose a favourite between Tetley's and GKIPA.

  6. In a decent GK pub in Bury the beer is fantastic, but I suppose I'm biased.


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