Friday, January 20, 2012

Greene King and A Brief History of British Beer: Part 7

In the far distance is Greene King's new bottling plant - and yes, that massive pipe bridge carries beer all the way from the brewery to the bottling plant making a stop along the way at the kegging plant.
Which leads us, finally, back to Bury St Edmonds and Greene King. One thing that becomes evident when you are on the roof of the tower brewery is just how vast the Greene King estate really is. Tunnels under roads carry pipes that connect the brewery to the kegging and bottling lines. A new modern building, built on piles to withstand the annual floods that occur in the river on which it sits, houses an ultra modern bottling operation. Greene King trucks Belhaven beer down from Scotland (the rumor that Greene King brews Belhaven in Bury is false: Belhaven is all Scottish born and bred) to be bottled in Bury and then those bottles are trucked far and wide. But though it is vast and impressive, they still brew less beer than Sierra Nevada.

5X in the oak Vat #1.  Greene King has some room for another on but they haven't decided if they are going to add another.
And though they still get criticized for being commercial, big and lacking in character, not many breweries have the gumption to brew a special beer, 5X, that sits in giant oak vats for two whole years taking up space and burning profit margins. But Greene King does and is considering doing even more.

To stand on the roof and look out over the impressive Green King empire (from the roof you can even see a Greene King pub close by) one can’t help but feel gratified that the future of real British cask ale is bright. As a style that Americans have not adopted with any gusto, this part of world brewing heritage lives on in Bury, Chiswick, Southwold, Burton, Tadcaster and other British heritage brewing sites.
Greene King Head Brewer John Bexon in front of one of the old coppers.
Descending through the tower brewery (and notice how far the malt is carried by a pipe from the storage building in the distance and up four stories to the milling room) and see equipment starting with old de-stoners and mills and down to the new boiling kettles one has the sense that you are seeing both the past and future of British brewing.