Perhaps the question I’m asked least is “Just why is Greene King IPA so good ?“. As the 13th anniversary of its success in the 2004 Best Bitter awards approaches, I bravely took a trip to Bury St Edmunds to test the nectar at source.  Actually, I went there to get some brutal hardcore metal LPs for my son, Bury being the home of vinyl.

Sorry to bore you, but I still reckon this is a decent beer in decently run pubs. “It’s they that keep it that spoil it” as someone once said.

So how can Greene King keep their own flagship beer in the café at the end of the brewery tour ?

Greene King

We regularly park our campervan overnight over the road from the Abbey ruins for a few quid. Why can’t more councils be more accommodating to motor-homers ?

Bury never disappoints, and the walk from Cannon Street to Westgate reveals more quirky charm than you get anywhere else in Suffolk.


That house above is right next door to the brewery, and the absence of an Abbot pump clip is surely purely coincidental (?).

Greene King’s Beer Café isn’t in the Beer Guide, joining a long list of brewery taps ignored by the GBG (you know who you are).  Whether that’s generally due to beer quality, admission criteria (brewery tour only), or not being a “proper pub” I wouldn’t wish to speculate.  The Beer Café is now open to all.


Without doubt, the Beer Café has one of the very best smells in the country, almost as good as the one you used to get from the nearby sugar beet factory.

Inside it’s very café, full of ladies who lunch on J20s, lattes and “Beetroot & Quinoa Salad”.  Which is fine, Mrs RM would say, but not very pubby.


But the “Beer Elf” lady sells beer and allows you to sit at the bar and drink it, which makes it a pub. I could sense the female clientele looking up from their laptops with disdain at the old scruff drinking beer. It was just like being at home, except with “Of Monsters & Men” playing at a lower volume.

Perhaps the atmosphere changes completely when the brewery tour crowds pile in, perhaps it doesn’t, but closing by 6pm means it will never have a truly pubby feel.

The IPA, at just £3 a pint, was a quality easy-drinking pint, scoring highly for temperature and richness (NBSS 3.5/4), possibly even better than the IPA from the marvellous Rose & Crown, though I’d have switched to the Abbot if I’d stayed for a second pint.

The staff were very cheery and informed, obviously knowing enough about beer to guide customers in the bottle shop away from the smooth and onto the experimental brews.

The outside toilets left something to be desired;



      1. Hi martin looking to buy a greene king ceramic plaque any ideas
        Thank you Malcolm 07711433600


      2. I guess you mean the signs on the side of pubs (top pic) rather than the pump clips, Malcolm. They do look nice.

        There’s been a lot of Greene King pubs converted to free houses (e.g. the Dove in Bury itself) but that sign seems fairly permanent. I looked on Ebay just now, generally best bet, and it’s mostly pump clips, but if anyone has any idea let Malcolm know.


  1. the cafe only opened last year, so 2018 GBG is the first it would have been eligible for anyway, previously brewery tours used to finish across the road in the Brewery Tap which was never really open to the public and Bury only has an allocation of about 4 pubs in the GBG. So after the Dove, Oakes Barn, Beerhouse, Nutshell, Rose & Crown, Old Cannon, Corn Exchange…then you might consider the cafe. Ultimately however rare a good pint of IPA is elsewhere in the country, its not one of the things pubs in Bury St Edmunds ever get that spectacularly wrong.

    and the collection of pumpclips on the planters at the house next door changes fairly regularly, I have a feeling the Abbot clips tend to disappear


  2. The smell is quite an issue. One no longer can smell much aroma in Tadcaster, even when they are brewing. Granted John Smiths no longer brew there (bottling & canning plant only). Sams brew daily, I believe, yet little or no malty aroma pervades the town these days; there was never much hoppy aroma, on account they don’t throw many in! Molsons (ex Bass) has never produced any smell and looks more like a factory than a brewery, which it is. I think it’s all to do with clean air/emissions regs and the like. maybe post Brexit we’ll get the smell back?

    Long time since I visited Bury St Edmonds. Pleasant place from memory, but it must be 35 years ago. Was there a very very small pub on the edge of a cobbled square? The Nutshell or something similar? Mind you, even then. I didn’t like Greene King, and it hasn’t grown on me to be fair.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Like I say Martin, it was some time ago, but the standout memory is the Nutshell rather than the beer. Having said that, in my early twenties it was very much a case of; anything other than a proper pint is crap! A proper pint being of course, a Northern Bitter dispensed through a sparkler and anywhere past Dronfield being ‘down South’.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder how many pubs follow the breweries advice that “Greene King beers take a full 3 days to condition properly from start of venting” and that the spile should be removed three times a day – or even if those rare pubs that serve a decent drop follow that advice or have found better ways to keep it?

    I note there is a quality accreditation scheme for GK IPA, although I can’t recall having seen the plaque or pump clip crowners in any pub, although I might well try a pint if I do (although I suspect, like the cask marque scheme it will be no guarantee of good beer).


    1. Only ever once sold a cask of Abbot, for a friend’s 30th birthday as he owned shares at the time, back when it wasn’t common to see GK beers outside their traditonal heartland. Was delivered on a Tuesday lunchtime, I gave it an initial venting early that evening. Still wasn’t ready for the celebrations on the Friday, needed an extra day to be anywhere near to best quality.
      I’d have thought stuff like OBB would be similar.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a good blast round Bury St Edmunds before they took over Kimberley brewery and closed it down,i was then happy to do a GK tied house and almost all of the 23 pubs i did in the town were GK tied houses.

    Smells do not bother me as i lost my sense of smell in 2004,there are pros and cons with the loss of smell,i miss the smell of freshly cut grass and bacon cooking,but not going into the toilets at work.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it was Martin,
        I can always remember smelling Youngs brewery in Wandsworth when i took the wife there for a tour round all of Wandsworths finest Youngs houses,that was back in 1986,such a shame they sold out to Charles Wells and i can never smell brewerys brewing anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Always nice to see Alan having a pop at GL from the Nottingham perspective 👍 I agre and when GK IPA is on form it’s a cracker

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect you come across Greene King IPA far more regularly than I do these days, mate. It’s a rare sight in GBG pubs these days, though the Abbot pops up in Spoons and is often really good.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s