Greene King is the UK's largest pub retailer and brewer. It is based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England. The company owns pubs, restaurants and hotels. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The brewery was founded by Benjamin Greene in Bury St. Edmunds in 1799. In 1806 Benjamin Greene established a new venture with William Buck at the Westgate Brewery. In 1836 Edward Greene took over the business and in 1887 it merged with Frederick William King's brewing business to create Greene King.
Greene King has grown via mergers and acquisitions, including Rayments Brewery (1961), the Magic Pub Company (1996), Hungry Horse (1996), Morland Brewery (1999), Old English Inns (2001), Morrells (2002), a large part of the Laurel Pub Company (2004), Ridley's Brewery (2005), Belhaven Brewery (2005), Hardys and Hansons (2006), the Loch Fyne fish restaurant chain (2007), Cloverleaf (2011), Realpubs (2011), the Capital Pub Company (2011) and the Spirit Pub Company (2015).
The Spirit acquisition, where Greene King bought Spirit for £773.6m, took the total number of Greene King sites to 3,116, brought 14 brands together and made Greene King the largest managed pub company in the UK. It was completed on 23 June 2015.
The Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds produces beers branded in the names of breweries now closed, including Morland (Old Speckled Hen), Ruddles, Hardys & Hanson and Tolly Cobbold. The Belhaven brewery in Dunbar continues to operate in Scotland.
The group operates 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels:Its retail division is split between its destination pubs and restaurants (with brands including Hungry Horse, Loch Fyne and Metropolitan Pub Company) and its local pubs. Its strategy is to open further retail outlets.
Its pub partners division has leased, tenanted and franchised pubs. Its strategy is to reduce the numbers of these outlets.
There is a visitor centre next to the brewery, and tours are run regularly throughout the week. The brewery has an exhibition of pub sign artwork by George Taylor, who designed over 250 such signs for Greene King pubs. Visitors can also go on regular hour-long tours of the brewery, to see traditional brewing methods. All brewery tours end with a beer tasting session at the Beer Café.
Following the opening of the Greene King Beer Café, brewery tours now finish here with a beer tasting session. The Beer Café is located next to the brewery and serves food and a range of Greene King and Belhaven beers in cask and keg. Visitors can also buy bottled beers and branded gifts.
Greene King's ongoing business expansion has sometimes been the subject of criticism. As a result of its active acquisition policy, it has come to be known by beer protesters as Greedy King. The British consumer group CAMRA claimed that Greene King is in danger of becoming a monopoly by buying out other breweries and thus potentially limiting choice for the pub consumer. The growing consumer reaction to this shift was demonstrated towards the end of 2006 when a pub in Lewes, East Sussex started a well-publicised protest against Greene King for removing the locally produced Harveys Sussex Best Bitter from sale, while continuing to sell other guest beers.
In January 2014, popular Manchester pub The Lass O'Gowrie, voted "Best Pub in Britain" at the Great British Pub Awards in 2012, closed after landlord Gareth Kavanagh was forced out in an argument over rent. Having lost 40% of their trade after the BBC moved to Salford, Kavanagh had won a rent reduction at an independent tribunal before being forced out by the brewery.
Greene King has also been criticised for removing many traditional and historic pub signs as part of rebranding schemes.Abbot Ale - A premium bitter (5.0% abv) first brewed in the 1950s. The ingredients are pale, crystal and amber malts; with First Gold, Challenger and Fuggles hops - the Fuggles being late-hopped. In 2007 Abbot Reserve (6.5% abv) was introduced as a winter special in the cask, with year-round availability in the bottle.
Greene King IPA - A cask bitter (3.6% abv) served in pubs and cans available from supermarkets and off-licences nationally. It is made using Challenger and English First Gold hops. Greene King IPA controversially won the Gold award at the 2004 Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Great British Beer Festival in the Bitter category and runner-up in the Champion Beer of Britain category.
IPA Export - A stronger cask bitter (5.0% abv) IPA available from off-licenses in bottles, also made using Challenger and English First Gold hops.
Olde Suffolk/Strong Suffolk Vintage - A strong old ale (6% abv) that is a blend of two ales, one being aged in oak for two years. It is available in bottles.
St Edmunds - A crisp golden ale (4.2% abv) recently released. it is available in both bottles and cask nationally.
Greene King XX Mild (3% ABV). A dark mild ale available on cask. Black and Crystal malts, Northdown hops.
Olde Trip - A 4.3% Premium Ale. Named in honour of the Nottingham inn Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, which claims to be the oldest inn in Britain. As of September 2007 this was for sale in the Brewery Museum in 500ml bottles.
Old Speckled Hen is a popular bitter, available both as a cask ale and pasteurised in bottles. First brewed in 1979 by Morland Brewery in Abingdon, Oxfordshire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MG car company setting up in Abingdon, and named after the MG factory's MG car - the paint splattered Owld' Speckled 'Un. Brewed since 1999 by Greene King. Greene King has retained the strain of yeast first used in 1896. Old Golden Hen has received a coveted Monde Selection Award at the 2012 World Quality Selections. By receiving this award, the Old Golden Hen became the third and final member of the Old Speckled Hen family to win a Monde Selection quality award. In 2008, Greene King released a vintage oaked, super premium version of Old Speckled Hen, named Old Crafty Hen (6.5%).
Hen's Tooth - A 6.5% bottle conditioned beer.
Tanners Jack - abv 4.4% - Regularly seen across the country as a guest beer, often found in Wetherspoons, like many Greene King beers. Also available in 500ml bottle.
Morland Original - abv 4.0% - Not seen as much as it was but often pops up in the old Morland heartlands. Also available in 500ml bottle.
Old Bob - Still popular in Essex despite the beer's new journey from Bury St Edmunds; it is 5.1% and available both on cask and bottled.
Ruddles County - A 4.7% bitter available on cask nationally and pasteurised in bottles in most British supermarkets.
Ruddles Best Bitter - A 3.7% session bitter with national distribution.
Ruddles Orchard - This 4.2% cask bitter consists of Ruddles County with the addition of apple concentrate. Also available pasteurised in bottles.
The King's English - A 6.0% export IPA.
In March 2016, Greene King won Best Managed Pub Company (51+ sites) at the 2016 Publican Awards. Greene King's chief executive, Rooney Anand, also won Business of the Year Award at the Publican Awards 2016.