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Greene King's vision for ale sector

Added: Friday, March 15th 2024

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Greene King Brewery is set to transform the way the industry looks at the ale category with the  launch of its innovative proposal on ‘How to Win with Ale’.  

Greene King's vision embraces the importance and role of ale on the bar, the challenges and  opportunities for the category and provides a fresh perspective on innovation, quality, and  presentation for the industry. This development aligns with Greene King's commitment to  ale and its passion for its heritage, as a brewer for more 200 years.  

With one in five pints of beer ordered in the UK being ale, which is twice the amount of stout, as a  category it is a fundamental part of a credible beer offer for any bar and continues to see a strong  demand by guests. Cask ale is also the third biggest category for rate of sale of pints, with more than 130  pints sold per week, with keg ale following in fourth, so it’s proved that the category sells well. 

Greene King’s new vision for ale aims to build on the current demand for an even more successful  future. The brewer starts by looking at the different sub-categories of ale with tradition keg ale, cask  ale and craft ale and the role they each play on the bar.  

Understanding the different areas of ale and how these then match with the venue and guest profiles  can ensure that the range on offer is the most profitable. To provide an elevated experience for  guests, venues need more than just a good range of ales on the bar, they need the correct ales in  that range too. Reviewing what works best for the venue, guest and even region will ensure those  pints fly off the bar. 

Given that ale, especially cask ale, is unique to the pub it shouldn’t be a difficult category to engage  current guests with, however, if the basics aren’t right then it all falls at the first hurdle. Focusing on  quality, education, and presentation, means venues will really get the most from their offering.  

Drawing in on quality, cellar management needs to be at the forefront by maintaining a high standard  and ensuring that training is kept up to date. Greene King provides expert cellar training to its  customers in person and with useful online guides through its Beer Genuis online portal.

To further address the challenge of a fresh, short shelf-life product like cask ale, the brewer launched its 4.5-gallon pins into the market last year. The introduction of pins aims to minimise  wastage and encourage venues with smaller throughput to still have cask on the bar, and even the  ability to add further range with a lesser volume. The launch of pins has had a great impact on  growing cask, with overall stockists of the seasonal cask calendar up 20 per cent last year compared to the previous year.

To really win with ale, it is also about giving the best customer experience, where guests want to  have their ale in an appropriate branded, clean glass and presented in the best possible way.  Providing that elevated experience is what guests now expect. 

To truly build a thriving future for ale and not just for the now, the industry needs to recruit new  drinkers too and show that there is a world beyond lager, by addressing other barriers perceived  with drinking ale and taking learnings from other categories that have managed to build that fresh appeal and image. 

Take gin for instance, a product that was once seen as an old-fashioned drink, with no range of  flavour and nothing to really get excited about. Now walking into a bar there is a selection of  brightly coloured bottles, flavours and garnishes all served in modern glasses. With this change in  variety introduced, there has been a noticeable change in demand, so much so that gin is now worth  over £1.3bn in the on trade alone.  

Now, we aren’t likely to start putting mint or rosemary into our ale when serving a pint, but if gin  can change its perception, then so can ale in its own way, by focusing on the below: 

Highlighting and tapping into the demand for provenance 

Building a strong heritage story 

Making ale more mentally accessible with innovation in flavours and tapping into the  premium trend 

Presenting ale in a way that is appealing and modern. 

Leaning into the above learnings, in 2022 Greene King launched its craft beer portfolio, with new  additions launched this year, which includes modern beers that also draw on the heritage and  passion of the brewer. With a colourful and innovative image for the brand, and exciting pump  handles and glassware, Greene King offers a bold and exciting new range for the modern drinker. 

But Greene King’s efforts to bring in new drinkers are not just limited to new craft offerings. For  two consecutive years, the brewer has also launched its Fresh Cask Releases calendar, a portfolio of  limited-edition cask beers available at specific times throughout the year. The calendar offers new  styles and flavours of cask and adds excitement for the category and those influential drinkers. The  launch of the calendar last year resulted in driving great success for cask, with an increase of 42 per cent in volume of Greene King’s seasonal ales vs 2022. 

As an industry, it is important that we engage and serve our ale drinkers for today to the best of our  ability, however we can only ensure a future for ale by making sure we appeal to the new generation  and their preferences too.  

Angie May, On Trade Category Manager at Greene King, says: "The aim of our vision is to  get the industry feeling the passion and motivation we have for ale, and understand how to make the  best out of it for now and make it successful for the future. Greene King wants to make it as easy as  possible for our customers to win with ale and in turn seek the rewards from guests too.  

“Where there is demand there is a need and we believe that it’s about getting it right now and  making those changes for the future, that will provide profit for businesses and an exciting future for  ale.”