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14th March 2024

Unlocking Ale Excellence: Greene King Launches New Vision for Ale

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 exciting development aligns with Greene King’s commitment to ale and its passion for its heritage, as a brewer for over 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 3rd biggest category for rate of sale of pints, with over 130 pints sold per week, with keg ale following in 4th*, so it’s proven 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% last year vs 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% 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, said: “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.”

For more information about Greene King and its ales go to:

Data Sources:

*CGA 2022

**Greene King Sales Data for 2023

***CGA OPM MAT P13 2023 (30/12/23)


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Notes to editors

Greene King is the country’s leading pub company and brewer with c.2,600 pubs, restaurants and hotels across England, Wales and Scotland.

At Greene King we are passionate about delivering our purpose to ‘pour happiness into lives’. That’s for our customers, our team, our pub partners, our suppliers and the communities in which we live, operate and serve. Founded in 1799 with offices in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk and Burton on Trent in Staffordshire we employ around 39,000 people across the group with four divisions: Greene King pubs, Destination Brands, Partnership and Ventures, and Brewing & Brands.

  • Greene King pubs are located where people and communities come together; pubs enjoyed in cities, towns and villages throughout the country
  • Destination Brands is a mixture of food and drink-led brands including Hungry Horse, Farmhouse Inns, Chef & Brewer, Flaming Grill and Wacky Warehouse
  • Partnerships & Ventures includes Pub Partners, which runs our tenanted and leased pubs business and Hive Franchise pubs, and our Ventures Brands which is made up of Metropolitan Pub Company, Hickory’s, Hotels Group and Crafted Pubs
  • Brewing & Brands covers the brewing sides of the business. Quality ales are brewed at the Westgate brewery in Bury St Edmunds and the Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar. Our industry-leading portfolio includes Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale, Ice Breaker and Belhaven Best and our premium beers, Level Head and Flint Eye, brewed for the modern-day drinker.

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