Welcome to my first beer review of 2008! And we begin with the final beer I had of 2007. Unlike the incredibly complicated Innis & Gunn before it, I was looking forward to something more straightforward. Something that wouldn’t need new words to be invented just to describe it. Well that’s exactly what Green King’s IPA turned out to be…
Have a look at the bottle. Apart from the big green label, it looks unremarkable.
Closer inspection of the label reveals this drink to have originated from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. Not a place I’ve yet visited, but the name evokes the mental image of the sort of English county town in which you would want to sip a bottle of fine ale. The label also has a year on it; 1799. That’s a good thing. Heritage is a strength with rustic old ale like this one.
The rear label goes on to tell the story of how IPA was conceived. And helpfully, what IPA stands for. It transpires that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. Unfortunately, we are not treated to an ale that was actually brewed in India. Rather, it was exported from England to India. It goes on the explain how in 1827, a cargo including this ale was shipwrecked, salvaged, auctioned and proved popular. Green King went on to recreate the IPA taste, producing what we have here: a 500ml bottle (that’s about three quarters of a pint) at 5% volume.
Poured into a glass, there’s a rather disappointing thin head. This could just be a characteristic of pale ales, I haven’t had enough to be sure. Exactly as it describes on the label, the aroma is hoppy and the taste is bitter.
And that sums up the drink. It is a straightforward bitter. I couldn’t discern any notable difference between this and any other bitter that I’ve tried. It’s a solid, drinkable bitter, a.k.a. a pale ale. But that for me is the problem. It’s impossible to compare it to the original IPA on which it is based. And it doesn’t seem do anything exceptional or unusual. If I visit Bury St. Edmunds or any other part of Suffolk, I’ll be happy to have a pint of this. But it’s hard to find a compelling reason to recommend it to a shopper with a supermarket shelf full of choices. This is one for the pale ale/bitter fanatics.