The UK’s second-largest ale producer funded a £100,000 research project into drinkers’ thoughts on the beer market and deduced its beers are seen as “traditional craft” while the emerging category led by experimental brews from the likes of Brew Dog and Dark Star is “speciality craft”.
Its brewers have been given free reign to play around with new ingredients to create small batches of speciality craft beer.
They have now released five new beers – the 7.2% abv Double Hop Monster IPA, Yardbird, Suffolk Porter, St Edmunds Anniversary Ale, and a lager called Noble – from the microbrewery in Bury St Edmonds, Suffolk.
Meanwhile a separate microbrewery at Greene King’s Belhaven brewery in Scotland has produced another five new beers – Craft Pilsner, Scottish Ale, Twisted Thistle IPA, Speyside Oak Aged Blond Ale and Scottish Oat Stout.
Another 60 or so are in the pipeline.
All the new beers come with tasting notes, while Greene King can provide retailers with POS and range advice to help boost sales.
Chris Houlton, managing director of Greene King Brewing & Brands, told OLN: “We have always been about crafted beer. We just happen to be quite big. We are just moving into a more speciality area.
“At the moment we see the speciality craft beer market as worth £250 million, up 53% year-on-year. We expect that to double over the next three years.
“I joined the business 11 months ago and I have rarely been to a meeting in that time when we haven’t talked about craft beer – that is why we have gone into the market.
“It makes us more interesting to customers, gives us more to talk about.”
Houlton said the trade has reacted with an unexpected level of excitement to the new beers and that they will be widely available.
They have the capacity to go national because Greene King can simply brew larger batches when the experiments are deemed successful.
The craft beer market has been plagued by hazy definitions and accusations that national brands produced in large batches cannot be “craft”, but Houlton pointed to the size of US craft beer brewers like Boston Beer Company and Sierra Nevada producing interesting beers and said: “We think it’s around colour, flavour and abv – size is not the biggest factor.
“Flavour is the biggest difference between craft and some of the other beers available.”
He added: “Craft beers appeal to a younger, slightly more affluent drinker.
“The impulse channel under-trades on ale and it’s a good opportunity for independents and cash and carries to get behind something with a bit more margin.”