North/South divide coms to a head

SUFFOLK brewer Greene King is aiming to conquer the north-south divide - and to overcome a few more prejudices besides.The Bury St Edmunds company is introducing a versatile new beer pump which offers drinkers a choice between a “southern” or “northern” style head on their pint.

SUFFOLK brewer Greene King is aiming to conquer the north-south divide - and to overcome a few more prejudices besides.

The Bury St Edmunds company is introducing a versatile new beer pump which offers drinkers a choice between a “southern” or “northern” style head on their pint.

It also keeps the glass at bar level, and so in view throughout the pouring process, which Greene King hopes will make traditional cask-conditioned beer - or “real ale” - more of a talking point and encourage more people to try it.

The “Cask Revolution” pump features a lever which switches in or out a “sparkler” - a nozzle with small holes - which agitates the beer as it is poured.

With the sparkler, the beer gains a thick, creamy head of tight bubbles, as preferred in the north; without it, there is thinner head of loose bubbles, the style in which cask-conditioned ale is traditionally served in the south.

A version of the new pump was trialled just over 18 months ago when Greene King launched a new beer, St Edmunds, designed to be served chilled.

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Now, however, it is going “mainstream”, with Greene King's flagship IPA - the top selling cask ale in the UK - being offered with a choice of head in 450 pubs across the country, and the total is set to top 1,000 in the coming months.

The difference between a “southern” or “northern” style head is more than purely cosmetic. Greene King head brewer John Bexon explains that, by removing more gas from the beer, the sparkler also changes the “mouthfeel” or texture of the beer and reduces the impression of bitterness.

To reflect this, Greene King is terming the two styles Clean and Crisp (southern), and Smooth and Creamy (northern).

Besides offering greater choice to confirmed real ale drinkers, the company believes the new pump will further enhance the growing interest in cask conditioned beer in younger generations, some of who currently view it as unfashionable or find the taste too challenging.

Justin Adams, manging director of Greene King's brewing division, said: “We are constantly looking to support the industry above and beyond brewing the best beer you can buy.

“The new high-tech beer engine will help create a new generation of drinkers trying out a fresh, natural, crafted drink bursting with flavour and taste, rather than sticking with their usual lagers or keg beers.”

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