Sam Smith’s and Greene King do make some good beers, the problem is that the vast majority of their pubs don’t seem to sell the good stuff. In the case of Greene King your options are generally their seemingly hopless IPA, Ruddles, or Abbott Ale. None of which are particularly bad beers, but definitely not something I’d ever seek out.
When it comes to Sam Smith’s pubs the owners seem intent on reducing the drinker’s options in a similar way, and over the last few years have really streamlined the offerings in most pubs to be Old Brewery Cask Bitter (dull as sin), Nitro keg ‘Best’ or Taddy Lager. If you’re lucky they’ll have the Extra Stout on, which is actually a pretty decent, roasty dry nitro stout, but again nothing to write home about.
So it was really refreshing to walk into a Sam Smith’s Pub in Beverley and see that they had the full hand pump range on plus a fully stocked fridge of bottled wares, and then right around the corner walk into a different pub and find one of the only Greene King beers I’ve heard consistently good things about.
In the Sam Smith’s pub were the usual staples (Old Brewery, Best, Taddy Lager, Alpine Lager, Extra Stout) but also a few of the better beers which seem to be less and less common in their pubs, i.e. the Wheat Beer, Pure Brewed Lager, and both the Light and Dark Milds.
The Wheat beer is my pick of the draft bunch - Slightly orangey, clean and fruity with loads of clove and a really refreshing fairly dry finish. The Milds aren’t amazing but perfectly decent, if a little flattened flavourwise by the keg dispense.
In the fridges was my drink of choice though, the Taddy Porter. It’s a beer I’ve written about before, a workmanlike classic British Porter that’s light enough to drink a few of but big enough in flavour to satisfy, a real classic of the style in my opinion.
If Sam Smith’s consistently had their better draft beers on offer and a well stocked fridge I’d drink in their pubs far more often, as it stands, I hardly ever do. Surely others feel the same?
Oh yeah, Green King.
I found their Mild.
The Greene King XX Mild, which weighs in at a super featherweight 3% ABV, is a beer which I’ve always wanted to try. The main reason being that I’ve not really drank a good beer from Greene King, but have heard that this mysterious and shy little mild (good luck trying to find it) is something of a forgotten classic, and actually a cracking little beer.
There’s something satisfying about the subtlety of Mild that I really enjoy, where generally it takes at least a full pint to decide if it’s any good. Then the flavour builds up over a couple pints and little hints of chocolate, fruit, or floral notes which you didn’t notice at first start to become really pronounced.
Personally I do prefer Dark Milds and this one from Greene King really didn’t disappoint. Balanced, roasted, slightly sweet but really refreshing at the same time, it’s properly quaffable yet flavoursome and subtle at the same time. It might make you work hard to find it, but it’s worth it when you do.
P.S. I wasn’t the one choosing the pubs, so you’ll have to find them yourself I’m afraid. But Beverley really isn’t a very big place, and I’m pretty sure there’s only one Sam Smith’s pub for starters.