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We tried the Greene King beer tour in Bury St Edmunds and this is what we thought



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Bury St Edmunds is known for its cathedral, independent businesses, and of course, being home to the Greene King headquarters on Westgate Street.

Its beer tours, which started up around three decades ago, have educated countless people on the process which goes into making their many varieties of brews and the history of the company.

To get a taste of how these tours work, SuffolkNews went along to one on Tuesday - and this is what we thought.

Our tour guide Steve with the giant mash tuns in the background which produce around 24,000 pints at a time.
Our tour guide Steve with the giant mash tuns in the background which produce around 24,000 pints at a time.

The tour takes you through the building where the cereal is mashed and hops are added to the water before being pumped to a separate building across the road.

Steve Ruthen, who has been with the company since the mid 1980s and a full time guide since 2015, was on hand to take us through the tour.

It was littered with bundles of fascinating facts, including that each week the brewery offloads around 50,000-100,000 tonnes of excess yeast to Unilever, who make Marmite.

Another was that the large stainless steel mash tuns, where the grains and water are mixed, can produce around 24,000 pints at a time - enough to keep plenty of punters' thirsts quenched.

The tour begins outside and runs you through the origins of the company, from Benjamin Greene starting it up in 1799 to Frederick King, at once a competitor, agreeing to merge with the Greene brewery in 1887.

You then step into the brewery, up the steps and on to the first floor, where the giant stainless steel mash tuns are kept.

To your left are the smaller mini mash tuns, where since 2011 Greene King brewers have been experimenting to create new and exciting lagers and ales.

The tour starts outside the brewery where you are run through the early origins of the company.
The tour starts outside the brewery where you are run through the early origins of the company.

Yet another interesting fact was that out of all the new beers or ales created in the mini mash tuns, only one a year is retained for ongoing production.

You climb another set of stairs (there are around 130 in the building in total) and are shown into a room with old-style wooden barrels, an old cart used for transport and shovels used to turn the gooey malty mess. Ascending again, the next floor is where the equipment used to mash the cereal is kept.

Some of the equipment, made by Robert Boby, is decades old but still in perfect working order.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the tour though is the top floor, the roof, where the water tanks are stored and you are offered up panoramic views of Bury.

It's a perfect chance to grab some air before heading back downstairs for the beer tasting session, where you get to sample of range of tipples and, hopefully, keep yourself together.

The mini mash tuns where the experimental beers and ales are produced.
The mini mash tuns where the experimental beers and ales are produced.
The tour finishes with a beer tasting session where you get to try a number of tipples.
The tour finishes with a beer tasting session where you get to try a number of tipples.
The floor where old-style wooden barrels, an old cart used for transport and shovels used to turn the gooey malty mess.
The floor where old-style wooden barrels, an old cart used for transport and shovels used to turn the gooey malty mess.

Overall, the tour is a great chance to learn more about the history of Greene King, sample some beers, but also get a flavour of the company spirit which permeates throughout the building like the smell of malt.

As Steve put it, he's 'part of the Greene King family'.

Tickets for the brewery tour cost £18 per person, last an hour and 45 minutes, and can be booked for 11am on Thursdays and Sundays, 12.30pm on Saturdays, 2pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 3.30pm on Saturdays.

The walk, talk and tasting tour tickets also cost £18 per person and last around an hour and 40 minutes. These can be booked for 11am slots on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

For more information, or to book a tour, visit www.greeneking.co.uk/our-beers/brewery-tours-beer-cafe/ or call 01284 843326.