Sunday, September 26, 2010

Greene King @ Bury St Edmonds

Today's trip was to Bury St Edmonds to visit the Greene King Brewery.  It is open at 11:30 for the tour only on Sundays.  The forecast was heavy showers - an entirely accurate forecast.  It was a very relaxed start for us for a Sunday.  A bit of a lie in and an unhurried breakfast.  Then we set out on the 30 minute drive to Bury St Edmonds.  The brochure said there was limited parking outside the brewery.  There is space for five or six cars.  There was one space left.  We were 20 minutes early.  We strolled towards the Abbey Gardens and back in time for the start.  About 13 of us were on the tour.  The young lady taking the money - and leading the tour started well - while she was taking the money.
"That's taking its time"  I said as we waited for the card to be authorised.
"Yes," she said, "we're still on dial-up", then after a short pause "Well we are a museum".

A good line, but not strictly true.  The brewery is still working (but not on Sundays).
We were taken up to the roof and shown the enormous site, and the huge water tanks.  Then we worked slowly down the building, tasting the different types of roast barley, smelling hops, and learning about the process.  It was a very interesting tour.
At the end we were taken to the bar and allowed to try many of the Greene King beers.  I'd already tasted most of them.  You can't turn them down though.  My favourite, that I had not even heard of, was Strong Suffolk.  That's one of the beers that is only available in bottles and is stronger than the tap beers.
Once the beer was server - very small samples for drivers and slightly larger for the rest - the visitors started to relax and chat.  One lady gave out poems she had written and it seems she keeps a supply with her just for that purpose.  There was also quite a discussion about CAMRA and their attitude to Greene King.
The tour was over but the normal souvenirs were not available, so we were allowed one bottle of beer per couple.  "Strong Suffolk" was the obvious choice.

After the tour we drove to a car park and ate our sandwiches.  It was raining.  It was still raining when we finished.  Shortly after that it dried up and we wandered through the town to the Abbey Gardens.  There we made a note of the road and went back for the car (the car park ticket was about to expire).  We drove closer to the Cathedral and then took a look around.  Evensong was about to start, so we looked around quickly.  St Edmondsbury is an ancient building, and also a very modern one with works still in progress to develop the building.  We also walked in the Abbey Gardens and looked at the Abbey ruins.  What would England be like if the monasteries hadn't been destroyed by Henry VIII?  The Abbey is thought to have been the fourth largest in Europe.

Pictures will have to come later - I left the card reader behind.

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