Greene King Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale

Beer number 102 off the epic list is another Greene King ale – the Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale. This is a chance for the brewery to redeem itself in my eyes after the horrible offering that was the Abbot Ale. Unfortunately, this is another ale that’s been packaged in a clear glass bottle…*sigh*, I know where this is going.


The bottle says:
The first thing that I noticed was the name, and how much it was trying to say. To me, Strong Suffolk Vintage Ale says this:
STRONG – high alcohol content
SUFFOLK – um…it’s from Suffolk
VINTAGE – It’s crafted each year, allowing dedicated fans to muse over the subtle differences seen from the previous brew
ALE = …it’s an ale
But I’m afraid that the name might simply be an evocative sales pitch. Firstly the ABV is only 6% – this makes it one of the strongest brews in the Greene King roster, but hardly warrants the ‘Strong’ title. There’s also no vintage year anywhere on the bottle. It does mention that it’s ‘a unique blend of the BPA and the Old 5X’, the latter of which is aged for 2 years in oak, but I question if it’s a true vintage brew or not. Perhaps “Suffolk Ale” would have sufficed?

First Half:
The body pours dark with a ruby tinge, and a dark tan head that isn’t that thick. The body is light and a bit watery, but the flavours still manage to pack a punch. It starts with burnt toffee and vanilla, with some bitterness in the middle that finishes with a tannin quality. There’s some sultana and juicy dark fruits in the aftertaste. It’s surprisingly complex for such a light bodied beer, and doesn’t seem to have been affected by the ridiculous clear glass bottle.

Second Half:
As it warms there’s some roasty flavours, but the body is too thin to hold it for long. The tannin flavours get bigger, to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking the aftertaste is red wine. The warmer it gets the more complex it becomes; there some red delicious apples in the aroma towards the end, and there was even a point where I smelt it and was sure I had spiced rum in the glass.

Final Thoughts:
This beer helped to redeem to good name of Greene King, after the abhorrent showing that was the Abbot Ale. Thank the beer gods that the curse of the clear glass bottle didn’t strike this beer too. I found it to be similar to the Skull Splitter – lots of complexity without the heaviness. I personally prefer ales with more body, but it’s a decent drop anyway…could it have been better if it wasn’t in a clear glass bottle? Maybe I’ll find out one day.


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