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In August, Harveys Best won the real ale organisation CAMRA’s Best Bitter Award, and came second in the Best Beer award. This, in the eyes of the people who know these things, makes it the best bitter of its type and the second best beer of any type in the country. It is the sort of beer that landlords should by dying to sell. Yet Greene King, who own the licence for the Lewes Arms, are reportedly planning to stop serving it in that pub, having already banned it from the Black Horse and the Royal Oak. And banned is the appropriate word: pubs are allowed guest ales, as long as they are NOT Harveys.
There is a petition going round, trying to persuade Greene King to change their mind. Locals are already planning where they are going to drink instead of the Arms. I was in there on Friday night, and it was one of the main topics of conversation among the clientele, who go there largely to chat. The pub, of course, has long had a no-music, no-mobile phones and no-fruit machine policy to aid the art of conversation. The Harveys Best, of course, plays its part in the tongue-loosening: estimates vary but it is reported to outsell the GK beers in the pub by at least 3-1.

Greene King, of course, are no strangers to bullying marketing tactics. Originally a small local brewery in Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk (established in 1799), in recent years the company has started growing into a corporate monster, gobbling up its competitors, first in East Anglia, and increasingly all over the country. The company now owns 2000 pubs, and the Hungry Horse Hotel chain. They have recently bought up breweries such as Belhaven, Morland, Ridley’s and Ruddles. The premises of one of these formerly proud institutions remains open (Belhaven); the others have all been sold and their best beers incorporated (often much to their detriment) into the Greene King empire.

Lewes Arms: part of the ever-expanding Greene Kingdom