Greene, King & Sons are one of the largest breweries in the UK. Based in the market town of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, the company currently operate 3,100 pubs and a number of hotels and restaurants.
The business was formed in 1887 following the merger of Frederick King Brewery (established 1765) and Benjamin Greene Brewery (established 1799), two rival brewing companies in Bury St. Edmunds. The newly merged company remained in private hands with shares divided between the Greene and the King families.
By 1903 the company had become one of the largest brewers in the region, with sales peaking at 75,378 barrels. New technology, such as pasteurization and refrigeration, helped the company adapt to changes in drinking habits.
Customers visited pubs less often due to temperance propaganda, which stigmatised pubs, but frequently purchased beer to take home, so the availability of pasteurized bottled beer became important. Greene King bottled 5,045 barrels of beer annually by 1913. The company expanded, acquiring three local breweries and 128 pubs by the end of the First World war.
As a small, regional brewer, Greene King found itself a target for aggressive merger overtures by larger breweries in the 1950s. Greene King sought to make the company less desirable for a takeover by making acquisitions of their own. The company purchased J. C. Mauldon & Sons in 1958, Simpson’s Brewery in Baldock, with 130 pubs in 1959, and the Wells & Winch Brewery in Biggleswade with 287 pubs in 1961.
Greene King became the second largest regional brewery in the country in 1990 with the purchase of 87 retail pubs from Allied Lyons. Expansion in all areas of its business led the company to restructure into three major divisions : Greene King Pub Partners encompassed the pubs that the company leased to individual tenants; Greene King Pub Company covered company owned and operated pubs; and Brewing and Brands was responsible for oversight of the brewery, sales and distribution, and brand development.