Monday, 8 April 2013

(Mean) Time For A Beer

Time was you only heard from Meantime if you went to the Greenwich Union for a pint, some food and a read of Alistair Hook's latest manifesto, handily inserted into the menu. Or (as I've noted previously), somebody like Peter Haydon wrote to 'What's Brewing' to take UK brewing to task over closed-mindedness.

Lately, though, they've had a PR agency plugging away, inviting bloggers and others to launches of their seasonal beers. Thus it was I was able to finally accept an invite to visit their brewery to try their newest beer, the 5.5% Californian Pale Ale. A quick bus ride from the Elephant & Castle had me out near the O2 in plenty of time, and I was ushered into their pleasant shop while the taproom was made ready.

A late cancellation meant our group was fewer than ten, but it included new beery acquaintances Justin Mason and Matt Curtis. The latter had been at Bunny basher the previous Saturday, just about igniting a spark of recognition. Why does this always happen when I'm at Brodie's?

I'd been wanting to see this brewery for a while, and we were given the tour and talk. A huge forest of fermenters takes up most of the brewhouse space, while beer packaging is sorted out at the front near the loading dock. They do all their own bottling, including the 'sharing' bottles which are corked and caged. We saw a couple of the tanks Meantime are using in a few Young's pubs, and which got steam coming out of the ears of somebody called Mark Justin at that Wandsworth Beer Fest recently...

I pinched this off Dredgie's blog...

Word is that another ten Young's houses will be selling Meantime London Lager this way, and I saw a review (by Will Hawkes?) which was positive, and storing and delivering the beer this way seems to be a selling point. The End of Civilization? Hardly. Just more choice in a city that's bursting with it these days.

Demand for the range means that the brewery may outgrow this space in a few years which will give Meantime some headaches as they decide how to expand. Back in the taproom, there was time to look over a bit of the Michael Jackson collection, which The Beer Hunter bequeathed to Alistair Hook. Bottles from all over the world, glassware, awards, are all around you, a reminder that the world of beer started to shrink once he'd written The World Guide To Beer.

Other impressions? The lad who took us round, Jack, offered the opinion that UK brewing was still a decade behind the US. That sounds like the sort of thing Alistair Hook used to put in his manifestos, but I don't think it could seriously be claimed our scene is that far behind in 2013. The big profile-raising push? I wondered if perhaps Meantime think they might be a bit under the radar, despite being only one of only four or five London brewers left flying the flag for the capital by 2006.

The new beer? Hopped with Slovenian Celeila and American Crystal, it sort of belies its name a bit, but was refreshing with a long bitter finish and, once it had warmed a bit, gave up some intriguing burnt rubber (like you used to get off Simcoe). It wasn't my favourite beer, though. That would be the Bohemian Dark, a lovely chewy dark lager. And a mention for their Wheat. I hear that Camden have stopped brewing their excellent hefeweizen (no, Jasper, NOOOO). Meantime's was fresh and delicious and could fill the hole left by Camden. However, they say (as Camden did) it isn't a big seller. Shame.

On the way out, there was time to pick up a bottle of the barley wine Meantime recently exported to the US. You won't find it anywhere else in the UK, I believe. So I guess UK beer lovers still have some ground to make up before Alistair trusts us completely...

So you know: I was invited to the brewery by Hope & Glory, who are doing PR for Meantime. I was comped the beers I tried, which are included above. The other beer I tried was Yakima Red. I bought that bottle of barley wine.

6 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

Going out drinking beer?

Again?

Tyson said...

Interesting that he said we're 10 years behind the uSA. Plainly wrong, but I was just thinking it's not a very good advert for them, is it? Dount their PR team will use that quote!

Sid Boggle said...

Cookie: eh?

Tyson: I don't know if there's a script, but that particular comment stuck with me because of some of Meantime's previously published views. Like you say, plainly wrong. It did occur to me after I wrote the piece, that in some ways Meantime's positions on dispense, the forward-thinking US market etc, all predate Brewdog's... ;-)

Brother Logic said...

In terms of craft the uk is way behind the us - maybe 5 years rather than 10 though. The us does not do cask though, much to their detriment. But sours, saisons, hoppy beers and the like are way better over here

Sid Boggle said...

Bro Logic: I guess we'd have to compare experiences to find out where there's common ground, before we could properly agree on the comparative state of each scene. However, I am happy to dispute 5 years just as strongly as I dispute 10 years. Forget dispense. The best of our beers would stand comparison with the best of yours, I believe.

Anonymous said...

My problem with Meantime beers are that they are good BUT there is something missing.Tried the Californian on wed.Once again not quite right, wrong hops prob.10 years behind the USA thats a joke surely. cheers johng