Saturday 20 April 2013

Fetch The Engines, Fetch The Engines...

Yep, pour on beer, though, because London's Brewing.

After a gap of over 18 months, the London Brewers Alliance have got themselves a new, bigger fest, and it's taking place at London Fields over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend of 4-5 May.

With around 40 breweries now operational within the M25, they've outgrown the upstairs space at Vinopolis, so a much bigger fest with a ramped-up bill of fare is in store for beer lovers who make their way to London Fields. As well as over 100 beers from LBA members, there'll be street food, live music, and talks hosted by Melissa Cole, birthday boy Des De Moor, and Sophie Atherton. There'll be beer and food matching, and the event is child-friendly, even if some of the attendees [hem hem] aren't.

Also new for this gathering are awards. The breadth of beer styles coming out of London breweries is astonishing, so Simply Hops is sponsoring a programme which will recognise the best beer in nine different categories. Roger Protz is advertised as being one of the judges, so I'm hoping for some heated debate between him and his judging colleagues, since he'll be sampling more than cask beer.

There's a collaborative beer available now, a 6.8% stout which was brewed last summer at The Kernel under the benign gaze of Ron Pattinson. You'll be able to sample it at the fest, though if you can't wait The Kernel had it last Saturday.

The nice people organising the event have offered me an 'exclusive' to pass on to my readers. Of course, if you widely read UK beer blogs, you'll have seen quite a bit of bloggage about the fest, and will therefore realise this offer isn't quite as exclusive as it sounds. Still, I'm able to offer you a whopping £5 off a ticket to the Sunday session, by entering the following promotional code when you book here.

Just enter sidbogg13 into the promotional code box and you'll get a fiver off. And since it's a Bank Holiday weekend, there's no need to feel guilty about drinking great beer on a Sunday.

I'll be there at some point. It's exciting to think that London brewing has more than consolidated since the first London Brewers' Showcase in 2010 - it's grown and is finding a market. I'll be hoping for the traditional pap shot of Mark Dredge, whose book is due to be published around that week - it's been a while; and wondering if Melissa Cole will remember to bring that copy of her book she promised me. That bottle of Pliny The Elder on page 112 was mine you know...

Let's Drink London Beer!

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.