Thursday, 14 August 2014

We Are BeerBox

(It's been months since I wrote about Beer. 2014 has had the same sort of ups and downs as 2013 did. Some of what will turn up here was drafted contemporaneously earlier this year, and there are some themes I might run at. And there's Frank Sidebottom. So, fingers crossed, time and inclination to commit more to cyberpaper...)

To Greenwich for the launch of Meantime's new pop-up venture, the Beerbox. Though I tend to be conspicuous by my absence from the blogosphere, Meantime still pop the odd invite my way, for which, much thanks.

Anyway, I'd been chatting to a Meantime insider a couple of weeks earlier about pubs and been told that, more or less, Meantime would stick with The Union on Royal Hill and the Old Brewery at the Naval College in Historic Greenwich. Rather than permanent sites, temporary pubs and bars would be the way ahead. And lo, it has come to pass.

Up top, We Are Scientists. Underneath, They Are Meantime
An email from their PR invited me to the Greenwich Peninsula, hard by the O2, for the launch of their new bar, BeerBox. A converted shipping container yards from North Greenwich underground, with a performance or terrace space on top. For the launch, they'd lined up We Are Scientists to play on the roof of the bar, and their set was underway as my mate Steve and I rocked up. I'm not familiar with The New Pop (though a lot of it sounds to these aged lugholes, sort of like the Old Pop), but they twanged their thang most pleasingly while we got on with sampling beer. This year's Fool's Gold Citra-hopped pilsner was first, lovely and refreshing on a warm, still London August evening. Steve, currently working at Drake's Brewing in San Leandro, CA, took time to sign the wall in the bar, leaving a cool sticker which added a dramatic splash of red to the persistent monochrome of the wall. Meantime have brewed a special beer for the venue called Peninsula Pale, which I recall was nicely balanced, and I have some memory of blackcurrants for some reason.

The bar will be here for three days a week for the next three years.

Brandino Forges An Impromptu Alliance
It got me thinking about Meantime's strategy here. I'm sensing a pattern, and when I mentioned this to a Meantime worker, the notion drew a knowing smile. Last year, they played with pop-up venues at places like Shoreditch Boxpark. That container motif at BeerBox might not be an accident. During the late May Bank Holiday, I was at their early summer Brew Fest at the Old Brewery. The weather dampened what was a promising fest, but again, it seemed Meantime had learned from their 2013 venture into fests at the Old Brewery. The offer was tweaked for this one, and when I asked whether that was because the 2013 Fest had cost Meantime money, that was denied though an observation was offered that the company had learned a lot about how to put a fest together.

Meantime have expanded capacity at the brewery, keeping them at the heart of Greenwich for a while longer yet, and they've plans to develop the visitor centre and brewery shop. They've developed their own hop fields close by the brewery, and they continue to offer some interesting beers. In a week when young London blogger Matt Curtis appears to have opened a Pandora's Box with this, I find myself more convinced that they'll never get a fair hearing from the geek end of the New London Beer Scene, but there are plenty of younger beer drinkers, and beer drinkers who want to try something different but not too extreme, who will give them a go.

Steve and I were guests of Meantime for this launch. Well, Steve wasn't exactly, I was able to blag him a ticket.

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