We’ve had a bit of downtime on the BeerCast over the last week, as I’ve been in sunny London on a short break. Of course, while I was there I managed to fit in a spot of beery tourism alongside the more traditional kind – nowadays there’s no shortage of places to visit. The brewing scene in the other capital is enjoying something of a resurgence, as the likes of Redemption and the Kernel are gaining plaudits left right and centre. One of the more established players in the London market are Greenwich’s Meantime Brewery, having been established eleven years ago by master brewer Alistair Hook.
We’ve featured a few of their beers before – Meantime do a good job of getting their bottled beer into nationwide supermarkets – but finding their cask and/or keg beer in Scotland is usually much harder. The solution then, is to go to the source – which is what led me to the invitingly picturesque Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich on a barmy Spring afternoon. Located right on the Thames, Meantime moved here last year, re-opening the original 1836 brewery in the process.
I’ve often said that Edinburgh lacks beer gardens – which is understandable if you’ve ever felt a November wind here or seen the haar roll in off the Forth. London has seemingly hundreds – plus you can creep out from the pub and drink on the pavement (within reason). There can be few better things in life than lazing in a sunny beer garden for a couple of hours, watching the world go by (and then landing into Heathrow, if you’re in Greenwich).
The Old Brewery Bar and Restaurant is joined onto the interesting Discover Greenwich museum, which also opened last year. Through a set of large glass doors, and you’re into the Meantime brewhouse bar, which has a pretty impressive range of keg fonts, plus a couple of cask handpulls (including a guest – the brilliantly drinkable Darkstar Hophead on the day of my visit). But as so few of Meantime’s new or more unusual beers make it to Scotland, it was those I concentrated on.
First up was their relatively new Kellerbier (4.4%) – a Bavarian ‘cellar beer’, the historical style of unfiltered lager that was extremely popular in Franconia. Meantime produce a lot of lagers – their London Lager is an attempt to wrestle the market away from macro-producers. The Kellerbier is the same recipe (I believe), only unfiltered and unpasteurised. As a result I found it was more interesting (having had the London Lager previously), with a touch of malty sweetness and a slight spicy edge going on. It is only available from the Old Brewery, direct from the cellar, which adds to authenticity running though it.
Next up was another recent offering, Yakima Red (4.0%), Meantime’s seasonal for March. A fruity-looking reddish brown beer, on draught it was served slightly cold – but in the blazing London sunshine it soon warmed to let the flavours out. Designed to highlight the hops from Washington State’s Yakima Valley, this one is all about the aroma – which was wonderful. Big resinous hops, grass and a decent amount of malt, the flavours follow on from that really well indeed. British versions of the classic American Red aren’t that common – BrewDog 5am Saint springs to mind (Yakima was pretty similar, albeit with less hop bite). Hopefully this will become more than just a seasonal.
After tucking into an enormous plate of fish and chips I had wanted to finish on the big note of another beer only available at the Old Brewery – Hospital Porter (8.0%), but sadly it was off. I settled instead for London Stout (4.5%). I’m not sure we can mention dark London beers without a nod to the Kernel – but I think everyone involved would agree Meantime’s are brewed to be more mainstream. Their London Stout is a decent drinker, good roasty bitterness and some chocolate on the palate, which is quite thin but not so much that it holds the beer back. Sitting in the sun by the Thames, I certainly wasn’t complaining in any way…