Thursday 25 July 2013

Event Recap: Meantime Tasting at the Union Tavern

On Tuesday evening, the Union Tavern hosted Meantime Brewing Company as part of the pub's We Need to Talk About Beer series. For this series, the pub typically brings in a single brewery and a representative from the brewery (often a brewer) takes the audience through a range of their beers. This occasion marked the fifth such event I have attended at the Union Tavern, preceded by Windsor & Eton, The Kernel, East London Brewery, and a mixed tasting of American beers.

Pete Brissenden from Meantime walked us through six beers from the brewery's range: London Lager, Pilsner, Wheat, India Pale Ale, London Stout and Chocolate (a Baltic Porter). Meantime, the second-largest brewery in Greater London after Fuller's, focus mostly on beers that appeal to a wide variety of drinkers. Their lagers, pale ales and porters are fairly straight-ahead examples of the styles, well executed if not especially exciting. Thankfully, Meantime do have an experimental streak and regularly brew small batch releases that are available at their brewery tap room and pub down in Greenwich. For example, they've put out a host of barrel-aged beers and other niche styles such as quad and saison. I find these limited-release beers to be far more intriguing than the standard lineup. They showcase the creativity and brewing acumen of Meantime's brewers, and I will continue to seek out such beers as and when I can.

With their core range of beers, though, Meantime strives for consistency and drinkability, embracing a 'Drink it, don't think it' (Pete's words) mentality. While many breweries like to vary their beer offerings by using new recipes on a weekly basis, Meantime wants its customers to know that the London Lager they drink today will taste the same as it did last month, and will taste the same next month. It's a sound model and it suits their mission.

Pete talking beer.
The first beer we tackled was Meantime London Lager, a 4.5% so-called Premium Lager. It's a fairly uncomplicated beer with a character marked by crisp but doughy biscuits and a very slight straw bitterness. This beer epitomizes the 'Drink it, don't think it' mentality. I would happily sink a few bottles of this stuff on a hot day. We followed with Meantime Pilsner. It's not terribly dissimilar to the London Lager, though it does have a bit more hop kick to it. The malts again are fairly biscuity, lightly doughy, with mild cereal grains. It's another highly drinkable beer.

We then moved on to the Meantime Wheat. True to its style, this 5% hefeweizen had plenty of banana and clove in the aroma, and of course bready wheat. The flavor was moderately sweet with lightly sugary wheat bread, mild spices, ripe bananas. Not the most inspiring hefe I've had before, but certainly quaffable.

Next was the fairly heady 7.5% Meantime India Pale Ale. The brewery markets this beer as an 'authentic' IPA; that is, a beer true to the style of those IPAs that, back in the good old days, made the voyage from the UK to India. It's a decent beer and it drinks pretty well for its strength. There's a mild breadiness to the malts, and the hops impart notes of earth, cedar and tangy citrus. The alcohol leaves you with a warming finish.

We finished the tasting with two dark beers, the Meantime London Stout and the Meantime Chocolate. The London Stout (4.5%) is easy going, its character defined by dark sugars, lightly roasted malts, some ash and faint coffee. The Chocolate (6.5%) is a bit punchier, the roasted malts a bit harder. The chocolate character can be a bit chalky at times but overall it adds an interesting element to the beer.

It was a fun event and thanks to Pete for making his presentation insightful and engaging. And, of course, big thanks to the Union Tavern and its staff for hosting. I loved the ribs.

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