If there is one craft beer brand that has been ruling the waves in the last few years, it's Meantime Brewing. This ubiquitous brew appears everywhere these days from pubs, music festivals and down to ingredients in your meal.
To celebrate London Beer Week, we went along to their brewery in Greenwich where the magic is created, and then along to dinner at Plateau, Canary Wharf to see how beer-matching with food can work as successfully as wine pairing.
What may come as a surprise is how tremendously popular brewery tours are these days. Meantime runs tours daily with six tours on Saturdays. Yes, they even have a gift shop now, where gift packs of Meantime core beers and limited editions are on offer along with T-shirts and other paraphernalia.
A fascinating part of the tour isn't actually examining the giant steel vats of craft beers in production but the history behind the brand and the thirst-quenching examination of their best offerings.
As our guide, Tom opened with the line, “Beer makes boring people interesting”; he proceeded to crack more one-liners in the one hour of the tour than the whole crew of comedians on an evening of Comic Relief. He showed us the vials of ingredients that go into making the beer; we were told to chew on their pale malt, but warned against chewing the bitter hops unless we were looking for laxatives…
Meantime has grown into the second largest brewery in London, thanks in no small part to the foresight of their founder, Alastair Hook who revolutionised a very inward-looking industry at the time that he founded it in 1999. Alastair was the first and only British person to attend and graduate from the brewery school of the Technical University of Munich of Weihenstephan. The Cambridge or Oxford of the brewing industry.
We tried a whole range of their creations from the locally-sourced London Pale Ale, to the smooth and satisfying chocolaty notes from the London Porter. However, our favourite was the Yakima Red, which is their third best-selling line and rapidly increasing in popularity. It was more complex with plenty of fruity and hoppy notes.
The real eye-opener of the tour was to discover how versatile beer can be. Not only is it excellent for pairing with all types of cuisine, but also it can be a critical ingredient in dishes bringing extra complexities to the food. Dark ale braised beef cheek ravioli, pale ale pulled pork, chocolate and beer ganache and chocolate beer sorbet all sparkled with the addition of Meantime. The bitterness of the London Pale Ale also helped to cut through the fattiness of dishes like the pulled pork.
It was also a privilege to have master brewer, Ciaran Giblin there, who took time out from his busy schedule to give us an absorbing insight into the history of the London brewing industry and how Meantime is a progressive brand trying to create popular lagers for the twenty-first century.
Words by Baldwin Ho