25 Aug 2006

A P*** Up In a Brewery

MEANTIME, whilst taking time out from wine, a visit to Meantime, one of the UK's foremost micro-breweries - and now the second largest in London. Established in a former tram shed in Greenwich in 1999, this galvanised operation is run by a union of friends dedicated to 'engaging the drinking public' with 'the full flavour potential that beer has to offer', albeit involving shifts of 4am starts and 12am finishes. Vinopolis guides were shown around by Peter Haydon (pictured), a Meantime Director and author of 'An Inebriated History of Britain.' Quite a controversialist, Peter had an unorthodox view of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). He also told us that the main difference between English hops and German hops is that the English are "allowed to have sex".

My favourite Meantime beer is the Coffee, a real curio made with Rwandan Fair Trade beans (reviewed earlier), followed by the London Porter, a dense, meaty, beef gravy-laden beer to dine for, especially with rugged Irish oysters. The lithe, crisp India Pale Ale also gets its own website (in fact more of a petition) it demonstrating a return to the true version of this much-abused beer. The Grand Cru Wheat had elements of banana in its unfiltered, foggy character. At between 6-7.5% alcohol levels are respectable, allowing for more body [Stockists]. Incidentally the strongest beer in the world is 24p/c, the 'Sam Adams Utopias MMII & Samuel Adams Millennium', brewed by the Boston Beer Company.
This label is designed by one of Meantime's investors, artist Ray Richardson.

After the brewery tour, we ventured to the opening night of what must be London's smallest pub (three tables), 'The Rake', perched on the corner of the wholesale market at Borough Market. Choosing from a smashing five page carte of bottled beers which include Meantime, I enjoyed a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which was energetic enough, but not a patch on Meantime's version. The venue is brought to you by Utobeer, beer specialist on the market.

By now in need of nourishment other than that in liquid form, another new venue was tested, the latest outpost of 'Black and Blue' (also Borough Market). A Foie Gras burger [£12] made me feel immediately bilious, a mass produced oval of offal topped with a soap like squidge of alleged foie gras. To summarise: clattering acoustics, unnecessarily technologically fussy sliding doors, bored, broad service and fattened, feeding long-pigs propped up at 90degree pseudo 'US diner' fixed seating. Burger off Black & Blue! Give me Glas back any day.
Further Link: Meantime's Pub, Greenwich Union