Meantime Brewery cask conditioned IPA – indubitably the best beer I’ve tasted

When I staggered into The Union boozer in Greenwich my erstwhile drinking companion (and high-flying international political consultant) Peter was ordering at the bar. He told me I’d need a pint of the cask conditioned India Pale Ale and added that I had no conception of the coruscant beer experience that was about to engulf my senses. I’ll get to that shortly, but a bit of background might be in order.

David is enthusiastic about cask-conditioned Meantime IPA

The Meantime Brewery is a small operation based in Greenwich that largely focusses on producing authentic, characterful lagers. The idea that lager can be characterful might come as a bit of a shock to most drinkers of the vapid, piss-boring, prole-fuel that usually carries this moniker, but try a Meantime Pilsner or the Union amber lager and you’ll be exposed to a gustatory revelation. These are beers of class and distinction.

They make other beers as well. I’ve often enjoyed their London Pale Ale and I think the Raspberry Grand Cru wheat beer is a compellingly complex example of fruit beer. The Oktoberfest lager they brew at the appropriate time of year is not to be missed out on. They make some bottle-conditioned beers including a quite enlightening 7.5% IPA which, until earlier today, was my favourite beer of all time. Now even that beer has lost some of its allure. Here is the note:

The IPA hand pump

Cask conditioned India Pale Ale 7.5% from the Meantime Brewery

The production of this cask-conditioned IPA was an experiment by the Meantime Brewery, using different hops to their normal IPA, to see what their customers thought of it. Peter had sampled a pint yesterday and told me he made it abundantly clear that his thoughts were inordinately positive. Even knowing this did not prepare me for the pleasure-engorged gustatory roller-coaster I was about to be dazzled by.

I had a slurp at the bar to prevent spillage on my way to the table and as the incredible panoply of vibrant, energetic, complex flavours stimulated and saturated my entire being I just had to fix the barman with a rapturous gaze and say, “Wow, the entire history of beer brewing has reached its climax in this glass. This is a new zenith for ale”. I took a deep breath, weaved my way to a table, set my mood to ebullient and palate to analytical in order to determine what made that first taste so compelling.

7.5% is reasonably booze-tastic for beer and at this strength they can often taste sweet and soupy. Not so this IPA, it caressed my palate with a light, silken touch as its flavours unravelled. Not a hint of ponderous heaviness, it was a a refreshingly structured drink. The ultra-fresh bitterness added to this quaffable character – it was positively mouth-watering. The bitter hoppy flavours had seductive fruit and floral tones supported by a subtle malt character which resulted in the palate being more complex than I thought possible for beer. Those complex flavours really persisted as well, and just left me wanting another gulp. I ordered a second pint.


9 Comments

  • Christian wrote:

    David,

    thanks for sharing. I think during my next trip to London I have to make
    a short trip to this boozer – is this far from City airport ?

    Berserkin’ cheers
    Christian

  • David Strange wrote:

    Hi Christian,

    The Union is on Royal Hill in Greenwich, you could get from City Airport reasonably quickly by taxi or slightly more awkwardly using the DLR. The Union is next to a pub owned by those foul purveyors of filth beer Youngs, so don’t go in there by mistake.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Joe Fisher wrote:

    Hi David,

    The Union is great isn’t it? Fab selection of beers, and the grub is pretty good going too.

    Going on your word I noticed some of their London Pale Ale in Waitrose this afternoon and picked up a bottle, look forward to trying this as I’ve had their IPA and Wheat beer before, both of which are very good.

    Thanks again for this, let’s hope they keep the special IPA going in the pub and I might just make a special trip to sample it.

    And look forward to meeting you Friday for some fish & chips!

    Joe

  • David Strange wrote:

    Hi Joe,

    If what Guy promises is true we’ll be having the best fish and chips in London. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m also a bit chuffed that I’ve got two magnums to bring along – I love magnums.

    Should you ever make it out to South East London do drop me a line and I’d be more than happy to meet you at The Union or somewhere else fun.

    See you Friday and thanks for dropping by.

  • Joe Fisher wrote:

    Oh yes, certainly up there with the best. Their batter is about as good as it gets. Just don’t disturb the local cabbies, nor make the mistake of sitting in their usual spot, like I did!

    Two whole magnums – Well, the portions served should certainly hold their own against them, look forward to whatever wonderful wines they may be.

    I would be more than happy to David. See you friday.

    Joe

  • Peter wrote:

    I am pleased to confirm that there is no exaggeration in David’s hyperbolic stream. What a brilliant beer!

  • PhilPub wrote:

    Hi David,

    I can vouch for the quality of the fish and chips at the Union. Even better than their roasts!

    Thanks for the write-up on the IPA. I was in Ganatapati Indian restaurant in Peckham the other day and the bottled IPA was one of the beer choices. Nice! Generally when I’m in the Union it’s an excuse to drink a selection of slightly pricy but very strong Belgian beers. I think I’ll break the habit next time and try some cask conditioned ale.

    Cheers!

    Phil

  • PhilPub wrote:

    Oops… “Ganapati”. Too much IPA! ;-)

  • David Strange wrote:

    Hello Phil,

    If you can try the cask IPA don’t hold back, you’ll love it I promise. Do let me know if you fancy meeting there for a pint and a bite, I am more than willing to be summoned out of horrible, horrible Woolwich for larks and japes.

    Thanks for dropping by.



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