Having exhausted most of the brewery tours in our immediate location, we ventured to Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, London. Arriving by the Thames Clipper on a chilly March morning, it seemed the perfect way to get there, docking at Greenwich Naval College.
- The tour itself was very good and definitely more setup for visitors. Our guide an enthusiastic, interesting, funny and frankly hipster gentleman guided us from the bar up to the “tasting room”. Here we were treated to a history of the company, which is normally time to fall asleep, however our guide made it genuinely entertaining, with good Q&A with all who wished to participate. We then went on to the brewery itself.
- After the talk it was time for the tasting (YES!!) Here we were treated to a generous third or two of their core range of beers: London Lager, London Pale Ale, Yakima Red (my favourite of the range) and London Stout. One lady who wasn’t particularly keen on beer was treated to a glass of their Raspberry Wheat beer. Meantime make around 45 different beers a year.
- Meantime’s core beer style could be described as ‘British beer in a European style’. However, the beers they make on a limited run are a free for all of flavours. My favourite of the day was Yakima Red, a great ruby red ale using English and German malts and five US hops grown in the Washington state, these give a real nice well rounded beer that doesn’t smack you round the face.
- At the back of the gift shop they have a walk in beer fridge (need one of those!). Here you can buy their core range and whatever seasonal beers they have in bottles. I bought a bottle of my favourite, the 750ml IPA (everything an IPA should be) and their seasonal Cinnamon Porter.
- The gift shop itself is a nicely done affair with the usual t-shirts, glassware and some nice soap.
The Pretty Good…
- The bar sells the core range and a few others (Chocolate Porter, Wheat) but none of the seasonal beers or large bottles…a shame if you want to have taste before committing to replenishing your home stock!
- The tour was fully booked at around thirty people, it was fine in the tasting room which was clearly built for a crowd to sit down (only one loo though), however in the brewery it was hard to hear the guide unless you were near the front of the group.
Meantime brewery was started by Alastair Hook in 2000. He trained at Heriot-Watt University and the brewing school of the Technical University of Munich of Weihenstephan. Starting out in premises in Chalton and then upgrading to a place in Greenwich. Alastair won brewer of the year in 2008, whilst the Coffee Porter was Britain’s first Fairtrade beer winning Gold at the 2006 World Beer Cup and their beers have been winning awards before and since. Meantime seem to have found a happy medium in today’s beer industry, while you will find their beers on tap in many pubs throughout London, they are also in the “craft” beer scene, experimenting and collaborating with other breweries like Brewdog who used Meantime’s premises for a while.
Oktoberfest is the traditional funfair held in Munich, Bavaria – Germany, confusingly the 16 day festival actually starts starts in the mid-September, simply because the nights are longer and slightly warmer. Originally, the festival started as some serious wedding celebrations for Crown Prince Ludwig’s 1810 wedding to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, which gradually grew into the modern merry drinking fest.
Now the festival tankard has been taken up across the globe and we headed to The Hook Norton Brewery, Oxfordshire, for our taste of the Bavarian festivities. Two long tables packed with precisely 60 chaps and four female representatives lined the Brewery’s cobbled cellar floor. The Brewery has been making beer since 1856 and as we ambled down Brewery Lane you could understand why Oktoberfest had been moved to September nights. A band struck up, unfortunately not playing the classic Mario Lanza classic ‘Drink, Drink, Drink…let the toast start’.
Each person is provided with two bottles of beer, a hot dog made using the beer from the brewery, and a couple of huge pretzels. Now to the important stuff… the beer!
The beers on offer were a game of two halves; the first two lagers were your typical Oktoberfest Märzen style, one being Spaten Oktoberfestbeir, the other being Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier. The Spaten was a bit lacking in the flavour department compared to the Hofbrau which was a great example of that type of beer; the Germans, are for me, the superior lager brewers on the continent with their years of tradition dating back to the country’s oldest brewery in 1040 AD. I am particularly partial to a Augustiner Bräu Lagerbier Hell.
I’m sitting in a the Cafe Del Mar, a bohemian hangout with every available space choc-full with ornate Turkish tea and coffee paraphernalia in Kalkan, Turkey. The sun is blazing, with 40 degree heat (and rising), perfect conditions for ice-cold beer. Over here, I’ve found that my options are the gaseous flavour void that is Budweiser (Ok, I confess I’m not a fan… but I’m open to be persuaded otherwise) or Efes beer, the Turkish favourite and what I seem to find in every restaurant and supermarket fridge.
The distinctive short, rubenesque Efes beer bottle is usually accompanied with a cold tulip glass, and being an easy-to-drink, bright, foamy lager even Jess can knock one back (a secret beer fan and an alcoholic). In fact Efes has many similarities to other Mediterranean beers.
Efes Pilsners is brewed by a bottom-fermentation or bottom-cropping technique – in the old days, this meant yeast was collected from the bottom of the fermenting wort to be reused for the next brew. Later it was found that yeast collected via bottom cropping was actually a different species to that collected via top cropping, the pinnacle difference being that bottom-cropped yeast actually favoured a cooler temperature. Efes is actually brewed with a pils-type of golden barley, a high quality malt and the Hallartau hop, grown in the Hallartau region in Germany – the largest continuous hop growing region in the world.
In summary, I pretty much lived off Efes whilst in Turkey, mostly because Efes Pilsner has an 80 per cent share of the domestic market!
Get the Knack
Fancy trying Efes in the UK, you can get it in selective Tescos or online.
Or worldwide you can buy through The Drink Shop.