Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Beers Of London Series
8. Meantime Brewery Company -
Bourbon Barrel Aged Greenwich Ale 6.0%
Brewed Exclusively For Marks & Spencer

The Meantime Brewing Company seem to have been around for an awfully long time. As someone living just outside London their beers, in their unusual and elegant shaped bottles designed to promote beer in the same way as wine, have been readily available in supermarkets and off licences alike practically since they opened in 2000. I was actually surprised to find it was so recent, such has been their impact. I was fortunate enough to visit Meantime last week for the launch of their Californian Pale with my good friend Matt Curtis and take a tour of the brewery. You can read about that particular trip in Matt's blog here and while I was impressed by the size and scale of the operation I found myself disappointed and somewhat aggreived that Alistair Hook, founder and brewmaster, is yet to be convinced that the UK is ready for strong and flavoursome beer as found in the American market. Admittedly the Wheat Beer was on fantastic form at the brewery tap, possibly a new recipe but definitely a new malt supplier seem to have worked wonders, but the other beers were nice ... but sometimes nice isn't quite good enough. I managed to pick up a bottle of the Barley Wine made exclusively for the US market which I will be reviewing in this series but the bottles that are readily available, particularly those for Marks & Spencer are, by their own admission, 'watered down' versions of their regular beer range. I haven't been impressed with the 'Marks & Spencer range' previously so it was with more than a little trepidation that I opened the corked and caged 750ml bottle after removing it from its rather smart presentation tin.
It pours a deep rich brown with a tight beige head, so far so good. The initial aroma of leather and caramel is quickly replaced with a faint fruity vanilla prickle, but it's not the huge hit of Bourbon, or even a mild hit, that I was expecting from its barrel ageing. As I drink further down the glass however the true character of this beer starts to reveal itself. A cold tingle as it flows over the tongue leads to a flavour of vanilla fudge and dark plum skin with a pleasant but short-lived milk chocolate sweetness. the finish has the merest hint of Bourbon, but a cocoa powder sweetness quickly overrides this. Although it lacks a bit of body this is by far my favourite of the M&S exclusive range. The taste delivers all that it promised, rich creamy chocolate with a little booziness. Job done for me.

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