Meantime – big bad giant, or ahead of the curve? As London's oldest craft brewer, Greenwich's finest find themselves in an awkward situation. They've learnt lessons from beer's Goliaths and applied them to grow into a brewery that for many is the first step down this road. But are they now too big to be considered a true craft brewery? In my opinion, no; the simple fact is they brew good beer properly, and you can ask for nothing more.
Tonight sees the launch of two new beers, the latest additions to their seasonal and Brewers' Collection ranges. Going against the grain, this year's winter seasonal Winter Sun is a traditional Scandinavian julebryg, a malt-heavy beer brewed with lager yeast yet still with a big hop profile, something akin to a märzen crossed with a red ale. Sweet yet light-bodied with a crisp and refreshing finish, this is something a little different for English drinkers. The hops are a mixture of traditional European and new world American, a combination that brings out a healthy citrus bitterness whilst also having undercurrents of more tropical fruits. Although this is not the most revolutionary beer you will drink, it is still a lovely pint of a style that is virtually unheard of over here; and all the more power to Meantime for being bold enough to do a paler beer in the depths of winter.
But this does pale in comparison (pun most definitely intended) to the new Brewers' Collection beer, the Cinnamon Porter. I came here with large expectations of a spicy, warming beer full of character and flavour. It exceeded them. Like Meantime's other porters, this has a thick, roasted body that is hearty without being heavy. Then the cinnamon comes through… The spices are strong on the nose and in the mouth, with the balance just about right as they linger on the long finish to leave a warm glow that conjures up images of roaring fires, mulled wine and Christmas dinners. The brewery’s sommelier Rod (a truly amazing font of knowledge) believes that you could indeed mull this beer with a bit of orange and a few cloves, a very tempting idea.