Saturday, May 10, 2008

Kings of Keg – Meantime

With their rejection of cask conditioning, Meantime is one of the more controversial English micros to find success in recent times. Alistair Hook’s training at Weihenstephan and Herriot Watt clearly shows its self in the range of Continental and New World styles he brews rather than the more traditional English session ales brewed by Brewlab trained micro brewers. Alistair gets a fair bit of flak from traditionalists and as an enthusiastic proponent of cask ale I can’t help but feel sympathy for their view.

Regardless of the politics I was genuinely excited to get the chance to try the Meantime IPA and Porter both of which stress their historical accuracy (nothing new here!) and see how they stacked up.

First up was the Pilsner, hardly a style close to my heart this beer ticked all the boxes but did it with little flair.

Pilsner 4.7%abv

Pours a crystal clear gold with a disappearing white head. Aroma features noble hops with a minerally slightly chalky character. On the palate there is a close balance between malt and hops, a very clean yeast profile with a light dry mouthfeel. there is a hint of lager malt flavour and a decent bitterness. Competent but unremarkable.

Next up a chocolate beer, often a novelty style pumped out for supermarket sales this one is probably the best I have ever tasted!

Chocolate 6.5%abv

Pours a near pitch black with a tan head. Aroma features rich Belgian chocolate, spicy resiny hops and hints of berry fruit. On the palate there is mouth filling chocolate, sweet rich confected malt, and a touch of warming alcohol. Lovely beer!

A suped up German style wheat beer this one left me wondering why if had to be 6.3%abv and why anyone exports such a fragile style.

Wheat Grand Cru 6.3%abv

Pours a mid gold with a fluffy white head. Aroma features phenolic cloves, a touch of cornflower, and a dusty note. On the palate cloves are continued, muted malt, and a short finish all matched with a flabby limp mouthfeel. Rather underwhelming beer that seems to drink way below its strength.

Coffee beer, another novelty style and one that is almost universally botched through brewers knowing lots about malt, hops and yeast and next to nothing about coffee. Coffee beers are often characterised by flavours of over extracted coffee and harsh bi products of beans left in contact with beer for way to long. This example surprised me with how good the espresso flavours were, like the chocolate beer was very well done.

Coffee 6%abv

Pours a dark mahogany with a tight white head. Aroma features earthy dusty stale espresso reminiscent of the coffee tin, a touch of charcoal, and sweet toffee malt. On the palate there is an initial burst of bitter hops, coffee acidity cushioned by sweet chunky toffee, a touch of sweetened short black, and a long bitter/sour acidic finish. Good stuff.

The first of the ‘historic recreations’. The London Porter was an interesting and enjoyable beer let down only by a minty medicinal character that built up in the palate as I made my way down the glass.

London Porter 6.5%abv

Pours a dark red with a beige head. Aroma features sappy hops, a hint of banana and light grainy chocolate. On the palate there is firm understated roast grain, a hint of chocolate and caramel malt, banana, and minty character that becomes more and more medicinal as the beer warms. The finish is malty and medicinal. Good beer although medicinal character detracts somewhat from the whole.

The India Pale Ale is renowned for being overly sweet and it lived up to its reputation. While there were all sorts of good flavours going on in the end these were smothered by an overwhelmingly sweet unfermented malt character that left the beer rather sickly.

India Pale Ale 7.5%abv

Pours a light gold with a thick white head. Aroma features zesty hops, melons, and lime contributing to a tropical character. Also a rather off putting saccharine sugary note with touches of caramel. On the palate Melons and lime make a quick appearance before succumbing to a sickly barley sugar character, stewed malt, sugary unfermented malt, ending in a long bitter finish. Could be a fantastic beer if it was attenuated properly.

So again a bit of a mixed bag, the Coffee Porter and the Chocolate Beer shown through as the real stars certainly over shadowing the spectacularly packaged Porter and IPA.


Greig McGill said...

Agree 100%. I wondered if the coffee and choc beers were the same base product with slightly different treatments. They were definitely exceptional. I quite liked the pilsner too though. ;)

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

Good to have you back mate. I might be up to Hamtown for the day sometime soon with work, a look in at Kaimai and Meyer, I hope to be able to swing by Hamilton Wine Co.

Boak said...

The coffee and chocolate beers are both absolutely fabulous. I hear what you're saying about the sweetness of the IPA, though it depends a lot from bottle to bottle and is still one of my all time favourites.