It’s not often I get the chance to attend the launch of a new beer, so when I received an invitation from a gentleman at the Meantime Brewing Company to attend the re-launch of their Union Lager, I jumped at it. I’ve been a fan of Meantime’s beers for a long time, so the opportunity to try something new, meet people from the brewery, and also get to know more about the company and its products, was too good to miss. The re-launch of Union Lager took place not at the brewery in Greenwich, but rather in a pub on the other side of London. The pub in question was the Ship, a Young’s pub at Jews Row, Wandsworth, over-looking the River Thames.
I arrived at the Ship shortly before 7pm, and after grabbing myself a pint of Young’s Gold, a new (for me), 4.0% refreshing golden ale, I made my acquaintance with our hosts for the evening, Dominique Daly and his colleagues from Meantime Brewery. Unfortunately, despite writing down people’s names and contact email addresses, etc, I left the vital piece of paper in the pub at the end of the evening, so apologies in advance to all those I was conversing with on Tuesday night, and whose names I now cannot remember.
Before describing the events of the evening, a word or two about the pub. The Ship is a pub whose name I was familiar with, but was somewhere I never quite managed to visit. In the past I have been on several pub crawls of Wandsworth; either staggers in their own right, or a few pubs which were taken in prior to visiting the much lamented and fondly remembered Young’s Brewery. If I had known just how close to Wandsworth Town station the Ship actually is, I would have called in before. Crawls had usually started from the Alma, which is the other side of the tracks, but having been there now I feel the Ship would have been a better starting place. Oh well, such is the benefit of hindsight!
Back to the beer; Union Lager is named after the Greenwich Union, which was Meantime’s very first pub. Regular visitors to Greenwich will know it is at the top of Royal Hill, next door to the famous Richard I. A Young’s pub for many years, the Richard I is still known today as “Tolly’s”, after its former owners, the Ipswich brewers, Tollemache & Cobbold Ltd. Back in the day the company had a subsidiary brewery at Walthamstow in East London, which gave them a toe-hold in the capital, as well as a small number of pubs. Today there seems to be a tie up between Meantime and Young’s, as I noticed the Ship was stocking several Meantime brands, including lager, although the pub was still stocking Heineken and Kronenbourg. One of the Meantime people at the re-launch, was the brewery account manager for Young’s, but I wasn’t able to ascertain for certain whether or not the latter have dropped their own branded lagers in favour of those from Meantime.
Anyway, back to Union Lager. This 4.8% beer is unusual as it is a Vienna-style “red lager”, of the sort that has virtually disappeared from the city of its birth, but one which is still brewed in Mexico of all places. The style was developed by the brewer Anton Dreher in Vienna in 1841. Its popularity in Europe eventually faded, eclipsed by the all conquering golden beer from Pilsen which swept all before it during the latter half of the 19th century. However, several Austrian brewers who emigrated to Mexico revived the style in the late 1800's, and it is still brewed there today.
Meantime's version first appeared in the late 1990's, but was discontinued around 2002. Now the company are keen to revive the style; hence Tuesday evening's re-launch event. So what is the beer like? As a keg beer, the beer is of course well conditioned, refreshing, slightly sweet with a pleasant, but not over-powering bitterness. Served well chilled, it makes a very pleasant alternative to standard pilsner lagers. Quite how the market will take to it remains to be seen, but given the renewed interest in craft beers it stands every chance of being a success. Meantime are keen to enhance their range with this historic style of beer, and feel it will act as a bridge between more traditional pilsner-style beers and ales such as bitter and IPA.
All in all it was a good evening, with excellent beer, good food, pleasant surroundings and above all some really nice people. I’m not very good at remembering names and to make matters worse I left the piece of paper with peoples’ contact details and job titles in the pub; as stated earlier. I did though make the acquaintance of fellow beer blogger, Justin Mason , who writes the very informative Get Beer, Drink Beer blogspot, and also met legendary beer historian and writer Martyn Cornell, who had several interesting anecdotes to relate. My thanks to Dominique and his colleagues at Meantime for their hospitality, and also to all the staff at the Ship for looking after us so well on such a damp and blustery evening.
"Vienna Lager is a lager style that originated in Vienna, Austria. The colour should be medium red-brown to copper. There should be an obvious malt sweetness in both aroma and taste. Hop presence should be low. Mouth-feel should be clean and crisp. ABV should also be somewhat low."