Back in December 2011 I reviewed Meantime’s London Porter for The Brew Club. Meantime was founded back in 1999 and is situated a few yards from the Greenwich Meridian. As well as their new brew house, Meantime has a brewpub – “The Old Brewery” – which is actually situated in the Old Naval College, in what was once Greenwich Hospital.
It gets complicated… Greenwich Hospital was granted charitable status by royal charter back in 1694 and the impressive buildings (which are often used as palaces in movies) were designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1696 and 1712.
To clarify (I said it was complicated) military hospitals traditionally catered for long stay visitors, and Greenwich Hospital had its own brewhouse (from 1717) to supply its own resident pensioners. The hospital closed in 1869, and from 1873 to 1998 the buildings served as the Greenwich Royal Naval College.
Meantime’s ‘Old Brewery’ occupies the site of the 1717 brewhouse; and was opened back in March 2010, it’s only the second brewery to be found on a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So… when it came time to brew a very special beer, Meantime (like many other London brewers) decided to develop their (already excellent) porter and brew a ‘Hospital Porter’ – do you see what they did there?
And it was widely available, Marks and Spencer (not so much a retail chain, more an institution in the UK), decided to stock ‘Hospital Porter’ as a Christmas special in December 2011. Three festive cheers for them, not only for supporting new breweries, but also for enabling the wider population the opportunity to sample an interesting brew – but at close to twenty bucks for a 750ml bottle, it’s just as well it was Christmas!
So, what Meantime have done is take their porter – which I had already given 4½ stars – and further aged it for four months in Islay whisky barrels. Meantime suggest that this will mature with age but, darn it, I just drank my only bottle!
It pours rich and dark with an off-white head, the nose is – to be honest – a little disappointing, but the head leaves plentiful lacing as it slowly fades.
The flavour is rich and tarry, the oak ageing adds a distinct smokiness to the coffee mocha mix I enjoyed previously. The mouth-feel is good, medium to full-bodied – a Porter rather than a Stout. Overall I found it to be well-balanced – not overly smoky like the recent offerings from St Peters Brewery – the peaty smoke complements the dark roast barley of the porter.
Meantime state that they have “done our best to ensure that the beer would be recognisable to the retired sailors whom the original Royal Naval Hospital brewery was set up to supply” – personally I’d go for their un-oaked Porter, but either brew is a rich and rewarding drink.
I’m going to give this four stars, not because it’s a less impressive brew that the regular porter, but because I don’t think the oak ageing adds enough to justify the premium price.
I also understand that this brew is available on draught at the Old Brewery, that sounds like a good reason to visit Greenwich… but perhaps on the train, I don’t think I should drive home!
Bob the Brit