10 June 2008

Hop it

After their recent poor show with a raspberry beer, I was very glad to find Meantime's Pale Ale a return to form. I like this brewery and knew I wouldn't stay angry with them for long. At 4.7% this is a medium-strength ale, though is supplied in a 33cl bottle to save customers from the temptation of overindulgence. How thoughtful. It pours fizzily, a surprisingly non-pale dark rich amber, with just a light dusting of suspended sediment. Not much on the nose, but the flavour is far from understated. We get those marvellous mandarin-and-sherbet notes that are the hallmark of great hoppy pale ales, and which won Franciscan Well's Purgatory ICB Beer of the Year. They say there's East Kent Goldings in here, but they've definitely put Cascade in the driving seat. My only criticism is the texture: there's just too much fizz and it interrupts the palate's enjoyment of the complex malt-hops interplay. With a little less conditioning this could be a champion. Still, highly enjoyable and recommended.

It made me even more eager to get at Meantime's India Pale Ale: bigger bottle, higher strength and allegedly hopped nine ways from Sunday. The cork eases out with more of a puff than a pop. No overwhelming hops funk comes from the neck of the bottle. The pour is a lurid orange, topped with a big fizzy head that dissipates quickly. Even in my wide-bottomed glass I'm finding it hard to drum up an aroma. A vague fruitiness, but not much else. The main thing I can taste is the alcohol: heavy and sticky-sweet. But there's more underneath it. The Fuggles and East Kent Goldings impart a dry back-of-the-throat sort of bitterness that works better in lighter, more sessionable beers, but gets squashed by the booziness in this 7.5%er. There's a slight orangey-citric fruit tone to it as well, but nothing like the moreish big citrus of American IPAs, a flavour which may have spoiled me for most British and British-style IPAs: I end up thinking fond thoughts of Goose Island half-way through. All-in-all, I'm finding this beer tough going.

More of the green stuff is on the horizon for tomorrow evening when I'll be at the launch of the Porterhouse's new summer ale: Hop Head. Pilgrim, Nugget, Cascade and Hallertau in this one, and just a pinch of black malt. Doesn't sound like much could go wrong in that, does it?


  1. I have a bottle of the IPA (and the Porter) waiting for the mood to take me. I've had 'em a year and it still hasn't! Your tasting notes are hardly making me rush, but maybe with a year more in the bottle than the one you had, it'll have mellowed a bit?

    On a general point, despite the contrary opinions of some, I think the main problem with Meantime beers is over carbonation. It is even worse in their pub.

  2. It seems to me that this sort of carbonation is very much in the American style, rather than anything intrinsically wrong with the beer. I know for a fact it's possible to do a good hoppy beer from a keg without needing cask-like carbonation levels (you can see what I mean when Galway Hooker is installed in London's Porterhouse, something I believe is imminent). I don't remember being struck by the gas in the Porter when I tried it, but I only had a small sample.

    I dunno if I'd leave the IPA to condition any longer. Get it while the alpha acids are fresh, I say.

  3. Anonymous8:12 pm

    I know what you mean about finding high gravity beers tough going, aside from the odd Belgian ale these days I prefer my ales at the lower end of the ABV spectrum.

  4. OK. I might just try the IPA over the next few days. One point though, What does this sentence mean? "I know for a fact it's possible to do a good hoppy beer from a keg without needing cask-like carbonation levels "

    I am not sure which way to read it. I look forward to trying the Galway Hooker in due course too.

  5. Right, I'll try that in English, shall I? :)

    I mentioned that the high carbonation of the Pale Ale interferes with the flavours. You said that carbonation is a problem with Meantime beers generally, especially the kegged ones. I'm assuming the main result of this problem, from a drinker's point of view, is that it adversely affects the flavour, and that this is why you're complaining about it.

    So, one way of lessening the impact that the gas has on the hops flavour is to serve the beer from a cask. My point is that it is still possible to have good hoppy beers from the keg. Galway Hooker is one that I know, and I hear good things about Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on draught as well.

    Thinking out loud, along with a cheeky plug for Galway Hooker in London, is all.

    Subliminal I ain't.

  6. John, our tax regime being what it is, no importer is going to bother with low ABV beers, by and large. Customers interested in how beer tastes are grossly outnumbered by customers who point and shout "9%! That's the one for me!"

    Kiddies drinking Maredsous 10 from the bottle is a common sight at Irish beer events.

  7. Beer Nut. Gotcha and agreed. Many of the keg beers I had in New York in November were not over-carbonazted and some were. No prizes for guessing the ones I liked best.

  8. Sorry you didn't like the Meantime IPA, BN, I've always been impressed by it - lovely apricot flavours from the EKG. I don't want this to sound like egg-sucking for grannies 101, but I find any bottle-conditioned beer needs to rest for a day or three after it's been brought home to be on best form, particularly the larger ones ...

  9. I found the IPA to be under attenuated and hot to the point of being flawed, wish I had got a chance to try the Pale Ale but it wasn't imported.

  10. I genuinely appreciate the advice, Zythophile, but my Meantime IPA had been resting for a full three days before opening. Can't say I noticed apricots, but I suspect that the complexities of this one are unlikely to be appreciated by people who aren't fully conversant with how English hops work. People like me, for instance.

  11. Fatman10:20 pm

    My first bottle of MT IPA was heaven. It really was. My second wasn't, but I wouldn't piss on it.

    I expect my third to be sublime.

  12. I'm assuming, Fatman, that you're having all three in one sitting ;)

  13. Ciaran769:45 pm

    Have to agree 100% there with you. A lot of bubbles and fizz when drinking which is really off putting imo.