Chris Hall begins his IPA reviews with Meantime
Meantime India Pale Ale
Meantime Brewing Co
(750ml Bottle Conditioned)
Meantime have been making waves in the London brewing scene in the last few years, and their rapid expansion is testament to their achievements in replicating bygone-era brews with skill and style. This champagne-corked attempt at brewing an authentic 19th century IPA is a great example of Meantime’s dedication to recreation rather than reinvention, and it’s a good introduction to their way of thinking. ‘Pound after pound of Fuggles and Goldings were needed,’ reads the label, ‘…to achieve the mighty dry hopping rates necessary…’ This borders on BrewDog-style labelling. Can it live up to this boastful proclamation?
Their India Pale Ale is certainly a lively, coppery beast. It glows proudly in the glass, generating great pillows of foamy head. There is a sense of unearthing something here, not merely ‘opening a beer’. Tart, bitter citrus aromas including orange peel and grapefruit burst out of the head, accompanied by hints of black pepper and marmalade. This is no tropical fanfare; an uncompromising stink of age and alcohol are present and demand you take notice.
The flavour up front is dense, malty layers of burnt sugar, sticky and warming. This is topped gradually with tart, orange pith and then is blown apart with violent explosions of Fuggles and Goldings hops. Hammer blows of thick, lip-smacking spice and bitterness are delivered one after another. This is a beer less about balance and more about giving a crescendo performance. The aftermath of this assault is a spicy, buzzing, resinous finish that is thick on the tongue and keeps on giving. The high alcohol content is contained only through the masterful management of hops that up their game accordingly with every sip. Somehow this 7.5% ABV monster’s boozey body is kept under wraps, fuelling the flavour rollercoaster without ever derailing it.
Meantime have turned out an absolute cracker of an IPA, make no mistake. This is something fierce, finessed and frankly phenomenal. Raw power is handled with skill and a deft touch to create one of the ultimate exemplars of English IPA. This is a masterpiece worthy of framing, were it not so damnably drinkable.