Thursday, 31 March 2011

Day 76, Beer 76 - Meantime's "London Lager"

Today's Beer

Name - London Lager

Brewer – Meantime

Classification – Lager....wouldn't you know!

Strength – 4.5% ABV

Verdict - At A Glance

On the eye - Exuberant orange gold.

On the nose - Bread dough malts and an almost tangible sense of a verdant summer meadow. Pretty astounding.

On the tongue - What all lagers should aspire to.

On the subject - Greenwich based Meantime have a strong range of beers and a strong reputation. This brew is their way of gently reminding the beer loving community that even lager can be finely crafted.

On the market - By no means as easily available as it merits. But then again, it's a tricky beer to market, what with it's junior-sized bottle visibly yearning for a multipack and looking too insubstantial on it's own. There goes my old bugbear issue again...

On the whole - 8/10 (after points dropped - see below)

Full Review


I begin with that exclamation simply because this beer is pretty darn terrific, and there's every reason why established devotees of (for lack of a better word) 'normal' lagers should grab hold of this beverage and take a giant step forward toward (for lack of a better word) 'proper' lager.

This is an exquisitely crafted flavour experience - but it's done on a scale that won't scare those who usually flee in terror at the mere mention of 'taste.'

The body of the drink feels very much like a premium continental lager, with a faint syrupy richness and a vivacity in the oxygenation which invigorates without terrorising the mouth like some ('normal') lagers can.

But the fact is that this doesn't just feel like a lager - it really does taste like one too. This is no reinvention of the style, it's just a skilfully pitched and elegantly assembled reworking of it. This is 'lager-plus', if you will. An essentially classic rendition - but with delicate additional twangs and zings that lift it out of the ordinary into the realms of something very special.

Butterscotch, lime zest, pomegranate, light-sponge fruit cake - and an even more ultra-subtle suggestion of green fig, which binds these other themes together like the most glorious boozy glue.

It really is properly excellent.

The children's-sized bottle, however, quickly becomes a right old pain in the proverbial, especially when you realise that the happy event is pretty much over after around three average mouthfuls. If this were an act of love making, it would trigger a very awkward argument. No question about it.

This beer is sold in individual bottles, it is absolutely delicious, and it ultimately lets you down by being too small. That's basically the sequence.

In the US, the idea of selling small-sized adult drinks is not new, but that's because they traditionally sell their beer in multipacks, whereas over here in the UK - ales such as this one are usually purchased in-store one bottle at a time. One at a time is absolutely fine if you're buying a standard (though increasingly less 'trendy') 500ml bottle, but it suddenly becomes frustrating and, frankly, embarrassing when you're having to deal with these teeny weeny 330ml test tubes.

I'm in no hurry to embrace the idea of the craft ale six pack, but I'd much prefer that to the developing situation here in the UK. If we must drink beer in these annoyingly small doses, we might as well buy a few at once - because goodness knows we're going to need them.

Either that, or can some brewery with a very high 'cool factor' such as Meantime please redress the balance by making proper, adult-sized beer bottles fashionable again.

I was so miserable when this drink so rapidly disappeared that it directly impacted on my overall enjoyment of the drink. Therefore, partly due to this and partly to make a noisy protest, I'm going to mark this beer down a half point from a score of 8.5/10 to a mere 8/10.


Well, I'm so sick of this gradual slide into silly bottle sizes, that I can see myself actively avoiding these beers in future to spare myself both that sense of disappointment as well as the suspicion that I'm paying more money for less beer and therefore being ripped off.

Which, if proved correct, certainly wouldn't be 'fair.'

Anyway, to sum up...

Meantime's London Lager is an exceptionally good beer which is needlessly undermined by minuscule, trendy packaging.

And that's a problem a single board meeting could solve.

A transfer into a suitable vessel would instantly raise this beer's appeal to it's rightful level.

I live in hope...


arn said...

yeah the small bottle sizes on the shelves are just ignored by me, unless its a high abv. Then it makes sense.
Not seen this one about yet, wonder if sainsburys will carry it?

Curmudgeon said...

Cooking Lager has made the point in the past that lager is popular in smaller bottle sizes (even down to 250ml) because it gives it less chance to warm up.

I tend to agree with you, though, that 500ml seems more appropriate for anything under 6% or so.

Unknown said...

arn - That's definitely a key point, they simply don't appeal when sat next to the proper sized jars. Don't know about Sainsbury's, but I've certainly seen them in Waitrose.

PC - I take Cookie's point about temperature, but the fact is that all kinds of beers are now coming in these teat pipette sizes - IPA's, porters, bitters... the whole lot. I doubt ambient warming is a greater motivating factor than either fashion or profit.

Curmudgeon said...

It's political correctness as well. The other day I bought a 500ml bottle of Sainsbury's Taste the Difference IPA, brewed by Marston's, which weighs in at 5.9% ABV. On the back label it says "this bottle contains 2 glasses". Well, it certainly didn't at Curmudgeon Towers ;-)

Unknown said...

Nor would it have done so in the Goodfellow Oubliette...!

Tyson said...

I'm looking forward to trying this (despite our shared dislike of small bottles) but you really shouldn't be getting butterscotch flavours with this.

Unknown said...

Tyson - Happily, your point brings me nicely onto another issue surrounding these diminutive bottle sizes...

Right at the very end of this drink (which follows on almost immediately from the start of it) I began to become aware that the beer was quite a bit sweeter overall than I'd first realised, there was a certain undercurrent of something or other from the malt - but I only had a trace of the stuff left with which to properly identify it - the butterscotch mention was as close as I could get given those unfortunate circumstances.

Just when the beer was really beginning to reveal it's full character - it was all over.

Surely that makes no sense from either the drinker's perspective or the brewery's!

Curmudgeon said...

I've set up a poll on my blog asking people what they think is the appropriate cut-off point for 330ml bottles vs 500ml ones. Runs until Sunday 10 April.

Unknown said...

PC - Just been to cast my vote.

Of course, I was looking for the 'Never' option, but alas...

Unknown said...

We've approached a classy restaurant that we'd like to supply. All our beers are in 500ml bottles. They say that they would love to stock our bottles but not until we start putting the beer in 330ml or smaller.

Unknown said...

Dave - I find that nothing less than upsetting. It seems the fashion brigade have already seen to it that the 500ml measurement is regarded as an item of increasingly outmoded ugliness, which 'tasteful' establishments feel they must now avoid to protect their own images.

I do hope it's not too late to redress the balance on this issue.