Tuesday 10 July 2012

Meantime @ Marks and Spencer

Having popped into Marks and Sparks recently for some fancy crisps, I came across some beers which I had not seen before. M&S always tend to have a very limited but interesting range of beers, many of which are produced 'exclusively' for them and branded under their own name. The Belgian and Italian lagers are not-so-subtle imitations of premium, brand name beers, but do a decent, cost effective job. The ones that caught my eye were from Meantime, the Greenwich Hospital Porter and Red Ale, both of which claim to be soley produced for M&S. The cynic in me wants to investigate whether these are merely existing beers with shiny new labels, but I am going to take them at face value and enjoy the ride.
Barrel Aged Greenwich Hospital Porter
The presentation of this beer is fantastic - contained within a sleek and attractive cardboard tube, the corked bottle has lots of strong black, cream and red, making it appear expensive and luxurious. Naturally then, it is very expensive, costing £10-£11 depending on where you get it. Granted, it looks great and is a easily shareable 750ml size, but at this price and only 6% alcohol it really better be something special. Deep, dark brown liquid is submerged by a proud and thick off-white head, the condition absolutely top notch. The aroma has a touch of smoke, burnt sugar and burnt toast, but it is not as big as you might expect. This is echoed on the tongue, the flavours muted and underwhelming. A hint of caramel and dark chocolate sweetness, some of the smoky, peaty richness from the barrel aging and a pleasing coffee bitterness, but it is also thin and has a meaty, sour petrol flavour which is lingers too long on the palate. Not a bad beer, but at this price it really needs to be very good – not quite big ,deep and rich enough, and not sufficiently complex for a barrel aged beer. 
Greenwich Red Ale
Another corker of a bottle – understated yet stately, the £5 you are required to exchange for it seems like a perfectly fair trade. The anticipation this generates is exacerbated by a bright, autumn red/brown body with a fluffy cream head, which looks incredibly appetising. It smells good too – rich and ripe, with apples and oranges the dominant aromas, and an undercurrent of sweet toffee. It is reminiscent of a big, crystal malt laden American IPA, with the classic Meantime apple skin element running through it. Slightly disappointing up front, this beer did grow on me as I worked through it. At first it feels under hopped and thin, the 4% alcohol underselling what feels like a potentially excellent profile of flavours, but the body is lacking, and there is not a huge amount of depth or clarity. There is some goodness in there – a crisp, peppery bitter finish, gentle caramel sweetness – but not enough to be memorable or exciting. Probably good with rich foods and cheese, it is very drinkable and I finished the lot in no time, which was only partly due to a nerve shredding England match. This may be just the job for the posh supermarket crowd, I just wanted a little more.

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