10 April 2014

99 Bottles of Beer

It was my friend's birthday at the weekend and he organised a trip to the Meantime Brewery, just down the river in Greenwich. I've never been much of a beer drinker but the former tourist information officer in me is a sucker for a good tour, so of course I went along.

Although Meantime's Old Brewery, which serves food and — funnily enough — beer, is in the town centre, the brewery and visitor centre is a short walk towards North Greenwich. We rocked up just before noon and were taken upstairs to the tasting room, whose walls were lined with hundreds of beer bottles and pint glasses.

I had assumed that we would do the tour first and then the tasting, but instead we were introduced to our guide for the tasting and took a seat. Now, anyone expecting a more traditional approach to a beer tasting would probably be a little disappointed because our guide took a more hands-on approach. Quite literally, in fact. The ratio of facts about brewing and Meantime's history to jokes, banter and innuendo was probably about 30:70, but it was all good fun.

We got to try third-pint samples of five different beers. I took a few sips of each and I can safely say that they all tasted like beer and thus I didn't like them. I could taste the differences between them, but there wasn't any one that I liked more than the others. My friends were pleased to drink my leftovers, especially the birthday boy who, along with the two stags present in other groups, was offered a full pint in addition to the samples. I did quite like the different malts that were on the table for us to taste. I tried my best to get my money's worth!

After the tasting, we went with our second guide down into the factory, after a brief health and safety warning ("if you see a dripping liquid, don't touch it and lick your finger" — yes, apparently people do need to be told this) where we found out a lot more about the brewing process.

My favourite part was the packaging and labelling at the end, although sadly, we didn't get to label our own bottle. The tour lasted about 2h30 and costs £15 (including the beer samples), which I think is good value. You can book tours here.

Afterwards, we walked back into Greenwich for — you guessed it! — more beer at the Old Brewery. I just had a fishfinger burger, which was really tasty. The sun was shining and it was a lovely afternoon.

Then we caught the Thames Clipper back down to London Bridge to continue the birthday festivities. By then, the weather was starting to turn, but I always like travelling by boat and it was nice to pass through Bermondsey and under Tower Bridge.

Meantime Brewery & Visitor Centre. Lawrence Trading Estate, Blackwall Lane, London, SE10 0AR (Tube: North Greenwich). Website.

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