Meantime Brewing and a new/old London Porter for Burns Night via Bamberg

If pale and extremely hoppy beers have been the belles of the beer ball for last couple of years, perhaps 2013 is the year that malt strikes back. If so, Meantime Brewing have started us off in the right direction with a collaboration beer: a Weyermann Porter. The nature of such limited editions is, by the time you read this, it will all be gone. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Greenwich Union pub tell you so I can tell you what it was like and how good it was with food.

Collaborating breweries, limited edition bottlings and one-off beers are quite the thing these days, on the craft beer scene. But this is one of the more unusual ones with Greenwich’s finest (only?) brewery collaborating with the German speciality maltsters Weyermann to make a London porter with all-German malts, brewed in Germany.

Meantime_collab_london_porter_med

OK, so before the EU gets on my back perhaps “London-style” porter. But yes, Meantime brewer Rod Jones packed his Lederhosen, last Autumn, went to Germany, and to the Bavarian city of Bamberg, to boot. Now things start to make a bit of sense; Bamberg is famous for its Rauchbiers, “smoked beers”, and porter – the second-most mythologised and misunderstood beer style (all porter used to be a bit smoky. Maybe…)

What followed him back from Bavaria, after several months of maturation, (the beer, that is. Rod Jones? same as ever) was a dark, velvety beer with a nod to chocolatey sweetness and a whiff of bonfire smoke. A beer of 8.5% ABV, too. Not that you could tell.

Rod Jones was at pains to point out what the beer didn’t taste of. As well as the absence of alcohol burn, there was an absence of the bitter, roasted and coffee flavours often associated with very dark beers. This, he explained, was down to the art of the maltster, and I would say, the craft of the brewer to showcase the malts: a blend of pale ale malt, two types of caramelised malt, chocolate wheat malt, with the final 5% of the mix coming from Bamberg’s famous beechwood-smoked malt.

Maltjerry bids for an entry into Pseud’s Corner
There were nibbles – substantial ones, sitting tantalisingly on the table as Rod told of standing in the freezing cold as they tasted the newly-matured porter last November, the only one present in Lederhosen, realising he’d been hoodwinked by his hosts. I felt somewhat sheepish, too, as I tucked into the food, but I had to see if this was beer made for food. Food that was getting cold. If that was rude, it was in the cause of research.

Toasted sourdough bread with hummus, deep-fried white fish goujons, thick-cut chips, samples of charcuterie, and…

“I thought it went particularly well with the pork meatloaf en croute”, I said cringing somewhat as I spoke the words.

“Oh, the slices of jumbo sausage roll, you mean?” responded my table companion. Luckily, the Greenwich Union bar was too dimly lit to reveal my blushes. I was right though, it was a very good pairing. Not a usual one for porter, but the smoke gives it an edge and the sweetness balanced by restrained hopping with East Kent Goldings goes with the herby richness of the sausagemeat.

It was no surprise that the rich malt and restrained smokiness of the beer also fitted the charcuterie very well. The light carbonation lifting the fat. Which it also did on the goujons. Porter and seafood is an old combination. This fish wasn’t as overwhelmed as with some porters. The less harshly-roasted dark malts at play, perhaps.

What was surprising was the combination with hummus and sourdough toast. I suspect the slightly burnt edges were picking up the dark malts and smoke again.

Although we can never know what the old-style porters that were all the rage in 19th-century London really tasted like, I doubt they had the refinement of this modern version. They just didn’t have the technical control of today’s maltsters.

Of course, the march of hops will continue in 2013, but this particular malt-forward collaboraton shows another way. I hope more brewers follow.

Meantime Brewing Company: about the Weyermann Porter

The Greenwich Union pub You might be lucky and find some Weyermann Porter, if not there’s Saison de Nuit and of course, the “standard” but also lovely London Porter.

The history of Weyermann speciality malts

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