Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Dib dib dob. I used to be in the cubs when I was a kid. Dive dive dive. Then I was an air cadet (and broke the flight simulator — ‘look lads I’m a Stuka’). Die die die. Later years has seen me become a member of several societies and clubs, mainly archaeological and historical, though most active members have 20/30 years or more on me. Yum yum yum. A bottle of Meantime’s wood-aged Imperial Russian Stout comes through the door, the first release from Meantime’s College Beer Club, and I’m tempted into club life once more. I yield to no one in my admiration for Alastair Hook’s brewing ability as well as his foresight in spending the last 10 years or more making Meantime such a fabulous part of the London brewing high-life (though I do wish I could get their beer in somewhere like Exeter, you go past some bar with all these stainless steel fonts, and you think, maybe, just maybe, Meantime IPA but through the doors you go and you’re face to face with the farce that is Northamptonshire San Miguel); what is more intriguing is that they’re a regional/family sized brewery that hasn’t gone down the cask beer route (though they do produce both cask and bottle conditioned beers). Being a member of the club is not cheap, £350 a year and I’m not sure if you can do a monthly direct debit, but it’s a brilliant way of engaging with beer connoisseurs as well as allowing Meantime’s brewers to go wild outside the constraints of their daily trade (ok I got a bottle but I haven’t got a free membership or anything like that). The deal? You get two 750ml beers a month, especially brewed, all sorts of styles, it’s a bit like the old Michael Jackson beer club — I always remember thinking of joining but it was only in the States. The Stout is 13.4%, has had 10 months in an old rum cask, and according to the label will last at least 12 years (I would hazard a guess that it will last much longer) — I’ve introduced it to Sharps’ DW and Adnams Sole Bay and told them to show it the ropes. Naturally, the idea of a club is elitist (see recent rumblings on the topic in the beer blogosphere here) and the cost is prohibitive but why shouldn’t beer have this sort of high value? Meantime make good beer and the siren call of the Imperial Russian Stout will keen out to me every time I enter. It will stand on the shelf, baring its backside to the huddle of Fuller’s Vintages or casually dropping nutshells on the Thomas Hardys, and I’m worried it might get in a fight with BrewDog’s Tokyo. People pay a mint for rare books, executive boxes at the Emirates (though after tonight’s appalling display I’d want my money back), small batch cheeses from producers high up in some hill in northern Italy and a ham from a pig that has been fed on chestnuts and lord knows what, so why not with beer? To anyone who suggests that this is elitist nonsense, to be honest, I don’t give a monkeys — my slogan is a variation on the old SWP one that I recall from the early 1980s: neither hair-shirt nor vulgar opulence. The Meantime College Beer Club is currently my idea of beery happiness (now where’s my son’s piggy bank?).