One of the biggest gaps in my beer travel experience is Bamberg. Hate to say it, but I have yet to visit there. It will happen, but I don’t know when. But last night for the moment I felt as if I could see Bamberg just on the horizon, far away, shadowy, but still there, a beery version of Coleridge’s Xanadu briefly glimpsed. The occasion was an informal tasting of the Meantime collaboration with Bamberg’s mighty maltings Weyermann, whose bags I have seen in breweries across Europe and in the UK. In the opinion of Meantime brewer Rod Jones, who taking me through the beer, Weyermann is perhaps one of the most innovative maltsters in the world, offering dozens and dozens of malts to brewers. The beer we were drinking and talking about was called London Porter Bamberg style and had been brewed at Weyermann’s (like the Hop Institute in Zatec they have their own pilot brewery). ‘It’s a classic London style with a twist,’ said Jones as I dissected the darkness within the glass. Pale malt, Munich malt and Abbey malt made up the majority of the grist, while two dark malts (one caramelised, the other a huskless black malt) and beechwood smoked malt were also added. The hopping rate with East Kent Goldings was just enough to balance the sweetness and an ale yeast was used. The beer slept the sleep of the just for three months and was well attenuated. As for what it tasted like — it was smooth, creamy, bittersweet, faintly smoky, toasty, raisiny and chocolaty on the palate, an assembly of colours and notes that just about enabled me to glimpse those fabled towers and roofs in the distance before the night fell and they vanished back into the drenched trench of my imagination. It was rather noble and magnificent and at 8% was remarkably easy to drink. For me it was a reminder that beer isn’t just about hops, malt is more than just a workhorse, it can be the rainbow that lights up a wet day, the burst of colour and chaos that defines a symphonic movement from Shostakovich, it is, as is oft said and written, but seemingly forgotten, the soul of beer.
So if you’re in the vicinity of the Greenwich Union today it will be on draught, but be quick as Rod reckons it’ll be gone by the time Friday seques into Saturday.