After telling me that there were too many “non-beer, Perth witterings” of late, Captain English returns for his second post, as he hot-foots it down to Clapham Junction to check out the new venture from Meantime and Youngs. Brewery fresh lager, Tankovna style at The Plough, is a UK first for a pub, without an attached microbrewery.
On the back of my post for the Pub Diaries a few weeks ago I received an invite for the launch of Meantime’s Brewery Fresh Lager at Young’s Plough ‘craft beer’ pub at Clapham Junction. I didn’t intend to do two posts in a row about the same brewer but this event was designed to introduce a method of beer distribution that might be the UK’s next big beer innovation/fad (delete as appropriate).
I felt slightly awkward at my first industry event. I don’t have the gift of the gab and the brazen self-confidence of Mr Pub Diaries. I hid behind my phone for a bit before Alastair Hook (Brewmaster and Founder of Meantime) introduced himself. The aim of the new method, he explained, was to use sealed bags (a bit like wine bags) throughout the distribution process to eliminate oxidisation of beer caused by light and exposure to air. The process allows a constant low temperature to be maintained. Already in use in the Czech Republic, Netherlands and at Meantime’s Old Brewery In Greenwich it’s not new by any means but something that most British punters will find novel.
At the brewery, beer is pumped to bags in lorries, then at the pub it is pumped into bags inside the large tanks, which at the Plough take pride of place in the pub window. By pumping air into the tanks the bags are compressed and the beer pumped through a chrome pipe running over the heads of the drinkers and down to the tap at the bar. The tanks are about two metres in length and almost a meter wide so it is probably only larger premises that will have the space for them.
So unpasteurised, unflitered London Lager sold in bags in tanks and pumped out using air. What will Camra have to say about that? As luck would have it the next person I spoke to was a Camra representative. There are lots of debates at the moment with the likes of tank beer and craft beer, he said. Keen to suggest that Camra don’t want to be seen to be against craft beer, but at the same time the fear seems to be that supporting craft beer risks eroding the popularity of cask beer. So, the (unofficial) Camra verdict on the method? A grey area for now.
And the beer itself? Lively coming out of the tap with a significant head. Gold in colour, lightly hopped and subtle. Not particularly memorable, but then I am not really a lager drinker – even if it is unpasteurised. In a lager mood though, I would choose it again.
So will Brewery Fresh Lager catch on? Meantime are looking to roll it out in other Young’s pubs, but, despite the undoubted passion of Alastair Hook for the concept, I can’t help but think there is a risk that serious beer drinkers will see this as a gimmick along the lines of ice-encrusted taps and limes in bottles… the verdict is still out on this one at Pub Diaries, what’s your view?