It’s become a habit of mine to wander over to the beer isle in every supermarket I visit. Why? Well because as much as I love going to wonderful little beer shops and great independent bars, it’s a sad fact of life that supermarkets are really, really cheap. Yes, they may not give the supplier a good deal, and yes, they are responsible for small independent traders struggling. But sometimes I just can’t afford to pay full whack for quality beer, so I have to swallow that feeling of guilt and go ahead and buy.
I’m telling you this, because on a recent visit to Sainsbury’s, I chanced across a deal on 750ml bottles on Meantime IP and Meantime London Porter. Two for £7. A bargain. So I bought them.
The back of the bottle of IPA said “enjoy with hot food and spicy friends, or vice versa”, so as my girlfriend and I got making a lovely butternut squash curry, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to break out the IPA. So I did.
A quick not on IPAs. If you buy, say, Green King IPA, or Deuchars, as nice as they can be, they’re not real traditional IPAs. Real IPAs were strong (this one clocks in at a respectable 7.5%) and full of hops. Why? Well because these India Pale Ales were, as the name suggests, going to India. The strong alcohol content and oodles of hops meant it had more chance of staying preserved on the long journey to our colonialist countrymen.
Now, most IPAs are drunk in England, so there is no need for all the extra stuff, but good brewers (and Meantime is a good brewer, they won the 2008 British Guild of Beer Writers Brewer of the year, so it’s official) still make proper IPAs because they’re just really, really good and that.
This one’s a treat. It smells of cloves, cardamon and banana, it pours a deep golden, almost copper colour. Like any beer worth its salt though, the taste is the real joy. The hops hit you full in the face, but not too strong, more like a sobering slap than a knockout punch (if you want a knockout punch try Brewdog’s Punk IPA).
The uncompromising hops are bitter, dry and refreshing – what you’d want in India, I guess – and underneath, those spicy, fruity flavours linger on, a treat after the initial attack. And then the finish is smooth and oakey. You could almost believe it has spent the last few months in a barrel in the middle of the ocean.
And as for that butternut squash curry, that was a delight too, and the dry hops and spicy cardamon flavours worked a treat with it. I’ll be doing that again.
Read about Meantime here