I went to the impressive new Sainsbury’s in High Wycombe and ended up, surprisingly, in the beer department at the weekend. They had a special 3 for £10 deal on bottled Meantime beers. This wasn’t bad value as the beers are normally sold at over £4 each. The bottles are 750ml which makes one wonder if they are trying too hard to compete with wine. I bought two IPAs and one London Porter (the only two available).
Meantime seem to be darlings of the beer writing establishment. However, I found the beers to be quite pleasant but not justifying the hype of some journalists. The IPA was enjoyable but had nothing like the complexity of the cask conditioned Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, for example. The London Porter seemed a little underpowered to me and nothing comparable with something live like the Chiltern Brewery Lord Lieutenant’s Porter.
When it came to bagging up the empty bottles to go to the recycling bin I realised that Meantime must be a marketing-driven operation as they’d pulled the a wine marketing trick. This was something I read about a famous wine warehouse chain who had advised their producers that a good way of upping the price consumers will pay for a wine is to put it in a heavier bottle. Apparently we, as consumers, equate bottle weight with quality and it’s possible that (before duty) more money will be spent on a bottle than on the liquid inside. Meantime’s bottles are almost as heavy as champagne bottles (and they have no reason to be as there is nowhere near the internal pressure in the bottle that champagne has). The bottles are stoppered like sparkling wine too. Apart from trying to con the customer these bottles are very eco-unfriendly.
Overall, they were nice beers but not the classics that the extremely expensive packaging suggested. Maybe Meantime should pay slightly more attention to their beer than their marketing — but I guess that this sort of sublimal marketing is part of their business plan. Often marketing considerations can degrade a beer’s quality as breweries, like a famous one in Kent, bottle their beers in clear bottles despite the adverse effect light can have on a beer’s flavour — at least Meantime’s bottles were the right colour. Even so, it’s funny how some of Meantime’s biggest fans in the press used to criticise lager lover for just drinking the marketing.