Greenwich brewery opens its doors to beer lovers
Walking around the Cutty Sark, sampling pie and mash and straddling the Meridian line at the Royal Observatory have historically been among the top things to do for visitors to Greenwich.
Now there's another to add to the list thanks to Meantime Brewing opening its doors and spilling the secrets behind its growing success.
The beer manufacturer, born and bred in Greenwich, has steadily built a sterling reputation across the alcohol world for its high end offerings. Until last week its operations had been quite modest in scale but on Thursday it officially opened its new brewery, effectively quadrupling production.
A short walk from North Greenwich Tube and the Blackwall Tunnel entrance, the now completed factory includes a visitor centre and a bar, as the brewer allows the public in for tours for the first time.
Meantime Brewery's chief executive Nick Miller says the expansion is a key move for the company.
"Well we won't run out of stock, for one, because that did actually happen last year," said Miller.
"But it's also a real opportunity to educate bar staff and the public."
Full of glistening steel tanks the building on Blackwall Lane has the feel of an alcohol version of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory minus the Oompa Loompas.
The £3million investment has been funded by the bank and shareholders and will create the capacity to produce more than 1.5million pints every month.
Founded by Greenwich beer's very own Willy Wonka, brewmaster Alastair Hook, in 2000, the Meantime company's philosophy has always been to fight the corner of the true beer lover and reclaim the drink from the corporate brands that have dominated bars over recent years.
It has succeeded with a growing number of pubs, as well as many high-end restaurants, stocking its offerings, from India Pale Ale to London Porter and the more niche Chocolate Porter and Meantime Raspberry.
Miller explained that despite the expansion the mission statement of the firm - offering alternatives to mass produced homogenous beers - would remain.
"We are Meantime Brewing Company," he said. "It's important to be close to your roots and we will never change the way we brew.
"The shareholders - well the ones I've spoken to - all understand the craft beer revolution. Sure, some might want you to be massive but we've been clear that what's most important is to change the face of beer in the UK and celebrate what it's historically been about.
"Our five-year business plan certainly doesn't suggest a change and I didn't join here to become a homogenous brand, move out of London and reduce the variety of our offerings."
Miller has been in the industry for 25 years and was previously managing director at Miller Brands. He joined Meantime last August, but said he had been studying the Greenwich-based firm for the past two or three years.
"It's a market driven by variety, taste and flavour. You see it in coffee and you chocolate and now we're doing it with beer.
"I started talking to Meantime in January last year about the switch over and the more I spoke to them the more I saw the opportunities. This is a on a different scale. I know everyone in the company's name. Everyone knows each other."
Tours of the site come in a number of packages and give visitors the chance to see the brewing process in detail from the milling to the brewing and fermenting.
At the end of the visit comes the tasting session in the factory's very own bar, decorated with hundreds of beers left to the company by acclaimed late beer writer Michael Jackson. And on the factory floor the company will continue to look at making up weird and wonderful drinks. So what can the beer lover expect next?
"We had a cranberry stout not long ago," said Miller. "We tried to do a mojito beer but it wasn't quite right and we're working on a strawberry beer.
"We get our marketing people and the brewers together and if we think there's a demand for something then we'll go for it."
Go to meantimebrewing.com.