Meantime India Pale Ale - The best English IPA available in the UK?

I'm a big fan of Meantime Brewery, they just seem to have an uncompromising respect for beer. They brew beers with an almost fanatical obsession to detail, and change the ingredients and methods completely to suit a certain beer style, without compromise. This means that they seem to have a flare for producing beers that are absolutely on-the-money in terms of their closeness to the ideal characteristics of a certain 'style'. It sounds simple, but so many breweries dont do it, and no matter what it says on the bottle you end up with their 'take' on a beer style rather than the genuine article. Meantime just do it properly; and I like that.

This fantastic fat bottomed bottle of Meantime India Pale Ale (7.5%) looks so good I feel bad opening it, the champagne corked and metal caged design is clean and sophisticated, and I must admit their distinctive shape suits these big bottles even more than the slightly piddly looking 330ml ones. I dont normally get into design but wow that's a good looking bottle!

The beer itself doesn't dissapoint either, It's an awesome bright orange colour. Fine (small bubbles) yet heavy (lots of them) carbonation that creates a nice big bubbly head that stuck around throughout the whole glass.

The smell is bitter hops, orange peel, pineapple a faint smell of soap, but also a very British IPA smell, not piney like big American IPA's tend to be. The taste is unbelievably well balanced, there's juicy, caramel hinted malt and sweetness at first, but then the malt and hops interplay to create one of the longest list of flavours I've ever experienced in a beer. It's hugely, unbelievably complex but remains balanced. You can taste bitter herbs, orange peel, white pepper, marmalade, bitter grapefruit, and loads more I couldn't put my finger on, there's also a very slight alcohol warmth that comes through more as the bottle warms a little.

Whilst most of these flavours are courtesy of the hops you also get the impression that they used tons of malt to balance against the heavy hopping, as you also get bready notes and a sort of banana toffee sweetness. There's lingering bitterness but nothing overpowering and overly drying, just enough to make you want another sip, and another, until that big bottle has all but gone. In other words, it's delicious.

The thing that's great about this beer is that if you look for all these flavours then they are easy to find, but because it's so balanced and drinkable you can just as easily sit back and simply enjoy it as an amazing beer.

I think it's the best British style IPA* I've ever tasted, but I'd love to know what you think, is there a better 'true to style' IPA out there?



*I.e. Not American/International style IPA's made in the UK, such as Punk IPA or Thornbridge Jaipur

15 comments:

  1. I didn't like this at all. Give me a Proper Job or a Bengal Lancer any day.

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  2. Have to agree, first class IPA, left mine 3 months to sit and think, which I think helped, and was an excellent accompaniment to a curry.

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  3. BN - I'm a big fan of Proper job but I think meantime IPA is leagues above Bengal lancer! Personal preference though and good to get your opinion.

    Ian - totally agree its a great curry accompanier, as the British Raj would intend it!

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  4. p.s. Beer nut. did you only try it once? Because to say you didnt like it all really surprises me. wonder if you got a bad bottle that hadnt travelled well?

    (yes i have noticed the irony of this statement, it being an IPA and all)

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  5. I've tasted it a couple of times (my review is in this post). The main problem I have is that it's all booze and bitterness with none of the zesty fruit I like in IPA. The two I mention are among the few non-Americanised British IPAs I've tasted which get the hop flavour right.

    And while I'm being a moany git, I've never got IPA to work with curry: the spices just steamroll any of the subtleties in the beer and I don't feel I've got my money's worth out of the hops.

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  6. Bengal Lancer is a top proper IPA, but I agree Meantime is something special.

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  7. The best traditional English IPA I've ever had from a bottle for sure, whereas the best on cask I've ever had was the one Pete Brown brewed with Stu at the Hillsborough Hotel in Sheffield. For me the Meantime IPA is one to be savoured on it's own to appreciate it's complexity fully. I prefer to stick with White Shield or Jaipur whilst eating curry to be honest.

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  8. Forgot about White Shield: another beauty.

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  9. I think White Shield is Meantimes biggest competitor in terms of best 'English IPA'. For me Jaipur leans too far towards the American style IPA's (which I love) to be a fair comparison.

    I think of the three White Shield would be my choice with a curry because as well as the hevay hopping its got enough malt sweetness to quell the heat of the curry and the heavy carbonation refreshes your palate.

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  10. "For me Jaipur leans too far towards the American style IPA's (which I love) to be a fair comparison."

    Absolutely, if we're just talking proper English IPA. It's certainly not a traditional English IPA with all those lovely American hops. Still a cracking accompaniment to a curry though. Mind I don't think there's many Thornbridge Ales I've tried that aren't!

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  11. Meantime IPA is wonderful; although to be a sheep I do think Bengal Lancer runs it a close second! Ps - with Curry - as long as it's a tomato-based one, try a stout or porter. Really.

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  12. Missed this post when it was fresh off the press -

    Meantime's IPA has sat at the top of my chart for some considerable time now...

    That pretty much means we're in agreement.

    (And, Neil, I finally got around to getting your page a link on my page - Late, but well deserved!)

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