April 2009

Today London’s largest privately owned brewing company, Meantime, invited the Chief Executive of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC), Duncan Wilson (left), to the brewery site in Charlton, South-East London.  The occasion celebrated the formal agreement between Meantime and the ORNC for a new bistro and brewery operation in Greenwich.  The Old Brewery will be an important aspect of the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre, a £6 million interpretation and education centre at the Old Royal Naval College.

Duncan Wilson hammered the bung into the first wooden cask of beer to be filled by the award-winning brewers prior to it travelling to its new home  The beer, a 8.8% Belgian Abbey-Style ale, will spend a year in 350 litre oak Syrah casks before being tapped at Meantime’s new brewery due to open in early 2010. Meantime’s new venture, to be called the ‘Old Brewery’, will occupy the 1836 brewhouse building which is on the same site as the original brewery built in 1717 to supply beer as vital sustenance to the pensioned sailors who occupied Sir Christopher Wren’s seamen’s hospital. The Old Brewery is part of the £6 million Discover Greenwich interpretation and education centre located in the Pepys building on the riverfront.  Meantime will be operating a brewery with bar and bistro attached.

Work on the building has already commenced. Meantime are scheduled to take possession in October for their own fit out and brewhouse installation. It is expected that the brewery will be opened in time for the 10th anniversary of Meantime’s very first brew, which took place on February 24th 2000 at its Penhall Road home, a short mile and a half away in Charlton.

Brewer of the Year 2008, the Meantime brewmaster and founder, Alastair Hook (pictured right), said. “Discover Greenwich is an amazing opportunity to tell the one million plus visitors who come here every year the great story of brewing in London - the city that was the brewing capital of the world. Here, visitors will be able to see the brewing process, enjoy an astonishing range of beers, which we are going to produce as we recreate historic long-gone beers and innovative new beers, as well as learn about the history and cultural significance of beer and brewing – all right at the heart of one of the most history-laden locations in the country.”

“There are so many brewing associations on this site and we are discovering more all the time. We have recently learnt that the land, on which the brewery stands, was once owned by the Abbey of Ghent. Indeed, it belonged to them from the ninth century until it was confiscated by Henry VIII. It is therefore not just a happy co-incidence that the first of many beers, which we will be maturing in wood at the new brewery, is an Abbey style beer which originated in the late nineteenth century in Flanders.“

Duncan Wilson said “The Old Brewery is the real thing. The existing structure formed part of a brewery built to supply the retired and injured sailors with their daily ration of beer.  Once again we will be brewing beer on the same site and, rather than retired sailors, we will be refreshing visitors to Greenwich and local residents.  The Old Brewery will be a great complement to the new interpretation displays and services for our visitors.

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