August 2008

Greenwich Council has granted planning permission to the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) and the Meantime Brewing Company Ltd. to reconstruct the former brewery for the Royal Hospital of Seamen, which survives in part at the ORNC.

The brewery will form the centrepiece of a new Meantime brasserie and bar and have its own exhibition charting the history of brewing in London and Greenwich. Work on the new brewery will commence in November 2008. 

There was a brewery on the site of the Tudor Palace in Greenwich, long since demolished, from 1717 until around 1860. The present structure formed part of a brewery of which the function was to supply the retired and injured sailors, who were pensioners of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, with their daily ration of beer. The current building was built in 1831, substantially altered in 1843. Once a large, three storey building, what remains today is a single storey block with a series of vaults below. The structure of the building includes rare examples of “fish-bellied beams” made of cast iron.  A series of interlinking vaults of the 1830s has been revealed, including the cast iron head of a well, thought to be 200 ft deep.

The Meantime brewery will produce its own Greenwich Porter to replicate the beer produced by the brewery in the early 18th century. This project will be the only one of its kind in the UK, using natural yeast flora present in the pores of our wooden tuns to mature the beer, which will be stored for a minimum of 12 months in the original brewery cellars.

Meantime Brewmaster Alastair Hook explains the motivation behind this project. “The area of London between Bow, Shoreditch, Greenwich and up to and including stretches of the Southwark banks of the Thames, were the centre of the brewing world in the eighteenth century. London is the home of India Pale Ale, Porter and Stout but - in time honoured British tradition - we have allowed this rich heritage to be forgotten. Meantime and the Greenwich Foundation are determined to change this.”

“The pubs and breweries in our capital were once the envy of the world and in terms of commercial, industrial and social importance their impact was immense. The brewery exhibit and Meantime brewhouse, along with the cellars and bar would do everything possible to recapture and present the visitor with the full glory of this fascinating age.”

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