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Pub/Bar of the Month February 2011: The Old Brewery

The Old Brewery, Greenwich

If you’re looking for somewhere historic to drink in London, you’re not short of options. But I don’t think there are many pubs with a museum tagged on the side, which is what you’ll find if you visit the Old Brewery at Greenwich.

Old Brewery GreenwichThis classy brew pub/bar/restaurant is actually attached to the Discover Greenwich visitor centre, with its free-to-browse exhibits marking more than 500 years of naval history in the area.

The complex cost £6 million to establish and opened early in 2010 on the spacious Greenwich maritime campus, once home to the famous Royal Naval College.

In times past the site once boasted its own brewery, set up to serve patients in the Royal Naval Hospital who were allowed three pints a day. It closed 140 years ago, but now the air is filled with aroma of malt and hops once again.

Built on three levels from polished copper and steel vessels, the striking, new six-barrel brewery presents a dramatic focal point. It’s operated by Greenwich’s own Meantime Brewing, and specializes in recreating historic ales such as the potent Hospital Porter – smoky and phenolic after its ageing in whisky casks – alongside innovative modern beers.

These are all served on site alongside Meantime’s own highly-regarded range of lagers and ales, brewed just down the road.

During the day, while the copper is steaming, the high-ceiling brewing hall also serves as the museum’s cafeteria/bar. At night, however, with the museum closed, out comes the crisp, white napery and the tables are dressed for fine dining. Beer and food matching suggestions are provided for each dish, so if you have the cash to flash you can really go the whole hog.

Bottles and Draughts

But you don’t have to dine here to appreciate the beer. Alongside the restaurant is a modern, simply furnished bar, with a vaulted brick ceiling and an intriguing display of bottles, some from the collection of the late Michael Jackson.

There are three handpumps, serving Meantime’s London Pale Ale plus a couple of well-chosen guests from the likes of Dark Star, Adnams or Downton, and a host of keg taps, dispensing Meantime’s London Lager, Helles, Wheat Beer and the unfiltered Kellerbier, as well as seasonal specials such as Oktoberfest or Chocolate.

Old Brewery GreenwichThe comprehensive bottled beer range features some classic Belgian brews, including Trappist ales and lambics from Boon and Cantillon, plus other international favourites, from Goose Island IPA and Jenlain Ambrée to Schlenkerla Rauchbier and Cooper’s Sparkling Ale.

Also available on draught are beers from the Schönram brewery in Bavaria. Masterminded by American brewmaster Eric Toft, the beers are exemplary, and, of course, extremely rare in the UK.

Outside the Old Brewery, a large courtyard attracts a substantial crowd on sunny days and, being comfortably distanced from traffic noise and pollution, is just one of the many impressive things about this adventurous, highly civilised enterprise.

Take the kids for a day out, book a table for a gastronomic experience, or just pop in to see what the latest brew might be. You can even arrive by boat, just like in the old days.

Otherwise, it’s all very handy for the Docklands Light Railway and only a short walk to Greenwich mainline rail station, with trains to the heart of the capital taking no more than a few minutes.

The Pepys Building, The Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 9LW
Tel. (020) 3327 1280
Opening Hours: 11–11 (12–10.30 Sunday); café open from 10 am.

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