Welcome to our ongoing mission to explore what London has to offer the discerning lover of excellent beer - from pubs and retailers that take pride in the quality of their hoppy offerings, to local breweries and beer events. In this instalment, we visit an old favourite
Take a short walk up a gently inclined side-street off Greenwich High Road, past the clock tower, a butcher’s and a cheese shop, and you’ll soon find two pubs right next to each other. The first you’ll encounter is the Richard I, a pleasant enough Youngs establishment with a couple of traditional bars and a rather decent beer garden at the back. The pub next door is the Greenwich Union.
The Union is the original ‘brewery tap’ of Greenwich’s well-respected Meantime Brewing Company, and the older sibling of the newborn Old Brewery, so unsurprisingly the bar is lined and the fridges are filled with a variety of Meantime offerings, from its classic pale ales (available from both keg and cask on our visit) to its interesting coffee or chocolate-oriented stouts and porters and European-style wheat or fruit beers. On our visit we noted an additional couple of non-Meantime beers on draught, and a decent selection of bottles from around the globe in the fridge. No lack of choice, then.
We were sadly unable to sample all of the Union’s beers - that would have required extreme fortitude and several visits - but we made sure that we supped as wide a variety as time and constitution would permit. Although this Londonista finds many Meantime keg beers a bit more sharply gassy than ideal, this is evidently a minority opinion, and their quality is evident regardless of personal preference. The alcoholic highlights of our visit were the perfectly balanced and gentle Meantime London Pale Ale (from cask) and the astonishing assault of mature dark chocolate, coffee and liquorice flavours that came at us in waves from a bottle of Coopers Best Extra Stout. The latter alone would justify any visit; it was nothing short of magnificent. We hope that they keep stocking it.
The premises, whilst more contemporary than many traditional pubs, are still comfortable and relaxed. On a Saturday afternoon the pub was largely occupied by young well-turned out groups and families with kids, many of whom were enjoying the decent-looking menu. For our part, we sought to soak up some of the beer with a pork and apple burger, which unfortunately tasted considerably less interesting than it looked. The accompanying chips were jolly good though.
So what else? Well, the beer garden, while not as expansive as that of its next-door neighbour, is appealing enough, and we discovered free (and seemingly password-less) wifi, which is a bonus. The staff were helpful and friendly and the toilets well, small.
Compared to many of the dismal tourist-traps of the same postcode district, or even some of the better pubs in the vicinity, the Union stands out for its comfortable, contemporary and relaxed take on excellent brewing, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
The Greenwich Union, 56 Royal Hill, London SE10 8RT.