Review: Kernel roundup

If you don’t know about The Kernel Brewery, well, you should. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, but really, you should, man, what’s wrong with you? The Kernel has been around for two years now and in that short time they have become possibly the most well-regarded of all London microbreweries – they’ve won several awards, and they are the only British brewery to be invited to Mikkeller’s own beer festival, the Copenhagen Beer Celebration (look at the brewery lineup for that festival and you’ll see it’s a select group). Accolades aside, they just brew totally awesome beers. Simple as that.

Kernel specialize in two things: Pale Ales and IPAs, often with a high ABV, often single hopped, though not always (mixed-hop beers are usually named using cryptic-sounding abbreviations indicating the component hops, e.g. Pale Ale M.NS.NZC), and massive dark porters and stouts (some brewed according to classic 19th century London recipes, like their 1890 London Export Stout). Brewer Evin O’Riordan doesn’t like to repeat himself so most brews are one-off, limited runs – but a few beers survive the cut and get added to the recurring repertoire (the aforementioned 1890 London Export Stout is one such beer). Here are capsule reviews of three recent Kernels I’ve sampled:

India Pale Ale Summit (ABV 7.0, Double/Imperial IPA)
As the name implies, a single-hopped IPA using the relatively recent hop variety Summit.

Look: Dirt brown/dark cloudy amber. Very low carbonation, as is common with Kernel beers. Virtually no head.

Nose: Very subtle bread notes, slightly floral.

Taste: Immediate citrus (orange) bitterness with vegetable notes and more than a hint of garlic (aromatic, acidic). Weird and surprising but not unpleasant. Ends on a strong resiny bitterness.

Verdict: 3/5. Nicely bitter and complex but definitely not an immediate crowd pleaser.

Export India Porter (ABV 5.6, Porter)
By Kernel standards an old standby as they have made several batches over the past year or so. At ABV 5.6 it is also one of the lower-ABV Kernels.

Look: Dark as dark can be with a nice coffee-cream coloured head that stays for a brief while before dissipating.

Nose: Minimal. Hardly any aromas escape…

Taste: Full-on roast coffee, bread and burnt sugar followed by a subtle but lingering coffee/citrus bitterness. This is really a very well-balanced beer where roast malts and hops complement each other superbly. An easy drink.

Verdict: 4/5. I usually buy a bottle or two (if it’s available) when I make my bi-weekly Kernel run (the brewery is open for sales on Saturdays). A beer to return to.

Pale Ale M.A.NZC (ABV 5.7, Pale Ale)
A more New Zealand-influenced pale ale (or ‘South Pacific Pale Ale’ as they are apparently called nowadays) with Motueka, Amarillo and New Zealand Cascade hops.

Look: Dark golden/orange, cloudy. No head.

Nose: Tropical fruit and fruit flowers, rather subdued.

Taste: Much more balanced and mellow than most Kernel beers – in a good way. It has a very smooth, almost buttery, body of fruit (tropical/citrus) changing to strong citrus bitterness at the end. Balanced and drinkable.

Verdict:4/5. Kernel’s first session beer? Easy to drink a lot of this. One of several recent Pale Ales that rely on New Zealand hops, either alone or in combination with other New World hops, and I like them all – drinkable and flavourful at the same time.

I noticed on the Kernel website that one of the beers they’ve got going currently is an India Brown Ale. Sounds exciting, but I haven’t had a chance to sample it yet. Anyone out there who’s tried it and would care to give a quick review in the comments?


Posted on December 19, 2011, in Review and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Henrik, he sez: “I noticed on the Kernel website that one of the beers they’ve got going currently is an India Brown Ale. Sounds exciting, but I haven’t had a chance to sample it yet. Anyone out there who’s tried it and would care to give a quick review in the comments?”

    Absolutely! I tried it the first time on Saturday, and will definitely look for more bottles next time I’m at Kernel. Didn’t drink it for tasting purposes, so apologies for any brevity in my review.
    ABV 7.2
    Dark brown colour, lots of malt when tasted with clear hints of dark roasted coffee. The finish is subtle and pleasant. Another contender for session beer!
    Score 4/5


  2. I found the India Brown Ale a bit disappointing to be honest. I didn’t do a full review but it was more brown ale than India sadly. I would give it a 3/5 – not one to search for. Also, note to Erik – if a 7.2% abv is a session ale for you, I’d love to know what you drink on a big night out!

    Cheers, Paul

  3. Ha ha, I also think someone is confused about what a “session beer” is! Thx for sharing your capsule review, Paul! I haven’t tried any of the more recent Kernels except the Galaxy IPA – anything stand out?

  4. The Kernel IPA Double Black (and the Black III which I think is basically the same thing) are fantastic, full of hop & liquorice flavour but not heavy at all. The later was on tap when I went down to the brewery on 14th. The 5C pale was really nice and before that the Cascade and Galaxy was lovely too.

    Kernel don’t really repeat brews very often (other than the export stout) so it’s difficult to give recommendations, you just have to buy as much as you can carry and try to duplicate the ones you think you might like. I think that partly adds to the charm, but also makes reviewing them a bit pointless in some ways. However, I like focusing on the flavours and writing them down cements that for me so I’ll keep on doing it!

  5. Love the Double Black, alongside their Imperial Brown Stout it’s my favorite Kernel ever. The Black III is a different recipe though, they’ve made three batches of the “regular” Black IPA with slightly changed recipe each time, whereas the Double Black is yet a different recipe (more Simcoe hops).

    Kernel’s actually making repeat batches of quite a number of beers these days – among those that have been made in more than one batch are the Export India Porter, the Imperial Brown Stout, Suke Quoto Coffee IPA, and the Breakfast Stout.

    And I completely agree – part of the charm of Kernel is the constantly changing beer selection and limited nature of the releases!

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