Monthly Archives: July 2012
Now that Kernel’s new brewery is fully up and running (including a snazzy new bottling plant!), what does that mean for the beers? Well, first of all it means that a wider range of Kernel beers are now available at any given time, which it nice. Second, it seems to mean that some great beers that were only available intermittently are now available more or less all the time – so far I’ve had no trouble scoring Imperial Brown Stout London 1858 and Export Stout London 1890 on every brewery visit, for example. This is also nice. Third, it means that Kernel’s sour beer programme has officially started – though the first sour has yet to be released, and it’s going to be a very small batch, possibly available at the brewery only. Stay tuned for details. Here follows some capsule reviews of recently-sampled Kernel brews, all from the new brewery.
Here’s my terrible confession about the Pizza Port Tap Takeover at Cask Pub & Kitchen recently: I was a bit disappointed. The service at Cask, normally excellent, was a bit spotty on the night – at one point I saw four staff members walking about behind the bar, not one of them taking orders, from me or anyone else. In their defense, the place was busier than usual. So there was that. Then there was the beer. Pizza Port has been getting a lot of hype in Europe recently – but if you look at RateBeer (as a yardstick, not the final word), Pizza Port actually has relatively few top-ranked beer these days. Most that reach our shores come from the Carlsbad branch (Pizza Port is a brewpub/restaurant “chain” of sorts with four locations in Southern California) but if I got it correctly there was also a few from one of the other branch available, not sure which one. Anyway – I don’t think they’re as hyped in the US as they actually are here. And I don’t think they’ve actually earned that hype either.
The last leg of my Baltic journey about a month-and-a-half back took me to Lithuania. I’ve been there several times before and know and admire their beer culture. Even their macro brews are totally OK – all the major breweries make a decent porter and main Lithuanian brewery Svyturys won a couple of medals in the World Beer Cup recently, including a Gold in the Dortmunder/Export or German-style Oktoberfest beer category for their Svyturys Ekstra.
But the real reason to love Lithuanian beer culture is the profusion of local beers and breweries – I hesitate to use words like “micro” and “craft” as Lithuania so far is not at all influenced by the US beer scene but quite happy with their own brewing traditions. This inevitably leads to offerings being a bit samey – small breweries typically brew a lager, a dark lager, a porter and a farmhouse beer – often they all come in filtered and unfiltered varieties, and sometimes there’s a wheat beer in there, but that’s about it. But when these offerings are executed to a pretty high standards, it’s still OK – in my opinion, Lithuanian dark lagers are second to none, often a bit heavier and with a better mouthfeel than your typical dark lager, more akin to altbiers or schwarzbiers than plain dark lagers. And even though it gets a bit samey, some breweries have some delightfully oddball offerings. Two of my favourites are Vilniaus Alus, the only brewery in the capital, and Čižo Alus, a small family-run brewery (owner is Ramunas Čižo, a fourth-generation brewer – the family has been brewing on the same site since 1865). As breweries, they couldn’t be more different: Vilniaus Alus is more of a small-scale macro brewery that exports quite a lot of their brews to their neighbouring countries, whereas Ramunas Čižo makes only one beer that hardly makes it outside the lake Sartai area except for a few specialist pubs and restaurants in Vilnius and Kaunas.
I did it again: I drank too much beer. But what could I do? It was the Craft Beer Company 1st Anniversary Weekend on June 30 – July 1. I go there so often it feels like the place has been around forever rather than for just one year – they’re already a London institution and a world beer lover destination. And as expected the lineup of beers was something special: a lot of it must have come from Copenhagen Beer Celebration as many rare beers from there made a repeat performance in London. Not that I mind one bit as I got to try a lot of the stuff I missed at CBC, as well as have more of beers I was convinced I would never have the chance to try again. And the evening ended with not one but two proper whales… Here are my unsystematic observations, sorted by brewery this time: