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.
There are beer bars in London that have a wider range than The Rake, that’s for sure – next to Craft Beer Company or Cask Pub & Kitchen, the three hand pumps and seven keg taps of The Rake may seem downright paltry. But look closer: those ten pumps/taps regularly feature the very latest releases from top British and world breweries, there’s frequently limited releases on offer that you can hardly get anywhere else but here, and everything changes with a frightening regularity. You can have a two-keg limited release of a Kernel/Tom Greasly collab (a Red IPA) one night (those two kegs lasted all of 40 minutes) and the launch of the Ilkley/Melissa Cole collab Siberia (a saison with Siberian rhubarb) the next. Because that’s just how The Rake rolls: respected and liked by brewers everywhere, this is the place of choice for many brewers doing a special launch or presenting a one-off collab. The Rake is not just a beer lovers’ pub, it’s a brewers‘ pub (as evidenced by the brewer guest wall of fame, getting ever more crowded with every week – look for signatures by the likes of Stone and Hitachino Nest). The Rake team (the same people are behind the Utobeer beer stall in nearby Borough Market, in case you have been living on Mars the past couple of years) also seem to be dedicated to geographical variation: as you would expect, the three hand pumps offer the best of British, as it were, and on the seven keg taps you can almost always be sure to have something from the US, something from Germany, something from Belgium, and something from somewhere else (Australian Little Creatures and Norwegian Nøgne Ø make frequent appearances, for example – I had an excellent Nøgne Ø Wit at The Rake the other day).
The London scene is expanding at such a rate that it is difficult to keep up. I’ve updated my London Breweries page, adding Rye Lane Brewery and Weird Beard Brew Co, plus a list of brewpubs. I’ve also added a few venues to the London Beer Bars & Pubs list, probably old news for you jaded readers.
While I was doing this, I found out that there’s a beer festival (or beer and blues festival, to be precise) at the Sebright Arms this weekend (March 10-11) focusing on London breweries – there’ll be beers from almost all London breweries by the looks of it…The Kernel, London Fields, Redchurch, Weird Beard, Moncada etc etc… And with pints at £2.50, you’d be silly not to sample a few. Me? Sorry, due to a scheduling conflict I’ll be in Italy this weekend. But I may pop by late Sunday, if I can.
EDIT: And, oh yeah, the London Drinker Beer and Cider Festival is also this weekend. Which I am also going to miss. I’m a bad London Beer Blogger.
The latest Kernel haul (I went to the brewery yesterday): From left to right, Pale Ale Centennial Citra (ABV 5.4), India Pale Ale Double Citra (ABV 9.8) and three bottles of Breakfast Stout (French Oak) (ABV 9.3). One of the Breakfast Stout bottles is for me, the other two are gifts. I’m very excited about this one as it’s the first cask-aged beer from Kernel – as far as I understand it the stout has been aged on French red wine barrels, but I might be wrong – feel free to correct me if I am.
Oh, and I also wanted to share some news of potentially earth-shattering consequences (at least if you are a beer geek): Starting next week, Kernel beers will for the first time be available outside the UK (beyond festivals and individual bottles, that is). Of course it’s the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen that’s doing the importing. If you live nearby (say, in Malmö, for example), it’s totally worth the trip over the bridge. The blog post I’m linking to is in Danish, but it doesn’t contain any more specific information – it doesn’t say which beers, how much of it there is, etc (except it looks like about 12 kegs in the photo), but still – the standards at Kernel are such that you can pretty much drink any one of their beers with confidence that it will be excellent.
EDIT: I emailed Evin and asked about the cask (duh!) and he says it’s a french Bordeaux oak cask that probably did not contain wine before (i.e. it was originally made for Bordeaux wine), and was previously used by De Molen to age their Tsarina Esra stout. So now you know.
EDIT 2: I emailed Evin again (thanks for your patience, Evin!) and asked what beers they’d sent to Mikkeller Bar. This is the selection: 2 19-liter cornie kegs each of Export India Porter (ABV 5.9), IPA Columbus (ABV 7.1), IPA Double Black (ABV 9.8), Rye Pale Ale (ABV 5.5), Pale Ale Motueka, Nelson Sauvin, Pacific Jade (ABV 5.3) and 1 keg each of IPA Galaxy (ABV 7.4), IPA Citra (ABV 7.2), IPA Black (ABV 7.4), Breakfast Stout (ABV 9.3) and Export Stout (ABV 7.4). If you are in a position to go there, my advice is, for the love of all that is holy and good, try the IPA Double Black (my candidate for Best Beer of 2011), and then, for all that is slightly less holy and good, try the Breakfast Stout. Then try the rest of the. You may only get this one chance, fools.
Beer review/social networking site RateBeer just released their annual Best-of-lists: the best beers, best breweries and best beer bars in 2011, as determined by their aggregate (and, I believe, weighted) ratings on the site. Being a beer geek who loves lists (but who, strangely, only just recently signed up to RateBeer – I’m HenrikO if you want to friend me), I naturally checked it out first thing. Some thoughts:
For Best Brewers in the world, the dominance of US breweries is clear. There are 33 non-US breweries in the top 100 for 2012 (up ever-so-slightly from 2011 when there were 32 – non-US breweries have in fact held relatively steady at around 1/3 of the list since 2006). There’s always an argument to be had whether this reflects the biases of the community or whether it simply reflects the fact that US brewers in general are better. I’m inclined towards the latter explanation, actually – for a long time, the US was the world leader in craft brewing in terms of innovation and quality, and it’s only in the past five or ten years that the rest of the world has been catching up.
I’ve had this blog for about a week and change so I don’t really feel up to doing a full-blown “Best of 2011” post despite the genre demands of the season. Luckily, every other beer blogger and their auntie are doing it so I can just
steal link to the ones I like! So here are the Best of Best of 2011, as presented by others more knowledgeable than me (and better writers, too!):
Ace London beer bar Euston Tap recently named their “Champion Beers of 2011”, which is naturally the only best-of-2011-list we Londoners care about. However, they did it on Twitter and so far the results have not been posted on the Euston Tap blog, so in case you are not a compulsive Twitter follower like me, you may well have missed this essential best of-list. These were the winners:
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: