12 October 2011

Kernel knowledge

The Kernel needs very little introduction from me. This London microbrewery has been making big waves since it started out in early 2010. As an ex-homebrewer, Evin makes beers of the sort he actually likes to drink and the results, I've heard, have been spectacular. Big IPAs and old-fashioned porters and stouts seem to be the stock-in-trade. Why waste capacity on lesser beer styles?

The Borefts festival programme promised a broad cross-section of the range but in the event we were a little stiffed on the dark ones. Plenty of IPAs, though. I started with Kernel Citra IPA, what with Citra becoming something of an endangered species at the moment: who knows where the next all-Citra pale ale will come from? It's a punchy little bugger, as you might expect. 7% ABV but you don't get any chance to taste the alcohol. The hops burn right through everything and completely dominate the flavour. At the finish it just shades into cheesiness or freshly-sawn wood, something I associate more with harsher hops like Simcoe. On balance I think I prefer my Citra a little more toned-down. Kernel Galaxy IPA ran on similar lines: assertive palate-sharpening hops and that slight touch of cheese.

Both of these were still better than the Motueka Pale Ale which I found had a sharp and brassy tang, plus some bandagey phenols which I didn't enjoy at all. And that meant I was on full alert when it came to the festival special. Kernel Borefts IPA was brewed with rye and cara-rye. The hops included Simcoe plus a dry dose of Motueka. Everything about this murky dark orange beer screamed "Run away!" at me. So I was stunned by how good it was. The hop cocktail lines up the citric flavours in mannerly order and the rye grassiness that follows complements and accentuates it beautifully. Just when I thought I was done with rye in beer, along comes The Kernel with this.

The IPA loveliness continued with Double Black IPA, though it's brown rather than properly black. 8.8% ABV read the badge (and not very clearly: it's actually 9.8% ABV, see comments) but it could easily pass for much less, so drinkable is it. The hops bring lots of fresh and juicy orange pith and this is tempered by mild coffee and chocolate flavours. A really beautiful combination and an object lesson in how to do dark hoppy beer well.

That leaves just Kernel Breakfast Stout. So much more simple compared to the others, this is light of body with lots of sweet caramel and a hint of banana. There's just a wisp of smoke to add complexity and make it properly interesting.

This brewery, it seems, really is turning out beer as good -- or at least as bold -- as everyone says. It was great chatting with you Evin and I hope to be able to drop into Kernel HQ before too long.


  1. IPA Double Black is 9.8%, not 8.8%, but I agree that it feels much lighter in ABV, even with all the alcohol notes.

  2. I knew there had to be a downside to their signature stamp-on-brown-paper labels. Thanks Bob!

  3. I still have a bottle of Kernel Cooking Porter in the cupboard, bereft (sorry) of any brown label as not deemed drinkable. it will one day make it's way into a chilli, or chocolate cake, or perhaps just glass, should I run out of suitably labelled beers and legally safe beers to drink.

  4. Have you tasted it? I don't think I'd be able to resist a beer someone told me was "undrinkable". I'll be the judge of that, thanks. Yoink!

  5. It's still there, still to be used in a chocolate cake or chilli or some other gastromic creation. Or I might just drink it...!?