Kernel IPA Simcoe

Kernel Simcoe IPA

Young’s may have run away to Bedfordshire, but there’s still more to London brewing than just the mainstay of Fuller’s and the chemical plants of Annheiser-Busch. We’ve got Brodie’s in Leyton, Sambrook’s in Battersea, Meantime down in Greenwich and now The Kernel in Bermondsey.

With my mate Bob living round the corner I’ve heard about The Kernel a few times, along with a recommendation to visit, and after a recent tasting at The Whisky Exchange I stopped in at The Rake and had a taste of The Kernel London Porter ‘forced’ on me by one of the regulars, which moved it up the list quite a way. So, last weekend I braved the sun to wander over Tower Bridge and make my way to the brewery.

It’s hidden under the railway arches that run east out of London Bridge and is an almost literal hole-in-the-wall. Every Saturday brewer Evin, a man who I’m fairly certain I’ve bought cheese from at Borough Market before, opens his doors from 9am until 3pm, selling beers from a table set up in front of his office. They are currently brewing once a week and there’s a range of earlier batches as well as whatever has appeared recently – on my trip I picked up a couple of IPAs as well as a London Porter and a bottle of ‘White Ale?’, which from the quick chat I had seems to have not entirely gone to plan, but was bottled as it tasted pretty good anyway.

I’ve had the bottles sitting on the side waiting for an excuse to be drunk, so I was very pleased to hear some news this week – The Kernel picked up a gold medal in the best bottled porter category and a bronze in the overall bottled for the Export Stout, and gold for the IPA Simcoe in both beer over 5% and the overall bottled beer categories at the SIBA South East Beer Festival. Rather pleasingly my random purchasing from the previous week meant that I had a bottle of The Kernel IPA Simcoe, so I cracked it open this afternoon for a taste.

Being an IPA it’s going to have a chunk of bitterness and this is at least in part (although as I don’t know Evin’s recipe, how much I’m not sure) from Simcoe hops, hence the name. The beer pours (at room temperature, anyway) with a good solid head and it has a good malty hoppiness on the nose. It also tastes really rather good – a great hoppy IPA with a kick from the 7.9% and a nice citrus-ness leading to a bitter finish. It’s got a more to it than just the hops, unlike many IPAs, with a good body and slight sourness. It’s bottle conditioned so my school-boy error of pouring half of it before letting the yeast in the bottom of the bottle mix with the remaining beer meant that my second pour was a bit on the cloudy side. If anything it tasted better with a touch of haze as the sediment softened the bitterness a little, but it was good either way.

I really like it and will definitely be making the pilgrimage over to the brewery next time I find myself over Bermondsey way on a Saturday, and with Glyn from The Rake pinging Evin congratulations on his blog I might even be able to grab a bottle when I’m out for a beer.

The Kernel IPA Simcoe
7.9% IPA, £2.50 per bottle from the brewery.
The brewery has a webpage of other suppliers if you can’t make it over there on a Saturday.

Stone Ruination IPA

This is one that’s been on my radar for a while. I’m a big fan of hoppy beer, having worked my way up through golden summer ales to hoppy British IPAs and then on to the more extreme US craft beer stakes, and also a fan of experimentation and novelty ales, so Stone Ruination IPA ticks a bunch of boxes for me. Coming in at over 100 IBUs, and thus into the realms of the unknown, it’s about as hoppy a beer as you can find on the market (even beating Brewdog and their love of having records) and thus definitely sitting on my list.

The Rake at Borough Market maintain a twitter feed on which they post what beers are on each day. This is excellent, as it shows me if there’s anything interesting I’m after, and terrifying, as I am a stupidly compulsive person who will travel across most of London (as long as it’s near the tube) to grab a taste of some booze that I’ve been looking for. So when I saw them announce that they had Ruination on tap, having been out of town on the other occasions I saw it pop up on the feed, I jumped on a bus and head London Bridge-wards to have a taste.

photophoto-1

At over £3 a third it’s not one that you’re going to be drinking all night, and that’s before you get a taste of it. It’s quite a murky beer, with an orange bronze tint and the nose powerfully hoppy – like sticking your head through an attic hatch into a dry hop store on a hot day – floral but heavy and bitter. To taste it is a combination of every type of hope I can think of – purely bitter hops, dry hops, concentrated hop pellets, wet hops and hops growing in a field. It finished with more hops and little else – there is one category of flavour in this beer and it is the hop. At 7.7% it has a bit of a kick and combined with the over the top bitterness this isn’t one that you can drink much of – after 1/4 of a pint I had a pain behind my right eye, after a half I’d decided that I’d had enough.

I then of course ran straight around the corner to Utobeer and bought a bottle to take home.

Stone Ruination

In the bottle it looks the same but is a little bit different. The nose is similar, although not quite so flabby, becoming a smaller hop store with fresher hops, but the taste isn’t quite so varied across the range of hops as on draft. It has a coherent and pure citrusy flavour, with a hint of mustiness, running right through the middle of the palate and dropping off to a mushy bitter ending with a touch of malty sweetness and bitter orange. It feels more restrained and less like a novelty beer, and while by the end of the bottle your palate is still shot, it’s also quite refreshing.

The tap version is something to be tried at least once, although probably not more than once, but the bottled version is actually something really quite nice. You need to like hops but if you do then it is, as it says on the bottle, a liquid poem to their glory.

Stone Ruination IPA
7.7 % India Pale Ale from the USA
~£3 per 1/3rd pint on draft at The Rake and ~£3 per 330ml bottle at Utobeer

Brewdog Hardcore IPA

Some background – I like Brewdog1. I like them enough that I’ve even invested in them (closes 19th February) and not only because of the lifetime 20% off I now get on their website. I’ve yet to find one of their beers that I didn’t actively like and am, so far, very much enjoying the search. I’ve even ordered a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin, although it hasn’t turned up yet as they haven’t made their second batch, which is one of the most expensive drinks I have ever bought. You might say I’m mildly obsessed.

Brewdog Hardcore IPA

This is the final bottle from the small stash that was meant to go to my stepbrother for Christmas – there is now a new stash for him sitting at work, a much safer place for beer to be kept and not drunk than next to my fridge. Anyways, I’m a fan of their Punk IPA (the beer that introduced me to the brewery, as given away at the first London Twestival) and grabbed this expecting more of the same – a super hoppy, crisp IPA. However, the ratcheting of the ABV up to 9% made me expect a bit more of a kick. Half of this assumption was correct. It has the kick that you expect, but instead of being accompanied by a crisp hoppiness it instead has the sweet tang of strong beer (hints of Special Brew) which almost obscures the bitterness of the hops.

The back of the bottle lists some figures about the making of the beer, ending with a “2 humans and 1 canine companion are relatively happy with the results”. I wasn’t. I really like hoppy beer and have enjoyed many strong IPAs but this one just comes across as a generic strong beer. It may be the most hoppy beer brewed in the UK, but it really doesn’t taste it.

My search for a Brewdog beer that I don’t like is complete, however they have still more for me to test and based on this one anomaly it would be churlish of me not to keep trying. I’d better get the new beer selection to my step-brother soon as I only have one bottle of Paradox left in the fridge…

Brewdog Hardcore IPA
Brewed in Scotland, 9%
One of their rarer brews, I got mine from (you guessed it) Utobeer

1: This is a vague reference to the William Gibson board that I posted to for a very short while before I became overwhelmed by the activity and promptly forgot of its existence. We all like Fuldog. This will make sense to 12 people, only 1 of whom may ever read this.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA

It is common knowledge that the Americans cannot make beer, producing nothing but Bud, Coors Lite and other assorted sex-in-a-canoe fizzy yellow beverages. It is also common knowledge that all Brits have bad teeth, bowler hats and say ‘Cheers!’ at every opportunity.

I really like a lot of american beer. Outside of the mass-market brews, just as with the UK, there is a great selection of interesting things of which some are now getting big enough to get regular exports to the UK. Sierra Nevada now appears on tap in a few London pubs and bottles of Brooklyn lager have been popping up on restaurant menus for a few years. However, my mates at Utobeer (and the lovely folks at The Draft House) assist me in obtaining things when I’m not visiting the fair ‘isle’ on the other side of the sea.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

I’ve tried a few Dogfish Head beers over the years, especially since my work’s US office moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, home of The Brewhouse and a branch of The Ginger Man (and not the Norwalk Virus), and they’ve all been quite pleasant. However, their X minute IPAs are the ones that have stuck in my head ever since a Great British Beer Festival that managed to get a few barrels of beer over from the US for a New England Beer festival offshoot stand. They were selling the 120 minute IPA from the barrel, something that you don’t get pretty much ever, even in the US, and it was a scary beast – it caused your entire head to turn inside out with hoppiness, something that I rather enjoyed.

Anyways, after a foiled attempt at getting a selection of tasty beers to my step-brother for Christmas (I forgot to put them in my bag…sorry Peter, there are more on the way) I decided to try one of them, so that it wouldn’t go off. Or something. The 90 Minute Imperial IPA just fell into my fridge and then into a glass. It’s nowhere near as astringent as the other hoppy IPAs I’ve tried, with a a load of caramelly sweetness sitting behind the lip curling hoppy bitterness. At 9% and 90 IBU it’s not a session beer (one is enough for now) but it is really very nice. It is very hoppy though – from the moment you open the bottle your room will be filled with a floral hoppy aroma and it lingers after you’ve finished a bottle. I like hops though, so it’s one that remains on my list.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA
Dogfish Head brewery, Delaware, USA
9%, 90 IBU, 12 fl. oz. bottle
Available from specialist beer shops, I got mine, as usual, from Utobeer