Even in the middle of what passes for an English summer, sometimes the Summer Ales, Pilsners, IPAs, APAs (and even PPAs) get to me. There are only so many exotic aromatic hops my nose can take before my palate screams out for something dark and dangerous.
A bit like a hefty espresso at the end of a gourmet meal.
Feeling a need to embrace the ‘dark side’, I decided to check through my beer shelf and stumbled across a bottle of Porter from the Kernel Brewery. The Kernel is a real microbrewery hidden away in the railway arches south of London’s Tower Bridge – that’s the one that featured prominently in the climax of the recent Sherlock Holmes movie (the one with Robert Downey Junior).
There are now some 14 microbreweries in London, twice as many as in 2006 thanks in part to tax concessions introduced by Gordon Brown back in 2002. The progressive beer duty relief for small breweries halves tax for brewers making under 50,000 litres a week and tapers duty up to 300,000 litres capacity. It’s nice to learn that even Gordon Brown got one thing (and only one thing) right in his ten years as Chancellor!
I digress, the Kernel brewery lies about half a mile east of Borough Market and is open only on Saturday mornings when the founder and brewmaster Evin O’Riordain, welcomes visitors and sells his mystic brews. He even lists the brews that will be available on the brewery website, and looking at the list I really must make a Saturday visit sometime soon.
The Kernel Imperial Stout was brewed in September 2010 to commemorate the birth of Evin’s son, some bottles were released on sale, Evin’s hope is that the beer will last until his son comes of age (18 years). It’s bottle conditioned, so anyone looking to brew their own strong dark beer could get a useful starter here.
It pours dark, very dark, bible black, slightly oily. Even holding this beer up to a halogen light, I couldn’t see a glimmer through this glass of liquid night, topped with a luxuriant tan-coloured head.
Sorry, getting a bit florid there.
The head fades quickly, and there’s little trace of lacing. The nose is dark, ristretto coffee with hints of black liquorice and tar lurking in the plentiful shadows.
The mouthfeel is good, full bodied, slightly chewy. The flavour is dark, a bitter chocolate bite, complemented with dates, rich molasses and liquorice. And alcohol, there’s rather a lot of alcohol in here and it adds a warming richness to the experience. It reminded me a lot of Brewdog’s Tokyo Extra Stout, which is no bad thing. In an English summer this makes a pleasing antidote to light summer ales, as a winter warmer by the fireside it would be stunning.
The Kernel brewery is fast gaining a reputation for brewing excellent brews and, after tasting this, I can fully understand why. Now, I wonder if I can find another bottle, just to lay down for a few years?
4½ stars – a mighty brew!
Update… on September 12th I was fortunate enough to bump Nate from the Kernel prize awards for the International Beer Challenge 2011 where their ‘Kernel Export Stout’ was not only awarded “Best Stout or Porter” but also “Supreme Champion”.
Given that Kernel’s brews were going head to head with brews from Weihenstephan and Sam Adams, for such a prestigious award to be won by a brewery that’s only been brewing for two years is pretty darned impressive.
As you can see, we enjoyed a bottle of the aforementioned Export Stout, just before the awards were announced.
Bob the Brit