It’s September. Where has the year gone? It feels like we’ve only just started getting summery tingles and cracking out the cold beers to enjoy in seemingly endless beer garden evenings. Perfect. Now the light is diminishing with frightening rapidity, so it’s less languorous nights in beer gardens, more rushing home in the vain hope you’ll get there before it’s completely dark.
Although autumn brings with it a faint sense of foreboding, it also brings a lot of excuses to stuff yourself silly - with both glorious autumnal food and beer. Now is the time for pubs to get an extra brown ale or stout on their line-up; a time for drinks that are cockle-warming and comforting.
And so, what better a way of ushering in the season with a brewery that possesses as much nous with the darker beery delights as they do pale drops. The Kernel are the granddaddies of the London craft beer scene. In perhaps the most perfect of foody evolutions ever, Evin O’Riordain set up the brewery in 2009, having worked at legendary cheesemongers Neal’s Yard. Just as Neal’s Yard don’t sell a bad cheese, Kernel don’t make bad beers. The brewery offers a constantly changing array of Pale Ales, India Pale Ales and various other styles keep things fascinating. They don’t just do a house pale ale or IPA, though – look below the style and you will see the list of hop varieties used, in various ways, to create ever changing brews. This innovation serves as a testament to the team’s dedication to tinkering recipes to make them better, and adapting to available hop styles, which in turn has the uncanny effect of making drinking Kernel beers feel like a slightly educational experience. On supping a single hop Citra IPA (incidentally, one of my favourite beers ever), you think, ‘Damn! That’s what a Citra hop is meant to taste like.’
So, as well as some beautiful Citra India Pale Ales and Pale Ale made from Citra and Simcoe (see? Educational!) I plunged into the murky depths of Dark Beers - not a style, more a state of mind.
First on the menu was Export Stout 1890, based on an old recipe by Truman Brewery (history lessons, too!) that tastes like the best bitter chocolate cake Mary Berry could muster. Slightly rummy, deep with raisiny dark fruits, this is all you could dream of for a drizzly evening.
The Brown Ale is another Kernel staple – it is, as the name suggest, a very deep brown velvety ale, a little fruity, tempered with burnt caramel flavour and a small espresso shot thrown in for good measure. The Export India Porter, laced with pithy, zesty Chinook and Southern X hops that cuts through the milky, mocha tasting porter. The hop taste fizzles away, leaving a soothing beer that’s delicate on the palate. To quote a colleague, ‘It tastes like a beery espresso martini’.
The same can’t be said for the Dry Stout, hopped with Mosaic to create a lip pursing, ashy flavour that is not one for chugging. This, combined with an aromatic juniper, makes an unforgettable drop.
With that, go forth and embrace the autumn. Savour the full-flavoured, more decadent delights that the season brings. And if you’re in Maltby Street, Bermondsey anytime soon, pop down to the brewery to see Evin and co. and pick up some decadently delicious beers.