Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Kernel Table Beer, twice in two days

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More Kernel love. Had a bottle of this at Crystal Palace FC in an executive box, and then the next day had it again at The Quality Chop House. It really is an excellent beer. Drinkable, hoppy, tangy and characterful. But above all: balanced. I’ve gone big on the score for what describes itself humbly as a table beer, because I think it deserves it.

The Kernel Table Beer
3.4% alcohol
There’s a lovely savoury herbal bite to this super-drinkable beer, which shows tangy citrus fruit, spicy herbs, good freshness and subtle toffee malt notes. Aromatic, fresh, and with plenty of complexity. 8.5/10

American Brown Ale, Reverend And The Makers, Thornbridge

Thornbridge branded beers were first brewed in early 2005 after the establishment of a 10 barrel brewery in the grounds of Thornbridge Hall. Thornbridge operates from two brewery sites.
The original Hall brewery uses a traditional infusion mash ale system whereas the contemporary Riverside in Bakewell highlights the ability to innovate through technology. The Hall is about experimentation and barrel-ageing and creating premium bottled products.

American Brown Ale, Reverend And The Makers, Thornbridge
5.0% alcohol
15 yrs ago I worked in NYC and acquired a taste for the regular Sam Adams. This is in that vein but done with sheer class. Balanced, fresh, malty, no hoppiness, very slightly sweet and immensely drinkable. I may not be a fan of the band, but I am of this beer. Lovely. 8.5/10

Belgian IPA, Dark Star Brewing Co.

Dark Star Brewing Co. was established in 1994 and remains a leader and stalwart of the British beer scene, producing a wide variety of styles in keg and bottle.

Belgian IPA, Dark Star Brewing Co., Partridge Green, near Horsham, West Sussex
7.2% alcohol
I’m not entirely clear what makes this of Belgian influence, but it’s superb. If only it weren’t of a %abv that knocks your socks off, but I’m told it’s hard to get this depth of flavour at low alcohol levels. Like Jamie, I too have drunk their Hophead from a box and enjoyed it, but this is on another level. Caramel and malt for days, deep like Atlantis but with elegance that makes you come back for more and not tire. Lovely enveloping slightly resinous well integrated yet pronounced hops over a tropical mid-palate. 8.5/10

Some beers from Renaissance, Marlborough, New Zealand

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’ve come across Renaissance Brewing Company beers a few times before on my trips to New Zealand. They’re based in Blenheim, which is in Marlborough, the largest of the Kiwi wine regions, and you can get the beers on tap at Dodsons (which is next door to the brewery) – as well as in bottle across most of the country. Here I tried a few in London with Roger Kerrison, at the Craft Beer Rising show where these beers made their UK debut.

Renaissance Discovery American Pale Ale
4.5% alcohol
Lovely fresh, bright citrussy beer with nice hoppiness. A bright, lemony style with some herbiness. 8/10

Renaissance Voyager India Pale Ale
6% alcohol
Some sweet noes. Rich, tangy and a bit spicy with powerful flavours and lovely spicy depth. Fresh, tangy and intense. 8/5/10

Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale
7% alcohol
Made from nine malts, blended together, to produce what they call the ‘red wine’ of their range. It’s not my favourite, but it is food friendly. Malty and rich with some weight. Sweet, tangy and herby with some toffee and spice notes. Richly textured. 7/10

Renaissance Abundance Baltic Cherry Porter
7.6% alcohol
Brewed with cherries. Powerful and intense with spice and chocolate notes, as well as herbs and black cherries, with a hint of sourness. Rich but a little odd. Amazingly complex. 8/10

renaissance black IPA Ripa Renaissance Enlightenment Black IPA The RIPA
6.5% alcohol
A black ale brewed with rye. Powerful, fresh and tangy with a lively citrus edge to the malty, chocolatey stout character. Nice depth and balance here. 8.5/10

You can see some pictures of Dodsons (effectively the brewery tap, in Blenheim, New Zealand) at the bottom of this blog post from my last visit to Kiwi land.

Bam/Imitera, Rocky Head Brewery

Rocky Head Brewery is a micro brewery set up in Southfields, London by a group of friends inspired by the American Craft Brewing scene.

Bam & Imitera, Rocky Head Brewery, Southfields, London
Imitera 7.2% / Bam 7.0% alcohol
I am a big fan of the original Pale Ale and unfortunately these don’t match up to those lofty heights. Imitera is in the same vein but without the same tropical weight and mouthfeel and certainly more bitter. Bam is well done if a Belgian white beer is your thing. Saisony with some nice baked pastry flavours over resinous grapefruit notes but many Belgians do it better. They are both perfectly decent, but no wow factor. 6.5/10

Pressure Drop Bosko IPA

pressuredrop You have to love the UK beer scene at the moment. It is just so dynamic. Here’s a beer from a brewer that’s new to me – Pressure Drop – but which I will be following with interest. They made their first beer in 2013, and they operate out of a railway arch in Hackney. East London is becoming a centre of brewing excellence, it seems. 

Pressure Drop Bosko IPA
6.5% alcohol
Lovely aromatics with some fresh green herbs and a bit of sweet maltiness. The palate is rich and warmly textured but still has drinkability, with a herby, spicy edge and richer malty, subtly raisined notes. Great balance is the key. 8.5/10

Weird Beard, Citra Pale Ale

Wildbeard Citra
Weird Beard Brew Co. are two award-winning homebrewers wanting to take their passion for drinking and creating great hand-crafted beers out of the kitchen and beyond the garage.

Pale Ale, Weird Beard Co., Hanwell, West London
5.5% alcohol
I came to craft beer via the Citra hop. Citra is my favourite hop and I have repeatedly tasted it at its best. UK craft beer has some similarity with English sparkling wine and the gourmet street food burger scene in that there’s several people excelling at it and many band wagon jumpers. This beer is a full on citra band wagon jumper. Just to be sure, I had a bottle of The Kernel’s Citra PA alongside to compare and The Kernel’s version is different gravy. The Weird Beard Citra is rather 1 dimensional thin beer with the bitter side of Citra overshadowing it. There is no luscious mouthfeel, no tropical aromatics, no real complexity or length. 4.5/10

Hophead, Dark Star Brewing Co.


After a day’s wine judging, there’s only one thing to drink. Beer.

Today at the International Wine Challenge, my panel tasted 138 wines. We then retired upstairs (at The Oval cricket ground, where the tasting was being held) for a spot of beer. There were a few offerings, including Chapel Down’s Curious Brew and Brewdog’s Punk, but I chose Dark Star’s Hophead from cask-in-bag-in-box (I don’t know the technical term for this format, but it’s cask-conditioned ale decanted into a bag with a tap on it, inside a box).

I like cask-conditioned ales a great deal, but I usually find the bottle-conditioned equivalents very dull. As long as they are fresh, these mini-keg equivalents work pretty well. But freshness is the key. Dark Star are based near Horsham in Sussex.

Dark Star Hophead Pale Golden Ale
3.8% alcohol
With Cascade hops adding a slightly bitter, aromatic, exotic edge, this is a light-styled ale with lovely fresh citrussy notes as well as some subtle herbal notes. In this format, from cask in a bag-in-box, it just seems to work so well, and is thoroughly drinkable and elegant. 7.5/10