Now I am not the greatest fan of stouts and porters. ‘Heresy,’ I hear you cry. It’s just that many of them taste excessively bitter and angular, and I don’t really enjoy them. But here is a gem. It’s a truly remarkable beer with so many dimensions of flavour. And it comes from the DRC of London’s brewers, The Kernel.
The Kernel Export India Porter
Made with Columbus, Simcoe and Bramling Cross hops. Brown black in colour with a creamy head. Full flavoured yet balanced with it, with attractive hoppy bitterness in the background. It’s fresh with a hint of chocolate and a little iron, and there’s certainly malty flavour present, but it’s not sweet. Close your eyes as you drink and it’s hard to call it a Porter. Structured, pure, really fine and expressive. 9/10
This is interesting. It’s a bottled beer from Bristol craft brewpub Beerd, which is owned by Bath Ales. I’m not sure it’s so clear describing it as a ‘New Zealand Pale Ale’, when it’s an English beer, but this is probably the wine part of me being sensitive. It is made exclusively from New Zealand hops, including the famous Nelson Sauvin variety. Maybe New Zealand-style is better? I think this is something the beer fraternity need to address. But it’s a really nice beer. This bottled version is available as an exclusive from Bibendum to the on-trade.
Beerd Brewery Slivertip New Zealand Pale Ale 4.7% alcohol. Full gold colour. Lovely aromas of herbs, citrus and hops. The palate is fresh with a light sweet maltiness and savoury, hoppy, herby notes as well as bright lemon and grapefruit characters. Very refreshing and not as exotic as many craft beers. 7.5/10
I’ve long been a fan of Sussex Brewery Dark Star’s cask ales. For example, here’s a review of their Hophead from cask in box. Now it’s time to try a bottled Dark Star, the highly regarded Six Hop. It’s lovely.
Dark Star Six Hop, West Sussex 6.5% alcohol
Six hops, employed at six stages in the brewing process. It’s a distinctive, hoppy English bitter, with a full malty character but also some earthy, herby, savoury English hop notes, plus bright citrussy hop notes too. Really complex and concentrated, with lovely flavours. Distinctly English in style and quite lovely. 8.5/10
This is why the term ‘craft beer’ needs a definition. Two respectable enough beers from big brewers, but not really craft at all, even though they appropriate the term.
Fuller’s Frontier New Wave Craft Lager 4.5% alcohol
Made with new world hops. Golden colour. Rich and full flavoured with a distinct maltiness and a hint of herby, spicy hoppiness, as well as lemony notes. Full flavoured lager that’s just a little bit boring. 6/10
Greene King Noble English Craft Lager
Brewed with Tettnang hops. Gold colour. Sweet and herby with some toffee notes. Very fudgy and sweet but there’s an attractive tangy, citrussy hoppy edge to the palate which saves it. I’m not keen on the toffee notes, though. 7/10
Moncada is another new-ish (2011) London brewery, located in Notting Hill, west London. I’ve tried the blond before, and it’s fabulous, but this amber is approaching perfection, at least to my palate. Such a well crafted beer, and the website usefully gives a full list of stockists.
Moncada Brewery Notting Hill Amber 4.7% alcohol
Gold/bronze colour. Amazing aromatics of perfumed, floral peach and passionfruit characters. The palate is warm and herby with some spiciness. Really nice balance here: hoppy for sure, but with a lovely grassy, herby, tea-like finish. 9/10
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
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
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
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
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
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
Now this is good. It’s a pilsner-style lager with a distinct Czech influence: the malt, hops and yeast are all Czech, and it was originally brewed as a collaboration between Windsor & Eton brewery and Tomas Mikulica of Pivovarsky Dvur. After fermentation the beer was stored at very low temperature for 6 weeks, a process known as ‘lagering’. The result is fabulous.
Windsor & Eton Brewery Republika Pilsner Lager
Saaz hops and Czech yeast. Lovely aromatic nose is fresh, hoppy and citrussy, with some floral notes. Complex palate is very fresh and tangy with grapefruit notes. Proper lager. 8