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
Marks & Spencer have put some thought into developing their own-label beer range. Here are three bottles from the line-up. They’re quite smart beers: not serious hardcore craft material, but considering their customers, they are a bit more edgy than they needed to have been, which is a good thing. These are the sort of beers I am happy to drink if I lack a more serious option, but I won’t be making a detour to find them. I hope this doesn’t seem harsh. They’re really quite good. OK I will be quiet now.
M&S Welsh Golden Ale Brains Brewery Cardiff
Made with challenger hops, late hopped with Cascade and Styrian Golding. Slightly savoury style , with the bitter hops just about winning out over the subtle malty notes. Midweight with some herbiness and hints of spice. There’s some complexity here. 7/10
M&S Greenwich Black IPA
From the Meantime brewery. Beer writer Roger Protz describes this style of beer thus: ‘Black IPA is absurd and an insult to history.’ I disagree. Let the beer talk. It’s made using 7 dark malts, and a combination of English and American hops. Dark, malty and chocolatey with some bitter dark chocolate notes, some herbs and a complex savouriness. Distinctive and attractive. 7/10
M&S Organic Scottish Heather Honey Beer
Made by the Black Isle Brewery, this is organic. A blond beer brewed with heather honey. Sweetly honeyed with some herbiness and subtle malty notes. Pale coloured with some spiciness. The honey influence is quite subtle adding a bit of sweetness. Normally, I’m not a fan of beer with flavourings, but this seems to work well, 7.5/10
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
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
Rocky Head Brewery is a micro brewery set up in Southfields, London by a group of friends inspired by the American Craft Brewing scene.
Pale Ale, Rocky Head Brewery, Southfields, London
On par with the best from The Kernel, this is the inaugral brew from Steve Daniels, the craftsman behind the brewery. This is how you use bags of hops at every stage of the brewing process and not end up with a beer that tastes like someone has put Bitrex in it. Bottle conditioned, so when allowed to settle and poured correctly, it is clear, bright and deep amber. Brewed with malted and toasted barley, the weighty mouthfeel effuses with tangy neroli and a hint of mango. Long tropical subtle bitterness to the finish and some campfire. Flew down barely touching the sides. 9.5/10