Craft brewing with a new twist in Southwark....

The one thing in life it seems you should always expect is the unexpected.

Sometimes it is a good thing to have your preconceptions challenged, and a recent visit to the Kernel Brewery in Southwark proved to be just such a case.

Today's favoured site for many a micro-brewery is the featureless  out of town industrial estate, and the greeting on arrival usually a mountainess  collection of aluminium barrels.  But  here I was entering something a bit different,  no sign of barrels here,  not one! 

On arrival at the railway arch in Millstream Street I was welcomed by Evin O'Riordain owner of  the Kernel Brewery. The brewery  has only been here since early 2009 and as he explained he shares the accommodation with fellow craft producers of smoked meats and cheeses.  The smartly lined arch is suitably decked out for such operations  with dedicated chill rooms for curing the meat  along with cheese presses.

The brewery itself came about  as a result of Evin's experience in the US  " Whilst  working in America I was impressed with their attitude to beer  in general. They viewed it as a speciality product and often would recommend a beer at every stage of the meal. They had a respect for it as a craft item."  


In Europe probably Belgium leads the way with the same level of appreciation, and it was clear he wanted to bring this attitude to the UK.

But, what marks this brewery out as being quite different to others is that the emphasis is on producing high quality bottle conditioned beers rather than draught. This of course has a big advantage in terms of  plant and storage,  hence the location within the arches. 

Interestingly he has approached things from a different angle. Whilst for many new micro-brewers getting to grips with draught is their number one consideration, bottling normally follows on as a convenient  'extension'  of the product and  'sales tool'  rather than being thought of as a separate entity in its own right. It requires a very different approach if they want to produce a top quality bottled product and clearly this is Evin's aim.

Currently he brews once a week producing a variety of styles which fall roughly into two categories. The first is based on traditional recipes such as the  'London Export Stout 1890' which he pointed out originated from an old Truman recipe,  and the second group into an area of  'single hop'  specialities. 

When I asked him whether the the  'single hop'  approach was a concious move he sad it hadn't  been,  but clearly his experiences in the US had had a positive influence here also. This again could prove an imaginative choice of direction as there are few brewers in the UK to date who have seriously embraced this method of selling their beers, and is not dissimilar to the single grape varietal method used by wine producers.

On tasting the beers I was impressed with their freshness and defined flavours. The London Porter at 5.3% alc  was a very impressive brew and stood out with it's dark roasted barley flavour,  and huge character. The Baltic Porter also at 7.3% alc with powerful coffee bean notes, a touch more acidity, and full extract was another winning combination.

Both the 'single hopped' pale ales Centenial at 5.4% alc and the Chinook at 5.1% alc with their big tropical fruit and mandarine aromas were equally original.

The final brew at 7.3% alc was the India Pale Ale, a complex beer with multi layered hop flavours and a big rounded citrus palate in the American IPA  tradition. Unashamedly full of character and impressive with it!

The Kernel Brewery it seems then is adding an original twist to the micro-brewery tradition by putting the bottle before the cask. In a market that is increasingly growing in competition from fellow brewers it is not just quality, but originality of approach that will connect with the public's conciousness, and in this respect the brewery is making positive strides in the right direction.

Long then may the Kernel prove fruitful and continue to grow ! 


To contact the brewery go to:  www.thekernelbrewery.com

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