I like beer, but I do not fully understand it. By which I mean, I vaguely understand how it is made and I know how much of it I can drink (less with each year), but while I know fairly quickly whether I do or do not like a particular beer, I am never entirely clear exactly what it is I like about it. Is it the hoppiness, the finish, the strength, the, I dunno, malt? Search me guv.
I took this ignorance with me when I interviewed Evin O’Riordain, owner of the Kernel Brewery, at his microbrewery in Bermondsey. Evin is an intense fellow. In lots of ways he reminds me of people who run independent music labels, absolutely committed to a certain ethic, a particular way of doing things, not because it is easiest or will bring the most rewards, but because it is right. Indeed, Kernel’s stark labels even remind me of Peter Saville’s Factory Records sleeves.
Evin talked me through his brewing philosophy, lubricating his lecture with samples from his stocks. We tried a session ale, an IPA, a porter, a stout and a saison. Evin told me about each style’s particular history – how it came to be brewed, who it was originally for – and then explained Kernel’s sophisticated fundamentalist take on it.
It was a very pleasant afternoon.
The result of that chat with Evin, and four other London brewers (none of whom actually come from London), can be seen in my piece on London’s brewing renaissance in this month’s London Magazine.