I was recently in London, exploring the beer scene along with our UK correspondent, Sophie Atherton. On my first night in town, I ended up at the Holborn Whippet, a packed craft beer pub in the Bloomsbury section of town. It was overflowing with locals and expats enjoying serious London craft beer, inside and outside its door. And that’s where I met Auguri Kutveltukas, a striking Lithuanian beauty with bright orange “rockstar” hair, who was ably managing the beer-swilling masses that night.
It’s also where I had my first beer from The Kernel – an audaciously creative brewery that’s over near the Thames in South London.
London’s a sprawling city made up of many diverse communities, and the Bermondsey district where The Kernel calls home was completely unlike any of the neighborhoods that I’d visited thus far. This part of the city is an amalgam of new architecture and old – and there’s a reason for that. Bermondsey’s location, so close to the Thames and the city’s ports, made it a valuable target for Hitler who bombed it heavily during WWII, destroying a large portion of what it was.
So now “new” London sits next to its “old” and that’s where we eventually discovered The Kernel, almost hidden away under the vaulted cathedral-like brick understructure of an old city bridge.
I’ve visited many a brewery over the years, but very few in as evocative a setting as The Kernel’s. A plain and unmarked door leads into three long cavernous chambers, each with towering arched ceilings. Shelves of freshly brewed bottled beers line the length of corridors, eventually giving way to the large fermentation tanks near the back of the brewery.
The place was a flurry of activity – youngish men and women hauling hoses, boxes being packed, pallets being moved. And that’s where I first encountered The Kernel’s founder, Evin O’Riordain. Tall, bearded, trim, and athletic-looking, Evin’s a transplanted Irishman whose quiet monk-like presence belies a deeply held belief that their beers speak for themselves – that the excellence of what they brew is all that is needed to brand them. This “anti-marketing” approach permeates everything that they do at The Kernel, from the simple and unembellished labels that grace their bottles, to the fact that they seldom participate in craft festivals or promotional events. He’s also adamant about the importance of a beer’s freshness and refuses to sell beer that is more than eight weeks old.
Goblets in hand, Evin walked us deep into the brewery, sharing history and brewing philosophy. He’d occasionally stop to open a spigot along the way and treat us to something that they’d just brewed, and every beer that I sampled was awesome.
The Kernel’s simply-named Table Beer is their ever-changing take on the sessionable IPA. And the one that he shared with us was a full-bodied 3.1% ABV ‘hop-bomb” that blew me away. Their Export India Porter is a 6.3% ABV midnight black masterpiece with a thick creamy head and one of the best Porters I’ve ever tasted.
As we made ready to leave, Evin suggested that we have just one final beer for the road and filled our glasses with this incredible ruby-red casked London Sour made with Damson plums…He then quietly escorted us out into the cool London evening…leaving us blissfully buzzed and in awe of everything that they’re doing.
So if you’re serious about beer and you’re ever in London – a visit to The Kernel Brewery is an absolute “must.”
We’d like to thank Evin and everyone at The Kernel for their gracious hospitality and for allowing us such tremendous access.