Sunday, 20 March 2016
Kew have continued to crank out solid beers. As a reminder, this brewery operates within a challenging set of parameters, such as only using English malts and hops. Kew's motivation here is sustainability. Off hand, I can't think of any other breweries in London that make such an effort, so Kew should be commended for their efforts.
Today I try the Petersham Porter. At 4.3%, it's a relatively mellow offering. It pours clear, rich brown with a creamy, beige head. The aroma is fairly straightforward, with moderate roasted malt character, hints of dusty earth and chocolate. The flavour carries light to moderate sweetness and has notes of smooth, chocolatey malts, toasted biscuits, subtle earthy bitterness, and accents of prune and raisin. It's light bodied with fine carbonation and a velvety texture. The finish is nicely balanced, with easygoing cocoa, some toasted toffee, hints of dried berries and more bitter earth.
Overall, it's a very drinkable beer, although not surprisingly (given the strength) it doesn't have a lot of depth. That's not a knock on it, however - I certainly recognise that this type of porter is built for drinking by the pint. It would be fun, though, if the brewery made a stronger version of this beer. I think if some of the characteristics that are already present were intensified, it could be quite interesting.
Another week, another new Kernel IPA. This one features two hops that I very much enjoy: Amarillo and Mosaic. Indeed, Kernel's single-hopped Amarillo and Mosaic IPAs are some of my favourite beers the brewery has ever produced. While I don't think this combination quite matches up to the level of the single-hopped versions, it's still outstanding, and more expressive than the vast majority of IPAs out there.
This one pours hazy orange-gold with a frothy white capping. The aroma features a lot of plump and juicy citrus, particularly orange and tangerine, along with melon, pear and a little dank pine. Light to medium sweet flavour with a nice pale, bready base, some ripe cantaloupe, more tangerine and orange, restrained piney bitterness. Medium bodied with average carbonation. It's lightly resinous on the finish, somewhat warming, with gooey citrus fruits, more orange, nectarine, tangerine, pine, further pale bread and melon. Overall, it is a classic Kernel IPA: juicy and vibrant, and the liquid vanishes all too quickly.
Today we try one of Kernel's stouts. This version is "a blend of two different stouts one of which was dry hopped" and has an ABV of 8%, which places it pretty close to 'imperial stout' territory, at least in my estimation.
I'm a huge fan of Kernel's stouts, whatever the ABV. While the brewery garners a significant amount of praise for their hoppy offerings - and deservedly - their dark stuff is, in many cases, just as good. The Export Stout London 1890, for example, is the highest-rated beer in its category ('Foreign Stout') on ratebeer.com. That's a huge accomplishment - the category includes a universe of more than 700 beers, according to RateBeer.
With that digression behind us, on to the beer at hand. Of note, it was bottled in October of 2015, so has presumably had enough time to coalesce.
This one pours deep brown, with a rich and lasting beige cream head. The aroma gives away a lot of dark chocolate, ashy roast and burnt coffee. The flavour follows wonderfully, with a hard-edged roasted malt character that I consider one of the hallmarks of Kernel's darker output. Again, we get a lot of dark and bittersweet cocoa, rich coffee, some scorched earth, and a moderate punch of alcohol. The beer is full bodied and somewhat chewy, with a delicate level of carbonation that lends the beer a velvety texture. The finish includes further bittersweet chocolate, earth, some woody dryness, very slight hints of oily pine, burnt sugars and an enveloping alcohol warmth. Overall, it's a classic Kernel stout: robust, richly layered and hugely drinkable.
I've always loved the low-ABV Partizan saisons. I typically drink them fresh but, for no reason other than curiosity, I aged a Saison Lemongrass for a little less than a year to see how, or if, the beer changes; it hasn't changed, really.
It's as delightful with a little age as it is fresh. It pours a perfectly clear pale yellow with moderate effervescence and a dense, creamy white head. The nose carries dry dough, biscuits, lavender, vanilla and hints of lemon. The flavour follows nicely, with mellow doughy sweetness, lemon meringue, a touch of bitter citrus peel, grass, straw. Its light body and lively, massaging carbonation makes the beer a pleasure to drink. The finish has further vanilla notes, lemon meringue, angel food cake, doughy biscuits and slight bitter hay.
The balance is excellent. Lemongrass can sometimes be a little overbearing and even astringent, in unfortunate cases. Here, it provides a nice layer of complexity. This is a wonderful beer.
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
I picked up this most recent BBNo White IPA at the brewery. This offering features a blend of Southern Hemisphere hops, including Southern Cross, Motueka and Ella.
The beer pours soupy gold with a dense, lasting off-white cream head. The nose has forward bready malts, some ripe and gooey citrus, suggestions of pine. Medium sweet flavour with fairly prominent ripe citrus fruit character, most notably tangerine and orange, balanced out with light piney bitterness and underscored by pale wheat bread. It's medium bodied with fine to average carbonation. Lightly resinous to finish, a little warming, with more bready malts, hints of wheat, ripe and chewy orange, tangerine, some peach, melon and grapefruit. Overall, this beer is nice and juicy, and it drinks very easily.
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
I recently ventured down to Richmond to attend the first Richmond Brewers' Fair. It was a fun event, and featured a range of breweries, both old and new. Among the newer operations was Reunion Ales, which in just the last few months began brewing "next to Hanworth Park where the Longford River runs south to Hampton Court Palace". I bought a pair of bottles at the Fair, and here are my thoughts on Reunion's inaugural output.
Appropriately enough, I'll start with the Opening Gambit. The first thing to notice is that the beer is immaculately clear. Given the ubiquity of cloudy or hazy beer, especially here in London, it's something of a novelty to pour one like this. The CAMRA gods must be smiling.
The aroma is straight-ahead British golden ale, with dry and crispy biscuits, touches of citrus rind, suggestions of grassy hops. The flavour follows well, with further pale, biscuity malt character, some husky grains, grassy bitterness, orange peel. With its light body and adequate, massaging carbonation, this is a very easy beer to drink. The finish has just a whisper of lip-smacking bitterness, some hay, more grass and citrus rind, and a ballast of bready malts.
Overall, Opening Gambit is a very nice beer, and all the more impressive for such a young brewery. I gather this will be one of the core beers for Reunion, and I would say that's a good choice. The flavour profile is relatively restrained so your palate won't get worn out. Couple that with a low ABV (3.8%) and you've got a highly drinkable beer.
For their winter ale, Frost Fair, Reunion have ramped up the ABV to a comparatively heady 4.5%. This seasonal offering also pours perfectly clear in chestnut brown, with a creamy head atop. The relaxed aroma gives off notes of toasted caramel, wholegrain bread, perhaps some dried berries. The flavour is dialed in, presenting a pleasant balance of toasty-bready sugars and mellow toffee, with earthy and leafy bitterness, along with edges of leathery fruits. As with the Opening Gambit, the body here is fairly light and the carbonation level is spot on, lending the beer a massaging texture. In the finish the bitterness kicks up a bit more, with prominent earth, toasted grain husk and even impressions of baking cocoa; further undertones of bready malts and dry toffee round things out.
This winter ale is not a showy beer, but it hits the right notes and makes for an easy-drinking beverage. At 4.5% it's certainly not in the realm of heavy-hitting winter warmers, barley wines or imperial stouts, but it would make for a nice respite from a classical ale drinker's normal diet of bitters and golden ales.
And speaking of classical ale drinkers, I think that is exactly the demographic that could be attracted to Reunion. While two beers is obviously a very small sample size, if they are any indication of the direction the brewery plans to take then I think it's safe to say that it is not making a play to encroach on the turf of more progressive breweries. And that's absolutely fine. I love Kernel IPA Citra; I love Fuller's London Pride. There's room for all styles of beer when they are brewed well - and in the case of Reunion, I would say they are off to a very good start.