21 August 2012

n.d.p. in london: the kernel brewery

My longtime English friend A and I often refer to one another as the evil twin, never able to agree on who is the good twin ever since discovering, at age 13, that we were born on the same day. There followed shortly thereafter, that day in primary school, the revelation that we both enjoyed Pearl Jam, which seemed important at the time. In the years that followed our music tastes were to converge joyously (The Pixies, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, etc.) before diverging catastrophicall (he got into metal).

Nowadays A is among the first people I phone up whenever I visit London, for despite our musical differences, he remains my one English friend who hasn't gone vegetarian or otherwise rendered himself immune to gourmandise. A also shares a certain hunger to stay informed about such things; like me, and presumably anyone reading this blog, he's the type to research where to have a drink. In the decade-plus since we lived in the same country, he's become a very well-informed beer afficionado.

So as I was passing through London on the way to Wales last Christmas, I was delighted to follow him to one of his favorite breweries, a ramshackle geek-run operation called the Kernel, which at that time was located in the Maltby Street Market in Bermondsey, a short walk from London Bridge. (I'm told it has since moved to a bigger space a mile down the road, to keep up with demand. I've either got to start reporting more promptly, or travel less.)

On our way there, A related how the Maltby Street Market - a series of railway arches now housing all manner of artisanal food vendors and Portlandia sketch material - came into being in 2009, comprised in part by stalls evicted or otherwise discouraged by the nearby Borough Market.

Other vendors, notably Monmouth Coffee, already had their wholesale operation based on the premises, and with Monmouth's decision to open to the public on Saturdays, the suggestion of a new market was born of itself.

To my knowledge, Saturday remains the only day of bustling activity at the Maltby Street Markets. A and I wandered down there on a wintry Thursday just before noon and encountered a mostly desolate scene. A gate leading to the Kernel was closed and we were obliged to take the long way round, past a wholesale outpost of St. John's Bakery and various unlikely-looking vendors of rare teas and vinegars, in order to gain access to the Kernel's spare picnic table.

Surprisingly, we weren't the only folks wandering around in the cold looking for craft beer before midday on Christmas Eve Eve. We encountered a comically archetypal beer geek couple - a pair of ruddy-cheeked ramblers in late middle age, sporting facial hair, anoraks, and practical footwear, possessed of an impressively detailed knowledge of the independent craft beer scene. They frequented the same bars as A, despite three decades' difference in age.

The Kernel produces a fairly dizzying range of small-batch beers, in styles that appear chosen more to satisfy the roving curiosity of founder Evin O'Riordan than any specific market demands. There are beers made from historical recipes, all manner of I.P.A.s, cistrusy wheat beers, and so on. That morning, as I hadn't eaten breakfast, it seemed appropriate to drink breakfast stout.

Wholesome, roasty, and strongly coffee-toned, it went nicely with some mince pies we'd picked up at the St. John's bakery on the walk over.

(I wound up eating rather more mince pies than I'd intended, due to the breakfast stout's forbidding 9,3° alcohol content. The popularity of Imperial-style beers totally confounds me. Who can handle this stuff? Rasputin?)

The Kernel Brewery (present location, cited below, is not the one pictured in the above post)
Arch 11
Dockley Road Industrial Estate
Tel: 02072314516

Related Links:

An interview with Evin O'Riordain, founder of The Kernel @ TalesOfAles
A story on the Maltby Street Market @ FinancialTimes
A very! enthusiastic! post about the Maltby Street Markets @ LondonPubCrawlCo
A post about Saturdays at the Kernel @ LoveGoodBeer, in which the author takes special care to warn readers of the hipsters in the area (I wonder if this happens a lot in beer geek circles)


  1. There's a greengrocer's along that stretch of railway arches that has fresh produce you can't get in Paris: Tomatillos, jalapeño peppers... All the more reason to go!

  2. Loving the Kernel over here, especially as you can buy it at our local bottle shop, and we like to gloat about how the hops in their Pale Ale are from our homeland. Plus it tastes real nice.

  3. PS. please come back to London, research etc....