The Kernel Brewery started as a simple home-brew hobby for brewer Evin O’Riordain and has evolved into one of the most respected breweries in the world. Slapping on brown paper-bag’s for labels and distributing to friends, Evin got big praise for his well balanced delicious brews. After a trip to America and some local inspiration by London home-brew clubs Evin started The Kernel Brewery in London. Located under an old railway station in South-East London we visited the Brewery and caught up with Evin.
You got interested in the craft beer scene while living In America, tell us a bit about that and the beers that caught your interest?
I was working at Whole Foods in NYC helping set up their cheese shop. The closest bar was DBA…Some of the beers I really remember were a chardonnay barrel aged pale ale by Kelso and Dogfishhead 60 minute IPA. As much as it was the beer it was also the American attitude towards things, they’d say “this is why you want to be drinking this, they tell you a whole history, this is made from this old recipe.” You think ‘shit i never knew there was any of this going on in beer.’
You’ve made some amazing beers based off of old London recipes (Export 1890 Stout, Imperial Brown Stout 1889) Whats the process for those like, how did you come across those recipes.
There was a home brewing club I was in called the Dirty Park Beer Circle, one of the first home brewing clubs in the country. A couple of them went into the archives and produced a tiny pamphlet of old recipes, called “Old British Beer and How to Make Them.” It’s brilliant. One thing you find is in the 1800’s they didn’t have many choices, there were only 3 kinds of malts. With any recipe its much more to do with the process. We give someone the way we make a pale ale here at another brewery it will be quite different. The 1890 recipe specifically comes from a historian Ron Patterson’s blog Shut Up about Barclay Perkins. It’s a Truman’s 1890 export stout recipe.
How do you feel about expanding the breweries?
Limits are always slightly flexible. We brew 4 times a week. It’s important we enjoy coming to work and it doesn’t feel like a chore and we focus on each beer and give it the attention it needs. As long as we make enough money that we survive and everyone gets paid properly and looked after well that’s always the the most important thing. There’s 11 of us, everyone brews, everyone does bottling, everyone answers the phones, everyone drives the forklift . We rotate in and out so we all understand the whole aspect of making beer. That system may not work on a bigger scale.
Favorite malts, yeasts, hops…
Malts the easy one, British malt is superb. Hops, most of what we use is American, sometimes New Zealand, and Australia. England is a bit behind in one sense. In the last few years the British hop market has grown. We use American ale yeast. For American style we like the yeast to be clean, for porter and stout a little more interesting character from the year, we blend it with an English Ale yeast.
Talk about your barrel aging program.
Our Saison started off as a straight Biere De Table but we started to prefer the barrel aged one. The first time you use the barrel it has a lot of wine characteristics, after a few times it fades and the barrel picks up other things, its own culture. We have an Auchentoshin, GlenSpey and GlenGerry. Highland barrels are quite nice, I quite enjoy drinking Islay Whiskey but I can’t stand phenols in beer. I like something a little more subtle.
Do you like to experiment with new beers?
I find constant desire to do something new sometimes really tedious, it can create really great things but sometimes you can find whacky ideas that are an absolute mess. It will probably sell once because it has a silly name or some concept, but why are you asking people to pay a lot for this?
What are some other breweries you enjoy?
Apart from our own beers we drink sours, the shelf is full of Cantillon, We quite enjoy American Breweries making wild American style,,,Jolly Pumpkin, Crooked Stave, Jester King. Around here we’ll be drinking Partizan, Beavertown, & Brew By No’s.