This morning, your correspondent was at London's excellent Kernel Brewery, as Rake manager and Rabid Barfly Glyn Roberts embarked on another brewing adventure, this time swapping the valleys of Wales for the backstreets of Bermondsey.
Our host was the affable Evin O'Rioirdain, who in less than a year has built a formidable portfolio of bottled beers and a brilliantly simple yet effective brand. Already a SIBA winner, he produces an impressive array of delicious hop-forward golden ales alongside his interpretations of some old-style darker brews, like London Porter, Export Stout and his recently-released Imperial Stout.
Today, with Glyn as a catalyst (actually, more like Igor to Evin's Dr. Frankenstein), Evin is fusing his two signature streams to create a version of San Francisco brewpub 21st Amendment's Back In Black Black IPA, a beer Glyn has raved about since his honeymoon. A 6.8% brew with Carafa roasted malt and hopped with Centennial and Columbus, 21A were generous in sharing their recipe with Evin.
As I arrive, Evin and Glyn are preparing to commence the boil. Mike, a homebrewer with thoughts of stepping up to commercial scale, is helping out around the brewhouse, getting a feel for the ebb and flow of a brewers' day. It has me reflecting that, in all the heated debate about 'craft beer' occupying the thoughts of the UK blogosphere, one of the criteria ought to be the level of automation. Here, it's all hoses and buckets. No computer controls, no Star Trek console telling the kit which valve to open, how much liquor to pump and where, just a brewer seamlessly interacting with his plant to produce an impressive finished beer. And then there's Glyn...Here, our Barfly weighs out the Carafa, steams up his specs while checking the brewing copper temperature, weighs out the first addition of hops, then, strangely, rubs hop oil on his upper lip. He says it's a natural decongestant, but that look on his face isn't because of Vicks Vaporub. Evin only uses whole hops, so there's every chance Glyn was blissed out in Druid Street way before the time came to put the yeast in.
Here's some more pics from the lab...
Like I said, Dr. Frankenstein and Igor. Igor checks the mash tun temperature, while that foaming stuff is new life (last seen as a prop in Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973) ). Finally, Evin commits bruicide by throwing himself into the brewing copper after Glyn snorts one too many hops.
Talk is that some of this might be available on cask as well as bottles. I find myself mischievously wondering whether kegging might suit the style better, but you know it'll be good. I can't wait...