So, as usual, I missed the Jolly Butchers launch of the latest London collab beer, 'Big Brick', this past Tuesday. One day one of our so-called 'progressive' beer bars will figure out the benefits of a breakfast launch and I'll be able to attend.
The beer is a souped-up version of the 'London Brick' rye beer brewed at Redemption by a cabal of London's (and Sussex's) finest including Mark Tranter from Dark Star, Evin O'Riordan from Kernel, Phil Lowry, Matt & Karen Wickham from the Evening Star in Brighton (honorary cockneys these days), and of course the Andys.
If you're a regular reader (I must have one), you'll recall I was present at part of the birth - actually, given how long it took, more like the contractions. This version was brewed at Kernel, the craft beer progenitors being augmented by Emma Cole from the Jolly Butchers, Julia Stig of the LAB and yours truly. I weighed some hops and adjusted the sparging flow. If you enjoy the subtle bittering, that's partly down to me. Probably.
The sense of emptiness I experienced at missing the launch was diminished by the knowledge that the bottles would be on sale at the brewery today, so I made my way along nice and early to get some.
I had a bottle of the original London Brick in the 'cellar' so I decided to try the beers side-by-side. The new version is 8.9% and, like most of Kernel's stronger beers, isn't boozy or 'hot' despite the high alcohol.
I think the Biggus Brickus hadn't had time to settle properly, so it poured with a haze that made it appear much darker. After a while though, it cleared a bit and appeared to be the same colour, literally brick-red thanks to the copious amounts of rye in the mash. (Edit: I think there's some carafa in there, as well)
London Brick feels superbly clean in the mouth. There's the spiciness from the rye and bright, hoppy bitterness in the finish. But it feels thin in the mouth compared to the newer beer, which is viscous, providing a heady and luxurious mouthfeel. The newer beer is also, to me, much better balanced. The assertive hoppiness in London Brick is tempered by the high alcohol in Big Brick.
Having tried them side-by-side, I did get a nice mellow buzz on. It's easy to forget that the newer beer is almost 9%, and that its smaller sibling is over 6%. I preferred the Big Brick, but there isn't a loser when both beers in a tasting are from Kernel.
I heard that somebody on BeerAdvocate considered Kernel to be a bit of a 'one-trick pony'. Nonsense. With a saison in the pipeline, and a 10% 100th gyle brew single-hopped with Centennial (what else?) also imminent, they continue to explore the possibilities of different hops in different styles of beer. And I'll keep drinking those beers.