So it's a brisk walk we embark upon to Monmouth Coffee House's roasting facility on Maltby Street, where we plan to fill up on Madeleines, croissants and strong coffee before the long tasting session that stretches out ahead of us at the Kernel Brewery.
The news that James is outside Borough Market's Monmouth Coffee house is greeted with no great surprise. But we don't have time to waste, so we pick our way past dusty metal fences and reclaimed cast iron radiators to the arch that houses what I still maintain is the best little brewery in the country.
Our opening sample is a relatively light 6.2% Citra IPA and it's despatched with some ease. James arrives and takes little time to catch up before we all opt for a stronger, more robust Black IPA, a collaboration between Kernel and Glyn, the manager of Borough Market's The Rake. It's deceptive in that it looks for all the world like a lively stout, but tastes like a the hop-laden 7.2% leviathan it is. We're already becoming carried away by the bonhomie, a feeling heightened by the bitterly cold temperatures that threaten to meld our reddening fingers to the glasses.
Next up is the new SIBA bottled beer of the year, Kernel's Export Stout. A smooth, chocolatey, oily brew that slips down like a gloopy black honey before plonking itself unceremoniously in the pit of your stomach in a style not unlike a just-swallowed medicine ball. At which point, we realise we're in trouble.
Yet we still have a long way to go. At least another five bottles remain on the menu and it looks like we're here for the duration.
Thick and fast they come. An Export India Porter carries us past two o'clock as if we were so many bags of silk. Evin O'Riordan, the brewing maestro behind Kernel, suddenly secures a few bottles of Coffee IPA from under the counter, which we polish off with glee. Then comes the formidable Small Imperial Stout at 9%, which briefly warms us enough to convince ourselves it's a good idea to have one more.
The final throw of the dice is the always excellent SCCANS IPA. It's not on general sale, but Evin's uncovered a crate out back that he happily cracks open for our willing mouths. It's still able to stand head and shoulders above the rest, despite the onslaught our tongues have endured over the last few hours.
But we succumb to the cold and retire to the Draft House. Bloodied, bruised, beered, but unbowed. Grinning massively and ruddy of complexion. Thanks, Kernel. We'll be back in May when the weather's better.