Monday 8 December 2014

Kernel... mustard

Cocker hoop: delighted this was Neil's beer
Brought to you by Neil Cocker

Fresh from the calendar's first foray into 'Black... black...' territory yesteday, what should come out this morning (along with the sun) but a Kernel IPA? Enough to brighten anyone's day.

I remember the first time I tried one of Kernel's IPAs. One of those 'Where were you when Kennedy was shot?' moments (not even remotely thought of as a possibility, in case you were wondering). I'd dragged my family along a windy, dilapidated alley with the promise that there would be fine cheeses available. This was true and, for the privilege of tasting one of Kernel's beers, I had to shell out one arm and one leg on a huge block of Parmesan and some Buffalo Mozarella.

As I recall, it was Evin (O'Riordain, owner) himself who poured the bottle into the glass and set it down on the small trestle table that was then the 'shop front' of his fledgling brewery. I took it outside to sip it while trying to placate irked (now ex-) wife and a couple of bored, cold children. Given the fact they were in tow, this must have been late 2009, though exact dates now elude my time-decayed memory.

The first mouthful, sitting on a rickety bench trying to shelter from a biting wind, was simply sublime. I believe, though can't really remember, it was a single-hopped Citra IPA that I have subsequently eulogised about ad nauseum. It was as if someone had gently coated my tongue with a facemask of ambrosia (not the rice pudding), then ripped it away once it had set, leaving a smarting aftertaste of effervescent citrus fizz.

I immediately drank more. Then more, my excuse being I needed to 'get things done with the family' later that afternoon. But in reality, because I wanted that sensation to carry on forever.

To this day, it's still the best IPA I've ever had. Even beats the one I made with Kernel a year later, which was itself an extraordinarily good one though I say so myself.

And now, five years later, I have all the time in the world for such pursuits. The family is no longer intact, though I do see the children often. Kernel's IPA is an ever-changing phenomenon and rarely do they get it wrong, if at all. If I were forced to pick a Desert Island Ale, it would be a Kernel IPA (or enough to last the rest of my life on the island, obvy). To the silky Citra hop, the brewer has added Cascade, one of the first American hops to really set the new beer movement alight in the US and, as a result, in the UK too.

By all accounts, today's sponsor is a fan of IPAs too, so this is nicely serendipitous. Whether or not it'll live up to the first taste is anyone's guess, though it's doubtful.

That said, I anticipate this being one of the highlights of this year's batch. Though I've prepared badly for this, drinking a fullsome Japanese Wit beer alongside a Berkshire Berliner Weisse and an 'all day' IPA from Founders, I think the Kernel motorcade will hold sway.

Thankfully, I've got Tom Waits' Foreign Affairs long player growling in my ears, so the mood is set if nothing else.

Beer: Kernel IPA Citra Cascade
Strength: A brain-buggeringly robust 6.8%
Smell: A marketplace of fruitbowl fodder gathered haphazardly in a string bag of mild cheddar cheese.
Tasting notes: OK, I'll declare here my tastebuds really aren't up to effusive description, them having been annihilated by prior beers. Now I'm going to throw that qualifier away. This is waking me up in exactly the same way as a ludicrously loaded skunk spliff wouldn't. While the strains of Burma Shave ring in my ears, I'm treated to a free jazz improvisation populated by Citra on bass and Cascade on baritone clarinet. The malt counterpoint only serves to confuse; where the Hell is this going? In all honesty, I'm lost at the time signature that is the initial aroma. The whole thing is in a key I don't recognise; no way am I able to sight-read this. There doesn't seem to be any structure. But the vocal spins its yarn across the whole melody (and it is a fucking melody) and picks out some actual (not wine-speak bullshit) notes that flurry off into the distance, stave off monotony and reverberate till the eventual, long-time-coming fade burrows its way into your brain like a voracious earworm eating up wax fodder and shitting out glorious harmony.
Session factor: Buddy Rich, yet this is one I could repeat al coda.
Arbitrary score: 23,814
Sponsor: Neil Cocker

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