I’m not sure how long Evin O’Riordain has been brewing in his railway arch, but it seems that over that past few months I’ve come across The Kernel Brewery beers being sold in an ever-growing number of outlets throughout London and beyond.
The critical acclaim has matched the apparent increased distribution, and with good reason – the beers are distinctive, bursting with flavour and a joy to drink.
I've picked out a slightly unusual beer for this match: Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA. Brewed in collaboration with Square Mile Coffee, I’m intrigued to see how flavours I normally associate with porter will work in an IPA.
I’ve grown a little obsessed with the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It’s becoming like my adult Disneyland – a place you dream of going to but are not sure you’ll ever quite make it there.
My obsession can be mainly attributed to what I’ve seen of the scenery and geographical features: spectacular mountain ranges, ancient temperate rain forests and incredible river gorges that cut through the landscape. These things appeal to me. I like to look at them. I like to be amongst them.
However, it’s also the idea of living in isolated communities in this wilderness that I find attractive, and my notion of what life would be like in a small town in this part of the world has been largely shaped by cinema and television.
First Blood – yes, the first Rambo movie – was the film that initially brought the landscape and experience to my attention.
But it was Twin Peaks that really sold the Pacific Northwest to me.
Framed within a soap opera-style narrative and set against a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s serial drama combines tragedy, surrealism, humour, horror and more to create something that transcends the medium.
It is unlike anything that has come before or since – though it may well have changed television forever.
The first season connected with me in a way that I didn’t believe was possible for a TV series to do, and so it’s with some apprehension that I sit down to begin watching episode one of the second...
Watching Twin Peaks always makes me want coffee. It appears frequently, appearing to take on symbolic significance. For central character Agent Cooper, drinking a good cup of hot, black coffee is a moment of pure elation.
Similar feelings are evoked as I pour the beer and prepare myself for a period of complete self-indulgence.
Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA is deep amber in colour with a thin, off-white head. Pine-like sap aromas waft from its surface.
Angelo Badalamenti’s familiar soundtrack strikes up and I’m instantly summoned back to the mountains, back to that waterfall, back to Twin Peaks.
The opening scene is agonisingly awkward and slow-paced, but expertly executed.
I sip my beer to get me through it. Orange citrus hops boss proceedings. I await the coffee hit. Then wait some more.
Then just as I begin to abandon hope, there it is: a wonderful chocolate, cocoa bitterness right at the end. It gives the beer a warming, comforting quality, and, combined with the hop flavours, makes me think unexpectedly of Terry’s Chocolate Orange. But in a good way.
I'm glad to have something comforting to hand, as the unrelenting, brooding darkness of the first few minutes of this episode are leaving me feeling a little uneasy. Disturbing things are happening on screen. Tragic events unfold. Ominous, throbbing synths hint at some unknown evil.
Then a moment of humour here. A smidgen of hope there. Light in amongst so much darkness. The contrast is striking and the sense of relief is intense.
I think of Agent Cooper and his coffee. So many horrendous things happen around him, but he still makes a point of taking time out to enjoy a simple pleasure – and it becomes clear to me that this is how I drink beer.
My life isn’t so bad, but the world can be a dark, ugly place, with malevolence and suffering an almost inevitable aspect of human experience.
So I allow myself the opportunity to enjoy a beer, bask in its aromas, admire its flavours and talk an immense amount of bollocks about what beer-drinking means for me.
I hope you are able to do the same once in a while.