Caught by the River

Pint by the River – Kernel Brewery SCCANS IPA – 7.5%

Ben McCormick | 5th January 2011

by Ben McCormick.

It’s a rare thing in life when everything comes together at the same time and all feels right with the world. Many people never experience it at all and even for those who do, such moments are few, fleeting and flicker in and out of existence so quickly, you could be forgiven for missing them.

Over the past month, I’ve been treated to three occasions when fate, the alignment of planets or, more likely, sheer chance has cracked a benevolent smile on my world. I won’t forget any of them in a hurry, but there’s only one that’s relevant to Pint By The River.

My attention was drawn by an article on this website to the presence of a brewer based on Druid Street in London’s SE1. The Kernel Brewery is housed in one of the arches under the south eastern approach to London Bridge station. In such rattlesome, unforgiving circumstances is born one of the most expertly put-together beers I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. It’s clearly not all about location, location, location where this stuff’s concerned.

And yet on opening the bottle, a plain brown paper-labelled standard 330ml affair, you actually feel like you’re being transported elsewhere. And that elsewhere in this case is a huge, high-grade marijuana field somewhere in the Kashmiri foothills. It’s the range of hops, you see. SCCANS is an acronym for Simcoe, Citra, Columbus, Apollo and Nelson Sauvin, the hops brewer Evin O’ Riordain uses to craft, and it is craft, this tremendous IPA.

In the opinion of some commentators, hops are related to marijuana in some way, so that’s why you’re convinced you’ve just opened a bag of skunk rather than a bottle of ale. Fortunately, there is no mistaking the taste. It’s as if all the elements – water, hops, malt – have been carefully selected and politely introduced to each other, like choosing guests for a dinner party or maybe match-making among single friends.

If it’s the latter, then Evin must stand back with a knowing smirk on his face every time he opens a bottle, as each ingredient flirts and converses easily with the other. Hops bustle like rival teenage girls jockeying for the attention of the latest poster boy. Malt combs its hair nervously and makes a final check of its teeth with a toothpick before waddling sheepishly into the school disco, palms sweaty and unable to talk. But the host orchestrates the evening perfectly, giving each ingredient the right amount of time to state its case before carefully steering them round the glass once their time is up. This could well be the beer equivalent of speed dating.

But unlike such manufactured evenings where romance rarely blossoms, SCCANS IPA leaves a lasting, loving feeling in your mouth that you’ll want to repeat as soon as you can.