I’ve been wanting to write about beer for some time now. The original plan was to review the 2012 Farnham Beer & Sausage Festival (location: my garden; attendees: four) though a lack of time and a rather hazy recollection of the day have hampered this. For what it’s worth, Surrey Hills Ranmore Ale came up trumps again, beating some very stiff opposition from both the Andwell Brewery and the FFF Brewery. To be fair to these two, though, I don’t remember much of the afternoon.
Ranmore, along with Gold Muddler from Andwell and Moondance from FFF, are very hard liquids to beat. They have the advantage over wine that one can drink a lot of it without falling over, and they are much, much cheaper per litre than wine of a similar echelon. To put it in points terms, Ranmore is a solid 95 point ale. And you can buy it at the brewery or in some of Surrey’s more enlightened boozers at three quid a pint or so. It’s the Leoville-Poyferre of ale in my view.
But I think it’s fair to say that wine is poetry and beer prose. The beer is very rarely the moment itself. A brilliant wine can outshine the company at a dinner, can outshine the food. A brilliant wine can be the experience, whereas the beer is part of the experience for me (a very important part, I’ll give you). It’s essential to the picture, though it’s not the picture itself.
A few weeks ago my mate Fergus asked me what the ale equivalent of what my three bottles would be. A good question. Answers one and two are:
Sharp’s Eden Ale, in the Crown, Old Basing, with Big Phil, a few years back. I was just starting to understand that beer was more than something cold wet and fizzy that got you drunk.
Probably Oakham JHB in a boozer in Nottingham. Two or three seasons ago now. Palace won (2-0, I think) and Kuqi scored right in front of us. And a very fat bloke jumped on top of my mate Paul.
And then came Kernel, Kernel Cascade Pale Ale to be precise, for question three. This is a bit like an allocation wine and you can’t just buy it anywhere. It’s on occasionally at my new favourite pub ever, the Rake in Borough Market, and another place lucky enough to serve beer from the Kernel Brewery is the Glaziers Bar at Selhurst Park (note that the surroundings aren’t quite as cool as those at the Rake). I’d heard the beer mentioned a few times, but stuck to Palace Ale (one batch of which I helped to brew, but that’s something else entirely). At the Sheffield Wednesday game (Eagles 2, Owls 1) I tried a bottle of Kernel.
There are very, very few beers that for me have made the jump from prose to poetry. Very few beers that have become the moment rather than accompanying the moment. Very few beers that have provoked an expletive compliment.
The Kernel Brewery Cascade Pale Ale comes in at 5.2%. One look at it in your glass and it’s clear that this beer is alive, as it should be. The nose is creamy, peachy; you could almost start using Sauternes descriptors for it. And in the mouth this ale has something that I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted in a beer: layers. It has a combination of weight, mouthfeel and freshness that one could find in pin-sharp fresh Chassagne-Montrachet; it has a structure, like claret. And it has soul like red Burgundy.
The DRC of the ale world is mis en bouteille a Bermondsey.