They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Epic Black IPA Battle: Kernel vs Kernel vs Kernel

We are currently stocking these three beers.

There has been a bit of talk recently on the blogosphere about Oxymoronic beers recently (see Velky Al's post about the buzz here) and how putting the word 'black' in front of existing beer styles could be a bad thing, a fad, or just plain wrong. I have my own opinions on this subject, but today I'd like to go back to (for me, what is) the source of the Black IPA: the Kernel Brewery.

The first time I ever tried Kernel's first Black IPA, I instantly fell in love with it, and no other Black IPA has been able to measure up to it. We now, however, stock three different Black IPAs from the same brewery, so I thought this would be a good chance to give them a side by side by side tasting and see what's going on.

I'm still 50/50 on some brewers trying to make all their pale beers black, but still pale tasting. It seems to me like a bit of a hark back to when all beer was pretty much black (things go round and round in the world of beer) and quite a few of them get it wrong, which is unfortunate, but this Kernel tasting screams of good times, so how could I object! And while the lightest of the three came in at 6.9%, I was confident it was nothing a sunday roast with all the trimmings couldn't handle.

Coming in at number 1:

Kernel Black IPA, 6.9% - an instant classic in my eyes.

The beer presents itself with aromas of citrus, oranges and mangos. Some dry straw and a little blackberry sweetness. Initially you get a big roasted bitterness and quite a bit of coffee in the body, but it's not as big as some of the other Black IPAs I've tasted, which I think can really spoil a brew. You get a lot of dry pine, apricot fruit and some peppery dryness too. This pepper lends itself to a nice spicy finish which is very long lasting.

I know it goes against my love for this beer, but I don't think it's an Black IPA, it's not close enough to an IPA for my tastes. I do think Kernel has produced a completely new style of beer with this one though, I don't know of any other beers like this.

Black 2 comes in at number 2:

The new recipe for the original.

Now I don't know the details of this brew. I don't know if it will be completely replacing the old one... but for now, thank goodness they've called it something else, and lets hope they continue to call it something else - because it's a completely different beer. I for one hope they make the two black IPAs side by side and don't discontinue any one of them. (yes, I'm looking at you Brewdog.)

You can see instantly on the nose that there's a much bigger dose of fruit to this beer, loads more mango, loads more blackberries - it's a regular fruit cocktail. It's a lot smoother in the mouth feel and with a much bigger fruity/juicy flavour. It's lost pretty much all of the dryness and spiciness and all of the roasted bitterness, except from the tiniest hint of coffee in the back of the mouth. This is a Black IPA in the truest sense of the style. Mangos, lychee and a long bittersweet finish. Is this a preferable beer to the first though? No, because it's completely different to the first.

And then came forth the monster:

Kernel Double Black IPA; a 9.8% leviathan!

This is a DBlack IPA and once again, is completely different to the previous two. If fact this beer is like no other I've ever tried before!

The aroma is incredible, think coffee and thick cream and your on the right track. My main observation though, is that this beer stinks of strawberry and raspberry yogurt! It really does, there's no getting away from it. And it's not a bad thing! It's a bizzar thing! The beer is super smooth, and uber rich. It's almost like a mixed fruit beer; massive amounts of strawberries, raspberries and black currents dominate the initial flavour. As I sit back and enjoy the last of the three beers I've had today, I can't help but think that this beer is like strawberries and cream on a crisp autumnal evening whilst the sun goes down, and your reminded once again that;

Beer is never static, it changes and evolves like everything in our planet, and it's a fascinating evolution, and one I'm very happy to be riding alongside. The boundaries of the Black IPA may still be a little blurred, but at least we're pushing those boundaries. And for beer, (and us) that's fantastic.

Now, in the words of someone else... where's my Pale Schwarzbier!

Oh.... I almost forgot, the first of the bunch still remains my favourite!


  1. wow - they sound awesome! I bet that was a fun tasting session - you do them al in one go?

  2. In the pursuit of science I did them all in one go Leigh ;)

    I can see maybe a few other breweries trying the Double Black IPA now, it truly was something else too behold!

  3. A very timely post for me... I am involved in a local #blackipaoff, where a few of us are brewing a Black IPA. I researched the 'style' only to find that there is a lot of hot air being exhaled about what it should be called.. Cascadian Black or Black APA or whatever else they dreamt up. For me, it's a Black IPA and that's what I'll be brewing.

  4. Love the original Kernel Black IPA, but not tried the other two, I really need another trip down to the arches, or maybe even a Beerritz visit…?

    Another labour of love Ghosty… ;)

  5. I have a vague feeling that the Black2 is a change in recipe because they could not get the hops of the original recipe when all the american Hops ran out. I may be wrong but it may have some antipodean hop replacements. I'm sure Evin would let you know if you gave him a shout.

    The Double Black is awesome.