The Kernel sails on almost serenely

He’s very modest so he’d almost be embarrassed if you suggested he possibly runs the UK’s best brewery in the country. Reality is, this might just be the case on certain measures.

My own measurement is whether a brewery releases any duff beers and on my personal calculations The Kernel Brewery does not produce duff beers. It’s therefore always a great pleasure to embarrass Evin O’Riordain, founder of The Kernel Brewery, whenever meeting him at his Arch 7 tap room where you can sample some of these non-duff beers.

My recent visit coincided with that of an architect who was working on the space opposite Arch 7 as Kernel’s tap room is crossing the alleyway and relocating the handful of metres away to a similar-sized space. Evin says the current location was always a “stop-gap” arrangement with the landlord Spa Terminus, who sub-lets the space from ultimate owner The Arch Company, which was extended because of Covid-19.

Despite the change of space the tap room will still be the domain of legendary beer guy Mauritz Borg who has been with the business for five years, according to Evin, who is very proud of the fact there are still six people from the original 18 when the brewery moved to the current site over a decade ago. And two others left in only the past year.

Although he says it is a shame to have to move he is supportive of Spa Terminus who have an objective of ensuring the production of goods continues in the area and it does not become saturated with here-today-gone-tomorrow Instagram-fuelled retailers and hospitality brands. The Tap Room will be replaced by a tenant committed to using the space for production.

“London is expensive and to keep production here is quite hard. We need it to anchor a place otherwise London would just be full of office jobs. We have a bakery next door, a fishmonger and Monmouth Coffee and Neal’s Yard Dairy. The landlord could charge more money for the property [for non-industrial] but this would be short-term,” explains Evin.

The Kernel Brewery has been producing beers on the site next door to Arch 7 for 12 years, having initially set up down the road three years earlier. Having first met Evin back in 2009 when he pulled a couple of brown bottles – an IPA and a stout – out of his bag at the Brew Wharf bar. They looked exactly the same as they do today. No rebranding to see around here.

The output has since gone on to encompass a variety of styles but the constant is the quality. Such has been the high standards that The Kernel has never really had to sell its beers.

“The years before Covid we are maxxed-out [with production] and sold out all our beers. Today, with wars, fear, people not going out, and the cost-of-living crisis we’re running at 10% below maximum production. We’re surviving, getting by, but no money is being saved,” he explains.  This 10% is effectively the company’s profits.

If this is the case for the mighty Kernel then it’s no wonder that many other breweries are in such straitened positions. The drop-off in sales has been noticeable in the pubs and retail outlets that The Kernel supplies, whereas the Tap Room is still a powerful part of the business representing 15% of sales. It is also the “interface with the world”, according to Evin.

Glynn Davis, Editor, Beer Insider