The Kernel Brewery, 9:30am on a Saturday.
With the Bermondsey Beer Mile laid out before me, and the – really quite amazing – Table Beer freshly poured. As fresh as you can get it, of course, having been made just yards away. It’s a term I’ve always hated, but for many people with a ‘bucket list’ involving modern British beer, this experience is right on it. And it was great – of course it was; I’ve been a fan of the Kernel ever since I wandered the length of Druid Street five years ago, trying to find which arch their brewery was actually located under (I got it right eventually). Their IPA C.S.C. still remains one of the best IPA’s I ever had, even with all the hop-forward beers having flowed under the (increasingly rickety) bridge since. But there was just something odd about being at the Kernel in that moment. And it wasn’t the brewery, or the company – and it certainly wasn’t the beer. It was the time.
Drinking beer at 9:30 in the morning just feels weird, to me. Whether it’s a pint of John Smith’s at Gate 4 before a dawn flight or the best low-abv beer in the UK, served where it was brewed; both settings feel equally unnatural, making it impossible to relax. I’m not really sure why that is, though. Every occasion I’ve caught an early plane there have been others sitting there with the beers in, starting their holidays (or their trip to Stansted) early. And I’m there with a muffin and a cup of tea, thinking I’ll leave it to at least lunchtime before having to thumb through the apps for AlcoDroid. It’s not that I’m judging people who enjoy beers that early – it’s just I don’t necessarily want to join them. So why might that be the case?
It’s not because of any beery bollocks about being able to fully appreciate the beer – I vaguely remember reading somewhere about professional tasters who are herded into red-lit rooms as soon as the cornflakes have been cleared away; their palates primed for the necessary slurping and quantifying. And besides, I’ve had Table Beer plenty of times previously – I know how good it is. It’s also nothing to do with how I was feeling – despite a Mikkeller tap takeover two nights before, and the monstrous 18% Big Worster barley wines, I was feeling pretty chipper (chipper enough to not flip the v’s at George Obsorne, who wandered past later on the lookout for a wine archway)*.
* True story; we followed him. Strange to see the second most powerful man in Britain (sorry Nick) shopping for plonk with a security detail at that time on a Saturday.
I don’t even see a problem with consuming alcohol that early in the morning – even if this is the main stigma of early drinking. Sharp intakes of breath when you tell people you’ve been on the beer before 10am is par for the course, but these beers are well under 4%abv, and drunk in small measures, so it’s not like we were pounding the IPA in the early AM (although they were available). On leaving the Kernel, we managed to have productive, full weekend days. In that respect, it didn’t matter that the corners of the eyes were still crusty. We beat the crowds, at least.
So I’m not really sure why it makes me uneasy, drinking beer that early in the morning. How about you – are you an early doors merchant? Or does the thought of getting the beers in at 9am (or earlier) feel as strange to you as it does to me?