Wednesday 15 June 2011

As-Live Tasting: Kernel Suke Quto Coffee IPA

9.00pm: And relax! Long day: up early, writing, work, gym, dinner, shower. Now to drink beer. 

9.01pm: My mind’s doing summersaults and my fingertips are eager to tap at a keyboard and do the stream of consciousness thing so it's As-Live blogging time. Think and sip and tap and drink.

9.02pm: The Kernel’s Suke Quto Coffee IPA. 6.9% ABV. This is batch 2 and another collaboration with Square Mile Coffee Roasters. It smells ridiculously good. The beer’s beneath my nose. I’m stooping over and around it to try and type but I don’t want it to move away.

9.04pm: And then as if by magic the aroma moves. It goes from super citrus, all hops up in your face, through chocolate and then into a mix of those dark coffee grounds and tropical fruit. Coffee: check. Hops: check. It's a Coffee IPA.

9.05pm: Still smelling the beer.

9.06pm: Gulping beer.

9.07pm: Wow. This is different! Coffee and hops and booze. It’s exactly what I need right now. The body is classic Kernel, smooth and full (how do they do that?!), there’s toffee sweetness, then coffee roast, then hop fruitiness, then hop bitterness, then coffee bitterness, which is the lingering aftertaste. It’s a beer which drinks more sequentially than any other I’ve ever tasted.

9.09pm: Answering emails... 

9.14pm: I’m loving the chocolatey depth in this beer. I often get chocolate flavours in IPA but this something else. Where does that chocolate flavour come from in IPAs?

9.15pm: I need to iron a shirt. Tomorrow I’ve got to do a presentation in London at 8am. Who organises presentations at 8am? One day I’ll have someone who will do my ironing for me. Either that or the sort of job where I don’t need to wear a shirt.

9.22pm: This is the sort of beer you drink in minutes to try and work it out, to try and find out why you like it so much, why it works when something says it shouldn’t (coffee and grapefruit isn’t a classic combo). I love that quality in a beer – the unintentional speed drinking to try and understand it. More coffee comes through the further down the glass you get and the warmer the beer becomes. The bitterness gets more apparent, both from hops and coffee.

9.24pm: I had the first batch of this beer a few months ago but it was only a couple of mouthfuls so don’t remember it much. I know it was in the Dean Swift and Tandleman was there. Then I went to the Tower Bridge Draft House and had a burger. You don’t forget details like that.

9.27pm: I’m sure I’m meant to be doing something important right now but I have no idea what that is.

9.30pm: Oh! Some news for anyone who read the sausage, chips and beans post last week... a mega sausage, chips and beans beer taste-off is happening on Friday. I’ve got lots of beers and I’m calling in assistance from some sausage-loving beer drinkers. Results will be posted next week.

9.33pm: You know what’s most interesting with this beer? Every mouthful tastes a bit different to the one before. It started with the hop explosion, then came the unlikely marriage of coffee and hops, then the coffee became the star, then it started to taste drier and more bitter and now at the end of the glass it’s like a hardcore chocolate orange. And every gulp is great. It could’ve been a crazy clash but it isn’t and it works.

9.37pm: Beer’s done. I loved it. But then it’s Kernel and Kernel only hit home runs. My only worry is that this beer is packed with as much caffeine as lupulin, so one will keep me up all night and the other will make me sleepy, like necking sleeping pills with a Red Bull. Fingers crossed that won’t happen.  

9.41pm: Time to look away from a computer and into a book. Kernel’s Coffee IPA is gone. Anyone else had this? If so, what do you think?

UPDATE: This is a post-live note to add that the colour of the beer isn't as dark as it looks in the picture. It's a dark beer for an IPA but it isn't brown.


  1. Not had this, but having read this review, I want lots. How does the use of coffee in a beer like this compare to say how espresso/coffee stout works?

  2. Lucky enough to get this when I was on vacation, loved it, really could taste the coffee without it overpowering everything else, Kernels Black IPA was outstanding as well

  3. Sounds fantastic! A strange marriage of flavours for sure but if it works it works right. Didn't have batch 1 but have a bottle of this which will be getting drunk soon, can't wait!

  4. One of the most intriguing reviews I've read for a beer. I know what my next wages will be spent on!

  5. I've been really wanting to try any of Kernel's stuff. I doubt it's going to happen anytime soon.

  6. Have you tried Mikkellers coffee IPAs? If so, how was it compared to them? I never got a strong coffee note in those beers. More herbal bitterness.

  7. Ian - Interesting question. It also brings up something which I didn't mention in the post - the type of coffee flavour. It's not an Italian or French super strong or roasty flavour so I'm guessing (guessing because I don't know) that the variety of coffee is a fairly fruity one to match the hops. What you get here is a background depth of richness as opposed to coffee stouts which play more on the big roasty flavours to enhance everything.

    Nick - That Black IPA is a really good beer!

    Paul - I look forward to seeing what you make of it!

    Steve - Blow the whole pay cheque on on Kernel beers and you'll have a good time until the next pay day!

    Craig - You'll have to come to London! He can't make enough for local business so no chance for export any time soon.

    Barm - I've got it! It was a rush job but it's good enough.

    Fredrik - I haven't tries the Mikkeller yet. I'd like to find one now so that I can compare the two.

  8. Sounds like a great beer. Had a bottle of the 4c's IPA last night but have to admit didnt like it quite as much as some of the others. It was still very good but Kernel have set the bar so high!

    Am in London this weekend so might try and pick up a few bottles of new Kernel

  9. Tried to get myself a bottle of this when I was in London at the beginning of May but I was told it wasn't ready.
    If you send me one in Sweden, I'll send you a bottle of the Mikkeller Koppi Tomahawk x Odoo Shakiso Coffee IPA.
    Although not sure if the fascists in the local customs take kindly to such things.

  10. The blogosphere is rife with praise for Kernel at the moment. They're starting to sound like The Next Big Thing.

    It's my mission to seek some out now. Great review. So many paradoxes I must taste them for myself!

  11. I have been saving this, so apologies for the delayed comment. Everyone is out, I'm on holiday and it seems like the perfect time. I read your post a long time ago so any overlap in comments is either from the back of my memory or consistent observations.

    Aroma 12/12
    Initial tropical fruits which give way to roast coffee notes. The coffee notes are more like freshly ground coffee bean aroma than actual coffee. The hop fuits and the coffee really blend together well

    Appearance 2/3
    Definitely still in within the bounds of an IPA on colour, amber hue. White head with good retention. Very cloudy (could be my fault)

    Flavour 18/20
    Wow! coffee then hops, then hops and coffee leading to hops! The coffee is far more bold than batch #1. In #1 you had to look for it, here it is at the same level as the hops. I get a sweet tropical hop flavour and a bitterness from the coffee at the same time. This is then followed by a really long lastering bitterness from the hops. Is there any malt profile? I'm not sure, its way below the hops and coffee if there is. I feel it falls in to the IPA style guidlines unlike a Black IPA. The coffee doesn't protrude from the hops it works with them well.

    Mouth feel 5/5
    Assertive carbonation which is perfect for style. Really good full body. No alcohol heat

    Overall impression. 8/10
    This is a fantastic beer. The coffee works with the hops in both aroma and flavour. This is far superior to the first batch where I felt you had an IPA in which if you were looking for it you could pick out the coffee in the background.