Kernel Brewery was started in 2009 by Evin O’Riordain, a man who had no experience of beer making and learnt all he needed to know about the craft and brewing process by searching on the Internet. “I started making beer at home about two-and-a-half years ago,” he told the Independent. “I taught myself to brew: it’s simple. There’s lots of information on the internet. Some of the information is good, some not so good.”
Prior to founding Kernel he worked for Neal’s Yard Dairy at London’s Borough Market and it’s clear that his knowledge of the methods used to produce and sell cheese heavily influenced his plans to produce and sell beer.
“It was when I went to the US that I realised beer can be different. If you look at the way good cheese is sold now, you know the cow’s name that made the milk, what the weather is like – that’s very important to us. It was only after I went to the States that I realised we could do that with beer.”
Today they produce 5,000 bottles of beer a week and are finding it difficult to keep up with demand whilst still brewing from their small premises under a railway arch in Bermondsey. They are now sold in some of the most fashionable bars and retail outlets across London, including Selfridges, the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce and Shoreditch’s Mason and Taylor and despite their growing reach and scale each and every bottle is still labelled and capped by hand at the brewery.
With no marketing budget or conventional resources, it’s purely word of mouth and online reviews that have propelled the brand to their recent level of popularity and demand.
Looking at the countless blog posts, reviews and write-ups on Kernel beers the first thing I notice is that it’s the quality of the beers themselves and the unusual taste of many of their products that has got people talking. It was important for Evin that he created beers that stood out and were unlike others ready available.
“There’s a pub I used to go into, but I can’t remember the name of anything I ever drank in there because they all taste pretty much the same. And they’re created to be interchangeable, so that when one runs out you stick another one on. There’s nothing really to grab your attention.”
The branding and packaging is simple, uncluttered and almost utilitarian, enabling it to stand out from the competition in a market where the communication has grown increasingly loud, noisy and personality based. This no frills identity may also form part of a wider cultural backlash against the friendly, chatty, tone popularized by innocent, but subsequently used by banks and fast-food chains in more recent years. They don’t have a polarising POV or want you to ‘pop in for a chat’ they are just driven by a single and practical determination to make great tasting beer.
Kernel is also proving popular with non-traditional beer or ale drinkers. Much like in the US at the moment, the craft of beer making in the UK has become much more popular and people increasingly want to drink beer at home, in restaurants accompanying food, in trendy bars and in many environments other than the traditional pub. Their audience tends to be younger and more creative than the stereotypical beer drinker and the very fact that they are independent, hand crafted and unable to advertise is often what makes brands such as Kernel appealing to this section of society.
Above and beyond the nice packaging, hand crafted and independent ethos its ultimately the quality of the beer itself and the strength of their product that has got people talking and creating such buzz around the brand. Ultimately, it’s the beer talking.
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