...So let's get onto the beer itself. First up, is the simple Nelson Sauvin (4.7% abv) - does what it says on the tin. Amber in colour, it's a refreshing, zesty thirst-quencher with sherbert lemons and gooseberry on the nose, a sweet, honeyed body and then a high, long, grapefruit-led bitterness at the end of the sip. The sweetness in the body levels all the pithy bitterness out, and manages to be both a no-frills example of a single-hopped pale and a wonderfully balanced beer all at once.
A little more complex is the Centennial-Chinook (5.5%abv). It's darker in colour - my notes say 'Marmalade shade' in this respect - with slightly more biscuit flavours in the body, but still manages to achieve the green, clean bitterness that one wants from a hoppy beer. The nose is ever-so-slightly more herbal, and it's more bitter, even more pithy than the Nelson Sauvin. Although billed as a pale, there's more than enough here to satisfy hop-heads.
S.C.A.Ns (7.7%abv) is a wonderful concept; simply lump Simcoe, Cascade, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin togethet and watch magic happen. The vibrancy I alluded to in the introduction really applied here; slightly less sweet than the previous pales, the aroma is the ace in the pack here. Lychee, Grapefruit, Orange Peel, Lime, Pineapple all jockey for position with an underlying, slightly catty undertone that reminds you it's a hoppy beer, not a tropical fruit salad. With all those high Alpha-acid hops in there you'd think it would be unbalanced, but no - the bitterness is only rising, and refreshing rather than rasping. It drinks nowhere near it's abv, which seems to be another hallmark of Evin O'Riordan's beers. Another version of this is available now with added Columbus hops.
The beer that rounds everything off was the Citra IPA (6.2%abv). Smooth. Really smooth; sweet, but not cloying, you can guess what a hop called 'Citra' is going to be like before smelling it; lemon/limey, with emphasis on the lemon, but slightly cleaner and purer almost than other other high AA hops. That cattiness is there again, with a hint of Lychee too. The bitterness is light and manageable, and you get another highly drinkable, incredibly tasty beer.
Citra IPA was probably the beer that caused the most stir at the back end of 2010. It appeared in many 'best of' lists and undoubtedly made Citra the hop du jour, a breath of fresh air for hop-heads all over.
To give this beer its due, it's worth bearing in mind that this runs against the style of the year being 'Black IPA's' - or whatever you want to call them. In the face of a worldwide trend, The Kernel's Citra IPA - a simple, single hopped, well made, well balanced India Pale Ale - reclaimed the IPA as the domain of the pale.
Next up: The Darks.