The Kernel goes to Kortrijk

What do you buy Belgians for Easter? This was my dilemma of the week. Heading to Kortrijk for the weekend and a meeting with Lou’s Belgian family I’m left scratching my head. I consult the Belgians I know and I feel they are left scratching their heads too.

Chocolate is their answer, then hesitation, before I’m told “but not your English chocolate”. Taking chocolate to Belgium wherever I get it from just doesn’t seem right. A few coffees, a bit of surfing the web and lots more head scratching and I have my plan. I’ll take coals to Newcastle. Or in in this case beer to Belgium; more precisely Kernel to Kortrijk. I’ll be presenting this to my hosts and hoping that they approve.


It seems apt, as on first meeting Lou’s mum I went to The Kernel to buy a selection. Something to give a little taster of what makes me tick. Buying direct from Evin O’Riordan he advised to “go big” and not shy away from offering up beers that would test the palate. It’s perhaps different with 7 Belgians and I’ve got a clutch of India Pale Ale and Pale Ale of different hop batches. This time it wasn’t direct but from Oddbins at London Bridge. Special mention to them for tweeting me a list of what they had in stock. That really is social media done well in my book.

I’m strangely nervous about the reaction I’ll receive. I mean, an Englishman turns up in West Flanders trying go bring something new in respects to beer. This could be a spectacular coup or a crushing failure. What’s your bet? All will be revealed next week.

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk

Q&A: Ghost Drinker

Pub Diaries Q&A returned for 2012 with Brewer, Duncan Sambrook. We change tack this week with the lowdown coming from Beer Ritz’s Will, better known as Ghost Drinker.


Your blurb…
The name’s Ghost Drinker, but most people just call me Will. I’ve been working for Beer Ritz in Leeds for over 5 years now, serving the good people of the city and customers from further afield with a range of over 600 hundred beers. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. If I ever get into a suit and tie behind a desk, I’ll go fully mental. Eventually I’d like to work for a brewery, but now I’m pretty happy to talk to all the beer geeks we get in the shop about the ‘new beers in’ at any particular time.

First beer experience, beer epiphany…
I never really touched beer till I was 17, and I’m pretty sure the first pint I ever had was Timmy Taylors Landlord. After that, for a few years I drank Tetleys and crap lager. It wasn’t untill I had a pint of Golden Salamander in Arcadia at 19/20 that I discovered what good beer actually could be. At the time I had just started working for Beer Ritz. After a few more good pints I started to really get into the world of different beers, and after that a true beer geek was born.

Best beer find of the last year…
It probably has to be The Kernel Brewery. I got to take a little trip round the Brewery last year with Evin one on one, and really got to know the guys, what they’re doing and we sampled quite a bit of their beers. Since then I’ve never had a bad Kernel beer, and they continue to impress and push the boundaries of beer.

What sounds are to be heard while blogging…
If it’s a question of music, then my tastes range as far and wide as my tastes in beer, my motto is if it sounds good I’ll listen to it. I do have a soft spot for metal like Metallica and bands like Aerosmith to blare out while I drink and write about beer though.

What brought you to blogging…
A couple of years back Zak (Boss man of Beer Ritz) got a lap top for the back of the shop. I started reading his blog from this and after a while thought it would be pretty cool if I could do my own. (Don’t worry Zak, we don’t spend all our time on the lap top, the cellar’s always ship shape).

What have you taken from blogging…
Whats really been great is the like minded people I’ve got to meet and chat too through blogging. I love this industry and blogging has really been a way to get much more involved in it.

Are beer bloggers frustrated brewers…
Well I know of a couple who are, but I’m not naming any names… Truth be told, quite a lot of the people I follow brew their own beer, and they do it pretty damn well, so I’d call quite a lot of them successful brewers.

Which brewers / breweries would you hold up as the way it should be done…
Off the top of my head; Buxton, Thornbridge, Saltaire, Kernel, Williams Bros, Harviestoun, Durham, Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Stone, Brooklyn and Odells to name just a few.

Pub heaven…
The quiet country pub feel, but Arcadia fits my pub heaven criteria – No music, no large groups of students, just great cask ale and a really friendly warm atmosphere.

Pub hell…
Having to stand in an overcrowded “pub” with sky sports blaring out whilst drinking the only beer option available; John Smiths Smoothflow or Carlsberg.

Favourite local pub…

Favourite non local pub…
North Bar + Mr Foleys

What advice would you give any aspiring blogger…
Try to be unique, and don’t just post up tasting notes about hundreds of different beers. Sure, put up tasting notes – there’s nothing wrong with that, just don’t do it all the time. Post about different things, mix it up, be engaging. People say don’t just post for the sake of it but I do it all the time, just make something interesting out of it – it’s your passion, share it with the world as often as you can.

What’s on the horizon…
It’s all about British Beer at the moment, the next couple of years is going to see some great things to come out of this country. We don’t know exactly what but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. If I had to make a guess I think India Red Ale is going to be pretty big next year.

Up next week… its back to the Brewers and a hop across the pond with Brent Cordle from Odell Brewing Company.

Q&A: Ghost Drinker

What to buy a Beer Geek: Part 2

I recently posted on what to buy the Beer Geek. Christmas Day has been and gone and that not so subtle hint scored me Melissa Cole’s, Let Me Tell You About Beer. Lou slipped this one in amongst a host of non beer related gifts to add to the burgeoning beer shelf.

I neglected to post in that original post my Birthday gift this year. Beer Craft by William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill. It seems I’ve been talking about it quite a bit as Capt. English, a confirmed geek of beer and beyond got the same for Christmas. For the novice home brewer wanting to brew without powders and premixed tubs it’s definitely worth a mention.


It’s not just home brewing made easy; it’s home brewing with a cool craft aesthetic. Vintage labels, bottle tops and interviews with Craft luminaries such as John Maier, Brewmaster at Rogue Ales and Stone’s Greg Koch make it a must have.

There’ll be more on home craft brewing in the New Year, as I attempt my first brews.

An unexpected gift from English in recognition of Big J’s birthday and Best Man duties earlier in the year was quite possibly the best and worst bottle opener ever seen. Aidan Moffat’s Little Beer Song plays as the bottle cap completes the circuit. No secret late night opening for me! Though who wouldn’t want to hear the ex Arab Strap frontman serenade the opening of each beer? Of course a bottle opener without a few bottles is pointless. As English bought it from Moffat himself it’s seems fitting that it was also accompanied by a case bought from Evin O’Riordan at The Kernel Brewery.


What to buy a Beer Geek: Part 2