Opening hours: Saturday 0900-1400 (off sales only)
Other days: none
Official site: http://www.thekernelbrewery.com/
Last updated: 28/12/2018
The Kernel was the first brewery to open around these parts (originally on Druid Street, close to where Hawkes is now): all the others came after. Without The Kernel, there wouldn't be a Bermondsey Beer Mile. For years, this was the midpoint of anyone's walk along the Mile, whichever end they started at, which meant that at any given time it was always more crowded than anywhere else. And it seems like over the years, The Kernel has done anything it can to reduce its popularity.
For a while, they did this by closing their doors much earlier than everyone else, at 2pm. It made any serious tour of the Mile that bit more complicated, by introducing a timeframe - if you wanted to visit all the bars, you had to get to all the ones leading up to it well before 2pm. If anything, that made the scrum in its final hour even worse. So, they took things one stage further: they stopped operating as a taproom, only selling bottles for consumption off the premises, and still closing up at 2pm.
This is where we are now, and that's why The Kernel is almost entirely deserted when you visit it on a Saturday. There's even less signage outside than there is at uBrew, so unless you see the tables inside loaded with bottles bearing the brewery's distinctive brown paper labels, you may not even be aware you've found it. The staff will, if asked nicely, open your bottles for you as they sell them to you, but you'll be told that you have to leave the industrial estate before you can start drinking them. It makes for an almost disturbing atmosphere in comparison to the rest of the Mile - there isn't even anyone working in the large roped-off brewing area in the back, because they don't do that at weekends.
On the whole, it's a bit of a shame. The Kernel has been a fundamental part of London's craft brewing history, and they shouldn't be sidelining themselves in this way. (It's an additional bummer that the Ham and Cheese Company next door, which used to do a roaring trade selling nibbles to the brewery customers, is also virtually deserted now.) You should still go there, pick up some bottles for later, and pay your homage to the people who started it all. But don't expect to hang around for very long.