ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Lost Breweries: K is for Kitchen

I was all set to write about King & Barnes of Horsham.

After all, this was one of the biggish names to disappear from the brewing map when, in 2000, it was taken over by Hall & Woodhouse and closed, bringing an end to almost 200 years of brewing there.

Until the 1990s K&B Sussex really was considered one of The classic English bitters, though I could never really see the appeal, having only caught the back end of it, and I've been distinctly underwhelmed by the revived 'WJ King' brewery.

But that's about all I'd ever really have to say on the subject of King & Barnes, and that being the case - and I appreciate that this may be heretical to the ears of traditionalists - it's probably better all round if I use my letter 'K' to honour, instead, the Kitchen brewery.

What's cooking?

Established in the Huddersfield area in 1996, Kitchen only lasted for five years, but they played, in my view, a significant role in the modernisation of British microbrewing and likely increased open-mindedness around the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in beers.

For those who seldom ventured beyond their local Spoons and mistrusted all things Belgian, it's entirely possible that a Kitchen ale, say Strawberry Blonde or Pert Pear represented their very first experience of a fruit beer.

In their five short years, Kitchen turned out around 100 different beers - an incredibly high win-rate for the era if you're a ticker - and almost all of them were flavoured with some sort of vegetation, many of them highly creative or insane, depending on your point of view. Beetroot, Cucumber, Broccoli, Turnip and Tangerine all found their way into the Kitchen range, keeping local greengrocers busy as they looked to create new recipes each month with Wonkalike enthusiasm and creativity.

The first Kitchen beers I encountered were the winey Syllabub (4.2%) at the 1998 GBBF, followed by an excellent Raisin Stout (4.8%) at that year's Ealing Beer Festival and while such beers would raise few eyebrows these days, they had proper novelty value at the time.

Pumpkin unhappy after not being made into beer...
Carrot Cruncher (4.4%) was a remarkably tangy quencher that became possibly their most famous offering and for those of us who enjoy carrot juice it was remarkable to find something that hit that particular spot on the palate in beer form.

Kitchen got their beers into Wetherspoons around 1999 and the future looked bright. While not every beer they put out could be described as a success (I remember being unimpressed with one of their pumpkin offerings), the ongoing innovation was great to see.

I've no idea why or how things went Turnips-up for Kitchen so quickly, but can how enjoy a very wide range of ingredients in our beers thanks in part to the trail that they blazed. Maybe the lack of any 'standard' beers in the range is what did for them? Maybe an English brewery just can't survive without a regularly-brewed pale ale or best bitter keeping their name on the map? I mean, whose best-known beer is one brewed with carrots, for fuck's sake?

But in an age where 'plant-based' stuff is all the rage, I do wonder whether Kitchen might be doing spectacularly well now, had they stuck around.

Looking back, I feel some disappointment that I only got to sample 13 different Kitchen beers while they were with us. Something I don't feel about King & Barnes.

Kitchen 1996-2001


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