London, Saturday morning. The sourness of a smile when the owner of the smile realises that life has taken a wrong turning and the profitable journey that this person, this owner of the smile, this moaner of every mile taken, thought that they were embarking on, is not the most appropriate way to describe Kernel’s London Sour. Instead, I would be thinking of an expansive smile, a hug perhaps, a friendly nudge in the ribs, a salad of avocado with mozzarella, rocket, basil upon which balsamic vinegar has been spotted, a cradle of civilised behaviour, a juicy, well-tempered kind of beer, a spike of sourness, a palate-changing game, a rounded, grounded kind of beer that tarts, rasps, fruits, Berliner Weisse’s it up like nobody’s business. Then there’s Partisan’s X-Ale, which seems to suggest the sort of beer that hopheads tremble alone at night in their garrets about. ‘It’s a Victorian mild,’ I’m told by Partisan Andy, who I originally met at the Jolly Butchers in the company of Pete Brown. He supplied the British Guild of Beer Writers with his deep and gastronomically able Quad last year, a robust cluster of dark flavours that soar out of a glass, the mast of an arc of flavours that park themselves on the palate with a mallet-hard persistence. I grew up despising mild, the skinflint’s beer as we used to say around the table in the King’s Head, northern old men’s muck, towels and hankies beer; but that gulping sound is me swallowing words, galloping backwards in time and bringing back favour: X-Ale is the kind of beer (if this mild be a beer) that lounges with a long-limbed languor, a beer full of fortitude and luxuriousness that — for once — puts mild into another, more enjoyable, bracket of sensuality. Over at Brew by Numbers the voices are throwing shapes, the voices are knowing and fateful. A man with a flat cap onto which a brace of roe deer’s antlers are embedded stands with his friends; I think I get the message. In my glass goes the Coffee Porter, which gives me a message — drink me; it’s brittle and bright, brisk and breakfast-like; a beer with which I would normally start the day perhaps? And finally I go into another railway arch, where Anspach & Hobday call themselves home and a double IPA plinys it for me, a great blast, a deep, deep well of orange, the kind of deepness in which you can imagine a Game of Thrones bad guy is thrown, alongside an ecstatic bitterness, an all encompassing bitterness perhaps, that lifts its arms to the air and thanks whatever deity it presumes to worship on this day that was a Saturday in Bermondsey.