Saison from the Kernel is reviewed by Chris Hall.
The Kernel Brewery, London
Given the recent surge in popularity of saisons, it was simply a matter of time before I stumbled across one from The Kernel. A saison is a summer ale in the style of those traditionally made in the French-speaking parts of Belgium, usually made in autumn or winter and matured under late summer. Flemish farmhands working during the harvest needed constant refreshment, and were allowed to drink 10 litres of the stuff a day. Saisons have a wild-yeast, slightly weizen-esque character, with sharp, sometimes sour flavours and a subtle spiciness.
The Kernel’s effort seems to attempt a classic interpretation (though I am sure they will be brewing Export India Black Rye Saisons before the year is out). The liquid is that exquisitely appetising hazy gold, with a tightly packed and long-lasting head offering a bouquet of baking bread, orange peel and ginger snaps. There’s a sour, citrusy note in there somewhere, and a vibrant sense of freshness that’s hard to pin down to a single smell.
Initial sips are sharp, biscuity and grapefruit-sour at the back of the tongue. A little more and it practically glides across the palate, lighting the way with a crackling, orangey sharpness and pilsner-like clarity. Softer flavours hang around for the finish, leaving you with gentle hints of banana, nutmeg, lemon meringue, but never as heavily as in a wheat beer. It’s an excellent food beer, and goes a treat with grilled chicken or fish.
Saisons are the super-refreshing hybrids of lagers and wheat beers, designed to quench the thirst of hard working folk who work in the sun. The Kernel have done the style proud and, for once, have done things relatively by-the-book. Yet another contender for Beer of the Summer, if the weather is willing.