There are few things more mesmerising within a brewery than a room full of foeders (or ‘foudres’, if the brewery decides to use the French spelling instead of the Dutch). There’s real magic inside these oaken vessels, often standing several metres tall.
And that’s because there is real magic inside them: millions of wild yeasts and bacteria that nurture and mature a beer over several months or years, before it is eventually blended and packaged into something delicious for us to enjoy. Beers such as the impressive Rodenbach Grand Cru, or the equally majestic New Belgium La Folie.
In fact, if you ever get to visit either of these breweries you will understand exactly what I mean about the magic of foeders. They present very different experiences: Rodenbach’s is one of order and utility. As beautiful as the foeders here are, they exist to serve a function – that of maturing a beer to a precise consistency. At New Belgium the scene is the opposite, with foeders of various sizes, shapes, even colours. It is random and myriad. The ‘Foudre Forest’ as they call it, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is one of the true wonders of the brewing world.
It’s possible that you may have had a foeder-aged beer from a British brewery too. Perhaps from Burning Sky, the Wild Beer Co, or the subject of today’s review, London’s The Kernel. The foeder-matured beers from The Kernel you may have previously experienced would have had more in common with beers like Rodenbach or La Folie – beers with tartness, acidity and tannins; complex, structured and delicious. And while this new Foeder Beer from The Kernel is also delicious (of course it is, it’s The Kernel), it is neither tart nor particularly acidic to taste.
Instead, this beer is fermented – as opposed to matured – within a foeder. This means that it’s in the vessel for a much shorter period of time, not giving it the opportunity to pick up a great deal of character from the oak or organisms that call it home. But that’s not the intention here. This beer showcases flavours of both hop (lemon zest from Centennial and a distinguished herbaceous snap from Hallertau Tradition) and The Kernel’s house culture of yeast, mixed with Belgian yeasts.
The beer gives you a rich, estery character, making it taste very Belgian in style - think Zinnebir from Brasserie de la Senne as an example. The oak fermentation, however, adds a softness, or roundness, to the complexity of this flavour. I wouldn’t worry too much about that, however, this is a beer for chilling down and drinking outside, as we look forward to some warm summer days. I already know this is a beer I’ll be filling my fridge with in preparation for just that.
Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Demand for The Kernel Foeder Beer has been huge - we have a small amount left at time of publication, so be quick. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box..