I’m currently passing through Kent, and I’ve just been visiting the local farm shop, The Hartley Farm Shop, which prides itself on its selection of artisan beers. Looking through, I found a bottle labelled ‘Jake’s Saffron Beer’, a blonde lager, which was being brewed locally on the Hush Heath Estate (most of what’s produced at Hush Heath is actually wine or cider).
It was a blisteringly hot day, and I took it home, chilled it, and then enjoyed it with my lunch. It was a real eye-opener. Not just because of the taste – the earthy, muffly smell of saffron went surprisingly well in the crisp beer – but also because of the colour – a bright, in-your-face, sunny, yelling yellow. This blonde is definitely very brassy! But not so brassy that it can’t get along with a plate of food – in fact, it went down very well with the breaded calves liver and tomato salad that I happened to be enjoying.
I contacted Hush Heath to find out more, and they put me directly in touch with the inspired inventor, Jake Balfour-Lynn.
I asked him about his company, Saff Tali, and how he came to consider added saffron to lager. This is what he told me:
Language plays a key roll in Saff Tali coming together. I’m fluent in French and through mutual friends, met Sebastien Fiducia (the other Director of Saff Tali) many years ago. Sebastien (who grew up in Morocco) speaks French and Arabic, which enabled him to make the necessary connections with local saffron farmers and the Taliouine saffron cooperative. French is actually Morocco’s second language, which then comes in handy when we both have to travel out there and discuss terms and logistics.
Sourcing the saffron
The next step was only to get the best, organic saffron obtained at a fair price, as we were looking for long term partnerships with the farmers.
Working together, we started selling our Moroccan saffron two year ago to restaurants in London, Paris and various locations in the south of France. However, two questions kept popping up:
Chefs: “Do you sell any other products?”
Consumers: “What is saffron?!”
Supplying not just pure saffron, but products containing saffron
This made us realise that to be more accessible to everyone we needed to turn our saffron into more recognizable products but also inspired us to aim to be a one-stop shop for saffron related food and drink. We tested out our product with chefs and brewers, creating biscuits, breads, jams, chutneys, teas and gins, however, our first official venture away from the raw product was saffron beer.
…. so why the beer?
Beer is a very common and popular consumer item. Unlike the raw product of saffron which often needs explaining to people and is quite particular, everyone knows about beer. If people can see the positive effect saffron has on one of their favourite drinks, then they begin to imagine what it could give as an ingredient in other recipes.
And a key point was that Seb and I love beer!
As I mentioned, for many people saffron is a bit of a mystery, however, when used carefully, it is an incredible flavour enhancer, merging with ingredients and making them linger on the tongue. That’s why, in a world of highly hopped beers, we bucked the trend by deciding to create this subtle, smooth style lager that allows the saffron to flourish and bring out the best in the beer’s delicate balance of bitter and aromatic hops.
Essentially, we were creating a beer that I especially enjoy drinking, which is very handy.
Blonde in style, but golden in colour, our saffron beer’s yellow-tinted bubbles sit aloft a premium lager that has notes of honey and tangerine (yes, really) pulling through.
Food pairing with saffron beer
Although self-sufficiently thirst quenching, it’s light enough, as you discovered, to sit alongside a meal, rewarding those who are creative with their food matching.
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