New Belgium Brewing is set to double its wood beer capacity with the addition of 32 new French Oak foeders (large wooden casks for conditioning sour beer) that will bring their total foeder count to 64. Space has been allocated, reinforced concrete flooring has been poured, and the first 12 foeders will be put in place this week.
The expansion will allow New Belgium to double its wood beer production in coming years. The Colorado brewery began began its wood beer program in 1998 and installed its first foeders in 2000. Brewmasteer Peter Bouckaert, who joined New Belgium in 1996, previously worked at Rodenbach in Belgium, famous for its sour beers, themselves aged in massive foeders.
“With this expansion, we’ll get so close to that feeling I had the first time I walked through the forest of foeders at Rodenbach,” said New Belgium’s wood cellar manager/blender, Lauren Salazar. “Just knowing they’re all full of souring beer – ALL of them – is exciting. It’s a destination. Something you have to experience first hand.”
New Belgium has been experimenting with lighter and blended sour beers through its Lips of Faith program since 2003. The brewery will use this expansion to bring Lips of Faith offerings like Tart Lychee and Eric’s Ale into year round production by 2015. The newest set of oak foeders are 130 hectoliters each and come from Sterling vineyards in California. After the initial installation of 12 this month, 20 more foeders will be placed in December. Once rehydration is complete, sour beer from the current wood cellar will be used to inoculate the barrels with resident souring bacteria and wild yeasts. The beer will then age up to two years before it is blended.