New Belgium Brewing Co. is about to double down on its wood beer capacity with the addition of 32 new French Oak foeders (large wooden casks for conditioning sour beer) that will bring its 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 effectively double its wood beer production in coming years. New Belgium first began making wood-aged sour beers in the form of the award-winning La Folie in 1998 when Brewmaster Peter Bouckaert joined the brewery. Bouckaert formerly brewed at Rodenbach in Belgium, home of the Flanders style, Rodenbach Red.
“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 in November, 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.
On Feb. 1, 2014, New Belgium will hold its second annual Lost in the Woods party where guests can mingle and experience the wonders of wood beer first hand. Check back in mid-December for details at www.newbelgium.com.