Foeders and barrels, oh my!

Chris Brown

Head of Brewing Operations

 

Oh day of days,

Wood is something I’m familiar with; I spent most of my early days as a carpenter. It’s a versatile material, it’s strong, lightweight for its size, and has an unparalleled beauty. We feel drawn to the warm rich tones and swimming patterns contained in the wood grain. It was a natural (pun intended) decision to use wood as a container for all sorts of goods and liquids back in the old days. Wood and brewing have a long and storied history together. As far back as there is history to tell it, beer was fermented and aged in large wooden vessels and sent to market in wooden casks and barrels. It’s intriguing to ponder what beer must have tasted like many centuries ago, before our modern tools refined the process. Wood is still very much at the heart of what distillers and vintners do today, and ever more so in beer production. In some places it never left use, such as the hallowed cellars of Lambic producers and blenders in the Pajottenland region of Belgium, and the areas of east and west Flanders.

Excitement then is warranted when a truck rolls up to the brewery with two big beautiful oak vessels. Foeders, as they are called, are the heart of our wood aging program here at the Beard. They are able to contribute the nuances of a bygone era to the beer contained in them, as well as serving as a habitat for a plethora (I know what it means to have a plethora) of microorganisms that ferment in a wild way. These critters contribute a depth of character and complexity unseen in most traditionally fermented beer, as well as a pleasant sourness. Couple these foeders with an ever growing battery of used French Oak wine barrels from the Sonoma Valley and you can see why this gives us, and you by extension, many many reasons to be excited. Now, on to the work of filling them. No rest for the weary, that much is certain. Patience and hard work will be rewarded, however. And wild ales are the best reward.