If you have visited us at our Barrelworks facility in Buellton, California, there are likely a few things that have caught your eye. One of which is most likely our barrel room, stacked sky-high with barrels. You may also have noticed a TON of large, wooden vessels also in the barrel room, 18 to be exact. Those are foeders.
Simply put, a foeder is a large barrel. Foeder (pronounced FOOD-er) is the Dutch word for a large oak tank where beer is fermented. The French call it a foedre, but it’s the same thing – a vertical or horizontal oak barrel at least three times (and sometimes 300 times) the size of an oak barrel.
So What’s the difference between a barrel and a foeder?
While there’s no official size designation when a large barrel becomes a foeder, the rule of thumb is anything larger than 160 gallons graduates from barrel designation. To give some scale of how big they can get, the largest foeder ever constructed was the size of a warehouse – used by a French aperitif maker, and it held up to 1 million liters.
Our foeders weigh about 16,000 pounds when full, so needless to say they hold a ton (or eight) of beer! That’s a lot of beer.
Where do they come from, and why use them?
Traditionally, foeders were used to store wine. Today they are used by breweries to ferment both clean and wild beer. At Barrelworks, we use foeders to add depth, complexity, and fruit to our wild beers. The large size also allows consistency in the final product and is much easier to work with than a multitude of smaller barrels.
Barrels have more surface area between the beer and wood, which means more oxygen and general aging of the beer. The bigger the barrel or foeder, the less oxygen, slower aging, and more consistency.
Most of our foeders were inherited from California wineries that were ready for more expressive wood for their wines.
We have a collection of French and Italian-made foeders that have seen red and white wines. The foeders, along with our house culture of yeasts, work to keep our beers tasting fantastic. We have both vertical foeders and horizontal foeders. They take a ton of tender love and care to maintain – but we find there’s nothing like the beer they produce.
We have some of our foeders that are exclusively for combining beer and fruit – Fruit + Foeder = Fruider!
It is here that we combine years-old beer and fresh, heirloom fruit to shape and harmonize. Each gets filled with 2,000-4,000 pounds of fruit that gives the beer its quintessential essence. Our Fruiders are currently holding pineapples, mangoes, nectarines, blackberries, and more just ready for future releases.