Wander Brewing’s Barrel Project expands with new foeder

By |2018-10-18T13:23:04+00:00January 26th, 2016|

Wander Brewing recently increased its Barrel Project capacity by 620 gallons, after it purchased and installed a brand-new, 20-barrel foeder. This new vessel adds to Wander’s growing arsenal of more than 80 barrels.

A foeder (pronounced FOOD-er, and also spelled foedre or foudre) is a large oak vat that is often used for beers that require long-term fermentations, especially mixed-fermentation beers (i.e., beers fermented with Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces yeast strains) and mixed-fermentation sour ales (i.e., beers fermented with Brettanomyces and/or Saccharomyces, plus lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus and/or Pediococcus).

Wander’s all-American-made foeder was built by St. Louis-based Foeder Crafters of America and it is made of Missouri-grown White Oak. (Many winemakers also use foeders, though they are typically made of French oak.)

Foeders under construction at Foeder Crafters of America in Missouri.

When I asked Wander co-owner/brewer Chad Kuehl what he plans to put in his new foeder, he replied with the exact answer I was hoping for: “Mixed fermentations … Brett, Lacto, Pedio … lots of bugs and fun stuff!”

WanderBarrelAgingUnfortunately, we will have to exercise patience, as sour beers take time. “The beer will be ready when it tells us it is ready,” Kuehl says. “That may sound a bit funny, but that is how our Wander Barrel Project releases work.”

Foeders come in many sizes, from just a few barrels in volume to more than 200. Wander’s foeder holds 20 barrels, which equates to about 620 gallons. It stands 6.5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. As a comparison, Wander’s wine barrels each hold 59 gallons; its bourbon barrels each hold 53 gallons; and its puncheons each hold 132 gallons. (A beer barrel is a unit of measurement equal to 31 gallons.)

WanderFoeder2WanderFoeder1

Foeders offer many advantages over barrels:

It’s easier to fill, empty and maintain one foeder versus multiple barrels.

A foeder has a smaller footprint than an equal volume of barrels, so it takes up less real estate in the brewery.

A foeder’s beer-volume-to-wood ratio is less than a barrel’s, so there is a slower ingress of oxygen, which allows the beer to mature and age without oxidizing as quickly. Plus it allows for a slower and less-intense infusion of oak flavors.

New foeders also provide brewers with more control from the beginning. “Our foeder is brand new so we will be able to control everything that touches the wood,” Kuehl says. “You cannot be absolutely confident about previous contents of used barrels, or how they were maintained and stored.”

About the Author:

Aubrey Laurence
Aubrey has been a craft beer fanatic since the mid '90s and he has written about beer for a wide variety of publications in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado for well over a decade. He has judged beer in multiple competitions, plus he has rated and taken notes on thousands of beers from all 50 states and 68 countries -- visiting 16 of those countries on 6 continents. He is also a Certified Beer Server with the Cicerone Certification Program, an avid homebrewer, and a hop grower. In 2013 & 2014, he spearheaded Bellingham Beer Week. When he’s not drinking beer, he’s probably climbing a mountain somewhere. He lives in Bellingham with his wife and three cats. Follow him on twitter @AubreyLaurence.