Last night was an amazing night at Front Range BBQ. We brought out Eric Salazar, the brewer for the New Belgium wood-aging program, for our Meet the Brewer series. Eric gave a keynote presentation for 60 minutes to a house packed full of people who were drinking some limited New Belgium brews. Big thanks to Travis Flett and Michael Bussmann for helping put this together with me.
The presentation was pretty informative. Eric talked all about the history of the wood program at New Belgium. Peter Bouckaert was brought in from the Rodenbach Brewery in Belgium where he had been trained in brewing and blending sour beers. He started up the program at New Belgium and is the creator of the infamous La Folie. Now New Belgium has 35 wood foeders ranging in size from I believe 23 hectoliters to 250 hectoliters. Their total capacity is around 4200 hectoliters, which is roughly 3600 barrels.
It turns out that all the beer that comes out of their wood program starts as one of two beers. Oskar is a darker beer and is the base beer for La Folie and others. Felix is lighter but stronger and was the base for Eric's Ale, which he had last night, along with Le Terrior, and Tart Lychee. All the beer goes into the foeders, ages for some time and then is blended in various percentages according to the needs of that particular beer. The beer can sit in the foeders for years and years, the foeders are never fully emptied of beer, so some of the beer may be as old as the barrel program itself.
Eric and Scott talking beer
We also learned about how the maintenance of the foeders works. When a new foeder is put together they fill it with water until there is a very-zen-waterfall cascading down the wood. The wood expands and the foeder stops leaking. We learned how they are built and about the labor of love involved in caring for these. Eric fielded questions from the crowd and then went around talked with everyone at their tables. Some of the beers we drank came from this program, I drank three glasses of Eric's Ale before it sold out (in about an hour!) and then turned to the other wonderful beers on the list that night. What a great time!
All photos by our man Daniel Flanders - danielmflanders(at)gmail.com