What Does It Mean When A Beer Is 'Foeder-Aged'?

Foeder is a Dutch term, explains Long Island Homebrew, and it refers to a huge oak vessel that can be placed either vertically or horizontally to ferment beer. Originally used to store wine, foeders have since been embraced by beer breweries around the world.

A foeder can contain over 160 gallons of liquid and requires experienced teams to build, notes The Beer Connoisseur. It can take months to create a single foeder — the worlds largest took 18 years to finish. The container was the size of a warehouse, according to Firestone Walker Brewing Company, and could store one million liters of booze. To move these massive barrels, cranes and forklifts are often used, and if not carefully transported, damage to the foeder can result in significant loss of money, time, and hard work. Building a foeder is a careful undertaking, and the right wood needs to be selected so that ingredients can be blended and aged into a drinkable beverage.

Big work with big results

When a beer is foeder-aged or foedered, it has been aged in a wooden barrel. These barrels are at least three times larger than a normally-sized oak container, explains Punch. Aging beer in barrels has long been a preferred brewing technique, but aging beer in these massive foeders can result in a smaller footprint and less chance of yeast or bacteria cross-contamination, according to Hop Culture. Because there's so much beer in the barrel, beer matures and develops slowly, with a less intense oak flavor and a more consistent experience across larger batches of product.

Hop Culture reports that foeders were used in the late 1800s by a Belgian brewery to age sour ales, and other breweries throughout Europe would make lambic beers. The huge barrels — 64, to be exact — have been embraced by Colorado's New Belgium Brewery to mature sour brown ale in what Total Ales describes as a "Foeder Forest." Beer can be taken from the foeders to taste for quality and consistency and create intentional flavor combinations. 

If you're curious to sample foeder beers, Draft Mag suggests starting with New Belgium's La Folie, a Flemish sour beer with notes of vanilla and toasted bread, or American Solera's Foeder Cerise, a funky, sour beer that delivers a cherry palate.